My husband and I got married in 2013. At the time we really wanted to elope to save money (use it for things like furnishing our first place and traveling) and have an intimate celebration with our closest friends and family. But eloping wasn't cool then like it is now. Eloping was a way to get married in "secret" because I was either pregnant or we were being forced to get wed. Neither of those were true.
When we opted for a traditional wedding we knew we had to do it on a slim budget - $5,000.
That sounds like a lot of money to me! But I know for a wedding the average couple spends $25k-$35k in the USA. And that's the AVERAGE couple!
This can make planning a wedding really overwhelming because most vendors are used to that budget.
I learned sooo much planning my wedding on such a tight budget. Looking back I don't think I could have distributed the money better.
And you know what, coming out of our wedding we still had $1,000 left for our honeymoon! I was so proud.
So trust me when I say, planning a beautiful wedding on a budget can be done!
Here's a list of ideas and tips on how to cut corners, save within your budget, and things I consider to be spending priorities. Not everyone is the same so this list will change and move in order of importance for everyone. But you get the general idea :)
Here's some scans from my wedding as well as photos from weddings I've done this last year! (forgive the quality of the scans, I don't have digital files!)
#1 : Venue
There's a lot of things to be decided on when planning a wedding. But I think your venue takes the cake. Not only is it probably (usually) the biggest wedding cost, it's the most essential. It will be where you walk down the aisle, where you have your first dance as bride and groom, where you huddle in close with friends and family, it's where these precious memories are formed!
If you know a friend with a barn or have a giant backyard to pitch a tent, PERFECT. This will seriously save you so much.
Another thing to consider when booking a venue is: do they include food? Do they allow outside caterers? I've found venues that have exclusive caterers tend to be a bit more pricey.
Our venue was one thing I couldn't see myself settling on. It was our biggest expense and it needed to be perfect. I don't regret spending 1/3 of our budget on the venue and I'm so glad we toured dozens before picking the one for us. That's right, you might have to tour for weeks to find one within your price range AND that's available for your date!
#2 : Dress
This might be a little debatable for people. but I think what a bride wears on her wedding day is A BIG DEAL. Not only will she be the main focal point for a big part of the ceremony, she will possibly pass her dress down to her children. She will look back on all her photos thinking how beautiful she looked (hopefully!) and being so glad she married the person she loves in the dress she picked out.
I've found a huge help for dress shopping is searching at your nontypical white dress suppliers.
I found my dress at Free People and I think it was perfect for my vibe and it was a fraction of the cost of a traditional dress. I've also seen incredible dresses from ASOS, Just search around for white dresses - you don't have to buy a wedding dress from a wedding dress store! You can find it anywhere!
#3 : Photographer
My only regret from my wedding - not hiring a photographer. At the time we had a friend who offered to do photos and so it didn't seem like that big of a deal. While I love those photos and am so glad we have them, I wish I had just hired the photographer I loved. The area we were married in had a small market of photographers and all of them were going to cost $2,000+. But the saddest thing is I only have photos of certain moments of our day like the ceremony and a few dances and really no photos of speeches or the guests (besides the photos from the disposable cameras we handed out). It would've been so incredible to have memories of every moment and I wish I could change that.
#4 : Food
I'm not sure if I'd say it's a significant part of your day, but it will take up a significant portion of your finances. Maybe $15 a plate doesn't sound like a lot, but if you multiply that by 100 people, that's $1,500 before tax! I knew I needed to find delicious food without spending more than 1/3 of our budget. I mean of course I wanted to eat something I'd love but I also knew that food would be a small part of what I remembered about my wedding day.
I found a small family run restaurant and looked into their menu options. They offered a smaller portion lunch option and it was half the price of their dinner menu! To save money on a delivery fee (our venue was 90 minutes from the restaurant) I had a friend pick it up in these hot boxes and my family helped set it up to be served. Think potluck style dinner! Everyone grabbed a plate and dished up for themself.
There was no waiters or waitresses (not important for me) and it was a simple, easy, AFFORDABLE option.
