Part Two: How to get married for $239

This article is part of a short (and sweet) wedding series. To start from the beginning, read Part One: How to get married for $239.

Last day I covered our wedding costs for the flowers, invitations, venue, guests and of course my second-hand wedding dress. Find out our total costs and final wedding tab right here.

6. Cut the cake.

Flour, sugar, eggs, and icing are cheap to buy. But as soon as you mix the lot together and call it a ‘Wedding Cake’ you’re on the hook for hundreds of bucks. I priced a few wedding cakes only to be shocked that bakeries charge a staggering $5, $15, and more per slice! Depending on your caterer or venue, you may have to pay a cutting fee to serve the dessert too.

Personally, I’m not a wedding cake person. I’ve never dreamed of sugary tiers of frosting with marzipan topping my wedding day. No, never, nope.

I wanted cupcakes.

wedding cakes

Big tasty chocolate cupcakes topped with teal icing. Now that’s fun. I ordered the gluten-free variety since I can’t eat wheat, so even these mini cakes were a tad bit on the expensive side.

Total cost for cupcakes: $30

Bottom Line: Cut the costly wedding cake and choose another dessert option to save huge marital money. Mini cakes, dessert bars, fruit, and other treats can be purchased (or made) for hundreds less.

7. Food and booze.

Our marriage meal was a potluck lunch. We contributed salads, a fruit platter, and a cheese platter all bought at Costco. We dined on organic salmon caught fresh by the family men. ‘The Boss’ (that’s my father-in-law) insisted on supplying the wine, and he wouldn’t tell me the cost. He only would say that “We didn’t drink enough.”

The amazing Kate (that’s my sister-in-law) put together the delicious menu and brought a few homemade salads and side dishes.

Our total cost for lunch: $45.83

We had a lot of leftovers, for days.

Bottom Line: Opt for a tasty lunch over a hearty dinner to save big wedding dollars. Getting the whole family to pitch in for a potluck meal could save you hundreds (perhaps thousands) on food and liquor alone.

8. Your friends, the photographers.

I asked Kate about her wedding pictures. She doesn’t have any. Her mind blowing comment on the whole wedding photography issue is: “You only need one photo.”

She’s right.

wedding photos

So I asked my friends to earn their dinners. Reread this cost-cutting request from my Facebook wedding invitation.

Everyone MUST bring a camera though. We don’t have a photographer. I’d take photos but I’ll probably be busy, getting married or something.

My friends took amazing photos. I’m beyond thrilled.

Bottom Line: Lend out your camera gear and ask everyone to snap a few photos. They won’t be professional quality, but you’ll see yourself through the eyes of your family and friends.

9. Don’t get odd over the loose ends.

The odds and ends happen to everyone. Hair, makeup, vases, ribbon, gratuities, and tax all cost money, but don’t always fit into a tidy budget category since these purchases can appear sporadically. Do yourself a favour and keep all your receipts.

wedding reception decorations

  • Flower Vases: 3 X $5.99 (dollar store)
  • Teal Ribbon: $7.69 (Costco)
  • Shoe Polish: $6.95
  • Music: $0 — Guests brought personal playlists on their iPods.
  • Hair and Makeup: $0 — I did this myself.

Total Cost: $32.61

Bottom Line: Arrange your own flowers in dollar store vases, apply your own makeup, do your own hair, and ask your friends to create special music playlists to really keep your wedding day on budget.

10. Setup and Take Down.

Setting tables, arranging flowers, and packing the party up yourself could save you big moolah too. My friend Derek thought it was funny when the bride (that’s me) and groom (that’s Carl) hauled tables around the ranch. Our guests carried their chairs back into the kitchen too.

backyard wedding ideas

This is how it’s done on the farm, people.

Bottom Line: Do the work yourself and bank those precious bucks.

