How To Plan Your Wedding for Less Than $5,000

Planning a budget wedding isn’t new, but with all of those fabulous wedding shows (Say Yes to the Dress, anyone?), it can be tempting to go all-out on your big day. Your wedding doesn’t have to seem bare-bones to cost less than $5,000, though and we’re here to prove it. Don’t believe us? We’ve put together an entire budget, which you can check out at the bottom of the page. -Natalie Brown



Pick the Right Date
Many people get married in the summertime so that their friends and relatives with children can attend. But, if you can manage to book in the off-season, like November, January, February, or March, then you will save exponentially. You should also choose a Friday or a Sunday for the big day. Everyone gets married on a Saturday, so — if you recall that supply and demand thing from high school econ — basic economics means prices go up on that day.


Invitations and Save the Dates
Despite what Pinterest may lead you to believe, you don’t need a save-the-date! Between printing and postage, these can run you between $100 and $400. If you absolutely must have a save the date, do one via email. You can still make it e-cute!

For your mailed invitations, don’t buy anything too bulky or large. You’ll want to make sure they mail at standard postage, which is 45 cents per letter, if you use a Forever Stamp. That also means they can’t weigh more than 13 ounces each. Instead of including a formal RSVP card and envelope (which will double your postage costs, considering you’d want to stamp the return envelope for them), request an RSVP to a personalized email address, like JohnandPocahontasWedding@gmail.com.

Guest List
We have four words for you: the smaller, the better. The fewer people you invite, the fewer invitations you have to send out, the fewer chairs and tables you have to rent, the fewer people you have to wine and dine, the fewer favors you have to buy…and so on. Keep it to just close friends and family — the people most important to you as a couple.

Dress
We promise that you won’t have to sacrifice your dream dress to your budget, if you look hard enough. You don’t even have to fit into a sample size, although if you can, go for it. Call different wedding boutiques in your area to see if they have a sample sale scheduled.

Some wedding dress sales benefit charities, like Brides Against Breast Cancer, which takes gown donations and uses the money from gowns sold to benefit breast cancer research.  For that particular site, though, you’ll have to find them at a show near you. Lucky enough to live in New York? Head over to The Bridal Garden, which sells one-of-a-kind designer gowns at up to 75% off to benefit the Brooklyn Charter School.

You can also try hunting Craigslist, Etsy, and eBay for brides selling their gowns. You can also find websites devoted to wedding resale, like Tradesy – you might get lucky and find your dream designer dress for half the price.

Venue
For those of you wanting to get married in a church, especially if it’s your church, you can probably rent their reception halls or other rooms for a discounted rate. Otherwise, go for parks, beaches, private homes, zoos, farms, ranches, aquariums, gardens…do some research to find out what’s available in your area. Again, if you get married in the off-season, then you will pay much less for your venue. Country clubs, hotel ballrooms, and, um, castles all run up the bills really quickly.

Decor and Flowers
Flowers, especially florist-designed flowers, can really run up your costs. Instead, try buying loose stems in bulk from an online flower retailer like FiftyFlowers, and making the arrangements yourself. There are thousands of DIY instructions around the web, like this one from Wedding Chicks. If you’d rather just order them from a local florist, stick to in-season blooms, and avoid cascades, which require more labor (and therefore cost more).


Cake
There are a couple of strategies you can use to save on your cake. We don’t necessarily recommend you do it yourself — a cake is quite an undertaking — unless you’re an experienced baker and have some help. You can order a small fancy cake for your photos and for the fun cutting photos, and have a simpler, larger sheet cake in the back to serve guests. Or, you can order a very basic cake from a baker, and decorate it yourself. Use fresh flowers (like leftovers from your bulk flower order), real satin ribbon, or whatever you want to have. Individual sugar fondant flowers may look nice, but they can be more expensive than real flowers.


Reception
Never have a cash bar! If you don’t want to have an open bar, serve signature cocktails, a champagne punch, or just beer and wine. For many brides, a Champagne toast is very important, but you can save on the cost by choosing a Prosecco or Cava instead of an authentic Champagne. Both bubbly wines are made in the same way as real Champagne, but are made in Italy and Spain, respectively.

Food-wise, you have to decide whether you want a full meal, or host a simple cocktail reception. Full meals tend to be less expensive if they’re lunch or brunch instead of dinner. You should also opt for a buffet over a waiter-staffed meal, that way you have fewer staff to pay. Many venues have packages, if you ask.


The Music
Don’t hire a string quartet for your ceremony, and don’t hire a DJ for your reception — unless you know someone willing to give you a discounted rate. Instead, make several playlists and load it up on your iPod. Make one for your walk down the aisle, one for your party, and one for your grand exit. If you’d like, you have your guests suggest a song that they like in their RSVP.


Favors
How many weddings have you been to? How many of them had any favors that you haven’t thrown away? Skip the favors, or give away little edible things, like cookies. Depending on how many guests you’re inviting, you can even bake your own, with the help of a few friends.

