Our $9,000 Wedding – How we did it & why we don’t regret it!

To Infinity & Beyond!

        My husband and I got married October 3, 2015… & we spent six months leading up to the big day – DIYing our little hearts out. When you’re planning a wedding, you tend to get a lot of guilting comments about what people spend on weddings these days. “You could put a down payment on a house with what a wedding costs!” “You could buy a car with that money!” “It’s just one day!” “It’s just a big party. Why would you waste SO much money?!” I, apparently, am not part of the wise and frugal people. 😉 Our wedding was the greatest party of our lives and we’d totally pay for it again.

            Sure, throughout the whole process (not to mention the two years we had already been engaged…) there were countless times I considered “am I wasting money?” I say I, because when I would ask my husband what kind of wedding he wanted- every time – just like a movie – he would respond “the kind that makes you my wife”. He was completely supportive of whatever I wanted (except the chair covers.. but that’s a different story ;)) which was absolutely incredible – but yes, I had my moments I would compare what else we could be doing with the money and if this was actually worth it. I am the kind of person who can’t sleep at night if I am worried about financial problems, so planning such a huge event that was costing us so much – was incredibly stressful for me. I doubted myself constantly but I have to say – it was totally and completely 100% worth it.

            The average wedding cost in the U.S. is $35,329. To some people this is interpreted as cheap, but to others (like me) this is completely outrageous. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told or how many articles I have read that say “elaborate expensive weddings result in divorce.” However, our wedding (including parent contributions) came out to $9,500 which I wouldn’t consider “cheap” either. I have to admit – our original budget was not $9,500. Unexpected costs creep up, practically everything costs more than you expect it to. I’m not saying to sacrifice your financial goals or put yourself into a world of debt over your wedding – I’m just saying spending a little more than originally planned won’t be the end of the world as long as you’re not an idiot about it.

            Plenty of people have small and inexpensive weddings. My parents didn’t have a wedding at all; they went down to the courthouse on Christmas Eve, and will be celebrating their 34th anniversary in a few short months! Here are a couple of my favorite photos from their wedding night <3

            Growing up my cousins had their weddings at my Aunt’s house and they were a BLAST! Their weddings are some of my favorite memories, and honestly, I had always dreamed of a backyard wedding because I had so much fun at my cousin’s weddings. However, when it came time for me to get married – we currently lived in a mobile home park where we didn’t have a backyard of our own and once we started adding up the cost to do a wedding in a family member’s backyard – and started weighing the pros and cons – it just didn’t seem the best route for us. We looked online at different venues and simply couldn’t get over the prices and how “it had all been done before”. A lot of times when you look at photos of weddings done at the same venue – they look so similar. While planning our wedding it was most important to me that our wedding reflected US. I didn’t want to have some big glamorous wedding that had absolutely nothing to do with our personalities or who we actually are. This made it a little more difficult for us to narrow down a place but we decided to drive down to Trail Dust Town – and we FELL IN LOVE. We had been there before to eat at Pinnacle Peak, but that afternoon – as we walked around playing with Cameron and taking photos with all the different things they have to look at around there – we knew it was exactly where we wanted to have our big day! The venue was super reasonably priced and the biggest expense was food. The grand total we paid the venue all together for 112 guests was $3500. They did offer the option to have food catered in (which we also found was rare with a lot of venues) but after crunching the numbers we decided to just go with the food they offered (which turned out so yummy!).  We also did not pay for any alcohol for our wedding. We had the bar open for our guests to pay cash but the expense for us to pay for an open bar was way too much for us to swallow.

These are a couple photos from the day we decided “this is it!”

Every bride needs a dress, right? Well, at the beginning of wedding planning we had talked about just getting a large group size camping spot and just doing an outdoor wedding and having everyone camp out after. At that time, I had looked on Amazon for a simple dress I could wear but once we decided we were going to have a “full blown wedding” I decided to actually try out some dresses. While dress shopping I had three priorities: 1.) I didn’t want to spend a lot because I knew it was something I could only wear once. 2.) I needed to be able to walk in it without tripping and falling on my face. 3.) I needed to be able to DANCE in it! Below are a few photos of a couple different dresses I had tried on but I eventually decided on a super simple dress that was $150 at David’s Bridal. I ended up purchasing a belt with rhinestones on it to make it look a little fancier so my out the door the cost including alterations was $250.           

