Case Study: A $500 Budget Wedding

Case Study: A $500 Wedding

Weddings cost a lot of money, right? Well, that depends on the particular wedding. All you really need to get married are:

• 2 people who want to get married
• The proper paperwork – marriage license/certificate
• An officiant – (Priest, Rabbi, Justice of the Peace, etc.).
• Witnesses

That’s it. Anything more is purely optional, despite what the bridal magazines and wedding websites might say. It’s all of the products and services, and bells and whistles that eat up the budget. Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have flowers, music, food and drinks at your wedding. These things are part of what makes your wedding day special, but if you are planning a wedding on a small budget, decide which things are the most important to you. Don’t spend more than you can afford to because someone says it’s “necessary.” Anyone can plan an amazing wedding on a shoestring budget. The key is to use your imagination, think outside the box and search for the best possible deals.

Could you plan your wedding for only $500?
I went to a wedding last Summer that cost the bride and groom $500. The happy couple was eager to tell me how they were able to pull it off. They were in the process of buying their first home together and most of their money was being put toward a down payment and their closing costs. They were paying for the wedding themselves and determined that they could really only afford to spend $500, for everything! At first they were devastated and thought that maybe they should put their wedding plans on hold until they had a bit more flexibility with their finances. But after talking it over, they decided that they didn’t want to wait, and that they would rather move forward and make the best of it. Considering the average wedding in the US costs over $20,000, they knew they had a challenge ahead of them. Here is how they did it:

Bride’s Dress – $73
The bride found a vintage dress at a local dress shop. It wasn’t an actual wedding dress, but it was white, full length, and the price was right. The dress was only $49 and she paid a seamstress $24 to hem it.

Groom’s Attire – Free
The groom wore a black suit that he already owned. This was a no-brainer!

Officiant – Free
A minister who was a friend of the family offered to officiate the ceremony, free of charge.

Flowers – $112
The couple visited a local flower shop and explained their situation. They told the florist that their budget was about $100 and asked about their options. The florist told them that she could provide the flowers but that the budget wouldn’t be enough to cover the labor of arranging the flowers. The bride ended up doing all of the floral arranging herself ahead of time. She carried a small bouquet of white roses. Vases were placed on each table with assorted seasonal flowers and baby’s breath to help fill out the arrangements. By limiting the quantity of flowers purchased and by doing their own arrangements, the couple saved a lot of money.

Marriage License – $35
This cost varies from state to state, but it is usually less than $50. Additional copies of the marriage license cost extra.

The Wedding Location – Free
(Public space, permit for use requested in advance)
The couple saved a lot of money on the venue cost. They were quoted $450 to book a banquet hall at a hotel near by. That would have been almost their entire budget! Instead the wedding ceremony and reception were held in the same location, a historic gazebo at a state park. The location was completely free–the couple just had to apply for a permit to use the space ahead of time. The gazebo steps served as the alter. The couple was able to borrow folding chairs for their guests from the school where the groom works. The setting was gorgeous, with a large green lawn surrounded by huge oak trees.

The Reception – $250 for drinks and light refreshments
This is where the couple saved the most money. It was important to both the bride and groom that they be able to invite all of their friends and family without worrying about how many people were on the guest list. It turned out they had about 55 people to invite. They decided that in order to keep costs down, they would have an early afternoon wedding and a reception where they, served drinks and light refreshments instead of a full meal. This saved them a lot of money on food costs. They offered beer, wine, and soft drinks with sandwiches and other finger food. They ended up spending less than $5 per person.

Wedding Music – $50
The couple couldn’t afford a full band or even a DJ, so they asked their friend, a classical guitarist, to play during the ceremony and part of the reception. They paid the friend $25/hour for 2 hours of music.

They ended up spending a total of $520. Not bad, only $20 over budget. This was definitely a low budget wedding, but rather than trying to make it something that it wasn’t, the bride and groom highlighted the simplicity of being married in a beautiful setting, with friends and family present. It was less formal than a lot of weddings, but it suited the couple and couldn’t have been more perfect. The couple was able to use the money they saved to buy their first home.

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