13 Awesome Budget Weddings Under $8,000


It can be done!

by Lucy Bennett

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Almost every person I’ve talked to who planned a wedding on a tight budget has a story about the moment when they decided the wedding industry was clearly working against them. For some, it’s that moment when someone laughs (or scoffs, or is deeply concerned by) the proposed budget for your wedding. For others, it’s finding the visual inspiration for a part of your wedding (letterpress invites, anyone?) and then finding the cost of it is your entire budget… twice over. And then your heart sinks, and maybe you cry or scream or take a few too many tequila shots, and then you get to work on proving them wrong.

When I started planning, it wasn’t that I believed or thought I couldn’t have a wedding. What I really wanted—no, what I really needed—to know was how to have an interesting wedding, one that I could feel proud of, that I’d like to see in pictures, on my tiny budget. And that is where we all could do with a little more inspiration, and a lot fewer raised eyebrows.

The answer to that nagging doubt was, of course, yes. My wedding was amazing. Your wedding will be amazing, because you will make it so. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s going to work for you and your partner, and then sticking to your plans. And to help you out, today we have thirteen budget wedding ideas from the APW archives, that are beautiful and filled to the brim with budget wisdom, to get you inspired.

1. A Bohemian Mexico Wedding In Northern California

Cost: $6,000 | Location: Sacramento, CA | Number of Guest: 57

“The original budget started at $4,500–$5,000 but it all hinged on finding the perfect venues. After I found a non-traditional small venue in Sacramento for our reception, it started falling into place. It was a relatively new venue that hadn’t hosted many weddings in the past, but we took a chance—the first of many chances, actually.”

2. Megan and Marlee’s Episcopal Etsy Wedding

Cost: $6,200 | Location: Los Angeles, CA | Number of Guests: 140

“If during the course of discussing an idea of something to include or a way of doing something that didn’t feel right, we’d keep editing it until it did (which, coincidentally, led to some of our most awesome decisions). And if it never felt quite right, we left it out. This process worked for us as we can honestly say that looking back, there wasn’t anything we planned that wasn’t worth it.”

3. A DIYed South Carolina Wedding

Cost: $1,500 | Location: John’s Island, SC | Number of Guests: 40

“When Jarod asked me to marry him on our one-year anniversary, that dream started to feel like it wasn’t right for the time being. When a friend offered to host our wedding on her property on Johns Island, we were a little reluctant. After she convinced me how easy it could be, the planning began. While I was hesitant to have a wedding because of our tight budget, I am so glad that we did! It was such a special, happy day for us, and I had so much fun planning my wedding.”

4. A Brooklyn Wedding At Home

Cost: Under $8,000 | Location: Brooklyn, NY | Number of Guests: ~30

“What we did right: keep it small. The smaller the better. We had a larger party the next day, but in retrospect, I would have picked a handful of people and moved them to the ceremony list, and then cancelled the second event. After the wedding, all I wanted to do was hang out with my husband and our families.”

5. A Humble Church Wedding With Hospitality To Spare

Cost: $5,000 | Location: Portland, OR | Number of Guests: 92

“We essentially had to be careful on every line item. Our budget met our tone: a humble wedding with lots of hospitality and lots of love. It could have felt like an aesthetic compromise but instead it let the vulnerability that we set as tone in our ceremony shine through our party as well.”

6. A Budget Restaurant Wedding In Queens

Cost: $6,500 | Location: Queens, NY | Number of Guests: 50

“Because this was such an intimate affair and the focus of the celebration was the food, we made sure that we had awesome food and that we had food for everyone. This also became our most expensive detail by default, since the more guests, the more funds are needed. We also made sure that we set up a budget for a wonderful photographer as we wanted to enjoy the memories for years to come, and for really nice flower arrangements, just because we wanted them!”

