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How I Spent $2,500 on a Wedding

HOW NOT TO BREAK THE BANK

Article by Jessica Fitch

Photography by Marcus Collick & Jessica (Reed) Fitch

My one year anniversary is coming up next Monday and I feel like the story of my wedding day is coming up in conversation more and more often. I wanted to take a small break from my normal topics and give a more fun, informative post about it. Matthew and I are eating the top layer of our cake in just a week, and I wanted to make sure I celebrated in more ways than one.

Here is my favorite thing to tell people about my wedding: I spent less than $2,500 on the entire wedding day. The looks of incredulity people give are simply delicious. I'm hoping to tell you how I saved and prioritized to get there, but there's something I did first that led me to the rest of it.

The very first thing I did was find out what was the most important for the day of. My fiancee's request was easy; he said "I just don't want to see you before the ceremony. I don't care about the rest of it, as long as I'm married to you at the end of the day." Brownie points for days, am I right?

So what was important to me? I wanted to make the day have hints of my fiancee, Matthew and Star Wars in it. I wanted it to be mostly family. I wanted to see my late father in little signs around the room. I wanted my grandpa to give a toast during the Rehearsal Dinner. I wanted to have a silly dance with my bridesmaids. I wanted to take a shot with the bridal party before the reception. I wanted to go to a fast food place after the reception while still in my wedding attire.

These important moments all didn't cost me anything, or cost me very little. I found that any time I started to freak out about saving money or missing out, I'd remember my most important things and let it go. So if having fresh cut flowers at your wedding is really important to you, then go ahead! If it is super important that you're wearing a brand name wedding dress, then do it. I just found that all of my core moments required nothing extra; only time.

All these important things happened. I found cupcake toppers that were tiny light sabers and put them in the boutonnieres, and the cake topper was a silhouette of Han Solo and Leia. My step-mom brought an old pin my dad used to wear on his hat, and I tied a Harley-orange ribbon around my wrist for him. The bridesmaids and I spent most of the night before the wedding practicing the line dance for "Footloose" so we could do it at the wedding.

So now for my tips and tricks and how I spent $2,500 on my whole wedding.

Small Town Wedding

We decided early on that we wanted most of the wedding attendees to be family (we still ended up with about 120 people total). A lot of my husband's family all lives in the small town of Argonia, KS, about 45 minutes from Wichita, KS. When looking at Wichita locations we quickly realized how much money we could save by doing it in Matthew's hometown. The Community Center in town happened to be right next to my in-law's house and only cost us $150 for the entire weekend.

This brings up a couple of hitches: What about those traveling from the airport? What would guests get to see or what places would they go before and after the wedding? What about those who became inebriated and then needed to travel? All these questions needed to be answered if we were going to have a small town wedding.

We made a carpool system for those flying in. We also decided to have a morning wedding and afternoon reception, so that our guests would have plenty of time to do something in the evening after driving back into Wichita. We also decided to forgo having alcohol at the wedding so that everyone could drive back to where they needed in the afternoon safely.

We then decided on having an After Party with our Bridal Party and our siblings. Matthew and I headed to the party at seven that night. I had rented an AirBnB in Wichita so that those that lived 45 minutes or farther away had somewhere to stay that night and that's where we had some drinks, some pizza, some dancing, some great talks. Matthew and I headed back to our hotel that night and left for our honeymoon the next morning. The entire After Party was only about $300 out of pocket for us, as we asked everyone to bring one drink and one mixer or a six-pack.

Use your Friends and Connections

This sounds heartless, but you'll truly be surprised how many people are excited and willing to be a small part of your big day. If you do it right, it takes nothing but a small favor, or a small piece of their time and they'll feel like they were a huge piece of it all working out.

Food/Catering: My family are big on smoking meats, so my parents happily offered to do the meat the day before as a wedding present and their best friends helped with getting food cut up, opened up, and put into crock pots as well as serving on the day of. My parents paid for the food as well, though they said the total only came to around $500. (Had I paid for this the total of my wedding would have still been less than $3,000.)

*NOTE: Our small town venue was, of course, fine with outside food, though some bigger venues will not allow you to serve food that isn't being cooked by a licensed professional. Yet another perk of a small town wedding!

Cake: Matthew's aunt used to be a professional wedding cake designer. She actually asked early on to make the cake. We paid for the ingredients and she did the labor. This cake turned out to be the only hitch in the whole day and I had no idea until I arrived at the Reception that anything had gone wrong.

We had asked for raspberry filling/flavor in a chocolate cake, the raspberry filling she used made the cake unstable and it fell overnight. That morning, they salvaged the pieces and we ended up with one large sharable cake (which was more than enough), and our cute top layer. The cake was still delicious beyond all reason and it didn't bother me at all that our cake wasn't three tiers like we had originally talked about.

