Confessions of a former bride – pt 10!


August 9, 2012

As promised on Tuesday, I’m back with a breakdown of how John and I saved up enough pennies from other areas from our wedding day budget in able to fund our main wedding priority (photography) and afford our favorite photographers. Keep in mind, my tips are just tips. Take them at face value! While they worked for us, they may not work for everyone.

So…here is how we did it!

Venue (Ceremony $50, Reception $800)
Venue is definitely a big part of your wedding day…it sets the tone for the day, so to speak. But if you are willing to get a little creative, you can definitely save a lot in this area. There are lots of AMAZING venues in Virginia that I love and would have loved to have had my wedding at, but in the end we got married in Yorktown because it was the best and prettiest place for our money. Our reception was at the Yorktown Freight Shed and our ceremony was at the Nelson House. Both are owned by the government (the Freight Shed by York County and the Nelson House by the National Parks Department) so they were cheaper than if they were trying make a profit the way a privately owned company would be.

Flowers $450
I really wanted to hire a florist for our wedding. Thanks to wedding blogs and pinterest, I imagined lots of fluffy organic bouquets that were just dripping with ranunculus, anenomes, and peonies. ESPECIALLY PEONIES. Their big bushy heads just scream wedding day to me. Just me?  Our budget did not allow for a florist, so we ended up diy-ing all of our flowers, which kept us in budget AND meant we could have fresh flowers on every table. For 450 dollars we made three bridesmaids bouquets, one bridal bouquet, nine centerpieces, two large altar arrangements, and several small arrangements that made it onto the cake table, guest book table, etc. The key here to getting so many flowers out of $450 dollars was adding lots of greenery (it’s cheaper and fills out an arrangement), and being flexible with which flowers we used. I had also already sewed fabric flowers for the boutonnieres and corsages, which helped save a little bit as well.

Hair and Makeup ($75)
I got my hair done at a local hair salon where I normally go to have my hair cut. With tip it was $75 dollars. My makeup was free because I’m lucky in that one of my good friends worked for Clinique and was willing to come to my mom’s house to do my makeup for me. She was so sweet to do my bridesmaid’s makeup too!

Cupcakes ($36)
We bought our cupcakes at Sam’s club. Yep. Sam’s Club. You know them as Walmart’s larger than life brother who sells huge vats of mayo right next to pajamas and TVs. I know them as our wedding baker!! We have been eating their cupcakes for years (my mom buys them for every birthday) but I never really considered having them for our wedding until budget became a really big topic of conversation. Sam’s Club cupcakes are only about 12 bucks for 36 cupcakes!!!! We ordered 3 orders and served 108 deliciously moist cupcakes to our guest…FOR LESS THAN FORTY DOLLARS. The cake stands were made out of items I bought from the DOLLAR TREE! The sacrifice here, was not having cool flavors like key lime or strawberry cheesecake or fancy decorations, but it overall it was the right decision for us. And no one knew where the cupcakes were from! Unless of course they’re reading this post now…ooops.

Catering ($2700)
We were able to cut our budget here by A LOT. We had a buffet with chicken cordon bleu and a vegetarian option. It was so good I ate a whole plate even thought they say you don’t eat anything at your wedding. And my new cousins STILL tell me how good the veggie lasgana was. I chose our catering company because of how professional they were, how great their food tasted, and because not only were their prices competitive, but they offered the most extra “swag” with their package. And although we saved a good deal because they were owned and operated by a local restaurant, I would say the biggest savings here (and overall) was still cutting our guest list.

There were lots of people that did not get invited to our wedding. And it’s not because we don’t like or love them…it’s because like it or not, each person at a wedding costs you money. There are two ways to look at this one when you are planning a wedding on a budget…you can invite everyone you want to be there (maybe hundreds of people) and have light refreshments or maybe a brunch reception (invite me, please) or a dessert reception to cut your costs. Or you can decide you want to keep your guest list to just an intimate few and you can spread your food budget around a little more (no pun intended). We chose the latter because lots of our closest family was coming in from out of state and we really wanted them to have a great time and enjoy a nice dinner with us. Instead of inviting all of our friends and family, we only chose those who were really important to us. This was really hard. I’m pretty sure my former coworkers were not really happy with me and decided I hated them. Totally not the case. At any rate, this was the most difficult thing we had to do, but it was just something that had to be done.

Coordinator ($1250)
Hiring a coordinator was the second best investment that we made in our entire wedding! We knew that we did not want our family to have to work on our wedding day, so we started out looking for someone to be our “day of” coordinator who could help set up the decorations and help make sure things ran smoothly and on time. This is the number one thing I try to recommend my own brides invest in and I’m working on a blog post that explains exactly why.

