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Wedding Bills…


A friend of mine got married this weekend. He and his beautiful new bride, despite desires to keep up with the lavish weddings of friends, held a small wedding with a cheese and cracker reception. Instead of spending money on a one day celebration, they invested their money into a home.

When my husband and I married, money was no option. Meaning, my parents and I had no money – so spending it wasn’t an option. Somehow, my parents and my husband’s parents made our wedding feel like a grand affair. Maybe it was because they chose to emphasize the celebration aspect and skip the uber competitive stuffed chicken dinner with seafood appetizers and an open bar.

I loved our wedding. It was beautiful – without a huge price tag.

I’ve been to a LOT of weddings over the last few years. All were high priced sit down dinners with open bars – no doubt, they were fun. My friend who married on Sunday was the first to say no to keeping up with the Joneses.

How much did you spend on your wedding? Was it the right amount? Too much? Too little?


  • Reply Dollar Bill |

    $200 at a quickie chapel. 10 years later I have no regrets! I wore my Mom’s dress to save money, had a family friend make my flowers, and as a wedding gift one of our friend’s paid for everyone to have dinner at a local steakhouse after the ceremony. The only expense was the $200 ceremony, the marriage license, and renting my hubby a tux.

  • Reply Mysti |

    We got married in January 1998, and at that time, the average wedding was about $25,000. Ours was about $13,000, all of which we paid for ourselves. We had a 6pm wedding, with a cocktail hour and sit down dinner. No open bar, but did have wine and beer. No honeymoon (something I now regret).

    It was beautiful and fun. Sure, I would have loved to have had a few other things, but they weren’t in the budget. I don’t feel that we missed anything as a whole.

  • Reply Amy |

    Very cheap! My parents didn’t have a lot at the time and I paid for most of it myself while a full time student with 2 jobs! It was beautiful, but if I had it to do over again…I would have just eloped to an Island and had a honeymoon and wedding all in one. No money was left for a honeymoon…which I really regret. But most of all…the family drama is the worst. Our extended family members found every way possible to ruin my day! So many people are jealous and selfish…it is best to just do what you want to do and don’t try to put on a show for anyone else.

  • Reply Lauren |

    We spent around 15K on a 200 person wedding, generously paid by my parents, in 2008.

    I do feel that is a lot less than most people spend (maybe not people on pf blogs, ha ha) but I don’t really have any regrets about spending/not having items. My dress was one I liked the most at a going out of business sale, not one I actually loved & it would have been nice to offer our guests a cocktail hour, but I don’t think they really minded.

    I did absolutely DETEST people who told me I was wasing money and to put it all towards a house & when I asked what they did, “oh, we had a big wedding.” Hypocrites.

    And in my case, the money was a gift from my parents for the wedding; they would not have given me any money I spent under their 15K budget.

    A lot of the wedding costs are for the families – there were people at my wedding that I wouldn’t have recognized on the street, but they were 2nd cousings, great aunts, etc and it was important to my parents or in-laws that they come.

  • Reply Happily Married |

    My wife and I were married in November, 2010. We had committed ourselves to paying off our debt and decided not to have an expensive affair. We decided to go to Las Vegas and it couldn’t have worked out better for us. We were lucky to have about 40 close friends and family make the trip with us. It was amazing and relatively cheap, as well. I believe we spent around $5,800, including air-fare, wedding package, buffet reception, and gambling money. We’re going back to celebrate our 1st anniversary this November. By the way, that will be after we pay of our remaining $29,000 in debt. The $29,000 includes my student loan and our second mortgage which should be paid off by July of this year. I highly doubt we would have been able to pay this remaining debt off by July, 2010 had we spent $20,000 to $30,000 on a large wedding celebration. Best to all and here’s to living within one’s means!

