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. ;)

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Abby November 22nd, 2011

    Here’s another idea for a cake: we went to a local business that sells ice cream cakes, got three round white cakes in different sizes, and stacked them on a nice plate. The result was a three-tier white cake. We had about 100 guests on a hot summer day and everyone had as much ice cream cake as they wanted. There was a small amount left over.

    Cost of a three-tier wedding cake: $60.

  2. Rob November 22nd, 2011

    I just realized that you have basically held a themed party. And I’m guessing everyone had an awesome time!

  3. Kerry November 22nd, 2011

    @Rob LOL! Yeah, I guess the theme was: “Let’s get married.” ;)

  4. Carolyn November 22nd, 2011

    We had a small wedding in my Aunt’s home (no venue costs!) My sister performed the ceremony (only $50 to get her ordained for the day, so we didn’t have to pay a minister or anyone else to marry us!) I am TERRIBLE at doing hair, so I went to a local beauty school, found someone I liked, and hired her under the table to come to my home for a run through and then the day of the wedding ($100 bucks well spent, in my opinion!) We bought meat to BBQ and asked guests to bring side dishes or drinks instead of gifts, and everyone took photos for us. It was a WONDERFUL day! :)

  5. Natalie November 22nd, 2011

    I really like a lot of these ideas so I forwarded the post to my newly engaged sister. I do think a potluck lunch for a wedding is a little tacky though.

  6. Natalie November 22nd, 2011

    Come celebrate! Bring a gift! Oh yeah, and also pay for our food and photography. Classy.

  7. Liz Bowers November 22nd, 2011

    re Natalie’s comment about “Classy”. Everyone joining in bringing food and taking photos lets everyone truly participate. I bet a lot of people really enjoyed themselves. Also how classy are wedding registrations stipulating what you hope to receive? How classy is asking for cash for wedding presents so your guests can pay for some fancy-schmancy honeymoon? Especially when you both work and have been living together for three years. Really, what can you need?

  8. Kerry November 22nd, 2011

    @Liz Thank you. :) Carl and I asked our guests to ‘Bring No Gifts’. You’re right, we needed nothing. Our guests had fun snapping photos, eating homemade food, and drinking wine. ;)

  9. Natalie November 22nd, 2011

    I do think it is tacky to ask for cash as a wedding present but that doesn’t make telling guests that they must pay for food and provide free photography in order to gain the honor of supporting you on your wedding day classy either. If the couple both works and has been living together for years, doesn’t that make it even worse that they make their guests pay to attend their wedding?

  10. Karen November 22nd, 2011

    @Natalie – Actually, in a traditional wedding the gift you bring does often represent ‘paying your way’ to the event. Not to mention hotel costs, etc. Friends support friends, that’s the whole point of friendship.

    @Kerry – Loved this article!

    My husband and I had a lovely small wedding – 23 guests, we asked for no gifts, a friend played guitar for the ceremony, we had pie instead of wedding cake, and after dinner I traded the wedding dress for something more subdued and we all went out for drinks at a local pub instead of doing the DJ and dance thing.

    It really was our wedding – from style to substance – and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

  11. rob November 22nd, 2011

    I find it fascinating that you’re getting negative feedback from these postings (presumably via e-mail as I’m not seeing much negative in the comments).

    As with many things in our modern world, albeit more extreme, the wedding industry is out of control. A big party for your friends costing a few hundred bucks – sounds perfect. Even the big party my friends had in Cancun where it cost me a couple of K for flight and 10 days of all-inclusive wedding party partying/vacationing wasn’t bad. But (tens of) thousands of dollars on a “traditional” wedding? I’ve endured those for years and it’s boring for the guests, stressful for the active participants and a win only for the dress/cake/venue people.

    I think your low-key, low cost, (actual) friends & family wedding was awesome.

  12. Elizabeth November 22nd, 2011

    I really enjoyed these posts! I find the older I get, the less I want to spend on these things when I finally tie the knot. Your wedding is my new dream wedding — laid back, budget-friendly and a really good time with people I care about.

    Now I just need to find the groom ;)

  13. Chacha G. November 22nd, 2011

    Married 40 years ago in Ontario (and still married) – $10 for the license, $15 for the judge. Guests were our two sets of parents plus my two brothers. My mother made a banana cake (my favourite), my father brought champagne and wineglasses. Photos were taken by my father and brothers. After cake and champagne at our apartment, we all went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant (my dad paid so I don’t know what it cost), then visited my grandmother who was unable to be at the ceremony due to a sprained ankle. It was a great day and I’ve never regretted doing things on a small scale, even though we could have afforded something fancier.

