How we had a wedding for less than $10,000


Photo by Liv Hefner Photography

I always knew I wanted to do a breakdown of how much our wedding cost because I wanted people to know you can still have an amazing wedding on a budget.

And our wedding was just that — amazing.

It was everything we had envisioned and went so smoothly. Everything was on time, done correctly and it even stopped raining in the afternoon — just in time for photos before the wedding — after storming all morning.

I always enjoyed seeing breakdowns of affordable weddings when I was looking, but often times found that couples were gifted a lot of big ticket items. That wasn’t our case. We were really only gifted a couple of things (which I’ve noted in the breakdown below). And, as I’ve mentioned before, we had a very small wedding with only 40 guests after postponing it.

It was really satisfying to know we paid for everything ourselves. We also paid cash for everything except the hotel room we stayed in for the wedding weekend. So we have come out of it basically debt-free.

We ended up spending around $8,000 for everything all said and done. We didn’t take a honeymoon right away, but we are planning to go to Niagara Falls later this month. We wanted the extra time to save up some money. I’ll save that for another post.

Wedding cost breakdown:

Dress: $1,500 (including alterations)

Veil: $108

Shoes: $50 (From Nordstrom Rack)

Eric’s suit: $200 (Dress shirt, tie, suit coat and suit pants all from J.C. Penny)

Eric’s shoes: $50 (gifted)

Food & alcohol: $1,800 (Appetizer buffet, coffee, tea and beer/wine)

Venue: $350 (gifted) The cost included linens, dishes, table clothes/chair covers and an integrated sound system.

Hotel for the wedding weekend: $800

Cake: $175 (included delivery to hotel on day of wedding)

Flowers: $300 (My bouquet, plus three babies’ breath bouquets for bridesmaids. Price included delivery to the hotel on day of wedding)

Centerpieces: Roughly $50, but paid for with gift card to Michaels (Glass vases with fake flowers and floating LED candle)

Other various decorations: $100-$150 (This includes mini chalk boards, mr & mrs banner, Fujifilm instax camera for guestbook, plus film, etc.)

Guestbook: $30

Hair: $75-including tip

Makeup: $450-including tip (I paid half of the cost for each bridesmaid to have their makeup done, plus mine)

Photography: $1,700 (This included an engagement session, two photographers at the wedding for 8 hours, rights to print our photos, plus a printed book of photos)

Favors: $30


Where we saved money:

No DJ: We made a Spotify playlist and played it through the integrated sound system in our venue. This easily saved between $500-$1,000.

No flowers as decorations: We used fake flowers in our centerpieces, which saved us so much money. It just seemed like such a waste of money for such a little amount of time.

Not serving a full dinner: We decided to do an appetizer buffet instead of a full dinner and I think it went over really well. We still had plenty of food. We served a garden salad with rolls, chicken sewers, mini meatballs, spinach dip, a cheese platter and pinwheel sandwiches. We also had some easy snacks that were left out all night like pretzels, nuts and chips and french onion dip.

DIY favors: We made little bags filled with wild flower seeds that people could plant as a way to always remember our wedding.

Let me know if you have any questions or want to know anything more specific. I hope this helps


Wedding Wednesday: Planning again


(Our new venue)

It’s been months since I did a Wedding Wednesday post, but I’ve been in full-on planning mode since we decided last fall to reschedule our wedding for this May. In case you are new here, we had to postpone our wedding last year after it became clear we couldn’t afford what we had been planning. You can read about that here.

We’ve been busy since about November getting all of the new details together. We changed our venue, cut our guest list and have generally approached the new date with a fresh perspective. It has been so much easier and we’ve really enjoyed the planning process.

We switched to The Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg, WV, for both the ceremony and reception. They have been amazing to work with so far. It is actually cheaper and a better venue than our original one, so we couldn’t be happier with the switch.

We will be having everything in their patio tent, which is so gorgeous. The price of the venue includes table linens, chair covers, set up and tear down as well as an integrated sound system. We are able to save a ton of money by basically being our own DJ.

We cut our guest list down from around 75 people to 40 in an effort to save money. While it was hard to cut down the list, I think the day will be so much more special and intimate with just those that are the very closest to us.

We have also decided to go with an appetizer buffet instead of a sit-down dinner. We want everyone to mingle and feel relaxed and we felt this option fit best with how we envisioned our reception. We’ll have meatballs, chicken skewers, spinach artichoke dip, a cheese tray, pinwheel sandwiches, a garden salad and some other small snacks like rolls, chips, pretzels and dips.

We’re still doing cupcakes instead of a traditional wedding cake. Eric and I will have a small cake to cut. We decided to go with The Village Cakery, which has a great reputation in the area. I was able to try some samples last weekend when I went home to do some planning and they were so good. We decided to go with an assortment of chocolate, vanilla and red velvet cupcakes with butter cream icing. Our small cake with be chocolate with butter cream icing. I’m really looking forward to how it will come together. Her prices were very reasonable as well, which was great for us.

