20 Fabulous Weddings Under $15,000


Budget inspiration from APW weddings past

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

artistic out of focus shot of bride and groom

Back at the beginning of APW, our tagline was, “Creative. Thrifty. Sane.” Because that, more or less, was what the rest of the online wedding space just wasn’t helping me out with. Saving some money. Sanity. It wasn’t even that our wedding budget was that small (I thought it was huge then, and in my more well-off real grown up life now, I still think it’s huge). It’s that it wasn’t what the wedding industry hoped I had to spend. In fact, it wasn’t even close to local averages (which was, and remains, bananas). But it was what we had, and I was determined to make a good wedding out of it. That means, of course, that APW has been collecting weddings that cost less than a zillion weddings for years now, and our archives are packed with good stuff.

The thing about weddings is both that you can do that for any amount of money in the world… but also if you’re inviting a bunch of guests, they cost money. In fact, they can cost sums of money that we previously found mind boggling, in a life where we were not attempting to feed 70–125 of our closest friends dinner. So there you are, getting started wedding planning, looking at that huge-ass number you just wrote on a post-it, and trying not to pass out. And then you discover that the wedding industry thinks that huge ass number means you’re having a “super budget wedding.” And that you still can’t afford the wedding Pinterest and the WIC is selling you—the one with the five-piece band, the professional photographers, the letterpressed invitations. Like, not even close.

So. Before you freak out. STOP, COLLABORATE, AND LISTEN. Today we’re going to look at awesome weddings from the APW archives that cost (roughly) between $10,000 and $15,000, which we know is a really common budgeting goal. (In some cases we’re really estimating, and the weddings might have cost significantly less, but they’re awesome and inspiring nonetheless.) These weddings all had a reasonable number of guests. (Because there is nothing more frustrating then to figure out that the stunning $10K wedding you’re looking at had only ten guests, making it a really well-funded small dinner party.) They all had some (if not all) traditional trappings we associate with weddings. And they all made their budgets work in totally different ways.

In coming weeks we’ll round up weddings that cost less than this (because of course your $2K wedding is going to be awesome). But here are twenty weddings under $15,000 to inspire you as your work out your own budget.

Because yes, it can be done. And done damn well.

bride and groom kissing on beach

1. A Destination Wedding In Mexico

Cost: $13,000 | Location: Sayulita, Mexico | Number of Guests: 80

A weeklong paradise vacation party in Mexico. The couple spent the majority of their funds on traveling, lodging/venue, and a coordinator, and saved funds by going through big box retailers for their attire.

bride hula hopping at her wedding

2. Intern Kelsey’s Food Truck Art Gallery Wedding

Cost: ~$10,000 | Location: Denver, CO | Number of Guests: ~140

A glitter covered, kid-friendly, urban art gallery wedding. Kelsey and Julie split the majority of their money on food, staffing, venue, and photography. They saved money by doing their own flowers, and using a friendor for Julie’s wedding dress.

man and woman getting married inside a church

3. A Low-Maintenance Methodist Church Wedding

Cost: $9,705 | Location: Tempe, AZ | Number of Guests: 84

A simplified Methodist church wedding that did away with most of the “things” the WIC says you need. The couple focused their budget on good photography, and saved money by choosing not to have flowers.

black and white photo of man and woman getting married

4. An Art Gallery Wedding In Chicago

Cost: $12,000 | Location: Chicago, IL | Number of Guests: 130

A homemade celebration of love and food, held at a nonprofit art gallery. The majority of their money was spent on the venue, allowing them to use whatever vendors they wanted. The couple saved money by DJing their reception with an iPod.

bride and groom walking down the aisle

5. A Self-Catered, Community Barbecue Wedding

Cost: $10,000 | Location: Gregory, MI | Number of Guests: 165

A relaxed summer celebration on a private property. Most of the couple’s money went to rentals and food, and they spent the least on alcohol for the party.

bride and groom dancing

6. A Simple, Late Spring Wedding In Ontario

Cost: $10,000 | Location: Cambridge, Ontario | Number of Guests: 48

A DIY- and DIT-filled, family reunion-style wedding. The bride’s brother is a pro photographer (and APW sponsor!) so they saved money with him shooting the wedding, and by DIYing their flowers. The bulk of their funds was spent on catering.

