How to Have a Wedding Under $5,000

Tom Pumford
Written by Tom Pumford · Posted in Advice » Money & Budget Last Updated June 8, 2023 · minute read
In This Article

    Situation alert! You’ve decided to get hitched and marry your forever love. The computers loaded up (sounds like the 90’s) and you’ve whacked “Wedding Photographer Near Me” into Lycos (now we are cooking). You’ve found your perfect photographer, navigated to their pricing page and seen upwards of three zeros. Yes you read that right! Three zeros! But you’ve only got a small budget! How on earth are you going to be able to afford a wedding for under $5,000?!?!

    bride and groom pose next to candles during their wedding day

    How to Have a Wedding Under $5,000?

    We get it, weddings are expensive. Everything is inflated and generally for good reason. More pressure, less availability, seasonal conditions. When you combine it all together, you create the perfect storm for expensive services making it rather difficult to budget. Even more difficult to actually stick to that budget!

    But how do you actually have a wedding under $5000? Well, fear not, over the course of this article we are going to plan, budget and recommend how you can tie the knot without breaking the bank. Most importantly, we will explore ways that you can plan an epic wedding day, more beautiful than you can imagine, for less than the price of a second hand car. 

    Let’s get it!

    Is $5,000 enough for a wedding?

    I guess the best place to start is by asking, is $5,000 enough for a wedding? Absolutely. $5,000 is enough to cover the wedding essentials. Don’t get us wrong, you are going to have to get a little creative on the budget (we will help), miss out a few notables, and prioritize what’s most important to you. 

    The best way to look at it all is by thinking of marriage licenses over wedding favors. You need a marriage license to get hitched. You don’t need wedding favors. Celebrants over chocolate fountains (blasphemy!). You get the drift.

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    Our plan for how to have a wedding under $5,000

    Below we have put together our plan on how to have a wedding on a budget. For this example, we’ve tried our best to stick to $5,000 give or take a few dollars here and there. 

    Just a note, we’ve previously written about how to get married without having a wedding, this isn’t that! This is almost the opposite. This is all about having that wedding, just with a strict budget that we must stick to.

    Anyway, let’s get on with the plan.

    Keep your guest list small

    Do you even like Great Aunt Suzie, twice removed? No? Didn’t think so. So guess what? She’s off the invite list! In all seriousness, guests are the single most expensive item on your wedding budget list. They need feeding, looking after, transporting etc etc etc. The more guests you invite, the more inflated your budget will get. 

    Keeping your guest list small, sticking to the people that mean the most to you, will help limit the costs and reduce the budget. Focus on immediate family and your nearest and dearest. This way a $5,000 spend is more than possible. Plus, the less people you invite, the less chance there is of someone objecting at the wedding. Joking!

    Intimate weddings are beautiful and a truly special way to celebrate your love for each other. Just a select number of close friends and family, joining together to be there just for you. Your marvelous and magical marriage awaits.

    Related Reading: How Many People Should You Invite To Your Wedding?

    Consider your venue

    Hmm… Venue, venue, venue. Realistically your venue costs can only be reduced in three ways. The most important way being heavily linked to the number of guests you are inviting. Just inviting ten special people? Great, hire a private room at your favorite restaurant. Inviting 200+? You are going to be limited to a select number of venues that can host your day. High demand and low supply leads to inflated costs. It’s just a fact of life. 

    • Less guests = Smaller venue: Simply put, the less guests you have, the more creative you can get when it comes to choosing your venue. Venues that cater for large numbers tend to come at a premium.
    • Venue selection: Looking for more affordable options rather than your more traditional wedding venues can help to keep to that magic $5,000 much more easily. Backyard weddings, weddings in your local town hall, heck, even weddings in the park are on option. All are great ways to reduce costs on venue selection.
    • Out of season savings: If you are still planning on having a traditional wedding venue, your best hope comes with booking out of season. You will be able to get big reductions on price simply by opting for that winter wedding over peak season. Moreover, getting married on a weekday will have a dramatic impact on price when compared to the weekend.

    Cut costs on food & drinks

    We’ve just mentioned how guests and venues have the biggest impact on your budget, generally speaking it’s because guests eat. Yes. You read that right. Guests eat… Without realizing it, food and catering quickly adds up. A budget can skyrocket in the blink of an eye. 

    In 2022, according to the Wedding Report, the average spend on venue food catering was $5,195 with drink spend coming in at an additional $2,675 [1]. You can see why catering for the mosts can easily cause you to hit that $5,000 mark rather quickly. 

    Our tip is simple, steer clear of the traditional wedding breakfast style catering. Think outside the box. Food vans, buffet dining, heck, McDonalds will even cater. There are so many cheaper alternatives to spending $75 upwards on wedding food.

    wedding guests choose food from buffet

    Buffet-Style Dining: Save money on food, drink and catering

    Skip the unnecessary

    It goes without saying, if you spend money on unnecessary vendors, services and addons, your budget goes boom. You can kiss away that magic $5000 number.

