When: Saturday in June
Where: Southern California
# of people who attended: 35
Initial Budget: $7,000
When I was allocating our wedding dollars, I loved “real wedding” budget posts – blog posts that broke down costs and gave a realistic sense of what kind of wedding is doable with what amount of money. In the spirit of paying it forward, I hope this budget recap will be helpful to brides & grooms out there, especially if you are planning a daytime event in Southern California. Plus, I get to show you some of our pictures! Read on for details on how much getting married cost us.
Ceremony: $532.00 / 8%
We held our ceremony inside this gorgeous city-owned property, which I believe is one of the BEST hidden secrets of wedding venues in California. As you can see, the room comes with leather benches, 12-feet ceilings, and double chandeliers, and needs no decoration. A 2-hour rental only cost $240. Where else can you get that kind of deal?! The only less-than-ideal thing about the room is that it tends to be dark, especially with the morning June gloom. An afternoon wedding would get much more light. The balance of the ceremony budget went to our marriage license, marriage certificates, and an acoustic guitarist. A family friend officiated – we gave him cash as a “thank you” that is included in the Gift section below.
Reception Food & Drinks: $1,961.00 / 29.6%
Our reception for 35 – including bride, groom, photographer, and photographer’s assistant – was held inside at a very lovely restaurant near our ceremony site. We didn’t have to pay a room rental fee and didn’t do much decorating at all. We selected a 2-course plated lunch with a choice of braised chicken with mashed potatoes or grilled salmon with risotto. In addition, we hosted champagne and wine for $300. Instead of a tiered wedding cake, we got three ”regular” cakes in different flavors. The food was pretty darn good, and everyone seemed to have cleaned their plates…at least at my table! By having a daytime event, we saved 25% on the menu vs. dinner.
Attire & Accessories: $1,838.98 / 27.7% (Bride: $987.82, Groom: $851.16)
My dress (from David’s Bridal) plus alterations cost $947.04 – I had to get an emergency $250 alterations job 2 weeks before the wedding. If I had not purchased my dress at retail I could have shaved $200 off this category. Ah well. C’est la vie. It’s mind-boggling how I spent almost $1,000 on a dress that I will wear for ONE DAY. Even more mind-boggling? I don’t regret the expense at all. I felt supremely bridal in that gown… and it was lightweight and comfortable. In addition to my dress, I also bought shoes (Marshalls) and a jeweled brooch (eBay) for the wedding. The only jewelry I wore, aside from my engagement ring, were a pair of pearl earrings that CB gave me the Christmas before. CB was the true budgeteer between the two of us. His Brooks Brothers suit plus alterations came out to $650.66. The shoes, shirt, and tie were all purchased at Nordstrom Rack.
Photography: $900 / 13.6%
What I learned when I first started looking at photographers: it costs more than I, pre-engagement, ever thought were possible. Photography is an area where many brides splurge on, and I can understand why. After all, when the wedding’s over, all you will have are the pictures and the memories. Fortunately, I found someone that I like and that fit our budget. We paid $850 for 4 hours of coverage and digital user’s rights, plus I tipped her $50. We decided to forgo a professional album as we can always print out our pictures later on. Our photographer was just starting out when we booked her, but I really like her style and her personality. Now she is much more experienced and her prices have gone up, but she is still surprisingly affordable. We met up with family an hour before the ceremony to take pictures, skipping the getting-ready shots.
Flowers & Decor: $294.49 / 4.4%
Throughout the whole wedding planning process, my floral mantra has been “fresh flowers plus succulents CAN’T look bad.” That gave me the confidence to DIY everything: 8 flower centerpieces, 1 bridal bouquet, 2 bridesmaid nosegays, and 1 cake table arrangement. Less than two weeks before the wedding, I ordered some succulents from Etsy for a total of $100. I also bought around $20 worth of goblets and glasses from Goodwill. The day before the wedding, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I went to the flower market where we purchased around $100 worth of spray roses, roses, lamb’s ear, banana leaves, floral foam, and wire and supplies. I did all of my flowers the night before the wedding – we got done around 12:30 am. It was a last-minute project but quite surprisingly the most fun I’ve had with wedding planning.
