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Wedding on the Cheap

July 12, 2008

Three years ago my husband and I married. Because we had both been previously married...and on a limited budget, we agreed on a simple, small wedding in our backyard. Although I lean towards practicality, I still dreamed of a fairy tale wedding. The romantic in me wanted a stunning dress, a beautiful location and all the unique little details that would set our day apart from any other. So how does one have simple yet special?

I found that simple (unless simple means eloping) is sometimes harder to pull off than the extravagant. I spent HOURS looking for the perfect, simple, inexpensive dress. I didn't want to look like the mother-of-the-bride. I wanted to look like the bride, however I wanted the dress to be somewhat casual to fit the backyard wedding. I finally decided that what I was looking for didn't exist and I did not possess the time nor the skill to create the dress I had pictured in my mind. I settled for the only dress that even remotely interested me. I purchased the dress on sale at the Dress Barn for under $50.

Today, as I was searching for uses for my piles of t-shirts, I stumbled across this t-shirt dress. If I was getting married today, this just might be something I'd try. ;)

The location. I needed to "pretty up" my yard. Because of a big dog and daycare kids, my yard was well used. We were able to slide the two play sets so that they would not become the focal point of the ceremony. A generous friend, who had married a few years earlier, loaned me two beautiful pillars/columns in which I topped with two, big potted plants. This became the "alter" area. Next to this we placed my wicker love seat for the bride and groom to sit during the sermon. I probably spent $50-$75 on potted flowers and hanging baskets, however we were able to enjoy them all summer.

My friend also loaned me yards upon yards of white tulle which we decorated the outdoor porch with (this was our dining area). On the morning of the wedding, I went the Farmers Market to find flowers for my bouquet and for  centerpieces for the tables. I may have spent $20. I placed the flowers in mason jars and wrapped ribbon around the stems of my bouquet. I also filled jelly jars with candles to place on the tables and found beautiful tablecloths on sale to cover up four fold-up banquet tables. The chairs were rented. We used the chairs in the middle of the yard during the ceremony. During the pictures, the men put the chairs around the tables (easy task as there was only about 20-25 of us). I think the chair rental was around $30. Flowers + candles + chairs + tablecloths= $100

The cake. This is the one thing I did not skimp on (other than the size). Marble cake with a raspberry filling, topped with butter creme frosting and chocolate ganache. HEAVENLY! However, because we only had immediate family in attendance, we only needed a small amount of cake so this helped...a little. I purchased two rounds, rented two staggering cake plates and topped with a heart which I had found for under $20 at a party store. I think the cost of the cake was just over $100.

Funny, I can't remember any of the other food. I know immediately after the ceremony we served cheese, crackers and fruit while family pictures were being taken. Our friend, Blair Harrington, gifted us with his talent as a photographer. My mother made our dinner which probably consisted of sandwiches and salads. My friends, Brenda and Sue, manned the kitchen and the buffet table. Taking a stab in the dark, I would imagine the food didn't cost any more than $50.

"Reception" October 2008
The weather was beautiful. Although a bit windy, we were thankful that it wasn't unbearably warm or even worse, raining. My only regret was the size of the guest list. There were so many people that I would have loved to have shared this day with. My special daycare princess' and so many other friends. But if I had invited one, I would have wanted to invite another......and another....I don't think my yard would have handled that crowd. My mom, knowing this regret, hosted an open house a few months later to celebrate our wedding. (Thanks, Mom!).

If I could do a "do-over", I'd have the "open house" celebration  following the ceremony and family meal. A huge party to celebrate. I am a social creature and I would have loved to have all my friends present that day.  I would also have flower girls. Yes, plural, as I would include each and everyone of my daycare princess'! I had two little girls at the time of the wedding who would have made beautiful flower girls and I so missed not having them with me on my wedding day.

A wedding for under $400. But it's really not about the $$ ~ the most expensive dress, the fanciest reception hall or the elaborate decorations. A wedding is about two people celebrating their future together in the presence of those that they love. I hear horror stories of the headaches that accompany big weddings (and big debt) and I am so glad that is not my memory of my wedding. 

My love for frugality has grown since my wedding. I think today I could probably pull it off for even less money. I'd make recycled t-shirt dress and bake my own cake....or maybe I'd do the exact same way... with the addition of my princess' and a big party. ;)


  1. That is so cool. :) My wedding was on the elaborate side, which was not my intention - but my mom planned it. And while I loved it and there are few details that I'd change (although what the HECK am I going to do with my wedding dress? Sigh!), I love hearing about the small family weddings.

  2. I bet with a little google searching we could find a use for your wedding dress! ;)

  3. We had a small wedding, too. My mom made my wedding dress, green velvet and I still wear it at Christmas time:) I made my cake and our Unity candle. My mom, mother in law, aunt, and Grandma made all the food. I wouldn't change a was just exactly what we wanted.


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