A wedding is well-known as one of the most expensive occasions in a couple’s life. I will be planning a wedding for 100 people, the goal being to keep it under $5,000. Tips on how to cut costs while still having a magical day will also be included, so, read on!
Because we are operating on a budget, there will be some things that we will not be able to have at this wedding. The most important rule about doing an inexpensive wedding is knowing your must haves. Some of the must-haves for the wedding I’ll be creating today will be:
- A photographer
- A DJ
- Place cards
- Gifts for the wedding party and parents
- Try to book your ceremony and reception at the same place. Quite often you can get a deal for booking both in the same area.
- Keep the wedding small. Inviting only a few people allows you to look at smaller and cheaper wedding venues.
- If you book at a hotel, ask for a lowered price in exchange for filling up some of the rooms.
- If you’re fine with not having your wedding in a church, look for places that don’t normally host weddings.
- Such as: a zoo, parks, stables, movie theatres, a neighbor’s barn or backyard, an ice skating or roller rink, a bowling alley, a car/history/art museum, or anything else your town has to offer.
- If you take the time to apply for a permit, you can have a free reception at a national park. Beautiful scenery for free? What can beat that!
- When planning your wedding, try to avoid prime wedding times, such as, Saturday evening. Opt for an afternoon wedding or a Sunday brunch wedding.
For our fictional wedding, we are going to budget $900 for an afternoon ceremony and reception venue.
- Order your own stationary from Amazon or Staples and design and print them at home.
- Cut costs by only sending out invitations. RSVP cards, save the dates, information cards, and paper menus add up quickly and are often unnecessary.
- Don’t think you have the skill or time to make them yourself? Pay someone else to do it. Fivver is a freelance services marketplace where you could easily find someone else to design your invitations for as low as $5.
Staples sells stacks of 8 1/2″ x 11″ Ivory 250/Pack card stock for $15. I can use the paper for invitations and place cards. By designing and printing everything at home, I save a lot of money. I don’t think I will need to cut my invitations but in case my design changes, my local Staples gave me an estimate of $10 to get them all cut. It costs $50 for the stamps to get them mailed out. Using a wedding website for RSVPs will cut down on extra costs. Final total is $75 for stationary.
- Dress: Ebay, Etsy, and large stores like Macy’s have great options for cheap prices. Try to stay away from things labeled “wedding,” because it often comes with a heftier price tag. Renting your dress is also a great way to go. If you want to do some good while getting a bargain, Brides Against Breast Cancer offers massive discounts on beautiful dresses. Part of the profits from the dresses goes towards breast cancer research. Finally, buying off the rack can get you great discounts and a dress immediately.
- Accessories can add up quickly. Some money saving options are:
- Use flowers to decorate your hair instead of a veil
- Try to find a used veil or check Etsy.
- Jewelry can be borrowed or found in thrift shops, on craigslist, and on Ebay.
- If your fiancé doesn’t have a tuxedo or a suit already, renting is a popular option that saves money.
- If you don’t already have your rings, consider online shopping. Etsy has beautiful, handmade options that have unique deigns for cheap prices. Opting for a gemstone instead of a diamond can save you big bucks too. Again, staying away from the word “wedding” will save you even more money.
- Have your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and children who are in the wedding, pay for their own clothing. Pick easy colors to find and let them get something they will appreciate being able to wear after the wedding is over.
I found a dress through Brides Against Breast Cancer for $300, accessories for $100, rented a suit for $175, and found two unique wedding bands on Etsy for $150. All of this leads to a total of $725.
Food and Drink: $1,700
- Picking an afternoon or brunch wedding with reduce food costs because you can pick cheaper options.
- Homemade! Ask you friends and family to help cook things in the week before the wedding. Freeze as much as you can beforehand and thaw it out the night before.
- Skip the cake. Seriously. If you want a big showstopper to put on display, build one out of cardboard (except the layer you have to cut) and decorate it with frosting and flowers or whatever you want. When the time comes, take the “cake” away and cut and serve a sheet cake from the back. It’s much cheaper and people won’t even notice the difference.
- Try other desserts instead: donuts, cookies, brownies, pies. There are hundreds of other dessert options that are just as tasty and wont break the bank.
- Get creative with cheap foods. Popcorn, bulk candy, meat and cheese trays, and cotton candy are some options.
- Make-it-yourself-stations are fun and often cheaper than traditional options. Tacos, potato, salad, and ice cream bars have all had great success.
- People tend to drink less at day weddings, but if you choose to have alcohol, choose a cash bar or buy alcohol from places that allow you to return unopened bottles such as Sam’s Club or Costco.
