Mr. Farmhouse Finance and I just celebrated our two year anniversary. Two years ago we had the wedding of our dreams, and paid for it ourselves! This was our first big saving feat, and the happiest day of our lives (although every day is pretty great together).
Our Zero Dollar Engagement
Mr. Farmhouse Finance proposed to me on a mountaintop using my grandmother’s ring. I knew the proposal was coming because we had had the talk about what to do for the ring.
Engagement rings can be very expensive, and I didn’t feel right about him spending thousands of dollars on a ring when I’m not really a ring person. I knew of my grandmother’s ring existing, but once I checked it out, I knew it was perfect. Luckily, it fit me!
On the hike down, we basically planned our whole wedding. It was important to us to invite all our friends and family, and throw a big party, so we started scheming about how we could do this affordably.
Setting a Budget
According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding in America is $35,329. The average cost in our area (upstate New York) is $54,428. We have been to plenty of weddings in the $50,000+ range to know that we didn’t have more fun at those weddings than we did at smaller, backyard affairs.
The one thing that will totally blow your budget up is the number of people on your guest list. Since we were looking to invite around 140 people, we knew that a $5,000 wedding was completely out of the question. We arbitrarily picked $15,000 as our budget, and soon abandoned that when we realized how much everything cost. Maybe we could do it for $20,000? Not quite. Ultimately we landed at just under $26,000, and felt good about coming in under the national average (and way under the New York average).
There is no right or wrong amount to spend on a wedding. We felt that $26,000 was what we could afford to save, and was enough to pay for the kind of event that we wanted to throw.
How We Saved for the Wedding
After we got engaged, we set our four year dating anniversary as the date of our wedding. This gave us about eleven months to save for the event.
At the time I was working as an environmental educator (making peanuts), and then began substitute teaching (also making peanuts). Mr. Farmhouse Finance was working construction. I decided to step up my financial contribution by taking on a second job as a server at a fine dining restaurant.
We saved money by living with Mr. Farmhouse Finance’s parents. Once we knew what our savings goal was, we set a monthly goal and contributed to a joint savings account. We stopped dining out, did not go on any trips, and had saving for the wedding as our sole focus.
Planning the Wedding
Planning our wedding was a herculean effort, so I can totally understand why people hire planners or do all-inclusive events with a venue. We really relied on advice from friends and the internet to figure out what we actually needed, and what we could do without.
I used a friend’s rental list to figure out what we needed for place settings, tables, chairs, etc., and did calculations based on our guest list to determine what size tent we needed.
I called a lot of caterers to get quotes before settling on the one we used.
We crafted signature cocktails and tested them with family and friends. We held wine and beer tastings to figure out what we wanted to buy. I did some math to figure out how much liquor, beer, and wine to buy, and got discounts for buying in bulk. (Pro Tip: Buy a lot more booze than you think you’re going to need.)
We tested songs for danceability by dancing around our living room, and researched more to add to our playlists.
We painted signs, cleaned, gathered decorations, and planned every last detail of the day.
Where We Saved
One of the biggest cost savings of our wedding was the fact that we did not have to pay for a venue. We used a family friend’s farm to have the ceremony and reception on. We did a lot of work on a barn (building new stairs and cleaning it out), so we could have the cocktail hour in there, and the owner of the farm mowed and watered the grass all summer so it would look nice for us.
Another big cost savings was finding an affordable caterer. We found our caterer based on the recommendation of a friend, and her cost was half as much as what other caterers quoted us as.
I found my wedding dress at David’s Bridal and only spent $430 on it (not including alterations at a local shop). I used to be such a hater, but it’s really worth checking out if you’re looking for an affordable dress. Mr. Farmhouse Finance wore a suit that he already owned.
We bought fresh cut flowers from a farm and did the arrangements ourselves.
We borrowed a PA system from a sound production company that we had a connection at, and made our own playlists for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception.
Our friend was our officiant, and another friend acted as our day of coordinator. Family and friends helped us set up and break down the wedding.
Without further ado, here is the total cost breakdown of our wedding:
- bride’s gown – $430.92
- bride’s shoes – $128.00
- rehearsal dinner outfits – $100.36
- alterations – $216.00
- sunglasses – $199.18 (to look cool at the cocktail hour….we didn’t even put them on! No worries, though, I wear these all the time now.)
- groom’s shirt – $56.80
- groom’s tie – $19.00
- groom’s cufflinks and accessories – $38.99
Total Apparel: $1,189.25
- wedding photos – $1,200.00 (friend who is a professional photographer)
Total Photography: $1,200.00
- invitations – $116.30 (evites through Paperless Post)
- save the date cards – $174.73
- postage – $106.00
- thank you notes – $41.06
Total Stationery: $438.09
- wedding bands – $1,479.60 (custom band for me to match engagement ring)
Total Rings: $1,479.60
Gifts and Favors:
- groomsmen gifts – $467.58 (shirts, ties, and Swiss Army knives)
- bridesmaid gifts – $420.00 (paid for hairdresser and jewelry)
- parent gifts – $110.00 (jewelry and tie clips)
- favors – $232.82 (mason jar style glasses and cups for kids)
Total Gifts and Favors: $1,230.40
- catering – $7,753.15
- lighting – $241.42 (additional edison bulb lights for barn)
- liquor/beverages – $1,120.30
- extra gratuities – $400.00
- extra desserts – $160.00 (from local ice cream shop)
- rentals – $8,655.69 (tent, tables, chairs, place settings, cooler, bathrooms, etc.)
- decorations – $143.33
- disposables and mixers – $265.00
- Jenga – $9.00 (for guest book)
- music – $39.18 (iTunes downloads)
Total Reception: $18,787.07
- marriage license -$40.00
- hairdresser – ($90.00 – my mom paid for this)
- nail polish – $20.00 (had to test out a few colors)
- makeup – $144.00
- flowers – $496.78 (fresh cut flowers that we arranged)
- day of coordinator – $300.00 (paid a friend to do this)
- other – $302.12 (um…I’m not sure what this was)
Total Miscellaneous: $1,302.90
Total Wedding Cost: $25,627.31
Almost $26,000 is a lot of money to spend on a party, but we don’t have any regrets. Many of our friends camped on the property with us, so the dance party went until the wee hours of the morning, ultimately turning into a karaoke jam with me serenading Mr. Farmhouse Finance with a little Usher.
My parents brought bagels and coffee in the morning, and everyone that was left helped us break down the tables and chairs.
Even though we saved for the better part of a year to afford the wedding, we actually made most of the money we spent back in wedding gifts (which, I’m told, is highly unusual). We used the generous cash gifts from family and friends to jumpstart our savings for our house and to go on a small honeymoon.
Was the amount of money that you spent on your wedding worth it?
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