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Setting a Wedding Budget Under $10,000

Here’s my budget for an under $10,000 wedding, version 1.0.

I so want to be one of those talented and deal-seeking brides who managed a lovely soirree on $5,000, but that’s just not happening. I’ve taken a stab at putting everything together, and I know some of these expenses might be estimated low – but those that are low are things I really don’t care about. I have gotten pricing for the big items (ceremony venue, catering, photography), so I have an idea of what can be done. This is for a Sunday daytime wedding with a guest list of 40-50.

Ceremony: $500.00 (6%)

  • Site rental $250.00 Gorgeous venue. No need for flowers, decorations, or rentals.
  • Marriage license $100.00 Unsure. Need to find out the actual cost.
  • Officiant $0.00 Former Landlord to the rescue!
  • Music $150.00 I’d like to get a harpist or a guitarist to play for an hour.

Reception: $3,500.00 (41%)

  • Site rental $400.00 Tables, linens, flatware.
  • Food, servers, tips, taxes $2,500.00 I’ve gotten a few pricing quotes and think this is realistic.
  • Alcohol $200.00 Morning wedding = less alcohol.
  • Cake $250.00 Not a wedding cake.
  • Music $150.00 We’d do an iPod reception.. But we need to get an iPod first.

Photography: $1,600.00 (19%)

  • Wedding $1,600.00 Day of coverage with 2 photographers. No album, just CD & user rights.
  • Engagement $0.00 I think we’ll be skipping this.

Attire, Hair, and Makeup: $900 (11%)

  • Bride $400.00 This includes dress, shoes, accessories, etc. 3 words: Used J. Crew dresses.
  • Bride hair & makeup $0.00 All me. Plus any bridesmaid who wants to help me.:)
  • Groom $500.00 A good suit that CB can wear long after the wedding.

Stationery: $0.00 (0%)

  • Save-the-dates $0.00 Former landlord has offered to do my invitations as his gift to us. He works at a paper company. Yes, in addition to helping me move, feeding me dinner, and inviting me to his backyard barbeques and parties, he will be gifting me all the paper goods I need for the wedding. Greatest Landlord Ever.
  • Invitations $0.00 see above
  • Programs $0.00 see above
  • Seating cards $0.00 No need for a buffet.

Flowers & Decorations: $190.00 (2%)

  • Bouquets $120.00 Bride (small) + 3 or 4 bridesmaid (nosegays). DIY. I’ll buy roses from the grocery store.
  • Boutonnaire $20.00 For CB. I think I’ll have to get a professional to do this.
  • Decorations $50.00 IKEA glass vases with.. Fruit? That people can eat. Not flowers.

Gifts: $375.00 (4%)

  • Bridesmaids $200.00 I will pay for their bridesmaid dresses. Incentive for me to keep costs low.
  • Groom’s party $75.00 Ties?
  • Former Landlord $100.00 Gift card to a nice restaurant?

Wedding Bands: $1,100.00 (13%)

  • Bride (incl. resizing) $900.00 I know I said I don’t want a band. But I really like this one from Costco… the milligrain would look very nice with the engagement ring. If I get this, I will wear the band on my left ring finger and move the engagement ring to my middle left finger.
  • Groom $200.00 Maybe higher depending on what CB likes.

Other: $300.00 (4%)

  • Transportation $0.00 CB’s car. It has a moonroof!
  • Pre-wedding hotel $300.00 For myself and bridesmaids.

Grand Total $8,465.00

Before I put everything in Excel, I kept thinking my budget is one number. Then I add up everything and it’s completely NOT THAT NUMBER. This is most distressing. The most logical areas to cut would be (1) the reception, and (2) the wedding bands. I am not sure I want to do either.