  14. Jules November 22nd, 2011

    LOL, I can just see Karel’s face if I tell him that we can only have four guests!

    But I love the ideas and I also think it’s absolutely right–you don’t need a lot to get married (although I will probably spend a good €200 in white silk and lace to make my dress, but then it will *really* be a designer piece, hehe). I could never understand how people get themselves so worked up over things like flower placement and cake design.

    Speaking of which–if you’ve ever made your own cake icing, I promise, you will never ever touch another cupcake again. Or at least, you will think twice…there really isn’t anything fancy about buttercream, but the sheer quantity of sugar and fat it takes to make it is mind-numbing…not to mention gut-churning…and vomit-inducing….

  15. Chacha G. November 22nd, 2011

    P.S. Forgot to mention that I wore a white dress I already had and the groom came in jacket, tie, etc. that he already had.

    The icing on the cake was buttercream – delish! (Just don’t eat it too often.) ;-)

  16. Brett November 22nd, 2011

    @Nathalie – I think you need to re-read the article as guests were specifically asked not to bring gifts.

    Considering I usually spend at the very least an hour to go out and find a gift, I wouldn’t mind spending spending an hour puting some love into a homemade dish rather than something without thought on a gift registry.
    This is super helpful! Thanks Kerry.

  17. Analissa November 22nd, 2011

    There were a lot of good ideas in this article, but I have to agree with Natalie. It is tacky to require guests to bring food and take photos. They come to celebrate with you. It makes the wedding cheaper yes, but partly because you are putting the financial burden on you guests. I am sure many people would be happy to help out if you asked them in advance. But to require it…

    All in all, I do think there are a lot of good ideas in this article.

  18. Jules November 22nd, 2011

    @ Natalie and everybody else with the tacky-factor: I’m not sure what you’re complaining about, because none of the guests did. If there were 100 people there, I’m sure Fox and Karl would have done things differently, but these are *CLOSE* friends and family. People whom you regularly send home with your baking dish and whose casserole dish you have in your cupboard, whose kids you watch on short notice, who help themselves to the cookie jar without having to ask (OK, maybe that’s just our close friend). Elegan and elaborate may very well be your thing, but it’s not necessarily what everybody else wants. Fun, funky, and being able to relax without worrying about which fork goes with what course sounds like a perfectly good time to me.

    And come on…who hasn’t looked through a pile of wedding photos and thought, “I coulda done better”? Well, what better chance…?

  19. Marilyn Crisp November 23rd, 2011

    Lovely ideas. I do wonder if you have relatives who would love to have been included. Also, we don’t all have parents with ranches. Some of us have parents in cramped apartments.

  20. Roma November 23rd, 2011

    Hi everyone, I am a reporter at the Globe & Mail and I happen to be writing about how to save up for a big event like a wedding. If someone wants to share their story with me – other than Kerry :-) – please shoot me an email. rluciw@globeandmail.com Congrats on getting married Kerry! Roma

  21. Julie @ The Family CEO November 23rd, 2011

    I love the story of your wedding because it was so creative and so YOU. I would have made very different choices, but I would much rather attend a scaled-down wedding that reflects the bride and groom than a traditional wedding with all the expected bells and whistles.

  22. Kelly November 24th, 2011

    Kate did her own make-up (the Duchess of Cambridge) and she set a trend for brides everywhere.

    BTW – you’re beautiful,Kerry :)

  23. alyx November 24th, 2011

    Kerry, this is fantastic (the blog post and the event). The bottom line is that everyone needs to celebrate their special day in the appropriate way for them. I bet your friends and family were ecstatic and no one should be telling you otherwise (I don’t understand why @Natalie is so upset – it’s not her wedding and did I miss the part where you told people to pay for coming?).

    I’ve seen all sorts of weddings and the ones that are true to the couple (whether is fancy schmancy pomp and circumstance or backyard potluck) are the best. The ones where the couple was coerced into having more guests, more frills, etc. than they wanted (even if someone else was paying) were not as natural.

    You looked beautiful (Fluevogs! Love!) and it sounds like there are no complaints (and no debt). I’d say 100% success.

