Wedding on a Budget

The beginning… our wedding…. we managed to get the job done for under $4000 – that’s including a reception for 250 guests, a 10-day honeymoon at a farmhouse, my second-hand dress, etc! Here’s our story of how we pulled it off…

When Josh and I were getting married, he was a youth pastor making $28,000 a year, and I was volunteering full-time for my sister’s new business.

We had ZERO money.

And we didn’t have alot of time to plan the wedding, either.

We were 25, we were in love, and we were absolutely sure about this whole marriage idea.

We had known each other for a couple of years as acquaintances, the friendship had developed a few months before our first date, and my volunteering with the youth group had started about the same time as the friendship.

The time period between our first date and our “I do” was seven months.

Yep, we were absolutely sure.

So, with lots of stars in our eyes, lots of love in our hearts, and not alot of money in our pockets, we got married on November 20, 1999.

wedding pic

And from the receipts I kept and the list of expenses we made after all was said and done…

We spent just under $4000 on our wedding – that’s honeymoon, dress, reception and all!

We were given about $3000 cash at the reception, so that really helped to pay off the credit cards, and we were truly blessed by generous people who gave freely of their time and talents to help with our special day.

Here’s a few tips and tricks for how to do a wedding on a budget...

  • Buy a used wedding dress or borrow a dress from family or friends. My dress was $300 from a consignment store, and I bought the first one I tried on!  I knew exactly what I was looking for, and I found it right away!
  • Make your own wedding favours or have someone who loves you and is crafty make them for you. We made heart-shaped wood pieces and attached three different-sized candle holders to them. Then we bought candles to match our wedding colours (blue, green and white) and glued tiny ribbons and flowers to the candle holders as well. Hubby loves to work with wood, and I love candles – perfect!
  • Shop around for a low price on a hall for the reception. Visit many places to find somewhere you feel welcome and comfortable, without breaking the bank. We were married just before Y2K, so the options were very limited for us (everything was booked with millenium parties!). We ended up going with a community centre near my parent’s house at a cost of $330 for the day.
  • Decorate the church and reception hall yourself, with the help of any willing friends and family.  Simple ideas like strings of lights wrapped in coloured tulle, steamers, and balloons – these can make a room look amazing with some tasteful decorating. Also, we bought kraft paper and pencil crayons for each table and used the kraft paper as a tablecloth. We had so much fun looking at what people had written or drawn – I still have the drawing of one of my artist friends – it’s laminated and hanging in my bedroom – it’s a beautiful capturing of Josh and I as we were saying our vows.
  • Make your own decorations – I really enjoyed collecting pine branches and pinecones from my parent’s yard and attaching them to huge pieces of white ribbon for the pew bows. They smelled wonderful as well!
  • We bought my engagement ring at a pawn shop. I wanted something old, with character, and we made a fun day out of shopping for the ring together in downtown Toronto.  I really appreciated that Hubby let me pick the ring I would be wearing for the rest of my life. And I still love the ring. The cost was about $200 for the beautiful ring, and another $20 to have it resized.
  • Wedding bands can be very inexpensive as well – we visited a local jeweler and found simple gold bands for under $200. Mine cost much less than Josh’s, simply because I needed a much smaller size than him!
  • Keep your invitations simple and print them yourself. We went to Staples and bought packages of invites that we printed out at the church.  Yes, it did help that Josh was working for a generous church who didn’t mind us printing out wedding invites for free.
  • And we also got the church and the minister for free – I realize this can be a big expense in planning a wedding. Currently, our church charges $500 for the use of the church and a minister for the wedding.  Again, it helped that Josh was working for a church!
  • Gifts for the bridal party and groomsmen can be well-thought-out and inexpensive at the same time. I gave out jewelry sets for each of my 5 bridesmaids to wear for the wedding, and Josh gave knives to his 5 groomsmen. We spent about $300 on them and enjoyed picking out their gifts.
  • Make your own bouquets. I ordered the flowers beforehand, to be picked up the day before the wedding. Simple ribbons in our wedding colours were added to the corsages and single white roses for my bridesmaids. My bouquet was a simple bunch of white roses (white roses were our thing when we were dating…)
  • When people offer their talents and abilities to help with your wedding – say YES!  We had friends who offered to make our wedding cake for free, and other friends who offered to DJ the reception for free.  This helped so much with keeping costs down.
  • Do you know anyone in the food services industry? A friend of ours had a daughter who worked for a big food services company and was able to get the food for our reception at hugely discounted prices.  We got all the food we needed for about 250 people for $1000.
  • Do you know have family and friends who are fantastic in the kitchen?  Our church family offered to cook the buffet-style meal for us at the hall. We also had all our desserts donated by some of the wonderful women at church.
  • I don’t recommend making your own wine unless you have had lots of practice before the wedding. We decided to have some fun by making our own wine, but it tasted truly awful (we didn’t taste it before the reception, so our guests had the first sip!) and it cost $225. A big expense for something that didn’t work out.
  • Shop around for a simple honeymoon. We didn’t opt for a tropical get-away for our honeymoon (we enjoyed a last-minute all-inclusive deal a few months before our first child arrived instead), and instead chose a spot about 2 hours away from home. We stayed at a country farmhouse for a week for about $700. We had the whole place to ourselves, and we enjoyed the slow pace, the small town feel, and a chance to relax and unwind after our 7-month whirlwind romance adventure!

I’ve probably left out a few important details, but this list is a good start to thinking about the big wedding items and how you can keep the costs low with a little creativity, a little fun, and a little letting go. Your day doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be special. Gather your community together to have fun planning this with you. Listen to the ideas of others, chat with your fiancee about what you both want, and then do your best to match it all up with what is easy, fun and simple.


It is the first day of something truly unique, truly special, and truly important – your marriage.


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