The $5,000 Wedding- How We Did It

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.

 
Catering- $2180.47
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!!

Bar- $547.00
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.

 
Cake $31.00
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.

 
Photographer: $0
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.

 
Flowers: $187.00
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.

Overall Tips:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. (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.
  9. Really, all I’m trying to say is this- it doesn’t cost much to have a super fun wedding. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently.

65 comments

  1. Anna   •  

    So inspiring! Thank you for providing an antidote to all of the bridezillas my friends have become. I hope my wedding will be more like yours! Do you recommend any websites/books that will support a budget-conscious bride, instead of tempting you to just get MORE stuff you don’t really need?

  2. Aesderina   •  

    this is FANTASTIC! I don’t plan on getting married.. but this was just interseting to learn! I think I may just buy a dress though..who doesn’t want a pretty wedding dress.. and yours was grogeous!
    nice swab on the photographer too.. i know lots of people who do that and the pictures don’t turn out very nice but yours are great!!
    CONGRATS AGAIN!

  3. NJ   •  

    This is so amazing. I’ve often thought that people spend far too much on this event to make it memorable. We’ve been married 30 years on April 14th. I’ve watched the Rich Bride Poor Bride show from time to time and have always been appalled at the cost. I remember when I got married my parents suggested that if we just had a small dinner then they could give us the money for a house…and I choice the wedding…what was I thinking.. a dinner with those closest around me would have been just as memorable. And I think your dress is gorgeours, absolutely gorgeous. Good luck to you and your new husband. I’m sure it will be a wonderful union!

  4. Team Knit !   •  

    I’ve added in some blog links! I can’t believe I forgot to do that the first post. Yikes!

    xo
    Julie

  5. Marce (BrownBerry)   •  

    I literally had chills the entire time I was reading this (still having the goosebumps as we speak!) This is just so fantastic. Not only am I impressed with your ability to really stick to your goal and pull off what looks to have been a fabulous event, but you’re sharing it out here so that others might benefit! You will get the good of that coming back to you in spades I predict. We did the same thing, $5000, plus another $2500 for our honeymoon (worth every single penny) and it made all the difference. With the help of family, friends, a supportive mate and a strong determination, seriously…what CAN’T we do?!

    That last shot of you says so much. I’m thrilled for you!

  6. Michele   •  

    WOw, you did an amazing job! And looked beautiful to boot! Congrats!

  7. Andrea   •  

    Fantastic! Congratulations on your wedding and your marriage, both!

  8. sula   •  

    And I love that you apparently enjoyed every minute of doing the wedding. So many wonderful stories and memories, and thanks for sharing them with us! (Our wedding was low budget, too, and the things we did ourselves ended up being my favorite things.)

  9. Adriana   •  

    Thanks for the tips, Julie. I’m so glad you were able to have your “perfect” day without buying into the hype of the wedding industry. One Perfect Day was a real eye-opener for my fiance and I. Our budget is about twice yours and our engagement is many times longer, but I think we’re going to end up with a similar feel for our wedding, a fun party to celebrate our marriage with our loved ones.

  10. andrea   •  

    Hey, congratulazioni! I love how you DIY’d as much as possible. :D

  11. e   •  

    brilliant!!

    congrats again, you look so beautiful!

  12. CanarySanctuary   •  

    Thank you so so (triple so) much for this post. The advice is very much appreciated! (off to scour the wonderful interwebs resources you’ve listed) :)

  13. weezalana   •  

    Great tips, and everything you did turned out fabulous!

    We spent more than 5k, but stuck with our plan to have the wedding paid off by the wedding date. One of my friends confided they were still paying off their wedding at our wedding – which was a year later. Glad we didn’t have that hanging over our heads!

  14. Susan   •  

    Absolutely fabulous. Budget friendly can still be stunning and amazing. Congrats again!

  15. Maryse   •  

    That all sounds great and congratulations on that very personalized wedding! I wish you a very happy marriage!