black and white photo of bride and groom in street

7. An Outdoor, Bay Area Budget Wedding

Cost: $9,219.83 | Location: Pleasanton, CA | Number of Guests: 75

A casual outdoor celebration with pretty flowers and tacos. Catering, the venue, and the dress (including alterations) made up almost half of their budget. They saved money by getting friends and family to help with photography and flowers.

bride and groom standing on a cliff

8. A Laid-Back, Utah National Park Wedding

Cost: $11,000 | Location: Southwest Utah | Number of Guests: 85

A simple outdoor ceremony followed by a casual dinner, lawn games, a little dancing on the porch, and beer around a campfire. Half of the budget was food and drinks, and the couple spent the least on decor and music, and won a contest for photography.

bride and groom getting married outside

9. An Austin Garden Wedding

Cost: $12,000 | Location: Austin, TX | Number of Guests: 120

An outdoor wedding in the gardens of a historic building in Austin. Their budget broke out into an even split between food, photography, and the venue. They saved money by not having to decorate the garden venue, and bought a mix of cake types instead of a multi-tiered wedding cake.

bride getting ready before her wedding

10. A Frugal, DIY Ontario Wedding

Cost: $9,000 | Location: Ontario | Number of Guests: 100

A DIY/DIT, winter wedding planned from scratch. Food was important, with the groom being an organic farmer, so the couple wanted to work with someone who would use their farm’s meat, and so spent the bulk of their budget on catering. They spent the least on decor, music, and hair and makeup.

two brides dancing at wedding

11. An All-DIY, Self-Catered Episcopal Church Wedding

Cost: $10,500 | Location: Silver Spring, MD | Number of Guests: 90

A church wedding made possible by family, friends, and a ton of DIY and elbow grease. Susie and Caitlin put their money into photography, then food and drinks after deciding to self-cater. They spent the least on ceremony and reception decor, crafting it all themselves.

bride and groom in the desert

12. A Relaxed Arizona Wedding At A Bed & Breakfast

Cost: $13,300 | Location: Scottsdale, AZ | Number of Guests: 76

A relaxed, joyful wedding with a cocktail reception. By opting for cocktails instead of a sit down dinner, Maureen and Harley were able to have a larger number of guests while sticking with the smaller venue that they wanted.

bride and groom surrounded by confetti

13. A Magical California Backyard Wedding

Cost: $11,000 | Location: Silverlake, CA | Number of Guests: 70

An backyard wedding planned in just seventeen days, to accommodate for the groom’s mother who was battling cancer. Cat and Jonney allocated the bulk of their funds toward rentals and lighting to set up their house for a crowd, and photography. They saved money by asking friends to play the music at their reception.

bride and groom posting with traffic cone

14. An Island Wedding In British Columbia

Cost: $10,000 | Location: British Colombia | Number of Guests: 55

A funky, seaside wedding with an after-ceremony wedding parade! Joann and Bryan allocated most of their funds toward catering and photography, and saved money by getting flowers from Joann’s mother’s garden, and getting married on Bryan’s father’s front lawn.

laughing bride and bridesmaids

15. A Melbourne Vineyard Wedding

Cost: Under $15,000 | Location: Victoria, Australia | Number of Guests: Unknown

Almost everything bought for the wedding was handmade, either by friends and family or purchased on Etsy. Caitlyn and Adam supported local businesses and vendors as much as possible. The bridal party hair and makeup, the wedding favors, and many of the decorations were DIY.

bride and groom walking under flags

16. A southern, SEMI-DESTINATION wedding weekend

Cost: About $11,000 | Location: Hiawassee, GA | Number of Guests: 65

Lucy and Bryan saved money by picking a more rural area for their venue, and working with smaller local businesses for vendors, and DIYing all their flowers and decor with the help of family and friends.

bride and groom sitting on stairs

17. A Green Wedding In San Francisco

Cost: $12,000 | Location: San Francisco, CA | Number of Guests: 85

A Catholic wedding, followed by a cocktail-style reception at a local organic brewery. Kate and Kevin allocated most of their budget toward food, drink, and photography. They saved by getting married on a Friday afternoon, and Kate wore a dress that had belonged to her grandmother (with clearance rack shoes and borrowed jewelry).

sunset photo of wedding couple

18. A Self-Catered Wedding For 200 People

Cost: $10,000 | Location: Washington | Number of Guests: ~200

A raucous outdoor wedding party for a crowd, held at the big house of a family friend. The couple saved money by calling in favors from family and friends for a variety of tasks, and by self-catering the reception.

