Broke-Ass Category: 10-15K Budget Weddings


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?






  • 2/1

    The time has finally come to see Real Bride Amy’s intimate Chittendon, Vt., wedding. Amy and Rick escaped to a gorgeous lakeside lodge with a few of their nearest and dearest to tie the knot. They did away with all the extras and prioritized their dollars on what made sense for them — the true broke-ass way. Boucher Visuals did a wonderful job of capturing the love and details from their big day.
    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Lakeside Portrait || Boucher VisualsName: Amy & Rick

    Occupation: Public Health Professional

    Wedding location: Chittenden, VT

    Wedding Date: September 25, 2016

    Budget: $10,000

    Number of Guests: 15

    How would you describe your wedding (civil? Traditions? Write your own vows? Etc.): Simple. No frills. Just the important stuff.

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Ring Shot || Boucher Visuals

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Venue View || Boucher Visuals

    What was your favorite part of your wedding? When the ceremony was over, we walked to the car and had a few minutes before we went to join our guests. It was nice to have a few minutes to breath and just be together in the midst of a hectic day.

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Couple Portrait || Boucher Visuals
    What did you splurge on?
    Photography! This was my #1 priority so it was worth it. I also unintentionally splurged on my dress, but I found one I loved and just went with it.  

    What did you save on? We kept it small and did not do a full reception, which saved us on food, flowers and decor.

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Cake || Boucher VisualsWas there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? I would have savored the day more. It all went by so fast!  

    What was your biggest challenge in planning? Making decisions about what I wanted to do, while trying to consider everyone else’s wishes.

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Reception Dinner || Boucher Visuals

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Bridal Bouquet|| Boucher VisualsWhat lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? Although it’s a special day, it really is only just a day, and real life starts again right after, so don’t stress about it too much!

    What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?

    Our pictures.

    My dress.

    The cake.

    My bouquet.

    Sharing it with our closest family and friends.

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Bridal Accessories || Boucher Visuals

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Shoes || Boucher Visuals

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Dress Shot || Boucher VisualsTop 5 least favorite?

    Choosing vendors.

    Getting ready the morning of the ceremony. Stressful!

    The money. Seeing the bank balance dwindle away was hard.

    Pinterest pressure. DIY is not always worth it.

    How fast it all went by.

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Cake Cutting || Boucher Visuals

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Cake Smash || Boucher VisualsWhat was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? Everyone had their own story about what they did at their own wedding that they of course thought was best, “you should use this vendor,” etc.  They meant well, of course, but each wedding and each couple is unique. Weddings are not one size fits all, and you have to do what is best for the two of you.

    The best? Go with your gut. Don’t get swayed, but what your friend did or the popular social media trends, or what your mother thinks you should do. Do whatever will make you look back on your day and smile.

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Portrait with Dogs || Boucher VisualsAny other bits of wisdom? I can see the value in hiring at least a day-of coordinator. We didn’t, but much of the week before was spent trying to coordinate with vendors about schedules and payments, and that day I was worried about where everyone was going and when, and we were running around the envelopes trying to be sure everyone got paid. It would have been nice to know that was being handled so I could have focused more attention on my guests.

    Budget breakdown?

    Save the Dates and Invitations: $500

    Venue and food: $1,000

    Accommodations: $1,000

    Cake: $100

    Bouquet and boutonniere: $125

    Dress and alterations: $3,000

    Groom’s suit: $400

    Photography: $3,000

    Hair & Makeup: Free! I did my own makeup and my friend did my hair.

    Officiant: $400

    Total: $9,525


    Venue: Mountaintop Inn & Resort 

    Photography: Boucher Visuals

    Cake: Trillium Fine Desserts

    Dress: True North Bridal  Designer: Rebecca Schoneveld 

    Custom Save the Dates & Invitations: Written in Detail 

    Amy and Rick's Chittendon, VT Wedding | Ceremony Exit || Boucher Visuals

    Congratulations, Amy and Rick!


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    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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    Oh hey, we're married!  It's been a little over a month since we tied the knot, and things are getting back to normal. The first thing that people asked us when we returned from our mini-moon was, "how does it feel like to be married?" And honestly, we both say that nothing really feels all that different ... I just have a new last name…

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    Name: Katie and Andrew Occupation: Attorney (K), Warehousing Associate (A) Wedding location: Chanhassen, MN Wedding Date: 10/10/15 Budget: $12k (fuzzy) Number of Guests: 100 How would you describe your wedding? For our wedding, we took a lot of traditional influences and added our own personal creative touches.   What was your favorite part of your wedding? Holding hands during our ceremony, feeling each other’s nervousness and excitement.…

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    As you an tell by the title, I'm now three months away from the big day -- yikes! Fortunately, my dress is really coming along and I feel like I'm in a good place with the construction -- all of the pieces are sewn together and I actually have something to physically wear down the aisle, whew. This dress has not been without its hiccups so far,…

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    Name: Elissa and Nick Occupation: College Advisor + Medical Tech Wedding Location: Pasadena, California Wedding Date: June 20, 2015 Number of Guests: 80ish Budget: Less than $15,000 How would you describe your wedding? Pretty traditional in structure, though we wrote our service with the help of a Unitarian Universalist minister so that people of all faiths would feel welcome. Overall, we wanted it to feel like a fun backyard party,…

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    Photo: Shaina Sheaff Photography Hindsight’s 20/20, right? Oh, it’s great to look back with all of your knowledge accumulated through experience, but when you’re in the thick of things, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. This truism applies to planning a wedding about as nearly as anything I’ve ever experienced. You get inundated with advice: some well-meaning, some completely self-serving,…

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