Wedding Budget Total

Carl and I got hitched for less. Here’s where the money went:

  • Marriage Licence: $100
  • Commissioner: $139
  • Wedding Invitations: $0
  • Venue — Farm: $0
  • Flowers: $51.96
  • Wedding Photographer: $0
  • Wedding Attire: $191.72
  • Hair and Makeup: $0
  • Lunch: $45.83
  • Liquor: $0 (Thanks to ‘The Boss’)
  • Dessert: $30
  • Odds and Ends: $32.61

Wedding Total: $591.12

Tip: Download my Free Wedding Budget Planner Spreadsheet to keep a close eye on your wedding costs.

wedding budget

Considering it only costs $239 to get married (in British Columbia), I guess we went $352.12 over our wedding budget. 😉


Your two cents:

  1. Maureen January 26th, 2012

    There seems to be a thought out there that the larger the wedding, the more likely the marriage will survive. My husband and I married during reading week from university with a guest list of 20 – we will celebrate our 30th anniversary next month. The majority of our friends are either divorced or on second marriages. I enjoyed adding special little touches to the day but was relieved not to have to plan a huge event. The best part of the day? Looking into his eyes while reciting our vows. Priceless.

  2. Sabrina March 8th, 2012

    I LOVE IT! When my hubby and I tied the knot in 2007, our venue was on the beach in the town I grew up in. My bouquet was my favourite flowers, black-eyed susans (freshly picked that morning)and our family threw us a BBQ at a friends house after. We invited only family (bring your own chair) and seriously, only got married for the cost of the marriage license, commissioner, and gas to get there :)I did my own hair and makeup, and wore a dress I loved that I already owned. No shoes, since it was a beach. I have never desired a wedding cake, so there was none. But we have lots of wonderful memories with wonderful people and lots of pictures from our camera we passed around. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Karen April 19th, 2012

    Almost exactly what we did over twenty years ago, except close family came from the coast. Along with a salmon for the BBQ. And milk did come in bags in BC about the same time.

  4. Sherry April 28th, 2012

    Best Wishes of everything for your growing family.
    Love your posts, pictures, philosophy.
    “accidental sharking”??
    talk about suspense
    Don’t let the nay-sayers get you down.

  5. brianne April 29th, 2012

    I could see how the pot luck idea could be considered tacky by some but i think that in certain social groups its fine. you know yourself and so do those close to you, ie. the ones you would invite to your wedding, so you have to be true to yourself. if your a catered type of person great if not thats fine too. i think your wedding you should do what makes you happy.

  6. haverwench May 7th, 2012

    Our wedding wasn’t a potluck, but I’ve been to some that were, and the food was fabulous. We decided it wouldn’t work out in our case, since so many of our guests were coming from out of town (see my comment on Part 1), and catering the whole thing ourselves seemed like more work than we could handle while we were “busy, you know, getting married or something.” So the food was our biggest expense, at $11 a head. (That includes the cake, which was so fabulous we go back to the same bakery every year on our anniversary for a small version of the same thing.)

    So yeah, all told, our wedding cost nearly five times as much as yours (depending on the exchange rate). But it’s still about a tenth as much as the “typical” American wedding, according to Bride’s magazine. And I don’t think there’s a thing we’d do differently, except maybe I’d try bidding just a little higher for that vintage Laura Ashley dress on eBay. 🙂

  7. Cynthia May 11th, 2012

    In regards to the comment about “Come Celebrate, Bring a gift. and by the way bring a food;” Natalie what part of “NO GIFTS” did you not understand! Great ideas Kerry! Love your frugal ideas!

  8. John May 24th, 2012

    Amazing post. I’ve been to a few weddings and it was all pomp…for me, I hope to find a lady like you who is all about keeping it minimal and low-budget! I’m not into the showy stuff and your wedding looked awesome!

  9. Barbara June 2nd, 2012

    That wasn’t just a wedding, it was a celebration!

    How completely wonderful and rememberable .

    No regrets at miss spent money, guests who couldn’t sit at the same table as they can’t

    stand each other, no nasty bridesmaids,.and best of all !.NO bored people, just friends having

    a great time…..NOW THAT WAS A WEDDING!

