I am so excited about today's post, one because it's about weddings (and everybody knows that I LOVE weddings) and two, because it's about creating beautiful things without spending a lot of money and who doesn't love that?!
So let's jump right in, shall we?
The average cost of a wedding these days is . . . wait for it . . .
My sentiments exactly.
Y'all . . .
That number is mind blowing to me . . . I cannot even imagine having that much money to put towards a wedding.
Here's the thing, when Taylor and I got married not even two years ago, we had a humble budget of $8,000 dollars and I am here to say that a beautiful wedding IS possible with a small budget.
How is it done, you ask? Well let me show you!
PS. I am certainly no wedding expert . . . but I do think I have some good tips + tricks that can help you save a little money here and there throughout the planning process.
Here's to hoping they help you!!!
First up . . . flowers!
When I first began our wedding planning, I for sure thought that flowers were going to take up a hefty chunk of our budget, after all the average cost for flowers in a wedding is $2100 dollars . . .
As the wedding planning progressed I quickly realized that I was going to have to get creative, because our budget just didn't allow for copious amounts of flowers. So knowing this, I started looking at venues that had some natural charm to them and that wouldn't require a lot of decorations to dress it up.
We found this little chapel that is actually the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Washington in Seattle and I just thought it was the cutest thing. I loved the brick wall, the sides were lined with windows and it was big enough to host our 150 people, but small enough to feel quaint and full. It was perfect. It really didn't need a whole lot to make it feel beautiful - the beauty just came naturally.
By picking a venue with natural charm and character, I was able to cut down on the decoration/floral cost for the ceremony.
For the chapel we opted to do small bouquets of baby's breath with ribbon - it was really beautiful, simple and inexpensive.
I loved these little baby breath bouquets
TIP: you can typically buy baby's breath at any grocery store that has flowers!
I think the reception is where the flower budget can really spiral out of control . . .
This was a challenge for me, because I really loved the look of a lot of greenery on the tables, but I knew how expensive that was . . .
My mom and I actually went to Hobby Lobby and found this greenery. Isn't it pretty? It came in about 2 foot strands, so we bought a bunch of strands and tied them together to make one really long strand of greenery. I'll admit that going into it, I was nervous that it wouldn't look good. But it was SO simple and you would have NEVER known that there were multiple strands all tied together.
Here's the thing about Michaels and Hobby Lobby - once a week you can use a 40% off coupon - TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT PEOPLE! To get the coupon simply pull up hobbylobby.com or michaels.com on your phone when you checkout and you will see a 40% off coupon.
During the year that we were wedding planning I was either at Hobby Lobby or Michaels at least once a week. I knew what we needed to buy (in this case the greenery) and I would buy one strand a week (at 40% off) until I had the amount I needed.
The gold votives in the photo were from Hobby Lobby as well.
Now for bridal flowers . . .
I kept it pretty simple here, but this is what I ordered:
1 bridal bouquet
1 bridal throw away bouquet
5 bridesmaid bouquets
3 corsages (1 for Taylor, 1 for my dad and 1 for Taylor's dad)
Taylor and I originally went to this super cute floral shop to order flowers for the bridal party, but she quoted us about $800 dollars for all of that. I didn't think that was overly expensive, but then I decided to check out some other places and I found this company called Buds and Blooms - I think they are just based in the Seattle area, however I'm sure there are places just like it other places as well.
Buds and Blooms quoted me around $300 dollars for the same amount of flowers, so of course we went with them and they turned out beautifully!
For the bridal party flowers we paid $375 dollars and then for the wedding flowers (church + reception, fake flowers/greenery from Hobby Lobby) we paid less than $100!
Total price for flowers - less than $500
Local grocery stores - In Seattle we had Safeway and Fred Meyer, which both had floral departments that do wedding flowers! They are typically super affordable and they do a great job. Check out your local grocer, chances are they do wedding flowers!
