DIY Wedding on a Budget

As soon as we decided we were going to get married, we talked about how much we wanted to spend. It's not in Chris' and my nature to have a giant, fancy party - we're more, backyard BBQ people, so that's exactly what we did (and you can see all the fun we had here). We wanted to keep things fun and affordable. We didn't want to spend a giant amount of money on one day - it's just not our bag. I have certainly participated in fun, wedding blowouts, but it's just not our personal style. We also decided that we didn't want our families paying for it. Because we'd been together for so long it felt inappropriate to make our families pay for a wedding that was more of a formality. They kept insisting, so we let them pay for select things (dad and step mom = food, mom = dessert, step dad = wine, Chris' mom = drinks). They loved being able to contribute and we felt like it was a small enough amount that we didn't feel like we were taking advantage.

I kept pretty close tabs on how much things cost along the way because I didn't want it to cost too much and I knew I really wanted to write a post about it when things were all said and done. A lot of times I feel like people write about how to make weddings great, how to have a DIY wedding, etc., but they don't talk about how much things actually cost. I realize a lot of people don't like talking about money and that it's taboo in our society, but I also think that sometimes on blogs by not talking about how much things actually cost that we make things unattainable, or we think they're super affordable and then are upset if we try to do the same thing and it's crazy expensive. I really wanted to write about what this party actually cost us. 

So here it goes (and while normally writing budget posts I round things to the nearest $5, this time I rounded to the nearest $0.25 to try and make things as accurate as possible).

First off, the invitations

I made the invitation graphics in Photoshop and Chris printed them in color at his old day job :) The yellow construction paper on the back was $4.50, the envelopes we mailed them in were $7.50 and the postage was $24.50.

Next, the clothes

I bought my dress at a little boutique (Francesca's) for $48, score! I loved it. My sparkly Converse cost me $64, and I had to get pasties (yes, that's right people, pasties) which cost $1.50. My earrings and necklace cost $12.75 - thank you Forever 21! I did my hair myself and put a flower in it that I've had for a while, and my sister in law did my make-up, so both of those items clocked in at $0. I got Zoe's dress on sale for $22 and sewed the ribbon on myself with extra ribbon I already had. Her green and white shirt she wore later was $7.25. Her gold painted Vans were $32.75 and the gold paint was $4. I also got fabric paint and painted a 1 on the back of her shirt, the paint was $2. Lastly, Chris' short sleeved white button up shirt was $24.25 at Old Navy and he wore pants and shoes he already had.

Next up, favors

I made little gift bags for all the kids that had a thing of play-doh, 3 little rubber balls and 2 slinkies in them that cost $45. Our favors were packs of wildflower seeds for $53.50.

Now this is a big one: decorations

I really wanted to keep this one in budget, but also have lots of fun :) Alllllll the paper I got for the paper chains was only $10.50. Best. Score. Ever. I made sooooooooooo many feet of paper chains for really very cheap thanks to an awesome deal I stumbled on at Michael's one random day (packs of thick card stock for only $2 each and I got 5 of them). The paper chains were probably people's favorite decoration item and lots of people asked me about them. They only took me 3 nights in front of the TV, so it was definitely something I would do again. They just made the backyard look so happy. I bought a picture frame for Zoe's print for $8.75 on sale

It's a popular thing nowadays that I saw on Pinterest and people frequently do them on chalkboards, but I thought making one in Photoshop and printing it on nice paper and framing it would make a nicer keepsake. Printing it cost $1.75 because by the time I was done making it, I could no longer steal free color printing from Chris' job :) Tape and thumbtacks were $25.75 - I went through a lot of double stick tape. Crepe paper was $45.75 and the embroidery rings I bought to hang crepe paper from that we got married in front of cost $17.25. The pipe cleaners for my bouquet were $2.25 and the wire for my wedding gal's bouquets was $8.50 (I already had the paper and paper cutters on hand). Helium and balloons were $28.50. 

Then of course the tables, centerpieces and dishware

We rented all the tables and chairs for $325.50. For tablecloths I decided on butcher paper and then I bought a bunch of crayons for people to write and draw on for $40.25. I saved a ton of glass containers (pasta sauce, jam, etc.), I borrowed some vases from my step mom and then I bought some more vases at the dollar store for $17.25. I bought baseballs, peanuts and sunflower seeds to fill the glass containers as centerpieces and they all cost $101.25. I also bought some bowls and spoons for ice cream and forks for the cake that were $45.50.

