When Sam and I decided to get married, one thing was clear: We were not going to splurge on a wedding. I wanted to elope, but Sam wanted a wedding, so we began planning. The average cost of a wedding is about $30,000. We are incredibly practical people, so spending enough money to put a down payment on a house for one party was out of the question. We set a goal of spending $5,000 knowing that we would probably go over and spend closer to $10,000. But the more we planned, the more we realized how little we really needed and the more we got excited about proving that we could actually make a wedding with more than 150 guests (we have HUGE families) happen on a shoestring budget. Here is how we did it...
1. Think outside of the box when selecting a location. From the start we decided we didn't want to spend money on a venue. Originally we hoped to have our wedding on a farm that belongs to one of Sam's mom's friends. But since we live in the South, we knew we had to plan for rain, and it turns out that tent rentals are just as expensive as renting a venue. After that idea failed we were ready to give up. We spent a long time brainstorming and came up emptyhanded. Sam's boss had told him that we could use the event space at Paris on Ponce, but I wanted a minimalist aesthetic and it is anything but. Finally, one night we realized that we could transform the shop at Paris on Ponce into a space we could use for the ceremony. Total Expense $0.
2. Pool your resources and prioritize where you want to spend money. I really didn't want to compromise too much on food. Food is very important to me. So we knew this would be a big portion of our budget. Rather than going around having tastings at caterers, we asked our friends in the food industry for help. Our friend Abbey works for our favorite restaurant group in Atlanta and offered to get the food for us for 1/2 off. With 150 guests, this was a lifesaver. And Abbey happens to be an event coordinator so she ended up becoming our unofficial wedding planner. Sam and I have never been cake people, so we asked my best friend Emily of Whisk and Whittle to make desserts for us. She made 8 pies at cost. And everyone told us they were the best pies they had ever had. We bought cheap wine at Trader Joe's and a friend at Orpheus Brewing provided the beer. Total Expense $2800. *If I could do it all over again I would just order 30 pizzas from our favorite pizzeria and we could have saved another $1500.
3. Anything can be a wedding dress. The idea of going to a bridal store felt so out of character to me that it was out of the question from the start. I browsed white dresses everywhere I went. One day I found a white dress in a bin for $20. I tried it on and thought it would be a good dress for fall and spring. It wasn't until later that I realized that it would make a perfect wedding dress. It also wasn't until later that I realized I had tried it on backwards. The day before the wedding I went into one of my favorite shops, Henry and June, to get an iced coffee and walked out with a pair of white pants by Shaina Mote and a Kaarem top. This was far more than I had intended to spend on a wedding dress, but it felt right. Plus as separates I can wear them again. I did my own makeup. It was so hot that it was going to melt off anyway. Lastly, the amazing Tiffany Kunz loaned me some jewelry to wear. Total Expense $500.
4. Use a small band or make a playlist. We knew before we were even engaged who we wanted to play at our wedding. Adron. Adron is one of our favorite musicians ever and it just so happens that she lives in Atlanta and went to high school with Sam. Having Adron play was non-negotiable. In order to keep the music budget under control we had her and her drummer play without the rest of the band. This cut the music cost in half. And it was incredible. I only wish I could have slowed down to listen more. When she wasn't playing we played music on an iPod. Total Expense $800.
5. Less is more. And nothing is necessary. Decor is optional. Really. Instead of table cloths, we bought muslin at the fabric store and cut it to cover the tables. We bought tea lights at Ikea and small glasses from Goodwill to put them in. Paris On Ponce is an artisan furniture/decor and antique store so we borrowed some rugs and poufs from one vendor and some benches from another to create an area for the ceremony. Everyone except for our family stood which allowed us to avoid renting chairs. We hung some plants that I already had at home around the "altar." We originally planned on having some flowers, but as the day drew closer it felt impractical and wasteful. I love flowers, but it just didn't feel worth it. And I didn't miss them at all. Emily did insist that I needed a bouquet though, and ran outside and clipped some flowers to make me one. Total Expense $100.
6. Use non-professionals. Wedding photography is VERY expensive. As someone that rarely photographs well, I didn't want to pay thousands of dollars for photos where my eyes are half-closed (which from the way I photograph you would think was how my face is permanently stuck). Instead I asked my friend Elisabeth who had just graduated high school and whose mother is a photographer. She takes beautiful photos and all we really needed was some documentation of the night. In the end we were incredibly lucky, because her mother, Patricia O'Driscoll, generously offered to come photograph as well. Instead of paying a catering team, we asked Elisabeth's sister and friend to help refill food trays. We also purchased eco-friendly disposable plates so that we didn't need anyone to wash dishes. And we let guests pour their own wine instead of using a bartender. Total Expense $350.
There were a few miscellaneous expenses such as valets, an officer, some cheap invites we ordered online, but all together our total expenses came to $5000. And we had an amazing time and absolutely no regrets. We had a private picnic on the roof after the ceremony and then watched the sunset on the beltline with our friends and family.
If you have more questions about our Midsummer Wedding, leave a comment below!