(Closed) Affordable Weddings that Look Expensive/Well Put Together

posted 5 years ago in Money
Post # 3
2006 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

We spent around 15k for ours.

Venue was around 5k and included table linens, centerpieces (although personally I opted to make my own), and other decor such as tent draping and hanging chandeliers. They also acted as day-of cooridnators so we didn’t have to set anything up or worry about anything.

Food was about 2.5k for 100 people

photographer was 1.8k

DJ was around $600

My dress plus alterations was around 1000

Hair and makeup 300

Tux 100

Cakes 800

officiant 300

Bartender plus drinks 500

And now thinking back i can’t seem to remember other costs, but lots of small things add up.  I was a huge DIY bride so the cost of my materials added up, plus it took me like 10 months to make everything (including all bouquets, centerpieces, aisle decor, etc)

It all depends on your location I think.  And make a list of what you are willing to sacrifice versus what is ABSOLUTELY something you won’t cave on.  For me, I wouldn’t cave on the venue.

Post # 4
9548 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013

We had a backyard wedding for 150 that was fairly casual and low-key. We spent around $17k. Just the tent and bathrooms and generator were $4k. Before anyone had a bite or drink. And we live in a very inexpensive area. We absolutely could have done the wedding for $6-9 k, but we wouldn’t have been able to invite everyone that we wanted and have the kind of ceremony and party that we wanted. So you can absolutely do your wedding within that budget, but be prepared for the sticker shock when you start looking at vendors. But if that’s what you want to spend, stick with it and find ways to make that budget work. If you want more details about how we spent our money, I’m happy to share!

The best advice I can give is to site down with you fiance, now, and make a list of priorities and things that are important to include in the wedding. Then you can refer back to this later in wedding planning!

Post # 5
1979 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2014

@otto2008:  The biggest expense is venue/catering.  If you can get a deal on that, then it can work.  One of my friends had a budget wedding this summer- it was outdoors, she made everything she possible could, made her own flower arrangements from the grocery store, and are pretty down to earth.  They had an outdoor wedding with barbeque dinner- it was very casual.  She STILL paid over 20K even though she was hoping to spend 10K!  This was perfect for them, but not an expensive looking wedding.

You already admitted that you have expensive taste, so unless you are having a really small wedding… realistically, 9K may not pay for the wedding you want.

I will start by saying that I live in Southern California, so nothing is cheap here.  I have expensive taste and figured we would spend 15K on the wedding.  We don’t have big families so we are planning on 100 guests.  Most venues I liked started at 100/person for dinner, that’s 10,000 before sales tax and a 20% service charge.  Most photographers around here start at 3,000 and it only goes up for there.  We haven’t decided on transportation (might use my car) but the horse and carriage at our venue is $750.  My fiance went to culinary school so food was really important to him, so our venue (including lakeside ceremony, waterfall cocktail lighting, ballroom reception, lighting, plated dinner, upgraded appetizers, uplighting, gobo lights, horse and carriage, and service charge) is 16-18K and we are saving at least 3K because we are getting married off season!  Their package is generous- chivari chairs, ceremony chairs, linens, microphones and sound for ceremony, victorian cake stand, bird cage card holder, live pianist for ceremony, full service wedding planning, and a bunch of other stuff is all included in the package.  It looks like we will end up spending closer to 30K even off season and doing flowers, decor, invitations, and placecard table ourselves(hopefully not over that!, but it adds up SO SO SO fast).

That’s my choice, but you need to have a heart to heart talk with your future bride.  She may have certain dreams and 9K may not cover those expectations.  You said you prefered her to wear a lace dress- lace dresses are more expensive than other fabrics.  That will be at least 1K before alterations, and alterations can be another 300-600.  I was floored by how much weddings cost.  It IS of course possible to get married for under 9K.  Many many many people do!

