How we planned our awesome wedding on a low budget

It’s official, I am now a married woman!!! On August 24th we said our vows in front of our closest family and friends. It truly was the best day ever, the weather was perfect, the day went as planned and we all had a really good time. I was in love with my dress, my hair, my face (both the hair stylist and make up artist did AMAZING jobs!!!) and best of all my incredibly handsome and funny husband 🙂 I had warned everyone involved that I DID NOT want any tears, but I came to realize that was easier said than done, so a few happy tears were shed, mostly on my part. Gawd… I’m such a baby! And even though we both had to go back to work just a few short days after the festivities, the post wedding glow has remained and I seem to grin from ear to ear each time I get to talk about it. And don’t even get me started on the pictures, we’ve been able to view a handful of them and I CAN NOT WAIT to see more, I’ll share a few later on 😉

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Ok, now for the part you’ve all been waiting for… the budget. Since I’ve already written several posts about wedding planning, this post will only focus on the overall budget and will include a general breakdown of where and how we spent our money. If you’re interested in any of my wedding planning advice please feel free to check out the links below:

https://recipesontheriver.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/wedding-plans-and-chocolate-cake/
https://recipesontheriver.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/its-all-under-control-i-have-a-nerd-wedding-binder/
https://recipesontheriver.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/will-my-wedding-be-one-giant-faux-pas/
https://recipesontheriver.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/surviving-the-last-month/

and this last one contains a DYI project 🙂
https://recipesontheriver.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/dyi-wedding-favour-tags/

There are a few things I want you all to keep in mind:

– We live in eastern Canada, the maritimes to be more specific, so the prices and fees will reflect this.
– We were able to pay for the entire wedding out of pocket, no loans or credit cards were used.
– The ceremony and reception were held at the same place.
– The wedding started at 7pm, so no meal was served but we had lots of food on hand.
– We invited approximately 150 guests, 100 were in attendance.
– We did not hire a DJ, we instead played music from a playlist on our laptop.
– We did not have an open bar, but had free cold drinks outside for the guests.
– Our wedding party was small, two bridesmaids and two groomsmen.
– My bridesmaid is also my hair stylist and as a very generous gift, she styled the wedding party’s hair for free.
– When possible we tried to use local vendors and businesses.

All of these factors helped us stay within our budget and can do the same for you!


The Venue – 700$

For this amount, we were able to rent the venue for the entire day and night of the wedding. The rental price included tables, chairs, a bar tender to serve our guests, table linens and two large bottles of wine which we used during our toast.

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the ceremony area

The Photographer – 1000$
This part was VERY important for me, and I made sure to factor this cost into our budget. The photographer did an engagement session with us last summer, and she spent most of the wedding day with us as well. She did an amazing job and was worth 10 times what we payed her if you ask me. Once the photos are ready she will be placing them on a cd for us so we can print as many as we want! Here is her website in case you would like to see more of her work http://www.tiafennelly.ca/#/home?i=389

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Tia hard at work!

Decor set-up and Flowers – 700$
As I have stated in my previous wedding posts, my parents and I (mostly my parents) made most of the decorations. I was able to hire a design company to come in and decorate the ceremony and reception areas using ONLY items that we had provided. The fee included the set up of the decorations and also included 3 bouquets, 4 corsages and 5 boutonnieres all made with fresh flowers. We were able to save some money by taking down the decorations ourselves the next day. The fee did not include any rental items only the set-up and the flowers.

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the bouquets 🙂 from DS&Co.

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this is the only photo I have of the reception area

Attire for the Bride – 1100$
This amount includes my gown (again something that was VERY important for me), alterations, shoes (got a really nice pair for 20$), jewelry and accessories. I did not want a veil or garter belt, so this saved a few dollars and I opted to purchase my necklace (25$) from a local artist who makes beautiful hand beaded pieces. And yes, I did purchase my gown from a bridal boutique, and I encourage other brides to do the same, the prices may be higher but you are paying for a professional service and very high quality merchandise.

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Loved my dress!!!

Attire for the Groom – 300$
We opted for a very casual look, so my husband wore grey slacks, a linen shirt and a vest, no tie or jacket. We went to a men’s clothing store and purchased all these items during a 50% off sale. We also purchased a new pair of shoes, a hat, and bought suspenders for both the groomsmen as a gift.

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My handsome husband arriving on his Harley

Food – 500$
We did not serve a meal but we still wanted to make sure our guests had plenty to eat! The venue we rented was a restaurant, but to our surprise the owner encouraged us to order food from an outside source. She was very honest and told us our 500$ budget would not go far if she needed to pay a cook and dishwasher for the evening. We decided to order food trays from a grocery store near by, for 400$ we were able to purchase lots of items that included fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses and appetizers, and they were all delivered to the reception for a 5$ charge. With the remaining 100$ we went to Costco and purchased some kettle corn, mixed nuts, chips and other things to munch on. We also got some iced tea and lemonade to fill two large drink dispensers that were placed outside, this way guests could still wet their whistles since we did not have an open bar.

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The drink dispensers we placed outside, complete with striped paper straws 🙂

Invitations – 170$
Even though I was a DYI bride I did have the invitations designed and printed at a local print shop (this will help save you lots of time and some of your sanity). We used one of our engagement pictures for the cover and went for a black and white finish to save a few dollars, we also kept the text on the inside short and simple. Each invitation was 1.25$ and we ordered 100, the print shop also included one hour with a graphic designer, but there was a catch (of course). I was communicating with the designer via e-mail, and even though I asked her to make me several samples, she failed to advise me that I had already used up my free one hour. When it came time to pay for the order I was a bit confused by the total, I was then explained that I had been charged for extra time the designer needed to finalize the invitations. So beware of hidden costs and fees and always make sure you know exactly what you are getting before making any payments.

