How I Got Married for Under $1,000
Ever since I was small, I’ve been a hopeless romantic. Growing up my girlfriends would daydream about their perfect wedding and how grand it would be. The dress, the venue, the party, all perfectly planned and executed. I never had a plan for my dream wedding. I just looked at my friends with stars in my eyes and said ‘I don’t care what the wedding is like, I care more about WHO I’m going to marry’.
The determination to have a wedding that wouldn’t put me into debt was strong. I’ve always thought it was slightly ridiculous to spend months (or years) and thousands of dollars (not to mention the STRESS) on an event that would last only a few hours.
This is just my personal opinion. If you have done this, more power to you! I am far too lazy and cheap to go this route. To my friends and family who DID plan out nice weddings and were thoughtful enough to invite me, thank you! I love going to weddings. I just never felt the need to go above and beyond for my own.
Our circumstances were not exactly normal when we got married, so that probably affected the way in which we did things, but I wouldn’t change it!
A little backstory:
I got pregnant in January of 2015. James and I had been dating for four months. Ideally you want to date someone longer and maybe even marry them first before you get pregnant. Four months is so short but every couple is different so time frames certainly aren’t going to make or break a relationship (in most cases!) My parents dated for two months before they got pregnant with me. They say you become what you hang around with!
I kept saying “I don’t want to get married just because I got pregnant.” I knew I loved James and I knew I wanted to marry him, even before I got pregnant. People would accuse us of having a ‘shotgun wedding’ and it absolutely wasn’t that! Besides, I was confident that we would get married so I thought ‘what’s the rush?’
Well my dad, who is a bit old fashioned, offered to give us $700 if we would get married in the next few months. My parents have always said they would prefer it if I eloped so that was the initial plan. Dad was going to give us some money, and we talked about taking some family to Florida and having the ceremony at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It turns out this is not technically ‘allowed’ and I didn’t feel like doing a drive by wedding! Our next thought was the hot air balloon in Downtown Disney. We could go up with our close family, have the ceremony, and be back on the ground in less than thirty minutes. It seems as if I might have been looking for a reason to go to Disney World!
After a lot of phone calls and schedule checking and price matching, we gave up on that idea. But by then the wheels were turning and there was no going back. This was happening, dangit!
We found a venue that wouldn’t charge us an arm and a leg. (Okay, it was free)
One reason I ditched the Disney idea is because my best friend couldn’t make it during the times our ‘venue’ was available. I wasn’t going to have a big wedding but I was definitely having my best friend there. I spoke to her about some ideas and she offered to let us get married in her yard. We got married memorial day weekend so the grass was nice and green and the flowers were all in bloom. A backyard wedding sounded very cozy so after discussing it with my husband and my family who would have to travel to her house in North Carolina, it was decided!
We held the ceremony in the front yard and then led the guests into the backyard for the reception. The food was prepared and served in the house and then taken out to the backyard to eat. My friend knew of a local rental service where we got a good deal on some tables and chairs that were delivered the day of the wedding. I believe it was something like 2$ per chair?
We limited the amount of guests invited.
This can get kind of sticky. We didn’t tell a lot of people about the wedding because it all happened very fast. I didn’t invite a lot of family because they are so spread out and would have had to travel across the country and it was very short notice. Most of them took it pretty well. We did have one instance where one of James’s family members took it upon themselves to invite another member of the family. Some who is really sweet, but I’ve only met one time and isn’t blood related to James anyway. Honestly if they had asked I would have been more okay with it, but we were aiming to keep the wedding small, intimate, and affordable and more people = more money. It was my one ‘Bridezilla’ allowance for myself. Don’t invite people to my wedding. That’s my job.
If your parents are paying for your wedding and they want to invite their coworkers and their neighbors, let them! But if it’s coming out of your pocket, you definitely should get veto power. Don’t let your family bully you into inviting people who don’t need to be there. They will get over it.
We probably had a total of 25 people in attendance. This was including the officiator, and our ‘event planner’ (my sister’s friend). I would love to have a party down the line where I am financially able to invite everyone I really want to invite (10 year vow renewal maybe?).
My family provided the food.
One of my favorite meals ever is Chicken Curry. Not the traditional kind that is spicy and hails from India, the kind my grandma learned to make as a missionary in Africa many years ago. Now that she is living in retirement we don’t eat it as much anymore so I requested this as our wedding meal. This curry is a base of white sticky rice, chicken with curry sauce and boiled eggs, and then any toppings you can think of. I’ll have to write up a post on this in the future.
My mom and my aunt collaborated on this and it came together and was AWESOME. We found cute little chalkboard signs at hobby lobby to label everything and we used some rustic looking displays we found at sam’s club.
We had tea and water to drink, and for dessert my mother in law put together the cutest little ice cream sunday bar! The ice cream was in little mason jars and there were toppings as well.
