2/17 Other People’s Wedding Budgets

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Everyone needs a little bit of help on their way down the aisle. Believe it.

The BAB brigade has sensed a…disturbance…in the Force. Or at least, I have. It started with my “Ask Liz”  post last week. I answered a question on rentals, and a question on calculating your wedding budget, and the budget one got all the attention and a great deal of defensive push-back. And then on Wednesday, the Real Wedding post led to another firestorm of comments. The bride and groom spent $6,000, but they were given their photography, attire and a couple of other things as gifts. Some peeps cried foul: That was NOT a $6,000 wedding! It’s easy to only spend $6,000 on your wedding if you’re given another few thousand on top of that! And I thought, they spent that $6,000 on a venue, food, and alcohol for 125 people in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t go straight to “easy.”  Even if the photography added another $3,000 to the mix, this wedding wasn’t breaking the bank.  As a wedding planner in the same town, I was impressed. But no one paid attention to the things they did to save money – again, finding an inexpensive venue, inexpensive catering, and limiting the bar… options everyone has.

Eventually, the bride herself weighed in to confirm that even with the “freebies” her wedding was still under $10,000, far, far less than half the average wedding cost in this town. Broke-Ass Bride status affirmed. There were some mutterings about how no one was trying to attack her…

…But you know, they kind of did.

Budgets are THE touchy wedding subject. How much you have to spend, what you can’t afford, what you can vs. whatever every other bride in the world has to spend. It’s frustrating when your dreams aren’t supported by the money in your checking account, and it can make you focus more on what you don’t have, as opposed to working with what you do have. I get it. It can make you more sensitive about the true cost of other people’s weddings, which is one of the things that seemed to be going on here. And I get that, too.  But it can also screw with your sense of perspective.

What worried me, was the… what’s the word… vehement begrudging of the financial assistance that she got from friends and family. Here’s the thing and I speak from experience: If you’re going to pull off a 10k wedding, you’re going to need help. Excuse me, you’re going to have to get help. The kindness of family and friends, the flexibility of your vendors, whatever it takes to get you there, no small-budget wedding is an island. Don’t begrudge: Learn. What can another person’s wedding teach you about how to create yours? What did they have that you have, too? What do they have that you might not have but can compensate for? Use the resources you’ve got to get what you need. And ask as many questions as you can, and for as much help as you can get. In the meantime, go easy on one another: It’s rough enough out there, already.

That being said, I wanna hear about your victories in the $10k wedding race: What was the last fantastic discount, donation or friend-or that’s going to get you that much further down the aisle? Let me know, and let me know what you think, in the comments below.

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith is the owner of Silver Charm Events, a wedding planning service in Los Angeles. She's also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of "DIY Your DOC: Do-it Yourself Wedding Day Coordination." Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • We've had several great helpers! Big props to my Mom, who is not only making my wedding dress (plus veil and belt), but also the flower girls dresses, pennants for the wedding, and cloth napkins! In addition, a sweet friend is making us a wedding map. We're printing our own invitation suite, but the MOG is cutting everything out. And we have lots of friends and family contributing desserts for the reception. Oh yeah, and a cousin is borrowing a Virgin Mary for our ceremony!

  • Michelle

    We spent less than $4K. Yes a friend did our photography for our wedding gift. But we had 200 people just outside of DC, pretty amazing. I made all of the invitations myself. We had a huge barbeque at a local park. Rented the restored barn and the outside grounds. We made a lot of the food ourselves, friends smoked brisket, pork shoulder, grilled burgers and we had a fish fry on site. What we or our friends did not make ourselves we had catered by Famous Daves. Bought wine and beer wholesale. Bought flowers from a local grower and arranged them ourselves. I splurged and had an amazing florist do all of the personal flowers. Cake and cupcakes were done by an amazing baker who bakes out of her home. We even had volleyball, cornhole, hula hoops and games set up. A DJ took up 25% of the money. Yes, our wedding was not formal but it was a blast and it fit our budget.