  16. Teresa in Virginia   •  

    Congrats on your recent wedding! It looks and sounds like you really kept your wits about you during the planning of your wedding. More brides should read this blog post and learn from it, since no one should go broke just to get married. May you and your new husband have a long,happy and prosperous life together!

  17. Hilary   •  

    Not only is the DIY-ing budget conscious, but it also makes things so personal and special. Once again, I am very impressed and it looks like it was an amazing, touching event! Congratulations again!

  18. the Lady   •  

    Brilliant, I sent this link to my friend. Thanks for this post and congratulations!

    But I’m confused – I added everything up that you listed and only got to $4703.

  19. Tanis   •  

    Thanks so much for the great tips! I’m starting to plan my wedding (though it won’t be happening for another year) and I’m hoping to do s much as I can myself, I think it makes it more special. I feel like I should start knitting things now that I can potentially swap for favors later!

  20. CurlyToot   •  

    I had a look at your flickr photo’s and honestly you cant really tell that you had a “budget” wedding.

    You go girl! You should be proud of what you’ve achieved with this :)

  21. Jess   •  

    amazing! i love all the details of your big day :) and for $5000?! you are my hero! you looked beautiful and it sounded like an amazing evening.

  22. Phoe   •  

    Absolutely brilliant. I hate the whole Bridezilla thing and you negated it in style.

  23. Broke-ass Bride   •  

    Thanks so much for the blog love! I’m so happy you’ve found my site helpful. This is a terrific blog, so happy I found you!

  24. Simply beautiful!!! I saw your wedding over at A Practical Wedding.As a fellow Torontonian, I love seeing CDN wedding featured on blogs.

  25. Kristen   •  

    Beautiful! I also had a frugal wedding, but the care and effort that went into yours really blows my mind. It just seems perfect.

  26. Rainy Daisy   •  

    Good for you! This sounds like a blast, and everything still looks so beautiful! (I am utterly sick of bridezillas as well). Isn’t the point of it to get married, not have a big party?

  27. Beverly   •  

    I am so impressed! It can be done and you look very, very happy.

  28. Tytbody   •  

    found . I will get this in my head as I search out blogs. I will get this in my head as I search out blogs. Thank you and please, help me blog about my day also with a $5,000 budget.

  29. asheridan   •  

    Just want to say that I am in my mid-50’s, married for 30 yrs and can’t believe how much people are spending on weddings these days. Kudos to you and your groom, friends and family for having a beautiful wedding on a realistic budget!

  30. Rasquachi   •  

    Sounds a lot like our wedding (except we had a 2-year engagement, because I didn’t want to stress! LOL), though ours cost twice as much… because we had twice the people and did it in Monterey, CA, where I grew up. The only thing I was adamant about was that planning it was to be fun from beginning to end, and it was. No one was allowed to stress; anyone that did was immediately taken to the bar and served a mimosa (my mom always has mimosas on hand). Thanks for sharing your details and bringing back some great memories of mine!

  31. Rasquachi   •  

    PS– It literally PAYS not to be a bridezilla: my caterer actually threw in tri-tip for free (on top of the chicken and halibut we had already paid for) as a thank-you for being happy and easygoing! I kid you not.

  32. Anna   •  

    Was downloading your knitting pattern and saw this. You did an awesome job! We only spent $3,000 on my daughters wedding and had it at one with light refreshments. I had a locl bakery do the cake with jut the white icing and we decorated it ourselves with fondant flowers we had made the months before. People couldnt get over the price tag. (we used hydranges from our yard and neighbors…..simply smashing!)

  33. Emily Repnyek   •  

    I also did a 5k wedding. We were very focused on the fact that it was just 1 day out of forever together. We also did diy everything. Flowers from Costco. All the bouquets and centerpieces cost $90. And we had our wedding on a Sunday afternoon. Cake and punch only. But everyone did eat all of my cake, it was so darn good. I didn’t even get a piece.

