A couple weeks ago I got to see one of my oldest friends in the whole world marry the man of her dreams in a beautiful backyard farm wedding. I couldn’t help but be reminiscent of my own wedding and wanted to share our story. More importantly, I want to share how we got married for just over $3,000 and why that’s a big deal.
Whenever someone gets engaged, I try to gently remind them that their wedding is not their happy ending, but rather their happy beginning. It’s an important day sure, but there are things you will want to accomplish as a couple very soon after your wedding that will be easier if you have some savings (like buying a house, having children, traveling, etc). Also, the joining of two families is a family affair. I encourage you to look to your family and friends for resources for your big day. Everyone involved in our wedding was connected to the family in some way and it was so worth it!
According to The Knot’s 2017 Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $33,391 (not including the honeymoon). Almost half of that cost is on average due to the venue. So here is my first big cost savings tip: instead of paying a venue ask around for picturesque, meaningful, and free locations for your big day! As a guest, some of my favorite weddings to date have been backyard affairs.
We got married on my husband’s family farm in Haviland, Kansas. Our ceremony was in front of a big wheat field and our reception was in a big metal barn that took my husband an entire week to clean out. We borrowed tables and chairs from my husband’s grandma’s church in town and spent about $700 on table linens and chair bows. That budget was significantly cut down when we decided to forego full chair covers and opt for the bows.
The next largest costs are typically for the DJ, photographer, and flowers. We spent about $800 on our DJ, who happened to be a cousin of my husband’s aunt. We spent about $650 on our photographer, who happened to be a high school friend of ours. It’s hard to explain the difference between working with a random vendor and someone you have a connection with, but we are still so grateful for both parties!
When it comes to florals it’s really easy to go overboard. The average cost of florals/decor is $2,379. We spent a whopping $350 on florals. I saved us a ton of money by sticking to just the necessities: bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages. I also asked the florist to save petals/clippings, so we had a trash bag full of rose petals and leaves to decorate tables with. One of my favorite things was when my aunt used some petals and leaves to decorate our cakes. Speaking of cakes, the average cost of a wedding cake is $540. I asked my caterer to make two plain vanilla cakes out of a box and she ended up not charging us at all! When was the last time you were at a wedding with one of those giant cakes that actually all got eaten anyway?
While we are talking about food, the average reception cost per person is $70 while our reception cost was $6/person. The gal that catered our wedding owns a restaurant in the town over from Haviland and taught school with my husband’s grandma. The reception was a blur for me, but I know we had a simple menu that included chicken salad sandwiches. We also had beer, wine, and champagne from the grocery store. Our caterer even returned the unopened cases for us at the end of the night and didn’t charge us for those. Remember folks aren’t coming for the food – they are coming to witness your love!
The next biggest expense is the dress. The average cost of a wedding dress is $1,509. Hear me out because this is when I typically lose people: I spent $0 and wore my Mom’s wedding dress. Did I love everything about the dress when I first tried it on? No. But, the overall fit of the dress was like a glove. So, with just a few alterations my dream dress was born! This path isn’t for every bride, but before you write it off as a possibility please at least try on a few family dresses and think creatively on how you can personalize them.
Next, let’s talk rings. The average cost of rings is $5,764. Per my husband, I am still not allowed to know the total cost of my ring, but I will share about my husband’s band and the process of getting my ring. My husband spent $55 on a black tungsten ring from Kohl’s (on a Black Friday special no less). My husband set up an appointment for me and my best friend to go look at rings. I was to pick out a few options and later he went back with our son in tow and chose from those options. This was his way of making sure I got the perfect ring, but that it was still a surprise.
The final special details for us included the stationery and officiant. The average cost for stationery is $408 while the average cost for the officiant is $284. We were so incredibly lucky to have our invitation and programs done by Le Snooty Fox out of San Antonio. Sarah is a friend of ours who ended up gifting our stationery costs to us. It was a truly unexpected moment in our wedding planning that still warms my heart. Our officiant Gary was very special to my husband. At the time, Gary was one of the only pastors my husband ever felt connected with. He had officiated my late mother-in-law’s funeral and is practically family. We were absolutely honored to have him.
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The average cost of a wedding planner is $1,988 – but what I have found is that most brides don’t need a full on wedding planner. What they really need is more of a wedding coach. Someone to tell them the pieces of the puzzle, keep their planning on schedule, and be the master of ceremonies on the day of. This is exactly what I did for my friend a couple weeks ago and I am happy to do it for you, if you need assistance! If you are engaged start by subscribing to my blog, downloading the general wedding timeline below, and then send me a message on my contact page or on social media.
If you are married, tell me your wedding stories in the comments!
XO – Olivia