DIY Budget Wedding

My dearly beloved and I met in college. As our social circles slowly began to converge, he began to catch my eye. There was one instance in particular that started me on the longest crush I'd ever have when on a mission trip I found out some hard news about my Dad's health. Miles away from my family, I sobbed on a couch at the common room where we were staying. It was a free time from the work we had been doing and most people were out doing some fun activity. Brian walked through the room to get his guitar and saw me. He sat down on the couch next to me and quietly listened as I, a near stranger to him, poured my heart out. He forever stood out to me from then on as a kind, sensitive person.

It was our college young group that brought us together most often. I was on the committee and he was the guitar player for the singings. We also played a lot of ultimate frisbee and volleyball together. As my feelings for him grew, I confess, I went to certain functions just to see him and would hope for an opportunity to talk to him. I struggled with my feelings and with whether they were from God or not. Little did I know, Brian was having a similar struggle for me. As the months went by, we grew closer as good friends, but it was becoming obvious that wasn't only what we were meant to be for forever.

He proposed to me on a Sunday in January and I couldn't have been more elated. We had a wonderful 5 and 1/2 month engagement during which I fully enjoyed and immersed myself in planning our wedding.

There we are, just a couple of college kids who fell in love. Hmmm....I haven't seen that scarf in a long time. I wonder where it went?

It was as much of a DIY wedding as you can get. The only person we hired was our photographer (who is actually my aunt). So for the next series of posts, I am going to share how we pulled off a DIY wedding for $6,300.00

~Part 1~

Budget and Organization

First off, if you are here for tips on planning your own wedding, congratulations! Marriage is the best adventure you'll go on.
I loved our wedding, and we pulled it off for under $6,300.00 The only way we were able to do that was with a lot of organization. Mistakes are expensive. Time lost running around looking for bits of information that you wrote down on napkins and scrap pieces of paper, will cost you. So, my first advice is to get a binder to contain any and all your planning information. I got one from Walmart. You could also just get a normal binder and fill it with printable pages like these.

What you want to look for in a binder are: a monthly checklist, budget form, ceremony and reception section, flowers and decor section, music, photos, and video, a place for attire and beauty information, stationary, and "other wedding events" such as showers.

This little guy went a long way with me. I pretty much lived out of it for those 5 months. Everything needs to go into that binder.
This is how stuffed mine was after it was all said and done. 
Next bit of advice. Use Pinterest if you don't already. It's so great for honing in on what exactly you want your wedding to look like.
When organizing your own wedding, be sure to delegate. It's a lot of work doing all the errands and projects on your own, and if your family and friends are anything like mine, they actually want to get in on the fun. Let them know what they can do to help, because if you don't, either they won't pitch in, or they'll pitch in too much by giving opinions and making decisions you would have rather made on your own. Make it clear from the beginning that you want to be in charge of, say, the flowers, attire, and entertainment, but could care less about the food and location. 
OK, now for budgets. 
Here is a run down of my budgeted and actual costs:
Wedding Photography
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Engagement Photography
Wedding Cake (Pies)
Site fee
Table cloths/napkins
Bride’s Accessories
Bridesmaids Dresses
Groomsmen’s Ties
Miscellaneous Décor
Gifts for Reception workers
If you are going to keep it affordable you have to realize that there are going to be some cuts from your average $50,000.00 wedding, however, I fully believe that you can do it and create it to be the wedding you always dreamed of.
One important thing to remember is you pay for convenience. Catering, wedding planners, florists, photographer, stylists, bakery....these are all expensive conveniences that can be avoided if you do it yourself. Now, I'm not saying you have to cut all of them out. I strongly believe in hiring a really good photographer, because the pictures are what will stay with you forever. Just look at your time, sanity level, and budget and decide which of these you feel you can cut out.
For example:
We didn't hire a caterer. Instead we created a menu and went to Sam's Club, GFS, and Aldi to buy bulk amounts of food. Here is our menu:
  • Veggie trays: 15 for $25.98 each = $393.60
  • Chicken wings (this was Brian's request): 20 five pound bags =$650.00
  • Gourmet Chips: 18 bags for a total of $102.64
  • Ice Cream Punch: $177.00
  • Miscellaneous (includes lemonaide, whip cream, etc.): about $150.00
  • Total food cost: $1473.24. We had about 450 guests (I should remember the exact number, but I don't) which comes to $3.27 per person to have a meal at our wedding. The national average last year was $66.00 per person to have the meal catered.

So you see, we bought the food, rearranged the veggies on prettier trays, heated up the wings, put the chips in fancy bowls, and made the punch ourselves, which resulted in a savings of sixty three dollars per person! 