The guest list is probably every bride’s worst nightmare. You’re bound to hurt at least one person’s feelings and you will struggle figuring out which family members and friends you’ll invite – let alone if you happen to be close to any co-workers. For us, we knew we had to keep it as small as possible due to our limited funding. We spent hours making the lists, crossing people off, and adding people. Once everything was put together and we got all of our RSVPs back – we actually lucked out pretty well. We had to pre-pay for our final count 10 days before our wedding date (this is pretty common for most venues) and ended up only paying for 2 people who didn’t end up showing up. We had chosen buffet style for our dinner though so there some people who were able to get seconds so I don’t think we wasted any money on guests who didn’t show up. 🙂

I am a super detail orientated person and planning our wedding was no exception. It was important to me that our wedding be not only beautiful, but meaningful. This meant a lot of DIYing (and my ever so patient husband helped tremendously). However – DIY does not necessarily mean you’re saving money – DIY can add up quick too! One thing we did do that helped us tremendously was NOT choosing a theme. Theme weddings are much more limited and can prove to be difficult to find things that match your theme. We also decided to go with super basic colors because it made finding supplies/items so much easier. We chose red, black, and white.

Our wedding invitations – We did a Facebook Event invite in advance to let everyone know about the date before we sent out the formal invites. We paid for a template online for the main invite and then altered it to what we wanted.  We made the RSVP cards to match and made the save the dates bookmarks/sticker photos. We did mail all three together because I didn’t want to pay for stamps twice haha. We had them printed at Kinko’s. The little photo stickers were intended for people to mark their calendars with and I ordered them here.The worst part was cutting the save the dates because we had printed three to a page haha.

Our Favors — We had started out trying to stay on the cheap side for favors. We went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of different flower seeds, ordered the brown paper bags off of Amazon, used Avery stickers we printed ourselves, and used stickers from Michaels to decorate them. They turned out pretty cute… but I couldn’t get over how much I liked koozies so eventually my husband just told me to order them so we ended up with seeds & koozies for our adult guests.

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A lot of people don’t like the idea of children being at weddings but I am the complete opposite. As a matter of fact, we had a met with a couple of DJs and photographers who made negative comments about kids being at weddings and we threw their business cards out when we got home. My son is a huge part of my life and I couldn’t imagine our big day without the other little ones we love dearly. Plus we wanted Cameron to have a good time too! We ended up with 86 adults & 24 kids at our wedding. I imagine that has got to be some sort of record for the number of kids attending a wedding 😉 . We had  tables set up specifically for kids. We put out glow sticks, coloring sheets/ crayons, and their own favors. On the other tables we had used red little stones but for the kids tables we used red chocolate coins and lollipops. We ordered these little bags off of Etsy and filled them with Legos.

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Ceremony Programs  – We made them ourselves using fan kits from Michaels. We decided on fans because – well, they are super cute but also because even in October it is incredibly hot in Arizona! We had the miniature pencils made on Amazon with our names on them.

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Adult tables – Kris, Cameron, and I had our own table. We painted and hung little signs for each of our places.

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Guest tables – we made centerpieces with lanterns from Walgreens, fakes roses from Michaels, mason jars with burlap/ribbon, red water beads, and candles. We also made I Spy games and thank you cards. The venue supplied the napkins, tablecloths, cups, and silverware. As you can see we opted NOT to do chair covers which were going to cost $3.50 PER CHAIR. I don’t know about you, but we couldn’t believe anyone cares enough about the chairs to pay that kind of price!

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Gift table – We used a mailbox we decorated similar to the one in the Disney movie UP! for the cards. We painted a couple of jars for the dollar dance, and made a collage of our photos on a large wood “N”.

