Real Budget Weddings (Under $10,000!)

With a few smart strategies and lots of creativity, these three couples shows us how they planned beautifully personalized and truly unforgettable weddings—without breaking the bank.

Viva Las Vegas! (Total Cost: $7,546)

The Couple: Brooke and Adam Carsner
Wedding Date: April 28, 2011
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Wedding Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Number of Guests: 40

For Brooke Billings, 31, a management consultant, and restaurant district manager Adam Carsner, 28, having a destination wedding meant going to Vegas. But they didn't want to elope nor did they want anything too glitzy. “We wanted our day to reflect who we are,” says Brooke. The couple held their ceremony at Caesars Palace and rented an estate to host an intimate reception.

How They Saved
“We didn’t have the budget to throw money at every great idea we had,” says Brooke.” So we decided to spend only on the few elements that were really important.” The most critical one was the location.” The venue we found was perfect and we weren’t budging on that,” says Brooke. The ceremony package at Caesars Palace included the officiant, a wedding coordinator, a photographer, a videographer, a musician, the bride’s rose bouquet, and a room at the resort for the couple’s wedding night.

As for the reception, “We didn’t care so much about decor and that was one of the reasons we rented the estate. It didn’t require much; it was gorgeous as is.” The site was dressed with white LED lanterns and floating LED candles on the surface of the estate’s pool. Tables were
topped with ocean-blue linens and small votive candles from Ikea. Blue glasses were
repurposed as vases, and the bridesmaids’ whimsical peacock-feather bouquets did double duty as centerpieces. “Early on I decided that I did not want to spend a thousand dollars on flowers,” says Brooke. “Feathers, however, I loved! Plus, we could make them in advance of the wedding, and bring them home after.”

For other elements of the wedding, the couple didn’t have to look much further than their own bridal party. “Adam and I are fortunate to have incredibly talented, generous friends,” says Brooke. “My bridesmaid Liz, an amazing baker, volunteered to make our cake. Another 'maid, Leann, is a great photographer; she gifted us with her craft. Caesars Palace provided the photographer at the ceremony so Leann was able to be in the wedding and then shoot the rest of the day.” One gamble: hiring a DJ the couple found on Craigslist. “We decided to just go for it, and the risk paid off! He was incredibly professional and really got the party going at the reception!”

Small Indulgences
The biggest expense for Brooke and Adam was renting the estate for four days. “This was important to us because it not only served as our reception site, it also allowed us to provide lodging for our wedding party,” says Brooke. “Since it was a destination wedding, we wanted to help offset some of their costs. The estate was also a much better option for us than staying on the Strip with my 10-year-old son, and it gave us all a chance to spend time with one another.” Brooke also splurged on her wedding dress. “It cost more than what I had originally budgeted for," Brooke says. "But it was the dress."

Brooke’s Words of Advice
• When your friends and family offer to help—let them! People like to feel involved.
• Read online reviews. Since we had a destination wedding, checking out websites with feedback on vendors was essential.
• Comparison-shop online. Once I found something I liked. I scoured the internet to see where I could get it at the best price. I got an amazing deal on the LED candles we used to light up the reception after searching on eBay. It’s easy to be impulsive when it comes to your wedding, but taking your time and being thorough really do pay off!

Budget Breakdown
• Stationery: $80
• Bridal gown/accessories: $1,245
• Tuxedo rental: $170
• Hair/makeup: $65
• Ceremony package: $1,450
• Rentals (including tables and linens): $230
• Shuttle for guests: $200
• Reception (including food,drink, and estate rental): $3,000
• Decor: $166
• Cake topper: $15
• DJ: $225
• Airfare (for the couple and Brooke’s son): $700

Total: $7,546

Next: A retro wedding for $9,215 ►

Photo Credit: Leann Martin/Starry Eyed Photography