  • NoDebtMBA.com - Congrats on coming up with a reasonable budget! You see so many places advocating that a wedding should cost several times your budget, it's nice to see something affordable. I also think it's a very nice touch that you're paying for the bridesmaid dresses – very classy! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I think it's pretty much "never" that bridesmaids will re-wear a BM dress, so it seems really unfair to make them pay for it themselves. ReplyCancel

      • Kathleen - I second what NoDebtMBA said. Well-played, WH, considering I have at least three BM dresses in my own closet that will go unworn…forever. Except maybe the black cocktail dress.

        Maybe I'll consider doing the same for my own BMs…if we decide to have a wedding party to begin with. ReplyCancel

  • payingmyself - Under $10,000 is still not bad for a wedding! I like the Sunday day idea. I'll have to keep that in mind.

    A couple thoughts:
    – you might be too low on the BM dresses and grooms gifts. 3-4 dresses for $200.00 is impossible in Canada, not sure about the US.
    – don't forget postage for both invites and thank you cards
    – don't forget thank you cards! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Postage!! You're right. For thank you cards I have a bunch in my stationery box. They won't be "wedding thank you cards" but so be it. ReplyCancel

  • Amber - Your budget is totatlly doable! I actually think your numbers are right on. The only things I'd add:

    – stamps. HUGE expense if you are mailing invitations and thank you cards. I've spent at least $300 on stamps.

    – music for ipod.

    You can totally do it! What a huge score for your previous landlord to do all your paper goods for you. Those are sooo time-consuming and expensive! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Stamps. I completely forgot about those. I guess that will be 44 cents for 50 invitations and 50 thank yous? About $40 should take care of it. I am not going to do invitations that take more than regular mail. ReplyCancel

      • Kathleen - Stamps for their return envelopes too! ReplyCancel

        • Well Heeled Blog - Got me again! ReplyCancel

          • Emma - Just make a wedsite, and have online RSVPs. Save paper and money!

            We're doing that – people are only getting an invitation, with directions to RSVP online with their menu selection.

          • Amber - Don't forget stamps for shower thank you cards too …. I have sent 3 thank you cards to several people. ha ha

            Anyways, good luck! You'll do great. Let me know if you have any questions!

  • Lindsey - I'm impressed with your numbers, especially your site rental. That's awesome that you found a place that is that cheap! I too got married on a Sunday, which definitely cut wayyyy down on costs.

    My suggestion for the ring situation is that if you do wear the wedding band, move your engagement ring to your right ring finger (fairly typical). Your left hand will start to look crowded with your two rings right next to each other.

    My husband's band I think was under $100 – it's black zirconium (stuff they make fake diamonds out of) and he gets SO many compliments. So definitely look into different materials, there are so many different kinds out there! ReplyCancel

  • anotherbride - and shoes! Gotta live up to your blog handle 😉 ReplyCancel

  • Miek - -Marriage license requirements/cost by state: http://marriage.about.com/cs/marriagelicenses/a/u
    – I would budget $100 for your officiant, as a thank you gift
    -Postage is a good point it is costing me $.61 per invite plus, the $.44 on the reply envelope, in your case you should be budgeting around $52 for postage
    -Do you already own the make up and hair accessories you'll be wearing? If not you'll need to factor that into your cost (dont forget waterproof mascara and eyeliner)
    -Dont forget to add vender meals into your count, you'll need to feed the photographers etc.
    – Dont forget the supplies you need to turn your flowers into bouquets
    -I dont think ive ever had a wedding cake I liked better than sheet cake from costco


    • Well Heeled Blog - I am not a big crier when it comes to emotional moments. Good call on the vendor meals. But maybe that just means I gotta cut 2 people from the list. ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Unless you are super picky about the vases I would get creative with how to acquire them. I see people selling their post decorations all the time on my work classifieds or at garage sales. You could also use wine bottles and make a custom label or something(I've seen this and it was cute but not sure if it would cost less, maybe with vista prints?). You could also probably borrow an ipod from a bridemaid or family member versus buying one. ReplyCancel

