Our $3,000 Wedding

Our $3,000 Wedding

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I’ve mentioned a few times that my sister is getting married in September. It’s caused me to pause and think back to my own wedding. Our wedding was NOT extravagant by any means…but it got the job done and I was pleased with it.  :-)

The Average Wedding Budget

I’ll admit that after a bit of research, I feel shell-shocked. It astonishes me that people spend so much on their wedding. The Knot says that the AVERAGE wedding costs $27,800. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Do you know what I could buy with that much money? It gives me heart palpitations. Our wedding budget was $3,000. Quite the contrasting number, huh? 

Having a $27,800 wedding doesn’t make you happier…and actually, it could make you less happy if you end up making payments. Payments on a wedding? Good grief.

So, I thought I’d share a little bit about how we had our church wedding for only $3,000. I know MANY of you have done it for a lot less (courthouse weddings are cheap!). It IS possible to get married without giving your Daddy a heart attack.

The Food

First, we decided to have our wedding at Barry’s parents’ church. Since they were members, we only had to pay a $50 cleanup fee. Not too shabby. A few of the other venues we looked at charged fees starting at $500. Uh, no. Moving on…

Then we decided to have a cake and punch reception. I’m astonished at the amount of people who feel like they need to serve an entire meal at their reception. Let me debunk a myth here – just because you have a wedding doesn’t mean you have to serve a meal.  If it’s in your budget, great…but if you’re going to have to stretch things and stress out about cost, forget the meal. It’s not needed.

People are just there for the cake. Really. When I hear that someone is getting married, I only think about the cake. I don’t worry if there is going to be a meal – I could care less. I want cake. Just give me the cake, baby.

We bought everything for our reception (punch, nuts, etc) and asked some of the church ladies to serve. It worked out fabulously. Our cake was done by a family friend who also agreed to serve it…so I got a great deal all the way around – except I got cheated on the eating part. I was too busy to eat cake, so I only got the bite for the picture. Barry’s family polished off all the rest of the cake while we were on our honeymoon. I felt gipped. In fact, I will be eternally bitter. Amen.

Save money on your cake by asking a friend to make it. I promise that a few years later, no one will have the slightest clue what your cake looked like…what you wore…what the bridesmaids wore…or what kind of flowers you used. They’re only going to remember that you got married – and they’re keeping tabs on your status NOW as a married couple.

Use Your Connections

We found the invitations we liked at a wedding store and then scoured the internet to find them SUPER cheap. My sister made her own invitations for very cheap and they are stinkin’ cute. We printed our own wedding programs on our computer.

The same lady who made our cake was also a wedding caterer, so she had all the chairs and decorations that we’d ever need – and she let us borrow them for FREE. I’ve had a few friends who were also able to get that type of a deal. The moral of the story is, ask around to see what your friends can offer as a gift…wouldn’t you rather have free tablecloths and decorations than some coffee maker that will likely break in two years?  This is the PERFECT time to use all the connections you have.

I bought our cake topper and my garter on the clearance table at a store. For my flowers, I chose daisies, which are a very cheap flower and just so happen to be my favorite. If you’re on a budget, calla lilies are NOT a good choice. Amen. Ask your florist what is in season during your wedding and go with that flower…if he/she is a good florist, they’ll know the cheapest and prettiest route to take.

Our photographer was a friend of Barry’s family, so I got a good rate there. Photography is expensive folks. I opted not to have one of those people that follows you around all day and gets everything on camera, including a runner in your pantyhose. Instead I asked friends to take pictures as well, so I had lots of different vantage points.

The Clothing

My bridesmaids dresses were $69 from Chadwicks. I went with something pretty simple so that they could be worn again if the girls wanted to. I did not buy the dresses for my bridal party – but I did buy them a gift. I didn’t have the budget to buy their dresses…in fact, none of the weddings that I have been in have come with a furnished dress. It’s not needed, honey. NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR BUDGET. It’s what you’re working with – if they don’t want to buy the dress, that’s cool.  They have a budget too.  They can still be your friend if they’re not in your wedding party.

My mom made my wedding dress for $100. We picked out the embellishments, pattern, and material. She also made my veil. I was very proud of it. I wanted to wear her dress, but she didn’t find it until about a year after my wedding. Bummer.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a dress. You are wearing it for a  few hours for crying out loud! Consider buying one at Goodwill (I’ve seen some AWESOME ones there), at a consignment store, from the classifieds. Or get this…rent your dress. Yes, I totally went there. Enjoy the dress for a few hours and then take that sucker back. Then you don’t have to store it. Amen and amen.

So, that’s just a little bit about how we saved – and we had around 150 people attend the wedding. It really is possible to have a nice wedding on a small budget. I’ve had some friends get married, spending TONS of money…and then they got divorced a few years later.  It’s not about the wedding – it’s about your marriage – invest in that and you’ll never have buyer’s remorse.