Or, make a donation to your favorite charity in lieu of favors. You can print out a little sign about it to have on a table at the reception, and maybe put out a little bowl of candy.


Photography
This is the one area where we advise you not to skimp. You — and your children, and your parents, and your grandchildren, and your nieces, and so on — will look at these wedding photos (hopefully) for the rest of your life, so you want to make sure they will be photos that you love.

That said, you can work with your photographer so they only charge you for a minimal amount of time — ideally, the ceremony, the beginning of the reception, and the cake-cutting. Have your friends take your getting-ready pictures, and have all of your guests download one of the many wedding photo apps out there, like WedPics or WeddingSnap, which then download all of the photos your guests take into a single album. You can go in afterward and pick your favorites to keep forever.

Where to buy everything in Shecky’s Does a Wedding
Invites: Bride and Groom Billboard on 123Print; Venue: The Pavilion at Queens County Farm MuseumChair Rental from Ace Party & Tent Rental; Dress: Oleg Cassini Dress on Tradesey; Bouquet and centerpiece flowers: 50 Rose Wedding Pack from FiftyFlowers; Cake: Basic Buttercream Iced Cake from Truly Custom Cakery; Drinks: La Marca Prosecco from Ultimate Wine Shop; Champagne Flute Rental from Ace Party & Tent Rental; Hors d’oeuvres from Fresh Direct: 4 Antipasti Platters (serves 50 people, 10 people/platter), 2 17’’ Crudites Masterpiece Platter (serves 48 people, 24 people/platter), 2 European Specialty Cheese Plates (serves 28 people, 12 people/platter), 2 Large Assorted Pinwheels Platters (108 pieces, 54 pieces/platter); 600 Paper Plates on Amazon; 500 Paper Napkins on Uline; Favors: Feed a Family for 2 Months at Feeding America; Photographer: Associate from Maggie Marguerite Studios

28 Comments

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  • avatar
    jerroldfelix:

    Elegant silk wedding flowers and Artificial Wedding Flowers – that’s what we specialise in here at The Wedding Bouquet.

    {Reply}
  • supplier kemeja:

    Hi there! This post could not be written any
    better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to
    him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

    {Reply}
  • Hmm:

    I know this is old, but I’m agreeing with Jessica. This was poorly done. Serving guests cold appetizers on paper plates is not hospitable. Downsize your wedding so you can feed guests. They’re your loved ones, people YOU asked to come. They’re not an inconvenience. You don’t have to have a fancy wedding in the least, but the comfort of your guests comes first. If I had to choose between feeding guests or having flowers, guess which one I’d nix?

    Sacrifices have to be made when you have a small budget. This whole sheet explains to the bride that she can have her “dream” everything, as if she’s the only one who matters. The poor groom doesn’t even have a suit!

    {Reply}
  • Ottawa wedding photographer:

    Wonderful post. A picture is worth than thousands words. Photography is indeed the best way to express your feelings and depicts the era. http://ottawawedding-photography.com/

    {Reply}
  • Anjolique:

    Many good ideas, but what I generally don’t like about blogs like these is that their budgets don’t really make sense. Plenty of things are missing.

    Okay, you’ve thought about the dress. But about about the groom’s attire ? What about shoes, accessories ? Even if it’s less than 100$ each, it still adds up to your budget.

    What about the cost of the legal papers ?

    Where is the officiant in that list ? What’s his or her cost ?

    And do you go home after the wedding, or you’re staying at the hotel ?

    Is the bride doing her own hairdo and makeup ?

    We’re already hundreds of dollars over that 5000$ budget !

    It’s frustrating because ”real” budget brides (like myself, if you didn’t already understood this) who are really trying to keep expenses low and literally budgeting everything, somehow get ”lied to” because the examples of prices miss other costs that are part of most people’s weddings. I’ve yet to see a budget wedding article or spreadsheet that really takes everything into account, and really gets a total of 4999$

    {Reply}
  • Kathryn:

    @Jessica, you strike me as the stereotypical shallow bride-to-be who cares more about your social “status” than you do about your marriage. Weddings are not about who spent the most money. If they were, then the 75+ percent of couples who get married under such false pretense wouldn’t end up divorced within 5 years – yet they do. If your out-of-town guests can’t appreciate a simple yet elegant wedding, then you might want to consider getting new friends. They’re there to witness a celebration of LOVE – not MONEY. Good luck.

    {Reply}
  • Terrilyn:

    Jessica, that was harsh. I don’t think everyone can afford a lush and extravagant wedding. I also don’t think not being able to afford certain things is something to be embarrassed about. Understandably $5,000 can be a lot to spend on ONE day for some people, no matter how important that day is. I would hope that the people that I invited to share that moment with me wouldn’t think that I should be embarrassed about having to cut a few corners because I didn’t have money to just throw at simple things that don’t matter that much in the long run anyway. If a couple has 30,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 to spend on their wedding, that is awesome. But the reality is for many, even $30,000 is almost a year’s salary. I don’t think that means they have to get married at City Hall or Applebee’s, it just means that some things are not going to be necessities for them.