Stationery & Website: $54.00 / 0.8%
A family friend did our invitations and thank you cards as an gift. All our invitations just took a regular $0.45 stamp, with the exception of a single invitation to Southeast Asia – that was $1.10. I’m not kidding when I say that our stationery – letterpress on very thick, 100% cotton cardstock from Crane & Co. – is probably THE most-top-of-the-line item we have at the wedding. The cardstock was so substantial that the mailman at the post office asked me if I were mailing CDs! We sent out around 30 invitations, which would have probably cost us at least $200 had we paid for these invites (what’s the going rate for letterpress these days?). $39 went to the premium version of our online honeymoon registry. We got a free wedding website at weddingwire.com.
Gifts & Favors: $500 / 7.5%
This includes a $250 cash gift to our officiant (the same gentleman who did our invitations and thank you cards), the other $250 went to our parents and the wedding party. My mother-in-law did the favors (candy), so I’m not sure how much they cost. I believe it was somewhere around $50?
Hotel: $220 / 3.3%
The night before, we stayed 40 minutes outside of our wedding site because the area is just so. damn. expensive. I used my hotel points for this. The night of the wedding we stayed at a place we found via AirBnB for $220 total for Saturday & Sunday night. In an ideal world, we would be spending our wedding weekend at the Four Seasons (which was around $600/night during the weekend of our wedding. ha!), but that was 1. way outside of our budget, and 2. WAY outside of our budget. You win some, you lose some.
Hair & Makeup: approximately $300 / 4.5%
Hair and makeup were all on my own. In fact, this picture is the first time I have gotten a good look at how my hair looked from the back… I put my hair in foam curlers the night before the wedding and the pinned it with bobby pins in 10 minutes. In most of my pictures you can see a ton of flyaway hairs… but for a DIY hairstyle, I think it turned out really well. For my makeup, I went to Sephora and spent lots of dough. Then I went to Rite-Aid and bought more stuff. I want to consider those “normal expenses” as opposed to wedding expenses, but I probably wouldn’t have went so above budget had I not had the wedding. So.. in the wedding budget they went. It was all worth it, though, because I loved my makeup the day of. And now I have all the products to play with.
Rings: $35 / 0.5%
CB bought a tungsten ring for $35 from Amazon.com. Originally, I planned to get a cheap stand-in wedding band, but then I realized I’m fine with just wearing my engagement ring. There’s no point in getting a cheapie band if I don’t care about wearing a band in the first place. So that’s another cost forgone.
What We Spent: $6,635.47 (or 5% under budget)
A few more tips:
- I stand by these 5 tips for a sane and (relatively) stress-free wedding without breaking the bank.
- In my experience, it’s easier to cut expenses rather than trim expenses. So we eliminated dancing, reception music (the restaurant provided ambient music), professional florals, engagement photos, videography, transportation, separate hotel rooms for the bride and groom, tiered wedding cake, cake toppers, expensive rings, etc.
- The simplest way to keep a low budget is to manage your guest list. That’s not to say you can’t have a great budget wedding with a guest list of 250. It will be much harder, however, to do so with 250 guests than 25 guests. As your guest list shrinks, your reception possibilities open up. Many quirky or interesting venues only host small groups. I don’t feel like we scrimped when it came to our guests, and the only reason we could do that on a budget was to have a small guest list.
- Spend a little more on the groom’s outfit, and make sure to get it tailored. A good suit will last ages, certainly far longer than a wedding dress will.
- Consider hosting your reception at a restaurant if you 1. want good food, 2. hate hassle, and 3. can give up dancing. Our decision to have the reception at the restaurant is probably one of my smartest. The food was great – better than any wedding food I’ve had before, everything went smoothly, and we didn’t worry about rentals. Our reception felt like a nice lunch party where we were the guests of honor, and it was fun to just relax and catch up with friends.
- A wedding goes by in the blink of an eye. Seriously, I was a little surprised by how quickly the whole day passed. Make sure that you will not regret all the work and money you’ve put into an event that really, will be over in 12 hours, max.
- On the other hand, wedding budgeting isn’t a competition. You don’t get a prize if you spent $2,000 on your wedding and you don’t get a prize if you spent $200,000. Just don’t start your married life with debt because of the wedding. Life is much better without wedding debt.