My bouquet and the bridesmaids bouquets were handmade out of fabric. We all got together one night and my sister (the creative one of the family) taught us all how to make these lovely fabric flowers. 
The total for the fabric and supplies was $115.00. The national average last year for weddings in the US spent on flowers: $2,069.00.
You're probably wondering about flowers to decorate the reception. Well, the morning of the wedding, my Mom and Aunts went out to a field and picked some amazing wildflowers, for free!
I know that not everyone has a summer wedding, so it may not always be possible to just go out and pick your neighbor's flowers, but my point is to think creatively.
One of our good friends used to be a stylist and offered, as a wedding gift, to do my hair and makeup. My bridesmaids all know a thing or two about doing hair and makeup and just did each others. It was so much fun to "play dress up" together, not spend a single dime, and we all looked beautiful in the end.
I don't know the national average spent on stylists for weddings, but I'm sure it amounts to more than $0.00 which would be more than we spent.
I'm not a fan of cake. Never have been. So, when it came time to pick out the star dessert, I chose pie. Who doesn't love a great pie?

We made all the pies from scratch, spending hours before the wedding baking these masterpieces.....Just kidding! I'm not that psycho. No, we bought them from a local cafe that has a specialty in pie. They came to about $13.00 each and we bought 76 of them, so $1000.00 total.

Instead of one huge cake to display, my dad made this awesome pie display.

The extra pies were used as gifts to those who helped in the kitchen for the wedding. We didn't actually save more money than the average wedding doing this, but I got something that was really special to me. We were still able to stay under $6,300.00.

Our church is pretty conservative and the weddings don't include dancing, DJs, or drinking, so this was an easy budget cut for me. You're probably thinking, "What on earth do they do?" Well, for music we had some of our pianist friends playing the Grand Piano throughout the reception. It was so beautiful (and didn't cost a dime). I also have some friends that play some amazing stringed instruments at weddings. It's a classy way to incorporate beautiful music.

One of our beautiful pianist's:

I understand that some don't have musically talented friends as I do. Would it be so crazy to suggest getting a cd like Piano Guys and playing over the speaker system? I still don't believe you have to have a DJ. Maybe I'm wrong.

The average wedding DJ last year cost $1038.00 and band was $3469.00. I'm sure with creativity, you can cut that price down.

Our church is not in the money making business (which I love), so they offer the use of the sanctuary for free, a minister at no price, and the fellowship hall for an extremely cheap amount. This obviously saved us a ton of money.

If your church isn't as gracious, people do some very charming weddings in barns, out in a field, even at someone's house.

The average costs for location are mind boggling. For the reception hall, people spent an average of $13,385 last year! Goodness, I'd have it at the local dump before spending that much. Maybe that's just me. 
The ceremony site average spent was $1,793 and officiant was $260.
Besides a few garage sale finds (I never added up the quarters and dimes we spent) the decorations we used at our reception were totally free. I'd already mentioned to you that the flowers were wild and picked that morning.  Places I found our decorations were:
  • antiques found at my aunts
  • windows from my father-in-law's barn
  • wood from my Dad's shop
  • old doors from roadsides and construction sites
  • lanterns borrowed from a cousin's wedding
  • burlap borrowed from a friend
  • A lemonade stand made by my brother and I out of reclaimed wood.

These shutters were our card holders.

Antiques from my aunts house, apples from the grocery store.

This was my Dad's doing. I let him have free reign on the display behind us, and, as you can see, the Hungarian Handyman doesn't do things small. He constructed this out of these huge beams he had leftover from a job. I don't think our church has ever had something quite like this before.

The frame below gives instructions to write a "Recipe for a successful marriage on the cards provided" I took a page out of an old, yellowed book and printed the words in an old book type font right onto it.

We used the old windows as frames to display our engagement pictures and pictures of us growing up. The Bible verse boards my mom and I made out of leftover wood from the lemonade stand.

These old doors were the backdrop for our pie table. With the lights turned on they had a magical look.

The table centerpieces consisted of the borrowed lanterns, wildflowers, and various antique pieces

I've scoured our pictures for more on the Lemonade stand, but I guess it was overlooked in the picture taking process. Sad day. My brother and I worked hard on making it and on that hot July day, it was a nice refreshment for our guests as they came in the door. I had some of my younger cousins serve the lemonade and at one point the rascals put out a jar that said honeymoon fund!

So, that's it for decorations. The vintage/rustic theme made it really easy to pull off for little to no money.

For budgeting, do you see what I'm getting at? Take a look at the total amount you want to spend and then decide, in order to stay within that budget, what things you can do on your own. Remember the wedding industry is a huge money grab, and any company that has a potential of earning income off of you will tell you that you HAVE to have someone else do your hair, the food, the flowers etc. I'm here to tell you there is another way for the frugal bride.

I hope your wedding planning is as enjoyable as mine was!

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