The food was delicious and I'm so glad we got to use a restaurant we loved and wanted to support.
For dessert we did pies because we found a local pie shop that would do all the dessert for under $200. I've never loved cake so for me pie was a perfect other option.
#5 : Linen, Florals, + Table Decor
Another one of the things I compromised on was flowers. I just knew after a lot of research that if I did fresh flowers I'd spend over 1/3 of the budget on decor. For some people that's really important and I totally understand that. I love flowers and wanted to have the most beautiful things on my tables but I also thought I could find a more sustainable option.
I ended up going with dried florals I found on Etsy and I bought 4 or 5 bundles of fresh flowers from the grocery store that we used to line the aisle and put in various mason jars around the venue. Another big part of our day was cacti - I bought a little terracotta cacti arrangement for each table. I also made sure to get linens I loved. This wasn't something I could skimp on because used or cheap linens just looked that - used and cheap. I'm so glad I had cacti arrangements for people to take home and I think the guests loved it too!
IF YOU WANT REAL FLOWERS at your wedding I'd suggest making that priority number 2 or 3 as it will be a huge cost - probably equal or close to food.
#6 : Gifts and Favors
I think as brides we can underestimate the thought of intentional gifts. I don't think we have to spend hundreds of dollars to let our closest friends know we love them a lot. If anything, our friends are so excited to be a part of our day they aren't even thinking about getting anything.
I didn't do any custom mugs or fancy "will you be my bridesmaid" cards, and I don't think anyone noticed (I hope! haha). I bought them all a pair of earrings and wrote a personal note saying how thankful I was and how much it meant to have them there with me. It was sweet and simple and I love that they could have something small from me thanking them.
For favors my husband and I cut down a few trees and sliced them up to make coasters. We had a stamp we were using on all our invitations and stamped each coaster. We sealed them with polyurethane and tied them together with twine in pairs for people to take home. They were custom, cute, and significant and I love going to homes and seeing them on peoples' coffee tables to this day!
#7 : Hair and Makeup
Do you know someone who knows someone who does hair and makeup? Ask them what they charge! I have an incredible sister-in-law who is a magician with hair and makeup. Since she was already going to be at my bridal party and wedding I asked her if she'd do my hair and makeup as a gift. She said yes and I'm so thankful! Having people do gestures like these instead of getting you a gift is a great help to a budget.
#8 : Honeymoon
Honeymoons are important. No doubt! But where and when you go on your honeymoon might not matter quite as much. Does it have to be immediately after your wedding? Does it have to be a backpacking trip through Chile? Or a treehouse in Costa Rica?
Ricky and I love to travel but we knew that we couldn't do a big trip right then. It just wouldn't be worth it if we had a super tight spending budget while we were traveling. So instead we did a 5 day road trip all through New York state (where we got married) and did our real honeymoon a few months later in Mexico when we had more money saved. In a way, it's like we got two honeymoons!
I think it was perfect for us and we did it all without breaking the bank.
If you have your heart set on a cruise through the Mediterranean, start saving now. Make the honeymoon a spending priority and be willing to put other things aside to make it happen.
At the end of the day, know your priorities.
Everyone is different, therefore every wedding will be different! Some people might rather have the most extravagant floral arrangements and chips and dip for dinner. Some people would rather wear a thrifted $10 wedding dress and go on a 2 week long honeymoon all over SE Asia. What suits you will work best, and it's really important to think outside the box and make it feel like your day.
Nothing is off limits and nothing is impossible if you think where you can save money to spend money. Be creative! Be intentional! Start saving now and wait for the sale at your favorite dress store.
I hope this little list is somewhat helpful and you find yourself excited about having A BEAUTIFUL WEDDING ON A BUDGET. It is possible!
Ohhhh boy, where do I begin? This little fam of three is so dear to me.
John and Alexa are some of my favorite people. John is one of the funniest and most honest people I know and Alexa has this way of making ANYTHING feel cozy and forever making you feel welcome. She makes delicious breakfast tacos and always has a good TV show on - (TV means I'm on vacation).
