Us posed in front of our reception venue
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How We Had the Wedding of Our Dreams for $1,000

It’s 2018, America. It’s time to stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on weddings and start using our resources to SAVE big bucks and still have a magical day with friends and family.

My husband and I are high school sweethearts who wanted to wait until after I finished college to get married. We decided that getting married on our seventh anniversary would be a beautiful way to celebrate and start a new chapter of our lives together. However, our seventh anniversary fell the day after my college graduation. That’s right, I decided to graduate on a Saturday morning and get married the very next day. Yet the timing of my wedding was not the most stressful part. My fiance and I were primarily paying for the wedding ourselves, and we struggled to plan the wedding of our dreams while maintaining enough money to pay rent. That is, until we took the time to realign our priorities and looked in to cheaper ways to make the day possible. We ended up spending roughly $1,000 out of pocket and had the most beautiful and fun wedding that we could ever dream of. Though most of our savings came from friends that volunteered their services, we saved hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars by ordering the materialistic things we needed from places like Amazon, Hobby Lobby, and even Kroger!

What I was most afraid of in preparation for the wedding was how I was going to afford my dress, shoes, and veil. I wanted a cheap wedding, but I did not have cheap style when it came to these items. I LOVE lace wedding dresses, and I wanted a more modest touch, so lace and more lace typically equals more money. Not always true. I took a bunch of girlfriends with me to go try on wedding dresses at a local boutique to see which styles were the most flattering on me. These dresses were all priced at $1,200 and up. I wrote down the styles that I liked most and spent the next month looking up cheaper dresses on Pinterst and the internet. It was a long process, but I finally found a dress in the last place I expected it – Amazon! I knew it would be risky to order a dress from an Amazon seller without ever having seen it in person or trying it on, but I made sure the seller offered free returns and that I would receive the dress with plenty of time to either make alterations or return it and search for a new one.

The arrival of my wedding dress via campus mail was quite comical. I went down to the post office below the cafeteria and picked up my “package.” It was a small bag of plastic that had my dress in it, folded several times and pressed air tight. I was instantly nervous and skeptical about the decision I had made, but, when I got back to my apartment and unfolded the dress, I was astonished! The material felt just as real and valuable as the dresses I had tried on in the stores, and it was absolutely beautiful. My roommates admitted that they too had been skeptical that it would look like a “real” wedding dress, but we were all amazed and overjoyed that I had found the dress of my dreams for just $249. The search for the perfect bridal look didn’t end there! I got the cutest little shoes for roughly $30, and a chapel-length veil for $12!

Once my attire was complete, I sought out dresses for my bridesmaids. Again, it was risky to ask my bridesmaids to order their dresses from an Amazon seller, but, thanks to sizing charts, they all got dresses that fit (except for the length, which most of them had to get hemmed). Since my fiance and I did not have a lot of money to spend, our wedding party bought their own attire. Amazon made it easy for me to choose an inexpensive ($40-$50) dress for my bridesmaids. I sent them the link and they could all order the same dress at their convenience!

The best part about searching for these items on Amazon was that I could easily modify my search terms to find cheaper options. For example, instead of searching “wedding heels,” I searched “vintage heels” or “white heels with pearls.” I never searched for the phrase “mint green bridesmaid dress,” just “mint green long dress.” Then, I could add terms like “formal,” “high-neck,” or “modest” to get the results I wanted. My fiance and I ended up ordering most of our wedding necessities through Amazon, including my dress, my veil, my shoes, the girls’ dresses, the boys’ lavender bow-ties, our guest book, a few table cloths, and his WEDDING BAND. That’s right, we went to a professional jeweler for my fiance to get sized and look at how a few different styles/widths looked on his finger, and then we went straight to Amazon to pick out a really amazing ring! There are so many neat ones to choose from, and he gets compliments on his all the time!

I’m sure there were more ways we could have saved on Amazon, so I encourage anyone planning a wedding to start there! Take the risks. If you order from sellers that offer free returns, you’ve got nothing to lose and possibly hundreds of dollars to save.