  • Laura - A few other things to think about (payingmyself gave good advice too):

    -if you do an ipod reception, you also need a sound system..is that in the budget? what about money to buy songs off of itunes?
    -i think your decoration costs are a little low….if you need 5-7 tables, thats less than $10 a table. even just fruit and a vase will likely be more than that unless you can find the vases at goodwill
    -what about a hotel room the night of your wedding?
    -what about flowers/corsages/boutonnieres for your "important" guests? like parents, grandparents, etc?
    -the bridesmaids dresses are a *little* low, but you might be able to do it. not sure if you have a store in mind, but i've seen some bridesmaids buy dresses from target.com and they were super cute and very, very reasonable
    -are you going to get a manicure/pedicure before the wedding?
    -do you guys want to have a nice bottle of champagne or something for your wedding night? we had a bottled "gifted" to us, but i know a few couples who have purchased their own
    -do you need microphones for the ceremony?
    -your music costs *might* be a little low. we paid $250 for our ceremony music and that was a *deal* for our area.

    Lastly, husband and I spent a lot of money on our wedding rings (mine was $1500 or so and his was $300). A lot of people were surprised we spent that much money on the rings, but I am so happy we did. I wanted a specific type of wedding ring (platinum, with Canadian diamonds) and we worked it into the budget. I didn't want to "upgrade" my wedding ring in a few years–I wanted to be 100% happy with the ring he put on my finger on our wedding day. I would discourage you from cutting out the wedding rings or going cheaper on them.

    Whew..that was long! Clearly I recently got married :) ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - The venue has a sound system. Hotel room… good point. But I don't know if that'd count that in as the wedding budget. That's on to the honeymoon phase for me! 😉 No flowers/corsages for parents and special guests. They will still be important without flowers! No manicure or pedicure. Maybe clear polish if I get around to it. $6 prosecco if we want something sparkling. ReplyCancel

  • alottalettuce - Well done, you! The free paper goods are a major money saver, no doubt. And props on deciding to DIY the flowers. Seriously, it is SO easy and honestly? FUN.

    An idea regarding rings: I bought Dude a beautiful, black Tungsten ring for about $150, largely because Tungsten is said to be hypoallergenic. Well, it's not. Neither is Titanium, Palladium or any other metal that is often said to be. While they may be less likely to cause a reaction in people with metal allergies, there are no guarantees.

    So, it turned out that Dude had an immediate and intense reaction to his beautiful Tungsten ring and couldn't wear it. Boo

    Upon doing some more research, I learned that the only truly hypoallergenic metal – as in 100% guaranteed not to cause an allergic reaction in ANYONE is surgical steel. Turns out that surgical steel is also phenomenally affordable.

    So now dude wears a beautiful surgical steel ring that is indistinguishable from platinum and it cost all of – wait for it – $7. SEVEN DOLLARS. I liked it so much that I bought myself a teeny tiny delicate one for $5.

    Sooooo….think about it. It might be a good option for you guys. :) ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Where do you buy surgical steel rings? And if something happens, would it be easier for the hospital's metal cutter to snip the ring? Or do they need special equipment? ReplyCancel

      • alottalettuce - We ordered them online – from Amazon. There are tons of options. Honestly have NO idea about the safety aspect of having to have them cut off though. ReplyCancel

  • Investing Newbie - I;d be really impressed if you were able to pull this off. But I don't know about buying dresses for the bridesmaids as gifts? What if they don't want the dresses, even if they are free? I truly feel that you can cut this cost out altogether by going with tradition and having the bridesmaids pay for their own dresses (especially if you can find all of them for under $200!) and allocating that money elsewhere, like maybe actual gifts for the bridesmaids. Nice charm bracelets, a dinner, or spa. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I really rather pay for the bridesmaids' dresses, because I feel like it's nothing anyone will ever wear again. If I pay for the dresses, I know I will be incentivized to keep the cost low. This way, at least they don't have any costs associated with the wedding. Then I'll probably give them something small for a gift, like earrings that I'll make myself. ReplyCancel