    You need to prioritize what is actually important. Start with the absolute necessities, marriage licenses, wedding officiant, witnesses, plus, generally speaking you will need a ceremony venue legally allowed to marry you. 

    Unfortunately, there just is room for chocolate fountains. Yes, it’s still on my mind. 

    Think about time of year

    When discussing wedding venues, we touched on the seasonal nature of weddings and how moving your date could help dramatically reduce your venue related costs. Well the same goes for pretty much everything in the wedding industry. The chances are high that your favorite photographer is going to charge a premium for a Saturday in August. But what a Tuesday in February? Saving money this way will ensure you only need to worry about how much to tip your photographer… Notice how as a former photographer I was able to sneak that in there… 

    Generally speaking, out of season dates and weekday weddings allow for a much cheaper rate. Typically all vendors, from venues to photographers will offer an out of season price point. Plus, the less guests you invite, the less you will have to worry about asking them to take a day off work to enjoy your special day. 

    Heavy on the DIY

    In early 2013, DIY weddings were all the trend. Heck they still are! Trust us, we know. We rode the wave of DIY weddings when they first became a thing. We got to know, in detail, how savings could easily be made by doing it yourself. 

    Weddings provide so many possibilities when it comes to DIY. Why not ask your Aunt Marge (much better than Suzie), to provide her expert baking skills. A wedding cake reduction from hundreds of dollars to under $10 just like that. The same can be said for pretty much everything. Ask your maid of honor to take lead on the planning for the day. Rope in your dad to create some epic DIY wedding signs. Heck, you could even employ your dog to carry the rings down the aisle. I don’t quite know how that saves money, I just know that dogs at weddings are the best!

    Rope in friends and family

    Linked to the above really, getting your friends and family involved can help reduce the costs of your big day rather dramatically. Perhaps they have a particular set of skills, baking, tapestry, design? You know your family and friends better than us, you just need to be brave and ask for their help. You just need to not feel scorned if they say no. You can always remove them from the invite list. The Story Amour team strikes again, reducing costs by reducing your invitees…

    In truth, when it comes to weddings, you will generally find that friends and family are more than happy to lend a helping hand. Moreover, everybody getting involved helps create memories for you all while fashioning a wedding day that is not just special to you, but special to them.

    High street over boutique clothing

    Think about it rationally, traditional white wedding dresses can cost thousands. Why not save and head to your nearest Zara. Choose a slinky white number that does the job. You can quickly save thousands while still looking amazing on your wedding day.

    High street over wedding boutiques for everything from shoes and suits, to tiaras and gowns. However, you may struggle to find a veil at your local Uniqlo. 

    Consider your vendors

    It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of wedding vendors, you’ve followed your dream wedding videographer since the age of 18, now you can’t think of hiring anyone else. Unfortunately, when budgeting under $5000, tough decisions have to be made, and that videographer may have to get the chop. 

    The good thing is that weddings are extremely competitive. With the right amount of research you should be able to find another videographer, creating the same style of videos, at a fraction of the cost. The same can be said for every vendor, from invitation designers to photo booth providers. There is always a deal to be had. 

    In addition, you should consider what vendors you actually need to spend big on. Do you need to hire an award winning wedding florist to create the dream bouquet? Or can you head to your nearest supermarket and create your own? Get creative! Get researching!

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    Budget Breakdown (Under $5000)

    Below we have broken down the budget on how to have a wedding under $5000. Of course the costs are estimates and can be easily adjusted to your priorities. However, with the right amount of research, you should be able to spend roughly the same, coming in under that magic $5,000 mark. 

    Marriage License

    Cost: $150

    It kind of goes without saying, you are going to need a marriage license to get married. It’s a non-negotiable. Generally speaking marriage licenses cost between $50 and $150 depending on the state. 

    Registration Officiant

    Cost: $300

    Officiants or someone legally allowed to marry you is another must. There are plenty of options when it comes to officiants so be sure to do your research and shop around. Traditionally officiants can cost between $100 and $500 depending on your location.

    Reception Venue

    Cost: $750

    This is going to be where you save big. Spending thousands on wedding venues is commonplace. However, if you do a little bit of research, there are likely to be several local options. From community centers to outdoor recreational areas. Stay far away from wedding specific venues. These will likely come at a premium. 

    Food & Drinks

    Cost: $2,250

    More people equals more food which, in turn, equals more money. Try to think outside the box by hiring food trucks, visiting your favorite restaurants or even putting on a BBQ. There are many ‘at-home’ catering options that can help reduce your wedding food costs. 

    Rings

    Cost: $300

    Do you need rings? No. Should you probably have some? Well they are a wonderful keepsake and a beautiful symbol of your eternal love for each other. Just try to save where you can, skip the diamonds and get a set of rings that mean something to you as a couple. It may even be more special than a 24crt special from Tiffany’s.

    Invitations

    Cost: $200

    We actually put together a great article on how to choose your wedding invites where we go over budgeting and the costs associated. Moreover, you also need to consider invitation postage costs which can quickly add up. 

