Friday, April 1, 2011

The RealityCHECK Series: How Much Wedding You Can Get For $6000

My RealityCHECK Series continues this week using the lovely total of $6000.  $6k to get married?  Yes.  Follow along.............

Core Factor:  When your dollars are short, tight, meager, modest - you have to be extremely realistic about what's doable...and what isn't.  Sure, it might be nice to invite everyone you know to celebrate your marriage, but in reality - it's not possible.  I don't care what the magazines, blogs and television shows tell you...having 200 guests + a wedding budget of $6k = no bueno y not happening. {so much for my Spanish!}.

What you can have is a emphatically intimate event - surrounded by those few people who mean the most to the BOTH of you.  Love is always the common denominator, so that alone is a really huge gift.  Think small, think tailored, think unique.  Here's what I've come up with for a spending parameter of approimately $6000:

Wedding Party:
Now is NOT the time for 25 bridesmaids and groomsmen, 4 flower girls and three ringbearers (side note: I've always wondered WHY people have more than two ringbearers in the wedding - there are only TWO rings!!).  Do you have a best friend/homegirl who has supported you in this relationship? Fine - she's your maid or matron of honor.  Does he have a buddy that has traveled with him through thick and thin?  Perfect - he gets the job of best man.  

Notice - I didn't mention anyone else.  That's on purpose because honestly, you cannot afford to have a full blown "court" of belles and beaus standing up there with you.  Hey...I'm just keeping it real.

Wedding Guests:
Just like the wedding party - keep it simple.  On the low end, 15 guests.  On the higher part of the totem pole, 45-50 people.  Remember - you have to FEED these folks, so that needs to be on the front-burner as you move forward with this planning.

Venue {ceremony}:
You can opt for either a civil ceremony or a religious one.  Depending on your location, a classic civil ceremony can range from $40 - $75.  It's short and sweet - nothing more, nothing less.  If you decide to get married in a place of worship, your cost to have the ceremony in their location will vary based on the policies they have in place.  Some churches/temples allow current members in good standing to get hitched at no cost, while others assess a fee.  If you do not belong to a congregation - the work gets a little trickier, as many churches don't "rent out" their facilities to non-members.  The ones that do will charge a fee, which can be as low as $200 or as high as $3k (which is so NOT in your budget!).  Also, consider getting married at home.  Yep - at home.

Cost: Free (at your home) to $600 (rented facility/house of worship)

Venue {reception}:
If you took the civil ceremony route, consider hosting lunch or dinner at a favorite eatery - you can get a prix-fixe (price fixed) menu at a great rate which will save you considerable dollars.  Going out to celebrate can also work if you've decided to get married in a church - when the "I Do's " are said, everyone heads to their cars and over to the locale you've chosen.

Option B: Host a "receiving reception" after the ceremony {this works really well if you were married in a place of worship}.  This type of gathering is your basic "cake and punch" affair, where you and your new spouse meet and greet your guests in the facility's fellowship hall or other communal area.  Wedding cake and a sparkling punch are on the menu, the time committment is short (under 2  hours).  Or, as I mentioned previously - get married at home.

Costs: Free (at your place of residence)  - $400 (house of worship)

The Reception (Food/Beverage):
This is the one part of the budget which takes the biggest hit.  It costs money to feed folks - period.  So if you've got a tight budget - think smartly and wisely about your food components.  I'm going to put this out there because it's the truth:  YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE A RECEPTION.  There are no wedding police or matrimonial gods who are going to hunt you down if a reception is not in your cards.  Seriously.

A reception is truly designed to celebrate your marriage - and you can make that happen in so many ways:
1) The aforementioned "receiving reception":  Once you've said "I DO", have some cake and punch available for people to enjoy as you make your rounds - hugging everyone, getting kissed on the cheek and in general, being wished well as you embark on a new journey.  Your honor attendants (and parents, if you wish) can make toasts, you can smile and you can enjoy being surrounded by those who love you.  The cost of this reception style is very can get cake from the local bakery (or supermarket for sheet sizes), have a family friend whip up a tasty punch using juices and sodas,  purchase high quality dessert plates, forks, cups and napkins from a party store, rent a simple linen for your service table....and voila!  Reception!

2) The "lunch" or "dinner" scenario:  You'd be surprised at how reasonable group rates are at local establishments are, especially mid-week.  Many area restaurants have private or semi-private spaces available within their properties that can host you and your guests.  What a wonderful way to celebrate - you arrive, you are served a marvelous meal, you are with the people that matter most AND you don't have to clean up :)

Costs: $25 per person (lunch) to $50 per person (dinner)

In my previous post which started off this series, I mentioned that a lot of people do not include the cost of theire wedding day "finery" in the overall spending budget.  I'm going to keep that same train of thought here with a "caveat" - If you wish to buy a traditional wedding dress and make it a part of the budget, think SMART.  Check out sample sales at local bridal stores, use the Internet to score huge deals on previously worn dresses or for discontinued items that retailers are trying to get rid of, and of course - take a gander at the dresses available for $99 at David's Bridal (or similar chain store).  Smart shopping CAN net you a beautiful dress that originally cost a fortune, but now the price is just RIGHT for your pocketbook!