Craft Stores - Michaels and Hobby Lobby are great options and have a ton of fake flowers and greenery. Don't shy away from the word "fake", there are some really beautiful fake flowers and/greenery that you can find if you take the time to look.
Costco + Sams - Take a look at Costco, because I've heard that they do flower packages as well! I don't know a whole lot about their process or what they offer, but it would definitely be worth checking out.
Let's chat about outfits!
We had the guys rent their suits from Joseph A Bank.
When we first looked at suit options, they showed us the traditional suit rental package that included the jacket, pants, shoes, shirt, tie and pocket square.
I feel like this sort of package is pretty average across the board and it ranges between $180 and $200 dollars.
It may just be me, but I feel like $180 dollars at least to RENT a suit for one day is a bit much . . .
I really wasn't crazy about any of the color options that they offered for the ties and pocket squares and plus all of the guys in our group already owned a white button down shirt and brown dress shoes, so for us it made more sense to simply just rent the jacket and pants.
I don't think many people know that it's an option to rent just the pants and jacket, but IT IS and it'll save you about 70 dollars . . .
So if you're like us and have a bridal party that already owns dress shoes and a white t-shirt, than it may be worth it to just skip the package and go for the pants and jacket.
If you are interested in ties and pocket squares, we found some really great options for only $10-15 dollars at Bows-N-Ties
You can see the tie we choose below (courtesy of T's best man, Ashkon)
As for the girls . . .
If you've ever talked to me about weddings, you probably know that I LOVE Azazie.
After searching for affordable bridesmaid dresses, I FINALLY found this company called Azazie and I really thought it was too good to be true. But it wasn't at all - I loved it the first time, love it still and it's typically my first recommendation to any new bride.
They have a TON of colors and a TON of different style dresses.
The quality is amazing and they are really easy to work with, especially if you have bridesmaids that live in different places. Everything is online, but the entire process is so easy.
The girls loved their dresses - they fit each of them so beautifully!
If you have bridesmaids, SHOP HERE.
The dresses range from about $120 to $150, which is comparable and I'd even argue cheaper than any other place you'll find for this style/quality of dress.
This was the one area of wedding planning that I dreaded, because I knew that catering would be expensive and I wasn't really sure that there was any creative way around it.
BUT! There was and we found it.
When looking for a venue we made sure to choose a place that allowed us to bring in our own choice of catering - this allowed us to have a ton of options and not be required to use one of the venues preferred caterers.
We found a full service caterer that offered an express catering option, which essentially consisted of just dropping the food off at the venue.
It was a little bit more work on our end, but that little bit of extra effort saved us literally thousands on catering costs.
We actually asked two of Taylor's kids that he coached in little league (who were in high school at the time of our wedding) if they would be interested in serving the food at the wedding and they were PUMPED! It was so fun - they dressed up in suits and totally played the part. I think they LOVED it.
. They didn't actually serve the food, all we asked them to do was to be at the venue when the food was scheduled to be delivered, set it up and switch out the containers of food when they were getting low. That's it - easy peasy!
We paid them 50 bucks each and they were happy campers.
It honestly worked out so great and they totally loved doing it.
Our total cost for catering - food, delivery, service, etc. was $2500 dollars.
Pop the Champagne!
I LOVED how we did our bar - my brother and his roommate bar tended for the wedding and we loved it, they loved it, EVERYBODY loved it.
I could have paid mega bucks for a bartender and they wouldn't have been NEARLY as good as those two were.
We got two kegs of beer and a lot of wine and called it good.
The guys set up a whole bar, complete with a tip jar for Taylor and I #honeymoonfund
If you have friends or family who are willing to take over the bar - go for it! It's a fun and unique way to include family members into the wedding fun.
We bought the kegs from local breweries and the wine from the local grocery store.
Total cost for alcohol + bartending: $700 dollars
Music + MC'ing
For the music, I made a playlist, several actually, on Spotify Premium (no commercials or interruptions).
Before I began I thought about all of the different parts of the reception and then made a separate playlist for each of them. So like this:
Guest Arrival to Reception
Bridal Party Entrance
After I had all of the different categories, I chose the songs for each one and put them in the order that I wanted them played.
