How to Have a Wedding for $10,000 or Less!

wedding budget plan

Many of us have been dreaming of our weddings since we were just children. Visions of diamonds, ice sculptures, and flowers galore may still be dancing around in your head. The dream is great, but the price tag is often overwhelming.

Setting a realistic budget is one of the first things to do once you shout your engagement from the mountaintops and show off your ring to anyone who dares look your way. Not every bride has the money for diamonds to line the aisles! A dream wedding can happen for under $10,000 if you follow a few guidelines.

Venue

Wedding venues can kill your budget. For example, old, rustic barns are now a huge trend in wedding venues, so the owners can charge thousands of dollars. As a result, the venue is where a big portion of of the wedding budget will go. However, you don’t need to break the bank on the venue. Get married at a friend’s home in the countryside where you can create your own rustic wedding destination.

Stay away from the trendy locations, and steer toward the smaller, practical locations. Transforming a friend’s large, gorgeous backyard into an elegant wedding reception is as easy as renting a few tents and chairs. Of course, you will then pay for decorations and other things we can address later, but your venue location is free, so you’ve already started ahead of the curve.

Churches are wonderful for traditional weddings, and they don’t usually cost an arm and leg. Most churches will charge you a few hundred for the location, and then you will pay the officiant a set price. The only problem with this option is that you can’t usually party at the church, so you may have to pay for a reception venue.

Historical sites or parks run by the city or state usually offer steep discounts. They are clean, have perfect landscaping, and often have big areas to entertain visitors — half the work is done for you. You may even save money on flowers because natural beauty is often the centerpiece at such places.

Food

wedding reception food

Some people sit through the wedding just wondering what will be served at the reception. Some brides go wild with food, serving guests like they’re royalty and spending $10,000 on food alone. An easy way to save money on food is to not have a full sit-down dinner, but rather to have grazing stations. This means you have different action stations like a hot chocolate bar, sandwich platter, dessert doughnut table… whatever! People can fill their plates themselves, and they won’t even notice they aren’t having a fancy, sit-down meal.

If you prefer the atmosphere of set meal time frame, bring someone in to cook it and serve it. You don’t have to spend hundreds on catering; local boy scout troops or smiling sorority girls can be hired for a small fee. Or, think of your church’s weekly Sunday night meal. There is always enough gourmet food to feed an army! Talk to the cooks to see if they will cut you a deal to serve a similar meal at the wedding.

Another easy food idea to have catered or cooked is barbecue. It might not be the cleanest food, but for the most part, guests love it, and it’s easy to serve with some staple side dishes.

And, a tip from us to you: Stay clear of seafood. A few jumbo shrimp may look great on the menu, but they’ll kill your budget.

Alcohol

If you really want to clear a big spot in the budget, you could nix the alcohol completely. Most brides scoff at this idea, so if you’re not keen on a dry wedding, you’ll have to find a way to make it work.

Booze can sometimes cost up to $35 per person when dealing with catering places. Having an open bar means not knowing how much people will drink and just throwing money on the table, so you can do a cash bar option instead, which is much better for your budget. Alternatively, making the reception a beer-and-wine-only affair is another easy way to save money in the alcohol arena without completely nixing it. If your venue allows, you could also save money by bringing your own alcohol to serve.

Photography

wedding photography

Many times you are paying for the name of the photographer or company instead of the actual photography. A photographer doesn’t have to be splashed across every wedding website to be good — most weddings don’t have Annie Leibovitz shooting. To be perfect for your wedding, your photographer needs to have an eye for detail and and experience shooting the style of photos you want. You can find a photographer by browsing portfolios online. Or, you could ask friends if they have a starving artist photography friend with an amazing eye.

Make sure you get the rights to the photos included in your pricing, and make room in the budget for any prints you might want from the photographer. They usually offer different packages to choose from. Usually a basic package includes a few hours of photography, the rights to the photos, and a CD of all pictures taken. The bottom line is that you want quality photos that represent your big day beautifully without paying a fortune.

Attire

Believe it or not, a dress fit for a princess can be found for under $2,000. Dresses with lace and extensive detailing drive this price up, so you should decide the overall style of dress you want before you start looking. Then, shop around until you find the perfect one for the perfect price. Visit a few places to compare pricing, and remember to include a few hundred dollars in your budget for alternations.

A groom can easily spend under $500 to rent a tux and shoes without looking any less dapper than he should on his special day. (Yes, it’s much easier to dress the groom!)

Music

People come to weddings to dance and eat… and also celebrate your love, of course. Bands are going to run you a lot more money than a local DJ. Find a small company that loves music and has good playlists but isn’t expensive. Why pay a lot of money just for someone to make a playlist and introduce the wedding party.

Flowers

wedding flowers centerpiece

Flowers are beautiful and create a picture perfect wedding scene. Flowers also die, and honestly, no one is going to remember your centerpiece the day after the wedding. Save money in the budget by not splurging on extravagant flowers.

There are many wholesale places to buy flowers. You can buy them in bulk and cut them yourself or have your most trustworthy family members help you DIY your wedding flowers, which may include bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. If no one you know is good at putting together a pretty arrangement, talk to a local florist. See if an employee can help at a discounted rate or even if they have arrangements not being used that you could have.

Remember, these flowers need to be perfect for your ceremony and reception, and then they can turn back into a pumpkin for all you care. You can make pretty floral centerpieces without breaking the bank by making them smaller and adding mirrors underneath their vases. Place flowers in specific locations throughout the venue where they make a statement instead of take up a large amount of space. Floral arrangements should be about quality, not quantity, to help the budget.

Cake

People might not remember your flowers, but they will remember your cake. Do a cake taste-testing session to make sure you love what you are serving before you buy.

Save money by spending the most on the bride’s cake because most people won’t remember the groom’s cake. Again, don’t pay for the name of the bakery. Pay for the style of cake you love with a taste that melts in your mouth. Everyone has a family friend that makes mouth-watering cakes, so ask someone you know to make the groom’s cake. It won’t be as flashy as the bride’s cake, but it will taste just as yummy.

Invites

Ordering hundreds of invites online, with envelopes and postage on top, can cost a pretty penny. DIY as much as possible instead. Think of a friend that is a graphic design whiz and have him or her help you design the perfect invitation. Print them off yourself, and buy envelopes at the store in bulk. If you don’t know a designer, you can design some online from a template then print them yourself to save money, like these DIY ombré watercolor wedding invitations.

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