  34. Wonderful stuff here! Totally thrilled to read your blog and wedding info – resonates for me! Thank you! Wishing you two the most joyous life together!

  35. Janet   •  

    Thank you for posting this! I have 3 daughters in their early 20s and plan to read this post thoroughly and send on to them. What a special wedding and even moreso since it was personalized to and by you! This is exactly what I hope for them (and wish I had done way back when)!

  36. Lucy   •  

    What a beautiful bride!

  37. Darth Tardius   •  

    Stumbled across this as I was looking at your knitted stuff. This is Awesome!!! Such great ideas! I’m wishing I had done more hands on for our wedding, yet we still managed to keep it under $4,000 (US) =D

  38. Vivian   •  

    Hi, I’m trying to plan my wedding and your post is hands down the most helpful, practical and to-the-point I have read.

    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU for reminding me that beautiful, simple, and fantastic weddings are possible in any budget.

    I can do this!

  39. Karen   •  

    Love this! I just found your blog via Knitty, but I wish I had found this post a year ago – so many great tips! My husband and I were married in October and also had a quick, small wedding. We scrapped so many traditions in favour of a wedding that suited us completely (i.e. wedding PIE instead of cake, cocktails instead of a dance) and saved so much money in the process. And I agree with you completely – having a short engagement period was the best thing we did. Not only did it keep our expectations in check but it kept expectations of family and friends to a minimum also. Our wedding was just as yours looks to have been – short, sweet, and perfect!

  40. a   •  

    I’m so glad I found this post! This is really inspiring to me as I try to plan my own wedding. I’ve been looking at venues, and I’m especially amazed that you found a venue for so cheap. So may I ask, what kind of “cost-cutting suggestions” did you make for your venue? I’m dying to find one as inexpensive as yours, but I’m truly stumped as to how you did it and would love some additional tips!

  41. Julie   •  

    Hi a, I’d love to respond to you, but there was no email account tied to your blogger, so it won’t let me email you back! Please send me a message, and I can give you more details: knitbliss@gmail.com

  42. Natalia   •  

    Thank you so much for an awesome post. I am a bride-to-be in Toronto and very curious to know what the venue location was! Would you mind sharing?

  43. a   •  

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. All   •  

    Did you have your wedding and reception in the same place? I realllly want to do that to save money, but I’m not sure of all the logistics behind that. If you did have them in the same place, I’m curious as to how you set-up chairs and such during the ceremony. And above all, congratulations on your marriage and your really lovely wedding!!

  45. Julie   •  

    I hope the last two commentators will check back, Blogger didn’t have your email address, so I couldn’t email you directly! It was the George Brown House in Toronto, Ontario.

    I did have the wedding and reception all in one place- I personally hate it as a wedding guest when you have to drive or arrange transportation from the ceremony venue to the reception venue, unless they are walking distance apart. I had a cocktail hour with the open bar and hors d’ouvres circling the second the ceremony ended, while we were doing photos.

  46. leeqiang   •  

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  47. Anna Chiara   •  

    You really are a smart girl. If ever I will marry, I will surely follow your example… I really love the way you “see” it, that it’s your party and your celebration and it’s not about showing off or having decorations define who you are. Smart, lovely and mostly true. Love your ideas even better than your knitting patterns :-) [that's how I came here...]

  48. Alyssa   •  

    Love the site…..I’m trying to teach my self to knit and find you pics very inspirational…….And your message on a $5000 Wedding is right on…..my sisters wedding 110 guests…. was $12000 she had an open bar (in the maritimes this is a real cost, a band and a sit down dinner. So it can be done at a reasonable cost…..and still be beautiful and memorable!!!!! (It also helps to have friends and family in the buisness!!!!)….please keep posting… maybe something simple a beginner like me could accomplish!!!