Here are some other ways we saved:

Groomsmen Attire – JCPenny:  We chose a more relaxed style for the groomsmen. The guys all got their gray pants at JCPenny for $35 a pair. Who needs to go to a tux store when most guys already know their dress pant size and can easily pick up a pair at the mall? These pants were on sale (JCP always has amazing sales), so they were a quality brand that looked fantastic. The sizes that we couldn’t find in store, we ordered online and got the same in-store discount price after talking to a sale’s rep from the store. Plus, the guys now have a new pair of church or work pants, instead of a tux they’ll never wear again! The store also had great deals on white shirts, but we decided the white shirts that each groomsman already owned looked fine together.

 

Wedding Cake – Kroger: That’s right, my wedding cake was KROGER brand. It’s Kroger’s “Wedding White,” and if you haven’t had it, try it! My roommate volunteered to make my wedding cake, even though she’d never made one before. There are so many tools at Kroger and Walmart that make baking and decorating a wedding cake so easy! Our wedding had a more rustic style to it, so all the cake needed was a few ruffled edges and some edible sugar flowers because why not? In the end, the cake and supplies cost maybe $30 and was made by someone I love dearly.

Flowers – Hobby Lobby: One of my bridesmaids was getting married the week before me, so we did some wedding planning together. She told me that she was going to Hobby Lobby to use all fake flowers for her bouquet and her bridal party’s flowers. At first I was skeptical that this would turn out ok, but when she sent my pictures of all her flowers, done in plenty of time before the wedding and looking AMAZING, I was hooked. The best part about using flowers from Hobby Lobby is that they go on sale about every other week! I used a lavender for everything, so I went to Hobby Lobby and got stems of lavender at roughly $2 each (50% off). I bought out what they had, and then ordered a rain-check for 15 more stems at the same discounted price. They arrived the next week, and my mother-in-law helped me make the bouquets and boutonnieres. I was so glad we went that route for flowers. I had enough to make my bouquet (plus I added a few different flowers), all of my girls’ bouquets, and all of the guys’ boutonnieres; plus, I had plenty of leftover lavender that I cut down to smaller pieces and placed on the tables either flat or in mason jars. For less than $50, flowers were covered and reusable. I sold what was left on the tables and my bridal party got to keep theirs as keepsakes.

Photography: Photography is one of the priciest parts of a wedding. I understand that a lot of work goes into wedding photography, but it saddens me that it cannot be offered at more negotiable prices for couples on budgets. There is also a huge amount of pressure now to not only “capture the memories,” but to capture the best memories and to capture all the memories.  It takes a lot of guts to post your wedding photos on Facebook or other social media because you know people will compare your photographer’s work to the work of their photographers or other photographers. During “wedding season,” it’s easy to tell who spent the most money on photography. That being said, more money does equal better quality photos produced by more expensive editing systems, and can sometimes even mean receiving more photos from the photographer. But my fiance and I did not feel that spending thousands of dollars on photography would make us feel happier about the pictures that were captured. I personally would feel queasy looking at my wedding photos and knowing that I could have more money now if I hadn’t been so convinced that good quality pictures come at such a high price. I shouldn’t want to compare my wedding photos to the photos of other couples. It should only matter that I have captured moments from the day so that I can look back and remember the details. Plus, if we’re being honest, all of our wedding photos will look outdated and of poor quality in just a few years, no matter how much we spend on them now. Technology is just changing and advancing that rapidly now. So ask yourselves, are you concerned with having the “best” photos, or are you satisfied with knowing you will have photos that span from the day and will serve you well in a photo album?

I have several friends who own professional cameras and take wonderful pictures, so I asked if they would be willing to take some pictures during the day. I also was not concerned with photo editing, so we did not need that equipment. Our friends could capture the same amount of photos, and had nice enough cameras to capture good photos that I would still want to print out, make an album of, post on Facebook, and hang on my wall. Up until 3 months before the wedding, my fiance and I agreed that his grandpa and a couple of our friends would be in charge of taking photos during certain parts of the day. I was happy with this decision, but I was then approached by my cooperating-teacher (I was student teaching at the time) with her offer to do my pictures for free. She does photography on the side, and she is amazing at what she does. I had been working closely with Angie during my college career, and she taught me everything I know about teaching English. I was so touched by her offer, and had an amazing day letting her take our pictures. It was so relaxing having someone we knew well take our pictures instead of a professional stranger who we would have paid thousands of dollars. Angie is the kindest person who does the most amazing work. Check out Golden Fish Pics to see her beautiful work.

