Tennessee State park wedding | The Budget Savvy Bride
The Budget Savvy Bride

real budget wedding

What was your budget? If you are able, give us a rough breakdown of how you spent your budget.

We went up and down on this, started at $10,000 then realized that was unrealistic for 300 people, then up to about $18,000 prior to the wedding. We had fewer guests than we budgeted for (thank goodness!) so we ended up spending about $16,000 including EVERYTHING except the honeymoon. Here’s the breakdown:

Ceremony (rental of venue, chair rentals, minimal decor, bells, pillows and accessories for flower girls/ ring bearers, gift for officiant): $712

Attire/Personal (my dress and alterations, shoes, undergarments, hair for me and my bridesmaids/mom, mani/pedi): $1100
I saved a lot here by buying my simple dress from OnceWed.com and having some embellishments (the ruffle at the hem and bow on the back) sewn on by a local seamstress, but I splurged by paying for all my girls’ and mom’s hair to be done because we had the wiggle room at the end. My husband wore a suit he already owned so that was zero dollars.

Flowers (bridal party bouquets and boutonnieres, few flowers for reception, most flowers for reception were picked from my mother in law’s and her friends’ yards, and arranged by them): $643

Reception (venue, food, cupcakes, wine and beer that we brought ourselves, decorations, DJ, cocktail table, linen, dance floor and chair cover rentals): $7645
We saved a ton by using a non-traditional wedding venue, we only spent about $20/ per person for a full buffet and wait staff, for 190 people it was important to keep the food costs down. We also saved a ton by bringing in our own alcohol, and limiting it to wine and beer. The state park hosts a lot of conferences so they had great catering facilities and were amazing to work with. The downside was that we had to bring in the dancefloor and some other rentals to spruce up the boring room, but it still ended up being a cost-saver.

Photographer: $1542
We found a new-ish photographer that other brides were happy with from the knot, and got a great deal on a huge package. We were ecstatic about our engagement photos but our wedding photos were not as great as we had hoped. This was an area where I wish we had splurged more.

Invitations (save the dates, invitations, thank you notes and postage for all of those): $743
We used a designer I found on etsy who said she would design our invites for free to build her portfolio, but she ended up asking us to pay her, which we did. This ended up being a splurge when I hadn’t planned on spending this much, but I looooved our invites so it worked out.

Gifts (wedding party, shower hosts, helpers, welcome bags): $1310
We had so many family and friends who helped us pull this wedding off that we were pretty generous with nice gifts and welcome bags for everyone who traveled to the woods for our wedding weekend. No regrets here.

Hospitality (dinner for helpers on Thurs. night, snacks, drinks for hospitality suite, etc.): $310

Hotel Rooms at the park (hospitality suite which is where I stayed, cabin for the groom, each for four nights): $1428

Rings (wedding bands only): $1016
We had my engagement ring custom made by a local jeweler and he made my band to match, plus found us a great deal on Dave’s ring.

What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?

One of the most personal aspects was asking the judge I worked for in my first job after law school to officiate for us– it was a treat to have someone we both admire and who knows us well perform our ceremony. We also personalized a traditional ceremony script, adding a group blessing, warming of the rings, and a lot of music by our talented friends.

We had a lot of touches that weren’t necessarily “personal” but just made the wedding weekend feel like “us”– we had a relaxing welcome supper to which we invited all of our guests, instead of a rehearsal dinner, the whole weekend was very laid back and encouraged our favorite people to get to know one another and enjoy the beauty of our home state. We planned times we could spend time with guests, and down time so people could do things on their own and we got to relax.

As for DIY, I did as much as I’ve been able to, since we were on a tight budget, and also since our colors (hot pink and navy) were not easy to find on pre-made things. I’ve made floral headpieces for the flower girls, sewed pillows for the ring bearers, printed, cut, and assembled our wedding invites, made cupcake stands and guest book surveys, all the signage for the reception, and a million other little projects! In addition, we had so many family members and friends pitching in on the wedding weekend, we could not have done it without them! Our friends and family were the ceremony musicians, tended bar at the reception, picked up cupcakes on the morning of the wedding, helped us decorate and arrange flowers for the festivities, baked a small wedding cake for us to cut… I could go on and on!

What was the biggest thing you did to save money?

By far our biggest budget saver was booking the state park. Because it’s not really a wedding venue, they’re not charging wedding prices. Since we could bring our own liquor, I bought our wine from a neighborhood store and got a great bulk discount, plus I like supporting a neighborhood business. We saved a ton on flowers (which were the main decor) because my fantastic mother in law and her friends brought them from their gardens and arranged them. We also borrowed decor items like votives from a friend who recently got married.

What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?

If you’ve spent your whole time planning scrimping and saving, let yourself splurge a little at the end, especially on things that otherwise stress you out. I researched and compared prices exhaustively all along, but when it came time to buy the alcohol, I just went to two stores, because I was exhausted. I don’t know if we got the best deal, I know it fit the budget and it got done. I had asked my bridesmaids to pay to have their hair done, but we had wiggle room at the end, and when it came down to it I was happy to write that check so they didn’t have to worry about it.