  • Reply cassie |

    we spent about 6000 for our wedding.. and that includes a 2000$ honeymoon! so really only $4000 for the wedding. we had buffet style dinner with very simple foods and our reception was underneath a bowling alley (you cant hear the lanes.. i swear it wasnt as ghetto as it sounds!) so it was crazy cheap. our ceremony was outdoors at a local park and we spent $0 on flowers and decor because the park was already so beautiful.

    if i had to do it again, i wouldnt do it all the same, id probably go even cheaper and have a lunch instead of a dinner. and id also probably splurge and get us a hotel room for the night instead of going back home after the wedding. 🙂

  • Reply Hilary |

    My husband and I eloped a year and a half ago. I was working for a resort chain at the time, so we got 2 nights in a Aspen condo (a sister resort) for $100, and we got married at the Aspen Town Hall, which was $10. Anything else we spent was on meals at cute but not outrageous restaurants. Oh, and we bought “wedding cake” too (a bag of Oreos!) Our wedding weekend cost less than $300. We still call Oreos wedding cake!

  • Reply Eddie |

    18 years ago: Hired a Justice of the Peace, and rented the Grand Hall of Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester for the afternoon on a closed day (only a w$100.00 was donation requested).

    We were the first to ask to use their Grand Hall (has original knights of armor and heraldry) for a wedding. We invited immediate family and best friends only (that was a short list)…the museum staff even provided coffee and donuts.

    Since it was the closed day for the Museum, we didn’t know they were doing renovation work on the 3rd floor above the gallery. The super had the work crew stop for the ceremony, and after the vows the construction crew were in the balconies above and all cheered and clapped. We were absolutely surprised!

    Best. Wedding. Ever.

  • Reply writergirl |

    My fiance and I plan on spending what we can afford. I love him in part because he thinks the same way about finances and family as I do. We each own a house – we’re moving into mine and keeping his as a rental property – so we don’t have to worry about saving for a down payment. We agreed: this will be the biggest party we’ve ever thrown! But we won’t go into debt to do it. We have our emergency funds intact with one year of expenses, and we have a $15,000 wedding fund, and honey child, I will be spending every last penny of that wedding fund!! LOL!!!

    First we picked our rings, and we put aside $2,500 for our honeymoon to Italy’s Amalfi coast (shoulder season! a bargain for 10 days), leaving us with $11,000.

    Then we made a guest list of everyone we want to be there – real friends (not just people with whom we eat lunch at work, people we actually see socially), old friends we still e-mail or visit, relatives including first cousins and their families, close friends of our parents (the ones we consider honorary aunts and uncles). And … It came to 150 people! It’s a lot but we thought celebrating with the people who matter to us is the most important thing. Instead of the country club which is typical where our parents live, we’ll be having a daytime wedding in the church I grew up in, and an afternoon reception (a lunch, really) at the newly renovated recreation center near the church. It was only $500 to rent the room because my parents live in the town, and the tables, chairs and linens are included in the fee. The caterer is also providing waitstaff and a bartender, china and glasses. While we’ll only be serving beer and wine at our “open bar,” I’m pleased we’re going to be able to offer our guests a great buffet meal with beverages for $40 per person. The $7,500 total (also including tips, renting the room, and the deejay) gave me pause initially, but when we checked with restaurants and other catering facilities in our area for their prices on a Saturday, they were charging twice as much just for the meal!

    Our flower budget is $1,000. We’ll probably buy two flower sprays for the altar, which is considered a donation to the church because they use it for the week. The rest is for bouquets and a couple pew decorations for immediate family at the front of the church. We’re doing simple hydrangea arrangements on the tables at the reception, which are going to cost $100 for flowers; the vases we collected from friends and family.

    The rest, about $2,500, is going toward 1) a limo to bring me to the church and whisk us away to the reception; 2) invitations, 3) gifts for the bridal party and parents, 4) small picture frames for favors that are also serving as seating cards for guests, and 5) photography. I’m lucky I have a wide selection of photographer friends to choose from. Two offered to take casual shots and I told them to go wherever they want during the party to get the shots they want. They’re not working but both wanted to do this as a gift to us. The third (yes, I have three photographers!) is my official photographer, who comes equipped with lighting equipment and his wife, his videographer, to shoot the ceremony and group photos. They are also friends are doing it for half their usual fee, another gift.

