Planning a wedding day these days is not cheap, and it continues to get more expensive. If you’ve got an unlimited wedding budget, good for you! That’s awesome and you can go all out on almost every detail of your wedding day. But for most people that’s not the reality, including myself. Whether you’re swinging the wedding costs all on your own or getting help from a family member, you’re probably on a budget and trying to decide how you’re going to allocate the wedding funds to create your dream wedding day. Because yes-you can still have a dream wedding day on a budget!
Disclaimer: I want to say that while planning a budget for a wedding, you must be realistic about the numbers and realize you do get what you pay for in the wedding industry. Expect to spend some money getting married, it’s not going to be “cheap” either way, but this blog post is helpful in terms of setting a realistic budget and sticking to it. Without having to dip into your life savings or go into a crazy amount of debt for years. I’m not sharing specific numbers from my own wedding in this blog post, but I did come up with what I felt was realistic to spend on what I truly cared about for my wedding day when planning our budget. That was probably easy for me because I have experience in the industry and know what things should cost. If you are unsure about that, reach out to a friend who recently got married or even any wedding professional and I’m sure they’d be glad to share with you some realistic numbers on what to expect for what you’re wanting in your own wedding budget. With that being said, here we go!
As someone who works in the wedding industry as a wedding photographer, aesthetic is important to me and was important for my own wedding day. I appreciate visually pleasing wedding days and had a specific vision for my own day.
My husband and I got married on March 3, 2018. We had a very small wedding celebration consisting of only our immediate families, about 30 people total. There were a few different reasons for why we did our wedding day this way, but one reason was because we didn’t have a whole lot to spend and weren’t getting a ton of help financially from our families. We also wanted to get married just 3 months after getting engaged, so that played another role financially since we didn’t have a lot of time to get a large amount of money together for a bigger wedding budget. We did get a little bit of help from our parents, and for that we are so thankful for what they each were able to do. But we still had to really think about what we wanted to splurge on and what we wanted to try and save money on.
As a wedding photographer and past bride, I’m here to say it’s possible to have a beautiful wedding day and beautiful pictures to cherish from that wedding day forever, all while not completely breaking the bank. You just have to be strategic about your planning and what you decide to splurge on/what to save on. I’m here to share my own wedding vendor lineup and which categories I decided to “splurge” & “save” on and why!
My goal of this blog post is that you’ll get some tips to use while planning your own wedding day. So that you too can create a wedding day you’ve always envisioned and have beautiful pictures to look back on, all while staying as close to budget as possible!
Venue: The Old Church, Attica, IN
We got married at this adorable mid-1800s little white church in Attica called “The Old Church”. It is no longer used for Sunday church services and just considered a venue now, but back in the day was a Presbyterian church.
We had looked at other venue options-even considered going to a beautiful place out of state to get married, but we found this little gem kind of last minute and it turned out to be perfect, especially because I always dreamed of getting married in a little white church! One reason I really loved this church is because I always just love seeing all the cute little southern churches everytime I visit the Carolinas, this church reminded me of one of those. The church inside was all white with beautiful large windows & old wood flooring. All the natural light was truly a photographers dream, I knew we would get gorgeous photos in this venue!
I was so glad we were able to get married in a church, the symbol of our marriage as becoming one & making that commitment to God and each other was important and we value our faith in our relationship. So finding this gem was so lucky!
As far as venues go, I’d say it’s a “semi-splurge” category because your venue can really do a lot for your wedding photography and the overall look & feel of the day. I would consider spending some money on a nice venue, if you find something that’s beautiful though AND budget-friendly, that’s a double win! We got lucky as that was the situation with our venue. For me a gorgeous venue is something that has ample natural lighting, some nice grounds outdoors for photos and beautifully structured so that you could do minimal decor and it would still look so beautiful. Less decor needed=money saved!