We still have to decide on a few things, but overall I am so looking forward to our day. Although it was a hard decision to postpone it, I think it was ultimately the best decision we could have made.

Wedding Wednesday: Attire

A few weeks ago I was contacted by The Black Tux, a tuxedo rental company, to talk about wedding attire. Even though our wedding is still on hold right now I thought it was a great post idea. I’ve been to so many different types of weddings from very formal to super casual. The Black Tux has put together a handy chart that simply breaks down all of the different types of wedding attire and what would be acceptable options for each one.


Our wedding will be semi-formal. Eric and the groomsmen will wear suits and the bridesmaids will wear nice dresses. Guests are fine to wear dress pants and shirt for men and dresses or a nice skirt and top for women. We want everyone to be comfortable, but still look nice. Our wedding has been downsized to only include around 35-40 people, so it’s definitely going to be an intimate ceremony and reception. We want people to really feel at ease and part of our day and not have to worry about wearing uncomfortable clothes or shoes.

The worst thing about going to a wedding is not knowing what the attire should be. Sometimes you can tell from the invitation, but it’s not always included. So if it’s not specifically stated on the invitation, try getting some clues from the location because that can usually set the tone for what kind of event it is. If it’s in a hotel ballroom I would probably lean toward black tie or black tie optional. If it’s in a barn or a more rustic setting, I would lean toward semi-formal or casual.

Since our wedding will likely be in the fall, it’s also hard to know what to wear to a wedding that’s in an off-season month. It’s hard to know if it will be warm or cold in months like September, October and again in the spring in March and April. It’s always a good idea to wear layers during these months because it could be cool in the morning and warm up in the afternoon. You can always wear a nice blazer or wrap and then take it off at the reception if you get hot.

To me, no matter what you wear, the most important thing is to make sure it is appropriate. I know a lot of people view weddings as a big party, but you shouldn’t be wearing super revealing dresses or super tall heels. We’ve all been to a wedding where someone treated it like a night at the club instead of a celebration of love and family. It’s always a little cringe-worthy and embarrassing.

And if it comes down to it and you really aren’t sure what to wear, just ask. I’d have no problem answering questions about what guests should wear. I don’t want anyone to feel out of place, under-dressed or over-dressed.


Wedding Wednesday: Postponing our wedding

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Photo by Liv Hefner Photography

Yes, it’s true. We are no longer getting married this fall.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Wedding Wednesday post and that’s because I wasn’t sure what to say. A couple of months ago Eric and I {painfully} decided to postpone our wedding because of financial reasons. I’m not going to lie, there were definitely some tears shed. It was a hard decision, but one that needed to be made.

We were getting down to the wire and realizing that we just didn’t have enough money for everything. We are paying for the whole thing ourselves and we were getting to a point where we were going to have to start putting things on credit cards or take out a loan. We thought both of those sounded like terrible ideas since we (and by we, I mean I) already have plenty of debt to go around.

So, we are pushing it to 2017. We haven’t picked an exact date yet. Putting the planning on the back burner has alleviated a lot of stress. For the first few months of the year we were constantly worried about money and stressing about how we were going to pay for everything. That has settled down a lot.

Although it was hard to call all of our vendors that we had booked already, most of them were very understanding. We did lose a couple deposits, but most of them we either got back or were retained for when we pick a new date. Luckily the big ones, the photographer and the DJ we were able to retain.

So, for now we are taking a pause and rethinking some of our plans. We’re trying to figure out what exactly we want to do. For me, a lot of the glamour of wedding planning has worn off and I think that’s a good thing. It’s so easy to get caught up in what you “should” do or what you think you need.

Weddings are expensive and sometimes it can overshadow what the day is supposed to be about—celebrating your love and committing your lives to each other.

The good thing is I already have my dress and veil, the invitations, our bridal party picked out, decorations and some of our vendors booked. This next year just gives us more time to save money.

We want to have a really nice ceremony and reception, but maybe it’s just not in the cards for us. We might have to massively scale our day back to be able to afford it. But if we are married at the end of the day and we are surrounded by the people who love us most then that’s all that matters.

Wedding Wednesday: Resisting the urge to elope


Balser-Balser Edits-0010Just kidding. Kind of.

I’m hitting the point in our wedding planning where everything just seems too expensive, too hard to organize, too hard to find the right thing, etc. It just seems so crazy to spend so much money on the wedding when it could be going to something else like students loans or a down payment for a house.

We aren’t really going to elope because I’ve always wanted a wedding and reception. I’d never forgive myself if we didn’t do it.

But why is everything so expensive?

I keep thinking of the scene in Father of the Bride where Steven Martin is pulling the extra hot dog buns out of the package in the store because he doesn’t need them. I totally get it now.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about how we are going to get everything together by September and if that means making it even smaller then that’s what we will have to do.

Any advice for how to cut costs or be creative with things like the food?