For our wedding, we’re only inviting ~55 people (and expecting only ~30 to actually attend). And we’re also on a tight budget. We’ve chosen specific areas to ‘splurge’ on.
We decided to splurge on: 1, the tent itself (because that’s where the guests are going to be hanging out all night,); and 2, the food.
The tent is going to have a fancy ceiling liner (so you can’t see the poles holding it up) and it will have the french door side-walls, and great lighting. Tables will have white linens, and real silverware/plates.
As for food, we’re still doing a buffet style dinner, from a local well-loved BBQ restaurant. Again, because we’re having so few guests, we went the extra mile and have the biggest food package within reason, so the guests could try/eat as much as they wanted. We’re also renting a cotton candy machine, and having a candy table. As for booze, we’re having bottles of wine (nice quality), and 2 mixed cocktails in self-serving pitchers (made from good quality vodka, and bourbon).
So aside from that, my dress is going to be about $500, I’m doing my own makeup, hiring a friend to do my hair, my FI and I are making our centerpieces for the tables (I’m currently in DIY hell, lol,) and I got a great deal on my photographer (I emailed about 10 photogs, and only 3 responded. Of those 3, only 1 was willing to work within my budget. So don’t be afraid to email a bunch of photographers! One is bound to be awesome and willing to help you!), and we got a great deal on a DJ (again, emailed a bunch of them to see which one will be willing to do our wedding within our budget).
I think you need to decide which areas of your wedding day are most important for you, and then go from there. 🙂