Originally we set a budget of around $15,000. We knew we wanted to invite as many friends and family as possible as it would be one of the few chances in our lives to have our widely separated families together at once. In the end, we went over our budget. I’m sure this is no huge surprise to anyone currently planning a wedding! Wedding costs add up fast. You might even have that wedding-budget anxiety attack when you realize how expensive your dream wedding will cost. Suddenly your Pinterest-worthy wedding dreams begin to fade. But don’t give up! There are lots of ways to trim your budget and incorporate DIY elements to keep costs down. We certainly could have had a much cheaper wedding without sacrificing the look and feel of our big day.
Anyway, enough yapping from me. Here’s the Camel Wedding Budget Breakdown:
Number of Guests: ~80
Location: Athens/Arnoldsville, Georgia
Date: May 26, 2013
Type: Outdoor, seated buffet
Sunday discount; this included the venue from 3:00 PM to midnight, the staff, two bartenders, two passed appetizers, a buffet with two entree choices, salad, rolls, and three side dishes, the cake cutting, a day-of coordinator, all linens, all tables and chairs, and ceremony setup and breakdown.
Outdoor Lighting: $500
This was stupidly expensive, but we just had to have it for the desired ambiance. It was worth it, though, for it gave the entire reception a magical, fairy-party sort of feel. We were originally planning on having the reception inside the house and therefore never budgeted for lighting. This was a last-minute addition when our venue coordinator suggested moving the seating outside if the weather was nice. I was immediately in love with the idea, and thankfully the weather was perfect! But it was definitely a much-debated last-minute expense.
Alcohol, All Night Open Bar: $850
We collected bottles of red and white wine from Trader Joe’s for over a year. We also purchased lots of beer from Costco and about 10 bottles each of rum and vodka for mixed drinks. Our caterer provided mixers for the alcoholic beverages. We had a LOT of leftover alcohol!
Cake, Cheesecake Factory & Cecelias: $200
We bought three chocolate cakes from the Cheesecake Factory (Linda’s Fudge Cake is my absolute favorite cake in the world), and one lemon cake from Cecelias so we could still provide a “traditional” cake offering for our guests. Plus, it looked great in photos! Price also included the cake stand and cake delivery.
Photography, Christopher Helm: $2,800
Sunday discount; 10 hours of coverage, one shooter, engagement shoot, digital files with copyright
My brother is a DJ and brought all the lights and sound equipment as part of our wedding gift. We had a blast!
We hired a florist for my bridal bouquet, the Mr. C’s boutonniere, three corsages (for my mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother), and 10 table’s worth of flowers for the reception and miscellaneous flowers for the main room, gift table, dessert table, and guestbook table. We then DIY’ed everything else. We ordered around $100 worth of baby’s breath from fiftyflowers.com, which was used for our aisle decor, groomsmen boutonnieres, and bridesmaid/groomslady bouquets.
Ceremony Decor: $180
The aisle was decorated with hanging baskets I bought from Hobby Lobby, which were filled with moss. My mother made bows for them with sheer blue ribbon, and they were filled with baby’s breath, which is included in the estimate above. We also rented a chandelier from a local antique shop, which was hung from the tree directly over our ceremony site and provided guests with dried lavender to toss as we passed by during the recessional.
Ceremony Music: $160
We paid two former students $80 each to play the cello and violin for about an hour and a half. I asked them to learn two different songs for the event.
Hair & Makeup, City Salon and Spa: $800
This included my bridal updo, hair trial, updos for our nine bridesmaids/groomsladies, and two mothers, my wedding day makeup, and gratuity.
Bride’s Attire: $2,810
- Dress: $2,300 (Jim Hjelm 8105 purchased as a sample from Wedding Angels Boutique)
- Shoes: $50
- Bracelet: $40
- Hairpiece (DIY): $20
- Sash (DIY): $30
- Alterations: $400
I never in my wildest dreams expected to have such an expensive dress, but it was absolutely the one. I can’t imagine our wedding day without it. As such, I tried to spend less on the other bridal accessories. I bought my shoes (by Lola Cruz) on sale on Amazon, but I just noticed that BHLN is now selling them for $200 in rose gold.
Groom’s Attire: $440
- Suit (from Macy’s): $280
- Shirt: already owned
- Socks: $15
- Tie: $25
- Shoes: $120
A limo ride from our venue to our hotel the night of the wedding. This is one luxury I wish we had skipped!