We had one of our dear friends and my brother in law MC for us and they were amazing!
I actually wrote out a "script" for them each to follow with exactly what to say. I didn't care if they switched it up, but I wanted them to have a backup so they always had something to say when the needed it.
I know this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but we really loved having our friends and family so involved in the wedding. It made it so personal and we loved that everyone we asked WANTED to do it and was excited to do it.
On top of everything else, our venue had a "media package", meaning microphone, overhead speakers, etc. that was included in the rental price #winning
Our total music/DJ/MC cost: $0
I'll keep this one short and sweet - cakes can get expensive REALLY quickly and while they should still be pretty, don't overspend on them! In the end it is just going to be eaten . . .
If you're on a budget, check out your local grocery store - they most likely do wedding cakes and typically they are pretty affordable.
Definitely take the time to shop around the different stores, some may offer different things than others - they'll offer a different variety of flavors, styles, pricing, etc.
Shop around and TASTE (because who doesn't love cake. Right?)
For Seattle folks, we got our cake from QFC.
Total cost for the cake: $180 dollars
Plates, Silverware, Tablecloths, ect.
Our wedding was totally DIY - we didn't have a wait staff, the food was buffet style, our friends MC'd, brother bartended . . . you get the picture.
Our venue was very much a blank slate in the sense that they didn't offer plates, silverware, tablecloths, etc. Finding all of that was really up to us - again, this was more effort on our part, but we knew that and were okay with that.
I found this great little site called Smarty Had A Party and that's where I bought all of our plates and silverware. I found these plates (I'll link them below) that look 100% REAL up until the point where you pick it up and realize that they are plastic.
Same with this silverware - %100 plastic, 100% real looking
The best part? All we had to do at the end of the night was toss everything in the garbage and walaa, DONE!
I never thought plastic could be so pretty.
And you see those napkins? Those are actually real . . . but the little glitter band around them is just a simple ribbon that we picked up at Hobby Lobby and tied around each napkin to dress it up. We used those super mini clear hair ties to scrunch the napkin in the middle to give it that effect. #DIYAllTheWay
For our wine, beer and water glasses we used clear plastic cups (the higher quality ones - i'll link 'em!) and we picked those up from Walmart. I don't remember the exact prices, but you can get A LOT and it wasn't overly expensive.
And for tablecloths, we totally lucked out - we found a couple that was selling 20 tablecloths from their wedding so we ended up buying those from them.
Keep an eye out on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Buy/Sell groups, etc. for all sorts of used wedding goods. You can get some stellar deals!
If your venue doesn't include plates, silverware and those sorts of things - check out Smarty Had a Party for plastic alternatives.
With silverware, plates, napkins, tablecloths, cups and all of that sort of stuff, we spent around $800 dollars.
Plates | Flatware | Wine Glasses | Beer Glasses
Finding a venue can be a daunting task and since we're chatting about budget weddings here, this is my biggest tip:
Find a venue that is a blank slate, meaning that they allow you to bring in your own caterer and bartending/alcohol.
**This WILL require more time, effort and planning on your end, but it is a definite way to save money.**
I loved our reception venue - I thought it was so pretty and unfortunately the photo you see above is the only one we got of the whole setup . . . but the picture doesn't do it justice. It was so naturally beautiful - other than the decorations on the tables and a couple picture frames on a fireplace, we didn't do anything else to the venue.
We paid $2500 dollars for the reception venue, which included a 12 hour rental, tables, chairs and the media set up.
The chapel where the ceremony was held is in the heart of the University of Washington and it was only about 2.5 miles from the reception venue. I searched long and hard to find the perfect chapel and I knew as soon as we saw this one that this was it.
Like the reception venue they were so laid back and really allowed us to do anything we'd like - they gave us the Church for the whole day and that's where we all got ready and hung out up until we said I DO!
