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How I planned a beautiful and frugal wedding

J.D. from Get Rich Slowly has asked people to share their financial success stories for a chance to win a Wii. I think my wedding can definitely be counted as a success

As most of you know, Mr. Micah and I have only been married for 3 months (glorious 3 months!). We did the 7/7/07 thing, which had special meaning for us because it was two days after our 5th anniversary of dating. (That’s actually why we picked the date; the numbers were a nice coincidence.)

I wanted a beautiful wedding, but the cost frightened me. My parents were paying for it and I didn’t want to get them into debt. So when I planned it, we eliminated a lot of the little, unnecessary things that are so common on modern weddings. I’m not sure about the final cost, but I know it was under $5000, perhaps quite lower ($4000? $3000?).

Here are some of the places where we frugal-sized, without feeling the pinch:

Flowers – flowers are beautiful, but the whole industry is rather ridiculous. I chose Queen Anne’s lace and baby’s breath for my bouquet, which brought the cost down to the $50 minimum. I’d rather have gotten my own flowers, but I worried about them wilting or not being able to find them, or having an earwig in the bouquet (which happened once when I picked them).

My sister was my only bridesmaid (frugal and sane!) and her bouquet cost $35 for the same combination. The guys wore a very cheap but very pretty lily. Their boutonnieres cost $6/ea. As a side note, they also just wore their black suits so no rentals.

We splurged on two large vases. I did some internet research on cheap, pretty white flowers beforehand, which helped me decide what to put in them. These vases were at the wedding and then again at the reception on the dessert table. There was also a splurge of sorts for flowers for the grandmothers. $20/ea, which was more than I wanted, but it was the base level for corsages. That was $80 total.

Total spent on flowers? Less than $400.

Dress – This one was simple. I’m a rather experienced seamstress, so why would I buy a dress? The pattern cost $7. My aunt and uncle gave us the lace as an engagement gift (it was around $200 worth, I think, but free to us). I made the underdress of white muslin, which sells for a couple bucks per yard (maybe $10 total) and is excellent for light summer weddings. I reused a petticoat.

It actually took me less than a week to put the thing together. Now, if we count the time I tried to make it before the lace arrived, that’s another $40. That material did not work out at all.I also made my sister’s dress. The fabric for that cost about $30. Because I was making it and she was my only bridesmaid, I was able to find a color that looked really good on her.

Photography – free! I’m all about preserving the wedding memories. So we asked Micah’s sister, a photography student, if she’d take our pictures. We offered to pay her, but she did it as a wedding present. She knew our families and was able to get people to cooperate for the group shots. Then various photo-minded friends of ours were delighted that there wouldn’t be a photographer. We now have wonderful shots taken by friends as we joked and played and danced together after the serious photos. I love the pictures!

Videography – skipped it. I have a video of my highschool graduation which I never watch. Plus, getting an excellent video requires paying high-end bucks for editing and such. So I figured why even ask a friend to tape it? This may be different for other people, but it was the right choice for us.

Limo – nope. The reception church was less than 3 minutes away. Mr. Micah’s car is nice and worked quite well. We scampered out of the church and drove straight to the reception. Our bridal party followed in a second car.

Buildings – with the weather, we could have had it outside for cheaper, but we didn’t want to risk it. So we rented two churches, one with a beautiful sanctuary and one with a large reception facility. Together, they cost less than $1000. The reception even had lamps which another couple had donated. They made the room dimmer and brought down the high ceiling. It was a nice effect. Our friends and family helped decorate the hall.

Food – one word: lunch. Lunchtime weddings are much cheaper than dinnertime. We ordered sandwiches from this great local store. We got lots of types, including vegetarian. Then my family and I made lots of cookies and some cakes for the dessert. A friend of the family made the wedding cake. I’m not sure if we paid her back or if she did it as a gift. Either way, it was gorgeous. I made the chocolate chip cookies!

It cost less than $700 to feed 100 people or so. It may have been lower, but I’m guessing high. There were quite a few leftover sandwiches, so we packed some in a cooler to save money on our honeymoon and left the rest for family.

In the end, it was a beautiful, glorious, wonderful, happy day. No hitches that I remember. Mr. Micah and I celebrated afterwards by going out for coffee ($8) before heading off on our honeymoon. I have so many good memories and no regrets about the cost.