    • Annie

      I'm just outside of DC, too… would you mind naming a few of your vendors?? They sound great! I'd love to know about your venue, flower sources, and baker.

  • Adriana

    I guess it is not fair to compare my budget to everyone else´s here, as I am planning my wedding in Colombia, South America. However, I think my wedding is still going to cost more than Michelle's so good for you Michele! It sounds like you and everyone else had a great time and that is what matters!
    We are splurging on a live, 5-member band, a violinist, piano and soprano for the ceremony. We have been able to bring the prices down for pretty much everything else because we have found a lot of flexible vendors and we have been pretty flexible with our choices as well, though it has not been easy. We are expecting to spend about 8K but again, that is because we are doing it out of the country. If I was doing it in the US however, I would still do the invitations, programs, floral arrangements myself, and I would talk to every single vendor to find a way to pay a bit less. Additionally, I would find the wedding favors online and use sites like TheKnot, Saveoncrafts.com and Bridesign.com, because they always have things on sale or at great prices. Michaels is also a good idea for the crafty projects.

  • Caitlin

    Oh poo, just wrote a response but I don't see it. Did it get deleted or am I an internet spaz?

  • Caitlin

    Really, deleted again? I guess it wasn't my spasm. Why?

    • I've had some magically disappear and reappear on here. Maybe try again in a bit?

      • Caitlin

        Thanks! I just thought it was weird that the two "real" comments I made are gone, while these short ones in between are still here. I probably just need to be less antsy-in-the-pantsy. 🙂

  • This is just a lesson that it takes a village to marry us Broke-Asses 🙂 I see nothing wrong with gifted portions of a wedding. If you are blessed with creative or giving people willing to help make your day a reality, then kudos to you!

  • I had a gifted dress, cakes, brooches for my bouquet, and they were listed as free in my budget breakdown. I can't tell you how much I agree with this post Liz! Let us all play nice because we are all in this for the same reason, to marry the one we love. While the wedding is the culmination of it all, whether it is at the Justice of the Peace or a $30,000 shin dig, it is after all…just one day.

  • prettymindy

    I feel like I need to defend myself seeing as how I was the person who muttered that no one was trying to attack the bride, which is a statement I still stand by – yes, I cried foul at the listed budget but in no way was I trying to attack anyone! I personally apologize to the bride and to Liz if my comment came across that way and I assure you it wasn't my intent. I applaud anyone who can pull off a $6k or even a $10k wedding in Los Angeles. I would never begrudge anyone who was gifted items for their wedding, since I am in the same position!

    With all that out of the way, I am not having what most would consider a budget wedding. We are splurging on our venue, which includes food and booze. But, my future in-laws are assisting with some of those costs, I got 50% off my photography package via a promotion, I found my gown at Goodwill for under $50, I visit Joann fabrics twice a week and use my coupons to buy DIY items, and have cut deals with vendors in exchange for honest reviews on my little blog. Without my generous in-laws and a lot of research for bargains we wouldn't be having the amazing wedding of our dreams.

    • Jennifer

      I completely agree with your first paragraph. That is what I was trying to say (if my comment ever appears) but you were far more eloquent than I! 🙂

    • Caitlin

      Exactly! That is what I was trying to say, but my comments are also lost for now. As the first poster on the "Real Wedding", I feel the need to defend myself too. No hard feelings or "begrudging" or "vehement" opposition here! A $10k wedding, especially in their location is still a great feat. I was just saying call it $10K, not $6,000. That's it. It was never supposed to be an attack or statement against what looks like a beautiful party.

  • lizcharm

    @prettymindy – there were a few comments in there that were pretty attacky, and it certainly seemed that the bride thought so. Perhaps not your comment, and perhaps not Jennifer's. However, they WERE there. There were two admins weighing in to try to quell the storm, even.
    We're all doing the best we can, all of us, with what we have, whatever that is. Recognition of that is important. That was my main point. Yay if you got help, yay if you were able to do it on your own. Just: YAY.