This pretty place was only $200 dollars and that was simply a donation that wasn't required - bless their heart, seriously.
Don't shy away from venues that are separate from each other. Honestly - guests don't typically mind heading to a second location for the reception (keep within reason, of course)
Look for venues that offer a lot of options and don't require any "preferred vendor lists"
Look for venues with natural charm and character
Total Venue Rental Cost (Church + 12 Hour Reception Hall): $2700
Okay y'all - this is getting LONG so I'm gonna wrap it up with one last thing . . .
If there is one area in a wedding that I wouldn't be afraid to spend money THIS IS IT.
Photography is the place where it IS okay to not be cheap and to splurge a little bit (or a lot)
Your wedding is only ONE day and the pictures from that day you will have forever - you want to love them and you should love them.
Save elsewhere and spend money HERE.
We actually had a family friend who is a professional photographer take our wedding photos.
Back when we got engaged, she had taken our engagement/proposal photos and after having done that, she'd offered to do our wedding free of charge . . .
It was an unbelievably kind and generous offer and we were incredibly grateful to her for that.
Our family actually ended up paying for her and her husband's flight to our wedding (they lived out of state), because we simply wanted to show our appreciation to them.
My baby sister who just got married back in April did the same thing we did - they had a family friend fly out from New York to photograph their wedding and she did such a beautiful job - like us, their family paid for her flight out and she did the wedding free of charge. #blessherheart
If you have friends who are photographers see if they'd do it for free or discounted in exchange for a flight + hotel. It doesn't hurt to ask - it's a good deal for you and it's a free trip for them along with a wedding to add to their portfolio.
Really take the time to search for a photographer and a style that you LOVE.
Don't be afraid to spend a few extra bucks here (don't go crazy, but spend more here vs. other places)
Don't be afraid to be super specific with the photographer about what photos you want
I'm sharing a few of my sister's wedding photos, because I thought the photographer did such a great job.
A few last tips:
Skip out on favors - you really don't need them and it's an easy way to save money
Make your own invitations - we made ours and I loved them. It takes TIME and EFFORT, but gather your family around the table and make a day of it (don't forget the mimosas!)
Have guests RSVP on your wedding website - this is SO easy and convenient for you and your guests. It'll save you money by not having to pay for return postage . . . trust me on this. Minted.com is my favorite place to create a wedding website and it's FREE!
Ask your family to help - As I'm sure you can tell, our wedding was 100% a family affair and we really loved it that way. Some of our extended family offered to set up the reception for us and they, along with our immediate family, were the ones to stay behind and clean up. We never had to ask, they just offered. That's why family is the BEST.
Get your friends and family involved - ask your friends and fam to do different things in the wedding. Everyone we asked to do something in or for the wedding, was so excited.
Honeymoon Later - Take the stress away and take a honeymoon later, whether its a month, 6 months or 1 year later. Do it later. It gives you something else to look forward to and it allows you to really focus on the wedding. We took our honeymoon one year later and went to Napa/Sonoma for about a week. The two nights after the wedding we stayed at this really beautiful waterfront resort in Kirkland, Wa. It was a perfect way to end the wedding weekend and really celebrate without going on the big honeymoon.
And my final tip:
HAVE FUN! Don't stress - it isn't worth it.
It goes by so fast - try your best to enjoy it.
And that's it friends - I'll leave you with a few of my favorite photos from our wedding!
Dress: Maggie Sottero | Venue: University of Washington Catholic Newman Center | Venue: Great Hall at Green Lake | Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie | Suits: Joseph A Bank | Flowers: Buds and Blooms | Hair + Makeup: Peppers Salon | Catering: A Grand Affair Catering | Wedding Night Hotel: The Woodmark Hotel & Spa | Ties + Pocket Squares: Bows N' Ties | Officiant: Fr. Jordan Bradshaw | Tableware: Smarty Had A Party Photography: Ella Florence Photography
I'm Emilee. 26. Homebody. Believer in a simple + intentional life. Daughter of the King. Living in Austin with my hubs.
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