Paper products…programs, invitations, save the dates, menus, etc ($250) 
We did our own invitations and paper products mostly because we really wanted to save money. But I’m also one of those people that really wanted to say that I made them myself. To my surprise, making our invitations was actually not that much of a cost savings…not when you considered that we had to buy ALL of the paper, envelopes, postage, twine, stamps, hole punchers, ink cartridges, etc. And it also was SO TIME CONSUMING. The only reason that this still counts as a savings is because we were able to make so many extra things with the leftover paper and materials. Out of the leftover kraft paper we used on our programs, I made menus. With the cardstock leftover from our wedding invitations I printed up rehearsal dinner invitations.  For those of you who might be saying, well yeah a photographer who has access to Photoshop and design programs can definitely design her own invitations…I DESIGNED THOSE IN POWER POINT. Using free fonts I downloaded from, I worked on them at work (shhhhh!) and then emailed the final drafts to myself at home, where I printed them on my personal cheapo printer. Pretty much all of our wedding paper was designed in Power Point and even though I use Photoshop or Indesign to make things these days, I still sometimes miss Power Point because it was so easy!

Random Decor ($300ish)
We made our own burlap runners, thrifted for mason jars and vintage books and shutters, and I watched ebay like a hawk for the typewriter. There were also some little fun things we had at our wedding that didn’t cost much but were really special, like the pencils we had printed for our programs and the Rita’s Water ice (not a decoration, but we only spent 50 bucks on it!). Focus on the big pictures (how your day will look overall) and make sure it is cohesive, but also, spend some time on the little details…there are lots of fun details that represent you and your future spouse that don’t cost a lot, but you have to be willing to spend the time being creative to come up with them.

Here’s a break down of some other miscellaneous costs associated with our wedding.

  • Photography ($3300ish)
  • Rehearsal dinner ($350)
  • Bridal party gifts ($250)
  • Rings ($500)
  • Honeymoon ($0)
  • Accomodations ($125 )
  • Bridal Gown and alterations ($630)
  • Groom’s attire ($200)
  • Bridal accessories ($100)

Just to recap and sum everything up, our priority on our wedding day was our photography and we spent our 10,000 budget accordingly. I know that not everyone is as in love with photography as we are and may not make the same choices or make the same thing their priority…but I just wanted to show you that if you are on a budget and you are dreaming of having a professional photographer, you CAN afford it. You might have to look at some of the other categories in your budget a little differently, but if it is really important to you, it can be done! Don’t get discouraged about your budget! Instead, let it feed your creativity and lead you to innovative ideas!

P.S…Always remember that your wedding is just ONE day and the reason for it all is so much bigger and more important than centerpieces and pictures. When you keep in mind the real reason for the day, you won’t go wrong no matter what choices you make:)


All images in this post by Jodi Miller Photography

Leave a Comment

  1. Stephanie

    August 9th, 2012 at 9:35 am

    This is seriously so helpful! I’m planning a wedding right now, and it looks like our budgets will be similar….although I need to know where you found a caterer who catered a meal for that amount! 🙂 I’ve seriously gotten 5-6,000 dollar estimates for the simplest dishes.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Tina Tabibi

    August 9th, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Katie, I really enjoyed reading this post. The venue, reception and all of the little details in between were perfect. I can see that everything was really thought out and most importantly, represented you and John. I must admit, I cringed when I read that the stationery was designed in PowerPoint (gasp!!) but everything looked fantastic. p.s. Remember, InDesign is your new buddy 🙂 xoxo

  3. Emilia Jane

    August 9th, 2012 at 9:35 am

    So gorgeous!!!

  4. Anna

    August 9th, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Katie I love this post! So many good ideas, photography is our number one priority so I am saving in ALL other categories! I never thought to get cupcakes from Sam’s, but that is genius!

  5. Janelle C.

    August 9th, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I love it!!!!! I wish I stayed in budget for my wedding – but I had to have fireworks… just had too (its a childhood favorite). Your wedding was beautiful!

  6. caitlinelizabeth

    August 9th, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    great post katie – this was incredibly helpful and i can tell you put a lot of time in to it!!

  7. Jen P.

    November 10th, 2012 at 10:11 am

    We also did our ceremony at the Nelson House and the reception at the reception at the Freight Shed. Hands down the best deal around!! With the money we saved, I hired the Yorktown Fifes and Drums to play the processional music to tie is all together!

  8. Maria

    February 20th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Hi! I love the little details of your wedding! I am also getting married at the Freight Shed this September. Did you guys end up staying at a hotel the night before and after? We currently reside in Virginia Beach and was wondering what places we can stay at around there.

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