I think frugal gets a bad rap as being “cheap.” It’s more a matter of figuring out what really matters to you. In this case, marrying Mr. Micah and spending a good time with the people who’d come to celebrate with us was what mattered. Having a fancy party and showing off didn’t.

(And as a disclaimer, I’d like to say I couldn’t have done as well without so many wonderful friends who pitched in to help make this an essentially perfect day!)

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Swamproot October 17, 2007 at 2:28 pm

That seems pretty sweet, and reminds me of my own Wedding. My wife’s sister (also the one bridesmaid) made the outfits. She happens to be a costumer for theater and made them as 18th century period costumes. That was because we met at a Halloween costume party where I was dressed as a pirate and we wanted to go with that theme. My wedding costume was more along the lines of regal ship captain instead of parrot toting pegleg though. She had dressed as a witch at that party but we decided not to continue with that theme. That would come later.

Just kidding. 🙂

Luckily my wife has 8 brothers and sisters, and they pretty much staffed the wedding, with a couple of them and her mom putting together a good spread on the buffet, a couple helped with the decorations with my family. Its amazing what you can do with a bunch of shear linen and fake flowers. Some brother-in-laws tended the bar. (And collected tips on our behalf!)

Our Church has a beautiful Memorial Garden that we were married in, so the ceremony itself didn’t need much to fix up and the only flowers we needed were for the bouquet and the boutonnières. (Kind of funny what you said about the Queen Ann’s Lace and the earwhig, around here they are called ‘chigger plants’).

My mom and dad paid for our reception hall. But out here in the heartland, that was only $400 for probably the best place in our small town, at the Womans Club. There we risked losing our deposit if, in this very dry Church of Christ run county, there was ANY EVIDENCE OF DRINKING left behind. So we had to transport most of our garbage offsite! But like you said, lunch is a very good idea for keeping receptions less expensive.

I had just gotten laid off from my San Fransisco Dot-com company, so my wife had to start her job teaching the Monday immediately after the wedding, and I already had a new one lined up. So between that, and my riverboat managing uncle giving me a comped room for my one night honeymoon, that came out pretty cheap as well. (We did take a short trip the week before, we called it our pre-honeymoon).

But even though we were extremely frugal, we still have people talk about what a neat wedding it was and our church even includes pictures from it in a lot of their introduction and recruitment materials. Needing everybody’s help to pull it off made it more about our families coming together than it was about some event that you just attend.

But heck, I would have just eloped if I thought my mother wouldn’t kill me. 🙂

frugalchick October 17, 2007 at 2:59 pm

Oh, I love frugal wedding ideas! I’d like to get married in an elopement(?) budget, if possible.

Spells October 18, 2007 at 11:39 am

Mrs. Micah, thanks for another very good post. I, like Swamproot, was reminded of my own wedding.

Frugalchick, I agree that having the help of friends is a key to a frugal, and meaningful, wedding celebration. We had about 150-175 guests, as I recall, and I know we spent less than $1000. Key moneysavers are, IMO:

1. Friends! Like you all, we had friends who offered to cook food, and we took them up on it. We filled in the menu with meat dishes, and also bought the wedding cake.
We also had a friend who sang at the wedding, as her present to us.
It didn’t cross our minds to have printed program at our wedding, but the day before the wedding, a friend and her mom mentioned it to us and offered to make one as a gift to us.
All this made us appreciate our friends so very much, and also made them feel like integral parts of our wedding (which they really were).

2. Making your dress, as you did, or borrowing one. I wore my mother’s. Truthfully, this was more because she really, really wanted me to; but it did save money and it makes a sweet story, too.

3. Choosing a cheap venue. We used my childhood church.

4. Flowers. My dad is an avid gardener, so he grew most of the flowers. We bought several dozen roses from the grocery store, to fill in the arrangements, which I and another friend did ourselves. Yet another friend decimated her prize hydrangea bush for us to use the flowers in the arangements. We bought my bouquet and the flowers for the attendants.

5. Limited number of attendants. We had only a maid of honor and a best man.

6. No wedding “colors.” We just went with white, so we didn’t need any custom decorations. My maid of honor and I picked out a dress from a sale rack of prom gowns, which fit her and cost very little. Since I didn’t care about the color, it was easy to find a dress.

