Budget: $5,000 Actual cost: $5,091.51 (all figures in Canadian dollars)
I had an evening ceremony (7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.) on a Friday night, and had an open bar and hors d’oeuvres- not a sit down dinner. We got engaged on Christmas Day, and got married March 6th. That’s 2.5 months. And honestly, I think it was the best choice- having a shorter engagement meant that decisions had to be made quickly, and it helped keep things on budget- after all, I couldn’t spend 8-12 months mentally blowing it up in my head into The Biggest Event of All Time, so it’s easier to be sane and keep perspective- after all, it’s just one day.
There were 54 people (including myself and my new husband), and it was held in downtown Toronto. This isn’t a cent by cent breakdown(Because I assume you have other things to do today- it would take hours!!), just something to give you an idea of what I spent on the big items.
The Dress- $600.00
Through the whole process, I told myself that it was ‘just a dress’ and focused mainly on the silhouette that I wanted (mermaid). I didn’t obsess over whether it was lace, taffeta, or whatever (most dresses are polyester anyway. Seriously, read that fabric tag). I searched oncewed.com and preownedweddingdresses.com which have hundreds of ‘once worn’ wedding dresses for sale by their owners, and did searches based on my size. I got my dress from a really fantastic girl in the States selling hers on preownedweddingdresses.com. The cost I’ve listed above is the dress, shipping, and custom duties all included. As for alterations- I did those myself, with the help of a friend. I made my own headband by hand beading tiny pearl and crystal beads onto a plain white ribbon (75 cents), and attaching it to hair elastics. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I bought silver shoes from Payless for $40. I’ll definitely be wearing my fab silver shoes again- and I won’t have to pay more money to dye them a wearable colour!Venue- $577.50
I made a lot of inquiries into different places, and in the end I settled for a historical trust building that was so beautiful, it required very little decoration. I added tea lights and flowers. That’s it. I needed something that was attractive and large enough that it could comfortably contain 54 people, regardless of what the weather might be doing that day- March is always a little unpredictable. Which is another good point- low season, and on a Friday. I was really upfront with the site manager about what my budget was, and what kind of bride I was (unfussy and budget conscious to the point of being Budgetzilla). And she was a dream. Great to work with, accommodating when I made outrageous suggestions to cut costs, and was really on side with my dream of a beautiful, traditional (that would be my British husband), intimate wedding on a small budget. I talked to some sites/caterers that said a $5,000 wedding ‘couldn’t be done’. You can’t see me right now, but I’m totally flipping them the middle finger.
Here is where I spent the most time agonizing, and the most money, hands down. The biggest piece of advice I can offer on this subject is to check and see if your venue allows you to choose your own caterer, or if you have to choose from a tiny selection of ones that they work with. The site manager was up front with me about having to use one of their caterers, but I had no idea what that really meant. And I had no idea that the caterers would be so outrageously overpriced- and it was just hors d’ouevres! In the end, we got a great caterer that was not really on the list, (both the site and I did some compromising) and everything worked out in the end. People are still telling me that the food was fabulous, and I really love the fact that a restaurant did the catering. This means that any time we want, we can go to the restaurant and eat the same or similar food, and remember that night all over again. I know where I’m having dinner on my anniversary!!
We had an open bar at the wedding, and decided to serve only wine and beer, but to have a selection. I bought 14 bottles of assorted red, 14 bottles of assorted white, and 5 cases of beer for the 54 guests. The beer was from Sleemans, which has multipacks of different kinds of beer, which gave the guests options. I did run out of red wine, though- Fortunately we have great friends who keep bottles of wine in their trunk for emergencies, and one of our friends graciously brought in three more bottles of red.
Let’s face it- hardly any of your cake gets eaten, no matter how delicious or terrible it is. I don’t know why, but it’s true. So you can understand why I’d be reluctant to spend $300 or more on something that is going to get thrown out. My maids of honour and I chose instead to make cupcakes ourselves. And we built a great cupcake stand, from cutout cardboard boxes that we covered in a nice vinyl gift wrap, and used white pots between the layers. This site helped us figure out some of the details. Another friend revealed that her parents owned a bakery (start asking all your friends what their parents do for a living), and produced a perfect tiny wedding cake for our top tier, so that we had a cake to cut, and something to put our little bird topper on.