Photography: Morgan Jenkins of Daelight Photography, based out of Pheonix, Arizona
While I’m sad to say Morgan of Dealight Photography has retired her photography business, I still am so in love with our wedding photos she took for us and am showing them off all over this blog post! Morgan is such a sweet soul with a creative eye & unique editing style that I just loved. Our wedding photos feel sweet, sentimental, timeless and she just did an amazing job capturing my vision and bringing it to life in our photos. I love looking back at them from year to year!
Wedding photography was definitely a big SPLURGE category for us! I am not just saying this because I’m a wedding photographer myself, I say this because on your wedding day you leave with two things; a husband and your photos. Nothing else lasts and is only temporary for the day. Granted, some of the things you choose to incorporate into your day will be captured in your wedding photography so it’s important to invest in some things. But overall, the wedding photos are what you’re going to look back on time and time again and if you want an experienced photographer who can provide you with quality photos and a great experience, well, you get what you pay for in that department.
Trust me when I say invest in a good, professional, experienced photographer. Not a friend/family member who “dabbles in it”. Wedding days are intense and if your friend doesn’t have experience and know how to capture your day, some of your greatest memories could accidentally be missed or not captured in a way you’ll love.
Wedding Gown: Bridal Superstore, Indianapolis, IN (Now Gretchen’s Bridal Gallery)
My wedding gown was simple and romantic, exactly what I was looking for. All I knew when looking was I wanted a white gown with some kind of over-the-shoulder sleeves. I searched and searched and finally found something that fit my vision perfectly at The Bridal Superstore in Indy. It was a long, white dress with a lace over the shoulder sleeve and buttons down the back. It also fit me like a glove right off the rack-yay for savings on alterations!
My wedding gown was another splurge category for me. The reason being because it was going to be a huge focus in our photos and well, I’m the kind of girl who had always dreamed of getting to wear a beautiful wedding dress someday and feeling so good in it. I wanted it to be something I loved! While your wedding dress is something you wear once and never again…it’s something you wear ONCE in your life and NEVER AGAIN! As long as I stay married (which I plan on forever) I will never get another opportunity to put on a wedding gown again, so I wanted to make this worth while.
My Shoes: Cinderollies Foldable Ballet Flats
My shoes were something I wanted to keep simple and comfortable. I’m not a high-heel wearing kinda girl so I chose these foldable ballet flats from Cinderollies, a sweet little shoe company based out of Charleston, South Carolina! These flats were super comfortable, my only complaint is they have zero arch support and a very thin sole so I wouldn’t wear them out & about outside, but for what I needed for my wedding day they were perfect. I would 100% recommend them as a shoe you change into for your reception, maybe even a great bridesmaid gift idea for your girls too!
Shoes for me was a category I chose to save on. Mainly because I’m not a huge shoe person as it is, so I didn’t really care too much about the shoes. But also because you only saw my shoes in maybe 2-3 photos since my dress was so long, so it’s not like many people even noticed them anyway!
Wedding Bands: Etsy
As much as I wanted the matching wedding band that went along with the engagement ring my husband got me from Roger’s & Hollands, it was just too pricey and with everything else we needed to afford at the time, including buying our first home, the matching band just wasn’t in the budget. But maybe I’ll get it for a 5-year anniversary or something!
We went simple with our bands purchasing them from Etsy shops. Mine is just a plain thin rose gold band that goes well against my engagement ring. Joey’s is a wooden tungsten wedding band that we felt fit his style and personality so well! We love our wedding bands and what they symbolize. They’re beautiful, even though we decided to save on them instead of splurge!
Hair & Makeup: DIY
My sister actually did my hair for my wedding day. All I wanted was something super simple with some greenery added in so for this specific do’ I didn’t feel it was worth paying extra to get my hair done. If I had done an updo or something more elaborate, I would have definitely hired a professional to do it for me. As for makeup, I’m not someone who wears a ton of makeup on a normal basis, so I wanted to keep things more light & natural looking. Although there are a few makeup artists out there that I absolutely adore and would have definitely pulled off a natural look on me that I would’ve loved, I instead opted to just go buy some nicer makeup from Ulta and do my makeup myself.