  10. Sue June 5th, 2012

    What a way to “do it”. Still as many memories and warm fuzzies. A shame we feel that we have to put on a grande show to impress – who?
    Congrats! And I love your writing style!

  11. KT June 14th, 2012

    Congratulations on a memorable wedding! I am so glad I found this site. I am 70 and have already done most everything you have written about. It’s so nice to find a kindred spirit. I feel as if I am reading about myself as a young adult. Even had a November (1970) wedding. Made my own dress and a Dior bow for my hair from left-over fabric – $10 for fabric. Bought new white fabric shoes. After the wedding I had a shoemaker dye them black and I then had new dress shoes. Our reception was held in the ballroom of a veterans’ club to which my husband belonged, so no cost to us. We have large families on both sides and most of our friends are family members! When they found out we were getting married, they immediately planned a pot luck dinner. We enjoyed a dinner of all family favorites. Hubby’s sister made a wedding cake for us. Unbeknownst to us, my cousins got together and planned and made the decorations for the reception room. After the ceremony, we stopped at the photographer’s and had two photos taken – one of just us and one with our 2 attendants. We didn’t ask the family to do anything, but besides the dinner, they eventually inundated with photos from the ceremony and the reception. What a grand time and happy memories for all! May you, too, have as many happy years together.

  12. gina @ cateror July 27th, 2012

    Potluck weddings (when done right) can rock the house – and looks like yours was done right 🙂 Potlucks are meant to be about sharing, celebration, and good company, and what better occasion than a wedding? I just attended one where the wedding cake, tent, and justice of the peace were all “potluck contributions,” and it was wonderful. Congrats and thanks for sharing your wedding budget with us! 🙂

  13. Beverly August 1st, 2012

    We cut cost on our wedding cake too by getting a wheat free cake (most of family can’t eat wheat) by having a gluten free baker at the local farmer’s market bake it for half the cost of a regular wedding cake. $350 compared to $800-$900 for a gluten free bakery to make it. We also saved on our transportation as it was a wedding gift from family freinds and our photographer was my cousin so she did it for free again as a gift. I think the perfect day for a wedding is one where costs are cut and your not in debt just to marry the person you love.

  14. Adi August 13th, 2012

    I am a first time reader of your blog and I want to say after reading this- I love you 🙂

  15. Michelle April 30th, 2013

    This is awesome! I’m getting married in September. There are things that wouldn’t work for me but I’m so happy they worked for you. I’m having a backyard wedding & DIYing everything. I’m paying $150 for a custom made dress from an awesome seamstress! My future mother-in-law, my mom, and grandma are making the food and we’re getting a getting a sheet cake for our guests. You better believe we’re sticking to our $1500 budget for 70 people(:
    So glad I found this post. If anyone else has awesome ideas, I’m open to them!

  16. Sara May 12th, 2013

    I LOVE THIS! We got married in 2011 as well (actually on September 23..Weird!). We opted for a small luncheon style wedding. It was immediate family only and a few friends. I have a big family, so I only had the ones closest too me that I actually saw on a regular basis. Lots of people were offended, some still mad but it was what we wanted! We also had a house party that night for our close friends to attend. Everyone brought their own booze and an appetizer and it was a great night! People go way too over board for one day. I spent money on things that were important to me (like hiring a professional photographer for family photos) but saved in other areas. After all when its said and done its more about the marriage and less about the wedding.

  17. Raquel August 12th, 2013

    Hello Kerry:

    New follower here, and wanted to introduce myself and send a quick hello! Love the website, and am looking forward to reading and learning loads from your blog posts. I am an avid lover of being frugal (probably too much), but it is something I love to do 🙂

    I also wanted to mention that your wedding day sounded like it was a beautiful day, filled with love and was intimate and personal – which in my opinion, is what a wedding day should be. For Nathalie to say it is “tacky” to have a pot-luck and ask your guests to take pictures is funny, because well you know, inviting your guests to a fancy banquet hall with gaudy chandeliers, three-course meals, open bar, and loud DJ music and expect for your guests to buy you a gift on your registry or in many cases where I am from (Toronto, ON) the rule of thumb is to pay for your plate, which equals anywhere from $100 to $200 per person is not at all tacky. Now, I am not saying that banquet weddings are tacky, but I am arguing how bringing your own camera (which everyone owns one – including your smartphone) and bringing a (dish homemade or bought) is tacky? Are you suppose to go to any event empty-handed? Nah, I did not think so.