The Church and Sound: My husband's father is the clerk at their hometown church, so we got the use of the church building for free. I also sent a long thank you note to the sound guy of the church, Bob, who was very willing to run our sound cues for us through our ceremony. This was extra special to me, because the church was always welcoming to me when we would visit, and now every time we visit his family we are reminded of the day we got married there. (Note: a lot of churches will give discounts to those who are members or families of members at their church!)

Music: One of the things Matthew and I did in our year-and-a-half engagement was go to weddings and scope out the things we liked or didn't like. We found that a DJ is definitely not a guarantee that the music and sound of your reception will be perfect. We also noticed that a good DJ is one you don't really notice. Our families are no dancing fools either, so my Maid of Honor and I created a Spotify playlist the week before the wedding. We listened through it two or three times, and made sure that a good line-dance appeared occasionally and a slow dance appeared between.

Surprisingly, I still saw plenty of people dancing and the schedule I provided for everyone involved was plenty cue enough for our toasts and introduction. My sisters-in-law did the music cues for our Father-Daughter, Mother-Son dances as well.

Day Planner: Speaking of schedule, I had a binder I used through all of my planning that included an extensive schedule of events, budget, thank you notes for the day of, present lists, and honeymoon documents. I did all of the planning until the day of, when I asked Matthew's aunt (a wonderful lady who is as organized as me, if not more so), if she would be willing to be the day planner. She did an amazing job of keeping everyone on schedule, and without her, I am sure the day would have gone astray.

Photography: This is the one I can see most people disagreeing with. We actually used friends and family for photography. We had our engagement photos done by one of the groomsmen, who loves photography. I loved the way the photos turned out, as Matthew and I are not anyone's fancy-men.

We paid a college-friend and amateur photographer for the day of, and Matthew's mom is great at editing photos. His aunt also took a lot of photos and I love the casual feel of the photos taken by our families. I don't think we lost any value by doing so, but I can see the fear of not getting good enough photos of the day of. 

Thrift, Used, DIY and Patience

This is probably the biggest thing that contributed to the success of our wedding: our long engagement (that I did NOT originally want, by the way) which meant that I could take my time and wait for the best deals on everything.

The biggest and best example of this is THE DRESS. I found it a year early in a thrift store. It had no brand tag on it and some stains and rips I was originally worried about. I brought the ticket price from $100 to $80 at the thrift store. Then I got it cleaned for $83 and altered for $200. My dress altogether cost only $363.

I'll admit that it wasn't like the dresses I had pinned on Pinterest for years, but it honestly fit me so perfectly and Matthew still raves about how much he loved the dress and how it was perfect for me. It turned out to be one of the biggest blessings and his favorite memory of the day.

The first thing a bride wants to do when they return from their honeymoon is figure out what to do with all their decorations from the wedding. If you can wait through a summer before your wedding, you'll see tons of Facebook marketplace posts of wedding decorations. Lucky for me, I already wanted a Vintage Rustic wedding - which meant white wood, burlap, twine, and lots of flowers. These are all common household decorations (especially right now), and they are pretty cheap from most craft stores as well.

Like I said before, we had gone to some wedding before ours. One wedding had the same theme as mine, so I actually chased down the maid of honor and then messaged the mom of the bride a week after the wedding to ask if they were selling their decorations. She quoted me a great price of $400 for all the flowers, pine cones, table scatter and burlap at the wedding.

All of the flowers at the wedding were fabric flowers, so I collected as many pink, white, and blue flowers as I could find on Facebook and from thrift stores. I then created the boutonnieres, the corsages, my bouquet, and all of the table settings. (As a side note, you can spray these with freshener a day or so before the event and they lose the dusty smell a lot of people are worried about with fabric flowers.)

I bought all the wine bottles that were navy and pink from someone else's wedding, and then wrapped twine around them to cover the scratches in the paint. I then added all the white bottles and wrapped those in twine to match. I made the party favors from some cinnamon jelly hearts I got for free from the school I was working for. I bought small paper bags, wrote a personal note on each and filled them with the hearts. I then stapled each and set them on the table settings. In fact, the most expensive part of the table was the blue M&M's that I thought would bring out the blue of the flowers.

I created all the programs, order of events and invitations with Word and bought the card stock and printed on a friend's color printer. I cut out every individual white heart for the aisle scatter from the left over card stock. I also put together the photo booth and someone brought their old photo props from a party.

Don't forget to borrow! Another perk of having the wedding in the same town as so much family: we borrowed a lot of serving dishes and serving tools. We found so many crock pots around town, and some decorations. The mint-colored piano was already a setting in the community building that they started to put away, but I asked to keep it out. We also were surprised with the original cake serving tools that Matthew's parents used on their wedding day.

Our wedding day ended up being exactly what it should have been. As any bride or groom will tell you, the day flew by; I only remember the small, important pieces of the best day. The best advice I can give any couple getting married is to worry about just the most important things and know the rest of it will hardly matter at the end of the day.

If you want to see the real-life budget laid out, you can check it out in my blog, here.

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