*This post is linked at Finer Things Friday on Amy’s Finer Things, at Tip Me Tuesday on Tip Junkie, at Works for Me Wednesday on We Are That Family, at Proverbs 31 Thursday on Raising Mighty Arrows, at Frugal Tuesday Tip on Learning The Frugal Life, at Frugal Days Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, and at Frugal Friday on Life as Mom.


Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her three children, Annie (June 2009), Andy (August 2012) and Eli (September 2014). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.

  • Val

    I too had a very simple, cheap wedding. Probably less than $1500. I didn’t want anything big. I had friends at the job I had at that time. One made cakes, the other was starting out to be a wedding planner. It was perfect. My cake was only $75 and from what I heard it was wonderful, I was like you, I only got the bite for the picture and didn’t have anymore. My dress was only $300 and only had one bridesmaid and her dress was $20 at a consignment shop. My flower girls dresses came from Burlington for less than $15. The wedding planner did all my flowers and food and only charged me for the cost of everything which was around $400. I did not do invitations, I was stressed enough, I didn’t want to have to sit down and remember all my family and friends and I was afraid I’d leave someone out. So we did an “Open Wedding”. All we did was put it in the newspaper. A family member did our pictures, they weren’t wonderful, but we have pictures. That’s all that matters. We used our money we saved and money from our gifts for our honeymoon to Gatlinburg. We didn’t go far, but it was fun. I don’t understand the $20,000.00 weddings either, it’s just crazy to pay that much for that…….use it for a down payment on a house!

    • Stacy

      It’s funny that people will spend that much on a wedding and then go sooooooooooooooo far into debt buying a house immediately afterwards. Gives me the heebie jeebies.

  • Kell

    My first wedding (hubby died 9 years later) was going to be very simple — us going to Vegas. But our friends wanted to go and couldn’t afford it, so we had it in town. One couple opened their house for the wedding. We rented chairs (50??) and hired a photographer. The photographer was the only real purchase we made — the one we weren’t going to skimp or be frugal on. Now we know a professional photographer, but that’s another story. My husband and his friends were into role playing and such. So I got a dress from a renaissance store and bought material to make him a kilt. The ‘bridesmaid’ was a guy (my good friend) and the ‘best man’ was a woman (his good friend). We rented a helium tank and blew up our own balloons. We printed and hand delivered our own invitations. Oh, and we found a 14-year old VERY good bagpiper to stand on the balcony in the back yard to play our processional just as the sun went down over the mountains. After ordering photos after, I think it was all about $1200 or so. Oh, and the flowers… ha… I stopped at a grocery store THAT DAY to pick something up to hold… well, the florist asked what I needed and happened to have some lilacs and no other customers, so she made up arrangements for me and the party in about 30 minutes. It was awesome!

    Wedding number 2 was at the courthouse and NOBODY knew we were doing it. We even had to have another couple thee be our witnesses and vice versa.

    Frugal weddings rock! Why start out in debt or pay so much for a couple hours?? :)

    • Stacy

      Amen! Preach it sista!

  • http://quickeasycheaphealthy.com Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy

    Our wedding budget was $5,000 and was very similar to yours. We had a “dessert” reception with a chocolate fountain and assortment of homemade cheesecakes and stuff like that. A friend made our cake, and in retrospect, with all that other dessert, we could have gotten by with a MUCH smaller cake. As it turns out, our friend gave it to us for free, so it didn’t bother us much :) All my family and friends helped out in a zillion ways to make it happen, and it was amazing! One thing that was expensive was that we had to rent a hall (to the tune of $800!) for the reception because the church fellowship hall was not nearly large enough to accommodate our guests. most importantly, we did not go into debt!

    • Stacy

      A chocolate fountain?! I love you Anne!

  • http://frugalfarmwife.com Elise

    We did hings very similarly to you. My father-in-law actually bought bulk roses for the bouquets from Ecuador (or something like that. Sadly, none of us really knew how to make bouquets and it really shows in the pictures LOL.

    • Stacy

      Girl, I can’t do flowers either. The only thing I can do with them is…………kill them.

  • Carolyn

    Our wedding was just a smidge over $4,000. We actually did serve a meal. We had (wait for it)Panda Express. My husband wanted Chinese food and it worked out to less than $4 per person. So much cheaper than having it catered the “regular” way. We had a fake cake for pictures and Costco cake for eating. The church was free and we split the cost of the rental chairs for the outside service with my boss, whose son was getting married the next day at the same church (he was one of the elders).

    I can’t tell you how many paper cranes I folded for table decorations and all of our flowers were fake. We didn’t have to worry about any kind of water dripping anywhere. We printed out our invitations at home and they looked just as good as the ones from a professional. My dad made a pagoda that later raised into a stand for our dragon-shaped pinata. All the kids loved it.

    My dress was on markdown because they weren’t making that style anymore. It was $500. No DJ, just a CD that we had put together playing in the background. I think the most expensive thing was the photography. It wasn’t expensive, but everyone had fun.