Wedding Rings: $450 (his and hers)
My ring cost $400, and was custom made at a small independent jewelery store that also custom made my engagement ring (a white gold and diamond one, not my fabulous knitted one). I consider this to be on area we really saved- if you go to a major jewelery chain, the mark up is HUGE. They have a lot more overhead they need to pay for, and guess who’s paying for that? You. A smaller place was able to give us great service, handmade design, and really reasonable prices. We bought G’s ring (titanium) off Ebay. I love that he’s so low key like that.
We skill swapped. Our photographer was just starting out, and didn’t have a website. G is a web designer who also does hosting. So- Dave got a website, and we got a photographer. Everybody wins.
Stationary: $131.50 (including paper, envelops, postage, etc)
Our dear friend Rebecca designed our gorgeous wedding invitations, and I loved the birds so much it became the theme for the wedding. She also did the design for our programmes, and another friend of ours printed them off for us. I found that watercolour paper from an art supply store, was chic and cheap card stock.
Jen, Monica, G and myself went to some local flowershops the morning of our wedding and bought what we needed. I deliberately didn’t have a set flower in mind, so that I wouldn’t end up making an emotional decision to get overpriced flowers- I opted for whatever looked good, fit the scheme, and was well priced. We brought them to my kitchen and put together our bouquets and all the center pieces. Both Jen and Monica each carried a single stunning hydrangea bloom- it was perfect. Flowers are way easier than any florist will ever let on.
- Be flexible. Remind yourself that this is a party you are throwing to celebrate your marriage and your commitment to each other. This day does NOT define who you are. I honestly think if people spent half as much time thinking about what kind of marriage they want and how they are going to achieve it instead of obsessing over centerpieces/veil/napkin colours, the divorce rate would be nearly zero.
- Do you have a gift card, credit note, or any kind of voucher for something free? Excellent. Now find a way that it can cover the cost for something for your wedding. I had a gift card from Chapters that I got for my birthday, and used it to get cards and the paper I used to cover the cake stand tiers. I had maxed out my points level for my Shoppers Optimum Card, which could be redeemed for $150 of free stuff- I used to to get all the supplies I needed to make the wedding favours.
- Who says you have to serve a sit down dinner? Any married gal will tell you that feeding the guests costs a fortune. If you are tight on funds, I really recommend the evening cocktail party approach- I ordered only savoury hors d’oevres, and had family and friends bring some baked goods to round out the sweet element. Plus there were loads of cupcakes!
- DIY everything. We did our own flowers, our own bouquets, the centerpeices, the cake stand, the cupcakes, the alterations, my headband, etc. People will say that you are adding to your stress. To this I say that starting out your live together deeply in debt for your wedding is far more stressful. Not to mention that a stress free wedding is impossible, no matter how much money you spend.
- Ipod your dance list and get a friend to push the play button. We did up three separate play lists- one for the wedding ceremony filler (classical music while guests were being seated), cocktail music (to play while the guests were drinking and socializing and we were getting photos done), and the dance playlist (for our first dance and the subsequent shake your tailfeather party tunes that get the dance floor packed). We rented some speakers and a microphone for $42, and that was that.
- Skill swap as much as possible. Do you know a baker who would be willing to trade a handmade (by you) Norwegian fisherman’s sweater for a wedding cake? Awesome. Get knitting.
- Think beyond flowers. Fresh flowers can be pretty expensive. Considering the time of year, I figured that having some bare branches mixed in with the flowers would look very spring-y and fresh. I sent G out to trim the hedge in the yard, and bring back branches. I mixed them in with the floral arrangements, which filled them out beautifully. The girl who owned my dress before me sent me a picture of her centerpieces, which were branches with paper blossoms and little lanterns on them. They were gorgeous. And not a fresh flower in sight.
- (Edit*) Blogs (how did I possibly forget this one the first time around?? yeesh.). I’m not the first person to ever try to have a budget wedding, I’m not even the 20th. Some blogs that were really helpful in keeping me sane and full of good ideas were: A Practical Wedding, 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding, The Broke Ass Bride, and this book, which was brilliant. Check out lots of blogs for ideas, but don’t let the more upscale ones make you wistful for a $100k budget. That’s not real life.