    Natalie, I thank you for your input, yes there are some things I know that I would spend more (or less) on for my actual wedding, but I think as far as providing a rough budget outline, this is very helpful.

    {Reply}
  • Erica:

    These are such great tips! I’ve been searching the internet for tips like these and usually just end up reading the same things over and over again. Thanks for something new and different and tailored to NYC!

    {Reply}
  • Seragam Toko:

    Memproduksi pakaian seragam seperti kemeja, kaos dan jaket bordir komputer / sablon harga bersahabat.

    {Reply}
  • Promosi Jubah:

    Masa kat kedai makan tadi… ramai yg sembang bab nie…
    saya agak kurang faham… tapi lepas baca karangan awak…
    saya dah mula dapat tangkap maksud diorg… terima kasih atas post yang bermanafaat nie..

    {Reply}
  • Danisa Flowers:

    wow! Great advice tips. I would surely take note of that.Love it.Thanks for sharing and keep posting for more.

    {Reply}
  • avatar
    teresia8:

    This is great! I’m the maid of honor for my best friends wedding and this is fantastic information!

    {Reply}
  • Myra:

    i say spend most of your money going on a nice honeymoon for 10 days or more.

    {Reply}
  • Makeup ByMerry:

    I like the idea of purchasing the plate from amazon. Its very really nice idea of adding a online purchasing. We can also compare the rate cards of two companies if we are doing online purchasing.

    {Reply}
  • Nikkol Archer:

    Some of these were great ideas. I don’t think I could go cheap on the dress, music, or food. These are all the things that make your wedding come together.

    {Reply}
  • avatar
    jenny-o:

    great ideas.

    {Reply}
  • ltpucker:

    Great ideas! Very helpful

    {Reply}
  • lauren9495:

    I’m in trouble with this one- my dream dress alone is $3000!! :P

    {Reply}
  • Julie:

    Wow, very informative! The iPod idea seems fine for a reception, but the idea of playing “Here Comes the Bride” from an iPod seems a bit tacky. Just me humble opinion though :-) Also, Disney has a collection of dresses that are stunning! http://www.alfredangelo.com/disney/

    {Reply}
    1. nataliebrown:

      Dear Ms. Castillo and Gonzalez,

      Thanks so much for responding to my article! You bring up some very valid points, and some holes that we hoped potential brides would have enough common sense to fill. We also go into further detail in the body of the actual post about planning strategies that don’t break the bank. For some couples, even $5,000 is a huge amount of money to commit to a wedding celebration, and we wanted to show some brides that it’s possible to have a nice wedding on their budget if they put in a little effort.

      We’re not encouraging foregoing wedding planners like yourselves — if a couple has enough money to make it happen — and we’re not at all suggesting that there’s a wedding industry conspiracy to cheat brides out of their money. Of course, a wedding that costs $50,000 will be nicer than a wedding that costs $5,000. But that doesn’t mean that a bride who only has $5,000 to spend must have a church-basement reception.

      Best,
      Natalie

      {Reply}
      1. Jessica:

        I was actually the one that re-posted the article after reading it. As an engaged woman planning her wedding in the New York City area, I just really think an article like this that tells brides it’s possible to have a “nice” wedding in NYC for 75 people that costs $5,000, as long as they just put in a little “effort” is ridiculous. That’s not to say you can’t do it in other parts of the country, or that $5,000 isn’t a huge amount of money, but I (and I hope other couples) would be embarrassed to throw the wedding you detail above. Not because it’s not fancy, but because it’s so incredibly un-gracious. While the pavilion at QCFM may cost $1,000 for 4 hours—what’s the contingency plan if it rains? Let your guests huddle under the pavilion for 4 hours? Tents cost extra, the indoor space costs extra. Also, the QCFM is out of the way to say the least, and you’re not spending money on transportation for anyone — so you’re making your local guests go out of their way to trek there, not to mention any out of towners, to give them some Fresh Direct crudite platters and a glass of Prosecco? (Which would all be finished in under an hour.) What rental company did you contact about the chair and glass costs? Not to mention all the stuff left out of the budget like wedding rings, wedding party gifts (for hauling all those platters out to middle-of-nowhere Queens), groom’s attire, officiant, marriage license, sales tax…. Anyway, the point is not to pick apart a pretend wedding, or even about all the details + extra costs left out, but that if you only have $5,000 – then save it! Go to City Hall. Or throw a luncheon at restaurant for 20 people. Or go to the Midwest where your dollar goes further. Don’t subject 75 loved ones to the completely inconsiderate wedding described above. I’m sure your guests would agree (or probably prefer to go to a church-basement reception!)

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