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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Museum; Chair 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