When Kate emailed me with her fun wedding, and told me that she and Billy hosted a wedding with 100 guests, in Orange County, California, all for under $6400… well I knew you’d want to know how they did it! I thought I’d let Kate tell the story of the planning and the day. She was even kind enough to share a budget breakdown with us (scroll down for the details). Says Kate:

From the very beginning our wedding took on a life and personality of its own. We fondly referred to it as “Southern Vintage POW!” As in a little Texas, a little retro, and a little of the unexpected. And we were adamant about staying under our $6,400 budget. My favorite part of my wedding was the overall teamwork that went into it. It was a wonderful way to spend time with my family – especially since I live out of the country 9 months out of the year. It was also a special connection I got to make with my new in-laws. 

My dress was a super inexpensive find by Moonlight. It was a perfect fit so didn’t require any alterations, however, I had pockets added. I borrowed the veil from a friend, and I found some inexpensive yellow peep toes online which my mother embellished with cream bows. My husband is from Texas, hence the Southern part of our wedding, and he chose classic seersucker pants and a vest from J. Crew, paired with black Converse.

My mother and I hit up the local flower mart and purchased all the flowers at wholesale, then my mother, aunts, uncle and cousins created all the bouquets, centerpieces, and boutonnieres the night before the wedding. My aunts also handmade all the napkins and created a runner out of the excess fabric. My mother created chalk-board like name tags for the mason jars and an absolutely fantastic black and white photo puzzle guest “book” out of some blown up photos, glue and a jigsaw. My guests were then able to sign the back of the puzzle pieces and toss them in a keepsake glass jar. My husband, being a graphic designer by trade, created the invitations, the crossword puzzle/word search programs, and all the signs for the food and drink stations. Billy’s mother burned our initials on two small wooden boxes that worked as the ring bearer’s “pillow” and held each of our rings for each of our two ring bearer’s to carry. Needless to say, our wedding was extremely family- and do-it-yourself oriented!  

To stay on budget we started early and kept things tremendously organized. Everything from the bamboo plates to the ribbon was bought wholesale. Billy and I created a playlist on our computer, borrowed the sound system equipment, and his sister played DJ for the day. My brother-in-law was sworn in as an officiant, a family member did all the girls’ hair, and some of my little sister’s and mom’s friends traded day-of-wedding planner service, food servicing, and baby-sitting in exchange for food and drink. Our biggest save was in the photography. Two of our close friends, Jehna Raquel and Lindsay Stetson-Thompson, volunteered their time and talents as blooming photographers and created some amazing shots. Cupcake toppers and drink stirrers, along with the pom-pom decorations, paper striped straws, the boys’ bowties and my jewelry were all purchased off Etsy at very reasonable prices. In addition, I bargained down every single first price offered to me – there was no harm in asking for discounts and 90% of the time it worked out in my favor.

The food included delicious sweet potato fries and watermelon slice appetizers followed by amazing southern fried chicken with all the fixings from Johnny Rebs’. Desserts included family homemade treats like lemon squares, mini pecan pies, and individual banana puddings (topped with homemade whipped cream of course!). A funnel cake cart was also added to the mix – an absolute favorite of ours! Drinks included vintage bottled soda, lemonade, sweet tea & Yankee tea, as well as a variety of beers and wine. There was also a vintage quilt in the grass for the children, who had special paper sack lunches, dress up props, and homemade ribbon twirlers.

Isn’t their getaway car hilarious? Says Kate: The “hearse” is actually my dad’s customized 1951 Chevy ambulance – but it looks like a hearse so my bridesmaids decorated it with “Til death do us part.”  The looks and honks we got on the ride back were hilarious! 

 

Kate shared some of the budget breakdown with us, for their SoCal wedding with 100 guests:

LOCATION
ceremony/reception venue with tables and chairs included (Santiago Oaks Regional Park): $987
vendor permits: $175
guest parking: $200 
TOTAL: $1362

TABLES/LINENS/FLATWARE
rentals, set up, take down, and delivery (Events TaylorMade): $575
purchased disposable bamboo plates, french fry cones, and dessert boats: $161
TOTAL: $736

PAPER GOODS
invitations + postage: $220 
materials for fan/crossword programs: $50
TOTAL: $270

FOOD
on site catering of sweet potato fries appetizers & fried chicken (Johnny Rebs’ Southern Roadhouse & Catering): $1200
bartender: $340
beverages (Trader Joe’s and BevMo): $440
funnel cake cart from (Fun-O-Cakes): $350
kid’s picnic lunches (chicken nuggets, drink boxes, cracker packs): $60
lemonade, tea, watermelon: $90
lemonade/tea dispensers borrowed from a family member: $0
TOTAL: $2480

DECOR
flowers: $395
quilt, picnic basket, chalkboard, birdcage, drink buckets: $80
cupcake toppers, pom poms, paper straws, drink stirrers all from Etsy: $100
mason jars: $50
pewter and milkglass: $80
printing black and white photos: $50
fabric for draping for arbor, ribbon, tape, car decorations: $25
dress up props borrowed from mom’s classroom: $0
TOTAL: $755

BRIDE’S ATTIRE
dress + alterations: $378
shoes: $60
jewelry from Etsy: $38
makeup: $60
hair done by family member as a gift: $0
TOTAL: $536

GRAND TOTAL: less than $6400 

 

Thank you for all of the details Kate! It’s so inspiring to see that a charming and fun wedding doesn’t have to break the bank, even with 100 guests!