Groom’s Attire: Macy’s
We went very simple for my husband’s attire. Had we of done a bigger, more elaborate wedding, we probably would have done a tux rental because those aren’t too bad cost-wise. However, I wanted him in something a little more casual looking, so we just did some nice jeans and a jacket we bought from Macy’s. It fit the look we were going for perfectly and the jacket we purchased from Macy’s was MUCH less expensive than buying a full tux. So that was a save!
Groomsmen Attire: Etsy & DIY
We bought suspenders for the groomsmen from an Etsy shop and just had them keep it simple as well just wearing white button down shirts and some nice jeans. I also handmade bow ties for all the groomsmen and my husband, which was a huge savings and you really can’t even tell in the photos that they were very DIY!
Bridesmaid Dresses: TJ Maxx
For bridesmaid dresses I really wanted to find something affordable, something the girls could wear again for a different occasion if they wanted to so it wasn’t a one-time thing and something that matched the colors/style I was going for. I got lucky and found some super cute midi dresses at TJ Maxx that were a light pinky-peach color and matched the DIY bowties I made for the guys perfectly. These dresses were so cute & classy for our little white church wedding day and if I can remember correctly I got them for under $40 each!
Florist: Honey & Sage Flower Studio out of Lafayette, IN
I got our bouquets & boutenniers from Honey & Sage Flower Studio, a small local business in Lafayette.
At first, I did try to save on flowers thinking I could make them myself using the fake ones at Hobby Lobby. I even went and bought them and put them together before deciding I just didn’t like the fake ones at all and wanted to go ahead and splurge on real florals. Faux flowers are always hit or miss, sometimes they can be done well and look realistic, but sometimes they just don’t look that great. The more weddings I photograph, the more I realize real florals just always look better in both photos & in person. There are professional silk floral businesses out there who can do a fantastic job and make faux florals look great and realistic, but in my opinion DIYing them doesn’t always work out. I always suggest to splurge on real flowers, even if you just go all out on your bridal bouquet and keep the bridesmaids bouquets & boutonnieres more simple, a beautiful bridal bouquet can go a long way because your photographer can use it for detail shots and easily make your wedding day look a little more high-end. I was glad I went with real florals at the end of the day, it was so worth it!
I found these adorable little post card looking invites on Etsy for a pretty reasonable price. Since I was going for a more vintage/old fashioned feel to go with our church venue, these were perfect. I’d say don’t splurge too much on your invitations but don’t go too cheap either. As a photographer, I personally love when brides have gorgeous invitation suites, they make detail shots look so fun and beautiful. Beautiful invitation suites do not have to cost a fortune though and if you’re really creative, you can usually DIY them yourself! I have had many brides in the past DIY their own invites and really go all out, so they have high-end looking invitation suites that did not break the bank at all. Your invite will be a fun keepsake from your wedding day as well!
Program Cards: DIY
Program cards are definitely not a necessity and many people don’t do them anymore and don’t miss having them at all. I personally wanted to have some because I had a neat idea for them and wanted to have as a keepsake. I definitely saved on these, they were very inexpensive to DIY myself by just using a free Canva template and printing them myself on cardstock. I was super happy with them and they were fun to hand out to our guests as well as have to look back on because they provided more detail about our day.
The Food: Robie’s Restaurant & Bar, Attica, IN
Because we had roughly just 30 guests we forwent a big reception and just took everyone out to dinner at a local restaurant that was just around the block from the church we got married in. We chose to serve the famous pot roast that apparently so many people rave about from Robie’s and it did not disappoint! The food was about average cost, but didn’t seem like a crazy amount since we had so few guests.