Food: Organizing the food was honestly the most stressful part for me. My fiance and I knew that we could not afford a caterer, but I didn’t want to go without a meal. I was set on having the reception go into the evening so that the pavilion could be lit up with the fire and Christmas lights. Looking back, I probably would have been comfortable with having an afternoon ceremony and reception with just deserts. It was a lot of fun just hanging out on the lawn or dancing under the pavilion, and we would have spent more time overall with friends and family. Seeing as I was set on having the reception in the late afternoon/early evening, we knew we needed to provide a meal. The cheapest catering option in our area would have come out to have been about $2,000 (twice the price of our entire wedding), so it just simply was not an option. Instead, we asked family if they would be willing to prepare simple dishes that created an outdoor-BBQ themed dinner. My father-in-law picked up BBQ from a local business, a sister-in-law provided buns, and my fiance’s grandmother made mac n’ cheese and baked beans. The real problem was deciding who would serve the food. American tradition strongly suggests that no member of the wedding should have to do any work on that day, but hired help should run the show. Again, that was not an option for us, and, frankly, I did not want it to be. I asked some friends and roommates to help, and they gladly agreed. It was so much more special to me that everyone at my wedding was a dear friend or family member working to make the day possible. Everything was prepared in warmers, so my friends just had to arrive after the ceremony and line up to serve/refill the warmers. Not only did they save us hundreds of dollars, it was so special to see them helping out instead of strangers from an outside company.

So, I know what you’re thinking, what about the rest of the wedding? Yes, we saved hundreds of dollars in several big-areas, but there were still plenty of costly things we had to worry about. The great thing about our wedding was that my husband and I had the same goal in mind. We wanted to get married in his grandfather’s church, and then have an outdoor reception in a place that was casual yet charming. What was ultimately important to us was that we could find a space that would fit as many people as we wanted to come (we hated slashing our guest list and frankly just didn’t do it) and would provide our guests plenty of entertainment. To accomplish these goals, we chose to have our reception at the local state park. There was a beautiful brick pavilion there that was on a large piece of land AND very close to a playground, which was great for all the young ones in the family. We rented the pavilion for the entire day for only $25. There were clean bathrooms with indoor plumbing, a kitchen space to set up a buffet of food, a cozy fireplace, and lots of room for frisbee, croquet, and other outdoor yard games. We saved tons of money on decorations by taking a Pinterest idea for a kids’ table and applying it to all the tables – covering the table with white paper and letting our guests draw on the tables as they ate or as other guests danced.

 

The power of friends and family is what really made this wedding turn out so spectacularly.  One of my dearest friends volunteered to play all of our wedding ceremony music for free, and another friend from high school gave us a great DJ experience at a discounted price. A co-worker of mine from my old high-school job offered to let me borrow 40 mason jars to use as table decorations! One of my bridesmaids got married the week before me and let me borrow her family’s enormous stash of tulle to use for decorating our reception venue. My sister-in-law had leftover Christmas lights from her wedding that we used. So many people offered to let us borrow wedding decor, or we bought it off people for super cheap! We kept our decor simple, and focused more on providing an inviting and entertaining atmosphere for our guests. That was so important for me because I always hate going to weddings where the only options are sitting at tables with people you don’t know or dancing (I’m terrible at dancing). It was so worth it to give our friends and family the freedom to roam about as we did so that everyone could celebrate life, love, and happiness in their own way that day. Hundreds and Thousands of dollars could not have better accomplished what community did on our wedding day.