I was a maid of honor for one of my dearest friends and she spent less than 4K on her wedding.  She was married outside with a reception in a community center.  She was able to rent the center for like $500 because it was a Sunday.  The venue was a basic box with florescent lighting.  She had the tables that were there and metal folding chairs.  She had plastic tablecloths, plastic silverware, plastic cupsand paper plates.  She borrowed pillar candles from friends for center pieces so each one was different and hung christmas lights on the ceiling.  Her parents made all the food, and her mom made the cake.  They used their own car for transportation, she did her own hair and makeup, a friend put together the roses into bouquets from roses from costco, another friend took pictures, and her brother played some music off his ipod.  It was a wonderful wedding, but she regrets having a friend do the photos and wants to have a full blown reception for her 10 year anniversary.  But she got married, and it is possible.

I’m not married yet, but here are photos of our outdoor wedding venue we booked. 

Ceremony site:

Horse and Carriage:

Cocktail Hour:


Props to you for planning ahead.  Best wishes to you and your bride to be!  I am sure your wedding will be lovely!

Post # 6
4031 posts
Honey bee

@otto2008:  Our wedding cost around $10k for 85 guests. We went with a very nontraditional venue which saved us a ton of money. We got married at a school, so the venue only costed us $650. We rented tables, chairs and did lighting for an additional $1500. The venue also let us bring in our own alcohol (saved us money as well), so we had a full bar for 85 people for only $600. 

My grandfather owned the DJ company, so that didn’t cost us anything and we had a family friend make our cake/cupcakes for only $130 (originally quoted $250 from baker). Lastly, our venues catering was VERY affordable. They charged us $21 per person for 4 food stations (american, mexican, soups, salad/potato bar) that were delicious and a smores bar for dessert. 

We got our photog for $1900 (unlimited hours, 2 shooters, engagement photos and full rights on cd–she now charges $2700). Additionally, I saved about 60% off my Casablanca Couture by buying it at a sample sale. So I only paid $950 for my dress. Lastly, we DIYed our flowers (Sams club) and only paid $300 for bouquets, bouts, corsages and centerpieces.

Hopefully this is somewhat helpful. My best advice would be to invest where you feel it is most important!

I think our wedding looked fairly nice (not luxurious or super pricey, but quite nice), but here are a few photos for reference:

Post # 7
7689 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

5K for 65 people




Venue and food/drink will likely be the biggest expenses. There are ways to cut costs but still make your wedding look great. 



Post # 8
211 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2015

@otto2008:  it all depends on where you live and what your must haves are for the wedding. You can do a backyard wedding for 150, elegant dinner for 40 and in some areas that price will get you 100 people at a nice venue for a plated meal. Make a list of what you each think is the biggest element you want the most and go from there but also be realistic. think of what you want but understand you may have to cut things or people and what you want to spend tends to go up after you factor in the small things along the way. You can do what you want to get an elegant wedding if you understand sacrifices have to be made in areas to get that or else you’ll need to expand the budget.

Post # 9
2305 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2016

you seem to have a lot of this planned in advance for a guy, who hasn’t proposed yet. What if your girlfriend wants things that are different then you do? It sounds like you expect to do the whole thing yourself.

Just seems weird to me. 


Post # 10
4031 posts
Honey bee

@cirk:  While this is a valid point, I would say that a lot of women do the same thing. A lot of bees are on here “planning” details and getting ideas before their SO has even proposed. I think it is fine as long as he doesn’t commit to things until they have discussed it.

Post # 11
8576 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2014

@otto2008:  We are spending around $20k total, [including EVERYTING : rings, honeymoon, parties, ect].

It’ll probably be a around 11k total without the honeymoon/rings/parties, which isn’t too far off from your budget.

I think you and you fi should sit down and discuss your priorities, and the general idea for your wedding. It really helps to know what you want to spend the most money on.

Do you want a big, fancy venue? Or something less expensive and maybe a little offbeat. Answering this question will help determine how much you need to budget for your venue. Many of the super, glitzy beautiful venues I looked at wanted anywhere from $2000-$7000 – and that’s before food or booze!

Do you want alcohol there? If so, this will be another big chunk of change.

What type of food? How many guests?

All of these quests will help you narrow down what type of wedding you want and what type of wedding you can afford.