Actually I have two tips– the second one is that you have to decide to enjoy your day, and to let all the stresses and things that go wrong (and they will) fade away. I am so type A and had planned this wedding weekend down to a T, but rain all weekend threw all our plans out the window. I had decided not to let anything bother me and enjoy the day, so I kept a smile on my face, and it really didn’t bother me. REALLY. I had to try hard to do this, but it worked. I focused on being in the moment and enjoying all my friends and family, and tuning out any negativity. I literally walked away from people a few times because they were bringing me down. And I had an awesome day with my new husband.

What was your biggest splurge?

Chair covers, which we spent almost $700 on. Dave really really wanted them (and he only cared about three or four things during the whole planning process), and I thought it was a waste of money. He found the money to pay for them, and he was totally right. When we set up the reception room, it made SUCH a difference. The room was pretty drab, and the existing chairs were ugly, but the chaircovers really did turn it into a more formal, beautiful space.

What was your favorite detail?

My dress/ shoes. I was comfortable and felt so beautiful all day, and like myself. I worked really hard on the dress but I got what I wanted, it reflected my personality and style. Loved it.

What is the most memorable moment of your day?

Really it was lots of moments all day long. We had monsoon rains all weekend, and I had to decide on the morning of our wedding whether to move the ceremony inside to the reception venue. We so wanted to be married beside the beautiful lake, but the whole area was a muddy mess, so I made the decision to move it inside (Dave was golfing in the rain when it was time to make this call but he later agreed). Once the decision to move it inside was made, all my weather worries faded away because it was out of my hands, I loosened up and just enjoyed the day! ( We did get to take some photos by the lake during a break in the rain, so I can pretend we got married there.) All day long, we were moving things around and making changes from our well-laid plans, which could have been REALLY stressful, but it wasn’t. I ended up spending a lot more time with Dave and a few key helpers (my stepmom was a hero) than I expected, and they just lifted us up. These are the moments I remember– it really felt like a team effort, and we pulled it off. I felt married that morning even before the ceremony, when Dave was helping me move things around and we just had to figure out how to make it work, together. I was never more certain that he was the right one.

Vendors:
Venue: Fall Creek Falls State Park
Hair: Steven’s Salon
DJ: FADDS Mobile DJ
Cupcakes and petit fours: Publix
Rentals: RSVP Rentals, Linens and chair covers
Alterations: AAA Alterations
Photos: Misti Abner Photography

Jessica is the creator of The Budget Savvy Bride; she launched the site in May of 2008, shortly after becoming engaged. Jessica has been recognized as a budget wedding expert by various media outlets and continues to share realistic inspiration and actionable tips to help brides save money on their weddings. Google

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    • Cassie
    • March 11th, 2010

    Love the details! Fantastic! I just had a question for the bride (or even Jessica if you may have an answer) I love this idea of the child's activity table. What type of things did you include? Was it a hit? Or a flop? My fiance thought that It might take away from the "wedding atmosphere?" But we have several close friends and family members that have young children…I was just curious on others thoughts on this especially someone who has experience with it.
    Thanks :)

    • Danetha
    • March 11th, 2010

    Congratulations! Your wedding was beautiful. You have NO idea how excited I was to see bridesmaids in different length dresses. I've been contemplating this for a while, since one of my bridesmaids wants a long dress and I want the girls to be happy with the dresses they have to buy. It's such a relief to see long and short dresses together and looking beautiful. Where did they come from, if you don't mind me asking? Thanks for sharing your wedding and best of luck in the future!

    • Autumn Witt Boyd
    • March 16th, 2010

    Hi Cassie, this is Autumn– we had about 20 kids of varying ages at the wedding so that's why we had an activity table. The kids mostly played there while we were having dinner (which was a casual buffet with open seating, not assigned seating/ served). They LOVED it! Things I included: glow bracelets/ necklaces, stickers, pads of papers and crayons, coloring books that I made with a wedding theme (found a template online but can't remember where, if you google "wedding coloring book" you'll find one), play doh, little dinosaurs for the boys and dress up jewelry for the girls. I bought all of these things at the dollar store and the table cost maybe $20 total. Once the dancing started, the kids mostly were dancing, not at the table, so I don't think it took away from the "wedding atmosphere" at all.

    Danetha, I was a little worried about the dress lengths also but I just wanted the girls to be happy so I went with it. Each girl bought their own– I know one was from Talbots, one was from Ann Taylor, and the other two came from dept. stores. I think as long as the color is pretty cohesive (and one of my sisters' dresses turned out more silvery blue than navy, but it was still fine), it works.

    Good luck to both of you!

    • Susan Kuehl
    • November 3rd, 2010

    Hi! My son and his fiance are heading to Falls Creek Falls to check it out for their wedding. Can you tell me about the dinner buffet at the Inn? Was it a private affair? Did they let you decorate at all? Did they let you have a bridal Table set up? Also, it looks like you used 2 0r 3 of the conference rooms, did you have to rent your tables? Any local info on wedding rental equipment would be greatly appreciated! Your pictures are beautiful!

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