    • Bonnie Marie


  • Danielle

    I am incredibly fortunate to have a friend doing professional letterpress invitations for us as a gift. And I got a 75% discount on professional photography because the photographer is also a friend. While I understand that these gifts and financial breaks ultimately go into the cost of my wedding, I can totally see how they don't automatically get calculated into what I call my budget. For starters, most of the time when you get such a great deal or something for free, you have very little idea how much the actual thing costs. For instance, I have no idea how much my letterpressed invitations with their lovely packages and liners would normally cost. I am just grateful.

  • Meeg

    I LOVE that people have others help them out – that's what weddings are all about, bringing everyone together to celebrate the union of two lives. But on a site like this, I'm looking for tips on how to save money, and I already knew that if someone else paid, it would be cheaper for me… Please give us the total budget to help us Broke Asses!!

    • Caitlin

      Yes! That was the point I was trying to make. Thank you.

  • Momo

    It was a huge pet peeve for me as a broke ass bride to read about "budget" weddings that did not include all the freebies and gifts as part of the overall cost. So I totally get what others are saying on here. I just want a realistic and honest breakdown of the wedding budget.

  • Bonnie Marie

    A couple once got their elopement in Florence practically for free: complimentary photos, flowers and tete-a-tete toast for this couple from Mississippi. How? They were featured in a UK wedding magazine so the vendors were happy to get some visibility. Why? Because the bride had started planning their most special day while her hubby-to-be was deployed in Iraq as combat medic. There was always a little anxiety in her voice, the wedding was getting close and he still wasn't home. Their date had to be moved a couple of times and paperwork made it through at the last minute, but it happened. Now he is back home stationed in Cali where they live with their six kids.
    So, what's wrong with freebies?

  • bonniemaire

    A couple once got their elopement in Florence practically for free: complimentary photos, flowers and tete-a-tete toast for this couple from Mississippi. How? They were featured in a UK wedding magazine so the vendors were happy to get some visibility. Why? Because the bride had started planning their most special day while her hubby-to-be was deployed in Iraq as combat medic. There was always a little anxiety in her voice, the wedding was getting close and he still wasn't home. Their date had to be moved a couple of times and paperwork made it through at the last minute, but it happened. Now he is back home stationed in Cali where they live with their six kids.

  • Bree

    Addendum: We had no open bar and in fact, no alcohol served at all. This saved $1000+. If people complain that they don't get alcohol at your wedding, they obviously were not there purely to share in your public expression of commitment, and you can tell them to hit the town on their own afterwards. 🙂

  • Jenny P.

    We pulled off our wedding for under $10k. I believe closer to the $9k mark. We got there by getting friends to provide man services, including our photographer. She was a talented, professional photographer who just happened to be a friend of ours, and gave us a friends & fam discount. Also, we had friends design our invites, play all our music, DJ and prep hair & makeup. Other corners we cut: sample sale wedding dress, bought regular menswear instead of renting tuxes, had a 1-hour open bar during cocktail hour instead of the whole night (and we told EVERYONE about it beforehand so we really got our money's worth- everyone was nice and "relaxed" by the time we got there). We did flowers ourselves, including bouquets, centerpieces and flowers for the church. We only invited friends and family – absolutely NO acquaintances. Once we drew that line, it was easy to cut the invite list.

    • Jenny P.

      *many services

  • Dear

    I didn't see the "attacks" so I can't comment on that, but I did see the first few posts. Having freebies at your wedding wasn't the issue here, not at all. People encourage your resourcefulness, even. Your photographer is your BFF? Awesome. What I personally had a major problem with(and what I was reading in those posts) was being told it was a $6000 wedding and it wasn't.

    It's not spitefulness or jealousy. Hey, I'm glad you had a beautiful, happy wedding, all of you guys! But when your numbers don't add up, this really doesn't help anyone trying to have a wedding for the budget listed.