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Simple invitations, I was glad I was able to use some of our engagement photos

Marriage License – 150$
In our province you must obtain a marriage license prior to the ceremony and the fees are non negotiable. I still think 150$ to make it legal was a pretty good deal 😉

Justice of the Peace – 300$
We chose to have a civil ceremony, we wanted to keep it short and sweet, so we hired a deputy clerk. His fee was 300$, he did charge a little extra because he had to drive out of the normal city limits to get to the beach. He also processed all of the paper work to make the marriage legal and was responsible for bringing the marriage license to the ceremony. He did a wonderful job, the ceremony was short but very heartfelt, he kept things light and was entertaining at the same time. Most of the other deputy clerks I spoke with charged about the same amount, so again another very necessary part of the wedding and well worth the 300$.

Cupcakes and Cake – 220$
We ordered 130 cupcakes and a small cake for us to cut (which we forgot to do…), the fee included decorations, delivery and set up. We decided to order them from a friend of a friend who does this as a little side business. The cupcakes were delicious and beautifully decorated, and the price was much lower than the local bakery.

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The lovely cupcakes, and the hand carved cake topper my dad made

Make up Artist – 80$
This was another important element for me, having problem skin all of my adult life, hiring a professional make up artist was at the top of my priority list. I had gone to a bridal show in January and was able to book the artist who did the make up for the fashion show. For 300$ she did my make up, my two bridesmaids, my mother and mother in law, so five people in total. She came to the house where we were getting ready and even supplied me with a touch up kit to use later on in the day. We all decided to pay for our own make up sessions so the fee was 80$ each, as a bonus I received a free make up session with the artist to use at a later date, and she also met with me a month before the wedding to do a trial run. She was phenomenal and made it look super easy even though she was 8 months pregnant! Here is her website in case you would like to check out some of her work http://www.bastarachebeauty.com/#!

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Such a relief to not have to worry about my make up all day, she made me look flawless

Wedding Rings – 500$
We decided to go back to the same store where my husband had gotten my engagement ring. He chose a simple titanium band and I chose a small diamond band from the 40% off section, they also offered to engrave our rings for free and cleaned and dipped my engagement ring at no charge. Don’t be afraid to chose rings that are on sale, I was able to get a beautiful band at almost half the price 🙂

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Side note: my MOH did my nails for free 😉

Wedding Favors – 185$
We chose to have chocolate favors made at a local french candy shop (can’t go wrong with chocolate!). For the fee we ordered 130 favors, each one included 3 handmade chocolates in a small clear bag, the owners attached the wedding favor tags I had made with colored ribbon. They looked awesome and tasted even better! We had ordered too many, but had lots of fun eating the left overs 🙂

Guest Book – 40$
My mom had given us a large picture frame with a white mat for guests to sign instead of a traditional guest book. At first we were going to use one of our engagement photos to display in the mat at the reception, but we found a great caricaturist at the local farmers market instead. We supplied him with some pictures and for 40$ he made a caricature of both of us with our dogs. It’s now hanging in our living room and is a great souvenir of such a fun and special day.

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Gifts for the Wedding Party – 300$
For the girls I purchased their jewellery (necklace, bracelet, earrings) sunglasses, a small clutch purse, and some flip flops. For the boys my husband chose to give them a bottle of vodka, a flask and a small pocket knife. We had also purchased suspenders, sunglasses and purple socks for the groomsmen and each person in the wedding party received a red neck wine glass 🙂

Decorations – 250$
This is a rough estimate, like I have mentioned before my parents and I made or purchased all of the decorations. My mom was in charge of this part and since she is retired, she spent a lot of time shopping for bargains and designing things for my dad to build. Things that were not made, were purchased on sale (always) or from second hand stores, we also tried to use items we already had at home and borrowed some things as well. All of the items were used to decorate the ceremony area, the reception area and were used as center pieces on the guest tables and the head table. Here is a list of some of the items we used for decorations:

– 40 meters of draping fabric (75$ garage sale)
– approx. 100 mason jars (most were given to me, we did buy a few for around 30$)
– fake hydrangea flowers (40$ on sale at various craft stores)
– white mini x-mas lights (most were given to me)
– assorted candles (30$ at different stores)
– large chalkboard (10$ at a fabric store, it used to be a broken mirror and we converted it)
– an old chandelier (thrift store find that my dad painted)
– two large planters (hand made by my dad)
– 10 hydrangea flowers in small glass vases (1$ each at the wicker emporium)
– 10 small galvanized pails (2$ at a discount store)
– 12 paper pompoms (12$ at the dollar store)
– paper lanterns (5$ at thrift store)
– and more (I can’t remember all of them…)

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One of the planters my dad made

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mason jars and galvanized pails (baby’s breath was added to the pails)

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a sign my dad made, it was hung on the front of the head table

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baby’s breath in pails along the aisle

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paper lanterns were placed on the tables outside on the deck area

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a 10$ broken mirror was transformed into a chalk board, we used this instead of wedding programs

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fake hydrangeas in small glass bottles were used for some of the center pieces

And there you have it, a wedding for 100 guests that cost just under 6500$, at this point I would also like to share that some very generous family members gave us a total of 1000$ to help pay for wedding expenses (aside from gifts received from guests). Since my husband was not working most of the winter and we had several large expenses (car repairs, new fridge, vet bills…) come up during the summer this was greatly appreciated. However once we had payed off all of the vendors we still had 600$ left over in our savings account, so this will be spent during our honeymoon 🙂 But I’ll leave that part for another post 😉

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One thought on “How we planned our awesome wedding on a low budget

  1. Pingback: Photos of the best day of my life | recipesontheriver

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