In the end, we spent about $1,000 of our own money, and had a few family members contribute items that probably added up to another $500 (mostly food/drink related). None of what we bought came from trademarked wedding-brands or companies. We used Amazon to our fullest potential, and branched out beyond Amazon to find discounts wherever possible. At first, I did not want to admit to people that my dress came from Amazon, or that my wedding cake was Kroger brand, or that my reception was a seat-yourself style with random friends volunteering to make food. Some people were blunt about how unconventional our ways were, and we even received some hurtful comments from family and friends during the planning process. In the end, however, every guest that came out for the day showed us nothing but love and praised us for creating such a fun and welcoming environment. The financial and technical parts of planning a wedding were beyond stressful for me, but I am so happy with my decisions because I loved every moment of my wedding day and did not drain my bank account to make it possible. My fiance and I wouldn’t change a thing, unless it meant finding even BETTER deals. I encourage any young bride and groom out there to really take some time to sit down and ask yourselves what is most important to you about your wedding day, then get creative in how you accomplish that goal. Save yourselves some stress by saving yourselves some money, and remember that money cannot possibly buy your happiness on your wedding day, your love for one another already paid that price, so celebrate.

Rachel

Author: Rachel

Welcome to Learn-Grow-Teach-Go! I’m Rachel. Join me as I explore what it means to be a life-long learner and begin to live out a more full, balanced, and simplistic lifestyle. I am currently a high school English teacher, and I enjoy traveling the world and adventuring in my spare time. Whether you’re looking for advice on living minimally and simplistically, teaching ideas and lessons, or travel tips and trips, you’ve found the right place. Glad to have you here!

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Angela Kanak
    August 8, 2017 at 12:12 am

    I loved every minute of your big day, except for the road closure:)

  • Reply
    KiAnna
    August 8, 2017 at 12:43 am

    This is so helpful!! I know we’re already married and everything, but since we got married so far away from home, we’ve decided to have a renewal ceremony and an actual reception for friends and family.

  • Reply
    Jennah
    August 9, 2017 at 12:31 am

    This is great! Will definitely keep in mind when I get married!

  • Reply
    Rebekah
    August 9, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Crazy! Ours was way more, and the food was pathetic compared to BBQ! Good job. 🙂

  • Reply
    Deanna
    August 9, 2017 at 3:10 am

    This is awesome! Just had my 5 year anniversary on August 4th, but I still love reading wedding stories!!!! Congrats!!!!! Amazon, who knew???? ?

  • Reply
    Sandi
    August 12, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    I am planning a wedding much like you did. It gives me a lot more confidence that we can pull it off and it be nice, fun, and still affordable.

    • Reply
      Learn Grow Teach Go
      August 12, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      Sandi, I can honestly say that I had the best day of my life. Now, the planning process was very stressful for me. You may run into a lot of people that disagree with your ideas and opinions. I also made a Facebook event page to make inviting friends and rsvping easier. I communicated on that page that we were having a casual event and wanted friends and family to come comfortably and ready for the outdoor reception. This direct communication helped a lot. Our guests were happy to be a part of the day and were flexible. They liked having open seating, and they loved having several options of fun activities to do instead of being limited to dancing. The biggest area that I received flack upon during the planning process and even now that I am sharing this experience is asking friends and family to help with food. I had friends and family that were more than happy to help, but that doesn’t mean everyone in my family was on board. I also made sure it wouldn’t take away from their day. They were able to drop the warmers off at the reception beforehand, and only had to help serve dinner and then made it self-serve for seconds. Just some extra advice I wanted to throw out! I firmly believe you can have the most amazing day on a budget, and you’ll feel good about it afterwards too.

  • Reply
    Dee
    August 13, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    This is great! I love bucking the system and doing your own thing. Makes it so much more memorable. Congrats!

  • Reply
    Danielle
    October 19, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Thank you Soo much for this post! I didn’t think I could have a wedding let alone the wedding of my dreams for such a low cost but now with all of your helpful tips I think I may be able to do it! You have no idea how much this inspired me!

    • Rachel
      Reply
      Rachel
      November 7, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Hi Danielle! I’m so happy that my blog could have inspired you in such a big way! If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! Good luck planning your big day! 🙂

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