A wedding for $5000 - you can do it

My Mom sent me a link to a great article about doing a wedding for $5K. (http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/smartspending/archive/2008/04/09/a-fabulous-wedding-for-under-5-000.aspx) The only problem is, the article gave no REAL suggestions on how you can stick with that budget. So, here, I will take a couple minutes to hash out how my fiance and I are approaching and planning a wedding for 75-100 people on a budget of $5K (or hopefully less when all is said and done).

1) Get creative with ceremony location - your ceremony does not need to be in a church that charges $2000 or an art gallery that costs $5000. Check your city's chamber of commerce website and find out about alternative sites. If you have a university nearby, they will have a lot of venues that you can rent. Theatres, smaller art galleries and public facilities often rent for very reasonable prices. Some state parks even have event facilities to rent for low prices. Try to find a place that already includes chairs - chair rental, while normally not too expensive, adds to the bottom line when all is said and done. Try to find a place that has nice decoration built in so you don't have to concert a blank space to your dream facility. Outdoor weddings can be very low cost, but the need for a rain plan can sometimes be troublesome. Just keep that in mind.

2) Get creative with reception location. You may not need a hotel ballroom. If you MUST have the ballroom reception, unfortunately, the only tip I can give is to NOT have your wedding on a Saturday. Some places have lower rates for Thursday or Friday nights. But, that may be hard for guests. What about a favorite restaurant? You never know if you can have a reception someplace until you ask. I have heard of massive parties on the roofs of parking garages where the couple just rented tents. It's unique and different. Look at the places you frequent often and try to picture them in a different light - then ask if you can hold a reception there!

3) Menu. Do you really need to serve lobster and filet mignon? I mean, really - is the full 5 course meal actually necessary? If you HAVE to have an extravagant meal, do it for the rehearsal and just serve it to your bridal party and parents. For the reception, you don't have to have food that costs $60 a plate. Some surefire ways to save money are a) do an early wedding where you can serve brunch - brunch foods are much cheaper than dinner foods; b) same thing with lunch - have the wedding at 10am with a lunch afterwards - much cheaper; c) have to have the wedding in the evening? Serve heavy hors d'oeuvres! People can and will get full off a wide assortment of snacks - from fruit and cheese to crabcakes and bruschetta. Make the reception more about mingling and dancing and less about sitting at a table. This also takes out the need for table cards, escort cards, overpriced centerpieces and all that stuff that the wedding "industry" dictates you have. One caveat on saving money in the food category: don't cook yourself - there are plenty of places out there that can cater for a reasonable price. Scour around and ask questions. Tell them how much you will pay by the head and see what they can give you. You'll be surprised.

4) Decoration. Simple does not mean cheap. Simple is elegant. You do not need a 5 foot, 300 piece rose centerpiece on the altar of the church or on each table. A nice candle and some greenery can go a long way. Get creative - you don't need expensive centerpieces. If you are dead set on something more elaborate, look around for second hand wedding supply sales online. Benefit from the bride who paid too much for things she now needs to unload. The Knot has a message board for brides selling old wedding supplies. Craigslist is a great place to look, too. You can rent colorful table linens that are tasteful and add some spark to your venue. Does a church really need $2000 worth of flowers? Probably not. Like stated before, try and find a venue that has a nice look already so you don't need to add much to it.

5) Flowers. THE FARMER'S MARKET. Get what is in season and local. It's environmentally friendly and adds a nice touch of local flair. We found a flower grower that is selling us local, fresh flowers at $35 a bucket. AN ENTIRE BUCKET. We will put them together, and we will pay probably less for ALL of our flowers than some people pay for a bouquet alone. One grower even offered to grow exactly what I wanted!! Calla lillies, purple roses and rare orchids are not cheap and have to be shipped thousands of miles. When you think about it, aren't MOST flowers pretty? Do you have to have a special one flown in from Holland or Hawaii?