    And… and this is where I feel like a fraud …. our very generous parents bought our wedding attire (a suit and new shoes for him and my dress, veil and shoes cost $2,000) and they are paying for a night at a fancy hotel for us newlyweds ($300). His parents are also hosting our wedding rehearsal dinner, which is a casual home cooked meal at their house for 20 people, and mine are having out-of-town relatives over for brunch the day after. I have no idea what that will cost them. We are very lucky.

  • Reply Nichole |

    We got married in 1996. I think the average wedding was somewhere over $20,000 at that point. We spent about $12,000. That was split between both of my parents, myself (THE dress), and my husband and myself (the photos and album). It was beautiful and fun and I wouldn’t change a thing!

  • Reply Gwen |

    We spent under $3000 on a surprise wedding with our immediate families & grandparents. The “engagement party” was where we announced the wedding date, which was that night. The cost included dinner, transportation between the restaurant & church, a new dress for me & new shirt for him, photographer, flowers, and 2 nights at a swanky hotel in town. It was perfect for us.

  • Reply Brianne |

    We’re getting married this June. We’ll be spending about $10K-$12k depending on how many people end up coming. The guest list keeps growing because his parents want to keep adding on family from the opposite coast. Everyone loves coming to LA so I have a feeling almost everyone we invite will want to come. We’re doing everything as cheaply as possible but it still adds up, especially in Southern California.

  • Reply Abigail |

    I have to tot it up, but I’d say about $2,000 (maybe less?) not including rings or honeymoon.

    We used gift cards to get a buffet going with cold cuts/crackers/cheeses/rolls/fruit/veggies/some sides like potato salad. Everyone loved it. Probably because it wasn’t just one or two choices of what to eat. It also allowed us to invite guests up to the last minute!

    I paid $500 for my dress. We paid $300 for the maid of honor’s dress/alterations because she was paying for her own airfare across the country. I’m sure there are more details but I’ve been meaning to write a post about this so I’m off to strike while the iron is hot!

  • Reply ellen |

    Our wedding cost around $2,000.00 including our rings, clothing, and a weekend honeymoon. Very simple, romantic, and memorable.

  • Reply Ronnie |

    We’re getting married next year; I’m budgeting for $15,000-$12,000 for the wedding and $3,000 for the honeymoon. We want an open bar and sit down dinner and bunches of friends to come and party like a rockstar. Our parents aren’t paying for it, and we’re not going into debt for it. We’ll use as many connections as we can to cut down costs, but since we’re paying for it, we’re gonna do it our way.

  • Reply Taheerah |

    I married this past May (whoo hoo!), and everyone kept telling me and my husband that our wedding was the most beautiful one they’ve ever gone to (many of these people were either adults or old folks too, so I imagine they’ve gone to plenty weddings!). Excluding our rings, we paid about $5000 for everything, including the photographers (we had 2 photographers, and a videographer)! It’s amazing what you can do with research, patience and goal-setting.

    We held our ceremony at a city park (Chicago), and this park was right on the lakefront (absolutely gorgeous), so the guests were overlooking pristine blue waters as we took our vows. The ceremony location, all things included, was about $600.

    I asked my grandfather if we could use his car for the weekend (a beautiful white Cadillac), so we didn’t worry about expensive limos/transportation. My mom, a seamstress, made my wedding gown. We held our cocktail hour and reception at a great French restaurant in downtown Chicago, but we scaled down the list for the reception to only our closest friends/family. For those planning a wedding now, trust me, people won’t be offended; they’ll understand!

    For a sit-down, 4 course reception for 60 people, we paid $3000 for everything (which is an unheard of deal, if anyone knows Chicago)! Our vegan wedding cake was $250, but we allowed that splurge to introduce our largely carnivorous families to healthy eating that’s tasty. To this day, people still ask for the restaurant info where we catered our cake from!

