How I spent less than $15k on my wedding for over 100 guests
If you’re reading this, more than likely you are engaged and planning a wedding, so congratulations!! (Please also note: we booked many of these things 3 years ago – pricing may have changed or gone up since that time)
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Weddings are expensive. You get one day to tell your love story in front of your guests and family. A wedding is beautiful in the way that you get to have all your favorite people present for your vows and present in one spot to celebrate with you. Not everyone wants to spend $30,000-$50,000 on a wedding. If you do, by all means go for it! This is my story, on my wedding planning journey. Overall, I am happy with how the day went for how much we spent. We were able to purchase a house 4 months after the wedding, so I am glad we didn’t throw too much money into the day.
Hello! I got married August 15, 2020. We booked our venue in November 2019 and sent out save the dates for Christmas. Our venue was a good 2-4 hours away from our guests so we wanted them all to have time to plan. I know that this makes me a covid bride, and I have plenty of other stories and tips about covid wedding planning, but this blog post is specifically about budget.
Going into it, I didn’t want to spend more than ten thousand dollars, personally. While I work in the wedding industry, I honestly had NO idea what things cost beyond photography & video. We were also planning a destination wedding. So some of the things I had to pay for, might of not been a cost if it wasn’t a destination wedding. I’ll never forget when one of my sisters told me I really needed to re-think my budget. Ten thousand dollars felt like a LOT of money to me and I’m going to guess it feels like a lot to most couples.
While I always used to say that I wanted to be married in a barn, after photographing hundreds of weddings, and many of them barn weddings, I lost the desire! My now husband wanted to be married in the drift-less area of Wisconsin. We searched high and low and knew we wanted to spend less than $2k on the venue. We ended up choosing Norskedalen in Coon Valley, they had a beautiful covered, but open pavilion, and a spot that we could put up a tent if needed. Bathrooms were on site, and picnic tables were included in the rental. The location was stunning – especially if you like nature. I don’t think we even got to see the tip of the iceburg when it came to viewing the property. At the time, it was $1500 for the venue, for one day. We didn’t feel the need to have the venue for the whole weekend. The only downside was not being able to do the rehearsal there, but we were able to do that at the amphitheater in Riverside Park in La Crosse. It was closer to the restaurant for dinner and the hotel. My parents actually paid for the venue for us.
Photo + Video
From there we made a list of things we NEEDED to have. As a wedding photographer, it should be no surprise that the most expensive thing I spent money on was a photographer. I ended up not loving my own wedding photos, but that is a whole other story for a different day. For photography, after taxes and tip, we spent $3200.
For a videographer, we ended up hiring the videographer that works with me for my weddings. She charged me $1500 for 9 hours, included a sneak peek video and a highlight video and then gave me all of the raw footage and sound clips – which are just priceless to have. (and I never realized this until I was a bride!) View our sneak peek video here!
Dress shopping was a whole other thing. I didn’t want to spend more than $800 on a dress. I thought that was totally possible, until I started trying on dresses. There ARE dresses under $800 in the stores, but turns out, I wasn’t a fan. I went to Vera’s Bridal first – because my mom bought her dress there and so many of my brides recommend it. I tried on dresses for FOUR hours and couldn’t find one that I liked enough to purchase.
A couple of days later, I went to Premiere Couture in Cambridge WI and LOVED the experience. After trying on a dozen or so dresses, the lady helping me said she had an idea and went to the back of the store. She pulled this dress that was on sale but was a sample dress – it was the last one they had. It was like all the stars aligned because it was my size, and it fit! I also had the OMG this is the one moment while trying it on. It was more than I wanted to spend at $1100, but I KNEW it was the one, and got it anyway.
My aunt does alterations, so I asked her to do mine, she only charged me $200, and did several fittings right up to the wedding.
Mark wanted to wear a black suit and had purchased one on Black Friday a few years ago for his brother’s wedding so we already had it. It was $99 on the Black Friday special, and I would highly recommend it if looking to save money. He was supposed to rent one for a wedding he stood up in and the cost to rent was $250. Because I have seen ALL the things go wrong with suit rentals, I just don’t recommend them to anyone. Someone always gets the wrong size, wrong item, wrong color and I’ve heard the shoes are super uncomfortable too.
My bridesmaids bought their own dresses, my only stipulation was for it to be emerald green and long. I didn’t want to have exact matching, and the same with the groomsmen, we just told them grey suits and black shoes. Apparently two of the groomsmen didn’t get the black shoe memo, and while I wasn’t so happy the day of, in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter and now I can laugh about it.
Another non negotiable for me was to have a wedding coordinator. I knew if I didn’t hire someone, my family would be doing all the work, and nobody would be enjoying the day. Also, I have been to WAY too many weddings with no coordinator and they are right up there with the word disaster. I found Tiffany through a friend’s recommendation and she ended up being the BEST coordinator ever, and my family still talks about how amazing she was. She coordinated the rehearsal, and then set up the reception venue the morning of and tore down at night. She also added her DJ services in the bundle for $1688.
For catering, we went with C&C out of Bangor WI. I had photographed a wedding where they had catered and it was hands down delicious. I am not certain about the total cost – my parents covered this cost. However, the price per person was about $14 per person and was the most reasonable out of all the caterers we had looked at. We got to keep the food after the wedding – we were eating it for months later and STILL delicious! People are still telling me about how yummy the food was!
