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Our $7,000 Wedding Budget… In Color!

I’ve gotten several comments on our proposed sub-$10,000 wedding budget. Originally, I had wanted to wait until after the wedding to write about it in more detail, because how embarassing would it be if we just blew it during the last few days? Now that we are two months from the Big Day and have already paid for several items, however, I have a much better idea of how much things are going to cost (and weddings, unless you elope, will probably end up costing more than any other one day in your life. I have made peace with that).

So I present… our $7,000 wedding budget spreadsheet

The Budget column shows our best estimate of how much things will cost. The Paid To Date and Expense Complete? columns help us see where we still need to spend. A few notes:

  • The wedding is in an extremely expensive part of California in June, therefore we are not saving any money on the area or date (although we are on the time – more on that later).
  • There are two items that I haven’t decided on yet: videography and guest favors, but I have included them in the spreadsheet just in case.
  • Also, the readers who told me that my guest list will expand – you guys are right. When we first started planning, we were working with a tiny guest list of just 20-25. Then I realized there are close friends that we really wanted to come, and 25 became 40 – the max our venue will hold!

$7000 wedding budget spreadsheet

I am happy with the way the budget is taking shape. In fact, we have a good chance to coming in around or even under the $7,000 mark. When I started planning the wedding, I used a combination of “bottom-up” and “top-down” approach. We set $10,000 was our absolute limit, and then I looked around at the individual components to see where we can trim some dollars. The wedding percentage rules-of-thumb can be helpful, but I didn’t hew too closely to that. Case in point: I’ve seen several websites that suggest brides allocate 10% of their total budget to flowers. I adore peonies, but there is no way I can spend $700 on flowers.

We wanted to minimize stress and reduce cost

I knew early on that I was not going to try to have a “$20,000 wedding on a $7,000 budget.” Mad props to brides who can do that, but that just screamed STRESS to me. And all of our stress-bearing capabilities were spent on graduate school applications and work.

  • We looked for spaces where we’d need minimal decor and where we wouldn’t have to deal with rentals. Our ceremony venue came with seating (yes!) and is indoors (double yes!). After our daytime ceremony, our lunch reception will be held at a restaurant a short drive away. Therefore, we can get by with less alcohol, our meals are 30% lower than a comparable dinner menu, and we will not need a separate caterer. We do have to order wine directly from the restaurant’s wine menu (at a significant markup and starting at $30/bottle), but hey, we’ve all gotta make money somehow. So I don’t begrudge the restaurant that.
  • You’ll notice that we don’t have dancing in the budget – and we won’t have it at the actual wedding either. In an ideal world, we would have included it, but cutting out the dance portion allowed us to have a reception at that particular restaurant.
  • Originally, I was going to order a cake from a well-regarded bakery, but the owner refused to sell me a regular cake after she found out I was having a wedding. So I said “forget her!” Now we plan to buy several “normal” sized cakes from a local shop, so we can get more flavors and feed the same amount of people for less.
  • Bride & groom attire ate up more of our budget than I thought it would… but in the end I’m comfortable with how much we’re spending. Although I got my wedding dress at retail price, I shopped around for a deal on alterations and found a tiny neighborhood tailor who hemmed and tucked for $100. CB got an excellent Brooks Brothers suit that he can wear for years to come, for 50% off.
  • We actually found our photographer on Craigslist. Her pricing is low – $850 for 4 hours of coverage and full user rights – because she was just starting out when we booked her. It’s always a risk signing an up-and-coming vendor, but I really loved her portfolio, she was super responsive, and CB and I both liked her when we chatted on Skype. With a sub-$1,000 photography budget, I wasn’t going to hire an established, experienced photographer. We had to be comfortable with the fact that we have a newish photographer (although in the year since we booked her she has shot 10+ more weddings), but the savings are really substantial. I’ll let you guys know how the pictures turn out.

Some line items look really low… did you think about ____ and ____?

