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Planning a Wedding for Under $500

Category Planning
A very small wedding budget does not necessarily mean you can't have a lovely event. This is a guide about planning a wedding for under $500.


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16 found this helpful
June 26, 2009

With the 9/9/09 wedding day drawing ever nearer, I have decided that I want to spend no more than $500 on the whole thing. I have tailored down some ideas to create a great party while saving some extra money in the bank.

I ordered my dress through eBay. My dress is not a traditional wedding dress, it is a Renaissance-style "dusty rose"-colored dress that cost me $70. With my hair being done by a friend of mine and sandals that I already own upon my feet, the wardrobe is ready.

The wedding itself falls on a Wednesday. My fiancee and I are going to get married in the judge's chambers here in town. The total cost of the marriage license and the fee of the judge is less than that of a minister or rabbi, and since we both are from different religions, the justice of the peace will be the tie-breaker.


The reception will be held at our apartment complex's community party room. For less than $100, we can rent a room that will fit 35 people. That was the biggest money-saver of all!

As cliched as it sounds, we really are only inviting immediate family members and close friends. The guest list has been pared down to 35 people at a maximum, and most of those people are kids under the age of 5! I try to avoid talking about the wedding at work because I have several "work" friends and my budget simply cannot afford an extra 14 people!

Food is another issue. The first idea I had was to have a Thanksgiving dinner, but early September in Nebraska is no time to be keeping the ovens running for several hours at a time to bake some turkeys! The next idea I had was grilled burgers and hot dogs, but then the question arose about how to safely keep them warm.

Finally, the commercials sank through my thick skull and I realized that everyone likes Subway sandwiches. A great deal they offer is the party platter, which is 7 subs of any type cut into thirds. They then include all of the vegetables, sauces, etc., on the side at no extra charge. I figured that with 35 people, 1 or 2 party platters supplemented with potato salad, coleslaw, a raw vegetable platter, and potato chips will feed the lot of them.


For beverages, I am offering one keg of beer, soda, and kool-aid for the kids. The "special helpers" (i.e. the friend who is doing my hair and another who will be helping with food) will get their own special drinks but I have told others that if they want something else they will have to bring it themselves.

Finally, the total budget amount came out to be around $400. At age 24, I have the rest of my life with this man to have an expensive fairy-tale wedding but because I am only 24, I am blissfully naive enough to know that I don't need an expensive fairy-tale wedding to be happy.

By Jenni from Lincoln, NE

Comment Was this helpful? 16
June 27, 20090 found this helpful

Yes yes yes! This is the kind of wedding I always, and always hoped my kids, would want. It's not really a "frugality" issue, it's a matter of having priorities well in place! You want to have a party to celebrate this wonderful event. And not to have lots of stress on needing conventions. I love it, wish you well, and know that this will be a great celebration. Congrats!

BTW, my daughter at kinda the last minute, after reserving the traditional fancy hall, etc etc,. downsized her wedding , luckily, to a BBQ reception at my funky house with a huge (unlandscaped, I might add) backyard. We bbq'd and and pot lucked (family, didn't asked most other guests to bring, but could have), had 75 people (!) and after most guests (like elderly relatives, work friends, etc left, we hung out around a fire in the evening, with her and her new husband's closest friends and a few beers. It was sublime! It had been bothering me all along that they seemed to be heading towards a very expensive couple of hours mostly based on "supposed to"s. but when it came right down to it, reason, and what's fun and not stressful, prevailed. And it will for you!

Glad you're starting out with that thought, it leaves some room for the inevitable escalation. Final thought. I really liked the suggestion of a lsmall cake top to save for your first anniverary, but the reality was for us, despite careful planning, my freezer malfunctioned during the first year while safekeeping the anniveray cake, and the newlyweds never even thought or asked for the cake top anyway!!! Pictures are great. and absolutely do not need to be professional.

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June 27, 20090 found this helpful

Good for you, Jenni! One of my hubby's buddies spent $10,000 on his wedding, and I hate to think what my younger daughter and her fiance (and my youngest son and his fiancee) are spending on theirs. It doesn't take a wildly expensive wedding to have a happy marriage - in fact, your common-sense attitude makes you, not naive, but very wise and more likely to have a happy marriage. Felicitations to you and congratulations to the happy groom! JustPlainJo, Ohio

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June 27, 20090 found this helpful

No champagne? You could get a few bottles of sparking white wine for toasts - but then, I love champagne. I also have found that punchbowl of iced tea is great, easy & inexpensive to have. FYI other brides to be - Fast food chicken outlets (like Pollo Loco, etc.) would also be a good place to order takeout for a wedding. As for folks in the office, if they ask, say that it's limited to close family & they will get it. Maybe they would like to give you a gift or something, & that would be appropriate, too. By the way, When I got married a few years ago, I got great fancy paper plates & matching napkins at Target & not expensive, either.

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June 27, 20090 found this helpful

You have enough money left for a fruit salad, or maybe one for the kids and one for the adults. Enjoy your wedding day. Love, Susan

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June 27, 20090 found this helpful

Good for you, Jenni! We need more people with courage like yours to turn this foolishness of super-expensive weddings around. Sometimes it seems as if more time and effort goes into The day than goes into the subsequent marriage. Would that it were the reverse - we'd have fewer broken homes. You have wisdom beyond your years and your groom is a fortunate man indeed. God Bless!

