Each life experience shapes us into the person we are today. For me, my wedding story was one that has influenced my perspective on weddings greatly and has shaped my business as a wedding photographer. You may know this (if you read the Why page, you do), but I was only engaged to my now husband, Doug, for 2.5 months. I know that sounds crazy but when you know, you know. If you want the full story of how the Lord intertwined our lives together, you can listen to it on my podcast – The Abundance Pod – here. Today we are going to focus on the two and a half months of wedding planning and our wedding day.
When Doug and I got married, I was only 21. I had only ever attended weddings as a kid and none of my friends were married. Meaning, I was pretty much on my own with figuring out what even happens at a wedding. Trust me, there is no such thing as a dumb question. Google became my best friend and I found myself googling things like “what happens during a wedding ceremony? How do you write vows? How much does wedding food cost?”. With a short timeline and June 1st set as the date, we had to get creative.
First, we knew that we didn’t want to go crazy with our budget. If I can be real with you, I wanted to have an adventurous micro-wedding with only about 10 guests but my loving husband grew up in a small church as a pastor’s kid and had a list of at least 70 people he wanted there. Once a micro-wedding was off the table, we decided that we were not going to spend over $5000 for the whole day. We wanted to honeymoon in Spain for two weeks and that was a higher priority for us. Having a bridesmaid who was a wedding photographer, I knew that the biggest part of our budget would be photo. This ended up being $2500.
Second, we had 150 guests. We both have quite a bit of family, family friends, church friends, etc. The guest list was a higher number than I originally wanted but if we were going have a traditional sized wedding, we weren’t going to exclude anyone based on numbers. By now, you’re probably thinking how the heck did you only spend $2500 on everything else besides photography when you had 150 guests. This is where priorities kicked in.
I wanted to get married. That was the most important part. It didn’t matter to me if we had the prettiest flowers, if we had a cake, if we had a DJ. The way that we did a wedding of 150 guests for that cheap is because we sacrificed a lot of the traditional wedding expenses. My top priority was photography, secondary was good food. I always tell brides that there is a trade off to balance when decision making. Either you need to have the money to get it quick, the time to do it yourself and do it well or you sacrifice quality because you didn’t want to spend the time or money.
Venue – $150 – We only had to pay for our ceremony location which was a small church near my Father-in-law’s church. We had our reception at New Hope where my Father-in-law is the pastor, but the space wasn’t big enough to host both the reception and the ceremony. Venue’s are often a HUGE part of your wedding budget. I do think that it’s a valid investment – we just didn’t have the time to make the search for one worth it.
Florals – $150 – We did not hire a florist. Instead we purchased Trader Joes greenery and white florals to cover the tables. I opted for no bouquets, but my cousin decided they were a must so she made simple wild flower bouquets and surprised me on the day of the wedding.
Food & Alcohol – $800 – Italian food and Mexican food are two of the most affordable food options. We went with Italian and had SO MUCH LEFT OVER. My lovely mother-in-law handled the food ordering/coordinating. We had church members that lovingly offered to serve the buffet during the reception and everyone was happily fed. In total, we ordered 8 trays of various pasta meals. As for alcohol, we opted to not offer alcohol. We weren’t doing a traditional reception and most of Doug’s family doesn’t drink so it didn’t make sense to budget for that.
Dessert – $0 – We accidentally got married on International Donut Day and sadly couldn’t pre-order our Krispy Kreme donuts so we opted for no dessert. My cousin, however, thought not having a cake was not an option and she decided to back a three tiered cake for us. Since she is a baker, it was absolutely delicious but not something we planned on having.
Wedding Attire – $150 – I was lucky enough to have my dress gifted to me by my mom as a wedding gift. My husband got a custom suit from a shop in LA and that cost around $150. I opted to go without a veil or any jewelry and unintentionally forgot to buy wedding shoes. I ended up wearing one of my bridesmaids back up pair (thanks Kelly!)
Hair & MUA – $150 – As someone incapable of doing her own make up, this was also very important to me. I hired my normal hair stylist to do my hair and make-up at my house. It was a peaceful way to start the morning and well worth the money.
Decor – $500 – We kept the decor simple. We didn’t have anything at the ceremony space other than a few signs that were written by my maid of honor who is a professional calligrapher. That service didn’t cost us anything, but I did buy picture frames from various thrift stores and the dollar tree. Our guestbook was also from a thrift store and just happened to be in good condition. The reception had a little more decor. We spent $200 on white linens for 18 tables, that we donated back to the church. One of my bridesmaids made macrame wall hangings for the cake/gift table areas. Lastly, our centerpieces were mostly greenery with wooden boxes full of white florals inside and miscellaneous votives.
Photo/Video – $2500 – Like I said, we opted to put most of our budget toward photo. It’s $2500 for 8 hours of coverage, an album and an anniversary session. We also were blessed by a friend from high school who reached out and offered to do video for free. We got rolling footage of the day at no cost which was a nice surprise.
DJ – $0 – While we didn’t do a full dancing experience with all our guests, it happened to work out where the church building was also attached to a dance studio. We turned the studio space into a small dance floor. A guy from my father-in-law’s church was a professional DJ and gifted his service to us. We did a father/daughter dance, mother/son dance and a little bit of open dancing. The room wasn’t big and most people didn’t come join, which was totally ok with me. It was a fun 30 minutes and allowed for a few special moments that I am glad we had.
Officiant – $500 – The Pastor from the church Doug and I met at was our officiant. Since he was driving down from Santa Barbara we decided to pay him for his time. He was a highly influential person in both our lives and we are very thankful that we was able to come down and officiate.
There you have it. The full budget breakdown of our $5500, 150 person wedding. My wedding experience is far from typical but has made me appreciate the simple days and lavish ones that go all out.