Paper Products: $300
All paper products were designed by me with Adobe Illustrator and printed either through Moo or Catprint. Moo is better quality, but a little pricier. This estimate includes our postcard save the dates, invites, RSVP cards, program fans, mini Moo cards with website address, rehearsal dinner invites, thank you bookmarks, envelopes, and postage.
Around 200 French macarons from a Korean bakery in Atlanta. Some were inpidually wrapped with attached thank you tags for gifts and some were displayed on our dessert table as seen above.
Wedding Bands: $500
I bought mine used (it’s a slim platinum band from 1926) from an online vintage jewelry dealer, and Mr. C bought his tungsten from a local shop.
Rehearsal Dinner, Highwire Lounge: Gifted
Hosted by Mr. C’s dad and stepmother. We never saw the bill, so I have no idea! It included one meal and two drink tickets for around 40 guests.
Hotel, Hotel Indigo: $150
One night at the Hotel Indigo in downtown Athens. We know someone who works there, and we were upgraded to the palatial presidential suite for free!
Our officiant was Mr. C’s dear friend and former coworker. We gifted him a local restaurant gift card and a night of babysitting for their two girls.
Marriage License: $60
I gifted my bridesmaids and groomsladies gift bags with Anthropologie initial mugs, picture frames, chocolates, and a piece of jewelry from Etsy seller Edor. My maid of honor, our moms, and my sisters-in-law who held my bridal shower were also gifted with floral cotton robes. The bridesmaids and groomsladies were given paper parasols from Luna Bazaar for some post-wedding photo-ops. Our moms received necklaces and embroidered handkerchiefs, and I gifted my dad a Little Prince popup book (for sentimental reasons—he’s hard to shop for!). Groomsmen were gifted pocket knives with their initials on the sides.
Reception Decor: $500
I collected milk glass, silver trays, tray mirrors, and votive candles for over a year, and I never bothered to keep track of how much I spent on everything, so this is a rough estimate. I still plan to sell everything if you are in the Atlanta area and interested!
Reception Party Items, Oriental Trading Company: $80
We bought glow necklaces and plastic sunglasses to hand out during the reception dance party. They were distributed by our catering staff. They were a huge hit, and I consider this money well spent! The glow sticks also made it possible for us to have a glow stick exit when our sparklers were MIA. Speaking of sparklers…
Sparklers, I Love Sparklers: $50
Never used. Later discovered in the trunk of my car and sold to a local bride to recoup my costs. We went with the 20-inch sparklers, if you’re curious.
I’ll throw in this figure for any miscellaneous paper, hole punches, ribbon, baker’s twine, and whatnot I purchased from craft stores throughout the wedding-planning process. Thankfully, teachers get a discount at Michaels (and I used those 40% off one-item coupons all the time) to help save some money!
Photo Guestbook: $80
This included the guestbook itself, archival ink pens, washi tape, and several packages of film for my Fujii Instax MINI 25 camera, which I already owned.
Created through Wix and with a personal domain name.
I think that’s about everything! I’m sure I’ve managed to forget some cost here or there, and some of these costs are estimates, perhaps slightly over or under what was actually spent, but this should give some idea of where our money went! And now for the grand total…
Grand Total: Around $21,800
Yes, that’s quite a bit over the $15,000 we originally envisioned.
And now, some advice.A few areas which pushed us over our budget would be my dress, the outdoor lighting (which wasn’t originally budgeted), and the flowers, which we originally planned to DIY. As I mentioned above, we could have definitely skipped some of these items and still had a really amazing wedding. Another suggestion for those of you with long engagements is to buy wedding-related items in increments. It makes things much more financially feasible and palatable. Our venue came at a steal, but came with the caveat of booking their in-house catering, which was a little pricier than we would have chosen otherwise. If we had chosen a similarly priced venue with cheaper catering, we could have saved money. I also highly recommend booking a venue that allows you to provide your own alcohol. This saved us a lot of money! Also, remember that many of our items like the reception and ceremony decor can be resold in order to cover some of these costs.
In hindsight, we could have been a little more strict in our spending—but in the end we have no looming regrets, and personally, I think our wedding turned out perfect! Despite being over budget, we accumulated zero debt from our wedding, which was funded primary by Mr. C and me along with some very generous help from my dad and stepmother.
If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know!