    We had live entertainment during the cocktail hour ( a friend did this for free), and even a violinist at the wedding who did an excellent job providing background music and my bridal processional music (she was only $75 for 4 hours; found her via craigslist).

    What else…we had excellent parched-paper invites with real flowers imbedded within the paper; I scored the invites from Micheal’s for only $40 (for 100 invites). We also had a wedding website ($40) constructed so people could RSVP online rather than send have me double-up on postage. My floral arrangement was a bridal bouquet, 6 corsages and 4 wrist corsages for my bridesmaids, totaling about $125.

    The photo/video package, normally in the thousands, was only $500 because we leveraged the amount of people vying to shoot our wedding to our photographer prospects.

    We “honeymooned” at the Dana Hotel and Spa in downtown Chicago for three days, paying only the equivalent of one night because my husband knew the manager.

    I purchased my husbands beautiful flat tungsten steel 10mm ring for $100 bucks, and my 1.5 carat ring was not more than 2k, and there’s not a cloudy diamond in my set! 🙂

    I can say I think we could have cut the reception list by about 10 more people, but hindsight is always the clearest, and I am perfectly happy with the money we spent, and where it went.

    All in all, I recognize that being frugal not only during these tough and trying economic times is crucial, but it’s even more vital to make disciplined money management and fiscal knowledge a habit period, no matter the economic climate.

    AT THE SAME TIME, most people will always want to have a nice, beautiful and fun wedding. They want the white Bentley, the 200 person plated-receptions, the 5-piece bands to play for 6 hours, they want to give the $50 and $100 tips and take the week-long trip to Hawaii once it’s all over.

    The only thing we didn’t fully “do” was honeymoon, that is, we didn’t travel on a plane to some distant island. But with that “honeymoon” money, we chose to invest in stocks, and thanks to Ford Motor Company having that upside swing, we are too smiling newly-weds to this day.

  • Reply Julie |

    We spent 7K on a 60-guest wedding and 2K on our honeymoon. I do not regret a cent we spent. We had open bar, a beautiful outdoor garden wedding by a waterfall going into a koi pond, bountiful good food, a good DJ that also got everyone dancing, and a private back room.

  • Reply jennifer youngblood |

    We’re not married yet but I’ve already priced it out and am against spending more than $10,000. I’ve currently ballparked the figures, after some research, and it sits at $8K. We’d be paying it ourselves and even that is a lot of hard earned money!! (I’m a grad student.) It will only be that “high” if we have a bigger wedding (60-80 people) and if the dress I fall in love with is expensive (~$1-2K). Being a frugal gal at heart I’d much rather spend $300-$500 on a very pretty dress, and I’d be very surprised if I was willing to part with more than that for a dress I’ll wear once. However, I’ve budgeted way more than that just in case, since I didn’t get to go to prom and haven’t had that kind of experience before. I want to feel beautiful! I’d be totally fine with a few witnesses in a beautiful local park/botanical garden, etc, so then our wedding is more in the $2K range. All depends what he wants.

    I of course don’t judge what is important to other people. For me, I want a pretty dress and good food (good doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, and I prefer buffet style) for our guests. I think he’d be most concerned with an open bar for people to enjoy themselves. So those would be our main expenses: dress, food, alcohol, and even those don’t have to be pricey! (I live in California so it is a bit tricky.)

  • Reply Claire in CA, USA |

    In 1991, in Southern California, we spent a mere $3,000.00, which inluded my dress, my maid-of-honor’s dress, the flowers, church, music, reception (a beautiful cake and coffee/punch only), photographer and videographer.

    I don’t remember what we spent on our honeymoon, but we just went to San Diego for a few days and came home early to spend time with dh’s brother and his wife, who were visiting from out of state.

    If I had to do it all over, I would be a little more extravagant with the reception. My view is a little skewed on this, since a co-worker got married the weekend before I did, and the ceremony and reception were at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Quite a contrast to my simple little church wedding, with reception in the church hall.

