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helping brides create beautiful weddings without breaking the bank

We didn’t really see this as a budget wedding, as much as a wedding that was within our means; a wedding that we could afford without breaking the bank.

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While on vacation, I overheard a couple say, “We try to save where we can; I bought a coupon book for $100, and after using 4 coupons, it pays for itself!” Mind you this was while all three of their children were wearing designer sneakers and playing with their own personal iPads. This was when I realized that depending on a variety of factors; the definition of a budget is drastically different depending on who you talk to.

So when we decided on having a wedding for $5,000, we thought it was reasonable. With an assumed guest list of under 100 people, that averaged that out to $50 per guest.I knew this was much smaller than the average wedding cost ($26,000? No thanks!) but I assumed that that number was skewed because of those celebrities who have $1 million dollar nuptials. We didn’t really see this as a budget wedding, as much as a wedding that was within our means; a wedding that we could afford without breaking the bank.

When I started talking to newly married friends and family as well as fellow engaged pals, they were all surprised at our number. And those weren’t the only people who were asking about our budget; it seemed like every time someone I knew found out I was getting married and didn’t want to spend a lot, their first question was whether or not I’m jealous of opulence. In the beginning, I never was; I was thrilled that I was going to be spending the rest of my life with the most awesome gentleman I know.

I got scared; I worried that we would have to cut our guest list or that we wouldn’t be able to find a venue. It seemed like every other day I was hyperventilating because I thought we couldn’t have a wedding. I would yell something ridiculous like

“We have to elope! I can’t find flowers for $1!”


“No one will want to sit on metal folding chairs, and renting a better type is too expensive! We have to elope!”

Then, as always, my favorite gentleman would calm me down and remind me that the reception is just a party. He would remind me that we’re getting married, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if there are fancy centerpieces or $5 per piece invitations. It only matters that at the end of the day, we’re husband & wife.

I realized how silly it was to think that $5,000 was an unreasonably small amount of money to budget for a wedding. I also realized that no matter how many commonalities you can have with your friends and family in regards to general economic standing and financials, weddings are a whole other ball-game.

So readers, have you had issues explaining or justifying your budget (or as I like to call it “within your means”) wedding to friends, family & the occasional nosy stranger? How do you go about it?

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About Denise

I'm Denise, and in May of 2013 I'll be marrying my best friend of over a decade. By the time we get married, we'll have had a 2 year engagement. I also post on my own blog

Connect with Denise
  • I spent a little less than $5000 for my entire wedding, including dress, tux, decor, food, music, photography, venue, and many miscellaneous things for 120 guests. It was an incredible challenge, but I had over 2 years to plan my wedding, and I purchased things gradually, finding the best deals. I had an amazing pro photographer do my wedding, and the photos were more than what I could have asked for. I think a budget wedding is relative to how much money you make. For me, $5000 on a wedding was doing a budget wedding, but to others it might be all they have to spend. I wasn’t making much money when I got married, so I had to save wherever I could.

  • Karen from Moonshine Weddings

    What a great article! I m the owner of a company that specialises in planning ‘budget’ weddings and I come up against this all the time! I think I m actually looked upon as the poor cousin of the ‘fancy’ wedding planners but I’d argue against it every time! I think people associate budget with cheap and cheap looking but it’s just not the case. It’s great if you have £20 000 that you won’t miss to spend on your big day but its terrifying that so many couples feel so pressured to have the perfect day that they get into mountains of debt to pay for it. My own wedding cost just over £4000 and it was beautiful. We had a beautiful private venue, gorgeous food, I had a ‘proper’ wedding dress and we drank pimms in the sunshine. We had the best day of our lives and everyone commented on how expensive it looked and much more importantly what a wonderful day it was. I didn’t skimp but I did spend hours making invitations, favours, decor, goodie bags and pulled in lots of favours from friends who played in a band, arranged sound equipment and made wedding cakes. Apart from my bouquet and button holes me, my sister and mom did all the flower arrangements too! It takes a lot of time but I loved it and wouldn’t have had it any other way. We ended up with a day that was so personal and pretty. I think the biggest piece of advice I could give any couple who have a small budget is to not get caught up with ‘have to have’ conversations! Apart from the legal requirements there is nothing you have to have! Find a little quiet time together, close your eyes and imagine what a perfect day together is. Maybe it’s a quiet walk in the country followed by a pub lunch, or shopping in a deli for ingredients for dinner or maybe it’s spending the day at a funfair, whatever it is use that as your inspiration for your day, set your budget and get creative! And the biggest thing to remember is that regardless of how much your invitations cost you will have a wonderful day because you are getting married to the person you love!

    Have a great day!l

  • Shannon Hardiman

    Hey Denise — I think you bring up some very poignant points! It has become an expected norm to have elaborate, extravagant, weddings. And for the brides who are not able to accomplish such an ordeal, they end up feelings embarrassed or shameful. I’m getting married in June, and my husband-to-be and myself are both full time college students (graduating in May!) and we both work full time at hourly-wage positions, and generally we’re not too well off at this point in our lives… but we are responsible for covering the entire cost of the wedding, and we’ve been able to save enough for $5000 budget. The easiest solution for making our wedding wonderful on a dime? Have the theme as far away from elegant as possible! We’re getting married in a large field, with an old rustic barn reception. The wedding is very vintage/country/rustic. Most of my decor has been DIY or finding old piece of furniture (the more worn down and tattered the better!) which have been free, or very affordable. Flowers? I’m using wild flowers from a local vendor at a farmers market. Beautiful and brightly colored, but a large mix of all kinds of flowers (and so much cheaper than a florist!) I guess I have really lucked out because most people I have talked to understand my the financial situation I am coming from, and can see that I’m doing the best things possible on a dime. The biggest drawback I’ve seen from my guests is that it’s going to be a dry wedding (the grounds don’t allow it, unless you want to pay wapping security guard and liability insurance fees… plus the cost of alcohol… it adds up so quick!) But if they sneer at that news, I just say it’s the grounds policy and it’s out of my hands, and suggest they go to a nearby bar with their friends after the event is over (is a morning wedding anyways, I mean, do you REALLY need to be drinking??) I guess at the end of the day you really have to concentrate on the fact that it’s not about pleasing all the guests (you can’t make everyone happy all the time!) it’s about you & your husband pledging your love and devotion to each other, and starting your lives together. The food gets eaten, the flowers dies, the dress will never be worn again, and the invitations get tossed out. But your marriage will last a lifetime!

