The Wedding: Budget reality check

Ok, now it’s time to get down to the details of planning (since we are still hoping to get married this year, which might be a little crazy).  Our first step is to establish our desired budget, which is $20,000.  This includes the invitations, groom’s dinner, ceremony, reception, wedding bands, and all little things that go along with a wedding.  I love Excel files so I found this nifty budget planner online:

$200 for my band? I better not let Matt get that idea into his head! 🙂

At first, we thought this sounded like more than enough money to get us a decent wedding for about 225 guests.  Then, we did some internet searching and realized we need to adjust our expectations.   Whoops.  Welcome to the reality of today’s wedding.  (I still can’t believe the average wedding is nearly $30k!)

We decided that, rather than extend our budget, we want to look for ways to have a nice wedding within our budget.  From what I’ve read and been told, there are two ways to cut cost – trim the guest list and get less expensive food.  We will need to trim the guest list, but we have a lot of friends we’d like to invite and both have relatively large families so the lowest we can probably go is 200 people.   

Matt and I have been in full brainstorming mode for the past two days and, as a result, my head hurts (literally.  where did this dang headache come from?  It must be bad because I wrote “my head hearts” and I read it five times before I realized it didn’t say “hurts”). 

The thing that seems to be the most important to us is uniqueness.  We want something a little different than the standard banquet hall experience.  The problem is the cute venues are all expensive (if it’s not the rental fee, it’s the food!) or won’t fit the size of our guest list. 

These are a few of our ideas (please chime in with your ideas in the comments section):

  • Friday evening wedding.  My concern here is the minimums are lower, but not necessarily the “per plate” cost so I’m not convinced it will save us money. 
  • Lunch wedding.  We could get married around noon, serve lunch, and go out to a bar for some fun.  The main drawback of this idea is I really like the thought of dancing into the night with my friends and family.
  • Find a unique ceremony site and use a standard banquet hall (or one that will let us bring in food).  The reality is that banquet halls have better food pricing and, once everyone is dancing, it doesn’t matter where it is. 

Tomorrow, we are going to look at Profile Event Center in Dinkytown.  The benefit of this place is it’s in a great location and there aren’t any rental costs if you meet the food minimum.  They used to let you bring in your own alcohol but recently changed that policy.  Boo to that.  That is probably better because we determined it would cost us over $2,000 to buy enough alcohol for our guests (hey, our people like a good time!) but it is much less expensive to give two drink tickets or host a cocktail hour.

We are working on scheduling more showings for Friday.  Since we want to get married this year, we have about two weeks to figure out if we can make that a reality.  We have already discovered a lot of venues are booked for the year, but luckily there isn’t a shortage of options in the Twin Cities area!

How did you or someone you know save money on their wedding?  What is the most unique wedding you’ve attended?

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22 responses to “The Wedding: Budget reality check

  1. Congrats on your engagement!

    We’re hoping to get married in the next few years and I have to say that it is incredibly daunting to think about how much it will cost to host the kind of wedding we’d like to have. We’re looking at something similar to yours (about 200 people, unique venue, no banquet hall/country clubs please!). When did weddings get so expensive? The average is $30K?!?!

    • Thank you! I am very excited!

      I can’t believe how expensive it is (well, I can after pricing out options). The average in the nation is $30k and the average in Minneapolis-St Paul is $22k. The nice thing about some of the more unique venues is you usually don’t need to spend much on decorations. It only saves about $500-$1000, but that is still something!

  2. I love that spreadsheet! Could you share the source?

  3. Congrats on your engagement! I love your ring! I just started following your blog. When my husband and I got married, our biggest way to cut expenses was to do lots of things ourselves versus paying someone else to do them or buy them already done up–let me tell you that helped A LOT!!

    We printed our own invitations, went with artificial flowers and I made the corsages, boutonnières, and the bouquets for the girls and myself, made our unity candles, ring bearer pillow, flower girl basket., table decorations, and so much more. And things did not look cheap or cheesy at all, it all looked professionally done. It was so much easier to make everything unique and custom to us by doing it ourselves versus trying to explain to someone how we wanted things to be.

    We had given the bartending staff a dollar amount for free drinks and once people had drinks up to that dollar amount, they were on their own for the drinks. That way the amount we were willing to spend was set in stone and we didn’t have a surprise number by having an open bar for a set period of time.

    Beautiful, unique weddings can be done on a budget! I wish you lots of luck!!

    • Thanks for following and all the great tips! I am looking forward to doing some of the stuff on my own, like invitations. I was in a wedding in October and she used fake flowers for the bouquet. It looked VERY nice! I am going to price out farmers markets first, but if that isn’t cheap then I’ll have to get my 40% off coupons to Michael’s and JoAnn Fabric out!