Food can be one of your biggest expenses when it comes to wedding days. I say, if your venue allows you to bring in your own caterer, try finding a reasonable caterer who will serve good food without breaking the budget! You by no means need to have a 4-course plated meal served on your wedding day. Honestly, my favorite meal that’s typically served at so many summer wedding days is BBQ & all the fixings! It’s a popular choice because it’s easy to serve buffet style and fairly inexpensive to serve a large amount of people. Plus, who doesn’t love a good BBQ?? 9 times out of 10, your guests aren’t going to care what you feed them, they’ll be grateful for whatever you are able to provide!
Dessert: A local baker in Attica
We did include a simple wedding cake served after our dinner at the restaurant. My mom sort of surprised us with the design of this cake and graciously foot the bill on it for us on top of a few other wedding expenses. We originally weren’t going to serve a dessert, but she wanted us to have a wedding cake. I sent her some ideas for wedding cakes that I loved that were simple yet beautiful and she surprised us with a beautiful 3-tier cake that she had made by a local gal who bakes cakes out of her home in Attica. It was SO delicious…even one year later on our 1-year anniversary!
I feel like there are lots of people now a days who have in-home small businesses selling homemade wedding cakes or cookies right out of their homes that are just so delicious and beautiful. If you wanted to save on this particular category it’s pretty easy to forgo the high-end bakeries and choose someone local who bakes out of their home. They are usually less expensive because they have less overhead! But, you also can’t beat a unique cake right out of a fresh bakery that has been around for years and you know won’t disappoint. So for this category, whether you do cake, cupcakes, cookies, donuts, etc. It’s easy to save on this category if you need to and still have something that’s beautiful and delicious. But if you have your eye on a specific bakery/dessert style and want to treat yourselves and your guests splurging on something unique and really delicious then that’s okay too! I’ve seen beautiful cakes both homemade, coming from a bakery or from someone’s local home. There are just so many ways you can serve dessert and so many people are experimenting with all kinds of cool ideas nowadays. It definitely does not have to be a traditional wedding cake!
The Honeymoon: Sandals Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I’m going to start off by saying we SPLURGED on our honeymoon, like almost half our entire budget went to this category and We. Do. Not. Regret! We wanted to kinda go all out on the honeymoon because that was going to be the most time spent together. We stayed in a gorgeous Sandals Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and had a beautiful room with a balcony overlooking palm trees & the gorgeous grounds of the resort. Choosing an all inclusive honeymoon was so nice, we pretty much just ate, drank cocktails & napped on the beach the entire time! Sandals did not disappoint, so worth it and we can’t wait to visit another Sandals someday.
I’m sort of on the fence with this category. Because I know some couples that have really sweet, simple, budget honeymoons and some that really go all out. From what I hear, no matter how much you spend, you’re going to have an amazing time as newlyweds no matter what! Obviously the honeymoon wasn’t part of our actual wedding day or our wedding photos because it came afterwards. I’m just sharing our experience because we felt we had a legitimate excuse to go all out and splurge for this one time trip. We’re so glad we did! Whatever you personally decide to do though, your honeymoon is going to be something you’ll remember forever no matter how big or how small…and then you’ll be so excited to get back and just do married life at home. 🙂
Well, that’s a wrap! I’ve shared with you my entire wedding vendor lineup and what I splurged/saved on and why. We don’t regret having a small wedding, it was perfect for us and I still felt like I had the wedding day I’d always dreamed of, except just a little more intimate, which was okay. In the end, we and our parents did not go into debt trying to afford a wedding, that was something we were striving to stay away from. I loved our wedding day, our photos we have to look back on and have so many sweet memories from the day. I felt the way we managed the budget was perfect and gave us something that looked nice while also affordable and we got to celebrate with some of the people who mean the most to us in life.
I hope this blog post will help you in planning and allocating your own wedding budget, I just know your wedding day is going to be so beautiful! Do remember though that no matter how much money is spent, your wedding day is YOUR day and that alone is what makes it so special and memorable. No one else will remember it the way you do!
Liked this blog? Check out 5 Ways You Can Be A Stress-Free Bride on Your Big Day next!