7. Cheap photography. We did hire a photographer, but we hired him to take the photos and give the undeveloped rolls to us. We then bought the prints we liked. Like Mrs. Micah, we didn’t want a videographer.

8. No alcohol. From my friends’ accounts, it seems like having a bar really ups the cost of a wedding. My childhood church would never allow alcohol onsite (nor would my parents, for that matter!), so venue selectino saved a lto of money. Mrs. Micah got the same benefit, sounds like, from having a lunchtime wedding.


mrsmicah October 18, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Swamproot, that sounds like a beautiful wedding! 🙂 A regal pirate is definitely a better costume than most wedding ones I’ve heard of. I met a guy who’s getting married as a Jedi this Halloween. His mom’s making his robe. I guess it’s cheaper than a tux, but I prefer the pirate idea.

Frugalchick, it’s definitely possible. I could have done it for less. Or you could elope/have a tiny wedding. FabulouslyBrokeIntheCity ( had hers for under $1000 I believe. She posted about it awhile back.

Spells, we had no alcohol either. Almost nobody drank, we don’t drink (children of ex-alcoholics so our parents don’t drink either), and it’s quite expensive. Also can cause quite a bit of awkwardness when people get drunk. I doubt the reception church would have smiled on it either. Fortunately, nobody coming expected drinks anyway.

FrugalBabe October 21, 2007 at 2:55 pm

It sounds like you had a perfect wedding! My husband and I eloped in 2003, because all we really wanted to do was get married – the wedding details weren’t important to us at all. But it sounds like your wedding was a perfect compromise – you still got to have a traditional ceremony without spending a house down-payment on it. Nicely done, and my you have many many happy years together!

mrsmicah October 21, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Thanks, FB. Eloping would have been nice as well. And even cheaper.

While my mom wasn’t a normal bride’s mom (she was very low key) I know she wanted to see us have a traditional wedding. Fortunately, she let me decide what that meant and helped out without being controlling. Her wedding cost even less, I think (including inflation).

Anne October 26, 2007 at 1:08 pm

“It’s more a matter of figuring out what really matters to you.”

This is such an important point to make. I get so sad when I see people spend and spend on things they think they need to include, get stressed about it, and it doesn’t even fulfill any of their values at all.

hank October 28, 2007 at 4:44 pm

A frugal wedding is the way to go all the way! You save so much money that you need at the beginning of a marriage (unles you’re filthy rich), and I thought I was frugal with my wedding! 🙂 Congrats – nice blog, interested to read more…

Brenda December 27, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Another way to save on the dress is to use a site like craigslist to purchase a used one. I know people think it’s taboo, but really, you only wear it once. I’ve seen lovely dresses for $200 and under.

Also sites like freecycle and craigslist are a good place to scoop up leftover favors or decorations for no/low cost.

mrsmicah December 27, 2007 at 12:38 pm

I hadn’t thought that about the decorations, Brenda. That’s an excellent point!

Walter Young May 27, 2009 at 9:42 am

I am all for the idea of a frugal wedding, although the idea of mommy and Daddy paying for it as an excuse for excess strikes me as off…more often than not it is parents insisting on the wedding they didn’t have, or inviting business associates that can add to it.
As a wedding planner, I would like to think that, used judiciously, we can actually save money for the frugal couple, by helping them weed out unneeded expenses, keep to their budget and time line, and NOT forget important items like alcohol permits, or to ask for dietary restrictions with RSVP.
I offer inexpensive monthly meetings with the couple to go over what has been accomplished, and to give new tasks (especially if they both have heavy workloads).
Personally, I would much rather see a couple able to make the down payment on their new home, then rake in huge amounts of fees that leave them in debt.

Inya Kawin June 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I love it when you say you prefer lunch rather than dinner. This is a great idea to save money!

heaps! December 2, 2010 at 6:34 pm

This is great, well done on cutting costs on everything and still managing to have a wonderful wedding! So many people overspend on their special day and end up in debt. But with all the saving and budgeting, couples often forget to discuss what will happen AFTER they get married. Who will manage the finances? What kind of budget will we have? How do we each feel about money? We have seven questions to discuss with your partner to help prevent any future financial related arguments:

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