How to Throw a Wedding That’s Under $5,000—According to a Wedding Planner

As a recently engaged woman, I’ve come to terms with that fact that I’ve been avoidant of planning my own wedding because of what I see in my bank account. Yes, I want to be surrounded by everyone I love in a drop-dead-gorgeous wedding venue with the love of my life. However, my bank account will only allow me to throw a party at the local Chuck-E-Cheese (no shame #pizzaincluded).

So when I realized that my anxiety over money was holding me back from living my best wedding life, I decided to connect with a professional wedding planner, Jennifer Taylor of A Taylored Affair, to give me the 411 on how I can still have the wedding of my dreams without breaking the bank. From the dress to photography, here’s how you can throw a wedding under $5,000.


Limit the Guest List

I always suggest the bride and groom get cozy, grab a glass of wine, and each make a list of all of the people they love. The next step would be to combine their respective lists into one. This is where the real work starts. From the collective list, begin to narrow it down to the least number of guests possible. The lighter the guest list, the less money you will have to spend. Another option is to host a small wedding ceremony and reception with roughly twenty to thirty guests. After the main events, you can throw an after-party with the remaining friends and family from your bigger list. It’s not uncommon to have a cash bar at the after-party, which would definitely help with [the] budget.



Bridal Stores Aren’t the Only Place to Find Your Dress

No one ever made a rule that you have to purchase a dress from a wedding boutique. Most online stores (like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom) have search tools which allow you to sort by color. Once you narrow your search down to ‘white gowns,’ you’ll have hundreds of options. There are also a ton of sites for purchasing previously-owned wedding gowns such as OnceWed, Nearly Newly Wed, and StillWhite. BHLDN has many affordable options as well.


Get Creative with the Venue

Along with catering, the wedding venue can be one of your biggest expenses. I love to ask clients if they have an amenity or recreational space where they live. Often times your property will allow you to rent out that space for a very affordable price. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your location. Consider your family backyard or a private dining room in a restaurant. The opportunities are truly endless!



Consider a Destination Wedding

Having a destination wedding is a great excuse to cut down your guest list. If you create boundaries with your guest list, other guests won’t be offended if they don’t fit into the plan. For instance, by only inviting your wedding party and immediate families, anyone who doesn’t fit inside that box will completely understand.



The Caterer

Try to find a venue that will allow you to bring in whatever caterer/food supplier that you’d like. Do you have a friend who loves to bake? Here is his or her chance to shine and help out with the wedding cake. I always look at weddings as the perfect opportunity to connect with talented family and friends. More often than not, they will be honored that you asked them to contribute to your special day.


Don’t Skimp on Photography

Often times, wedding photography isn’t necessarily an area where you’ll want to skimp. These are your memories of such an important day! A savvy option is to put your wedding party to work prior to the ceremony (hair/makeup/while the bride is getting dressed, etc…), and hire the photographer to begin just before the ceremony. By limiting the photographer’s hours, your pockets will be happy. Nowadays, there are so many amazing photo editing mobile apps that you should have no problem at all!


Source: @ruffledblog


You Don’t Need a DJ

I always say that the music is the pulse of your wedding. I’m a sucker for live music (especially during the ceremony), but on the flip side, your wedding is a chance to test out your DJ skills and make a sick playlist to pump up the energy all night long. Keep in mind that professional entertainment will cost less during off-peak months (January-March), and it can’t hurt to reach out to music schools in the area. Often times music students are eager to jump on a board for a gig, and they’ll come in at a much more affordable rate than musicians who have been in business for a while.


Avoid “The Rules”

At the end of the day, the best part [about a] wedding is having every person you know and love in one space at the same time. We all know weddings can seem repetitive for attendees, so thinking outside the box can create a much more memorable experience for all involved. There are no “rules” to wedding planning. Do you want everyone to dress like they’re on a Hawaiian vacation in the middle of the winter? Go for it! Have a friend throw flower leis on your guests as they enter into your ceremony. You can even host a leis-making party for your friends the night before! 


Recently engaged and don’t have a lot of money to spend on a wedding? What are some ways you plan on saving money for your big day?

  • I’m my best friends maid of honour in her September wedding in Bordeaux but she’s having her legal proceedings take place here in Canada with a small reception afterwards (on a budget) and I had suggested her to rent a place on airbnb that has a rooftop terrace to throw the reception (with the permission of the owner of course!)

    Sugar Coated Things x Beauty Blog

  • Hannah

    We got our wedding invites on Etsy and they’re super affordable and chic. Very happy with the whole process of everything. There are plenty of options and I got mine here:

  • I LOVE THIS! Our wedding cost less than $9,000 and I shared my 9 tips of how we made it happen here:

  • Adrienne

    We were married on a Thursday evening which helped keep the guest list intimate and lower costs with most vendors as well. loved it!

  • Sydney C. Thompson

    Love these tips! While I’m taking the more traditional route it never hurts to keep these in mind. I think our crew is fairly handy with make-up so opting DIY and then bringing in the photographer later is a great idea!


  • I’m planning my wedding now, and it seems to me the only way couples can spend less than 10K for their wedding budget is by NOT getting married in a major metropolitan area.

    We’re looking for venues in Washington, D.C. and we have yet to find a venue which can accommodate 120 people for less than 12K. The Knot recently reported that the average wedding venue costs 15K. When did weddings become so expensive!? It’s insane.

    I’m sure a wedding less than 5K is possible, but it will also likely be in the middle of nowhere.

    • Hi Emma – you’re right about it being tough, but my husband and I managed to have 130 people for around 10K by holding our wedding in a restaurant. We chose Bar Vasquez (formerly Pazo) in Baltimore, and it was a great option, because the restaurant is only open from 5-10 p.m., so we had a lunch time ceremony. Since you’re in the D.C. area, this might be a venue you want to look into. What’s great about the restaurant is that it’s such an impressive space on its own (SUPER high ceilings, multiple levels, etc), that you don’t have to spend anything on decór like flowers and lighting – if the decór isn’t over the top, it would likely be dwarfed in comparison to the space. I highly recommend checking it out!

      • Hi Jessica! This restaurant looks beautiful! I can only imagine how lovely your big day was here. Thanks for the tip 🙂

    • E H

      Hey Emma! I’m planning a wedding in DC too and my fiance and I are actually looking at unconventional venues like pilates studios. They’re beautiful spaces. We found a couple of them for $5K-$6K. Hope that helps!

  • I am far from getting married (still young and rather new with relationships) but it is a concept that I have been exploring for a while. This gets me excited for the future as it looks like it doesn’t have to be super expensive for you to have a nice wedding. I wrote a blog on the concept of commitment at this stage of my life… quite daunting but absolutely necessary I thought…
    Karen Ngai

  • Amy Austin

    I love reading this—-especially after having our wedding! I got married in my late 40s and had no set plan of even planning a wedding-ha. So, we were super appreciative of family and a good friend that helped keep our special day low cost but more important—very special! We were married in a clubhouse courtesy of my mom, the ceremony was done by my brother, who happens to be a judge, my sis-in-law sang a beautiful song, another brother is a photographer and took photos, my mom was so helpful all along and a friend took my idea for invites and created a great invitation that was so inexpensive:) and we had delish food at a discount thanks to my brother knowing a caterer. I just remember a beautiful day with family!