My afternoon wedding for 100 people will include a potato and salad bar, finger foods, meat and cheese trays, fruit trays, multiple dips, and dessert buffet that we make ourselves. Champagne is the only alcohol we would serve; bought at Sam’s Club for $100. Servers will be hired to maintain everything and keep our friends from to do anything during the wedding. All of this totals out to $1,500 with a $200 tip bonus for the servers.
- Local colleges are an amazing place for cheap bands and DJ’s.
- If you don’t want to bother trying to find a band or a DJ, just create a few CD mixes or a Spotify playlist (Ad-free for $9.99/per month) and have a friend man the music booth for the special dances, then just start up the play list and don’t worry about it.
For my wedding I hired a DJ from a local college who brought his own equipment for $300.
- Skip the florist and buy your flowers wholesale in bulk. Have a flower arranging party to get everything put together. Groupon is a great way to find floral arranging classes or a discounted florist if you don’t feel confident in your abilities. Also, find out if purchasing the flowers yourself can get you a cheaper price with a florist.
- Look for your table linens online and in thrift stores. Buy in bulk if need be and remember that curtains can double as table runners. Look for other brides who are trying to sell their wedding linens. Tradesy.com has tons of brides trying to sell off their old wedding things.
- For tables and chairs look to your local churches and community centers to borrow or get a reduced rental price. Estate sales and thrift stores are also a great way to get cheap and interesting seating.
- or dishware, ask around. Some people might have extra dishes they don’t want anymore. Thrift shopping for dishes is also an awesome way to save money and you get an interesting, eclectic look to your reception.
- Be creative for signage. Go on Craigslist and look for free wood or other abandoned items that could work. Homemade chalk board paint can help you get cheap chalk boards for drink and food menus, seating charts, and welcome signs.
- Do not underestimate the dollar store! Ribbon, burlap, tea lights, vases, and so much more can be found there for affordable prices.
- DIY is your best friend.
For my wedding I need 10 tables, 100 chairs, 10 table decorations, three bouquets, three boutonnieres, 100 plates with cutlery, four signs, aisle decorations, and an arch. In the end, I ended up with $700 in costs. Here is the break down:
- Tables: Borrowed/rented from local churches: $50.
- Chairs: Borrowed from local church, estate sales, and thrift store finds: $50.
- Decorations: vases and jars from thrift store and dollar store: $30. Table linens: $100. Candles, ribbon, and colored pebbles bought from the dollar store for centerpieces: $50.
- Flowers for bouquets, boutonnieres, and aisle and reception decorations: Bought in bulk from Potomac Floral for $200. Floral arranging class for two people with a Groupon: $40.
- Arch rental: $30.
- Cutlery and plates: borrowed from friends and bought at thrift stores and estate sales: $130.
- Signage: made out of abandoned wood found on Craigslist and homemade chalkboard paint for a total of $20.
Photography and Videography: $150
- Again, local colleges are amazing for this! Photography and art majors are often looking for experience and more pictures to put in their portfolio, so they will do an event for a discounted price.
- Try Groupon again for more good deals.
- Ask friends and family if they know anyone. A lot of people will give you a discount because a friend referred you.
- Try not to keep the photographer at the wedding all day.
- Make sure to meet the photographer before the wedding to see if their style is something that you want for your pictures. A good way to find this out is by looking at their pictures or by booking them for an engagement shoot to test run.
Rehearsal Dinner: $200
- Keep it small.
- Homemade food reduces costs tremendously.
- Doing it at someone’s house eliminates having to rent a venue
Spaghetti and Meatballs with sides, done at a groomsmen’s house averages out at $10 per person allows us to invite 20 guests; which includes our wedding party and some family.
- The dollar store and the internet will be your friends again. You can find cheap packaging at both, but the internet is the perfect place to buy the gifts. Etsy, again, has lots of unique and decently priced options.
- Put your heart into these. Seriously. They are meant to be beautiful gifts that tell you wedding party and family how important they are to you. Handmade and handwritten can really show that off.
Gifts for both sets of parents and the bridal party totaled out to $150. Bridesmaids got bracelets and DIY’d spa kits for $15 each. Groomsmen got vintage shaving kits for $15 each. Both mothers received photo albums with each child’s favorite memories, hand written notes from both the bride and the groom, and spa kit at a cost of $15 each. Each father was gifted a personalized beer stein and handwritten letters for a total of $20 each. Both the flower girl and the ring bearer got personalized cups for $10 each.
All of this totals to $4,900; just under the target budget. All of the prices I found were from actual websites for actual things, I didn’t just make up all the numbers. Most of the numbers are actually rounded up to account for inflation or shipping. So, as you can see, planning a wedding for $5000 isn’t as hard as it sounds. You just need to know what you want and what isn’t important to you. Research is the best tool. By looking around you can compare prices and options to get the best deals on things. Don’t stress if you can’t find something and remember to ask friends and family for help. Good luck and happy planning!