  • Reply Samantha |

    Our flower budget is $1,000. We’ll probably buy two flower sprays for the altar, which is considered a donation to the church because they use it for the week. The rest is for bouquets and a couple pew decorations for immediate family at the front of the church. We’re doing simple hydrangea arrangements on the tables at the reception, which are going to cost $100 for flowers; the vases we collected from friends and family.

  • Reply Bonniecello |

    The whole affair probably cost $1500 back in 1979. My mom and dad proudly arranged for the music — a accordion player!! Now THAT was a surprise.

    Must have worked tho — we’ve been happily married over 30 years!

  • Reply Kristie |

    Our wedding cost $500 in Eureka Springs, AR in 1997 at a Bed & Breakfast. This included the champagne, a small wedding cake, the minister, photography, and a beautiful outdoor ceremony. It also included our room for 3 nights at the Bed & Breakfast and spending money. We loved it and had my parents there. My stepdad bought our dinner for us, mom and him, and my dad and his wife.

    I would do it all over again, but the people married that morning got a better deal… a momma deer and her baby came up and ate during their ceremony.

  • Reply petal |

    We were married almost 26 years ago. We were both military and we decided to elope. We were stationed in Europe and the travel agent who catered to the military got us a package. $750 to be married and that included the hotel for our honeymoon. When our friends found out, all we heard was how lucky we were. When our relatives found out, we heard how we ripped them off, lol. Oh well. We’re still together and I’m still happy we eloped.

  • Reply Rachel |

    We were married a few years ago and spent around $2,000 for everything. Most of the money was spent on our photographer and renting a small park space. Sadly though we charged it to our credit cards (and got out a cash advance on one to pay the park). This means that by the time we finally pay off our credit card we will have paid much more for the wedding. Looking back we wish we would have done something more like Gwen, just set our date, invite friends over and get married somewhere simple (we joke now that we should have been married in our apartment living room). I’m curious how many people responding here also made the mistake of charging their wedding to a credit card. Anything more than we had saved for the wedding was too much to spend on it.

  • Reply Maura |

    Every few months we see articles about the real cost of weddings, whether from a ROI aspect for what you could do with the money. These articles are always commented on race to the bottom numbers about the least amount of money someone spent.

    What is insulting about these articles and comments is that it has the tone that people should feel bad about having money to spend; that the couple is frivolous or lavish or foolish to spend money in this capacity. And if you only spent $200, $3000 or $10000, somehow these couples are celebrated.

  • Reply CanadianDebtGirl |

    We spent $6K on our wedding. We went away to a 5+ star resort down south (Dominican Republic) and invited all our family and friends. 35 people came with us! At the resort we had a formal ceremony and a sit down, 5 course meal, that was paid for by us for our guests.

    When we came home, we threw another party, with open bar and appetizers and a live musician at a pub we rented for the evening.

    The cost of $6K included the cost of our trips down south, the entire celebration down south and the party back home (including the open bar).

    I saved money on my wedding dress (bought it used, then sold it when I was finished with it!) And by using the wedding package included with our trip to the resort. It was an amazing week.

  • Reply Chad |

    My wife and I spent very little on our wedding. Luckily we have a family friend who is a photographer so he did it for free. We had the ladies at our church make and serve the food for next to nothing. My wife got her wedding dress out of a Sears catalog for a very good price. I’m not sure what the grand total was as I did not pay it (her parents did), but it was cheap compared to a lot of weddings I’ve been to. My sister recently got married and spent A LOT which I can never understand.

  • Reply Sarah |

    We spent about $6k on our wedding. I only paid $450 for my dress and veil. We did all the food, flowers, decorating, and invitations ourselves. It was at a vineyard so we did have an open “bar” but it was wine only and his dad ended up picking up the $300 tab on that anyway. Also, there were only about 40 people there including our family and wedding party so it was really small. Now we wish we had gone to Vegas.

So, what do you think ?