7. An Intimate Weekday Wedding

Cost: $2,000 | Location: Lawrenceville, GA | Number of Guests: 30

“Don’t let anyone other than you and your future-spouse tell you how to do your wedding. So what if it’s a Wednesday morning? So what if it’s a standing reception? So what if the only beverage is champagne and sparkling cider? So what? It’s your wedding, it’s your day, and nobody else cares as much as you do. Nope, not even your family, not even your best friend. And if they do, their priorities are not where they should be. Don’t let outside voices affect the way you want to enter into your marriage.”

8. A Casual Friday Wedding

Cost: $2,300 | Location: Knoxville, TN | Number of Guests: 40

“Let’s be honest, it’s hard to find many examples of super budget weddings online. We flew by the seat of our pants quite a bit, and there were times where I just had to say, ‘Eff it, I hope this works.’ Like not including RSVP cards, and instead asking for emails and phone calls. So if there’s something that’s not in your budget or isn’t that important to you, skip it. Find a workaround.”

9. An Outdoor Potluck Wedding

Cost: $1,000 | Location: Peaks Island, ME | Number of Guests: 100

“It was gorgeous weather and we had lots of good food and good people all together for a big party—with a simple wedding to kick it off. We are both very laid-back people and the potluck outdoor wedding vibe was perfect for us.”

10. A Simple, Guest-Officiated Wedding

Cost: Under $8,000 | Location: Santa Cruz, CA | Number of Guests: Unknown

“We had our guests officiate our wedding in unison. Since we had been married for a month, we did not want to simply go through the steps again. It seemed more fitting to have our friends and family join together to marry us as a way to also symbolize the joining of the families. It was fun for us to watch everyone and a great way to get the whole room together.”

11. Emily’s Damn Fine Wedding Party

Cost: $7,500 |Location: Central Coast, CA | Number of Guests: 110

“I had a picture in my mind of how I wanted things to look, and if we had hired an event designer to go nuts with details, that picture would have become a reality. But in real life, I didn’t care that much. I put in as much love and effort as I felt like putting in, and I’m pleased with the result. Sure, my wedding won’t grace the cover of Martha Stewart Weddings, but I thought it was pretty, and I was proud of my work.”

12. A Wedding At San Francisco City Hall

Cost: Under $8,000 | Location: San Francisco, CA | Number of Guests: ~40

“We knew that even if our wedding was simple, we wanted good food, so Zazie was a no-brainer, and I was surprised how easy it was to put the menu together, especially after dealing with all the different caterers in the beginning. While we were waiting for things to be set up, we had a couple of celebratory tequila shots at the bar next door.”

13. An Orchard Wedding In Quebec

Cost: Under $8,000 | Location: Quebec, Canada | Number of Guests: ~40

“Don’t listen when anyone tells you that you simply have to spend this and that much on something. You really don’t. In fact, you don’t have to do anything that does not feel right to you, or that makes you feel financially uncomfortable. You could say I have a twisted mind, but I systematically looked for vendors and resources outside the wedding world. In my opinion, they always provide a better value and a refreshing perspective.”

Lucy Bennett

Lucy a freelance designer/writer hybrid. When not coming up with weird self-challenges, she can be found marathoning TV shows or playing board games. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, her moderately internet-famous pup, and two cats. She takes herself very seriously.

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  • D

    Great to see so many beautiful examples of weddings under 8K.
    Does APW get any European weddings? At all? And possibly even on a budget???… I’m just stuck searching for any examples of weddings on a budget that follow the European tradition a bit (full-day weddings, but with different amounts of guest for different parts of the day). And it is especially hard to find any wedding that has the APW-style (you know, looking FUN! and with BADASS STYLE!) …sigh….

    • Meg Keene

      We get a lot of UK weddings. Sort under location/ UK here: http://apracticalwedding.com/category/real-weddings/ We tend not to have a ton of non-english language weddings for obvious reasons.

