When we showed you how Abigail Dalton planned her picture-perfect wedding for under $4,000, nearly 100 of you jumped in to share your tips, and we were blown away by all the ways you'd saved.
From Ellen, who made her own dress and served a DIY sundae bar as food at the reception (total cost of her wedding: $3,500) to "Shazzer" who had 50 guests in Key West for under $4,000, you all outdid yourselves ... but not your budgets.
And that's a beautiful thing—especially when the average price of a wedding has crept up to $27,000.
At LearnVest we believe you can throw a wedding worth remembering without breaking the bank. After all, it's a beautiful day—but it's one day out of your whole financial future together. (To ensure you live happily ever after, financially speaking, take our Getting Hitched bootcamp.)
In the meantime, to hear tips straight from real-life brides who said "I do" on a budget, whether they were getting hitched in Manhattan or throwing a three-day affair at a resort by a lake.
Have The Wedding And Reception In The Same Place
I managed to have a Manhattan wedding for about $17,500. It sounds like a lot, but it is a fraction of what most NYC weddings run. The ceremony and reception were at the same venue--a townhouse in the West Village in the afternoon for $1,000. My dress was $800 (bought at a boutique in Dallas, where I'm from), a friend DJed, our cake was cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and our photographer was just starting out (we paid $1,600, whereas most photographers in NYC run upwards of $5,000-$7,000). It is definitely possible to have an amazing wedding and not have to mortgage a house or create serious amounts of debt! Jillian Nulton
Call In Favors
I was married 21 years ago. Our wedding came to $1,600. I used the same hairdresser for many years, so she did my hair and nails for me as a wedding gift and I gave her a good tip in appreciation. We had a friend who was just starting a photography business. In exchange for using us in his portfolio and as a reference, he gave us a large discount. Because I regularly tithed there, I was able to use our church to feed 100 people. Family members used connections to find wholesale discounts on food for me. We did all of the cooking as a family. I hired a friend who worked as a head waitress to oversee the other friends and their families who worked the tables and kept the punch and appetizers filled. The officiant was a friend and gave the cost to officiate to me as a wedding gift. An aunt made the wedding cake for me as a wedding gift and I paid for the cost of ingredients. I found a person with a small home business of paper items who gave us a discount in appreciation for our business. I had many people who helped, so I can't take all of the credit. I had nine months to prepare, which helped to plan, sort out and determine what was feasible. Joanne
Decide What You Care About
The most important thing for a couple is to figure out what wedding stuff they don't care about. My husband and I decided to have no professional photographer, no wine or liquor, no cake, no dancing, no mailed invitations, no favors and no honeymoon. But our non-negotiable was that we wanted the wedding to last for days, because we had so many people traveling to it. Rather than hire a DJ or a band, we had an open mic for all our guests the night before the wedding in my parents' barn. Some of my most treasured memories are those performances by family and friends. We had an amazing morning wedding in a state park on a lake with delicious brunch food (that was much cheaper than a dinner would have been), fun activities including softball, croquet, frisbee, swimming and an ice cream truck. The next morning we had breakfast tacos and more swimming at the same park before everyone had to leave. It was a 3-day affair that cost us about $10,000. Liz Jones-Dilworth
Find A Low-Cost Resort
We picked a location about a 90-minute drive away from us in the Florida Keys. We booked the entire resort so that our guests wouldn't have to pay for lodging. During the day, people kayaked, swam and went out on boats (we rented one and two people brought their boats). We got the booze from Total Wine and the food from Costco. We had food all day--I cooked most of it ahead of time, but I was manning the BBQ grill for lunch. After our sunset ceremony, we fired the grills back up and had tons of food. The cake came from Publix. I loved our wedding, and so did our 50 guests. We spent less than $4,000, including covering the lodging for everyone. Shazzer4400* *Sometimes we'll cite readers with their nicknames when they commented on LearnVest's blog, or their Twitter handles.
