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!
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.