The average American wedding costs over $25,000. Reading this fact leaves me speechless, staring at the screen. Where do couples come up with that much money, even if their families help? When my long-term partner and I decided to finally tie the knot we both made lists of the five things most important to us about the wedding. Number one on both our lists: cheap.
We wanted to have an inexpensive wedding because it was necessary (we were broke), but also because we wanted our special day to reflect who we are and our values. We are not big consumers and we are not super fancy or formal people. We are big on DIY projects, and we are lucky to have incredibly talented and supportive friends. We also like the romance in things that are simple, hands-on, and casual.
We managed to have a beautiful and romantic ceremony and reception that matched our personalities and cost less than $2,000. Here’s how we did it:
The venue for our ceremony was the biggest expense of our wedding. We rented a large, red barn in a State Park for $900. The barn was completely empty and undecorated, but gorgeous and hugely inspiring. We rented white chairs for inside the barn, which cost $400. Picnic tables were provided at the park.
We had the reception of our summer wedding in the backyard of my in-laws. There was swimming, picnicking, live music, and dancing on their large deck. All for free.
Three of our talented friends played live music during the ceremony and reception. Dance music was provided with playlists and equipment we already had.
For months before the wedding we went thrift shopping. We bought pretty white lace tablecloths in a variety of styles and a couple dozen clear glass vases of roughly the same height. We spent about $25 total on these items.
We sent out a request to family and friends that they help us decorate the barn by cutting out large paper leaves in our wedding colors and mailing them to us. We received boxes and boxes of hand-cut leaves. Our siblings had the job of stapling the leaves to hundreds of feet of white ribbon (thrifted for 50 cents), and wrapping the beautiful, hand-made garland around the beams and posts of the barn.
To add more decoration to the space and make the large, airy barn feel more intimate, we bought huge spools of off-white burlap fabric from the fabric store and draped it over the beams. The burlap cost $150, and I have plans to re-use it for another project in the future.
Flowers are apparently a huge expense for most weddings, but we decided to bypass this cost almost entirely by not having fresh flowers. Being married in a rural setting during the height of the green summer provided the natural beauty we wanted.
We choose seed pods for the picnic table centerpieces instead of fresh flowers because they are beautiful and natural, but last practically forever. (A lot of our decorations were things we planned to use again in our home, and, three years later, our seed pods are still in perfect condition.) We bought lotus seed pods at a craft store and had dozens of poppy seed pods mailed to us by a gardening friend. When we put these into their vases I realized something else was needed, and cut off the tops of all my in-laws cattails (with their permission) and placed these and one of their large green leaves in the vases as well. Perfect.
My bridesmaids and I carried bouquets of dried flowers from a craft store, arranged by my mother-in-law with her own ribbon. We were all able to keep our bouquets as a souvenir.
Our wedding outfits cost a combined total of less than $90. I wore an expensive-looking, hand-made dress that I purchased on etsy.com for $50 with a vintage slip underneath. My husband wore pants he already had and a dress shirt and vest that he thrifted for $10. We were both barefoot. We looked great.
We had a picnic-style potluck dinner at our wedding reception. Instead of complaining about this, guests raved about the amazing quantity and variety of delicious homemade food. It was a complete success. My mom made three of her spectacular chocolate cakes as our official wedding cake, and other guests brought scrumptious desserts as well.
We provided the plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, and some of the drinks for the reception (my siblings volunteered to cover the rest of the alcohol), which cost around $200.
A photographer friend shot our wedding ceremony and reception in both digital and film formats for only the cost of film. We love these photos, as well as all the digital photos of the event that we collected from the guests.
With the help of our friends and family our wedding was beautiful, unique, romantic, and cheap. It was described by one attendee as being, “like a fairy tale.” By going the less-traditional, DIY route and involving our loved ones, we saved thousands of dollars and created an event that was a joyful, communal celebration.