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If your style is more playful and modern than fussy and traditional, then a city hall ceremony followed by a restaurant reception might be the wedding for you. Holding your ceremony at city hall not only imbues a certain low-key mood to your wedding, but it is also a way to stay within your budget – there are no ceremony decorations to buy, no programs to print out, and no attendant flowers to pay for. Asking guests to celebrate with you at a favorite restaurant also has its advantages: many restaurants won’t charge you a site fee; you won’t have to rent tables, chairs and linens; and it’s a great place to return to for anniversaries! For this budget wedding board, I imagined a quirky, playful couple with minimalist sensibilities…

Mood: playfully minimalist
Palette: blackboard, concrete, chalk

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Top row from left: photo by 5ive15ifteen, chalkboard from Martha Stewart Weddings, jacket and tie from Nordstrom
Row 2: invitation by Mr. Boddington’s Studio from Minted, chalkboard candle via EmilyStyle, city hall ceremony via {frolic!}
Row 3: shoes photo by Michelle Armas, dress by Thread, restaurant photo from Modern Restaurant Seating, white sparkling jasmine Golden Star Tea
Row 4: chocolate lemon tart from Cannelle et Vanille, save-the-date by Justin Pocta, cymbidium nosegays from Martha Stewart Weddings

The Paper: Get clever with your save-the-dates and take a photo of yourselves – no professional necessary. You can turn them into cards on Shutterfly for as little as 45-cents apiece. If you’ve always dreamed of letterpress invitations, but feel constrained by a budget, design your own with a unique font and have Mercurio Brothers print them up for as little as $1.50 each when you order 150.

The Fashion: Some designers are now offering what they call “bridal alternatives,” which can be great budget-friendly options – this dress by Thread is only $375. With some tulle or netting for as little as $2 a yard, you can save by making your own veil. Vintage ribbon, clip on earrings, or silk flowers are all great ways to dress-up and personalize plain shoes without overspending. For the groom, this jacket and tie are a bit of a splurge, but if they fit his personality and are something he will wear again, then they’re worth the extra expense.

The Decor: Cover candle holders with chalkboard paint, and write table numbers on them. Not only is it a clever way to let guests know where to sit, but candles are a great way to warm up a modern space without breaking the bank. You could also paint flower pots (filled with live paperwhites or orchids) and write guests’ names on them.

The Flowers: If you’d prefer floral centerpieces to candles, consider a single potted orchid on each table. You can find them for under $20, and give them as gifts after the wedding. Or, in winter, grow your own paperwhites from bulbs for even less. For the bride’s bouquet, a nosegay of cymbidium orchids is a way to carry a bit of luxury down the aisle for less than a large bouquet would cost.

The Food: Many restaurants will set a minimum that you have to spend on food, so instead of adding another vendor by ordering a traditional wedding cake, serve one of the restaurant’s desserts to your guests instead. If you’re not a fan of champagne, or not a fan of the cost, but you still want to have a celebratory toast, sparkling Golden Star Tea is a delicious non-alcoholic option (and it’s way more grown-up than sparkling cider), and will only set you back about $12 a bottle.

Other Details: Instead of a traditional guestbook, continue the chalkboard motif by setting up a photo station with a chalkboard backdrop. Ask guests to write notes and take photos standing with their notes – if you set up a Polaroid, they can put those right into a book for you.

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Mood: vintage garden charm
Palette: butter yellow, milk glass, garden green

A morning ceremony followed by an outdoor brunch is a wonderful way to throw a beautiful, budget-friendly wedding. By holding your wedding earlier in the day, or on a Sunday, some vendors might be willing to bargain. Incorporate vintage elements to add a sweet touch, as well as to help save money, and stick with a simple color palette (I chose buttery yellow and soft white) to create a cohesive look.

The Paper: Take a cue from Linda & Harriett, and create your own invitations with rubber stamps – they create a look that is both low-key and whimsical. You can use that same rubber stamp to continue your motif throughout the wedding, on cocktail napkins, thank you notes, you name it.