  49. Christine Craig   •  

    You’re my hero. ‘Nuff said.

    Cheers,
    Christine
    aka bride-to-be
    Los Angeles, CA.

  50. Sholeen   •  

    I am totally with you. we got married for $6000, had 85 people, great food (like you, no sit down, just buffet snacks) and one of the most fun days ever. Dress borrowed, small Inn in NH, student DJ, beer and wine only with a bit o champagne, flowers (GORGEOUS) from local CO-OP grocery store and funky shoes that I just happened to find. It is a racket but if you avoid anything designated ‘wedding’ the price comes WAY down!

    Oh and the knitting patterns are also great!

  51. Mrs.Infiniti   •  

    I came across your post on Google and this is so inspiring! It really gives me hope that I can plan a wedding on a low budget! We got engaged at christmas and I was firm on a City Hall wedding! Then, the hubby tells me he wants a wedding!
    Thanks for all the great Info! Its also so great to know that I can manage this locally!

  52. Jacqueline Serrano   •  

    I know this is an old blog but did your location provide table/chairs or did you find a vendor for that? If you did, how much did you pay? Thanks

  53. Justina F. Lee   •  

    My boyfriend is planning on proposing next in 2013 so I’m starting to look for 5k weddings and found yours! The first thing I literally said out loud when I saw your photo was “Wow she’s gorgeous!” And I’ve hardly ever had a first time impression like that before.

    As for your wedding tips, it really helps a lot! I have the tendency to get attached to things and get upset when things don’t go as planned so learning how to be flexible will probably save me a thousand bucks. Thanks for this post :-) I bookmarked it!

  54. You are so lovely! I found your blog through Kristen at Knitionary. I am a new knitter, but long time crafter and quilter. I’m following you now.

    Congrats on keeping your perspective so well on your wedding. Sounds like it was a lovely day! I’ve been married almost 10 years and also had a more “reasonable” wedding. My mom and I were just discussing how in our society so much time is poured into planning and spending on one day that sometimes people forget to plan for the marriage, the life together. I enjoyed reading about the beginning of your new life!

  55. Pauline D. Ayala   •  

    That is a nice super saver for your part and I am amazed by the cost efficiency. Score on the venue that allowed you to choose your own caterer. It is a nice thought as our family has a small catering business. That will be my advantage for my wedding day.

  56. grannymaudsgirl   •  

    I love the tips. Like you, I had a small wedding – fewer that 50 people, including me and and my husband.
    The ‘rule’ I followed was that if I did’t know what it was for (what do pageboys and flowergirls actually do?) or could not pronounce or spell it easily (bonbonniere), I probably did’t need it. :)

  57. Mikayla Madsen   •  

    You really can spend just the right amount for your wedding. You don’t have to be too extravagant to get married. Anyone can keep it simple, and most importantly you should just have fun.

  58. Michelle R. Crowson   •  

    I think I am going to think twice before buying a wedding gown. Pre owned wedding dresses looks fine. Your wedding gown looks good on you.

  59. caglaw   •  

    I see a new brighter, more down to earth, saner reality show in your story; Weddings for the Sane. you look marvelous in your dress!! Thanks for your great patterns.

  60. Simoriah   •  

    Thank you so much for posting this! There were some great pieces of advice here. Your wedding was just beautiful, and I hope mine is the same!

  61. Anonymous   •  

    You were a beautiful bride! These are great tips! Bookmarking as I typ!!

  62. leah eyles   •  

    Hi Julie!
    I am currently looking at renting George brown House for my wedding next year and I was told there is a no dancing rule?! Did you find some way around that??

    Your wedding is beautiful and inspiring!

    Thanks,
    Leah

  63. Pingback: The 5K Wedding: The Canadian EditionMade Peachy

  64. Pingback: Fabulous Weddings for MUCH LESS Than $10,000? 4 Examples Of How It’s Possible » Well Heeled Blog

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