  18. Elizabeth September 30th, 2013

    Hello. I camd across this article from a friend, and loved it! I’ve been married 5yrs and had a very small wedding as well. We did a potluck lunch as well. All guests made their favorite dish, and attached the recipe so we could start out very own cookbook. The guests really enjoyed it. My photographers were free because I have a brother and my my husbands cousin that are photographers. My wedding cake was free, hair and makeup free, my husband made my bouquet and those for the bridesmaids from Walmart flowers, I created the wedding playlist, and so much more money saving things. We spent the most on my dress, his tux, and the venue. I was very proud of my “tacky” potluck wedding.

  19. Amelia Kartgen February 6th, 2014

    Again, I like the idea of having guests bring a dish or two to help compensate for the food and not bringing any gifts (unless you need some stuff and don’t have the money to buy it yourself, of course).

    The wedding photographer, again, I would spend some money to have some nice photographs to pass down to my kids.

    It all depends on what you can and are willing to spend for a “nice” – not glamourous – wedding day. Something just nice enough for a celebration of your wedding, and have memories to cherish in the future and not go into debt. From a financially realistic point-of-view, I honestly would spend no more than $200 on any wedding (minus the dress), if I ever do get married.

  20. Estee April 12th, 2015

    Hello “squakfox”! I’ve been an avid “squawker” for about 3 years now and I’d like to thank you for all your help! I use your methods almost on the daily, and now I finally am doing it for my informal wedding.

    We will be spending a bit more for our formal engagement and formal wedding, but because of some legal reasons…we’re getting married just one month after we decided to get hitched!

    Sounds crazy, but I would like to give my two cents to brides who worry about getting everything on time.
    Easter Sunday we started looking at licenses and commissioners, found where it was the cheapest and fastest (apparently across the street from us!) and since we only need one witness, we decided we’d only invite one person and allow one guest (since we’re getting married for legal reasons at the moment, and will be “getting engaged” for family in 4 or 5 more years).
    Total cost after research: $94! 🙂

    We live in a studio apartment, so we can’t really do it in our backyard, however I decided that we’re going to try to Barbeque on the beach or a nearby park. Reservations for those places are free, so all we’d have to pay for is chicken, beverages for 4 people, mix for caesar salad, and stuff for “scampi” styled veggies…Oh and gas. Total estimated cost: $33!

    A small cake from a grocery store is going to cost at most $12. 🙂

    Our rings we got on sale and we decided to go for the cheaper materials: sterling silver and cubic zerconium for my ring instead of real silver or white gold and real diamonds, tungsten for his band instead of real silver or titanium…Both look real! No one knows. Cost for both: $90! But we wasted a little gas to find them…so add about $20.

    My dress cost only $33 because I opted to look post-prom season, in a cheaper clothing district and was not picky about how fancy it was…as long as it looked good and had lace. I already have white shoes, but we’re budgeting up to $20 just in case…

    We already have a tie for him, skipped the fancy shoes, vest and jacket, so for slacks and a button-up we estimate for him $50.

    Oh! We are going to do the guest photography thing, and it doesn’t hurt to have our friends in the hospitality business! Because, Bonus! We got our honeymoon comped by our guests too! 😉 3 days at the Aqua Casino in sunny Palm Springs, California. My family lives there and so do a lot of my friends, so it will be mostly free to vacation when we decide to go. Only $30 in gas to get there and back.

    Total estimated cost for entire wedding, including rings, trip expenses and honeymoon: $382
    And that’s shooting a bit over. We expect to only spend $350, but are trying to shoot for $300.
    That’s how to have a total wedding for under $400!
    Even if we go all out, it will only be $288 over our budget! 😉
    AND it only took a month to plan! 😀

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