Let us please not forget the food :) Yummmm. And we had a lot of it. We opted to get the party catered so we didn't have to worry about someone cooking. My dad kept trying to have me get a bartender, but with only 80 people, I decided people could handle things themselves. We got a local favorite place called Top Dog to do the food - hot dogs! It was Chris' idea and it seemed very fitting. We thought about other places, but they just didn't work out for one reason or another. We had 4 different kinds of dogs, lots of sides and they did cookies and brownies too. Their total was $1,291.75 - the highest single item by far, but well worth it. And people really enjoyed it - who doesn't love hot dogs at a backyard party? We went CRAZY with desserts and got a local place to make cupcakes, Zoe's cake and another cake for $288. The candles for Zoe's cake were $2.75. We ALSO got ice cream :) Chris loves ice cream, so of course we couldn't go without. And every Oakland party that needs ice cream needs it to be Fentons! (a local ice cream place that's been in business for almost 120 years. Awesome.) It is many an Oakland Family tradition to go to Fentons on birthdays, and we actually took Zoe the night before for a sundae :) 

We spent $110.50 on ice cream and $57.50 on toppings. 

And of course the drinks! Chris and I aren't big drinkers (Chris doesn't at all, and I don't much) so we opted for just beer and wine and then a wide array of non-alcoholic beverages. My step dad picked out all the wine (he loves his wine) and we had a wonderful selection that got many compliments for a total of $140. We got a variety of different kinds of beer (Bud Light, Pyramid, Gordon Biersch and Dos Equis) for $97.75. And we had lots to choose from in terms of non-alcoholic drinks with water, Izze, Juice Squeeze, Mexican Coca-Cola, and fancy root beer which clocked in at $81.25. And the ice to keep everything cool was $17.25.

Then there were also the things I did at no cost: the banners

The black and white printing was done at home and color at Chris' work and I already had all the paper they got taped on and the ribbon. 

Zoe's highchair ribbon garland was also something I made at no cost

Also, all the labels I made...

...and our couple print...

...were done for free from all the extra scrapbook paper I have, Chris printing at work and an extra frame we had laying around.

The sign welcoming people...

Was made with plywood I had laying around and craft paint.

And, not to be forgotten, our guest "books" which were mortar we already had that Chris mixed up...

...and then poured into frames from scrap wood we already had. People loved carving their names into them, and I love that we'll be able to put them in our yard instead of on a shelf never to be looked at 

I did all those items for free, but I'm guessing they might run you around $250-300 if you had to buy all the materials yourself.

Another item we didn't pay for: a photographer. I just didn't think it was really worth it to pay for, plus, I really hate staged photos. I opted instead to steal all the photos my friends and family took with their cameras and cell phones :) Plus, Chris' friend is a wedding photog and videographer and he gifted us photos. I told him if he honestly got 10 that were great candid shots I would love him forever. Candid shots are my absolute favorite. Like this one of me and my dad

Or this one from the ceremony

I have no idea how much money we saved by not hiring someone, but I'm sure it's a lot.

Possibly the biggest money saver was that we did it in our backyard. We didn't have to pay a rental fee, didn't have to worry about transporting everything or any of those other fun logistics. It made sense for us because we love this house so much and so many people hadn't ever seen it or hadn't seen it for a very long time, so it was a wonderful way to share all of the hard work we had done to make it our wonderful home.

Alright, let's total everything up!
Invites: $36.50
Clothes: $218.50
Favors: $98.50
Decorations: $149
Tables & chairs rental, centerpieces, extra bowls and utensils: $529.75
Food: $1,750.50
Drinks: $336.75
Miscellaneous: $50 (I kept really good track of everything, but I'm sure there are some items I forgot)
Grand Total: $3,169

We had about 80 people, so that comes out to $39.61 per person, which I think is pretty damn good. Of course, the biggest thing I have yet to mention is the enormous amount of help we had on the big day. All 4 of my parents, my brother, his wife, Chris' mom and sister all came for 2-4 hours EACH that morning to help set up. It was amazing, and we certainly could not have done it without them. Our house NEVER looked cleaner, the backyard NEVER looked prettier and we were NEVER so thankful. We really are a lucky family to have had so many people help us. And we are even luckier that so many people shared the day with us. It was fantastic and I wouldn't have done it any other way. I loved having it at our house, in our backyard with people who mean so much to us. It made it so personal and special and I will surely never, ever forget it. 


Tara said...

Thanks for sharing! That's awesome! My guy and I are definitely backyard BBQ people too, and maybe someday...

Three months sleeping in your car?!?!

Deb said...

What a perfect celebration!

meryl rose said...

Thanks ladies!

And Tara - TOTALLY do it in your backyard, it's awesome :) And yes, we slept in the car for 3 months together while on a road trip across the country visiting all the Major League ballparks. You definitely learn to love each other even more VERY quickly :)

Margaret said...

Totally Awesome!!!

Saroya Brewer said...

Meryl you guys are completely amazing. Good luck with everything :)

Erin said...

THANK YOU! People have no idea how much things cost for an event and how it adds up quickly even when you are keeping a close watch. Good work!

meryl rose said...

Thank you! :) :) :)

Erin - totally agree. Sometimes I find it hard in blogland that people are so willing to talk about how "great" something they bought is, a room they redid or a party they had, but no one talks about how much it actually costs. I know people don't like talking about money, but sometimes I think we should be a little more transparent so people understand how realistic things are.