Broke-Ass Tag: Budget Wedding


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When we left off, I was already projecting that we would go over-budget.

Womp, womp.

But we were about to make some decisions that could potentially alter how much I had to sacrifice. We agreed that we’d have about 100 people come to the big day. That would keep it “small” but “big” and would help keep the budget in check.

The first decision we made was about alcohol.

Would we have it? Yes, yes we would. I am engaged to a German and his German family is coming from Germany. There shall be beer! But also liquor because I don’t drink beer, or wine. I estimated $500 for beer and liquor. That said, I have no idea how much a keg costs, but I do know that the company that makes Timo’s favorite local beer sells it in kegs from Total Wine and we’ll be obtaining one of those. I am OK with well-liquor. Check.

The next decision we made was about food.

I half-jokingly suggested our favorite BBQ place for our reception meal since I knew they catered and Timo said it was a good idea. He told me that he’d been to plenty of weddings where the food was obviously expensive, but it wasn’t even that good. We agreed that it wasn’t being cheap if the food was spectacular. When I checked online, for 100 people it was around $1000. $10 per person is infinitely better than $30+ per person. Check.

I narrowed our venue options down to three.

Price and availability were the sticking points for venues. In Charleston, you can spend an obscene amount for a venue that includes only the roof over your head. One of the most popular places to get married in Charleston that isn’t downtown is Magnolia Plantation. It’s so popular they have their pricing form and availability calendar on their website. They were a quick elimination when I saw that for the cheapest location (of three options) it cost $3000 in the off-season (January/February) and you can only use their preferred vendors for your catering.

I did a lot of easy eliminating via price for the venue. Since most venues in Charleston are so expensive, having limited options made making a decision easier. Our options were Destination Goldbug ($1000), Medicine Wind Farm ($1200), and Alhambra Hall ($1500). After price, the inclusion of tables/chairs was another elimination factor. Our three options offered tables and chairs, which meant that we wouldn’t have to rent them. Another requirement was that we be able to serve alcohol and use an outside caterer.

I did pretty minimal research on a wedding coordinator/day-of coordinator.

I checked out a few websites and talked to a few people over the phone, but we ended up with two recommendations for the same coordinator from a neighbor and a friend and that’s who we knew we would go with if the price was right. Originally she quoted me $1200-$1800 and I knew that was out of our budget. When she met with us and realized we’d already done most of the legwork, she came down to $600. She has a vast network of resources for cakes, hair/makeup, DJs, and rentals and anything she already owns is available for us. Done.

I’m not above winning free stuff.

I’ve entered free contests for an engagement session (which I didn’t win even though I had a 50/50 chance) and a free DJ. Also, I’m happy to trade for services. As I have mentioned, I’m kind of a nerd (with high expectations). I’m a member of two Charleston recycled bride sites because I also love a good deal and we’re on a budget.

During R&D week, I was clicking on all the vendors I saw linked on the bride Facebook pages. One DJ I clicked on had really good reviews on her Facebook page, but her actual website was lacking. There was actually a page that was in Latin as a default page that had never been changed. When I contacted her on Facebook to ask for her availability/prices (much to my disgruntlement), I mentioned that her website didn’t have any of this information on it. She was willing to give me a $50 discount just for pointing out her site was bad. When I explained that I have some technical knowledge and it wasn’t difficult to create a new website for her (depending on her needs), she asked if I would create a site for her and in exchange she’d be our DJ for our wedding. I was happy to agree to these conditions. Timo agreed that this was a good arrangement and we said yes. Check.

The final big decision was photography and it was all on my shoulders.

Timo told me that since photography was my “thing” that he trusted my decision. With all the other decisions up to that point having been relatively easy, I knew that this decision would be as complicated as I let it be.

Was it easy to make decisions for your vendors?  Did you and your spouse-to-be make decisions together or did one person make decisions and the other person went along with those decisions?  What was your “thing”?

  • 2/7

    Now that we’re introduced, let me tell you about some details of our wedding!

    There were two reasons that I hesitated when it came to starting the wedding planning adventure:

    1) When I Googled “how to plan a wedding” (yes, I seriously did that), the one big thing that every site said we “must” do was figure out a budget. Money is gross. Budgeting is even more gross. But I knew it was 100% necessary since I know that we needed some type of control and we knew we didn’t want to put ourselves in the poor house from a single day.
    2) Timo is German which means that half-ish of invitees that would come to our wedding live overseas. We bounced ideas back and forth. Timo and I assumed the Germans wouldn’t make the trip across the pond and we’d do the ceremony/legal proceedings in the U.S. with an awesome reception then have another gathering/reception in Germany for those that didn’t come to the American celebration. I couldn’t come up with any alternatives, so I pushed down the knot in my stomach and hoped for the best, giving him my best smile and nod.

    But then, we got the best news ever. Well, second-best news ever. The best news would have been a relative telling us, “Oh here’s a lot money for your wedding!  Congrats and welcome to the family!”  That didn’t happen (despite the dreams that it will), but after Timo’s Dad (aka Papa G) found out, he starting making calls to relatives (even to Timo’s Mom (Papa G’s ex-wife)) to see who was down for a journey to America. To our surprise, most of the relatives were down for an American adventure!  This was a relief to me for many reasons, the biggest one being the money saved on not having to put on two events. Close second was that I/we didn’t have to figure out/plan from afar a reception type event in Germany. Just the idea of  planning an event in Germany almost gave me shingles.