I just love them. I love that I have got to know them from the time they were dating, to engaged, to married, to having little-big Ellison.
If you've ever wanted to talk about anything deep or challenging, call John - he pastors Evergreen in Anacortes and he's game for pretty much all corners of conversation.
If you've ever been homesick and just need a pal, tell me and we'll hang out with Alexa at their house hahaha (is that cool with you, guys?)
But honestly. These two are gems and I just can't imagine my life without them.
So thankful for their friendships and the way they chase Jesus, all the time. Love you three!
A couple weeks ago I got to explore Discovery Park in Seattle for the first time with Kalen and Chelsey.
I was so excited to finally meet them and hear more about their lives' - Chelsey booked with me for her 2021 summer wedding in September, so we've been chatting for a few months now.
This is my favorite thing about engagement sessions; getting to know the couple and starting our relationship way before the wedding day so when I walk into to photograph one of the most sacred days of your life, you're already comfortable. It really can be like welcoming in another friend to the party.
Kalen and Chelsey have a beaming love. It was honestly refreshing and gave me so much joy.
2020 has been the year of disappointment and grief but love like this gives me hope.
Not only were they sincere and sweet, thoughtful and friendly, they had the most precious little fur baby, Emmy Lou. I'm all about bringing pets to sessions. More please!
Congrats again you two and I CANNOT WAIT to capture your 2021 celebration. IT'S GOING TO BE A BLAST!
I've been feeling a bit stuck creatively lately. I knew I needed to just get out there and take photos - weird ideas and imagination running full steam.
I texted Summer last Saturday. "It's sunny all week. Wanna do a shoot?"
Of course Summer being the incredibly fun and adventurous person she is responds, "Yup! When?"
I had this idea for an ethereal golden field that looks like another planet with all one color outfits.
I knew the exact field I wanted to use and was hoping they'd be game - it's completely random and off the side of a super busy road.
We ventured through the mud and reeds, half joking we might be stepping on dead bodies (hope not!)
There's nothing like having an idea in your head and seeing it executed in real life. This end result is better than anything I imagined and I'm just so thankful for friends who are willing to get out there and create with me. Summer and Charlie, you guys rule. Loves ya.
One of the most incredible things about photography is the way you can keep evidence of life happenings. Like babies being born, making vows to the person you love - no big deal, right? I took Corbin and Vail's photo back in 2017 when little Addie was still in her mama's belly. Here we are in November of 2020 and now there's a new baby in town - Elena.
Love and gentleness pours out of this family; the way Vail patiently calms Elena, the way Corbin softly tells Addie "not right now, Addie."
I'm floored at how we learn and grow and change as humans.
Corbin and Vail were just a young couple who fell in love, once. Now they're parenting two precious little ladies and doing it so so well.
Love you Anderson Fam. You guys are beyond precious.
When Jordan and Elizabeth got engaged, I knew I wanted to do engagement photos with them. Maybe that seems obvious to some, but Elizabeth (and Jordan too?) are not fans of the camera. I thought I might have to yank her along to document this time in their lives.
But thankfully when I told her we could do it "her way" - razor scooter, longboard, downtown Bellingham; not the traditional sunset and cheese session, she was game!
This isn't the posey let's pretend kind of shoot either - Elizabeth has light up wheels for her scooter and she means business. Her and Jordan can often be caught rolling around Anacortes in the summer time and I just love that I got to capture them in their element.
Love you guyz, excited 4 u!
I can only barely begin to even state how horrendous of a year 2020 has been for 99% of the world.
It has been heavy, cold, isolating, mean, relentless in tragedy.
In this year alone I know at least 5 people who have lost loved ones - close loved ones; mothers, siblings, babies, fur babies.
It has felt so harsh. Like that bully at school that just doesn't care how everyone else feels.
I was introduced to grief at a young age. My uncle passed away when I was twelve in a sudden car crash while driving home from work, leaving my five sister-cousins and my mother-aunt behind. It felt like the world fell and smashed against the ground. No one could make sense of it, especially me.
