The Wedding Budget: What It All Cost

Ring Power!

The wedding was amazing, but now that I’ve (almost) finished swooning over my photos I have to look at the numbers. As some of you may remember, my wedding budget was $2,000. Well it’s one thing to say that your budget is $X, but it’s an entirely different matter to stick to that budget. So here’s the big question: how much did it all actually cost in the end? Let me break it down for you.

(In US dollars)

80 Invitations and return address labels: $43.15
100 Save the Dates: $10.38
Dress: $145
Necklace: $32.50
Earrings: $12
Shoes: $96
Photography: $400
Roll of Stamps: $45
Tux: $105
Chuppah Fabric: $30
Chuppah Letters: $18
Faux Flowers: $4
Flower stems: $4
Sheet Music: $2
Bubbles: $11.99
Guest Book: $37.80
PVC: $25
Makeup: $75
Catering: $725
Wine: $150
Beer: $216
Cake: $40
Roses: $75
Baby’s breath: $30
Vases: $5
Napkins: $10
Desert plates: $10
Cups: $8
Champagne: $50
Chairs: $115
Total : $2530.82

So we went over our budget by about $500. That’s a fairly significant sum for people in our financial situation, but it’s far from the end of the world. Also, my parents paid for some things for us in addition to the wedding money they gave us.

As expected, the biggest costs were food, alcohol, and photography. We had a few costs that I didn’t anticipate: flowers, chairs, and champagne. However, the cake ended up costing quite a bit less than I expected since it came from Sam’s instead of the baker we wanted.

Of course, you may notice that many things you expect to see on wedding budgets are missing on ours. There’s no venue, DJ, officiant, hair, etc. That’s the wonderful thing about getting married near your family – you have built in help in the area. Our family and friends really stepped up and helped us immeasurably both in terms of just getting things set up and by saving us lots of money.

How we saved

Venue: We were so lucky to have my aunt and uncle let us use their beautiful farm for our wedding. It’s an amazing venue and it allowed us to have the wedding we wanted. I wanted an outdoor wedding, but most of the venues I looked at before we decided on the farm cost the entire wedding budget for four hours and the ones that had reasonable time periods were about twice as much as we wanted to spend on the entire wedding. The only place that would have been affordable enough for us would have required us to severely limit our guest list to make it so. They only charged a couple hundred dollars to rent the outside area for the ceremony, but the reception cost was per person based on catering (they catered themselves), which started at $26/person for just hors d’oeuvres. Considering the list my mom gave me of people on her side of the family we needed to invite had 40 people on it, we would have had to exclude a lot of people we really wanted to have there. It also couldn’t have been the kind of party we wanted, so my aunt and uncle really saved us with the venue.

Our delicious reception dinner

Catering: If you did the math on the catering, you may have realized that $725 divided by 80 people comes out to just over $9/person – i.e. super cheap in terms of catering a wedding. The secret? Having an amazing cook in the family who does catering. My aunt, Billie, gave us an amazing deal on the catering, and it was absolutely delicious! To go with the British theme, she made shepherd’s pie for the meat eaters. She also made one of the best veggie lasagnas I’ve had for the vegetarians (though a lot of the meat eaters ate it too). When we got home, John’s only complaint was that we didn’t take any shepherd’s pie with us because he really wanted some more. If you’re wondering what to compare that $9/plate to, the only other catering option we found that would have been that little was a very basic taco bar from a Moe’s-style Mexican restaurant. That would have been cool, but that didn’t include any vegetarian options of extras like chips and salsa. Even pork barbeque (which I don’t eat, but beef or chicken would have been even more) was more expensive than that, especially when you added sides. A comparable meal at most of the places I contacted would have started at anywhere from $16/person to $25/person. The best part about using Billie was that we already knew she was a fabulous cook and that anything she made would be amazing!