Costs: The range runs the gamut from "not in the budget" to $399 (for a pre-owned dress or discontinued item).  For the groom - he can wear his own classic dark dress suit or splurge and rent a tuxedo.  Count on $69 - $125 for his formal rental attire.

Wedding Rings: 
The tangible symbol or representation to the world that you are "hitched".  While some couples don't include it in their budget, others do.  Take a look at estate sales, the Internet (QVC has some great deals on jewelry), the membership warehouses like Sam's Club or Costco, and.....Walmart.  Yes...Walmart - that bastion of consumer discounts sells wedding rings and bands.  At a low cost.  And they're not too shabby either.  Look, if you're worried about what people will "think" because your ring came from a non-traditional source, I'm here to tell you - DON'T.  It's none of their business and none of their concern.  You and your soon-to-be husband or wife have a life to live after this is all over, so unless someone else is willingly forking up dollars to fund your nuptials, they have nothing to say. {rant over - thanks for listening!}

Costs: $0 - $500

While you could just "spread the word" amongst those you wish to attend, a $6000 budget will allow you to have a bit of "paper collateral" for this occasion.  If you're crafty enough and have the TIME to devote to the project - make your own.  If not - professionals can handle the job for you.  You can browse online at the myriad of stationers and companies who offer low cost invitations while also checking out local vendors who can create something simply unique for your event.

Word of caution: An invitation sets the tone of an event.  Even if you're opting for the DIY route - make sure it's clean, tasteful and nice.  Just because it's "homemade", it shouldn't look as if you had your children do the work.  And it shouldn't look cheap - shop around for the nice papers and finished envelopes.  Many of the craft retailer such as Michaels or the large office supply stores like Staples have pre-made "kits" that are super simple and pretty at the same time.

Costs: $19.99 - $200

Within this spending range - you can get a few fresh florals into the picture.   Bouquets for the bride and her honor attendant, boutionierres for the groom and his best man.  If your parents or other primary family "figures" (meaning the persons who basically reared you) will be in attendance - spring for a tailored corsage and/or boutionierre for them also.  I'm not talking about giving EVERYONE in your family a flower..just the parental "units".  They deserve it.

When it comes to flowers as decor, I'll say this much: Consider a nice centepiece for your dining table..and call it a day. 

Costs: $175 (if you hit up your local supermarket) to $350 if you utilize the services of a traditional florist

My earlier post mentioned getting a professional to come in and shoot your ceremony - I still think it's a great idea, even with a $5000 budget.  But in this case - add a little more time on..have them shoot the ceremony and your post I DO celebration.  For about 3 hours of their time and your images on a CD, you could spend anywhere from $650 to $800 - depending on where you live and the expertise of the photographer.  These are definitely "photos to remember" :)

Cost: $650 - $800 

Wedding Cake:
What's a wedding without cake?  No matter how much you have to spend (or not), this is a time-honored "tradition" that should be included at every nuptial shindig!  For a small guest count - look at doing a decorated sheet cake or talk with a local bakery about making a two tiered traditional wedding confection.

Costs: $30 (for a half sheet cake) to $200 for a two tiered traditional wedding cake

This catergory is "event location dependent" - meaning where you decide to wed will help influence your decision to have music present..or not.   If you're going the house of worship route, ask if the organist can play processional and recessional music for you...or if a musically gifted friend/relative would be able to do the honors.  If the church/temple has sound equipment available, also think about burning your selected songs to a CD and having them played.

For your reception - recorded music is a viable option.  The cake and punch reception we were talking about earlier is the right setting for some great background sounds.  If you are at a restaurant, 99% of the time, there is soft music playing in the distance for ambiance....

Costs: $0 (for family/friend tinkling the ivories or burning your own CD/IPod playlist) to $150 for church organist services  

My suggestion for this area is going to be simple:  Carry yourselves.  Save the money.

Cost: $0 

The cost will vary based on whether or not you're using a Clerk Of The Court or your own religious leader.

