Realistic Wedding Planning On a $15k Budget


When I was planning my own wedding, I felt like I was constantly searching for tips on how to minimize wedding costs and plan a wedding that would be under the national average ($32,000 in 2017. Yikes.). The most common suggestion I found when researching was “Cut the guest list.”


And that is definitely a viable option for minimizing the costs of a wedding. Each guests adds to the expense of catering, rentals, and alcohol. But my husband and I had carefully selected our guest list, narrowing it down as much as possible so that it only included our family and closest friends. So I was looking for a way to minimize wedding costs without editing our guest list.


Luckily, there are ways to do just that! Simplifying certain aspects of your wedding will allow you to stay within a reasonable budget - one that is half the national average. Read on for tips on planning a wedding that is under $15k, including an example budget breakdown.

Joanna Monger Photography

1. Set Your Budget and Priorities (and Stick to Them)

This is the first step to planning a wedding that is within the amount you want to spend. Establishing your priorities early on will guide you in the decision making process. If you know for sure that you want incredible food that showcases the flavors of where you live, and you can’t imagine not having a specific wedding photographer capture your day, those are going to be the priorities that show you where the larger portions of your spending money should be allocated.


Knowing what is important to you (and what isn’t) will also come in handy when your friends and family start recommending what you should or should not do for your wedding day. If you have a clear vision in mind, you can let them know what you are focusing on for your wedding day, and stick to your plan.


Joanna Monger Photography

2. Location, Location, Location

Your wedding venue can be the largest expense, or it can be the smallest. City owned locations, public parks, and spaces that are not specifically designated as wedding venues tend to have less expensive rental fees.


If you have your heart set on a wedding venue that is slightly out of reach in terms of price point, consider having your wedding on an off-peak day (not in the summer), or even a weeknight.

The other consideration to make when choosing a venue is that if it’s naturally beautiful, like a national park, then you won’t need much in way of decor.


3. What to Eat

You don’t have to have a formal sit-down dinner with an elaborate menu and a professional catering staff. Wedding receptions have become more casual, with couples opting for alternatives to a formal dinner. If you’re having a smaller guest count or a backyard wedding, a DIY buffet or potluck can be a cost-efficient (and delicious) dinner choice. From taco bars to barbecue sandwiches, guests can build their plates to their liking.


And if the thought of preparing your own buffet seems overwhelming, couples are also eschewing tradition in favor of throwing a pizza party. With beautiful plateware and an elegant display, you can set up a spread of pizza options that still feels worthy of a wedding reception.


Our other obsession? Food trucks. Especially if you choose a venue that doesn’t have a full kitchen available for a catering staff (looking at you, parks and campsites), a food truck solves that problem easily! Since a food truck is a mobile kitchen, they already have everything they need to serve up delicious food for your guests - at a fraction of the cost of a caterer.


Added bonus: choosing a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol. You can shop in bulk at stores like Costco for beer, wine, and/or liquor. Just be sure to hire a licensed bartender for safe serving at your reception.

Joanna Monger Photography

4. Decor & Details

From wedding flowers to centerpieces and signage, the cost of decor for your wedding day can add up.


Choose a local florist who focuses on in-season blooms to minimize costs. Reuse ceremony florals as part of your reception decor: the aisle pieces can easily be moved to cocktail tables, and your bridal bouquet will be a beautiful centerpiece for your sweetheart table.


When it comes to the rest of your decor, start by taking inventory of what you already own and could use. For our wedding, we used decor from our home and friends and family to pull together a look that was rustic and personalized. From a globe that celebrated the places we have traveled, to thrifted lanterns, we stayed within an adventurous theme (and our budget).


And if there is something you don’t have on hand, start looking for it in thrift stores. Thrifting is an incredible way to fill out your wedding decor inventory. Be open to mismatched style and the options are endless.


You can also keep decor costs down with a simple aesthetic. Choosing a venue that has details you already love (whether it’s a beautiful outdoor garden, or a ballroom with elegant lighting and modern architecture), means you won’t have to add much decor to make it what you have envisioned.


5. Research Example Budget Breakdowns

Every wedding vision is unique, and so is every budget. Your spending plan will rely heavily on your priorities and what you have envisioned for your day.


Researching example budgets can give you a starting point for possible ways to allocate your spending to specific vendors, but know that your budget doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. What matters is that you determine what you are comfortable spending, and what is most important for you to have for your wedding day - then you can plan accordingly.


Based on average costs of wedding vendors, and the suggestions we’ve outlined above, here is a possible breakdown of a wedding budget that is under $15k. Your spending plan can look completely different than this example, and still come in under the $15k mark. This is just one way to break it down!


Your wedding day is an incredible way to celebrate your relationship and starting your lives together. Don’t feel pressured to have a wedding that looks like the Pinterest ideal, because the day should absolutely be unique to you.


If you focus on what truly matters, that will show through on your wedding day. Surround yourself with the people who are invested in your love story. Choose a venue and decor that reflect that story without breaking the bank. And soak up every moment of the day you envisioned and brought to life!

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