Wedding Budget: $5,000 or less!

5000$ wedding

My partner and I are an “old married couple” now — having been married since 2012, we are officially past the three years wedding anniversary mark. You may remember us from our barn wedding featured back in 2012! So why are we talking about our wedding now?

When I mentioned recently online that we had a wedding under $5k, it generated some great conversation about how we pulled that off…

You would think that with all that planning, there’s some talk between the couple about how much it’s going cost. But, according to a 2014 study, almost a quarter of couples getting married didn’t have a budget or overarching financial plan for their wedding.

How many of us have gone on a run to the store, to pick up a “few things” only to be shocked when we reach the checkout that our few things are not under $20 like we planned, and are actually over $50? Imagine the same feeling, but on a much grander scale. In fact, according the same study, even couples that had budgets, almost half (43%) went over-budget. If most of us at work went over-budget 43% of the time, just imagine where we would be. Fired, most likely.

So what to do about this out of control wedding spending? There are concrete (and fairly easy ways) to keep your costs low. While they may not be for everyone, I have faith in my offbeat folk, and it can really make a big difference financially in the long run!


RSVP cards, invitations, information cards, menus, programs….everything. it can cost you SO MUCH MONEY which we didn’t have and which I didn’t want to spend on something I could figure out, so, I came across this site which solved all of my paper needs. I literally got everything from that website..for free. Go to staples, buy 60 lb cardstock, print everything at home and bring it back to staples to have it cut for 10 bucks. DONE

1. Cut the guest list

This is a toughie but a biggie. Coming from a large family, our guest list could have been well over 200 people without even trying. For many people who don’t enjoy being the center of attention, that number of people can sound really overwhelming (and expensive!). We limited our list to immediate and close family, our godparents, and our dearest friends.

I will totally admit that feelings were hurt. Overall though, no one brought this to our attention or made us feel guilty about not inviting people (well maybe one thinly veiled attempt at teasing about not being invited, but oh well!). We tried to explain why we needed to keep the guest list low and overall, people respected that.

It was much easier to keep our guest list to 50 people, than it would have been to have 100. If you are keeping things very small, it helps take away some of that pressure about which extended family members to invite.

Bridal Stores Aren’t the Only Place to Find Your Dress

No one ever made a rule that you have to purchase a dress from a wedding boutique. Most online stores (like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom) have search tools which allow you to sort by color. Once you narrow your search down to ‘white gowns,’ you’ll have hundreds of options. There are also a ton of sites for purchasing previously-owned wedding gowns such as OnceWedNearly Newly Wed, and StillWhiteBHLDN has many affordable options as well.

2. Choose an alternative venue

There are so many cool places that are not “typical” wedding venues. As a result, they don’t have those typical wedding prices, and may be waaaay more accommodating than the average hotel or country club. We used a local barn that accommodated all of our guests, and had additional historical and farm items that we could use. They even supplied the hay bales for our guests to use as seating, which was another cost saver.

Other friends have done rental through the county parks systems — there are some great venues. Local, small museums or theatres often have rentals or events that are much lower than the larger venues.

3. Choose an alternative time

We also got married on a Sunday, which meant our catering costs and venue prices were much lower. We also got married at noon, so we had a large brunch to follow with mimosas, bloody marys, and all the breakfast food you could eat!

Styles said a Saturday evening wedding package was the priciest at the mansion where she got married. So she saved $500 by opting for an afternoon ceremony and reception from noon to 4 p.m. Smith negotiated a discount on her venue by opting for a weekday wedding from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Be aware that the most popular month to get married is June, followed by October, according to With demand high at those times, you’ll be less likely to get a deal on a venue.



If your venues allows you to choose your own caterer or food options, this can be a major way to save some green. The biggest savings for us was bringing in our own alcohol. Beer, cases of champagne, and vodka for bloody mary’s stretches a lot farther when you are ordering cases from a liquor store, as opposed to from a bar/venue.

all homemade. my fiancé’s mom made ALL the coffeecakes from scratch, a bunch of friends and I made what felt like thousands of cookies, and the rest came from wonderful people wanting to help us pull our wedding off…they were great and they filled our dessert table…FILLED. We didn’t go with the typical wedding cake (we don’t really like cake anyway) and got creative with a dessert buffet which we still hear about to this day.

4. DIY, y’all

If you (or your friends) have DIY skills, try to to use them. We made/upcycled a lot of items (boutonnierescenterpieces, signs) but it took an army to get it done in time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Upcycled doesn’t end up looking as cookie cutter as purchased items though, so be prepared to let go and go with the flow if your DIYed signs just don’t look AS great as the ones you could have purchased.