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June 28, 20090 found this helpful

This Dec 22nd we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. When we got married we had just moved me 300 miles back to the town I used to live in so we had that expense of setting up new apartment (deposits, moving van, etc) so there wasn't much money for the actual wedding. We had only six days to get it done once we got moved in that day. We had a simple church wedding. My husband and I wore matching Western shirts, blue jeans and comfortable shoes for me and cowboy boots for him (we are in TX). We had a best man and maid of honor that were dressed casual also.

We invited friends and our families were all out of state not able to attend. After the ceremony we had a reception at our apartment. My best friend gave us a small wedding cake as part of her wedding gift to us. It was right before Christmas so we had decorated tree and other decorations to make the background. The table was centered with the cake, bowls of silver, green and red Hershey's Kisses along with bowl of Christmas colors M&M's and bowl of mixed nuts. We had red and green small paper plates and napkins, styrofoam cups for coffee and iced tea, plastic cutlery.

I think one of the guests brought some beer, but we were going to have no alcohol because of the price of it. I did not add it up, but it was not near the cost of a traditional wedding. And the marriage endured so the simple wedding was enough to start the life we wanted to share. And like others said, it is good to know we can break the expensive tradition and be sensible. I "toast" you with a cup full of happiness!

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June 28, 20090 found this helpful

You rock! I love your attitude, and I have to say that I've been married three times, and had four ceremonies (don't ask) and by far my favorite was the most recent one (we've now been married for 9 years and 4 kids!).

We had just us two at sunset in a beautiful park with the minister, and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Except maybe the expression on my husband's face. Nervous, very, very nervous, lol

You go girl!

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June 28, 20090 found this helpful

Ok, I can't resist adding one more thing (I do have a big mouth). Nine years after the fact, the thing that stands out in my mind about my wedding was the fact that our vows were unique and I wasn't all freaked out about being in front of a bunch of people. It was much more romantic and sincere, I feel, because it was just us. Ok, I'll shut up now!

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June 29, 20090 found this helpful

You (& your guy) go for it! I have been married for 29 years. I had always dreamed growing up of an outdoor, fall wedding. I also knew what I wanted my wedding gown to look like. When we married in May of 1980 it was a JP ceremony in Miami (Oklahoma - not Florida), a town that advertised 1 hour or less marriages.

We decided not to tell our families that we were already married and planned a fall wedding. My sister was a great help. She lived about 35 miles away and had a big house. She found a local rose garden that we could book for free at that time of year since the roses were almost gone (but the tree leaves were starting to turn), her husband got us folding chairs from the school he worked at and transported them in his pickup.

I made my wedding gown for $85 in materials, and yes, it was satin and lace and all that. The basic gown was the simplest thing I have made to this day. Fitting the bodice was the worst part but the rest was just straight sewing. Sewing on lace applique accents took time but little skill. I also made one of the bridesmaid gowns for less than $10 in fabric. My sister was my matron-of-honor and made her own dress and my niece was flower girl with a store bought "fancy" dress decorated with a ribbon sash in my fall colors.

The reception was at my sister's home, indoors and out. My mother baked and decorated the cake (beautifully - everyone loved it and she was hired by many relatives to make special cakes for parties for years after) and the reception was semi-potluck - we supplied some basics and those that lived close enough brought hot dishes and those from further away brought salads and cold plates from local stores. The guests were mostly family and a few friends from college. Since most of us had just graduated recently and were still poor they got creative on gifts. One was an amateur photographer and his gift was all the photos and developing plus I got all the negatives. A couple of the guys got together and supplied champagne and several bottles of wine. Others supplied thank you cards and postage for sending out cards for the gifts we received. We let people know that their contributions were considered their wedding gifts to us but that did not stop them from also giving us presents -mostly of the highly practical variety (no crystal or espresso makers for us - thank goodness!)

It was all low key and loads of fun. We announced near the end of the reception that we had already been married for several months and the guests didn't mind a bit. It was the first wedding, on my side, for a long time, that had been done on a budget. After reimbursing my sister and mother for their outlays (what they would let me) the total was considerably less than $1000 for a wedding and reception with over 50 people. I even made some of that money back when I later sold most of my wedding gown for $75 at a yard sale. As a memento I use the crepe underskirt and some of the lace to make a fancy blouse that I still have and occasionally wear to this day.

Weddings on a tight budget can be wonderful and often the guests feel more "connected" to the event if they help in some way. I hope you enjoy your day end your marriage for many years to come.

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June 29, 20090 found this helpful

Very awesome ideas! You definitely have a good head on your shoulders and do not sound naive at all! You've got it figured out for sure. My husband and I got married (just the two of us) on a beach in Florida at Sunset. With the photographer, minister, wardrobe (my dress was a white prom dress on clearance for $33!) and honeymoon we did it all for just under $1,000 and our pics of the day beat out any big budget wedding! Our family threw us a small but fun reception a couple of weeks after we got back and we are still very happily married (and thrifty) Good to hear of such a young couple making smart choices. Blessings to you and your soon to be husband and good luck on your big day!

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