    You can usually find budget wedding invitation cards for around the $200 mark depending on the number of guests. That being said, if you are having a relatively small number of guests, DIY wedding invitations can act as a wonderful keepsake from your big day. Your guests will love opening something created by you. 

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    Wedding Attire

    Cost: $400

    As we’ve already said, Zara over Dior. Uniqlo over Givenchy. Sketchers over Louboutin. Ok, that’s maybe taking it a little too far. 

    In all seriousness, renting or opting for high street alternatives can help reduce your fashion costs while still allowing you to look amazing on your wedding day! $400 should be an ample amount to create a dreamy wedding look.

    Flowers

    Cost: $100

    Creating your own floral arrangements can definitely help save for the budget. If you are really good at planning, you can even plant your own seeds to help truly reduce the costs. Imagine walking down the aisle with a bouquet grown and created by yourself? Seems kinda awesome.

    If gardening just isn’t for you, you can usually pick up seasonal flowers for around the $100 mark. 

    Decorations

    Cost: $100

    $100 doesn’t really go far when it comes to wedding decor, try to think of it more as an allocated budget to put your own spin on things. Little touches here and there. Whether that’s adding fabric to your wedding arch, or blowing the budget on an epic neon wedding sign.

    Cake

    Cost: $200

    If you are setting aside $200 for cake you should be able to easily afford a professional cake designer. That being said, often providing a selection of different options, from store bought, to homemade, can add a real buzz to your wedding. The amount of times we’ve seen guests gathered around the cake area, discussing who made which cake. It really is a bit of a talking point!

    Photographer 

    Cost: $250

    In our opinion, booking a professional wedding photographer is an absolute luxury when you have budgeted $5,000. However, having beautiful photos to look back on in years to come really means that splashing the cash is worth it. 

    With a budget of just $250 you are unlikely to find a vastly experienced photographer that travels the world shooting celebrity weddings. However, you might be able to find yourself an undiscovered hidden gem, just starting their wedding photography journey.

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    FAQs about weddings under $5000

    When you help plan hundreds of weddings, you get to understand what your brides and grooms want. You work with all sorts of budgets and gather a knowledge of what’s achievable and what isn’t. Over the course of our time as wedding planners, we were often asked these questions about budgeting for the big day. Hopefully they will come in useful on your planning journey.

    Are there all-inclusive wedding packages for under $5,000?

    Obviously, booking an all-inclusive wedding package takes the stress out of planning. There is no need to think about flowers, photographers and wedding decor. You don’t need to consider whether or not wedding favors are necessary. You just need to turn up on the day and begin your party. 

    All that being said, finding an all-inclusive package for under $5,000 is going to be quite tricky, but as with any situation, it all depends on your exact wants and requirements.

    The best place to start is by finding a budget wedding venue and asking if this is a service they offer. Explain your budget and what you want to achieve with the budget and they should be able to provide information on whether or not it’s possible. 

    How to plan a wedding with no money?

    You can’t! At least not legally. A marriage requires a license and usually an officiant to ordain the marriage. This means that there are always going to be some costs associated with getting married.

    If you aren’t necessarily planning on the legal side of things, you can always throw a party or gathering with set rules. Ask guests to bring their own booze and perhaps provide a food option. Ok, not technically nothing but not far off. 

    Generally speaking, there are countless ways to save money on your big day, you just need to spend the time researching and find alternative ways to reduce costs on the expenses most commonly associated with your big day. 

    Where to find cheap wedding venues?

    “Love is all around me, and so the feeling grows.” Unfortunately the same can’t really be said for wedding venues, especially if those venues are specifically designed to host big days. 

    Cheaper alternatives can include private function rooms at local restaurants, community centers or general recreational areas that can be used for events.

    If you are still struggling, hop onto good old Google and search for cheap wedding venues near you. This should give you a little more of an insight into your options. 

    What are some cheap wedding food alternatives?

    I’ll be honest, I absolutely love a good food truck turning up at a wedding. We are all about the creative catering ideas here and there is simply nothing better than picking your favorite food truck and asking them to turn up on your big day. Many of your favorites will actually offer catering for private events. Just visit the ones you love and ask for more information.

    Other budget friendly options include local restaurants, cookouts and general buffet-style catering. You can either outsource to a catering company or ask friends and family to pitch in. Cucumber sandwiches are a go! My British backstory coming through there.

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    Conclusion

    So there you have it, our epic guide on how to have a wedding under $5,000. We’ve shown it’s perfectly possible to host an amazing wedding on a budget. You just need to plan ahead, get a little bit creative in your ideas, and skip the extras (at least some of them).

    Focus on the aspects that mean the most to you while ensuring you still have all the legal areas covered. Choose alternative or up and coming vendors. Do a little bit of DIY. Get married outside peak seasons. Finally, be as innovative as you can. Just because most couples spend upwards of $30,000 on their big day, doesn’t mean you can’t have the legendary big day for a fraction of the price. Most importantly, love every minute, you only get married once. 

    Sources

    [1] – https://wedding.report