  24. Mike November 25th, 2011

    @ Kerry & Carl, Blessings, Congrats, Happiness, Health, Prosperity! With the hindsight of 54 years and 10 years with my woman and best friend (yeah, I’m “owned”), I’m appalled by the wonton, indulgent one-day spending sprees that too many of my petulant friends & family have foisted on my savings account. I scrimp & save all year for 5 minutes facetime with a frantic bride & groom?! Vacation time, gift, 2 airfares, hotel, rental car; it’s cheaper to just buy them a new 60″ widescreen and mortgage payment (not likely)! Every couple should be saving every penny & dime for the trials & tribulations that WILL come. Hence, the need for our frugal “SquawkFox”. Just another laid-off shipcarpenter in Miami.

  25. JenX November 25th, 2011

    Loved the low key wedding ideas you wrote about, Kerry. And congratulations on your recent nuptuals.

    Wedding costs have gone way-over-the-top-crazy and couples feel like they are mandated to buy into the hype. Just boggles my mind how couples spend $40K on one day and a decade paying it off — in some cases longer than the marriage lasts. The most important part of a wedding day is the couple. Everything else is a distraction.

  26. Kelly November 25th, 2011

    My husband and I eloped. Mom wasn’t happy, but we used the $$$ we saved for the down payment on our house.

    It was nice: A quiet ceremony and a nice dinner with our two best friends/witnesses.

  27. Laurie November 25th, 2011

    Absolutly love it! This is what a wedding is supposed to be. Two peope getting married with the people close to them in attendance.

    I don’t think any of this is tacky. In fact, if I were a guest, as an avid baker I would have offered to make the cupcakes for Kerry and Carl – no problem at all. If not the cupcakes, any dish would have been my pleasure to bring to their special day. As for taking pictures, people typically bring cameras and take pictures anyway…no big deal to take some more and forward off the digital copies.

    Well done Kerry…and congrats.

  28. Alison November 27th, 2011

    We got married 8 years ago. We had a church wedding for 250 people. It was opulent. But instead of costing $50K, it cost $5K.

    We got help from our friends.

    We bought what we needed. Counting the food, wine, beer, wedding rings, musicians, clothes, and a certificate done in calligraphy big enough for all the guests to sign, it was around $5000. Way more than this wedding.

    In no way did we skimp. We hired 4 young people for the day to set up the church and clean it up afterward. We paid the organist her fee. We bought rings at cost from a jeweler friend. We bought a ton of food and flowers from the local farmers’ market, and friends volunteered to barbecue the veggies and chicken. Other friends brought food, and we had a giant pot luck in addition to all the barbecue. (We could have cut back here.)

    In Ontario, you need to pay extra for alcohol you consume in a public place AND you need a license. We bought lots and returned most of it. It turns out our friends don’t drink much.

    Also, a friend who is a part time DJ made a lot of CDs for the party afterwards.

    But friends in the church played music, made food, served hors d’ouvres, took pictures and videos, and MC’d.

    They felt like they married us off, and they were right.

    If you can make the event a community celebration and avoid the princess for a day culture, you can have a wonderful time and still pay for your own housing and education.

    If you don’t need to feed 250 way too much, you can do it for lots less.

    And your friends will love it.

  29. Marilou Garon November 27th, 2011

    I just wanted to say congratulations on your marriage! I wish you and your husband many, many more years of happiness and wedded bliss! Herlizchen Glückwunsche!

  30. Marilou Garon November 27th, 2011

    Forgot to add: beautiful wedding pictures and you are a beautiful bride, Kerry!

  31. Sylinda November 27th, 2011

    I wore my mother’s wedding gown and only paid a small dry cleaning fee. Our church let us use their facilities for free, even the large downstairs room for the reception. Our pastor gave us the check for his fee back to us as his wedding gift. A friend made our gorgeous wedding cake for a pittance. We ditched the DJ because we can’t stand them. I did go overboard on flowers, but it was November and hard to find seasonal ones. And digital wasn’t around in 1984 so we had our invitations printed, but we saved on sending them to local friends at our church by sending one invitation to the entire church. Our refreshments after the evening wedding was just the cake punch, quick breads, and cheese, crackers, and summer sausage. Much of that was donated. The rest didn’t cost much, and certainly not what an entire meal would require. And no one needed a full meal after a 7 PM wedding. Also, our church family volunteered to house any of our out-of-town guests at no cost.