The Fashion: Choose a beautiful skirt and top for your bridesmaids, and they’ll appreciate having separates that they might actually wear again. How about a charming bow tie for the groom, and maybe as gifts for the groomsmen? This one by xo elle is only $36, and is made from vintage materials. You can save with a vintage wedding dress, too – the one in this inspiration board is only $275. Vintageous and Cherished Online are two places to look. Pair it with a gorgeous, wide-brimmed sun hat – it might be a splurge, but it will certainly get more wear than a veil!

The Decor: Instead of one sheet of fabric for a photobooth backdrop, hang several panels of fabric from a large tree – either for photos, or just for visual interest. Rent simple white linens – they’re often the cheapest option, and will work with the simple yellow and white color scheme. Other than that, an outdoor venue shouldn’t require much other decorating.

The Flowers: If you have a wholesale flower market nearby, pick up a variety of flowers in the same pale yellow. Arrange them in mismatched milk glass containers – you can find these for as little as $1 from flea markets, antique stores, and eBay. Have a floral designer create a small bouquet for you – cutting down the size can cut the cost in half, and allow you to include pricier blooms.

The Food: A brunch buffet may or may not be cheaper than dinner, but you’ll certainly save on alcohol. Guests will drink less earlier in the day, and you can get by with only two alcoholic options – mimosas and bloody Mary’s. Ask friends or family to contribute their baking skills – if someone is up to the challenge, they might even make a traditional tiered wedding cake for you.

Other Details: Vintage cream-colored rose earrings are the perfect accessory for the bride, and at only $8 they would make a great gift for your bridesmaids, too. Embellish your bouquet with vintage ribbon – a yard of pricier ribbon won’t break the bank, and Etsy is a great place to look for cheaper options. Place a customized crossword puzzle and pencil at each seat – a perfect detail for Sunday brunch, and something you can easily print off your own computer at home.

Row 1: stamped gift tags from Linda & Harriett / dahlias in milk glass from Martha Stewart Weddings / dress from Vintage Dress / hanging fabric photo by Adrienne Page  //  Row 2:  bridesmaid via {frolic!} / rose earrings from Out of the Blue / mimosas from Martha Stewart / custom bow tie by xo elle via Casando Ideias  //  Row 3:  scones from Martha Stewart / garden gate via Peach & Pearl / bouquet and horsehair hat both from Martha Stewart Weddings  //  Row 4:  roses in milk glass photo by Punam Bean / crossword puzzlecoconut cake, and ribbons all from Martha Stewart Weddings
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If you’re trying to include a large number of guests without breaking the bank, take a cue from Donia and David and hire your favorite local taco truck to cater – they were able to host a wedding with 300 guests for under $8000! I used that as the jumping off point for this fiesta-inspired wedding board, but there are other cost-effective ways to feed your guests: a crawfish boil, barbecue, or even a soup and bread bowl buffet are all delicious options.

Mood: casually festive
Palette: watermelon pink, citrus yellow, lime green, white

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Top row from left: papeles picados from Brides, bouquet photo by Lisa Lefkowitz, Mexican wedding cookies from Martha Stewart Weddings, taco truck
Row 2: fans photo by Elizabeth Messina, tacos from Beth Helmstetter, mariachi band from Brides, sandals from J.Crew
Row 3: Kay Unger dress from Neiman Marcus, Mexican lotería cards, watermelon from Martha Stewart, fruit skewers from Martha Stewart
Row 4: ring dishes by Paloma’s Nest, watermelon margaritas from Domino, invitation by Hello! Lucky

The Paper: Even if you’re working with a smaller budget, beautiful invitations are still an option. Hello! Lucky has recently started offering a number of their designs in a digital print option (the one I’ve included in this board is only $2.21 when you order 150), Milkmaid Press has just launched a more affordable line, Pearl Press, and Wedding Paper Divas offers affordable styles by some of my favorite designers.

The Fashion: If you’re considering a non-white dress for your wedding, you’ll find plenty of gorgeous designer options for far less than you’d pay for a designer wedding gown (why do they do that!?). This coral number by Kay Unger is $480, and fits perfectly with the bright, festive mood of this inspiration board. Pair it with some gold sandals (starting at $39.50 from J.Crew) and you’re all set!

The Decor: At just $12.50 for 18 feet, traditional Mexican papel picado banners are a budget-friendly way to decorate an outdoor venue. In lieu of table numbers, how about lotería cards? You can find a set of 54 on Amazon for $8, or online here for free.

The Flowers: Supplement a few pitchers of flowers with seasonal fruit – and let guests know they should feel free to help themselves! For just the cost of some tissue paper, you might also make some Mexican tissue paper flowers in keeping with the fiesta theme. And if you’re going to splurge on any flowers, splurge on a lovely bouquet – it will make for some gorgeous photos!

