My $10K to $15K wedding

Hi everyone!

As some of you may know, my wedding is coming up in LESS THAN A MONTH now! November 15th, to be exact. Last Friday night, I met with my parents to go over the ol’ budget one last time and to see what else is left. Sounds like a pretty kickin’ Friday night, huh? Well, I have to brag a little, I was pretty much where I thought I would be. I am not one of those, what you would call, financial geniuses. Before we committed to anything major early on in the planning process, I did sit down and drew up a rough draft of the budget I wanted to try and stick to. From other friends’ weddings and lots and lots of internet research, I had some ideas of what things might cost and the prices that we needed to aim for. But the tracking spreadsheet?? Yeah, that was all my Dad. I got updates, and kept a notebook with all my contracts and info. I am by no means advocating that this is the smart approach… because it’s not. I should have been more exacting. But I wasn’t, and luckily it all worked out.

So in the interest of helping other brides just starting their planning, I thought I would share the rough rundown of my budget, where it went, and any tips I may have unknowingly picked up along the way.

When we got engaged, my parents generously offered to pay for $10,000 of the wedding, which was beyond any expectations I may have had. That early on, without a clue what caterers and cakes cost, I thought “Oh my gosh! If we can’t throw a massive party for that, then we’re doing something wrong!” And I was right, kind of, albeit a little naive. After doing some research, I found out that many weddings cost twice, three times, or more than that!! Whoa. After getting some quotes from different venues and caterers, I started to see why. But I was determined that there must be people and places that we could work with to have a beautiful nice wedding (without paper plates). They were out there. Some took a little more looking to find, but I think it was and will be all worth it.

Without further ado….

Venue: YWCA Fort Worth: $2000 for Saturday, 12 noon to 1 AM

Caterer: the Black-Eyed Pea: $2900 for full buffet, servers including a bartender, all dishes, glasses, and silverware

Cake: Mae Liza’s Cakes: $400.00 for cake to feed approx. 150 people, including delivery

Photography: Melanie Johnson Photography: $1500 for engagement session, wedding day (including assistant), day after shoot, 2 8 x 10’s, an album, and digital proofs

Dress: Pronovias: $1200 including all alterations

Flowers: April May June Designs: $500 for bouquets, boutinieres, corsages, cake flowers

Invitations: Michael’s (paper) and Elizabeth Anne Designs (execution): $140.00 for two sets…

Monogram and Invite design: DeLovely Designs: $80 for monogram, invite, and RSVP card design

Ceremony Musician: Chris Swicegood: $200 for an hour and a half of classical guitar

DJ: CMJ Entertainment: $600 for 4 hours of music (and no “YMCA” or chicken dance…)

Day of Coordinator: Simply Perfect Weddings: $700 for Day-of coordination, several meetings, rehearsal dinner, referrals, emails, phone calls….

Wedding Rings: Collections Fine Jewelry: $600 for both

Alcohol: Provided by us: $900 for beer and wine

Linens: Provided by wedding coordinator: $260 for table linens (no chair covers :-( )

Needless to say, there are many other “little” things that I didn’t put on here. My shoes ($65), my hair piece ($50), flower girl’s headband ($30), my veil ($65)…. and these are the things that I can think of. Plus, we still have a few things to get like the paper for the programs and escort cards, the carriage for our get-away (or whatever we decide to go in), gifts for our attendants….

All in all, there are many things that Chris and I are paying for ourselves, but we have tried to be smart and either buy them or pay for them along the way. Which leads me to one of my points – pay for things as you go. Since we knew we were getting married in the fall, last winter we snatched up some pretty faux garlands to use for mantle decoration when it was on clearance. I bought my guest book from Michael’s on clearance for $5, and spent an afternoon with my sisters decorating it. It’s not fancy or “elegant”, but it will be meaningful. Our coordinator let us make payments in installments, which helped us out immensely. I bought my shoes on sale on several months ago, and we got my dress back in January at a trunk show, saving us 10%.

Another way we saved money was to go with a new photographer. We feel like we got such a great deal by taking a chance on someone who is starting out and had little wedding experience. But, from her work we saw online and from conversations with her, we knew she would be great! I know we saved at least $500 by doing this. I know that this can be risky and you have to trust your gut a little, but every great photographer got their start somewhere.

For catering we went with a chain restaurant. By being able to pull servers and equipment from nearby restaurants, they were able to offer us the best deal by far. They do not put up any signs or wear shirts with their names on them, and the presentation is very professional looking. They’ve worked our venue several times, and their food is delicious! From other quotes we got, we saved about $2000 doing this. It won’t be fancy, but it will be good! Best of all – no paper plates or plastic utensils!

Our venue is really wonderful. It was built in 1927 as an old Elk’s lodge, so it retains many of the vintage features and charms. As it is now the YWCA in downtown, the money we paid to rent it out goes to a wonderful cause. We get a site for both our wedding and ceremony, the chairs and tables, and we get the use for a full day. It took some searching for this place as they don’t do a lot of adverstising, which may be the case with many other great venues that rent out for a steal. I found it by going online and looking at local photographers’ websites. I was looking at the venues, and any that I saw that I liked, I contacted. The Y was on my short list, and after one visit we put down the deposit right then. They don’t provide a wedding coordinator or linens, and they don’t do the catering, but they do allow you to use whatever vendors you like which was a big bonus for our budget.

Another big tip is to use what you have or what you can make! Case in point – our guestbook. For invitations, I contacted someone who designed the monogram and invitation suite for us on the computer. If you have the programs or knowledge, you could do this yourself! Elizabeth then gocco-ed her heart out making them for us, which provided us with unique and custom invitations that are so beautiful, and were easy on the wallet. I already told you about our clearance sale garlands, but we’re also decorating our mantle with a rectangular mirror that I’ve had for over 10 years and beautiful large candleabras that the venue has. As a finishing touch, we’re also going to use 2 larger matching faux topiaries that my mom and sister each already have. Upstairs, on the escort card table and cake table, we’re using vintage linens that my grandmother made and my mom had in a closet. But, the best example of this tip is going to be our centerpieces! We are using the vintage cut/pressed glassware filled with candles on our tables. I am lucky – my mom and grandmother collected these pieces over the years, so I have many many pieces to use. We’re going to combine vases, glasses, footed bowls, all in high/low arrangements to add interest and light. And all it is going to cost us is the price of some floating candles and tealights! Yay!!

I hope this will help some brides (or grooms) out there a little. It is possible to have an affordable wedding – you just have to get creative, sometimes, and do a lot of research!! Of course, there are many things that I would love to have if money were not an issue (*cough* chair covers *cough*), but in the end, many of them are small little details that most people won’t notice are missing the day of. I feel very confident that we will have a beautiful and fun wedding, without going into debt!!