  4. Grand Slam!!!

  5. Farmers market flowers!!! I know a great vendor. She did part of my wedding and everything for three friends since. I had already ordered the bridal party flowers with a florist before I found her. I doubt that you’ll remember, but she did all the flowers in the church. I think each bouquet was $6.00. I also made my own invites, place cards, programs. I just slowly started purchasing the items I would need. It didn’t feel too overwhelming if I bought a bit at a time. Try not to focus on the money too much. Decide what you absolutely want and what maybe doesn’t matter as much. If you want more ideas or lame advice, let me know. Remember to have fun planning!! Congrats again!

  6. I heard you can get decorations/centerpieces off craigslist. like stuff people use once and dont know what to do with it, chair covers, centerpieces, little odds and ends, fabric,… etc.

  7. Holli Omlid

    Take your time in deciding everything and finding the right venue, etc…. John and I jumped into everything. We found a great venue, etc… and I happy with everything we have planned. BUT, it has turned into a “monstrosity” and way more than anyone should spend on a wedding. We should do drinks soon!! You can learn from my mistakes.

  8. Well, you know that you do not need to pay for your updo if you would like me to do it!

  9. The most unique wedding I attended was at the Chapel @ Fort Snelling….all the grooms wore kilts, they had bagpipes playing, and the big turkey legs at the reception…they were huge fans of the Renaissance festival. One of the sisters was actually married at the Renaissance Fairgrounds…
    As far as fun things that were at a wedding, I have been to 2 with the photo booths, one of the weddings had props for the photo booth. That was super fun.

    • I definitely want a photo booth with props. I was in a wedding in October and it was so much fun for the guests. It is great for the couple because they get a scrapbook at the end of the night with pictures of everyone and notes from them.

  10. Here are some things I did to save $$$.
    1) We were married on a Sunday to save $$$. This was by far the biggest money saver. The venues, bands, dj’s and some other things are less expensive on Fridays and Mondays. At the time, I remember getting some boo’s, but hey, if you can save $$ and have the wedding you want, people who want to be there will make it happen.
    2)We bought a smaller cake from a smaller family bakery, and bought a sheet cake. At $200…we saved about $400 instead of going to the better known bakeries.
    3) The dress I REALLY wanted was more than I wanted to spend, so I had Kim’s friend look at it and make it…same with the bridesmaids dresses.
    4) Kim and I made the centerpieces and the little guest gifts over wine and a weekend, which I will be more than happy to help you with if you would like help with ANYTHING!
    5) Also, a totally unpopular decision, but a necessary one, we gave both sets of parents a number of guests that they could invite, anything over that #, they had to pay for….boy did the lists shrink!
    6)The venue that we chose let us bring in our own beer and wine because that was something that we wanted to do as far as treating our guests to some drinks.
    7) We also had our wedding and reception in the same venue to save cost on renting 2 places. Not to mention, the limo, etc… for the wedding party, kidnapping the groom, etc…all of that cost was avoided.
    8) use your resources….I had Grandma’s woodwind trio play for 30 minutes in between the wedding and reception. People like to help their friends and their family, and love to be part of the excitement.
    I hope this was a little helpful!

  11. Wait! I meant Fridays and Sundays! Sorry!

  12. Congratulations!!!!! I just found you blog but I did a 20K budget wedding for 160 and it is possible so I wanted to comment. I agree with the person above getting married and having the reception in the same location saves you money. We too bought our own alcohol we spent about $600 (rebates, case discounts, sales). We bought top shelf and still have booze left over a year and a half later. This was after we handed out Tylenol to guests in the morning to cope with the hangovers.
    There are local websites that let you post your requirements and then djs, or musicians contact you. We paid $450 for our DJ for 6 hours and he was great.
    Target has their wedding invitations on clearance right now. They have great designs and ultimately everyone but you and your mom will throw them out.
    Identify the most important things to you and your soon to be husband then work around them as your central focus. We had a clear vision for the feel we wanted for our wedding so we choose everything around that idea. Take your time making decisions because it is ALOT of money and energy, don’t sign a contract too fast.
    Also look at your guest list and then ask yourself if I was going to take this person out to dinner would I buy their dinner at $50 a plate. Because that’s pretty much what a wedding is, taking 200 of your closest friends out to dinner and paying the bill. If I was getting married today 18 months later I could easily get my guest list down to 100 people.
    Pick flowers that are simple and in season. Do non-floral or small floral centerpieces.
    Think outside the box for venues.
    Hope that helps. Just remember being married at the end of the night is the best part of a wedding.

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