While the average American wedding costs roughly $30,000, I definitely don’t have that kind of money. Neither does my partner, my parents, or his. Because I’m not loaded, I planned my own wedding and managed to pull together a beautiful beach wedding in a mere nine months for under $4,000.
My maid-of-honor and I collaborated on the planning, eliminating the need for a wedding planner. This was no small feat because we live in different states 600 miles apart, but thank goodness for iPhones and Pinterest! We’re both proud bargain shoppers so we shopped the price of literally everything we needed to make sure we got the best deal. It was tough to coordinate at times but so fun to work together on it.
I kept the guest list simple. When you’re deciding who to invite to your wedding, it’s tempting to invite every childhood friend, colleague, former colleague, and acquaintance, but every guest adds to the bill as far as food, beverages, and how big your venue needs to be. I just invited family and close friends for a couple of reasons: it kept the budget down and it also made the wedding feel more intimate (which is a good thing for someone with social anxiety).
I skipped the band/DJ and made an Amazon music playlist of all our favorite songs. I found a nice Bluetooth speaker with multi-colored lighting effects and a microphone (also on Amazon) for about $60 and we used the mic for our vows and the best man/maid of honor speeches. When I needed someone to hit play on the songs for the ceremony, I enlisted the help of my 16-year old nephew. Who really wants to do the chicken dance and the electric slide anyway? They’re so tired and cliche. However, if you do want those terribly cliché songs, I’m sure they’re on Amazon too.
I enlisted the help of my talented friends/family members. Shopping for a caterer was giving me serious sticker shock; most of them would have blown the entire budget just on food. Then one of my friends commented on Facebook about how she was trying to get her catering business up and running and an idea was born. It would help her budding business to cater her first wedding; it would help me to get an affordable price on a bunch of delicious buffet-style beach party food. She did an amazing job and everyone loved the food. I saved money on the pictures this way as well because my sister is a talented amateur photographer, and our wedding pictures turned out perfect.
We made the bouquets at home out of fake flowers from the craft store. Real flowers are super expensive and they die quickly. When my maid of honor came to my state for a planning weekend, we hit the local craft store and found the perfect fake Hawaiian flowers— on sale! We bought wire cutters for the stems and green floral tape and then it was just a matter of assembling the bouquets. They were beautiful! I spent about $35 on all of the flowers and they looked great in the pictures too.
We all shopped the sale racks for our dresses. I wanted to make the wedding affordable for my bridesmaids too, so I just told them what color I’d like them to wear and left it up to them to pick any style of dress they were comfortable wearing and could afford. Many of them found dresses on sale at David’s Bridal for $29 in the selected color. As for me, I already knew I didn’t want a white dress or a floor-length gown. White just isn’t my color and I’m really short, so long dresses make me feel like a very unsexy hobbit. I went with a short, gray, swingy sleeveless dress with intricate beading around the waist, which was $129. If long white gowns are your thing, don’t be discouraged though; you can find them in that price range as well.
I skipped the giant expensive wedding cake in favor of a cupcake tower. Cupcakes are already individual size and they make the serving/cleanup easy! The actual tower itself was inexpensive and easily found on Amazon, and my mother-in-law baked the red velvet cupcakes from a mix. She had help decorating them from a cousin on my husband’s side of the family and they were really pretty (as well as delicious).
We served beer and wine but no liquor. Trying to have a full open bar would’ve more than depleted the entire budget, so we kept it simple and stocked up on a few varieties of beer and wine, a couple cases of champagne, and some non-alcoholic drinks. There was plenty to go around and nobody complained about the lack of liquor. After all, free alcohol in any form is still free alcohol.
I negotiated the price with the officiant. Weddings are a booming business in the area where I got married and there are many licensed officiants available in that area for beach weddings. After contacting several of them and landing on one I liked, I discovered that the quoted price was a bit over what I had budgeted for that aspect of the ceremony. Instead of continuing to look elsewhere or ponying up the extra cash with no questions asked, I let her know that I really wanted to hire her and shared my budget with her. She agreed to work with me on my budget, so problem solved!
We all pitched in on DIY decorations. We made a makeshift aisle down the beach with jars full of sand, seashells, and leftover flowers. Inside the reception venue, my friends and family came together and decorated the entire place in the wedding theme colors. I found an inexpensive beach-themed card box and guestbook set on Amazon as well. The place looked great, and it was touching to see my loved ones working together to make our day special.
We did our own hair and makeup. It was a lot of fun; it was like a pre-wedding girls’ party in the hotel. We had drinks and played with different hair and makeup concepts until we were happy with the outcome. I think that was far more fun than going to salon after salon and sitting patiently while professionals worked their magic.
In general, pulling off this incredible budget wedding required me to be both creative and realistic. If you’re on a budget, you need to think on a budget and go with what you can afford debt-free. After all, the whole point is that you’re starting a new life with your spouse, and you don’t want to start that life with a ton of debt from one celebration. Trust me, your wedding day will go by so quickly and it will be much more fun if you’re not stressed out about paying it off for the next five years.
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