Have A Separate Reception
Our wedding day was immediate family and witnesses only, with dinner afterward. We then threw the party of the century at our house two weeks later, after we returned from our autumn honeymoon. We had about 100 people at our home in an open house that went from 3 p.m. until daybreak the next morning. I got to wear my "bought from the rack" wedding dress twice! I would not have done it any other way. It was the beginning of a most wonderful marriage! Gardeblund
Have An Off-Season Wedding
We had our wedding in February and saved big on photographer, DJ and hall. We made our own table decorations and had the party in a modest church hall. It was the most awesome party ever and I wouldn't have it any other way. apushkal We had a Sunday wedding--the room rental was cut in half. The cake and flowers were from a supermarket. Still delicious and beautiful. @CarlieKW We got married in the winter, which was "off-season" and allowed us to save significantly on flowers and photography. (We also used a florist and photographer that our families had done business with for years, and benefitted from "hometown discounts.") A winter wedding also pared our guest list by discouraging distant, out-of-state relatives from attending because they wouldn't risk traveling in bad weather. KatyD
Find A Used Tux And Gown
My husband and I spent about $5,000 on our wedding and we had about 85 guests at a restaurant with a full meal and wedding cake. We found my husband a nice Italian suit at a men's resale shop and, even with paying for the alterations, it was very inexpensive. I found a beautiful Alfred Angelo dress for only $400 at Brides Against Breast Cancer, and one of my best friends did the alterations for me as a wedding present. I put together the wedding favors and decorations myself. We used Invitations by Dawn, which was also very inexpensive. Overall, I feel good that we had a beautiful day and did it all on a budget. Jane Briggs Gamez My daughter is getting married in the fall. Her dress was a couture dress from a local designer who showed it at a bridal show--we got it for $550! Nancy Battani Martin
Keep It Relaxed
For my daughter's wedding--in California, no less--we had the wedding at a beautiful park nearby ($40), had the reception at our home for around 75 people catered as a fish taco buffet ($550) and hosted our own bar with beer and wine bottles from Costco ($500). The dress was $400, ordered from the J. Crew website. All of the flowers I ordered wholesale ($75). I made all the centerpieces with fishbowl vases ($40 for ten bowls from Michael's) with river rocks and succulents, and also made the boutonnieres, cake decorations and ring of flowers for [the bride's] hair. The photographer was a friend retired from the city newspaper ($200 for the enlargements). I bought all the matching plates, cake plates, table clothes and napkins at a bargain store ($100). It was beautiful, simple, relaxed and a wonderful memory for all who attended and participated. DebG
Find A Free Venue
I got a wedding dress from a department store for $70, flowers for $200 (I'll decorate the actual venue with other things I can make), designed and printed my own invitations and am hiring a friend who is just starting a cupcake business. The luckiest part has been my church letting me use their building for free. I can't take that much credit for how inexpensive our wedding is. But having it nice and casual will be so much more fun for me and him! Lara Dickerson
Set Up A Buffet
We did a buffet with huge sub sandwiches purchased at Blimpie's cut into smaller portions. We added lots of foods purchased at Costco like meatballs and Caesar salad. We purchased a keg of beer and had soda for drinks. We used a Costco cheesecake, put it on a cake stand, tied a ribbon around it and added a topper. We served Costco sheet cake to the guests. Everyone got plenty to eat and I feel like the people we invited were happy to celebrate the day with us--that mattered more than fancy food. Megan
My husband and I got married in Santa Barbara three weeks ago and we hired a food truck for dinner. It was half the cost of a typical caterer and the food was excellent (and locally sourced). And because we created an experience for them, they didn't miss the china plates or formal silverware, which also saved us a lot of money in rentals. Many of our guests said it was their favorite part of the day. Tiffany Johnson I looked for restaurants that have fixed price meals served with coffee and tea to keep the cost down. I found a really nice Mexican restaurant with a beautiful setting that has reasonably priced buffet meals for our wedding. Jane Briggs Gamez I had my reception in a restaurant which had a party space--if you were ordering items from their catering menu, they didn't charge for use of the space. We selected items from their catering menu to feed everyone buffet-style, and their pricing was very reasonable. It cost us $1,200 to feed 80 guests. Michelle Clayton
Get A Package
We found a resort offering a great wedding package including the food, a nice room for the reception and its decoration. They recommended a decorator who worked at the hotel but did jobs on the side, and she made beautiful centerpieces at a great price. A friend of one of my best friends did my hair and makeup for only $40, and the best man, who sold floral arrangements, made my bouquet for free. As for the cake, we found a local lady who charged us only $100 (and trust me, it was big and delicious!). For the music, my husband and I merely chose those songs we liked best and that we thought our guests would enjoy, then rented a big speaker and plugged in our iPod. We held the ceremony at a terrace near the hotel's pool, then we headed to the reception. My family members, who are very picky, still talk about my wedding as the best they went to! Julie
Or Just Use The Money For Something Else!
I have a lot of friends whose parents shelled out thousands for a wedding, and after the fact told them they would have given them the money if the kids had eloped. All of them were disappointed, because they would have rather had the down payment on a house than the wedding. Samantha DeMont Get married at the courthouse with the minimum number of required witnesses. Take them out for burgers and cake after. #itwasawesome @Tigerpika