Pulling Off A $5,000 Wedding

I’m a Twitter-aholic. I mean, I have a serious Twitter problem.  If you check my Twitter feed, there are tweets going out all day all the way until at least 7pm Eastern time every single day.  So, I bumped into this hash tag, #5Kwedding where people are essentially making fun of individuals who may have had a tiny budget for their wedding.  The assumption is that if you’re spending less than $5,000, your wedding is, to coin a phrase, a hot ghetto mess.

So, here I am on my own #5kwedding challenge, (yes, you can follow that hash tag on Twitter for my tips) and I’m in New York City, one of the most expensive places on Earth to live no less.  As I’ve mentioned before, the average wedding cost in New York is crazy!  You can find me talking about that on a podcast that I did at the end of December.   I guess that my wedding should be a hot buttered mess as well, but this is where the Twitterverse is wrong.  I have 34 days until wedding day, and not much completed because I like last minute stuff, but here’s a sneak peak at my $5,000 wedding.

The Dress

I’m a girl, so I’m talking about my dress first.  I ordered my dress earlier this week on March 31st for my wedding on May 5th.  Some of you are clutching your pearls, but I’m the adventurous sort.  The first thing that you find out when planning a wedding is that just uttering the word “wedding” puts a premium on everything that you buy.  With a blog entitled Yes, I am Cheap there is no way that I want to pay full price let alone and additional amount just because it’s a wedding and not some other event.  So, I didn’t buy a “wedding” dress.

I budgeted a maximum of $500 for my dress.  That would typically mean grabbing something off the rack, renting a gown, or picking up a dress that isn’t a traditional wedding dress.  I instead chose another option.  I ordered a bespoke dress online from China via Etsy.  The dress is being made to my measurements, in the colors that I want, with all of the modifications that I chose.  The total cost including rush service and expedited shipping is $313.00.  If I hadn’t waited this long I could have saved on rush service, but I have bought the dress at a great price.  I also have plenty of wiggle room for alterations once it lands stateside.  That’s my dress to the right shown in a red color.   Mine will be whitish with lots of changes made to the design.  Spending over $1,000 on a dress is so last year.

His suit? He’s got plenty that he already owns, but a tux rental works too.  We’re low key so, a black suit it is!

Wedding Venue

So, what about a venue?  I wanted to get married in any of New York City’s beautiful botanical gardens.  Fiancé dude kind of nixed that because he has major allergies.  The gardens were viable options because the rental price was around $1,000 and you would not need all of the things that go into decoration because you’re surrounded by flowers and a beautiful location.  Since fiancé dude killed that idea, I’ve had to scramble to find a location.  I just booked an awesome space to have both the wedding and reception – a restaurant.  Oh, and since I didn’t book it on a weekend, the price was slashed way down.  I did that with six whole weeks until the wedding.  Cost for the wedding ceremony venue? $350.

I know that you’re thinking that this has to be some horrible little location.  Actually, no.  You’ll see some photos in the slide show that I’ll drop somewhere in here. We can decorate it any way that we want to and I still get my garden wedding.  It’ll come with a white runner, the chairs set up, a wedding arch, etc.  I like it a lot.  The ceremony venue is going to be the same place where we’re having the reception.  No having to travel for things all over the place.  It also means that we’ll have a shorter cocktail period.  That leads me to the reception venue.

The Reception

The reception is where you’ll spend a decent amount of money.  Between drinks, food, decorations, gifts, etc., you can sink a lot of money into this.  I’m all about having decent food at a wedding.  I’ve been to enough weddings where I leave the lovely couple a $200 gift and then stop at the drive through on the way home.  I’m not doing that to my people.  I had originally budgeted half of my $5,000 towards the food, but surpassed that when I upgraded the menu.  Passed hors d’oeuvres and a formal dinner plus open bar with top shelf alcohol will cost a premium.  If you’re willing to compromise with any of those then you can save a decent amount of money.  We’ll do the passed hors d’oeuvres and I could have saved more with a sidebar set-up thing, but I instead chose to save by choosing a buffet dinner plus one champagne toast and then a cash bar.

The alcohol thing is the wild card, but I’m not willing to pay for alcohol for everyone because most of my family is pretty religious and don’t drink alcohol at all.  Fiancé dude doesn’t drink as well, and he was pretty adamant that he did not want to pay for the five or so lushes in our party who would empty a bar if they could.  Sorry guys, but no one will be getting drunk on my dime.  We could have opted to run a tab at the bar with a set limit after which it would convert to a cash bar.  We figure that since it’s an early wedding and everyone has to drive home, most will be okay with a champagne toast.