      This one followed that tradition, was on a really lovely small budget, and was a ton of fun with badass style: http://apracticalwedding.com/2009/03/wedding-graduate-cate-subrosa/

      • D

        Thanks Meg! I will have a look at the UK weddings and take inspiration from there. Our wedding will be in September. Just join me in hoping I can make it work, so I will be able to send in my Dutch wedding for fellow Europeans looking for inspiration ;-)

    • newyork22

      Ugh – stupid firewalls at work. I wanted to look at our detailed spreadsheet with costs on our German portion of the wedding festivities but am blocked. Sad. I can tell you the components and general cost: we were able to host a wedding for just shy of $5,000 for 60 people in a small medieval castle. The day before, we hosted a 4-hour horse drawn carriage ride for 20 people who RSVP’ed (with a Saturday wedding, we found that not all guests wanted to lose a vacation day before the wedding; some were happy to fly in for the day of). My host mom baked Belgian waffles and brought coffee in thermos bottles for an impromptu picnic at one of the stops on the ride. For the wedding day itself, we structured the ceremony, happy hour, and dinner + dancing to take place sequentially at our venue. Cocktail hour was at 530, there was a surprise ceremony I didn’t know my host parents were planning around 615, and then we moved on to a buffet dinner. Fireworks took place at 10 pm, then we had cake and dancing. We didn’t have time restrictions and actually picked up keys the Wednesday before our event and returned them the Monday after. we were greatly helped in our budget because the German wedding model seems to be all hands on deck – my host family and their friends all participated in our wedding. Even the ~15 min firework show was done by a family friend!

      For Nepal, we actually invited our American friends to my husband’s family’s house the day after to have dinner and drinks. On the day of the wedding, we only invited close family and friends to witness the ceremony + partake in a special cocktail hour. The smaller guest list arrived at 4 (50 people), and the larger guest list (400 people) arrived at 6 pm. Word of mouth and electronic planning tools (yea Appy Couple!) helped us manage the RSVP situation. In both instances, we found it very difficult to host activities on the wedding day prior to arriving at the venue. It was too stressful for us and we wanted to enjoy getting ready and spending time with family/friends.

    • EF

      the UK tradition is a nearly-day long affair, typically with 2 meals and dancing till midnight or later. Our wedding was in early january, and here’s how we changed things and got away with it:
      noting that my partner is british, I’m american, and we’re settled in the uk.

      -morning was set up, etc. met the family and wedding party at the venue. directed how to do things. then we headed back to our flat to get ready.
      -arrived at the venue at 1:30 for group/family/wedding brigade pictures
      -pre-drinks and mingling with guests till about 245
      -ceremony at 245
      -upstairs was the reception, which started at 330 or so. food was family-style and was laid out when guests arrived upstairs
      -wine was on the table, there was a cash bar
      -various activities, toasts, etc till about 530
      -desert bar opened sometime around 530/6
      -we bid adieu at 645
      -guests were invited to go off and have dinner wherever they wanted, reconvening at a pub for an afterparty. this allowed the older guests to go home, no hard feelings, but the younger ones to get psyched up for a pub crawl.
      -930pm onwards: pub crawl, with a stop for food at 11pm. we went home at 1230 or so, the group stayed until bars shut at 2AM
      -brunch with the younger crowed at 11AM the next day

      we spent about £4000 over all. 64 people attended. and no one complained about anything!

      considering submitting the wedding, but we’ll see how lazy i end up about it!

  • AGCourtney

    Thank you! It was so helpful to read these.

  • I just loved the idea of outdoor Potluck Wedding theme. I must say that this article is very useful and informative.Thanks for sharing!

  • Estherhasi

    So helpful to see what other people do with similar budgets to ours. We’re planning a May 16 wedding and for us it’s very important to include all the people who have supported us through the years and right now that includes close to 300 people. We decided to keep it simple and offer a dessert buffet later in the evening and have lots of games and dancing. We’re trying to stay under $6k and one of the biggest things I realized is finding a free venue — our church and its gym — has made the biggest difference. Otherwise we would have had to limit our guestlist and that’s not something I would have ever wanted.