      • Paragon2Pieces - depending on what you're thinking in terms of colors, another option is to have the bridesmaids wear their own dresses. this works best with black. are you skeptical? i sure was (i was a bridesmaid in this scenario). it turned out beautifully. some of us wore dresses we already had… most girls our age have a black cocktail dress. others went out and bought something new that they were likely to wear again. ReplyCancel

  • Matt - Way to go. We had a $10,000 budget, but exceeded that budget by $4500. The venue and the dining were definitely the most expensive items. Are you guys going on a honeymoon? Is that included in your budget? ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Nope. Honeymoon's not included. I think our honeymoon will be another $8K or so, which is why I really want to cut as much cost on the wedding itself. ReplyCancel

  • Debt Hater - I am right where you are! I am getting married in October and am trying to do this for $10G – $12G. like you, I just ain't a super bargain hunting, all DIY bride. I'm confident that we can do the whole thing for under $12G (but maybe slightly more than $10G). ReplyCancel

  • Link love (Powered by immunisations and new horizons) | Musings of an Abstract Aucklander - […] Well Heeled shares her initial sub-$10k wedding budget. […]ReplyCancel

  • Nicole W - Sooo exciting!! Sounds like my wedding . . . small sunday morning in SF!! What venue are you going with?? Congrats again!!

  • Tricia - We bought our flowers at a wholesaler. You should check into it. We had flowers galore, did all of our bouquets, bouts, flowers on all chairs, centerpieces, etc, for less than $200. We got married early in the day at a 5 star place and they gave us a very good rate b/c it was an unpopular time. The food, cake, and all was same as night time, but 2/3 less the cost! You have got some good plans here!! I can't wait to read more!ReplyCancel

  • karen - I'd give the LL cash not a gift card. Typically, the officiant gets cash, plus he's doing your paper needs for free.


  • Insomniac Lab Rat - Looks pretty good! Others have pointed out a few things, but I think overall you've got a good start :)

    Just going to throw it out there- Boutonnaires are not that difficult to make. My mom helped my sister and I make them for our dates for all of our homecoming/winter carnival/proms. Of course, we bought a big bag of the pins and a roll of floral tape to use for all of these events, so it might not be as cost effective for one boutonnaire as it was for a dozen or so, and I'm sure you can get one pretty cheap from a professional, and it will look lovely. ReplyCancel

  • @bfinance - You can do it! My wedding (last millenium) in inflation adjusted dollars was about the price of yours! It was a lovely Sunday afternoon event and we've used the money we saved on a variety of more long lasting expenses (home downpayment). Congrats. ReplyCancel

  • Marlene@TermLife - Sounds like a great plan and that the wedding day will be beautiful! When I got married, my husband and I swapped services with our wedding photographer… she was amazing but super expensive. But it was the one thing I refused to go cheap on… they are priceless memories. For my bridesmaids, I made them jewelry and created very personal cards. It was fun, added a personal touch, it was special for my ladies, and I saved a bundle. Great tips. Congrats and have fun planning!! ReplyCancel

  • Tea - Wait, wait, wait. Aren't you the one who told me that you and CB have couples photos from when you weren't engaged? You HAVE to get engagement photos. I swear you'll regret it if you don't. You'll always be thinking "I don't have them because I was trying to save money". Take it out of your wedding budget. If you guys spend money on random photos anyway, please spend money on engagement photos. Please, please, please!

    Also, I wanted to comment on how much of a blessing your former landlord has been. It's so obvious that they have a purpose in your life. From all of the yummy meals they used to make you now to officiating your wedding and doing your invitations. How amazing! ReplyCancel

  • hen dos - I am getting married in March and am trying to set a budget. The problem is, I have no experience in this and have no idea of what kind of budget to set or how. Any ideas? ReplyCancel

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