  32. Catherine November 27th, 2011

    Congratulations and well done Kerry and Carl.

    What most of us these days refer to as a “traditional wedding”, isn’t really. Weddings with all that pomp and circumstance were the venue of royalty; and was an overt expression of wealth and power, perpetuated to awe the masses in a time when kings were sometimes believed to be descendants of God(s). At least, that’s how I see it.

    So – if your real need is to impress everyone go ahead and I will have my little chuckle.

    I think you have to set your own boundaries and, no matter who plays hurt or snubbed, be very firm about them. Sadly, some couples have weddings that someone else wants, not them. And those who put on the pressure — lay off.

    I think weddings are about love and joy in life; about sharing and celebration of souls. These are the most precious things in life; they are also the most simple.

  33. Valerie November 27th, 2011

    Wow. I really can’t believe that people could be offended by being asked to bring food and take pictures at a close friends wedding?! Who wouldn’t be honoured to do so? (I just wrote a $200 cheque to the last wedding I attended and ate dinner with people I barely knew. I would have much preferred the prior option!)

    All awesome ideas and a lovely wedding!

  34. phaedra November 27th, 2011

    my husband and I bought our wedding cake at costco and decorated it ourselves for $20. Basically it was used for pictures because desserts were included in our venues buffett and we joked about returning it as costco returns everything.

  35. allyson November 27th, 2011

    Hi Kerry. I read both articles and was inspired. I’m not married, however, my dream wedding would include a BBQ and a swim at the beach. I commend you both for your practicality and willingness to go against modern trends. With regard to the potluck, there are few things that say “I love you” more than food made with love by those who love you.

  36. Jessica November 27th, 2011

    Got married 10 years ago and spent 15 000 including honeymoon. Had parents that contributed on both sides so we only paid about 4000 out of pocket. And our honeymoon was paid for in cash gifts.I look back at the “memories” and to be honest I can’t remember much! I’m glad we didn’t go in debt, and I’m thankful we had family who contributed without us even asking. That being said because they were contributing there were hard feelings later because we didn’t invite all of “their” friend couples. Also had a family member call me up and insist on getting two extra people invited and then they “made up for it” by giving us a riduculously high cash gift. These are the things I remember which is not what a wedding is about. I think we could have used the money in a different and better way. We also splurged and had a terrible honeymoon because we thought the tourist resort in a “hot” country was what you were supposed to do. Wished I’d had more brains and gone camping or drove across Canada or something. Also wish I hadn’t gone to those stupid bridal shows because they always make you feel like you’re cheap if you don’t spend. Also regret my choice of bridesmaids as I don’t have contact with them anymore, chose them out of guilt feelings. I could go on and on. Congrats Kerry on thinking for yourself and being yourself. The most important part of your day was declaring your love between you and your groom. Definitely will reinforce this with my 3 kids when it comes time.

  37. Yvette November 28th, 2011

    Loved this post! Having been married twice myself(2nd for keeps!), I can really appreciate the cost savings of your wedding. It is after all a 1 day event and it is your wedding. I see nothing cheap or tacky about it. It was a great idea to down size the guest list too. I wished I had thought of it (x2) and I probably don’t even see half the people I invited to my weddings anymore. I think you did a brilliant job with everything and you looked very lovely. Very smart indeed. Congrats :)

  38. Cat November 28th, 2011

    Great article – and a nice andidote to all the crazy wedding shows out there now. I had a reasonable budget – but definitely not compared to yours! I was originaly taken aback when you specified your guest list criteria, but it made sense once you read on. You just opted for a small wedding. I just pictured poor old Grandma not being invited cause she didn’t live local, but all your other buddies could come b/c they did. That’s definitely not how you arranged things though! Now – how about a honeymoon on the cheap? :)

  39. Suzanne Favreau November 28th, 2011

    Thanks for sharing the story of your wedding. I love that you and your husband did it your way and didn’t allow yourselves to get sucked into doing certain things because other people thought you should. I recently attended a wedding with a potluck reception, and I thought it was fun. I love to cook and never mind bringing food when I’m invited to someone’s event. Why should a wedding reception be any different from any other event?

  40. liz November 29th, 2011

    AWESOME wedding! I TOTALLY love the small home-themed party. I always remember the Mary Tyler Moore episode of Ted and Georgette’s “come-as-you-are” wedding (john ritter officated in tennis white’s) and that has always stuck in my head as a fun way to do it! It’s certainly “unique” from most weddings done these days, huh?
    AWESOME!