bride and groom in front of red vw beetle

19. Liz’s Chic On The Cheap Wedding

Cost: $12,000 | Location: Philadelphia, PA | Number of Guests: 150

Channeling Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant to create a lavish, jazz-music-pumpin’, champagne-flowin’, party chock full of garters and bouquet tosses and “all the usual wedding junk.” Liz, Josh, and friends prepared all the food, and also made the invitations, programs, table numbers, and all of the decor.

bride and groom outside

20. A Desert Wedding In Joshua Tree

Cost: Under $15,000 | Location: Joshua Tree, CA | Number of Guests: Unknown

“We asked a lot of questions every step of the way to help keep things real, affordable, and not wasteful, like, Can we do this ourselves ahead of time? Is it something we can delegate to our friends to do the day of the wedding? Is this something someone can do for us? Do we need this? Can we make it? Can someone who loves us enough to do so make it? Can we buy it used or rent it? Can we borrow it? What will happen to this after the wedding? How will this affect us if we do not have it? How will it affect our guests?”

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com. #NASTY

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  • These are really wonderful and hopefully show that it is possible to have a wedding on a “smaller” budget, whatever that means for you.

  • Sara P

    What a lovely collection of awesome :). I’m looking forward to the rest!!

  • HannahESmith

    Hey, I know some of those people. Way to go Lacey and Maureen! Also, both are members of the somewhat not active Portland APW meetup group. If anyone wants to ever talk weddings and feminism, hit us up. :) https://www.facebook.com/groups/179626212196077/

  • I’m pretty sure our wedding 5 years ago fell in this range, probably. But I’d actually have to go back and look at our numbers. We spent what we were comfortable spending and got what we wanted out of it. That’s the important part to me.

  • kcaudad

    We also had a successful wedding for under $15K. We got married in a small city in WI for around $12K. Our original budget was under $10K, but we ultimately spend more than that, and had some extra financial help from family. But, it was probably around $12K total. I’m not 100% sure because we stopped adding it up after a certain point and just paid the bills as they came in. It can be done if you are contentious and look for cheaper ways to do things. For example, we got a photographer who was just starting out for about 1/2 the usual prices in our area. We also found a location that was close to home and could host the ceremony and reception for a very good price!

  • AGCourtney

    Thanks! Looking forward to seeing more!

  • Sarah

    These are so great! And as a Melbourne girl planning to get engaged later this year (!!) I’m so happy to see a Melbourne wedding included here! Whenever I look at the budget of weddings on APW I always wonder whether they can be done for similar prices here, especially when I know things like clothes often cost more in Australia compared to the US/Europe (apparently due to the smaller market??)
    Looking forward to the next round up :-)

  • FancyPants

    Yay!!! some of my fave APW weddings!!! I am psyched to learn from these (awesome looking) weddings. I am currently knocking my head against our ‘goal budget’ (like, we shouldn’t go higher and…we’re pretty much maxed out) with still a lot more to get together! Looking here for alternatives and creative ways to embrace “~200 hungry and thirsty people who want to dance and need transportation” that doesn’t include rescinding invitations (I would never….but sometimes budgets/ballooning guestlists make a person crazy for just a moment).

  • Katie

    I think I’ve looked at #13 (the backyard wedding) post about a million times. I love everything about it. Beautiful.

  • Vows & Valor

    These wedding’s are proof that you can have a beautiful wedding without completely breaking the bank!