Then at 22 years old we lost our baby in China when we barely realized how excited we were to be parents. In a foreign Chinese bathroom I saw the life pass from my body.
I believe grief is a process we must all learn. While some people think grief is natural like walking or talking, to me it is something we have to develop and get better at.
In the getting better at it, I think there is a realization that every moment is precious. Magical. Worth encapsulating. Unique. Momentous and dear.
Even the shitty things. The bad days.
The fights with husbands. The sleepless nights with the newborn. The disagreements with loved ones about politics. The stupid family dinners that no one wants to go to. The thoughtless actions of others toward us. The hurtful comments or remarks people make without hesitation.
I know not everything in life is peaches and cream, in fact SO MUCH OF IT IS HARD.
There are moments we want to skip, or rush through. There are people we just can't stand no matter how hard we try. There are ideologies and thought patterns we don't agree with and anyone who associates with them we feel we must keep at an arms distance.
But can I just say -
we were all carefully crafted with a purpose. Each of us matters.
We are all needy for love, affection, hugs, kisses.
There is no moment like right now. This is the last time right now will happen.
It is fleeting, woap, there it went, it's gone.
No matter how frustrating this year has been or how shitty a moment feels - absorb it. Hug the hell out of it.
The people that drive you crazy, the people that you want to run away from, the people that really "don't get it" they're not going to be here forever. In fact, they might be gone tomorrow.
So don't let the petty instances of annoyance and frustration rob you of seeing how beautifully human we are.
People may not deserve your love, but they sure as hell need it. Trust me. We all need it.
It is a season for grace. For starting fresh. Letting go and saying "I forgive you" again and again.
Because if grief has taught me anything it's that not appreciating right now is the most foolish thing a person could do.
I've known Nick + Julianne since the first week we moved to WA. Julianne had just had her second baby and they invited us to the hospital (along with other close friends who we knew prior to moving to WA) to meet their baby. It was surreal. Here we are, never meeting before, and they're inviting us in to one of the most intimate days of their lives. But that's what they do - they make you feel at home. They welcome you with giant hugs and say "hey are you hungry? hey do you need some water? how are you? what's life like these days?"
I'll never forget the day we found our path into friendship with these two. And here they are now, with four beautiful babes and in the process of building a home on inherited land.
So excited for them and all that lies ahead.
Thankful for humans who welcome you in.
When I found out this was Kyle + Janët's first time having photos taken besides iPhone photos I got so excited - you guys are letting ME take your photo? Wowee.
I met them at their little cottage by the sea while they finished getting ready. From the moment I showed up I knew it was going to be a good time. Three weiner dogs greeted me loudly at their front gate. I smelled something delicious (turns out it was Cuban food) cooking on the stove. Janët was polishing off her hair and makeup while Kyle ran in circles looking for his tie. My kind of people; real.
We headed out to this incredible beach that was a stones throw from their place and took maybe 25 minutes worth of photos. And these are the result.
Congrats you two - thanks for inviting me in and letting me capture your love. It was such an honor.
Charlie + Summer.
Where do I even begin? I love these two very much but I have to say, I haven't always been sure about the idea of them being together.
When Charlie first made his feelings for Summer apparent a whiiiiile ago, I didn't know if he was being real. I figured who doesn't love Summer? She's beautiful, funny, ridiculously silly (like so silly it's hard to not laugh your brains out around her) and incredibly passionate about the things that matter to her.
But as I have watched Charlie encourage her, wait for her PATIENTLY, love her as a friend, support her, pray for her, wait for her, encourage her, and wait for her some more, I was floored.
This guy really loves Summer. HE REALLY CARES.
Charlie has proven himself again and again as someone who loves well. His heart for justice and compassion for the lost is contagious and I find myself learning from him all the time.
Six months later and these two are more fiery, more in love, and more beautifully chasing after Jesus than ever before.
I am so excited for their path and all God is going to do.
Love you two!