We booked Cowboy David’s bakery out of La Farge WI for a cutting cake and cupcakes. They were beyond delicious. The only downside is we ordered more cupcakes than needed and ended up taking way too many home with us and quickly found out that they didn’t freeze well. I don’t know how much we paid for these as my in-laws paid for the bakery items. We bought our cake topper on Amazon. However, I don’t think it’s an authentic cake topper – it was just adorable and matched the owl theme. Bonus is we can use it as decor in our new house!
I designed our save the dates and ordered them through my photo lab company. We had a 220 guest count, and with envelopes I ended up spending $110. For invites, we went with BasicInvites, and I spent $253 on all of the invite stuff. This isn’t including stamps, but my mother paid for the stamps. Use code: annaalethia for 20% off your order on basic invite!
I’m not much of a floral person, but my in-laws about had a heart attack when I mentioned i wasn’t going to have flowers at the reception. I did have flower hoops for my bridesmaids, a bouquet for me and boutonnières for the guys plus corsages for the family. I booked Weddings by Kaylyn and just told her the wedding colors and she matched the colors perfectly. After taxes, I ended up paying $614.
I covered the cost of hair & makeup for me and my bridesmaids. I know a lot of brides make their maids cover their own, but I had an inkling that some of my girls wouldn’t do it if I gave them the option to not do it. I hired the lady who does my hair regularly, Leah, with Kickapoo Flair in Readstown WI. She did me, my mom and all 4 of my bridesmaids for $240. The Posh Beauty bar traveled to our hotel the morning of to do our makeup. They did air brush, and it was less than $600 for the 5 of us.
Our venue didn’t supply a bartender, so not only did we have to purchase our own alcohol, we needed a bartender also. We hired Free Pour Inc and after taxes it was just over $600. He brought all his own supplies, mixers and ice so that was super nice that we didn’t also need to get all of those things. We bought way too much alcohol. We spent about $1200 and we bought it at Woodman’s. We ended up giving away bottles of liquor as gifts. Multiple guests commented on how friendly & nice our bartender was.
Originally we were going to have a bus take us from the hotel to the ceremony/reception venue. But due to covid we decided that everyone can drive themselves.
I booked the bridal suite at the Radisson in La Crosse as well as reserved a block of rooms for the guests. We had the bridal suite for 3 nights which was so nice to have a home base to get ready in for the weekend since we no longer live in that area. I also booked a room for Mark and his guys to get ready in. I spent almost $1000 in hotel costs, and I realize if you’re not doing a destination wedding this cost will probably be a LOT lower.
We asked a friend to officiate the wedding, and we paid the cost for him to get ordained online. Also, our marriage license cost us $124, and while that’s not a ton of money, it was something I wasn’t expecting to pay.
We needed event insurance for our venue – just in case! Our venue required it, so we went with Eventsured and it was $117.
A lot of our details and decor items came from Amazon. I got my wedding bracelet at an antique store (my something old!), but my shoes, earrings and even my veil came from amazon. My wedding band rings came from etsy, and Mark’s band was $212 from Titanium-buzz.com.
Our decor – we both love owls, so we did an owl themed reception. The tables in the reception were picnic tables and while I definitely considered renting nicer tables, in the end I didn’t and now it doesn’t even matter. Unfortunately I do not have very many detail photos of the reception, this is another thing we ended up being disappointed with our photographer about. I did splurge on hiring the Crafty Peach to design our guest book – a sign for people to sign and also a welcome sign for our wedding. Other signs at our wedding were templates from etsy and I customized them and had them printed through my photo lab, although UPS is another option to print larger prints for signs.
I purchased 32 white plastic tablecloths from the Dollar Tree online, and then 30 green velvet table runners, velvet tablecloths, masks and the cake cutter/server set on TableClothsFactory.com. Highly recommend them!
Our gold hexagon wedding arch was made for us by my husband’s youngest brother – he’s a welder. He gave it to us as a wedding gift.
We bought a 1TB hardrive to hold all of our photos and videos and had it engraved. We also did a wine box ceremony and the box we found on etsy and had it customized for us.
Gifts were important to us, to give to all the people who helped us out. I gave a customized mug to my mother in law and it made her cry – we don’t have photos of this. :( And a handkerchief to my dad and father in law. I had a necklace with a customized poem for my mom, and then bracelets for my bridesmaids. I also got a mug for my bonus mom. Mark got real creative with gifts for his guys.
It’s tradition for the parents of the groom to pay for the rehearsal dinner, and Mark’s parents wanted to, so we let them. They booked a room at Piggy’s in La Crosse. I have no idea how much it all was, but the food was delicious!
Looking back on everything, was it worth it? Yes!
If I had to do it over, I would have paid more for photo & video, there were a couple of other options and I wish in the very least that I had added a second photographer.
I also wish we hadn’t spent more than 15 minutes doing sunset photos, many of my guests left during that time and I didn’t get to say goodbye. :(
I don’t regret the money we spent, and all of our guests continue to tell us how much they enjoyed our day. :)
Photo + Video: $4700
Dress + alterations: $1300
Coordinator + DJ: $1688
Hair & Makeup: $805
Officiant + license: $200
Event insurance: $117
My shoes/veil/robe/garter: $160
Wine Box: $55
1TB hard drive: $121
Looking for a wedding photographer in Wisconsin, the coulee region or for a wedding at Norskedalen? I would be absolutely honored! Check out my own work here: www.anna-alethia.com/weddings