The Food: Paying less for food doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose out on quality – especially if you hire a favorite local taco truck to cater the wedding! Fruit skewers that you’ve made a day ahead (with the help of friends and family of course) and baskets of tortilla chips round out this casual meal. Offer bottles of Mexican soda (Jarritos is my favorite) and beer, and maybe one signature drink such as a margarita in your favorite flavor. Skip the wedding cake in favor of Mexican wedding cookies that you (or someone who loves you very much) can bake in advance and freeze if need be.

Other Details: A custom ring dish by Paloma’s Nest will only set you back $28, and it is a lovely reminder of your wedding day – after the wedding day, use it as a bedside jewelry dish or maybe a Christmas ornament. And who knows – maybe it will become a new heirloom. If you’re holding your wedding in the middle of summer, place hand fans in each guest’s seat – at $1.25 they can double as a favor.

See the rest of Snippet & Ink’s budget-friendly inspiration boards here. What are you doing to keep your budget low?

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Mood: romantic, whimsical
Palette: pale apricot, rose gold, cream

It’s been awhile since I posted some budget-friendly inspiration boards, but I imagine that these days, everyone is looking for ways to save. If you are willing to be flexible, to employ your own talents as well as those of your nearest and dearest, and to focus on what’s most important, there is no reason that a lovely, meaningful wedding has to cost an arm and a leg. As with all of my inspiration boards, these are not meant to be exact blueprints for your wedding, but rather to inspire and to serve as guides during the planning process.

Not only are dessert buffets one of my favorite reception options, but they’re also a great way to save money without sacrificing glamour and elegance. Hold your reception at tea time or after dinner, choose a beautiful and unique venue, dress it up with whimsical handmade paper details, set up a buffet of gorgeous and (most importantly) delicious desserts, and your guests will never miss the meal.

The Paper: Design your own save-the-dates with the help of vintage clipart. Choose a simple bell or bird and scroll motif that can be repeated on your invitations and programs. Thermography is a great way to add some texture to your printed materials without the cost of engraving.

The Fashion: Allow your bridesmaids to wear a skirt and sweater, something they actually will wear again. And if you can break free from the fantasy of a white, strapless wedding gown, consider wearing separates, too. Not only will a floor-length, silk skirt cost less than many dresses (this one from J.Crew is $575), but it really is the sort of thing you might actually wear again. Skip a veil and tie a pretty ribbon in your hair. The groom can save by skipping the jacket and going instead with a vest ($98 from J.Crew, rather than $248 for the matching jacket). And I know I’ve said it before, but buying the groom a nice suit he’ll wear again is such a better investment than renting a tux!

The Decor: One of the biggest ways to save on decor is by choosing a venue that is already impressive. Dress it up with whimsical and inexpensive details – trim the dessert table with ruffled crepe paper ($7.99 for 6 feet from Birds of a Feather) and mark the bride and groom’s chairs with garlands of small tissue bells, about 75-cents apiece.

The Flowers: A single large bloom is a beautiful alternative to a bridal bouquet, and doesn’t require professional arrangement. The same goes for individual flowers in bud vases or floating in bowls. These bud vases from IKEA will only set you back $1.99 each, and you can take a cue from Michelle and later give them as gifts like she did with her candlesticks (with a flower in them of course!).

The Food: Save by serving a variety of beautiful and delicious desserts. Amy Atlas, the empress of dessert buffets, offers her tips for creating something appealing to both the tastebuds and the eyes in this Food & Wine article. Also, in addition to several non-alcoholic options, serve just one type of champagne or sparkling wine that you can buy in bulk.

Other Details: Often, the wedding planning (and expenses) begins with a ring, but there’s no rule that says that ring has to include a diamond. How about an antique cameo or cocktail ring instead? This one featured in Brides was $650 from Doyle & Doyle. Don’t underestimate how lovely crepe paper and glitter can be. Using vintage paper, tinsel, and other ephemera, create your own crowns and medallions for your guests – they might be time consuming, but they’re a sweet detail that can act as both place card and favor.

You can see all of Snippet & Ink’s previous budget-friendly inspiration boards here.

Row 1:  photo by Victoria Pearson / Cheree Berry invitation from Martha Stewart Weddings / vest from J.Crew / dessert and champagne buffet from In Style Weddings  //  Row 2:  China Cabin / chocolate champagne truffles from Martha Stewart Weddings / ruffled crepe paper garland from Birds of a Feather / large peony from Martha Stewart Weddings  //  Row 3:  skirt and sweater set from J.Crew / floating dahlias by Artfool / pink ribbon headbands and cameo ring both from Brides  //  Row 4:  paper crown by Bethany Lowe / tissue bell garland from Martha Stewart Weddings / silk skirt and sweater from J.Crew / roses from Martha Stewart Weddings
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