5,000 wedding in NYCHow can I forget about wedding cake? This is again one of those areas where putting the word “wedding” in front makes the price skyrocket.  Let me ask you this, how much wedding cake have you truly enjoyed? Fiancé dude and I haven’t loved anyone’s wedding cake.  I take that back.  Alice, loved your cake.  We were opting to not do wedding cake and instead do a dessert bar.  I instead negotiated a cake within the food package at the venue.  If you’re saving money, but want a wedding cake, purchase a small decorative cake for cutting and then sheet cake for what people will eat or to take home.  Also, rustic decorations cost far less than those elaborate Leaning Tower of Pisa things.  Total cost including tax and a 20% tip? $3,057.12

Flowers

Nothing says wedding like gorgeous flowers.  Nothing says “kaching” to a florist like a wedding.  I’ll be playing the part of florist for my wedding with the help of flowers that I am ordering in bulk.  You can order bulk flowers from any of the big warehouse clubs like BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.  You can also just search online for bulk flowers.  Order what you want and arrange them how you’d like them to save money.

If you’re not the DIY type, don’t worry, this still works for you.  Many of the bulk flower suppliers have prearranged flowers and bouquets for weddings as well.  Just browse from the comfort of your home and order what you want.  My flowers will cost a total of $212.30 including overnight shipping.

Photographers

It’s nice to have evidence that you once actually liked each other in the form of photos.  I love DIY, but I like professional even better.  If you want to leave disposable cameras for people to take photos of you, that’s fine, but I don’t want grainy photos as my wedding album.  I’m hiring a professional that will be well below my $450 photography budget.  Groupon to the rescue!  I’m currently “interviewing” a few photographers with packages that are being offered on Groupon.  Do your research here because I’ve seen deals where you get as little as 30 photographs or deals where they’ll take lots of photos but they own the photos and you have to pay through the nose for them. Some offer photo retouching and others don’t.

I’m going to opt for a short window of photography time, and the rights to all my digital images without their watermark and if they retouch that’s fine.  If they don’t I’m okay with that too.  Whatever I want printed, I’ll throw over to Fiverr to have someone retouch for me.

The Other Stuff

What am I forgetting?  Invitations.  I have those!  My invitations are beautiful!  I didn’t have them printed for me.  They would have cost almost $4.00 a set.  No, thanks.  Instead I paid for invitation blanks and designed my own inserts.  It pays to be creative.  I’m sprucing them up with beautiful ribbons and sending them out myself.  The total cost of my invitations was $35.70 before postage.  I’m not mailing some of them on purpose.  Hey, my mom lives across the street, so I’m not wasting a stamp. You can be modern and use any of the new online services to send pretty electronic invitations.

Table decorations, gifts, seating place cards, and all of the other tchotchkes I’m making myself.  I’ve become really acquainted with Michael’s, the craft store, and I appreciate their 40% off coupons.  I also appreciate that I can stack coupons as well.  I am that crazy lady with two to three coupons at the register each time, but I’m sweet about it!

There will be no band or DJ at my wedding.  No, I take that back.  I guess I’m my own DJ since everything from the music for walking down the aisle, to while we’re eating is being loaded onto my favorite music player.  My venue is wired for sound using music players and they also subscribe to satellite radio’s Love channel.  If you need live music though, browse through Craig’s List for a band or wedding singers looking for a gig.  Make sure that they’ve done weddings before.  It’s not a concert, its a wedding. Unless you like concerts.  In that case, do whatever makes you happy.

Some Offbeat Resources

  1. Have you visited your local $0.99 or discount store? There are some really great items that you can get for your wedding there.  I found tissue paper, gift bags, votive candles, and flower vases for less than $1.00!
  2. Have you checked our you local party supply store? A wedding is a type of party after all.  My local Party City now has an entire wedding section.  Who knew?  They have everything from centerpieces to wedding cake toppers, to really popular photo booths.
  3. If you’re not thinking right, you might overlook your local office supply store.  I purchased card stock to print things from individual menus to tags for my gifts from the office supply store.  They now carry card stock in colors that might match your wedding theme.  Many even now stock beautiful stationary and kits for things like making your own invitations.
  4. I did mention Groupon and other daily deal sites, right?  I found my photographer there, but if you’re looking for other wedding related services such as a DJ, or even a pre-wedding spa day, why pay full price when you don’t have to?
  5. I found my officiant on Thumbtack.com, for $125.  I had lower bids, but I found someone who I thought fit our ceremony best.  If you’re willing to have a friend get their certificate to perform the ceremony for you, you can pretty much pay nothing.
  6. Let’s not forget freecycle.com or even Craigslist.com for finding free items that someone else might be getting rid of that you can possibly use.  Someone, somewhere has had a wedding and have lots of stuff to get rid of.
  7. Check out your venue for events that have taken place and ask if they have items that you can recycle.  All they’re doing is paying to have that stuff tossed in the trash anyway, so why not reuse someone else’s decor items.  People spend a ton of money on that stuff.

