These 4 Couples Got Married for a Fraction of the Average Wedding Cost

A couple hold hands at their outdoor wedding.
Sarah and Andrew Roehm's wedding venue was a ranch that featured oak trees, a farmhouse and cows. Photo courtesy of Marcoz & Miranda

If you’re planning a wedding, you’ve probably heard the alarming statistic that the average couple spends close to $34,000 for their big day. It’s enough to make you want to throw in the towel and elope.

But with a little creative thinking, some smart shopping, a dash of DIY magic and the help of family and friends, you can drastically reduce expenses and still have the wedding of your dreams. You can even do it without chopping the guest list or sacrificing the booze.

Take notes from these four couples who got married without spending over $10,000.

A Rustic Wedding for 130 Guests on a $7K Budget

When Sarah and Andrew Roehm got married in January 2017, they kept their budget low by sticking to a theme, embracing DIY and thinking outside the box.

Selecting a rustic, woodland theme up front made it easy to say no to any purchase that didn’t vibe with the vision. A roulette table the groom suggested could have been fun, but it wasn’t on theme and didn’t make the cut.

The couple made their own playlists and recruited a friend to play iPhone DJ. Sarah’s friends arranged the flowers (which were purchased wholesale) and the decor (bought at thrift stores). One of the groomsmen built the archway they got married under. A few other friends played live music during the ceremony.

The Roehms went the nontraditional route when it came to the venue and food. They got married at a country-style ranch costing a tenth of what some other venues were charging, and a food truck served burgers for $15 per person.

Because they saved money elsewhere, the bride was able to purchase the $1,100 wedding dress and jacket she fell in love with during an impromptu dress browsing trip.

Here’s a rundown of some of the Roehms’ wedding costs:

  • Venue: $2,400
  • Flowers: $350
  • Food: around $2,000
  • Alcohol: $500
  • Photography: $1,400
  • Bride’s attire: $1,100
  • Groom’s attire: $135

A 190-Guest Wedding on an $8K Budget

A couple kiss at their sunflower-themed outdoor wedding.
Laura Grace Tarpley and Daniel Jones wed under an arch that his father picked up for $45 at a garage sale. Photo courtesy R Chavez Photo

Laura Grace Tarpley and her husband, Daniel Jones, managed to keep their budget under $10K despite having a whopping 190 guests at their October 2016 wedding.

The bride and groom skipped over the traditional wedding retailers to save big. They bought their flowers at Costco, various decor from Goodwill, boxed wine from Walmart and the arch they married under at a yard sale. The groom put his blacksmith skills to use to make their wedding bands with $10 worth of material from The Home Depot.

Tarpley and Jones also relied on the talents of loved ones. A graphic designer bridesmaid made their invitations and wedding programs for free. A family friend volunteered to serve as wedding coordinator. Another friend baked a three-tier cake, charging less than half the price they would have gotten elsewhere.

Here are some of the couple’s wedding expenses:

  • Flowers: $315
  • Decor: $120
  • Wedding arch: $45 (but resold it after the wedding to break even!)
  • Materials for custom made wedding bands: $10
  • Wedding cake: $200

Read more on this couple’s budget wedding here.

A $7K (Tech-Powered) Backyard Wedding in San Fran

When Marian Schembari wed her husband, Elliot Speed, in October 2014, the couple embraced technology and used multiple websites and apps to execute their low-cost wedding in pricy San Francisco.

Instead of booking an expensive venue, they made Airbnb reservations at a home with a backyard big enough to host their outdoor wedding for 40 people. The property manager let the couple set up a few days early and allowed them to landscape to create a more picturesque setting.

The bride got a used dress from the wedding website OnceWed and bought inexpensive decor from Amazon. The couple ordered take-out from a restaurant in town for under $500 and used TaskRabbit to hire someone to deliver it to the rental home. For music, Schembari and Speed just took advantage of their monthly Spotify subscription.

Because the bride and groom cut costs on many other aspects of their big day, they were able to splurge on photography, paying $4,400 for their dream photographer whom they had to book a year in advance.

Here’s some of what the couple spent their money on:

  • Venue: $1,250
  • Music: $10
  • Invitations: $100
  • Wedding dress and alterations: $800
  • Food: $530
  • Flowers and decor: $140
  • Photography: $4,400

Read here for more on how this couple pulled off their budget wedding.

A Delayed Reception Costing Less Than $5K

When Kerry and Jim Stapley wed in March 2015, they implemented some creative scheduling.

While many couples host their reception right after the ceremony, the Stapleys decided to schedule their celebration with family and friends months after their weekday courthouse wedding.

The cost-conscious bride did some sleuthing in advance, calling venues for quotes on wedding packages and then calling days later to get the price for private parties. She discovered the costs were thousands of dollars cheaper if the event wasn’t promoted as a wedding.

The venue they selected would have charged about $16,000 for a wedding for their 100 guests. Instead, the couple spent less than $5,000 total.

By holding their wedding reception months after marrying, the Stapleys also had more time to save up for expenses.

Here’s a glimpse of the couple’s wedding expenses:

  • Courthouse wedding ceremony: $72
  • Reception venue: $3,000
  • Decor: $150
  • Food: $400
  • Alcohol: $800

See here for more details on this couple’s wedding story.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.