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  • Monica Nicole

    I’d like to preface what I’m about to write, by stating that we were married in NY. I noticed none of these fabulously laid out weddings were features from NY. I find NY to be out of control with the price tag they attach to weddings. In fact, the price increases the second you go from saying it’s a party to saying it’s a wedding. I know because I avoided using the term “wedding” at every opportunity I could. With that said, we did it somewhere between $15K-$18K for an estimated 120 people, ending up with 90 (only 2 no shows, but it was total DIY, so we had paid for the 120 regardless. I was probably less money than that, because I’m over estimating, we just lost track around the 13K mark. Now, this is for absolutely EVERYTHING though, not just the party. I always wonder, when bloggers discuss “budget,” what all are they including in that? Here is what our over estimation of $18K was for: dresses, shoes, make-up, hair, hotel stay (3 nights), rental cars, save-the-dates, invitations, DJ, Coordinator, Waitstaff, Bartenders, venue, food, booze, gifts for those who helped or were in our wedding, bachelorette celebration, rehearsal celebration, after-wedding brunch, favors, wedding stationary (including home-made maps, stationary for inside the invites, advice cards, welcome table frames, and programs), cake, cupcakes, candy table, “guest book” – canvas, welcome gift bags, thank you cards, flowers (we made all the arrangements and girls bundles), boutonnieres (also home-made and out of paper flowers and crafts), our bouquets were home-made (non flowers), ALL of the decor, extra rentals, rings, marriage license, “photography” etc. etc. etc. Could we have spent less…definitely, but we budgeted as much as possible and stayed almost close to our actual agreed upon budget of 15K. It was worth every dollar :) BUT…I think a wedding with a 5-10K budget could be just as memorable and loving! It’s not the dollar amount..it’s the thought and the love poured into it, as well as the energy coming from your guests! I think people are forgetting that entirely. I like reminding people and offering my help to them and my advice!

    • Her Lindsayship

      Beautiful photo, and thanks for sharing your budget info! I’m trying to plan in Boston and finding our budget (actually $15k, same as yours) to be impossible here as well. Basically venues around here are expensive, and once you add catering that’s pretty much the whole budget right there. Do you mind sharing how you found a venue that made the rest possible? :)

      • Monica Nicole

        Hey Her Lindsayship, I’m always happy to share! In our case, my wife had one stipulation (I had the other), she wanted an outdoor themed wedding (I wanted cupcakes from Brooklyn Cupcakes). After looking at Botanical Gardens, and scouring a few magazines for (expensive) options that only allowed you to choose 2 things, colors and caterers, it just hit me one day….The Queens County Farm. Queens (and not referring to the Long Island area) actually has a farm, much to the surprise of others! I had frequented as a child, and it was one of the first places she had visited when she moved from Florida. I just knew it HAD to be affordably priced because they were all about community volunteerism, giving back to the community, and being a non-profit neighborhood friendly farm. It was still more money than we had hoped, but relatively cheap for NYC. $2000 for the bare space with tables (both round or rectangular) and chairs for 120 people (max. capacity).

        My advice for venue would be to think back in your history together of places you really enjoyed going to, visiting, or learning about. Somewhere, in your relationship history could be your venue. Don’t be afraid to approach owners of establishments about possibly hosting a wedding at their locale. Ask them if it’s ever been done, or if they would be willing to allow it and what their maximum capacity would be. Often times, they haven’t thought of tapping into that market themselves. You could inspire them, or better yet…be the FIRST to use their space and make it such a unique experience. I imagine that the Queens County Farm was not always a wedding venue option, but now it’s super popular. For example, the bar & restaurant we chose to cater our buffet style dinner cater just one large charity event per year (some golf related event for 300 ppl). They had never been asked to cater a wedding, but I knew their food was fabulous and some people in my family already loved it because I had my mothers 60th birthday in their back room space. They were one of the BEST vendors we chose. They were honest with us and told us we were ordering too much food for 120 people, but with a bill of under $1000 ($795 to be exact) for as much as we were ordering…we told them we were okay taking food home just to be sure we had absolutely the right amount! The food was one of the things our guests talked about the most (we had over a dozen food options and varieties because of how affordably priced they were). We supplemented their food with a roast pork from a local Spanish restaurant (I’m hispanic…and it’s a staple at any of our events) and a tray of sweet plantains. I think going with places you know could be cost effective and may guarantee your satisfaction!

        So, back to the farm. We both LOVE country music, outdoors, and our cowboy boots! Anything rustic means you can find crafty ways to save. The farm provided the tables and chairs, and while they had vendors they could recommend, you could do whatever you wanted! That was our goal…to make it everything WE wanted.

        Hope this helps and feel free to ask any follow-up questions!

        • Monica Nicole

          Examples of our tray sizes/food. We had 12 chafing dishes of various items (more popular items had 2 trays, less popular had half trays), A total of 18 trays of food items purchased. A tray of shredded roast pork, and a tray of sweet plantains (both gifted to us by a cousin as our wedding gift). Fed 90 ppl with LOTS of extra (probably 7 trays left over…but that’s because I made a mistake and meant to order 1 tray of Cilantro rice, and ordered 3, 2 of which were untouched). I think a wedding for 120 ppl could get away with 10-12 trays of food TOTAL (splitting that up how you wish).

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