    I asked Timo to find out what date(s) work best for them. They were coming the farthest and I wanted to make it easy for them to attend (thus saving me from the medical issues that planning any event in Germany would entail). We told Papa G we were aiming for a fall wedding and that October/November was probably best. They gave us a date range of October 27-November 3rd. They would already be on holiday, so they wouldn’t have to take extra vacation time to come to America. This was the third-best wedding planning news we received.

    While those proceedings were going on, Timo and I started discussing some broad ideas and a budget (barf).

    One of the most important things we had to decide, which would affect our budget was where we were going to get married. We bounced the idea of getting married in southern Maryland back and forth because we had a potential hook up for a venue there. We bounced the idea of getting married in western North Carolina (where I grew up and where my Dad still lives). Eventually, we decided on having everything go down in Charleston, S.C. (our home).

    1) Charleston has an airport.
    2) Being close to home means that Germans who come to the wedding will also get to see our house/life and meet the dogs they’ve only ever seen through the internet.
    3) It’s easier to plan a local event (or so I’m telling myself).

    The biggest issue with having a Charleston wedding is that Charleston, S.C. (depending on who you ask) is the #1 or #2 destination for weddings in the U.S. That doesn’t matter to me, but it matters for the wedding “industry.” It means that as soon as you mention the “w-word” (wedding) prices absolutely sky rocket. It’s not unusual to see venues that cost $4000 for an all day Saturday event with nothing included (i.e., tables, chairs, sometimes bathrooms) AND have a required catering bill (from one of the venue’s preferred caterers) of several thousands of dollars. My heart dropped when I realized this because I knew that this would strain the budget we had decided on.

    Our budget (goal): $10,000.
    It still kinda makes my blood drain when I think about the fact that we are paying that much for one day of partying. I know, I know, it’s a super special day, it will only happen once (it better only be once!), etc etc. But that is a lot of money.

    Right off the bat, I asked Timo what was most important to him about the entire day, ya know, other than the obvious — becoming legally bound to each other — and he told me booze and food. I let him know up front that photography was my most important thing. I even explained that I was willing to spend a LOT of our budget on photography (like 40%). He seemed to have a similar reaction as me when I heard he wanted to potentially have two receptions: smile and nod.

    I had read it plenty of times and was well-aware that having friends “help” at the wedding is a great way to save money if you’re planning a wedding on a budget. I have experienced that firsthand. I consider myself an experienced amateur photographer, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say “professional” photographer. I’ve photographed parties and weddings for plenty of friends. But here’s the thing about having your friends “help” at your wedding: they become the help, not the guest. Timo and I discussed this before we even got deep into the planning process and I told him that I didn’t want our guests to “work” at our wedding. I wanted our friends and family to be able to fully enjoy our day with us, not be distracted by getting their “job” perfect (lest the wrath of the bride come upon them) or having to experience it through a lens (specifically for a photographer). I obviously had feelings about this, so Timo said OK. This mostly means that we’re having to be extremely thrifty.


    With a budget and a range of dates, I set about finding a venue, photographer, coordinator, and caterer, the big items that needed to get reserved ASAP.

    How did you decide on where your wedding will take/took place?  Did you have family come from another country to attend your wedding?






  • 10/31

    Credit: Carole Cohen The word cliché is the last word you want to use to describe your wedding. But the fact of the matter is weddings are full of clichés because they are time-honored traditions. Most weddings have a number of similarities since they consist of traditional elements that are largely shaped by religion, law and cultural norms. Some brides buck tradition, but even the most…

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    Today's CAI/GOI request is for a seriously gorgeous Galia Lahav gown. Reader Jasmine commented on this post asking for some help finding a "Loretta" lookalike. She writes: "Hi! I too am in love with a Galia Lahav "Loretta" dress. Would like to keep my budget around $3000 (and lower if possible :D) but there might be some wiggle room if truly necessary ;). I am…

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    Cash Wallet, $56 by Etsy seller BlackArrowStudio I've been wracking my brain to come up with some truly epic wedding advice for you, BABs. This being my last advice post for The Broke-Ass Bride for the moment, I'm feeling some (self-imposed) pressure to get it right! ? I hope you enjoy it, and remember that you can always reply in the comments or email BAB directly…

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  • 8/10

    Real Bride Lucinda married Chris under sunny skies and amidst a gorgeous northern Massachusetts backdrop in a classic wedding celebration. After DIYing some seriously huge aspects of her wedding -- including her wedding dress, veil, signage and paper flowers for decor -- the couple celebrated with family and friends while the talented Maria Burton Photography captured their day. In a typically super expensive wedding market (about $40K on…

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    Since my wedding is a year away, I have not actively started the DIYing that I plan to do. I have also experienced my fair share of being totally non-committal in choosing our wedding venue. While on vacation, we found one, and it is gorgeous. It's n an island in Georgia, overlooking my favorite thing on Earth: the ocean. The ceremony will take place under a…

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    Quote on Canvas available from Etsy seller TheAngelPaperie I recently re-shared a post I wrote last year about fear-mongering, shaming and budget weddings because I've been noticing a trend that concerns me -- not necessarily among our readers, but more among wedding businesses. Recently on BAB's Facebook page, one of our advertisers was harassed and bullied due to the nature of her business. See, she…

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  • 1/26

    Our first official wedding correspondence is going out in a week or two (as soon as I get around to DIY-ing them) -- our Save the Dates. Everyone we’re close to knows that we’re getting married. It shouldn’t be a secret or surprise to anyone when they arrive in the mail. It’s also not as if our wedding and getting married doesn’t already seem real;…

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