6) The Bar. If you can find a place that will allow you to bring in your own alcohol, you've hit the jackpot. Hit Trader Joe's and buy 10 cases of wine, get a keg of your favorite beer and stock up on liquor. Or better yet, encourage a friend to throw an engagement/pre-wedding party for you where the price of admission is a bottle of liquor for the couple. You may think it sounds tacky, but if you do it as a "stock the bar" party, you will be amazed at the response. If you can't bring in your own liquor, keep the bar simple. Wine, beer, maybe one or two signature drinks. The rest the guests have to pony up for. If you want a full open bar, have the full bar open for only 1-2 hours rather than the whole time. And as a good friend told me, "An open bar for the whole wedding? Even Grandma gets trashed." That's not a pretty picture. Restricting alcohol can be a good thing.

7) Doing it Yourself. Find invites you love and see if you can recreate them. Have a graphic designer friend? Have them come up with a design and then get the printed and cut at Kinkos. No need to pay $5 an invite. Get creative with this folks - the invite people just want you to think you are too uncreative to come up with your own invite. Show 'em who's boss. Save the dates? e-mail everyone. Come up with a cute electronic image and e-mail it to people for a save the date. It saves paper and cost. For those family members who don't use e-mail, call and tell them or just wait for the invites you will send out. It will be fine.

8) All the little things. Bubbles? Almonds in a bag? A tin with your face and wedding date on it? It will get thrown away. I hate to tell ya, folks, but there are very few people out there who will keep that $3 tin that had almonds in it out on their coffee table. God forbid you think butterflies or a dove release will add a nice touch - the butterflies often arrive dead, and the fact you could possibly releasing a non native insect into your environment could wreak havoc you have never thought about. You do not need escort cards or menu cards. People will know what they are getting to eat when they see the food - really, do you need to warn them ahead of time?

9) Music. iPod.

10) Cake. Ask around - do not make on on your own unless you do it professionally. To keep costs low, check with grocery stores - they normally have great cake for a minimal cost. And that baker may have an adoration for wedding cakes that normally are not displayed in the store's bakery case. Krogers not your style? Ask people you work with or vendors for rental items. They often know of bakers who work out of their homes or just on a smaller scale than the lady with the super cool website. You do not need to pay $10 a slice for a cake that will taste like crap.

11) Ask for help. You probably have a wedding party - ask them to help. If you're making things, there are probably some crafty people in your group. Enlist their creativity and get their ideas. If you ask for help, people are very often willing to give it!

Those are the things that I came up with right away. If you have suggestions, post them as a comment. If you have a question, ask it, and I will see if I have any advice. I'm not an expert, but I am on a budget and am surrounded by some pretty creative people. The main thing is - the wedding industry is a billion dollar business. A big business wants you to spend money on things you don't actually need but things they make you think you need. If you think creatively, you can have an awesome wedding that won't kill your budget. Make it yours, not the industry's prescription.


Olivia said...

Way more interesting than that MSN article....Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This lady made a cake for a wedding i attended:

It was beautiful and delicious. Plus, she is just starting a business so her prices are still low!!!

I think she works around Raleigh, but she does deliver so you should contact her!

Amy said...

We kept our "give aways" very simple. Ed has always been a Pez collector so we went to the dollar store and bought lots of pez, hand wrote cards with our names and the date of the wedding and attached them to the pez with some pretty ribbon. Sounds a little weird but as you mention, you don't need to spend $3 on a tin of almonds.

For our flower arrangements we went super cheap also. We shopped around at local thrift stores and bought lots of clear glass vases for the center pieces. Not all of the vases matched, but they were all the same color so it didn't really matter in the end.

For our videographer, we found two guys that were just starting up a company to tape weddings so they did ours for free and provided us with two DVDs. They just needed something for their demo reels. Also, in high school I filmed lots of weddings and was very cheap labor.

For the actual ceremony, I wanted live music to walk down the aisle but couldn't afford a 4 piece band, so my mom contacted a local performing arts high school and found a senior girl that played the harp. I think we paid her $150 for her time and she was perfect. It was just the thing to set the ceremony apart.

I agree that if you are creative you can definitely plan a wedding that doesn't break the bank.

Gabby said...

I have a blog 5000dollarwedding@blogspot.com I'm trying to do the same thing as you.