wedding on a budget

My husband and I planned our wedding for $8000 for a guest list of 70 (or $115 per person). Now that I'm in my early thirties, I have lots of friends who are planning weddings, having babies, buying and restoring houses, in any order imaginable.

If you have a baby/toddler and are planning a wedding, odds are that you can't spend a lot of time making and storing breakable wedding decorations. Or if you're paying for your own wedding and saving buying a house, it's even more important that you stay on budget.

Here are a few ways that we cut down on wedding expenses:

1) Buy your engagement and wedding rings online.
We used to shop for wedding rings. They are a leader in online engagement and wedding rings, and they're revolutionizing the diamond industry by creating beautiful, professionally made rings without the huge markup of traditional jewelry retailers. You can choose your own setting, metal, and center diamond to build the perfect rings. They also offer 30-day free returns, in case you get your size wrong or just change your mind.

2) Print your own invitations.
I absolutely love letterpress (and supporting letterpress printers), but it just wasn't in our budget. has beautiful designs for save the dates and invitations, ranging anywhere from letterpress to print-it-yourself options. I designed our wedding program myself and printed them out on metallic double-dided metallic 5x7" cardstock to save on paper. Looking back, I might have had them laser printed at my local print shop (the quality would have been way better than inkjet) but I probably spent about $8 on my fully DIY programs.

3) Shop around for a reasonable venue.
I grew up in the central coast of California, which has lots of beautiful outdoor venues. Because this area is less populated than Los Angeles or San Francisco, I found that the prices for venue rentals were much more affordable.

Another great option is to look into state parks that you can book for weddings. California has many gorgeous state park wedding sites, and they're usually a fraction of the cost for a private venue.

Also, check out wedding packages your local city hall; it may be absolutely beautiful and you didn't even know it!

4) Opt for paper plates and plain table linens.
We chose a venue with a beautiful garden, which was all the decoration we needed. I even skipped decorating our aisle with any kind of fabric or flowers. It didn't make sense to me to spend more on linen rentals, especially when our aesthetic is so minimal. I decorated our table with a floral centerpiece and simple tealights. Make sure you use something tall enough to block the wind, or else they won't stay lit. Mason jars work perfectly!

5) Find an alternative caterer.
If your wedding venue allows it, research outside caterers and compare the price per person.

6) Choose a buffet style meal.
Our caterers served only the wedding party and our immediate family. The rest were served buffet style. It still tastes great, there's less food waste, and no one will remember afterwards whether they were served or not at your wedding.

7) Have a dry wedding.
I know, I know.
But consider the pros:
- No drunk people acting crazy at your wedding! 
- You will save a bundle!
- Sparkling apple cider is so, so good.
- If kids are attending your wedding, the parents of those kids will thank you. Especially those with toddlers who cry when they see something they can't have. Trust me, I know.

8) Have a Sunday or weekday wedding.
Weekday and Sunday venue rentals are often less expensive than Saturday weddings. If you have a huge guest list, a weekday wedding could be a great way to thin out your total number.

9) Choose an up-and-coming photographer.
Many photographers fees are high, but if you search long enough, or even ask your friends, you may find someone who is just starting out in wedding photography, and their fees will reflect that. Make sure you like their photography style and their personality. We met with our photographers for coffee and absolutely loved them. We even looked at their portfolio and said "Hey, you guys should charge more!" and they smiled and said, "We feel like our price point attracts clients that we like working with." They did a beautiful job and gave us a huge variety of edited, high-resolution photos so that we could order them on our own.

10) DIY everything.
Make a list, plan it out carefully, and give yourself plenty of time to complete each project.

I purchased flowers from Trader Joes the day before, and carefully trimmed one flower and leaf for the groom, groomsmen, fathers, and grandfathers. We pinned them using a long boutonniere pin.
You could get quite creative with these, from using succulents to dried flowers to anything you can think of. 

flowers centerpieces & bouquets
I made my own centerpieces by finding potted plants from Trader Joes the day before the wedding. To create simple bouquets, my bridesmaids and I wrapped 1.5" satin ribbon around hydrangea stems, which we then placed in simple vases from IKEA to decorate the wedding party table and to have somewhere to put them down. How convenient!

Wrap all the way to the bottom of the stems for a more finished look,
or leave the ends exposed and store them somewhere in a little bit of water overnight.
Be sure to keep them cool so they don't wilt!
In retrospect, I could've spent more time on this, or I could've hired a florist. You can definitely add more flowers and color, and practice your arrangements beforehand. But hey, this worked for us; and anyway, I had tons of other things to do, like:

11) DIY hair.
I had one minor wedding catastrophe: my hairstylist cancelled at the last minute due to my supposed poor communication. Did she not get my texts? Who knows. Ugh.
But I did my own hair with help from one of my bridesmaids, and saved $100 in the process.
Here's a simple updo:
- Take a 1" curling iron (clip style or wraparound will work) and curl 1" sections of hair at a time.
- Gather your curls into a loose side ponytail and use bobby pins to secure your hair.
- I placed a white silk flower clip from H&M on my side ponytail, and gave smaller versions to my bridal party to have a little matching touch. 
- Hairspray the crap out of it so that it lasts all day. Use one with a light mist so that it's not too heavy.

12) BYO musicians, makeup artists, DJs.
Tap into your network. I am lucky to have a pianist, a makeup artist and violinist in my circle of friends and family. I gave gift cards as payment and a token of appreciation. We borrowed audio equipment from our connections at a church, but if you have the know-how, you can also look online for equipment rentals.

13) You CAN be the bride and DJ.
I made playlists for the appetizer hour, dinner, and dancing. I actually cannot stand dancing. I can only tolerate it for a few minutes before I get self conscious and have to stop. Choosing my own dance music made all the difference! I only chose songs that we both truly loved and that made me happy so that I could get through it. All we needed to do was have a friend press the play button.

14) Ask your wedding party to double duty.
Since we didn't have a DJ, we had one of our groomsmen make a few simple announcements, like what was happening next, such as appetizer hour, or when and how dinner would be served. It was a huge help!

15) Consider cake alternatives. 
I am really picky when it comes to cake, so I decided to order a variety of Sprinkles cupcakes for everyone. My brother picked them on on his way to the wedding. Each table of 8 got a variety of 9 on a platter (which I made by hot gluing bright blue IKEA plastic bowls on the bottom of matching plates).

They're so fun, easy to serve, and they taste amazing.

Other delicious and non-traditional cake alternatives include a profiterole tower, a waffle bar, and donut cake (basically a pile of donuts on a nice platter; what's not to like!?)