Decorations: this is really where the DIY comes in. everything from the escort cards (got the string and tags from Hobby Lobby and keys from etsy) to the wooden centerpieces/video booth (all made by my fiancé’s uncle) and the table runners (hobby lobby) was mainly inspired by pintrest. I came to LOVE Hobby Lobby and make weekly trips there to stock up on crafty things. They always have 40 percent off so things like the burlap for 26 tables: got it for around 25 bucks. This part takes the most time, but if you like doing crafts, it’s perfectly productive and fun 🙂 I got a recipe for chalk paint, painted frames, printed out table numbers(for free online) and got our candles and lanterns for super cheap at Ikea. We also had favor bags which i just printed out little labels with our monogram on it (, printed them on address labels and put them on bag. This stuff is so easy, it just takes time and a little imagination. if you suck at DIY things, have a crafting party and get some of your friends to help.


My sister’s boyfriend’s mother is a florist and is wonderful. She wouldn’t let us pay her, but only pay for the flowers. We had a $250.00 budget to work with and we stretched that as thin as possible as we bought flowers from Trader Joe’s and Produce Junction. She did an incredible job making the wedding come alive with flowers everywhere. Those of you girls who have been envisioning your wedding for 20+ years may have issues with doing flowers like this because flexibility is necessary. We didn’t know what flowers we were having until Friday night. We also had flowers for each girl/parents/grandparents, but we kept it pretty simple on the tables: mason jars everywhere filled with all different kinds of flowers. So if you know someone who is crafty enough to put together some flowers, trust them to do what they do and let go…they’re only flowers.


5. Consider wedding photography alternatives

There I said it. Feel free to send me your hate mail. I KNOW weddings are important and we want to capture those perfect moments. You should definitely have a wedding photographer, but… maybe find someone who doesn’t do it full-time. Many photography students, aspiring photographers and hobbyists do a wonderful job shooting weddings in their spare time, and charge much less. Maybe there is someone in your family that fits this bill and can make this their wedding gift?

After getting really discouraged about professional photography rates, I began to feel desperate. And desperation led me to posting a Craigslist ad asking for a photographer to shoot our wedding. I was absolutely blown away by the response. I got 15+ responses, several who contacted us with their websites, online portfolios and asking for us to choose them. In the end, chose a PhD student who was looking to make extra money. She met us for coffee, took notes, showed us her work, toured our venue (a two hour roundtrip for her), showed up on time, and got us our pictures within a week. She was AMAZING, and while I’m sure luck had something to do with it, doing our research totally helped us save money.

You Don’t Need a DJ

I always say that the music is the pulse of your wedding. I’m a sucker for live music (especially during the ceremony), but on the flip side, your wedding is a chance to test out your DJ skills and make a sick playlist to pump up the energy all night long. Keep in mind that professional entertainment will cost less during off-peak months (January-March), and it can’t hurt to reach out to music schools in the area. Often times music students are eager to jump on a board for a gig, and they’ll come in at a much more affordable rate than musicians who have been in business for a while.

6. Ditch the guilt

So that may not be strictly a financial/cost saving one but it’s still important. This is your wedding, not anybody else’s. I don’t care if you are the only child or one of six. I don’t care what your mother-in-law wants. Make decisions based on what you and your partner want, and don’t let anyone else pressure you. You don’t like dancing — don’t hire a DJ. You don’t understand why anyone would want a coaster with your and your partner’s initials? Me neither! If you are catching yourself wondering why these things are “a must,” they probably aren’t.


Put your money where your mouth is and show us the budget breakdown!

  • Bride’s outfit: $200 (dress was remade out of fabric from my mother’s wedding dress)
  • Groom’s outfit: $200 (a new dress shirt, suspenders and a bow tie)
  • Flowers/hanging baskets: $250 (some flowers, but mainly reusable hanging baskets that we took home with us)
  • Venue rental: $1,000
  • Photographer: $900
  • Caterer: $1100
  • Table/chair rental: $350
  • Booze/drinks: $200 (I WAAAAY over-ordered on the champagne. I was drinking champagne for months…)
  • Wedding dishes: $50 (we went to St. Vinnies/Goodwill for all our dinnerware — at 10 cents a spoon, it was a cost-effective option, and the mismatched china was fun. After a run through the dishwasher, we re-donated most of them back. Though if you come over for dinner you will see 10 of our favorites!)
  • Decor: $300
  • Games: Free
  • Officiant/musicians: Free (Friends and family made this their gift to us)
  • PA System: Purchased for $150, sold two years after our wedding when no longer needed for $60
  • Total: $4700

So, it can be done and look wonderful, you just have to 1. be organized, 2. ask people for help and 3. not give in to what people are telling you you NEED to have because honestly, at the end of the day, you’re just as married as those couples spending 30 grand on their wedding, you just walk away with everything paid for instead of a stack of bills and a melting ice sculpture.

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