When me and my fiance began the wedding planning, we dicussed dates, prioties, and guests all at the same time. We both wanted [most] of our families to be there – which already put us at around 100 invites. We both agreed that great food, booze and a DJ were a must for us. We decided to go with a cheaper alternative to a ceremony/venue space that would allow extra money in the budget for great food, entertainment and booze.

I did give up my dream venue – we could have afforded it, [although it was taken for our date], but we wouldn’t have had any of the “extras” [late night snack, booze, photo booth, candy buffet, ect].

I feel confident that I made the right decision – I’d take giving our guests a better experiance over a venue looking pretty any day!

Post # 13
3774 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@otto2008:  I know you said outdoor, but I’m going to show you some of our pics anyway. Our total budget was $10k. We had our wedding on a Sunday (which DEFINITELY made things more affordable!) Here’s our reception hall, ceremony chapel, cake, and centerpieces.



Post # 14
3671 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@otto2008:  I spent 10k for our wedding! It was gorgeous and we had 95 guest RSVP but only had about 60 show up (it was semi destination). The best advice I can give is to NOT buy anything that is meant for weddings and to keep the guest list down! I am still waiting on pro-pictures but this is what I have so far 🙂 

Post # 16
1868 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2014

@otto2008:  Our wedding will cost us $25,000, not including any rings or honeymoon. 

Our venue takes the biggest chunk out of that budget. It’s a really unique place that I fell in love with so the price tag is a reflection of the food and the use of the venue itself. It’s not a typical venue place and it is costing us $12,000 for 100 guests. My parents really wanted to invite 60 of their closest friends but we legit could not afford them so they are happily willing to pay for their guests. If we could afford to without going into debt (we are trying our best to pay everything cash for the entire wedding), we would have paid for them.

Photographer is $3,500 (originally $4,700 but our wedding is off season and he agreed to give us an amazing deal for that, couldn’t believe it), that includes 2 photographers and a CD of all the edited pictures with printing rights. We are going to look into getting an album after the wedding as they cost too damn much right now (^$2,000). 

Videographer is $2,000

My dress was $2,050 (got it for a discount at the bridal shop) Alterations and extra lace ordered is costing us another $500-$600. Boo. 

Transportation is still in the air. 

Flowers I am trying to keep at $1,500, but if I can work my magic, it will be $1,000. Was able to get $450 worth of bird cages, lanterns, and 3 tier length tea light goblets for center pieces from Michael’s Craft Store. Along with bud vases and a ton of mercury votive candle holders. Basically, all of our centerpieces. We just need to incorporate flowers now.  


Need to find a violinist or two for ceremony. Hoping that is no more than $300-$400.

Hair, makeup, shoes, accessories will be around $800.

I was able to get our invitations, rsvp cards, and menu cards for 75%(!) off so all three together only cost $250, which was great considering our budget for that was $600. Believe me, when the time comes, you’ll notice that every little dollar counts. 

DJ is $1,000.

Best advice I can give you is to nail down your budget. Ask yourselves what can we spend on this wedding where afterwards, we will not be in any debt at all. Then discuss the most important things to you guys and go from there. For us, it was the venue(including food) and photographer. I feel like it sets the ambiance for the wedding and when the venue is different and unique, people remember it years from now. So we splurged on the venue with the understanding that we needed to be careful with everything else. Another piece of advice is to shop around. Don’t take the first offer from any vendor that comes your way. Also, LOOK FOR DEALS! Especially around this time of the year, next year. I couldn’t believe that I was able to get beautiful invitations for 75% off because of Christmas time sales. Also, the birdcages I found at Michael’s were on clearance. I probably bought like 15 for a total of 70 bucks. Don’t spend full price on everything, because you won’t need to if you really look for deals and try to save.

Also, I think it is very sweet of you to be asking questions about budget and things like that before your propose. My fiancé and I did the same. One has to know what they are getting into financially before just saying ,”Hey, let’s get married!”. It’s not that simple if you actually want a full blown wedding. I also don’t think you are being selfish about your wedding ideas. You stated how your gf loves the outdoors and will more than likely want an outdoor wedding even though you’re not a fan of the outdoors. Seems sweet to me. You know your gf best and I’m sure your ideas are a reflection of what you think hers would be, too. 

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