Real weddings for people who have “zero money” for their wedding budget

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Dollar Ring Origami from Etsy seller ToTheGardenByFreedaS
Dollar Ring Origami from Etsy seller ToTheGardenByFreedaS

First, I love love love love your site. Thank you! For the first time since the person who is truly the-love-of-my-life proposed to me I find I am actually daydreaming a little about our wedding day.

I could go on and on about us and how awesome your site is for people like us but here’s the real deal: we really have zero money for this. I just bought a house and we will have the wedding there — venue is covered — but the rest? The sites I can find for “budget” or “DIY” wedding don’t share my definition of “budget” or “DIY.” The “Broke-ass Bride” had an $8,000 budget. On my scale, that is not “broke-ass.”

Can you point me to an example of something from actually nothing? Please help!

-Jeanette

Hiya, Jeanette! You have come to the right place. Over the years, Offbeat Bride has featured hundreds of lower budget weddings, which live in our massive low-budget wedding archives. Seriously, 52 pages of economical weddings ranging from micro-budgets to more generally tighter budgets — it's a huge archive full of LOTS of ideas for saving money.

Here's where things get complex, though: “lower budget” is a relative term. We all know this. Lower budget in New York means something pretty different from Omaha. You say you have “zero money” your wedding, but if that was actually true, you would go to a courthouse and pay the government fee and call it good. Since we all know that “zero money” doesn't actually mean $0.00, here are a few real dollar examples of “not actually zero, but still pretty still pretty small budget” weddings we've featured:

$2000 wedding

$1000 wedding

$700 wedding

$500 wedding

$100 wedding

Making things even more complex with these “real budget” posts is that the exact dollar amounts can be a little wobbly, depending on how the couple defines their expenses… the $100 wedding didn't include their clothes, which they already had. When you get down to micro-budgets, things get a little grey… and really, I'm super NOT into playing the “one lowsmanship” game, where we all stand around and thump our chests about how little we spent on our weddings.

“…Oh yeah? You think your $1000 budget was small? We got married for 35 cents and a handjob for the county judge! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT POVERTY IS.” C'mon, you guys. This isn't a contest. You're not going to win anything around here that way.

Money is weird, and how people choose to spend their money isn't really our business. We're not big fans of going into debt for your wedding, but even that is your financial decision. At Offbeat Bride, we trust you to do your research and make choices for yourself. We're not into budget shaming.

In closing, we'll share this statistic about the current state of wedding budgets:

Data courtesy of Splendid Insights. This is one page from a massive 2015 research document they did. Pretty awesome, really.
Data courtesy of Splendid Insights. This is one page from a massive 2015 research document they did. Pretty awesome, really.

Fully a third of surveyed couples are working with budgets under $10,000… and that's a lot of us. We can do this.

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Comments on Real weddings for people who have “zero money” for their wedding budget

  1. Hi Jeannette! I just got married two weeks ago in a similar boat. We got married for about $2,100 TOTAL–including rings, clothes, and honeymoon. By the way most people seem to count their budgets (i.e., not counting costs of rings and honeymoon), it was closer to $200. The key, I think, is to realize how much you DON’T need to buy. You’ll still be just as married at the end of the day.

    Some of my tricks/tips:
    – We scheduled time with a court-provided officiant–in my county you can make appointments and the people aren’t technically at the courthouse but in offices near it. These same court-provided people could also offered to meet you at a location. Officiant fee + wedding license = $80
    – We purchased rings from Etsy and I skipped the engagement ring–I wear only a beautiful band that resembles a wedding band, which I noticed a lot of women around me seem to switch to anyway a few years after their weddings. Rings = $1,100
    – I bought an adorable tea-length dress on Modcloth–and it just opened a new wedding shop! Though if I lived in a city with better vintage stores, I would have bought my dress there. Dress = $80
    – We wanted a very low-key honeymoon with time to reflect on our new status anyway, so we rented an upscale cabin on Airbnb within driving distance. Honeymoon = $800
    – I bought one bunch of daffodils at the grocery store the morning of my wedding. I wrapped three of them in floral tape (that the floral manager gave me for free from his stash when I asked if the store sold any) to make a mini-bouquet. We snipped a fourth one short and pinned it to my husband as a matching boutonniere. The rest went into a vase on my table to greet us when we got home from the ceremony.
    – Our “reception” was inviting about a dozen people to meet us for dinner at our favorite restaurant. Everyone paid for their own meal. Done. A potluck would also be a great idea.
    – I have an old, used DSLR that I bought months ago at a local camera store to play with. I handed it to my (non-photographer) friend and invited her to the ceremony. Instant pictures, and free, too. Incidentally, the camera only cost about $250, which is still less than hiring a photographer, so I would still consider it a deal even if I hadn’t already owned the camera. Or just find a friend with an iPhone.

