How We Spent $13,000 Less Than Average on Our Wedding

If you don’t follow me on my Instagram, you might not know I got married! We got married in early March and had all of our friends and family in Iowa come down to Charleston.

I talked a lot about my wedding planning woes, because 1) I’m an introvert and felt way over my head with this wedding and 2) weddings are crazy expensive, especially in Charleston. It was two aspects were I was uncomfortable, but in the end, I’m glad we spent money to have a big wedding.

In the end, we ended up spending $15,000 for a big wedding in Charleston. This might sound like a lot of money or a little depending where you’re from. All I know is I worked extremely hard to keep this wedding on the frugal side, so I’m proud we spent that much!

Here is how we did it:

We chose an all-inclusive venue

When it came down to the venue, we were between two. The first one was not downtown, but it included everything. The second one was downtown, but rentals would have been extra. We ended up choosing the first one for a variety of reasons, but I am so, so glad we did.

Our venue was incredible. And I mean it. I don’t think I could have found a better deal anywhere in the area. For $1,500, we got the venue, a dance floor, tables, chairs, linens, and an event coordinator who took care of everything. Catering was also done in house, so we had everything we needed right there. On top of that, they let us bring in some of our own liquor, which saved an unbelievable amount of money.

Many other venues in the area cost at least $6,000-10,000 for a Saturday night and do not include any tables or chairs. That’s just for the space! So rentals on top of that are another couple thousand dollars. So, even though we originally wanted to be downtown, we scored a great deal on our wedding. Plus, we avoided some of the extra taxes they put on venues downtown, so that was an added plus.

We broke tradition

We knew we wanted guests to be up and moving at the reception, so we opted for casual and fun stations instead of a plated meal. This was our personal preference, but it ended up saving mucho cash.

We also broke tradition by forgoing expensive wedding bands. I got my husband a titanium band for less than $100. It looks just like silver but is actually more durable, so that was a win! I opted not to go with the band to match my engagement ring after seeing the cost. Instead, I bought a few fake rings off Amazon! I tricked everyone into believing my band was real, plus it’s fun for me to switch up bands as I want.

We had a destination wedding

Though our wedding wasn’t a destination for us, most of our guests were from out of town. Honestly, we felt a little guilty about this at first, but ultimately, we decided it was our decision and if someone couldn’t make it, we would understand 100%. Of course we wanted people to come, but our wedding is just another day. It’s not worth ruining friendships over.

This did make it a little hard to estimate numbers, though. We invited over 300 people, and estimated half would show up. So I budgeted for 150 people. We actually only had about 110 guests RSVP that they were coming, so I had completely over-budgeted (can any bride say they did that?!). But that’s okay with me! We ended up saving thousands on food and beverage cost this way.

We researched and compared rates like no one’s business

No matter how small a purchase may have been, I did a ton of research before I bought anything. It was tedious and painstaking, but it saved a lot of money overall.

Some finds worth mentioning are Mixbook, where I ordered all my engagement photos and some stationery from and Wedding Paper Divas. Also, this was a complete surprise to me, but Sears has a ton of wedding décor available for cheap online!

We borrowed as much as we could and kept décor simple

90% of our décor was borrowed through family and my job. I can’t imagine how much we would have spent had we not borrowed! The best part about borrowing is that I can return all of it and keep my apartment clean 🙂

We didn’t search for wedding photographers

Wedding photographers in the area were $5,000+. I could find some that would do it for less, but they would only take photos for 5 hours or so, which wouldn’t work for a full day of festivities.

So instead, we went with a super talented photographer who doesn’t specialize in weddings. In fact, he mostly traveled the world shooting models! He did have a few weddings in his portfolio though and we felt extremely confident in his abilities. We hired him for $1,500 which included all-day coverage and the rights to all the photos. And, day-of, he actually brought 2 other photographers with him! So we ended up with a ton of photos that we really love.

What we would have done differently

Though we scored some great deals, I know we could have saved money in a few more ways. Here is what we would have done differently:

  • We got married in our church and drove to the reception. It was important to us to get married in our church, but it did have more fees than if we got married at the venue. Even though we are members of the church, we still had fees to pay. Worth it to us, but we could have saved money by not getting married in a church.
  • I would have paid to have my makeup professionally done. I’m not very good at makeup, but it seemed silly at the time to pay $100 for someone to do it for me. In the end, I wish I would have just paid someone. I bought so much new makeup to test out and ended up with approximately 914 tubes of terrible lipstick and foundation that I’ll never use again. Lesson learned.
  • We could have had a smaller wedding. Of course, I wanted to elope or have a small wedding (introvert), while my husband wanted a huge wedding (extrovert). In the end, we decided this is the one time we will get to have all of our family and friends in one place to celebrate. Living far away, we don’t get to see many of them often, so it was an excuse to visit with everyone. I’m happy we had a big wedding, but we obviously could have saved a lot of money by having a small, private wedding and throwing a casual reception for our friends and family back home.

Overall, we were very happy with our wedding and are enjoying married life. I’m excited to be back in a routine and having more time to focus on freelancing. I have a lot of exciting plans and changes coming up on the website side of things! And as a side note, I am in the process of changing my name, so you can expect to see that change to be taking place as well!

And, as always, thanks for your love and support! I honestly have the best readers and love reading your comments!