Some Things That I Learned

Planning a wedding can be stressful, and I get why people take a long time to do this stuff, but that’s just not me.  I scheduled this thing for a time when I thought that there would be a lull in my work.  While it’s slowed down somewhat, I’m still super busy, so all of my planning is done at night or on the weekends.  I’ve learned that you should make a list of your must haves and then worry about the other things as your budget allows.

I’ve learned that if you’re willing to do things yourself, you can make a small budget work big time.  I saved half the cost of chair covers by renting them and arranging to pick them up from the rental company myself than if I went through the wedding venue.  Why spend more money for the same item when I don’t have to?  Yes, it’s easier, but when you have a tiny budget, you have to be willing to pitch in and DIY.

I’ve also learned that a good search engine is your very best friend.  I should really call this the Google wedding because I promise that everything from our rings to the our seat cover vendors were found online.  Being able to view reviews and price things out to see if they fit your budget or not was done much faster than having to make a ton of phone calls.  If I found something that I liked, I put it on my Pinterest board so that I would always have access at my fingertips.

Finally, I’ve been focused on the fact that this is about sharing a happy time with my closest relatives.  It’s a celebration of the joining of two families and not about the party itself.  If you’re focused on your mate and not on the bash that is to follow, the whole process can be stress free and fun, whatever your budget.  Here’s to years to come of torturing each other.

 

Wedding Photos!

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18 thoughts on “Pulling Off A $5,000 Wedding

  • First off, found you thru Money Talks News. Was definitely interested in this post because I had a wonderful wedding almost 20 years ago, but it was very inexpensive. Not surprisingly I did a number of the same things you did. Got married on a Friday, at the reception hall and saved a bundle. Getting married outside of the “popular” months of May, June and September also helps, not to mention by-passing the holiday wedding. I did a lot of comparison shopping to find the right venue (pay extra to cut up the wedding cake, I don’t think so!) You are so right, the wedding industry seems designed to get as much of your money as possible. I totally agree, do not skimp on the photograph by doing the disposable camera thing. I still enjoy looking at my wedding photos. One suggestion I offer (if it is not too late), consider hiring a music student. I hired a harpist from a local college for the ceremony. She played beautifully, was very inexpensive, and people were very complimentary. Best wishes to you and your future husband.

    • Thank you Suzie! I have fallen in love with a very particular guitar version of Canon in D that I have to have! I’m not opposed to live music though, and I have plenty of time! I honestly did everything in the last 2 weeks, and I mean everything from the dress to the venue. We buy rings this weekend. I should call it the three week wedding! Anyway, students are a great option, especially for the ceremony. When the music is live and classic, even if they mess up a bit, it does add something to the event.

  • Congrats on getting engaged! Weddings are so expensive and it’s amazing that you’re doing it for so cheap. Invitations are definitely one avenue that can be done cheaper, especially with stamps at 49 cents each! I’ve also found that most vendors will negotiate with you, especially if you’re polite and respectful. Best of luck in your upcoming nuptials!

    • Thank you. Negotiating is a great tip, and I love that you highlighted being polite as well. If you understand that this is usually someone’s livelihood then you’re more understanding and respectful of their perspective as well. People in the wedding industry typically genuinely love helping couples celebrate their nuptials.

  • I had a weeding for about $5,000 as well. Got married at the Clerk’s office, photos at a county park, with a Castle, reception at a restaurant, student photographer for photos and a small guest list. Everything went well and it was beautiful. I got my dress for $75 from Dorothy Perkins and it was exactly what I wanted!

  • This article is so helpful. I’m geting married next year and I want to be smart with my money. The pictures are lovely also. What is the name of the restaurant you had your wedding at?

  • Hi! Thank you for sharing. I live in nyc and was starting to think it was impossible to have a wedding on a budget. Any suggestions for finding a restaurant? What’s the name of the one you used?

  • Curious as to why you kept te ceremony and reception location a secret? This is the most expensive part and most useful for other brides.

    • Hi Leah,

      I did so because I published most of this article before the actual wedding and then updated after the wedding. I didn’t want random people showing up (it’s happened).

  • I was wondering what restaurant in NYC? I am planning a super budget wedding for next October and am looking in the NYC/Westchester County area.

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