    Things we didn’t have/do:
    – wedding cake
    – fancy dress I’d never wear again
    – florist-made bouquet
    – rent out some space for a reception
    – provide food for anyone
    – engagement ring
    – host any guests in our home (a tiny apartment anyway)
    – hire a photographer
    – hire a professional officiant
    – rehearsal dinner
    – book a ceremony venue
    – hire a wedding planner
    – buy a suit or tux (my husband just wore one he already had)

    Yes, our wedding was simple. But I remember it as perfect, and still one of the happiest days of my life. All the traditional events and trappings would have just been a distraction for me. I would have ended up worrying about pulling all that off smoothly and would have been disappointed if something hadn’t been right. I would have been exhausted and too stressed out to enjoy the day. Instead, I focused on myself, my husband, and our life change. My memories are of his giant smile, the beautiful spring day, the butterflies in my stomach, and all the warmth and love from our friends. I wouldn’t change a thing.

  2. I think it’s risky thinking of a wedding being zero budget, because there is no way not to spend some money on it, even if you’re doing everything at home. Cooking takes ingredients, crafting takes materials, having a bunch of people over takes heating and lighting and cleaning and man hours. If you start with zero, you end up spending negative money, and negative money is very easy to spend.

    In my line of work, I’ve seen so many people end up in wedding debt because once they’ve over spent by £10, it feels like a licence to overspend by £100, or £1000. They treat the wedding as a wholly separate thing to the rest of their lives, and then get thrown when it impacts on their household budgets. You’ve already overspent as soon as you pick up a couple of extra bags of snacks while grocery shopping, so why not get the premium ones, and the wine you actually wanted? You’ve already spent this month’s petrol money on running to the shops twice as often, so why not drive all the way out to the airport and pick up Uncle Vanya rather than tell him to get a taxi?

    If you have literally zero money, if your household bills eat your entire wage every month, then you’re going to need to plan really, really hard. You’re going to need to think about things like putting £20 aside to help with the higher fuel bills that month, spending £5 extra each grocery shop to build up a good supply of snacks, paying £30 for getting the suits you already own drycleaned. If you put what you can on credit, you’re going to need to factor those repayments into your monthly budget. Something may have to give, and perhaps you’ll sacrifice Netflix for six months to save up, or get off two stops earlier on the bus to save 50p in travel costs per day, or sit around the house wearing two sweaters so you don’t have to turn the heating up as often. If you budget for the invisible expenses, you can save for them.

    (frankly, even if you don’t have zero money, you don’t want to be staring at a massive bill in shock, because your fourteen bridesmaids used every socket in the house to dry and straighten and curl their hair, your washing machine and dryer have been running without a break for a fortnight, your grandmother had three electric heaters running in her room, and grandpa made breakfast for the entire wedding party using nothing but the toaster and electric kettle. No matter who’s paying for the wedding, that bill is all your own.)

  3. It is possible to have wedding with very little, it just depends what your aspirations are. We decided on a budget of £5000, which includes everything. We could do it more cheaply if we did even more things ourselves, but then with both of us being self-employed, time spent on preparing for the wedding is time not spent at work, so this makes little financial sense to us. We decided to do the bits we enjoy doing and have help with the rest. Some of the ways we cut corners are having a wedding at home, using compostable palm leaf plates, bring-and share food instead of presents, making our own wedding dresses, using what we already have (we dug up lots of vintage glass bottles in the garden, and we had a lot of old stuff just lying about), collecting gifted wine for the entire year prior to our wedding to form part of our wedding stash, using supermarket vouchers for buying the alcohol, sowing our own flowers, not having a honeymoon, buying everything used on ebay and selling it on afterwards to make money back. We decided to save up for having a Tipi just in case it rains, we could risk a wedding without this which would bring the costs down to just over £2000. Our wedding will definitely not be pinterest-ready, but it will very much reflect us and our rather eclectic lifestyle. If you literally have zero money, I suppose you will have to decide if you just want to be married regardless or if you want to have a wedding which you might need to save up for.

  4. It sounds like you’re trying to spend “as little as possible”. That’s admirable but the wrong approach. You need to set an actual money amount because then you have set an actual budget, which is easier to keep track of.
    You then need to allocate money from that total to different things, in order of importance.

    • That’s not necessarily true. My husband and I did not set an actual amount of money for our wedding and we also tried to spend as little as possible as that related to our own personal finances. We set up a joint account and made contributions to it from the day we got engaged. We did not charge anything wedding related to a credit card. We had clear ideas of how much we felt was “too much” to pay for a particular item or service.
      For example, we knew we were not willing to pay more than $500 for a DJ and if we couldn’t find one to fit that we were prepared to just do the music ourselves. So I don’t think that it’s totally necessary to say “We will only spend X on our wedding as a whole.”

  5. You can search by budget in the budget savvy bride. That’s the most useful site imo as they have real breakdowns of costs.

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