  41. Barbara November 29th, 2011

    Dear Kelly,

    Best wishes to you and congrats to Carl! Wonderful that you designed the wedding to suit yourselves. Thanks so much for your article. Of the weddings I have attended, my favorites have been small intimate affairs. When I was remarried in 1997 our wedding was at the church I belonged to similar to another persons story. I had been on the Board of Trustees so we were gifted the use of the facility and the Ministers donated their time. We were blending families so our children participated in the wedding and the reception. We had a potluck also, no one was turned away if they couldn’t bring a dish and everyone was happy to share food. The groom and I spent money on my clothes(I had a dress made), the beverages, flowers, a wedding cake and any incidentals. A good friend took pictures for us. I know our cost was between $500-1000. It was mostly family, good friends and co-workers so it was like a party and that was the mood for the reception. We also asked for no gifts, though some people brought them anyway. What I think a wedding really comes down to is what celebrates you, your relationship and the love you share, so kudos to you on having your wedding exactly the way you want it!

  42. Malaki November 29th, 2011

    I think someone else already said it, but this is my new dream wedding. :) My boyfriend and I are not in the stage where we’re ready to take the next step, but I know that this is exactly how we would do it. I have girlfriends that would probably try to talk me out of it, but every time I picture what our day would look like – this is exactly what comes to mind. Thanks for sharing! What a beautiful day :) All the best!

  43. Kathy November 29th, 2011

    Got married 18 years ago (has it really been that long??) for under $2,000. 23 guests. My mom made my wedding dress…$100, and I’ll *never* part with it. Big splurge was photos — we went to a studio for pictures, as my sister’s wedding with u-do-it style photos bombed — and gave each guest one. Other big expense — we did the dinner at a hotel instead of something cheaper.

  44. Maddy Han November 30th, 2011

    I just got married and did the same thing (frugal all the way). The star of the day was the wedding dress that I hand-knit. That dress (costing me approximately $50 in yarn) will be long remembered.

  45. Beth December 9th, 2011

    How’d you catch an organic salmon? :P

  46. Kerry December 10th, 2011

    @Beth Good point. How about a wild salmon? But if a fish is wild, then isn’t it organic? Dunno. Carl caught it right before the accidental sharking. :|

  47. Brenda December 12th, 2011

    Great article, Kerry

    I think too many people go into WAY too much debt, throwing a wedding where they end up doing what everyone else wants. As one poster said above, she hardly remembers the wedding they spent a fortune on.

    I don’t think a potluck is tacky at all. When you think about it, isn’t that exactly what farm families did in the old days?

  48. Megan January 3rd, 2012

    I would like nothing more than to have a simple, small wedding, but since my boyfriend comes from a showy family, his parents will want to invite every one they know and have a grand affair. This is making eloping sound more interesting.

  49. Shona January 21st, 2012

    @Megan. Eloping is actually awesome as well as frugal. Here in South Africa, my husband and I eloped. It cost us a grand total of $6.80 for our marriage license/certificate from our local Home Affairs/government department. We then simply spent 2 nights together at a local bed and breakfast establishment afterwards.

    So we were actually able to cut the total cost of our wedding right down to $56.80.

    Far less complicated that way :-D

  50. BNgarden January 21st, 2012

    Love this post. We married 12 years back on 5 days notice. Saved money by phoning the 42 guests, booked a venue on a Sunday morning for a vegetarian eggs benedict brunch and rented two options for retro dresses (not white) at a local costume shop (kept one at a cost of $75, plus an alteration of $40). Had a photographer as well as disposable cameras for guests to take shots. Bought a photo album (small) for guests to sign for about $20. Bought a cake, decorated, for only $80. Forgot to use the bouquet I bought… All in costs around $750. (parents paid the photo purchase) All enjoyed, and many lovely memories of people close to us.

  51. 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.

  52. 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!

  53. 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.

  54. Sherry April 28th, 2012

    Congratulations!
    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.
    S

  55. 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.

  56. 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. :-)

  57. 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!

  58. 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!

  59. 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!

  60. Sue June 5th, 2012

    Awesome!
    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!

  61. 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.

  62. 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! :)

  63. 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.

  64. Adi August 13th, 2012

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

  65. 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!

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

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