@freshflowers: My brother and SIL had a very low budget wedding. I would assume that it was most definitely under $5k although we never really went over final numbers.
For starters they kept their expectations and guest list small. They actually origionally were planning for immediate family and a handful of VERY close friends – and were going to do it at my house. Once they decided they did want to invite a few more people their guest list got up to around 50 people, they started to think about possibly doing a venue.
They rented their venue (a winery) for $500, which was discounted from the normal rate for being a Sunday and also because my parents knew the owners. The venue included ceremony setup w/ chairs (at the edge of the vineyard), as well as the room for the reception and all tables/chairs/linens. They only needeed like 6 tables, so that helped to keep costs down on how much they had to decorate.
She DIYed a good majority of decor – with the exception of flowers. They chose not to have a bridal party (saving money of Bridal Party gifts, extra flower, etc). She purchased metal flowerpots to use as centerpieces, and the flowers inside them were ordered and arranged via the local grocery store (I’d say probably $300?) – they also did her bouquet and his bout. They got married in October, and went with a vintage/rustic theme and “fall” decor. They purchased a lot of mums, pumpkins, and gourds to add to decor.
They purchased a couple cases of mason jars w/ handles – and chalk stickers. She wrote the names of each guest on the cup – that trippled as table decor, place setting for seating chart, and favor to take home. They also purchased a few cases of tealights to help decorate and add ambient light
The opted for a local BBQ restaurant for catering – and paid around $7.50/person for: pulled pork BBQ, BBQ Chicken, Mac & Cheese, Buns, Cole Slaw, Baked Beans. They also purchased all their tea through the restaurant as well. They purchased some apps (fruit & cheese, etc) from the grocery store. Getting married at a winery meant they ordered all wine through them, and also had beer – but it was a laid back casual affair and so there wasn’t really heavy drinking happening.
They hired a ceremony/reception musician. A single girl who played guitar for the ceremony, then during cocktail hour she played the guitar, and during dinner/afterwards she played/sang. They didn’t have any dancing, and didn’t do a first dance.
The biggest saving was photography. I’m a full-time professional wedding photographer, and I shot their wedding for free (obviously). They did not have the budget to hire anyone (at least not anyone that procuded quality professional work) and I honestly was not about to let my brother get married and have crappy wedding photos. Had they been having a full large wedding it would have been different – because I’d want to enjoy myself – but their wedding was very laid back and small.