The $3,000 Wedding: How We Did It

When my husband and I had the crazy idea to plan a wedding in three weeks, the only thing we knew for sure was that we were flat broke. I probably had a few thousand in savings and my husband had none. We were broke and in love and hell bent on getting married.

An elopement wasn’t an option for us as we both really wanted our families to be there. However, we had to cut costs in major ways. This is how we pulled off our $3,000 wedding.

The Ceremony

These days, even churches will charge a minimum of a few hundred dollars to host a wedding ceremony. And most charge even more than that. While I checked with my church about hosting a ceremony, the $1,000 price tag was not going to fly.

We ended up going with a courthouse ceremony. We actually rented out an old historic courtroom so that our family and friends could be present. This courtroom has been used in several movies because of its “old courthouse” look and feel. Besides $100 to rent the room, we also paid for the marriage license (about $100).

Total Cost: $200

The Venue

By limiting the invite list to only our closest friends and family, we were able to host the reception in my parents’ backyard. My parents actually have a really great entertainer’s backyard, so it worked out nicely.

We rented linens and tables, and added some nice flower arrangements, and some old-fashioned light bulbs were already hung. It really looked quite lovely.

For entertainment, we actually had a Mexican Trio play songs. It was mostly background music but it upped the wow factor of a backyard reception.

Venue: $1700

The Food

We actually had a lot of food leftover. And it was a wide mix of food. Sushi platters from Costco, pasta catered from an Italian restaurant, fruit salads, bite size appetizers…

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Everyone loved the food. We didn’t do a cake, and instead opted for a dessert table.

My family loves to drink, so there was plenty of wine and beer to go around as well.

Food: $700

The Dress

I actually ended up buying my dress off the rack at Macy’s for $40. I loved my dress too and felt like a Greek goddess. I only had an afternoon to go dress shopping so I considered myself extremely lucky.

Eric wore a suit that he had. We also did not have a wedding party, so no need to buy groomsmen and bridesmaid gifts.

Cost: $40

Everything else

We ended up notifying everyone of the address and time of reception through email, so we didn’t have any invitations. A family friend worked as our photographer and my brother was videotaping (who really watches their wedding video anyway?).

We rented a hotel room for our honeymoon night and then took a short weekend getaway to Temecula for a mini-honeymoon. (We splurged almost three years later for a trip to Costa Rica as our “real” honeymoon).

For the rings, we bought ours at Sam’s Club and paid about $300 for both.


All in all, the $3,000 didn’t even come out of our own pockets. My parents graciously footed most of the bill, with Eric’s parents helping to pay for the alcohol. Eric and I only took care of our own items such as wedding bands, honeymoon, and outfits.

I hope that people can come to realize that money shouldn’t be an impediment to having a nice wedding. While the truth is I would have loved a fairytale wedding, the reality is that I will never be able to afford a wedding like that no matter what time in my life. Additionally—do I even want to spend that kind of money on one day?

Ultimately, I wanted a marriage not a wedding. And I was very happy with how our $3,000 wedding turned out.

  • David Bazile

    As I was reading this post, it made me realize the honest meaning of a wedding; that it’s not about the price tag, but more about the newly commitment between two people. Which is a marriage, not a wedding. Glad things had worked out the way they did for you. Could you say that the wedding industry works really hard to convince people to spend more?

    • I wouldn’t say the wedding industry works hard to get people to spend more, like a business would. But in big cities, and when big money is involved, vendors really can and do go after the money. If you live in a small town, where there isn’t much of an “industry” as much as a few venues, vendors, and dress shops, the focus is more on the commitment, than on the event itself. Not to say that small towners don’t find ways to spend heaps on weddings, but the options are limited (and the costs are too). — Brenda, Site Editor.