Probably. 😉 But please let me know if you think there’s something we forgot. A few notes:

  • We are not spending any money on stationery – a family friend is officiating our wedding as well as providing the invitations as his gift. We’ll be getting gorgeous letterpress on expensive card stock! The $25 is the cost of our stamps to send the invitations. We did not budget for pre-stamped RSVP envelopes because we’ll be having an online RSVP on our (free) wedding website instead. Is this a faux pas? Maybe… but don’t tell us that!
  • For the vases and cakestands, I purchased a few items from the local Goodwill, and my future mother-in-law borrowed a bunch of milkglass from her friend, so that makes up the bulk of our centerpieces. We are heading to a flower market for our flowers, and I’ve pretty much given up on a floral “vision” – only that I’d like to have blush-colored and light-pink flowers. Peonies would be nice, but so would roses, lilies, carnations, or flowers whose names I don’t know but would fit the look and the budget.
  • For wedding bands, we decided to with tungsten for him and a simple sterling silver or CZ band for her. It’s not supposed to last forever (talking about the ring, not the marriage, of course), so I wouldn’t mind waiting for few years before I get a platinum band to go with my engagement ring. It’s just not in the budget right now.
  • If we do go with wedding favors, I’m thinking of simple packages of madeleine cookies that I can pick up at the local bakery. I have talked to a college film student about videotaping our wedding, but he seems a little flaky so I’m not setting my heart on that. That’s why it’s still undecided.

I’m getting almost everything I wanted out of my wedding

The funny thing is that $7,000 is considered a budget wedding in Wedding World, but I don’t feel deprived. And NOT just in a Pollyannaish I-am-marrying-my-love-and-that’s-what-makes-it-perfect kind of way. Our budget removed certain choices, i.e., an evening reception, dancing, designer dress, etc., but I didn’t truly want those things, or at least I didn’t want them more than I wanted the money saved in bypassing those things. My parents are giving me $10,000 as a gift for the wedding, and so whatever we don’t spend I can use to fund graduate school costs.

You could say I managed my own expectations pretty well. So maybe that is the key to having the wedding you want at the budget you have. Just lower your expectations (or increase your budget!). 😉 Seriously, though, I got a really good deal, and I’m not just talking about money.

After all, I am having my ceremony at the place that I’ve dreamed of ever since before I got engaged. The food and cakes will be delicious. I bought a beautiful lace gown that I could afford even at retail price and CB got the suit that he absolutely loved. And we have friends who are flying from across the country and the world to celebrate with us. Bottom line, my budget is allowing me to get almost everything I want out of my wedding. That’s not the case for every bride, so I do feel very lucky.

Suggestions, questions, and comments welcome on this wedding budget!

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka - How interesting! I love seeing what you're spending. I'm not married yet but I guess my expectations would probably get in the way. I love that your trying to reduce stress. Weddings are so stressful usually. ReplyCancel

  • @tigerpika - My sister in law had her reception at a restaurant and we all had so much fun! Just as much fun as a reception with dancing. Sounds like a great plan. ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - Your budget looks like it's coming along great! ReplyCancel

  • PKamp3 @ DQYDJ - You'll have to let us know how it works out with the photographer. My wife's aunt and uncle shot ours (so we saved money), but it just so happened she was TheKnot.com recommended, heh. We got a number of quality pictures from our friends with SLRs (and my friend you used my camera), but with her aunt's package we got all of the 'customary/stereotypical' shots which we knew that we'd end up getting full prints with in the end.

    Actually, keep us posted in general, and congrats! ReplyCancel

  • @moneyaftergrad - Wow this is great!

    My cousin just put a deposit down for her wedding venue… the venue ALONE is $11,000. I nearly choked.

    You're plan looks awesome! It must feel nice to have already paid so much already too. ReplyCancel

  • femmefrugality - I'd say that's pretty great for a wedding budget! For the video…this wasn't something I thought I wanted/needed, either. But after the wedding a family friend who was there gave me a DVD she had burned of her footage of the ceremony. I was so happy. So that's always an option. Just hand someone with a good seat the camera. It's not professional, but it's better than nothing. You're rocking this budget. ReplyCancel

  • Christopher @ This That and The MBA - Great work on writing out the entire budget. Cheers to making it happen!! ReplyCancel

  • Jordann - This post has made me want to go through every post you've ever done about your wedding, my budget is $7,000 too! I'm just getting into the planning stages so I'm definitely going to steal your spreadsheet. Congrats on getting in under budget, without making any huge sacrifices. ReplyCancel

  • BrokeElizabeth - I love seeing budgets for things like weddings :). It looks like you're doing a great job at avoiding wedding mania, kudos! ReplyCancel

  • MLISunderstanding - Excellent planning! Our wedding budget is $5000 max (looking at about $2500 for the ceremony and reception, and $2000 more for the church cake reception, legal paperwork, rings, and honeymoon), and while it's not the easiest thing in the world, we prefer it to going into debt.

