People ask me all of the time how to cut corners on wedding costs. As a wedding “planner” (I prefer consultant), I guess it seems counterproductive for me to always give away free wedding tips. I don’t see it like that. Some people can afford that $250,000 wedding and some people can barely afford a $500 wedding. I try to speak to the people on the more reasonable end of the spectrum. I truly enjoy helping a couple save money on their wedding while still ensuring that it is nicely done and a good time is had by all. It’s my passion. I am in wedding mode 24-7. I know I drive my fiancé nuts on a daily basis because pretty much everything out of my mouth is wedding or Starbucks related lol. But seriously…..you can throw a nice wedding for around $1000. I bet your sitting there reading this thinking, “Yeah right Gigi. You’re nuts”. Well I won’t disagree with the nuts part but I am about to show you EXACTLY how to accomplish this. So get out your notepad and scratch down some pointers.
Let me set the wedding scenario……Meet Kate and Jason. They are both in their late twenties and have been together for 3 years and engaged for 8 months. They both have their college loans to repay still and they are saving for their first house. Kate is an elementary school teacher and Jason works in banking so they both have modest incomes. Kate really wants to have a decent wedding but she doesn’t want to go broke doing it. She wants something small and intimate, while your Jason only cares about good food and great company. So now what? Gigi to the rescue. I am going to give you the exact breakdown as to how you can have an amazing wedding with very little dough. So here goes. Keep in mind any of this can be changed, this is just a guideline to give you an idea of how you can actually pull this off. And the planning would really take a couple weeks to a month at the most. So it is something you can accomplish quickly, if need be. This wedding was kept super casual with no attendants. Just the Bride and Groom. Keep it simple and that’s where you cut some serious costs. And that way your friends and family can just come and enjoy your day instead of stressing about what shoes they need to buy for a dress they will never wear again. Makes perfect sense to me!
Gigi’s $1000ish wedding breakdown
- The Ceremony site. Kate and Jason live in an apartment for now and don’t have a cool back yard to get married in. Kate really liked the idea of getting married outside but didn’t know anywhere to make this happen. This is where your public park tax dollars are hard at work people! We decided to have their actual ceremony at a local nature preserve here in Raleigh funded by the city. It will be on a Sunday morning about 10 am (less foot traffic) in the Spring so the weather will be just perfect. There is an beautiful open field area behind an old barn with a huge pecan tree that creates the perfect canopy. They will get married under the shade of the pecan tree with close family and friends standing by watching. Because the ceremony will be short and kept small, there was no fee to have this done. There is also a bench within viewing distance for any family member or friend that has issues standing so that they can watch the ceremony as well. The preserve has a pond and beautiful views that will make for perfect photos. If it rains there is a public picnic shelter that can be used as well. And there’s always umbrellas! Total ceremony cost=$0
- The Reception. The reception can often be the most extravagant expense of a wedding. From the linens, to the table set up, to the catering….it can be a lot of stress! Make it a no brainer. Have a restaurant do your small reception. Kate and Jason decided on a late morning brunch at a little bistro about 10 miles from the Nature Preserve. Total guest count will be 25 and each guest will cost around $20 a person. This includes their meal and coffee, tea, or juice. There are mimosas available for an additional cost but they decided that they wouldn’t offer them. If guests wanted to purchase them on their own they could certainly do so. The tables at the bistro are antique barn wood and look so good that they won’t need to rent table linens. Just a few basic flowers arrangements on the table and they will be all set. Total cost for 25 guests including tax & gratuity= $625
- The Bride’s Dress. Usually the most important part of your day. Take the emotional aspect away and let’s face it….it’s just a dress. You will wear it for a couple of hours and then it will hang in your closet (or your mother’s) for the next ten years. Spending thousands on a dress is really unnecessary (check out my “Ditch the dress” blog post for some really neat dress tips). Kate knows she wants a white dress but wants something functional and comfortable. Maybe even something she can wear again. I found this dress at Kohl’s….which is really a sundress but it looks gorgeous (the bride in the field picture above is wearing the actual dress in black). The dress was originally $60 but it was on sale for $29.99 and then Kate had a 15% off coupon. Which brought the cost down to about $27 after tax. It is comfortable, classy, and perfect for a casual wedding. Not to mention the slits in the side are just super sassy! Her mom hemmed it about an inch so there was no additional cost for alterations. Kate also didn’t want a veil so that was a savings as well. Total dress cost= $27
- The Shoes. Because we are keeping Kate’s look casual, we decided to go with white sandals. They go well with the flowy dress and are something that won’t hurt her feet all day. These sandals have some cushion to them so they will be comfortable but they still have a cute look. We kept the heel low so that it would be easier to walk in at the ceremony site. I found them at Rack Room shoes, usually $49 but on sale for $19.99. They have small gold studs in the pattern that match the gold ends to the belt in Kate’s dress. The pattern is also similar to the lace around the shoulders of the dress as well so that it all flows well. Total shoe cost=$22
- Hair and Makeup. Luckily Kate had a good friend who already did hair and makeup on the side. She was able to do Kate’s wedding day look for free as a gift to the bride. Kate also wore a pair of her grandmother’s pearl earrings so there was no additional jewelry cost. Total cost for hair and makeup= $0
- The Groom. Thankfully Jason already had a nice blue suit in his wardrobe with shoes to match. So there was no cost to rent a tux or to buy a new suit. However we did jazz his look up a little bit by adding a new bow tie, pocket square, and funky socks. We chose an orange color as the base because it went nicely with the suit color and with the bouquet Kate would be carrying. I found this set at Dillard’s on sale for $20. I also found there as well a set of funky socks that matched the same colors in the bowtie set that would go well with the suit. For a set of three socks the total cost was $10. Not too shabby. Total groom cost= $32
