Vol.1, No.11

How to have a 100 person wedding for less than 400$

Do you want to have a big wedding but you only have a little money? Here are some ideas that will help.

Wedding money
Photo Credit: Branislava Becejski
Everyone wants to have a big, beautiful wedding, inviting all their friends and family and sparing no expense for the best food, drinks, reception location and band. But for a lot of us, that just isn't possible financially. the good news is it is possible to have a nice wedding, even a big wedding, for a small amount of money.

For the sake of this example we are going to consider a wedding with 100 guests and a budget of $400. It is possible to do this, but it will take some hard thought and hard work on your part.

The hard thinking required has to do with what your priorities are when it comes to your wedding. With a small budget you will have to let some things go. You can't spend $400 on a dress, for instance, if that's your whole budget. You probably won't be able to do a meal unless you have a friend or family member who is a caterer and who will allow you to work off your debt or consider their work your wedding present.

To make this easier, you might want to make a list of all the things that usually go into a wedding that cost money: a dress, tuxedo rental, ceremony and reception locations, any rental of chairs or other items that might be needed, decorations and flowers, favors, transportation, music, cake, other food and drinks, photographer, minister, etc. Then go down the list and rank them in importance (one being most important).

You might also take notes, jotting down any people you know who are in vendor businesses or have talent in a certain area who you might be able to ask for help. For instance you might have a family member who is a good photographer (and who has a nice camera) who you could ask to take candid shots during the ceremony and reception. Then you could pay to have a professional photographer only for the formal group shots, and only if that's something that is important to you.

Once you've figured out your list of most important things you can decide if you want to eliminate those things at the bottom of the list or if you just want to spend as little as possible on them.

The things that are easiest to let fall by the wayside are flowers and other decorations (though the bride may still want a bouquet, everyone else can go without flowers and yours can be pretty inexpensive if you pick flowers that are grown locally and in season or make your own bouquet from flowers from the farmer's market), wedding favors, transportation (drive yourself or have a designated-driver friend take you home) and rental items, as long as you pick a reception site that has chairs.

Speaking of sites, it's of course best if you can find a site that will allow you to use the space for free or cheap. The one thing all wedding have in common is that they have to be held somewhere, whether it's someone's back yard or a cathedral. If you belong to a church, you'll probably start there anyway, but churches are among the most reasonably priced places to have weddings and they often have reception halls with tables, chairs, a kitchen you can use and maybe even some decorations. They won't be the most beautiful tables and chairs you've ever seen, but if you're looking for cheap, sometimes you have to take what you can get (or go to a discount store and get plain tablecloths or colored paper to cover them).

Other cheap or free sites include city or state parks, which may charge for the rental of a pavilion but little else. Of course there will be other people around and you may have to rent chairs (and you may not be able to have alcohol on public property) but you won't need any decorations because nature itself is beautiful.

Ministers, justices of the peace, mayors, judges and others who perform ceremonies outside of wedding chapels designed for the purpose of weddings, either don't charge to perform the ceremony (public officials aren't allowed to charge) or charge a small fee. It's usually customary to give a small donation to the church for the minister's time.

One of the things most brides spend a lot of money on is their dress. We're made to believe that a wedding without a big, white, fluffy dress isn't a real wedding. I bought into it and wish I hadn't. I was hot, tired and couldn't eat all the day of my wedding. I wish I'd worn a white sheath dress like I'd wanted to. Really you can wear anything you want, and if you insist on a pouffy white dress, spend a long time looking, check out sales, go to thrift stores and check the classifieds section of your local newspaper and online auction sites.

Everyone expects at least cake at any wedding, and if you don't want to serve any other food you should have your ceremony in the mid-afternoon. People will have had lunch before hand and will have time to eat dinner after, so they won't be disappointed by the lack of food. The easiest way to save money on a cake is to buy a small decorated cake for the cake-cutting pictures and serve the majority of guests from a more plain sheet cake. Also, don't save the top of the cake; you won't want to eat it in a year, anyway.

A great way to save money on music is to bring your own. Most people these days have good collections of MP3s and a computer that will allow them to burn CDs. Make up a disk or two of your favorites (including a first dance song, of course) and use the venues PA system or bring a portable system with you. If you have a multiple-disk player you won't even have to stop the fun to reload (but if you only have a single-disk player, enlist the help of a friend to keep the music coming).

Your exact budget for a large wedding for $400 will vary, but there are lots of ways to make it a reality. One person may need to pay for a site while another has one free. One will want a professional photographer, a caterer to make appetizers or a disc jockey while another will want two kinds of cake or a couple of kegs. That's why it's so important to know your priorities. Know which things you do not want to live without and which things you can ignore. Rank those must-haves and start going down the list, saving money everywhere you can (making decorations yourself, getting friends to help, etc.) and stopping when you run out of money.

You can still have a wonderful wedding for a small amount of money if you plan well and remember that the most important thing is not how much money you spend but the wonderful people you choose to share your special day with.