    We went with silver rings set with small semi-precious stones. Our guest list is at 20, plus us and the "staff" types, at a private home we found or Airbnb.com. One thing that surprised me when budgeting this closely was the cost of postage not just for invitations but also for thank-you notes (I almost never send mail in the post nowadays, and it added up quickly); we decided that photo postcards from Snapfish (9 cents each!) would work, and would cost less to mail. ReplyCancel

  • Jessica - I'm impressed that you can have a wedding in an expensive location for under $7000. I thought it was only possible in cheaper areas like Kentucky. I haven't posted my wedding budget for the same reason you weren't gunna post yours–fear of blowing the budget. Now that it's less than a month til my big day, I'm really tempted to blow my budget since I still have a large to-do list. We'll find out how I do in a month's time. ReplyCancel

  • GB - I'm really impressed that you were able to keep to a budget this tight and still have wiggle room to consider videography! About the photographer, I agree that it can be risky working with someone new to the industry. However, new photographers tend to give clients more liberty to own and use the photos versus the more experienced photographers who might keep the rights to the pictures in order to get more money out of you. Have you done any test shoots with your photographer like an engagement session? ReplyCancel

  • thisaggiesaves - Everything looks great! Congratulations! I can't wait to see pics from the wedding (if you decide to share some!) ReplyCancel

  • jeff sustainlifeblog - that is looking a lot like H and my wedding budget for this year – though we arent spending near as much on cake! A lot of the stuff has yet to be decided, but most of the big stuff has already been paid for. Our invites cost 40 bucks to print, and we had a friend design them, they look awesome. ReplyCancel

  • @momoneymohouses - Now that is impressive and motivating while I try to plan my wedding also on a tight budget. Good work! ReplyCancel

  • MommaStar - Dang, you have this under control. I am very admiring your wedding layout on such an awesome budget. ReplyCancel

  • kim - This is so interesting! This is my favorite line – "our stress-bearing capabilities were spent on graduate school applications and work." You definitely have your head screwed on straight! You sound like you're great at ignoring the hardest thing – critiques from the family ("you *must* have this, I can't believe you're doing that) – everybody gets them! That should make an interesting post…if your family doesn't read your blog! Your budget looks great. Your advice to not have a $20k wedding on a $7k budget is such good advice; it would've saved me a lot of stress!

    Having gotten married 3 years ago, the only thing that's necessary that you're missing is postage. Did you include tip for the restaurant servers? We didn't have videography because I thought of this – my father taped a lot of family events during my childhood, and we've never watched them! My wedding ring is a platinum band (no stones) and engagement ring is white gold; we meant to replace it but since the purchase in 2008 the price of gold shot up. Ah well! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Our families are actually SUPER great about the wedding. Almost no pressure at all on who to invite or where to hold the wedding. That has really helped because it allow us to remain pretty chill about the whole affair.

      The restaurant is charging us 20% service fees, and those fees are going to the servers. I've checked with the restaurant and we wouldn't be expect to tip beyond that gratuity. ReplyCancel

  • Stories from Austin - I'm impressed with your budget! It looks like you guys have really been able to balance the budget well. I was a little surprised on your wedding bands—I remember that you have a nice engagement ring. I understand getting a cheapy ring now and upgrading later, but if you're sentimental you might want to make sure you're okay with that not being "the ring you got married with." I'm a super sentimental person so we FOUND the money (from our savings account) to get my nice diamond band. Now that we've been married for a little while, I'm glad we did that. I know that's not important to everyone, but if it is to you, it's something to think about. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I was actually not planning to get any wedding band and just wear my engagement ring. But then I figured it'd be nice to get something at least for symbolic value on the day of the wedding. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Eeee! I might have to bookmark this post.

    I'm waiting to hear back from a potential venue (hurry up already!) I'm hoping to find a gorgeous, nontraditional (but not pristine, if that makes sense – I'd like something alternative with a bit of edge) venue, particularly since I don't want to spend time, money and energy on decorating. Like you, I'm also hoping to find a venue that will include chairs and tables and all that kind of thing. Kudos on finding such a reasonably priced photo/videographer. We'll also be skipping dancing and crazy cake (although we might DIY cake or buy a few nice cheesecakes from a local place).

    It's nuts how fast guest lists add up. Our minimum is 40 (we have a lot of friend groups – ie you invite A, you also need B and C because we all go together). If we end up finding an affordable DIY type venue (ie self catering rather than a traditional venue) we might up that to around 50. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I totally recommend getting a few cakes from a local bakery – you don't have to deal with 'wedding cake pricing,' they'd be easier to transport, and you can try out different flavors. At least that's what I'm telling myself! ReplyCancel

  • Newlyweds ona Budget - you guys are doing great!! So glad you are getting your dream wedding on a budget! ReplyCancel

  • Emily - I think you're right on with managing your own expectations. I think if we had a longer engagement we could have worked to reduce our expenditures, but we were focused on getting to the alter! I'm impressed by how SHORT your budget is, actually – the small number of line items. I have a list of all the payments we made and it is quite extensive. Lots of little stuff. It's really smart to use a restaurant for the reception as table and chair rentals are a nightmare cost.