- The Flowers. Kate loves Gerbera daisies. Wanting to keep the floral cost down, she decided on a handmade bouquet of orange Gerbera daisies with blue iris, to match Jason’s look. Her grandmother also had some small light orange colored spray roses that we added in as well that we made a boutonniere for Jason with. Flowers were purchased from Trader Joe’s. Each gerbera daisy bunch costs $3.99 and she needed 2 for her bouquet. The iris were $5.99 a bunch and she only needed 1. Throw in the free roses and some greenery from grandma’s yard and the total bouquet cost was $14. The stems were wrapped in raffia that I already had so that was no additional cost. They also decided to have mason jars tied with raffia and filled with orange gerbera daisies at the reception on the tables. The mason jars are being borrowed from Jason’s aunt for free and the flowers were purchased at Trader Joe’s as well. Total cost for 6 tables (1 bunch per mason jar) was $25. Total floral cost for the wedding=$40
- The Invitations. Wanting to cut costs, the couple decided to print their own free invitations from Greetings Island (you can see the style of invite those chose here… https://www.greetingsisland.com/preview/invitations/flowers-crown/203-9083). They bought really nice cardstock and envelopes from Michael’s to accomplish this and they turned out really cute! They made 40 invites to send out. Each pack of cardstock has 50 sheets so they only needed one for $2.50. Kate loved the look of the plain brown craft envelopes for $4.99 for 20. They needed two packs for their invitations. Kate cut the cardstock in her workroom at the office and hand addressed them herself. Postage cost was $19.60 to mail all 40 invites. Total invite and postage cost= $32
- The Cake. Even though the ceremony and guest count was small, Kate and Jason still wanted to have a cake to cut at their brunch. Kate wasn’t much of a baker and didn’t want the stress of taking that task on so she visited her local Lowe’s Foods to see if their bakery department had a cake that they could use for their reception. Smartly, she decided on two premade store bought cakes in different flavors. One was a simple white cake with buttercream frosting and orange and yellow flowers and the other was a marble cake with chocolate frosting that was Jason’s favorite. Kate put a gold monogram of the letter M for their last name (that she bought at Michael’s with a coupon for $5) on top of the white cake. It looked just as good as a professional cake for a fraction of the cost. The cake stand she used was her grandmother’s. And the bistro was nice enough to provide plates and silverware at no additional cost to the couple as well. Total cake cost= $40
- The Music. For the ceremony they had Jason’s cousin play guitar for the processional and recessional. For the reception they really didn’t need any music because the restaurant had it playing in the background. Total music cost= $0
- The Officiant. Kate and Jason didn’t have a home church or a regular pastor. They decided to hire an officiant off of Gigsalad. They found a local retired non-denominational minister who was willing to perform a simple ceremony for only $100. They wanted Jason’s uncle to officiate but in the good ole state of NC whoever performs the ceremony has to be ordained legally. Online ordinations are not allowed to perform legal weddings in North Carolina. Total Officiant cost with the NC wedding license= $160
- Guest favors. Kate wanted to give their guests favors that were meaningful but not too costly. They decided on small jars of homemade strawberry jam that Kate and her mother made. They picked their strawberries from a local organic farm ($30 total) and bought the canning jars at Walmart (she got 4 for $5 and bought 4 boxes). Total cost to make 15 jars of jam (the 25 guest count included families and children so each family that came to the wedding got a jar) was $50. They finished off each jar with leftover jute twine tied around the top and a little square piece of card stock with their initials and wedding date on it. Total favor cost= $50
- The Photos. The couple knew with such a tight budget they could not afford to hire a professional photographer. Instead they asked family and friends with a good camera and a keen eye to do their photos for them. Surprisingly they came out really well. Kate and Jason were then able to use a national photo lab online to print their photos out after they were edited. The hard copy prints look really nice and they placed them in an album they received as a wedding gift. Never underestimate the power of some motivated guests! Total photo costs with printing= $20.
- The Rings. Kate and Jason are both big LOTR fans. They knew they wanted their wedding bands to be different and symbolize their relationship and the uniqueness of it. Kate found a wedding band set for both bride and groom made of sterling silver on Etsy for $55. The bands are shaped like Elven twigs and the couple just thought they were perfect, considering their outdoor wedding and their love of hobbits. Total cost for wedding bands with sizing and shipping= $60
The couple was completely thrilled that they could have a simple and yet still lovely wedding day with their friends and family. Later that evening they met up with friends that couldn’t make the wedding downtown for drinks and a late dinner to celebrate their union. It truly was the perfect day for them…without breaking the bank or derailing their long term financial goals. Total cost for their entire wedding= $1108. Yes you read that right. $1108. Having the wedding on a Sunday morning made things easier and cheaper. Opting for a brunch was far more cost effective than a dinner. Having friends and family chip in with the music, photos, and the guest favors helped save a lot of money in the long run. The cakes coming from a local grocery store bakery was extremely cost efficient (though making it yourself or having a friend that’s great in the kitchen would have saved them even more). Ordering hand crafted bands from Etsy gave them something that they would both enjoy and cherish. It turned out to be a beautiful and memorable wedding. And all for only $1108!
Use Kate and Jason’s wedding as a guide. You don’t have to go broke to have a nice wedding. Ask for help from family and friends. Use coupons. Price shop. Think outside the box. All of these tips can help you have your perfect day while being financially responsible. What matters most is that you are getting married to the one you love. The one you can’t live without. Trust me…no one will remember the napkins you had 5 years from now.
If you have any questions or need a few tips for your own wedding please feel free to message me.