    • Stacy

      Photography isn’t cheap….but you do always want to remember the day, so it’s nice to have a good photographer. :-) Sounds like a grand day, and I don’t even like Chinese food! :-)

  • http://www.craftdilettante.blogspot.com heather

    We hosted 125 people at our 1999 wedding and the total wedding cost $3,000 – which included honeymoon, dress, full meal, decorations, site and everything. I kept careful spreadsheets that tallied costs so I could keep within our budget. My dress cost $100 at a thrift store and $200 for significant alterations. We made our own food and hired a friend to serve it. Locations were virtually free – I joined the local land trust for $35 to access the beach for free and held the reception at my church. Family took pictures. We had flowers from friends’ gardens. We made our own invitations.

    • Stacy

      And it sounds just beautiful! :-) All it takes is a bit of resourcefulness.

  • http://www.campinandscrappin.blogspot.com Jennifer Phipps

    My daughter was married in October 2011 and our total costs we $3500! We were very blessed with friends who helped us and it was a beautiful affair! She had all she had ever dreamed of, but the important thing is that we didn’t break the bank for something that lasted less than 2 hours and could have been accomplished in a court house for about nothing!
    Thanks for always putting things in perspective!

    • Stacy

      Isn’t it nice to be able to count on our friends for things like this? :-) It’s really what it is all about…

  • http://www.gettingaheadblog.com Jennifer

    I too am appalled at how much weddings cost these days. We didn’t skimp at all and really didn’t go out of our way to save money and our wedding, reception, meal, dress, EVERYTHING was only $7000 or so. If I had been frugal and tried to save everywhere I could it would have been less.

    • Stacy

      Some people just go overboard because they’re trying to impress people. :-)

  • http://mommamadeit.blogspot.ca Emilee

    Great advice!
    I also had a “frugal” wedding it too cost $3000 or less and I loved every minute of it! It was just what I wanted and I had so many comments that our wedding screamed US! and that is just what I wanted… It might not have been perfect for everyone but it was just what i wanted and I think that is just what your wedding should be… YOURS. And you don’t have to pay a lot to make it individual. And of course as you said after a year or two most people will forget everything about your wedding and will be more concerned with your marriage as you should be as well.

    Sharing this great post with my sister in law who is planning her wedding now!

    • Stacy

      :-) Thanks Emilee!

  • http://femmefrugality.blogspot.com femmefrugality

    Wow! Almost 28k!!! That seems ridiculous! Mine was about 3k, too. That one ended in divorce. If I do it again I’m going to try to make it even cheaper.

    • Stacy

      Woohoo for cheaper! :-)

  • http://xmydearambellina.blogspot.com/ Amber

    Right now, my fiance and I are NOT working (he’s in school full time and I’m helping care for my dying Grandma), and I’ve been thinking more and more of our wedding. We’re both from close LARGE families, so either way our wedding will be bigger (I can’t leave out family or close friends-too many of my family members have passed away and I want the people I love to be there), and I know I want to be married in my church. My Mom and stepdad were married in the chapel at my church with only family in attendance, and a few months later had a pig roast in our backyard lovingly called “Hogust Fest” (held in, you guessed it, August). I’m thinking more and more this is what I’d like to do. The only REAL cost would be in the food that day, and it would be more fun to have a relaxed, casual party rather than worrying about spilling something on an expensive white gown.

    I’ve also thought about crocheting some doilies and stitching them to a dress (which I saw done before on someone’s blog) instead of spending $3000 on a dress alone.

    It always amazes me that people spend as much as they do on their wedding day, when it seems no one is ever 100% happy with the day.

    • Stacy

      Ooooooh!! I just LOVE the doilies idea!!! :-) I would love to see a photo when you’re done!

  • Amy

    Our wedding was maybe $800. That included me buying 2 dresses because I accidentally destroyed the first when I was altering it to fit me right. That was $115 down the drain. The next dress I ordered from J Crew for $69. We also bought my husband and son new suits & shoes. We had the wedding at our church and just had to clean up when we were done. We had mini cheese cakes on vanilla wafers & sparkling juice immediately after. The rest of the cost was a sit down meal for 30 of the 40ish people who came to our wedding at a local Hunan restaurant, including the beer that my BIL kept ordering even though we told him that we weren’t buying alcohol but he left before paying his tab.

    Originally we had planned to spend around $3,000 and have the wedding at the end of May. Planning while finishing graduate school got to be a bit much though and we changed the date to Leap Day. We would have been happy with a justice of the peace, but our family wanted to be there so we had the wedding for them.

    • Stacy

      Sometimes Barry and I wish we had just went somewhere and eloped….and kept the money. :-) But, we did have a nice time.

  • Lois

    We were in the same situation many years ago. My daughter got married almost a year ago, and we did it very frugally, too. But she was happy with it, and it turned out well. About 100 people, dinner, etc.
    My main comment for this is “Isn’t it amazing how much people help other people, and how important our church can be in all this!”…..

    • Stacy

      Yes! You are SO right! Just because it’s a frugal wedding doesn’t mean it won’t be fulfilling or beautiful. :-) The help of friends and family is the most beautiful thing of all.