Alcohol: So we didn’t save as much as we might have on the booze since we bought more than we needed (we expected more people to stay longer). However, we got the wine for $3.99/bottle from Trader Joe’s, and no, it wasn’t Two-Buck Chuck. No, it wasn’t the world’s best wine, but it wasn’t Boone’s Farm either. Some of the wines were better than others (my mom and maid of honor bought a selection of different wines at that price point – there were quite a few to choose from), but they were all comparable to the $6-7/bottle wines at most grocery stores. The beer was standard domestic cans from Ingles for $15.98. People may not have been wowed by our beer and wine selection, but, as far as I know, no one complained. The good thing about doing cans of beer instead of a keg was that the leftovers didn’t go to waste. Oh, and though we thought bottles would be classier, the cans were a bit cheaper and they were easier to recycle.

DJ: My aunt and uncle have a sound system at the farm, so we didn’t need to rent equipment and decided to save money by DIYing it. We asked my cousin, Brent, to MC for us and John’s friend, Danny (Ashtray), came with us to do the music during the ceremony since Brent didn’t think he’d make it in time. We just made playlists for the ceremony, dinner, and dancing. The only thing I think we should have done differently was putting the dancing playlist on random. We tried to put mostly upbeat, danceable songs in the playlist, but interspersed it with some slower songs so that people would be able to take breaks to talk or get more drinks. However, when it was on random we ended up with several very high energy dance songs in a row followed by a bunch of less dance-y songs. So basically, people who were into the high energy songs got tired quickly, then the slower songs that followed kind of killed the dancing. There were bursts of dancing throughout, but it never really took off.  My advice: make the playlist in a set order.

Officiant: There aren’t many synagogues in the area, and none of them were willing to marry a Jew to a non-Jew. Basically, if we wanted a rabbi to perform the ceremony we would have had to pay a lot of money (officiant fee plus travel expenses) to “import” one. My mom mentioned htat their friend, Alan, was an officiant and might be willing to do it, so I asked her to find out how much he would charge. He ended up agreeing to do it for free, which was awesome. He was a really cool guy, and, as an added bonus, he looks vaguely like Jon Pertwee (and was just as tall).

Invitations: Groupons for Vistaprint were the secret there. Groupon and Living Social both pretty routinely run $17 for $70 of printing services for Vistaprint. The best part about Vistaprint is that if something is wrong with your order – even if it’s your fault – they’ll let you fix the problem and will resend it to you for free.

Those, of course, aren’t the only things we saved on, but those are the only ones I’m going to go into now. I’ll do another post on DIY chuppahs. If you have any specific questions, please ask in the comments.

We were so happy to find a way to have the wedding we wanted without breaking the bank or slashing the guest list. Of course, there are many ways to save on a wedding, and not everyone is lucky enough to have a free venue, great cooks in the family, or even be married close enough to home for their family and friends to be able to chip in that much. What do you think is the best way to save on weddings (other than the obvious go to the courthouse)?


12 thoughts on “The Wedding Budget: What It All Cost

  1. You had an amazing wedding, and it was just what you and John wanted (which made it amazing)! If you had not done the dinner, you would have come under budget, but it was something well worth the extra expense! I think you were a very frugal bride who had a wonderful (and memorable) wedding! Best wishes for “…happily ever after!”

  2. You did an amazing job saving money!!! I tried desperately to do the same, but I was planning a cross country wedding. While the wedding was close to home, hubby and I were across the country. My venue was nowhere as nice as your’s! I think you spent and saved in all the right places. My photographer was given to me, and my pictures are awful!! Thats the memories I have, so my suggestion is always to splurge there.

    We are an inter-faith marriage as well, and instead of having someone volunteer for free, we had 2 officiants, and twice the cost. But for us, that was the best part of the wedding, and all the guests truly loved and appreciated seeing both sides represented and respected. So it was worth it!

    Congrats and cheers to a long happy marriage!

  3. I think you did amazing! I loved to see all the ways you put it together to keep it low cost, whilst you obviously had a dream day! Love that first pic, haha!

  4. That is wonderful that you had an amazing time and it all came together in the end even if you feel you went over the original cost. I wish you and your husband to be very happy in your new life together. It is lovely to see you two in that picture. 🙂

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