    I only thought of a few things that you might have left out, but maybe you are doing it yourselves/already have it/have rolled it into the listed categories. It certainly seems you have been thorough!
    gratuities for various vendors
    hair and makeup
    undergarments (I was surprised by this cost)
    guestbook (definitely optional, but it's a nice keepsake)
    transportation from ceremony to reception
    thank you notes and stamps
    seating chart (not sure if this is necessary with only 40 guests) ReplyCancel

  • seedebtrun - You're doing so great!! I'm jealous of the invitations you'll be getting…for free! We had junky ones because we were budgeting. Oh well…no one remembers that stuff anyway, they say. I'm glad we didn't go crazy. We got married 10 years ago, so I know it's a little different now, but we spent about the same; about $6000. Like I said….I know it was years ago, so don't anyone jump on me about how different it is now! 😉 I know that things cost more now, and especially in this arena!! I've had several friends get married more recently and I couldn't believe how much things went up! ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Way to be, lady! Screw the favors – nobody *really* cares about favors anyway.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Great job! It is so hard to save money on a wedding. The one area that I would caution you about saving on is your wedding band. There is a lot of emotion and sentiment that will be tied to the rings you exchanged with your vows and you are likely to want to were it for a very long time (or possibly forever). I am not saying that you need to spend a lot, but you may want to get something that can stand up to years of wear. Something like the tungsten you are thinking for your husbands or stainless or a number of other lower cost, but sturdy metals. I would stay away from anything with CZ or that is meant as costume jewelry.

    I have been married for 3 1/2 years now and while I didn't think it was a huge deal at the time, couldn't imagine not having or wearing the ring that was exchanged with my vows. Your engagement ring also means a little less once you have the wedding band. ReplyCancel

  • Little House - I think you've done an excellent job at planning your wedding and keeping it under the $10,000 mark. In this day and age (and in California to boot) it's definitely difficult to get away with a nice wedding at that price. I hope you share some photos here once it's all said and done. :) ReplyCancel

  • @SmallBudgetBigD - I'm so impressed with your wedding budget. I think people get a little nutty when they're planning their weddings and before you know it the budget it out of control. BF and I aren't engaged yet, but I'm thinking it might happen in the next year or so. I've given a lot of thoughts to how I'd plan the wedding so it would be personal and cheap. I love that you have been able to adjust your expectations to make everything work with your budget. I know when we get married I'll have to do the same thing. What's the most important to us vs. what we can afford. ReplyCancel

  • Putri - Congrats on being able to keep to (under) your budget!!

    I used the bottom up & top down approach too…have fun planning the rest of your wedding.

    I love the idea of cookies as favors – two of our friends did that and I loved it. ReplyCancel

  • Friday the 13th’s Link Love « bogofdebt - […] Well Heeled  posts her wedding budget and I’m paying close attention as I need to start doing this soonish! […]ReplyCancel

  • Fess Up Friday: My Stand-In CZ Wedding Band | Well Heeled Blog - […] see from our $7,000 wedding budget that our wedding bands will only cost $70 total. CB bought a tungsten ring for $15, while I […]ReplyCancel

  • Weekly Update 11 | Evolving Personal Finance - […] Heeled Blog put up a detailed version of her wedding budget.  She’s planning a lovely intimate ceremony and reception and have done an awesome job […]ReplyCancel

  • Our ,000 Southern California Wedding: The Budget Recap | Well Heeled Blog - […] When: Saturday in June Where: Southern California # of people who attended: 35  Initial Budget: $7,000 […]ReplyCancel

  • Leigh - Coming from someone who had a nice, not insane wedding (probably right around $20K give or take- I honestly do not know- my Mother paid for it) I think you sound like a sane individual who has not lost touch with reality. I've been married for almost 10 years and some of the best weddings I've gone to where not the high cost one's. A good wedding consists of a great couple, fun guests and if I had to get superficial in all honestly good food always trumps the rest! Best of luck to you- you seem like you have a great head on your shoulders.

    Congrats! ReplyCancel

  • AJN - Love your spreadsheet! Where did you find that template?? ReplyCancel

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