We had a wedding under $5k, here’s our budget breakdown!

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Photos by Carolyn Barry Photography
Photos by Carolyn Barry Photography

My partner and I are an “old married couple” now — having been married since 2012, we are officially past the three years wedding anniversary mark. You may remember us from our barn wedding featured back in 2012! So why are we talking about our wedding now?

When I mentioned recently online that we had a wedding under $5k, it generated some great conversation about how we pulled that off…

You would think that with all that planning, there’s some talk between the couple about how much it’s going cost. But, according to a 2014 study, almost a quarter of couples getting married didn’t have a budget or overarching financial plan for their wedding.

How many of us have gone on a run to the store, to pick up a “few things” only to be shocked when we reach the checkout that our few things are not under $20 like we planned, and are actually over $50? Imagine the same feeling, but on a much grander scale. In fact, according the same study, even couples that had budgets, almost half (43%) went over-budget. If most of us at work went over-budget 43% of the time, just imagine where we would be. Fired, most likely.

So what to do about this out of control wedding spending? There are concrete (and fairly easy ways) to keep your costs low. While they may not be for everyone, I have faith in my offbeat folk, and it can really make a big difference financially in the long run!

1. Cut the guest list

This is a toughie but a biggie if you want to keep your wedding under $5k. Coming from a large family, our guest list could have been well over 200 people without even trying. For many people who don’t enjoy being the center of attention, that number of people can sound really overwhelming (and expensive!). We limited our list to immediate and close family, our godparents, and our dearest friends.

I will totally admit that feelings were hurt. Overall though, no one brought this to our attention or made us feel guilty about not inviting people (well maybe one thinly veiled attempt at teasing about not being invited, but oh well!). We tried to explain why we needed to keep the guest list low and overall, people respected that.

It was much easier to keep our guest list to 50 people, than it would have been to have 100. If you are keeping things very small, it helps take away some of that pressure about which extended family members to invite.

2. Choose an alternative venue

There are so many cool places that are not “typical” wedding venues. As a result, they don’t have those typical wedding prices, and may be waaaay more accommodating than the average hotel or country club. We used a local barn that accommodated all of our guests, and had additional historical and farm items that we could use. They even supplied the hay bales for our guests to use as seating, which was another cost saver.

Other friends have done rental through the county parks systems — there are some great venues. Local, small museums or theatres often have rentals or events that are much lower than the larger venues.

3. Choose an alternative time

We also got married on a Sunday, which meant our catering costs and venue prices were much lower. We also got married at noon, so we had a large brunch to follow with mimosas, bloody marys, and all the breakfast food you could eat!



If your venues allows you to choose your own caterer or food options, this can be a major way to save some green. The biggest savings for us was bringing in our own alcohol. Beer, cases of champagne, and vodka for bloody mary’s stretches a lot farther when you are ordering cases from a liquor store, as opposed to from a bar/venue.

4. DIY, y’all

If you (or your friends) have DIY skills, try to to use them. We made/upcycled a lot of items (boutonnieres, centerpieces, signs) but it took an army to get it done in time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Upcycled doesn’t end up looking as cookie cutter as purchased items though, so be prepared to let go and go with the flow if your DIYed signs just don’t look AS great as the ones you could have purchased.

Wedding Sign

5. Consider wedding photography alternatives

There I said it. Feel free to send me your hate mail. I KNOW weddings are important and we want to capture those perfect moments. You should definitely have a wedding photographer, but… maybe find someone who doesn’t do it full-time. Many photography students, aspiring photographers and hobbyists do a wonderful job shooting weddings in their spare time, and charge much less. Maybe there is someone in your family that fits this bill and can make this their wedding gift?

After getting really discouraged about professional photography rates, I began to feel desperate. And desperation led me to posting a Craigslist ad asking for a photographer to shoot our wedding. I was absolutely blown away by the response. I got 15+ responses, several who contacted us with their websites, online portfolios and asking for us to choose them. In the end, chose a PhD student who was looking to make extra money. She met us for coffee, took notes, showed us her work, toured our venue (a two hour roundtrip for her), showed up on time, and got us our pictures within a week. She was AMAZING, and while I’m sure luck had something to do with it, doing our research totally helped us save money.

6. Ditch the guilt

So that may not be strictly a financial/cost saving one but it’s still important. This is your wedding, not anybody else’s. I don’t care if you are the only child or one of six. I don’t care what your mother-in-law wants. Make decisions based on what you and your partner want, and don’t let anyone else pressure you. You don’t like dancing — don’t hire a DJ. You don’t understand why anyone would want a coaster with your and your partner’s initials? Me neither! If you are catching yourself wondering why these things are “a must,” they probably aren’t.

Set 1 1569

Put your money where your mouth is: show us your budget breadown for your wedding under $5k!

  • Bride’s outfit: $200 (dress was remade out of fabric from my mother’s wedding dress)
  • Groom’s outfit: $200 (a new dress shirt, suspenders and a bow tie)
  • Flowers/hanging baskets: $250 (some flowers, but mainly reusable hanging baskets that we took home with us)
  • Venue rental: $1,000
  • Photographer: $900
  • Caterer: $1100
  • Table/chair rental: $350
  • Booze/drinks: $200 (I WAAAAY over-ordered on the champagne. I was drinking champagne for months…)
  • Wedding dishes: $50 (we went to St. Vinnies/Goodwill for all our dinnerware — at 10 cents a spoon, it was a cost-effective option, and the mismatched china was fun. After a run through the dishwasher, we re-donated most of them back. Though if you come over for dinner you will see 10 of our favorites!)
  • Decor: $300
  • Games: Free
  • Officiant/musicians: Free (Friends and family made this their gift to us)
  • PA System: Purchased for $150, sold two years after our wedding when no longer needed for $60
    Total: $4700

How did you keep YOUR budget down? Share your secrets in the comments…

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