So, you just got engaged.  Congratulations!  Now you’re faced with planning the wedding of your dreams.  Couples are spending more on weddings than ever before, with the average wedding costing $31,213 in 2015.  It can be easy to get caught up in all the wedding hype during this exciting time, and stress yourself out with all the options and costs associated with your day.  But wedding planning does not have to involve paying an arm and a leg for a fancy wedding and reception (unless you want it to)!  If you do a DIY Wedding, you can still have a beautiful day without a ton of stress and expenses.

1. The Guest ListDIY Wedding Decor

This will probably be the most difficult part of wedding planning.  It is also the most crucial, as this will determine how much you’ll have to spend on the venue, food and drinks.  Obviously the smaller your guest list, the less expensive it will be; so if your goal is to have an inexpensive wedding, this is where you start!  We had about 60 guests.

Invitations/Thank You Cards

The average cost for 150 wedding invitations and response cards (before postage) is $245.  So rather than have traditional invitations designed and printed, we decided to go the digital route for both our invitations and the thank you cards.  Greenvelope has a huge selection of digital invitations, save the dates, and thank you cards.  Not only are digital invitations much cheaper than paper invitations, they are much less stressful to deal with.  Greenvelope allows you to track your attendees, send reminder emails, and communicate with your guests, all from one place!  Not to mention that your guests will most likely throw your invitation in the trash as soon as they RSVP anyway.

2. The Venue

Right after saying "I Do"!

Consider having your wedding at home, or at the home of a friend or family member!  Your venue does not have to be big or fancy for your day to be beautiful.  My big sister was kind enough to offer her beautiful backyard as our venue.  She, along with several of my closest friends decorated the space with existing furniture from my sister’s house, dollar store vases, and flowers from the local farmer’s market!

Don’t feel the need to go out and buy something fancy for the altar.  All you need to do is define the space.  For ours, I bought a big bolt of burlap fabric from Joann fabrics along with some fake flowers and greenery from Michaels, and my friends worked their magic!  I unfortunately don’t have a good picture of the altar to show you, but you get the idea.

Pinterest is your friend!  It has TONS of DIY ideas and tutorials for weddings and special events.  You can definitely find DIY options that work for every skill level and budget.  Check out this article on DIY Wedding centerpieces — it’s where I got some of my inspiration — but don’t stop there!  There is plenty of inspiration for all things DIY wedding on Pinterest.

I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have a friend or relative with beautiful backyard garden, but be creative!  Most public parks will allow you to reserve a picnic area for free, or very cheap.  You could also ask to reserve part of a restaurant.  This option is slightly more expensive and you will probably have to use their menu for food and drinks, but it is still drastically cheaper than booking the average venue and paying catering costs.

The Officiant

Finding an officiant for your wedding can be tricky, and sometimes pretty expensive.  Instead of getting a priest or ordained minister, we decided to have a close family friend marry us.  Since we live in DC, this was pretty easy to do.  Pretty much anyone in DC with a clean record can apply to be a Temporary Officiant.  All that was required was a completed Temporary Officiant Form with a notorized signature and a $25 fee.

3.  Food and Drink

Skip the caterer!  For our food, I picked my favorite Thai food place, Thai Orchid’s Kitchen.  We chose 4 entrees from the dinner menu, and ordered 8 of each. We then put the food into serving platters my sister already had at home, and served it buffet style.  The guests had small cocktail plates to eat from, so no one could load up their plates with more food than they were going to eat.  We estimated that each dinner entree could feed 2 people.  So with 32 dinner entrees, we had enough to feed 64.  Perfect!

For the drinks, I went to my favorite wine shop, Chat’s Liquors, and negotiated a great price for 4 cases of Cava, at $6 per bottle.  In addition to the bubbly, both my husband and I made specialty drinks, and served them in large glass drink dispensers.  This allowed us to have plenty of alcohol to serve, without the need for a bartender.  For the non drinkers, my sister made her famous Lavender Lemonade, and we had a pitcher of Cucumber-Lemon infused water to keep everyone cool and refreshed.

4. The Music

Reginald Cyntje and band.

Reginald Cyntje and band.

We paid a trio of jazz musicians to play for the first 2 hours of the event.  We paid a little less than most, as the lead is a friend of the family, but their rates are very reasonable!  After that, we just hooked up an iPod to my husband’s large speakers, and played a playlist that we’d created earlier!

5.  Track and prioritize your expenses, and only pay for what’s important to you!

As with any budget, in order for it to work, you have to determine what is important to you and try to limit your spending on things that are not.  For my husband and I, we just wanted everyone to have a good time.  That boiled down to making sure the food, alcohol and music were good.  Here is everything we spent on our wedding:

Clothing

  • Dress:  ASOS – $116
  • Necklace:  Baublebar  – $48 (after first time customer discount)
  • Earrings: BHLDN – $30
  • Sandals: BHLDN – $160
  • Makeup:  Gifted by my super talented niece, who is amazing at pretty much all visual art, Yetunde!  But, if you’re not lucky enough to have a great artist in your family, keep in mind that Sephora will give you a complimentary makeover with the purchase of $50 worth of makeup
  • Hair:  LocLov – $120
  • Nails:  Nelle’s Nails – $65
  • Groom’s Clothes: Express – $80 (after sale and military discount)

Ceremony/Reception Venue

  • Hosted at my sister’s house – Gifted
  • Decor – $168
  • Chairs – Borrowed from my husband’s job (shhhh!)
  • Cocktail Tables (rented): $22

Food and Drinkimg_0003

  • Order from Thai Orchid (including delivery fee and tip): $431
  • Cava (sparkling wine): $431
  • Ingredients for specialty drinks (purchased from Costco and the Commissary): $275
  • Dishes: $285
  • Cake/Cakepops:  Gifted by Adlom Designs (If you don’t have a super talented cake maker in your circle, check out this article for a tip on making your own cute cake topper.  You can get a basic cake with a minimalist look made at Whole Foods and have your own cake topper!)

Music

  • Jazz Trio – $350
  • Playlist for the rest of reception – Free

Other

  • Invitations – $54 (after random coupon I found on retailmenot)
  • Thank you cards – $23
  • Marriage License – $35
  • Our Wedding Website – Free, at theknot.com;  A great writer friend of mine was nice enough to write “our story” for us!
  • Temporary Officiant Application – $25
  • Sparklers for post ceremony walk – $37 (purchased a week AFTER 4th of July from a street vendor — fireworks come at a steep discount after the holiday)
  • Photography/Videography:  Gifted by a family friend (BUT, with the quality of today’s iPhone camera technology, we did get tons of awesome photos from our friends and family that attended the wedding!)

Total Costs: $2,755

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to keep in mind when planning your wedding, is that this is your wedding.  For as long as you two are the ones footing the cost (and really, even if you aren’t), your opinions and desires are the only ones that matter.  Do not let other people’s vision for your day take priority over your own desires and budget.