How to Plan a Wedding in Under 4 Months and $3,000

In May, we had our wedding, which was planned in under four months and with under $3,000. How did we do it? Here are some details about our wedding that may help answer that question.
  1. Pre-Wedding Dinner. We decided to have a dinner for our family and the wedding party on the night before the wedding instead of a rehearsal dinner. (Since we were having a simple ceremony, we decided it wasn't necessary to rehearse.) We chose Pedro's Mexican Restaurant to host the dinner. They have good food that is moderately priced, and the staff is accustomed to large parties. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and it was a good way to introduce family and friends to each other.
  2. Ceremony Location. The wedding was held at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The rental fee was one of the largest items on our budget, but it was worth it. We did save a few hundred dollars by having a morning wedding. The rental fee included an indoor space in case it rained and allowed for a professional photographer. It was a gorgeous day! Our pictures are beautiful!
  3. Clothing. The wedding dress was Kyra's grandmother's wedding dress, sewn by her great-grandmother during WWII. Kyra's mother altered the dress for her wedding and altered it for our wedding. (No small feat.) I wore a suit that I've had since college, and I purchased a tie that matched the dress. The groomsmen wore their own suits, with ties matching the bridesmaid's dresses, and the bridesmaids wore dresses of their own choosing.
  4. Items. Our rings are made of tungsten carbide, which is one of the hardest substances, ranked just below diamond, making it low-maintenance. Kyra's mom also assembled the bouquets. The leis were shipped from Hawai'i and although they were an additional cost, were traditional in Kyra's family, as her grandmother is Hawaiian. Everyone commented how nice the leis were, too. The staff at Olbrich helps renters contact each other to share chair rental when there is more than one wedding on that day. We chose Bucky's Rentals and split the costs with two other parties.
  5. People. The officiant, Peter Flessas, is an excellent speaker and sensibly priced, even though he traveled from Milwaukee. (We had a quote from one officiant for $600 who lives in the area!) My aunt Roxy was the photographer, and my aunt Beth was the videographer. Brent Darley of Madison Grapevine, a friend of ours, provided sound equipment for our wedding ceremony and some post-ceremony music. (Brent has excellent taste in music. He also helps with local social ballroom dance organization, UWMBDA.)
  6. Music. We selected music for preludes, the processional and recessional, and the reception. We also DJed at the reception using Kyra's laptop, which we hooked to the sound system. We had about five hours of music picked out, which was excessive, but at least we were ready! We programed the first half-hour with songs we really liked, then populated a list to be played at random.
  7. Reception Meal. Our reception was held shortly after the wedding ceremony at about noon, and we served lunch, which consisted of sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, chips, and other light fare. We purchased most of the food at Sam's Club, which was rather cheap and surprisingly good, especially the sandwiches and cakes. Kyra's family helped out by bringing in a few dishes of they cooked. Since the reception was at lunchtime, we decided not to provide alcohol at the reception, but we did provide soda. An extra item was the non-alcoholic champagne for the wedding party.
  8. Reception Hall. The reception was held at Victoria's in Stoughton, WI. Having the reception outside of Madison reduced our costs exponentially. (Some of the halls in Madison were unbelievably priced for a barren, boring hall.) I delivered the food from Sam's Club on the day before the wedding, so everything was ready to go. The night before, after the pre-wedding dinner, we went to Victoria's with supplies we purchased from Party City and Jo Ann Fabrics. We decorated with our family and the wedding party. We didn't really have a plan, but it was fun and the hall ended up looking great! The staff at Victoria's helped us with everything, including setting up the food before we arrived. It was very stress-free thanks to all of their hard work.
  9. Software. We used a variety of software to help us plan the wedding, including a number of online products offered by Google. See the entry about it for more information (and the update, too). Another couple had the similar ideas, as reported by The Official Google Blog.
    Our plans may not be fitting for everyone planning an event or wedding. For example, if we didn't have the wedding dress and Kyra's mom's exceptional alteration skills, our expenses would have been a lot more. Nonetheless, we had a great wedding, planned with little time and money. So to anyone out there with little time and money to plan an event like this: It is possible! Our wedding video shows the beauty of the day and ceremony. Everyone involved made it a very special day. Thanks everyone!


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