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Our little area dedicated to our loved ones we have lost-

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Our Cake – I made our cake topper using dollhouse parts, and a standard cake topper with the bride pulling the groom. My husband loves playing Xbox games and when I saw the idea on Pinterest – I knew I HAD to make it come to life. It wasn’t easy finding a little Xbox controller or tiny beer cans but after a few months of searching – it finally came together! We didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on the cake so we ended up ordering the cake for us to cut/freeze, and additional cupcakes (there were more in the back than you see in this picture) from Sam’s Club. Our total cost for our cake/cupcakes was $86. I think the worst part about it was sending the groomsmen to go pick it up. They were panicked the whole way back it would fall over haha.

Our cake cutting song was “Pour some sugar on me” by Def Leppard.

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Our guestbook – In our house we play board games pretty often so we decided it was pretty fitting to make our “guestbook” Jenga pieces. Each person signed the Jenga pieces and put them in the small chest. The sign read “Marriage is a game of balance. Please sign a block and help us build our future”.

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Next to our guestbook we had painted the letters and symbol “K & C” and had one of our engagement photos printed on canvas to display.

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Photo booth – Renting an actual photo booth was out of our price range so we decided to set up our own area for people to take photos with their cameras/ phones. We put out a bunch of costume accessories and hung up a Polaroid type of frame with our names and date at the bottom.

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It was important to me that if we were going to spend money on things – that we would be able to keep them in our home after the wedding. I had no desire to have a small pillow after our wedding so we opted for this little wood box for Cameron to carry our rings in.

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Inside of Ring bearer box

We also had the sand ceremony jars customized with our names and initials and chose sand colors that weren’t our actual wedding day colors – but colors I wouldn’t mind having in our living room.

We wanted Cameron to be included as much as possible because after all  – our wedding day was just as much his day too! He was our ring bearer (and did wear a nice outfit despite all the arguing about how he just HAS to wear a bear suit ;)).  He was also involved in our vows, sand ceremony, entrance into the reception, and our officiant (which was also one of my husband’s best friends) surprised us and had Cameron even give a toast! He read the sweetest excerpt from Winnie the Pooh.

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My husband, his best friend since he was two years old, and his brother have always LOVED the ninja turtles so I wanted to find a way to implement that somehow. I ended up finding these TMNT socks online.

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I was BLOWN away by the cost of flowers – especially considering they die so quickly! I decided to order silk flowers from Etsy and I LOVE how they turned out. We actually forgot to put the boutonnieres on the boys (and I forgot my veil…) but I still have my beautiful bouquet and it is in PERFECT condition.

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The song we played while our grandparents, parents, & bridal party walked down the aisle was “Grow old with you” by Adam Sandler. We followed that up with my dad & I walking down the aisle to “Marry me” by Train. The end of ceremony song was “I’m a believer” by Smash-mouth.

Check out Kris’s Judd Nelson fist pump! 😉

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We played “Crazy train” by Ozzy Osbourne for the bridal party to be announced into the reception area. Kris, Cameron, and I were announced together to “Walk this way” by Aerosmith & Run-DMC. We did the running man when we entered and it was hilarious!

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Our first dance song was “Hey Pretty girl” by Kip Moore.

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The father-daughter song was “I loved her first” by Heartland. We cut it partially the way through and put on “Back in Black” by ACDC.

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The mother-son song was “Forever young” by Audra Mae and The Forest Rangers.

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The bouquet toss song was “Girls just want to have fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

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The garter song was “You shook me all night” by ACDC.4

Our dollar dance song was “Friends in low places” by Garth Brooks.

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The last song for the night was “I’m gonna be (500 miles)” by The Proclaimers.

If you are in the Tucson area (or even if you aren’t!) – we highly recommend our photographer Michael Chansley. He did a wonderful job with our engagement photos and wedding photos. We love his journalistic approach, and ended up using him again for our one year anniversary family photos. He is a great guy and will even travel to your special event!

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