    • Sarah E

      I’m right there with you. We share your wedding date and your priorities! For our 220-person guest list, we also chose doing desserts only, late in the evening, largely made possible by a $500 venue that doesn’t generally host weddings. Plus, we’re fortunate to have both a skilled baker and some photojournalist friends/acquaintances who offered their services at rates we could actually afford. We’re trying to stay very near to $6000, too, which means eliminating a LOT of items, and thank goodness that means keeping with the simple, people-focused event we want.

      • Estherhasi

        So good to hear that we’re not some sort of crazies with this idea! People focused, budget-minded people unite! My fiance’s brother and sister are also getting married this year and we know their budgets will be much larger than ours, so it helps to know we’re not alone in our priorities or ideas.
        How are you doing desserts? I have the venue, photographer, most of the decorations and big items figured out. But I’d be very interested to hear how you’re doing desserts on a budget. I am concerned people will be upset that there isn’t enough food and that we aren’t providing dinner.
        Also, are you feeding your families, helpers and attendants before hand?

        • Sarah E

          Well, a good friend of mine and my mom’s is an amateur baker. She’s made a wedding cake before, and baked for a coffee shop before, and it’s her hobby. So while I’ve budgeted about $1000 for desserts, she’s not really “charging” me a set price. I’m simply paying for all the supplies, then forcing as much money in her hands as she’ll let me. She’s making three different bar-type desserts: lemon bars, gluten-free brownies, and peanut butter blondies, as well as just a nine-inch cake for my partner and me. We’ll also buy a couple big trays of fruit from the grocery store. The bars are something that can be made in quantity fairly easily and cut small to make them stretch if necessary. If I didn’t have her to bake for me, I would be calling caterers, grocery stores, or probably some of the vendors at the market to see what they could do at my price point, ditch the personal cake, and maybe do two kinds of dessert and fruit (we have some gluten-intolerant loved ones).

          I’m not too worried about feeding people enough. . .I’m not much of a people-pleaser when it comes to those things. Both our invitation and our website will say “dessert reception” with a note on the website to emphasize that people should eat dinner before the wedding. All of our closest family and friends know we’re just doing dessert so they can spread the word. If it really comes to that, they can leave half way through the reception and get something to eat at the restaurant across the street.

          We’re still working on the timeline for the day of. . . in particular, figuring out the delivery times for our rental will determine much of our set-up schedule. I do intend to spring for something for dinner for whoever is around helping to set-up, but I’m not sure what that will be. We’re planning on pizza for the rehearsal the night before, so I’m not sure if people will want pizza again? Maybe just a platter of cold cuts from the grocery store? My dad is planning on hosting an open-house style picnic at his house for his extended family coming into town, and my partner’s parents may do the same. Our venue is a farmers’ market building in a downtown area where there are plenty of restaurants around (not to mention the market itself will be open all day before we start to set up), so depending on what contingency money we have left over, perhaps we’ll be able to get burgers for everyone at a nearby pub and just leave drinks to individuals or something. If we’re really tight on money, I expect we can pack a ton of picnic food in the coolers we’ll need to bring in anyway.

          As you already know, a lot of it will be making a decision, then crossing my fingers and hoping for the best :-)

          • Estherhasi

            Thank you so much!
            I’m working through everything and it’s so good to see how someone else is doing a similar wedding with the same vision.
            I’m thinking Pizza or something simple will be easy and fun for a wedding day meal.
            I just discovered a huge mistake in my budget spreadsheet and a huge chunk of expense disappeared. (I’m not a banker for a reason)
            And yes, decisions made with crossed fingers and a prayer are something I’m totally familiar with.

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  • SS

    Some of these weddings are super cute and great ideas for planning my friend’s wedding! :) #7 is just plain rude though…it’s important to consider your guests as well. A wedding is still a party, and it’s impolite to accuse your family and friends’ priorities to be out of place when you are hosting a wedding on a Wednesday morning…consider their time too – most people have jobs and many have kids!