Planning a Green Frugal Wedding for Less Than $5000

Bride and Groom | Source: mags20_eb on FlickrWell folks, its official…I’m married! The wedding was absolutely perfect! Perfect weather, perfect setting, perfect guests – perfect day! We couldn’t have asked for more. Oddly enough, my fiancee-now-wife and I planned almost identical surprises for each other during our vows. If that’s not made-to-be, then I don’t know what is.

Over the last few months, I’ve posted about some of the decisions we made regarding invitations, food, the venue, guests and dishware. Now that the wedding is done, and we’ve added up all the expenses, I’m going to break it down for you and show you how we threw a green wedding for 75 people for less than $5000. In actuality, our final amount is closer to $6000, but that’s only because we received a few financial gifts in the weeks leading up to the wedding, and so I decided to buy completely new wedding attire from head to toe, and we decided to stay in a bed and breakfast the night before and after the wedding. If not for the gifts, I would have worn a suit I already had and we would have slept at home and the wedding would have cost less than $5000.

The simple fact is that we were able to throw the perfect wedding for under $5000 because we maximized the talents of our network of friends and family. A high school friend of my wife’s is a semi-professional photographer, and worked the entire event for free. A university friend is a documentary filmmaker, and videoed all the key events of the wedding for free. Another friend who is a carpenter built a canopy out of birch trees for us to get married under. Another friend, whose Mom is into floral artistry as a hobby, did all our centerpieces using wildflowers as a wedding gift. One friend loaned us an outdoor speaker system from her work at no charge so we could have an outdoor dance party. Finally, another friend who is big into baking made us a two-tiered wedding cake for free.

We also saved some money by going the DIY route. I used my own DSLR camera and laptop to setup a DIY photobooth, which our guests loved! We used an iPod and preprogrammed all our music playlists for the entire night in order to save money on a DJ or band. And of course, since our wedding was a potluck, all of the food was provided by our guests in lieu of wedding gifts. To rent or purchase all of these items/services would have cost us thousands of dollars. There is just no way around it – the best, simplest, easiest way to save money at a wedding is to utilize your network and take advantage of the skills of your friends and family. By the way, I should mention that of all these favours and gifts, we only asked for one of them – the videography. All of the others were unsolicited and graciously offered to us by our friends, in most cases immediately after announcing our engagement to them.

Here is a breakdown of the rest of our expenses:

Venue – $1700
This was easily the most expensive component of our wedding, but for that price, we got the building for an entire weekend – from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. This allowed us to set everything up on Friday night/Saturday morning for our Saturday afternoon/evening wedding, and we didn’t have to do any cleanup until Sunday. Having so much time made everything a little less stressful. The price also included all the tables and chairs necessary for the event, and the venue had a full kitchen, bar and speaker system for speeches, etc.

Open Bar – $900
The second most significant expense for the wedding was the open bar. Since we were having a potluck and all our guests were footing the food bill, we decided the nice way to repay them was to have an open bar. This amount provided 36 bottles of local, organic wine, 144 bottles of local, craft beer, about 70 single-serving bottles of natural, non-Coke, non-Pepsi product pop, and 24 L of organic flavoured lemonades. All in all, we wound up serving about 75% of all the drinks we purchased. Almost all the beer and pop was consumed, while only 2/3 of the wine and 1/2 of the lemonade got drunk. This amount also includes the cost of a liquor license to serve the alcohol.

Wedding Dress – $500
The next most significant expense was the wedding dress. My wife bought the dress at a non-profit second-hand wedding dress shop where all the proceeds from dress sales go to a local charity. The dress itself was $250, and it cost another $250 in alterations to make the dress look and fit her vision.

Wedding Officiant – $400
This was without a doubt the most unreasonable, wedding-inflated expense of the whole experience. For this price, we got two 30-60 minute meetings with our officiant prior to the ceremony, a ceremony script that was so bad we rewrote almost the entire thing ourselves, and two hours of our officiant’s time at the venue on the day of. To boot, she was totally unrehearsed and unorganized, and flubbed several parts of the ceremony. I don’t think our guests noticed it as much as we did, but no matter, we stole the show anyways. 😉

Dishware Rental – $360
I did a separate post about the pros and cons of buying vs. renting dishware for the wedding. Originally, we were going to buy part of the dishware, but eventually we found a rental agency that was significantly cheaper than the first few we had gotten quotes from and we ended up renting everything.

Rings – $340
We took a workshop to design and fabricate our own sterling silver rings from raw materials. The price included a six-hour hands-on workshop and all the materials required. Great value and our rings have so much more meaning to them now!

Staff – $240
We hired two people (one known to us personally, one referred by a friend), at a rate of around $15/hour, to run the bar and the potluck at the wedding. Well worth the money!!

Decorations – $150
We made hundreds of yarn pom-poms, which we later plan to turn into a rug. Otherwise, for the most part, we tried as much as possible to reuse or repurpose items that we already had.

Marriage License – $140
The minimum cost to get married in Ontario.

Guestbook – $90
I made a photo guestbook using Blurb that documented our relationship in pictures from start to today, and had a bunch of blank pages at the back for friends and family to sign. Everyone loved it!

Total – $4820

There you have it! A wedding for under $5000, though thanks in a big way to all our friends and family who helped us out for the event.

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13 thoughts on “Planning a Green Frugal Wedding for Less Than $5000

  1. Congratulations! I got married earlier this month and we came in a little bit higher than your budget. I think the idea of a potluck is genius, especially if you have friends & fam who like to cook and live close to the wedding destination.

    • Thanks! The potluck worked out really well, though we were definitely glad we hired someone to oversee everything (i.e. making sure food got heated at the appropriate times, put out at the right times, etc.) Without that person, it would have been a lot more stressful to coordinate a potluck for such a large group – forgot to mention it in my original post, but we had 75 guests, so the potluck was pretty big. For guests that were coming in from out of town, we recommended that they bring things that they could buy at a grocery store, like fruit and veggie platters, bread rolls or pastries.

  2. Wow, a whole wedding for less than $5k, great job on this one. You sure you’re not cheating a bit? $4820 is awefully close to your limit, did you end up renting a car? If not maybe just add the gas 🙂

    • Nope, not cheating one bit! No car rental – our wedding venue was only about 10 km away from our apartment. Like I said, we maximized our network and repurposed whatever we could. For example, my mother-in-law had huge rolls of white and yellow craft paper lying around. So we used that to cover the tables instead of renting table cloths, and then we bought a few boxes of crayons, which we spread out onto all the tables. The guests loved being able to draw and leave messages all over the tables. Then cleanup was a cinch, just rip the paper off all the tables and recycle it.

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  5. Right on! I thought I commented on this post already but apparently not. That is so motivating that you met your wedding budget because it just seems the more I look at all the things we need, the more our budget seems unrealistic. I’ll definitely be checking out your other wedding posts for tips! And how did you set up your DSLR for a photobooth? I was thinking of doing the same thing but I don’t really know how. Is there a specific computer program you used?

  6. This is clearly the power of budgeting and focus.You made sure all the leaks were closed and never needed to spend on the unecessary

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