How I got my dream wedding for under $12,000

The average wedding in Australia costs $36,000. Mine cost just under $12,000.

Every time I read a post on how somebody did their wedding on a budget, I’ll find it’s usually because something has been sacrificed to alleviate the costs. The guests might have paid for their own drinks, maybe the food was a pot luck, or it was a small wedding of only a dozen guests.

But no, not for us. We had 83 guests. We supplied all of the food and drinks. People we sufficiently fed and watered. None of our guests had to bring anything, except for themselves. Our dream wedding had everything that a wedding should have, and yet it still cost less than a third of the average Australian wedding.

So how did we do it, you ask?

Ash and Rob Wedding

1. We cut out anything we didn’t need

Bridal party gifts. Wedding favors. A spray tan. A DJ/Band – these are all items that we thought were unnecessary, and therefore didn’t spend money on.

Honestly, there are so many parts of a wedding that are traditional, but can be done without. When Robert and I made a list of the most important things to have at our wedding, we found that what we really wanted was to have our friends and family there with us, and that they were having a good time. That meant keeping costs low for our guests by supplying generous amounts of food and alcohol, and making sure our venue had a great vibe.

I suggest you make your own list, and ask yourself whether the items at the bottom of the list are really necessary? If not, cut them out!

Wedding pocket program

2. I hand-made our invitations and stationery

I know, it helps that I’m a stationery designer for this one – but anyone can DIY most of the their wedding invitations and stationery!

I designed, printed, and assembled our save the dates, invitations, programs, and signage for the wedding. Doing the printing and assembly myself did take a little extra time, but saved us hundreds (yes, hundreds) of dollars over getting pre-made invitations.

DIY doesn’t have to be difficult – if you want some fun and easy DIY stationery ideas for your wedding (including the above pocket program), check out my Etsy Shop!

Ash and Rob Wedding

3. We saved on venue costs by avoiding wedding packages

One thing I discovered while searching for venues is that the places that offered wedding packages were more expensive. I ended up choosing a public park rather than a private garden for our ceremony, and a local restaurant with function menus rather than a venue that catered specifically for weddings.

By doing this, I reduced our venue hire costs to a total of $250. What a bargain!

Ash and Rob Wedding

4. I chose venues that were flexible with our needs

My first choice for venue was a beautiful atrium in one of Hobart’s waterfront hotels. I loved the space, but I went back and forth emailing them for weeks over whether I could put up my own decorations and bring my own desserts. They wanted to charge us hundreds of dollars to do this, and I couldn’t get them to allow us to have the space any later than 9:30 PM.

In the end, I got so frustrated that they were unwilling to negotiate that I ended up going with a local restaurant instead – who had a space almost as good and were perfectly happy for me to decorate and bring my own desserts for no extra cost.

This venue also allowed us to have a canapé dinner instead of a sit down meal. Many people think that this means that the guests don’t get much food, but we made sure we ordered plenty. In the end, all the food didn’t even get eaten!

Having a flexible venue really made the world of difference to the cost, and it made me much more relaxed knowing that I was dealing with some great people who were willing to do whatever it took to make our wedding work the way we wanted it to.

Ash and Rob Wedding

5. I never mentioned the word ‘wedding’ when comparing prices

It’s amusing how businesses immediately raise the price of something when they know it’s for a wedding. This goes for anything – flowers, venues, caterers, photographers… all have different pricing for weddings vs. other events.

When I was searching for ceremony locations, I said the booking was for a ‘private function’ rather than a wedding. This saved us $150!

Ash and Rob Wedding

6. I DIYed all the decorations

I love DIY and decorating, so I thought, why pay for someone to decorate when I can do most of it myself?

I created a colour scheme and vintage-style theme, and then along with my mother and some family friends, we all put together some amazing decorations including ribbons hanging from the tree behind us in the ceremony, a beautiful old ladder and birdcage, a wheelbarrow drinks cooler, and my fabric flower bouquet.

We also had some fairy light trees at the reception venue, and I printed out some decorative signs to stick on the walls. It all came together beautifully.

Putting a bit of effort into DIY decorations not only gave the wedding some personal touches, it also saved us loads of money. We didn’t have to pay anyone to decorate anything, and the only things we rented were the fold-out chairs and champagne glasses for the ceremony!

Ash and Rob Wedding

7. We supplied drinks at the ceremony as well as the reception

Not many people do this, but we got the idea at my cousin’s wedding when they bought two dozen bottles of champagne to have at their wedding ceremony last year. It’s always a bit awkward for guests to wait around before and after the ceremony, so why not put a drink in their hand to keep them happy!

Surprisingly, this idea also saved us money on drinks. We got a huge surprise at the end of the night when we discovered that we’d only made it through two-thirds of our bar tab at the reception. It seemed that our guests drank less of the more expensive drinks at the reception because they’d already had a few earlier. We came out nearly $1000 under budget because of this!

Ash and Rob Wedding

8. We sourced services from our friends and family

Everyone knows people that can help out in some way or another. We had our friend Alex as our photographer, another friend Sam as our Celebrant, and a friend of a friend lent us the wedding car.

Some of my Mum’s friends even helped us with setting up the ceremony and handing out drinks in exchange for an invite to the wedding, which we were totally happy to do.

And my dress, a Maggie Sottero which cost $1299 AUD (half the retail price!) was altered by my Mum to save a few extra dollars.

We gave most people some compensation for lending us their services (by paying for some of their flights and accommodation) but it still ended up being much, much cheaper than paying professionals to do it all.

Ash and Rob Wedding

All in all, we had everything that we could have possibly wanted at our wedding. There was nothing that I wished we had, and nothing that I felt we were skimping out on. Our guests all had a great time, and many people said to us afterwards what a wonderful wedding it was.

I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. When planning a wedding on a budget, we need to realise that spending more money doesn’t make a wedding better – its where you direct it that counts.

Images courtesy of Alex Parkes, our wonderful wedding photographer.

For more wedding tips, head over to my weddings section!

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