My sister is a very talented cake baker and decorator and has been doing this as a hobby for the last few years. We taste tested some publix cake but ultimately decided to have her make the cake. It turned out amazing! The top layer had chocolate eclair filling that my husband absolutely loved.
We chose a theme that was simple and easily attainable.
Burlap and the ‘rustic’ theme has been very popular over the last few years, so it’s everywhere. It was very easy to find cute and affordable decorations at hobby lobby and even the dollar store. We loaded up on mason jars to use as centerpieces and drinking glasses. The drinking glasses were personalized with the guests’ names and also served as a wedding favor. We threw some burlap down on the tables and wrapped it around the cake and tied burlap bows to the archway we got married under. The plates and silverware were clear plastic ones from sam’s club.
We purchased the flowers the day of the wedding.
We got up early on the day of the wedding and went to get some Starbucks on our way to the farmers market in town. (I asked the barista to write ‘Bride’ on my cup. I suppose I sounded too country because she wrote ‘Brad’. Definitely a funny moment!!) Since I got married in the spring, the flowers available were gorgeous and perfect for our wedding!
With $100 we bought ten bouquets of brightly colored wildflowers and sunflowers. We took them back to the house and made bouquets for me and my two bridesmaids.
I skipped expensive dresses!
Some of you will roll your eyes and scroll right past this section, and that’s okay! I know a lot of people who got great deals on their wedding dresses. Those still ended up costing around $300 dollars on the lower end. I’ve spent nearly $300 on bridesmaid dresses in the past! Just, no. ‘It’s cute, you can wear it again!” No, I won’t. I can almost promise you I won’t wear that dress again. For such a casual event, I felt really good about letting my girls wear something they would be comfortable in.
Since I was pretty freshly pregnant I wasn’t too big, but I was starting to get my swell on and not feeling great in a lot of clothes. I found my simple, ivory colored dress (white is obviously off the table! HA) at Target for $30. My bridesmaids (My best friend and my niece) used dresses they already had in their closets. We bought my husband a new button down shirt from Marshall’s and he and I both went barefoot.
I knew the right people.
We had our photos done by a family friend who practices photography in his spare time. He had done photos for us before so we gave him $150 to come take photos for us on the day. It was SO nice of him to drive all the way and take our pictures for so little but he is just that nice of a guy. The pictures turned out awesome!
Our photographer’s wife made our guest book as a wedding gift, and a friend’s mom made us a photo book later on of our wedding photos!
Our ‘wedding planner/coordinator’ and my sister’s friend made up our invitations and all the ‘paper’ signs we needed.
Another friend who is a hairdresser and does makeup as well as runs her own boutique shop came by and did my hair as a wedding present to me. We drank mimosas (I had sparkling grape juice in mine. Not the same.) while we got ready in the guest rooms.
Our officiant was a family friend and didn’t charge for his services.
I skipped some of the extras.
We didn’t have dancing or alcohol at our wedding. No DJ, just an iPhone. We had a first dance (my friend’s husband downloaded the rock and roll version of the song “Never Stop” and not the ‘wedding version’ so it was really confusing and awkward but we had fun either way.
It may seem odd not to have alcohol at a wedding, but we opted out of that expense. Most people who attended our wedding didn’t drink (and I couldn’t) so we didn’t feel like it was necessary.
Our budget honeymoon-
We both had to get back to work on Tuesday so we didn’t really get a true ‘honeymoon’. (One day, honeymoon. I’m comin’ for ya.) We did leave our wedding after the reception and got a hotel room in town. The next day we drove to Boone and explored the town. We hiked Grandfather mountain and then stayed in a hotel room complete with a hot tub!
If I could have done anything differently I would have saved some money up to take a proper honeymoon. I would have loved to backpack Europe with my new hubby, or relax on a beach for a week!
A few extra things
My ‘something old’ was my mom’s necklace which she wore every day. On the chain was a diamond stud that used to be in my great grandma’s wedding ring. ‘Something Borrowed’ was my sister’s diamond earrings (or maybe they were my mom’s) ‘Something blue’ was a clip in my hair, and I honestly don’t remember my ‘something new’. I’m thinking we used my dress, the hair clip, or something similar.
We did ‘unity sand’ and poured it into a photo frame of the two of us. I bought it at Hobby Lobby on sale!
My friend’s mother in law lives down the road on the lake and her yard is amazing! We went over there after the ceremony to take some ‘newlywed’ pictures!
Weddings are a celebration of love.
Getting married at the courthouse didn’t have enough romance for my liking. However I didn’t want to shell out ten grand for 4 hours. As an engaged couple, one of your first decisions together should be the extravagance of this event. Is it going to cause arguments, drama, and debt? Maybe take it down a notch! If you love planning and have been dreaming of this day for years, heck make it huge! I’ll come!
For you budget brides who are looking to keep it small, I hope this post helped you! Remember, it’s not the day that you’re celebrating, it’s your love for each other! If that’s the focus of your big day it will be the best day ever, no matter what you do!