    • In a few weeks, there’ll be a post from me in regards to what I’m now calling *Guestzillas*, the friend who wants an open bar and needs you to cater to her vegan macrobiotic diet and who insists on bringing her boyfriend of one week that neither my husband-to-be nor I have met.

      And I totally agree in regards to not pleasing all! Just as I said in this post, the reception is just a party.

    • Good for you to having an honest wedding within your means instead of overextending yourself! The day will be magical no matter what, so there’s no reason to start off your marriage in a pile of debt! Can’t wait to see how things come together for you guys!! xo

  • Liz

    After I got engaged I looked at wedding budgets online and immediately had a panic attack. This website is how I felt like I could still have a nice wedding for my 3-4 thousand budget.

    • You ABSOLUTELY can!!! Let us know if we can help with anything in particular! xo

  • Red

    I am a HUGE fan of ALL things BUDGET! To be stigmatized for not spending a lot on a wedding by other people’s standards is the LAST thing a newly married couple should worry about. Going into debt that will last passed the 7-year itch is why so many people fight over finances in the beginning of their marriage. It’s insane to think you need to go above and beyond your means in order to throw a party. My son gave me less than 3 months to throw a wedding we had not yet saved for. And while I wanted to give him something a little bit bigger and fancier, he gave me the best gift – he quieted my busy mind and inflated budget by saying “Mom, I just want to marry her. That’s it! Everything else isn’t important.” After I heard that, I scaled waaay back, and we are going to have THEE sweetest, most loving, intimate family gathering in celebration of their nuptials and it’s going to cost us just about $4,000. No stigmas, no debt, no worries…just love! As it should be…

    • LOVE THIS!!! And I wholeheartedly agree with all the above sentiments 🙂

  • What a great article! I love all the comments too. Honestly though I think EVERY bride experiences some sort of stigma with regards to her wedding budget. I had a wedding that cost higher than average and my now husband and I could afford it and it was what we wanted but at the time most of my friends were just a few years out of college like me and a lot of us were teachers and the fact that we spent as much as a first/second year teacher makes in a year really threw them for a loop. People would drop comments when they found out where we were getting married and they weren’t the nicest comments- it was sort of like ‘you’re not struggling along with us now so you’re not one of us.’ It really bothered me. Frankly I don’t think it’s anyone’s business how much you are paying for your wedding. Most people still consider it rudde to ask how much you earn at your job and I’d lump weddings into that same category. How people spend THEIR money is up to them, not anyone else.

    • Denise

      Yes! I find it odd to bring up finances with people you are not very close to, and I get asked by absolute STRANGERS about what we’re looking to spend.

      If you could afford an elaborate & expensive wedding, more power to you. No reason NOT to have opulance if it’s what you want and you have the means to do so.

  • Anonymous


    How did we explain or justify your budget wedding to friends, family & the occasional nosy stranger? Simply by not telling our budget to anyone. I consider it to be a private manner that only me and my fiancé should be aware of. Just like we would never discuss of our household finances to strangers and family members, we consider the wedding budget to be a private issue.

    Whenever people ask us about how much we’re spending on the hall, the food, the dress, the jewelleries, etc. we just answer that it’s not something they should worry about.

    What we want people to understand is that we are trying to plan a wedding that will not only be our dream wedding and let our closest friends and family members have an amazing day.

    Be reasonable on your budget. It’s okay to wear a pair of shoes you already have, it’s okay to buy your wedding dress on sale, print your invitations, it’s also okay to spend a bit more on something you really want (for us, it’s the chivary chairs) and it’s okay not to invite everyone you know.

    • I find that growing up in a culture that is a little bit more free in regards to talking about money, the option of trying to hedge the issue might not be taken the best way by friends and family members.

      While this strategy may have worked perfectly fine for you, I don’t think it’d be ideal for myself & my favorite gentleman.

      I do agree on priorities though! I’ll have several posts about this specific issue in the future.

  • Renae

    Hey Denise, this is a great post! I’ve been told that my budget is too much or too little. But your post also made me realize how I’ve turned my nose up at brides who’s weddings are 2x’s or 3x’s greater than mine. In my bridal snobbish way.

    I guess it all boils down to being confident that you’re doing right by your budget, and not feeling the need to defend it or doubt it based on what anyone says.

    • Even though I post on a very public forum (this blog!) about all my expendatures, I feel as though the budget you set for a wedding is a very personal choice. As long as it’s within your means, it shouldn’t matter if you spend $100 or $100,000.

      Our budget is low compared to some of my other family members who had $35,000+ weddings and high compared to some friends who had backyard barbecue weddings for $1,000. I dind’t judge them, and I’m happy to say that many of them didn’t judge me either 🙂

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