Cost: $50 - $150

Marriage License:
This is what makes you married - not the ceremony :)

Cost: $35 - $75

Honeymoon: (I left the "goodies" for last...on purpose)
In the first installment of this series, I extolled the virtue of a one-nighter for your honeymoon.  Guess what?  I'm going to do it again - but we'll extend it for the weekend!  Consider becoming a tourist in your own city and spend a couple of glorious days doing so.  I live in Maryland, so at our doorstep lies the splendor of the mountains to the west, the frolicking surf of the beaches to the east and extremely cool metropolitan life in our largest city, Baltimore or just 40 miles south in the nation's capitol - Washington, DC.  Many hotels and resorts offer midweek and weekend packages that can fit your budget and give you the chance to "escape" to that romantic land known as the honeymoon :)

Cost: $250 - $500 (depending on locale and property) 

When we bring out the trusty calculator and add it UP = here's what we've got:
Venue (Ceremony): $0 - $600
Venue (Reception): $0 - $400
Food Costs (Reception): $25 - $50 pp/$375 -{15 guests:low end} or $2500 -{50 guests:high end}
Attire: $0 - $399 (bride)/ $0 - $125 (groom)
Wedding Rings: $0 {out of the budget}  - $500
Invitations: $19.99 - $200
Flowers: $175 - $350
Photography: $600 - $800
Wedding Cake: $30 -$200
Music: $0 - $150
Transportation: $0
Officiant: $50 - $150
Marriage License: $35 - $75
Honeymoon: $250 - $400

On the lower end of the scale, you'll spend approximately $1234.00 - using your home for the ceremony and reception.  At the other end of the spectrum, should you want to "go" more, the cost is around $6849 {$849 beyond the original cost...see how things add up?}.  If the attire and rings aren't a part of the picture, delete $1024 and you're at $5825!!
So...there you have it.  A wedding for around $6k or less.  Now it's your turn - tell me what you think!!!!!!


Mary said...

This is such a great post! As a wedding vendor, I think it's so important for couples to have realistic expectations as they plan for their wedding, in terms of what they can get for their money - and a budget that is realistic for their situation, rather than creating a financial strain that will linger past their wedding day.

On a more personal note, my husband bought a vintage engagement ring. I love that it has a history beyond our relationship and appreciate that he didn't spend more than what made sense for us. It's also eco-friendly, as no new materials were mined for the ring.

The budget for our own wedding was definitely well below the national average. We undertook a lot of DIY projects, some just the two of us, and others with our close friends and family. I'm not going to lie - it took time and was work, and we're crafty people - but it was also nice to share that time with our moms, my sisters, and our best friends and, on our wedding day, everything felt very personal and meaningful.

Mindy said...

I love this blog and now that I am ENGAGED! :) I love it even more! I can't wait for you to do the $10K budget since that will most like ly be mine. Thanks for all you do!

Fash Boulevard said...

I'm so excited I found your blog. I'm a new follower, I hope you will as well. I started my blog a little over a month ago. It's all about celebrity fashion from the point of view of an LA stylist. Stop by to see multiple post a day on all the latest celebrity fashion news and check out pictures from the fall/winter preview I attended yesterday in Beverly Hills. Would love your support. xoxo

KYEJUANA said...

Hello Mrs. Linnyette! I love you on Whose Wedding is it Anyway. Totally unrelated question: I got married in December 2009 and didn't have the wedding I have dreamed and planned on having since I was 11yrs old. Can we do something for our 2nd anniversary or is it too late? If we can have an event, what can we do? said...

this is an excellent article. very honest + helpful. i will share with my nashville-area brides! thank you.

Encore Bride said...

Thanks for this awesome post. I'm helping a friend/bride on her wedding and I can't believe they have 32 ppl on the wedding party (including parents) but they're on a tight budget! I think most ppl have no clue how much it costs to host a big party.

Mrs. SE said...

This is a great post- and spot on! You can totally do a wedding for 6k, it's just knowing where to spend the budget. Keep it up!

Dina said...

This is great information!

Anonymous said...

I love this blog. I cannot wait for the $15k blog... I'll keep reading my big day is next June...

iriske said...

your offer useful information thank u!!!

Muse said...

This is awesome information..Nice blog!!

Agnes Altenor Akoi said...

Hell there. I so love this post. I'm in the process of writing everything down and planning my wedding, which is for May 2012. My budget will be 10K, even though my husband (married in court) does not think that i'm being realistic. I want to show him that it can be done. Thanks so much for the great post.

Alicia L. said...

This is what I have been waiting for since I got engaged. Not everyone can do a 25k-50k wedding. I am not trying to please other people. Can't wait for you to do the 10K wedding

أخبار الدولار said...

wow, very helpful post , thanks so much i dont think it is possible, but its about what you want.

Ambiance Special Events said...

I just love this series. This is great advice for real brides that don't come from money. Crazy excited about sharing this with our blog readers. Thanks.

Sandra bearden said...

Great post! Lots of useful information. I want to point out that officiant rates vary throughout the country. Here in Maryland the average cost is closer to $300. We all try to work with couples to stay within their budget. A great resource for couples is the American Association of Wedding Officiants. Contact them to locate an officiant in your area.

Gwen Harrod said...

This was really informative, and REAL! You are right; the media can tell you that you can have the wedding of your dreams for "just pennies", but they're wrong! Either fork it over, or decide what's most important to you. Thanks for the very useful tips! Also, I'd love you to visit my blog at