Our DIY Wedding on a Budget

In honor of our FOUR year wedding anniversary!

August 17th, 2013. One of the greatest days. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been FOUR years. It seems like both yesterday and a lifetime ago. So much has happened within those years, and yet, it has gone by so fast! Since being married, we both finished school and graduated with college degrees, we found full time jobs and  bought a house, and we also welcomed our son, Arlan James, into the world 🙂 As we began planning our wedding and life together, we knew major life events were going to happen quickly after we got married, so we tried to prepare for them as best we could. That’s one of the many reasons why we decided to go with a very small budget friendly wedding.

SIDE NOTE: We got engaged on May 24th, 2013 (exactly four years after becoming a couple) and set our wedding date for August 17th of that same year. We had less than THREE months to plan and prepare. With such a small engagement (and budget), we didn’t have much choice other than to DIY as much as we could! Even though I loved our wedding day and all the planning that took place, I do not advise having a three month engagement, unless you plan on eloping! Lol. It was sure tricky trying to DIY everything with such a short time span to do so.  But, it was obviously all worth it!

Watch the first 1:00 of the video to get a glimpse into our wedding day. Photography credit: Jennifer Skoog Photography

The first thing we did  was book our wedding reception venue. We already knew before getting engaged where we wanted to get married and that we wanted a small wedding. So, booking our venue was a pretty easy task to check off the list right away! We got married outside on the lawn in front of the lighthouse at The Shores of Leech Lake Marina in Walker, MN. A place that is near and dear to my husband’s family. They grew up going to this marina every summer to enjoy their summer weekends sailing across the lake. The scenery of the landscape and Leech Lake in the background provided such a beautiful atmosphere that we didn’t feel the need to decorate for the ceremony.

We borrowed benches for the ceremony from a local Amish family! They couldn’t have worked more perfectly 🙂
The ceremony music, including the song I walked down the isle to, was played from a wedding playlist that I had created on my Ipod.
Saying “I do.”

There were only two things we didn’t DIY or worry about the budget with – our reception dinner and our wedding photography. We wanted our guests to have a memorable experience and enjoy. Plus, we thought this was a place we could splurge a little bit since we did only have 30 guest. We also wanted photos that we would be proud to show others and display in our home. Photos that we can look back on for years to come and remember every moment of our special day. Because we knew  we wanted to have our ceremony at Shores of Leech Lake, the only other “big” thing left to figure out was where we wanted to have our reception dinner at. Since the resort is only a few miles from the town of Walker, we started brainstorming. The first place we both thought of right away was Chase on the Lake.  This venue was perfect for our needs. It offers hotel stays, the 501 Restaurant, the Aveda Copper Door Spa, lake front access with a sandy beach, dock access to tie the sailboat to, and the perfect sized room and menu for a 30 person wedding reception that was within our budget! (they also have a larger reception hall to accommodate larger weddings).

Chase on the Lake
Our sweetheart table. All the tables were provided with the dishware, napkins, and table cloths.
The Chase catered our reception with prime rib, baby red potatoes, and asparagus. It was as delicious as the picture looks!
The Grand Send Off!
Sailing back to Shores of Leech Lake from Chase on the Lake

I found my wedding dress in June of 2013 at The Bridal Boutique in St. Cloud, MN off the rack for $450 (with no alterations or fittings needed!).  Charlie wore a tan suite that we rented from Randy’s Menswear in Alexandria, MN for $70 (for just the jacket and pants). He also wore a white shirt and navy tie which were items he already owned.  We both wore our Sperrys for shoes. The navy blue bridesmaid dresses were all bought at JC Penney for a fraction of the price of “real” bridesmaid dresses you would find at a bridal store. The best man, and only groomsman (Charlie’s brother) wore khaki colored dress pants and a white t-shirt (which were both items he also already owned).

My  “off the rack” wedding dress
The Bridal Party
Our comfortable footwear.

We made most of the wedding decor ourselves (except for the flowers & and a few items we found on sale). Like mentioned above, we didn’t do or spend much on decorating. That was one of the many reasons we wanted to get married outside. We did have a little cocktail hour for our guest while we took pictures in between the ceremony and reception. To do so, we had wonderful help from the owners of the resort. They decorated the picnic tables and lighthouse with candles, lights, gems, and tables clothes (all of which were their items)!

Cocktail Hour during family pictures included a picnic tables with tea candles and a table cloth.

When it came to the reception, we did decide to step up our game. We were fortunate enough that the venue provided all of the linens and dishware. That was one less thing we had to worry about. Right outside of the reception room, we decorated a table with our guestbook and seating cart.

Our guest book was handmade by me. FIY – make sure you get washable ink for fingerprinting if you go this route. We made that mistake!
Seating chart made from scrap paper and an old barn window.
Table decorations included a vase of flowers and votive candles.
Our centerpieces were also handmade by both Charlie and me. He made the monkey knots out of jute rope, and I made the table cards our of scrap craft supplies.
Charlie’s mother, Donna, has one of the best homemade cheesecake recipes. She was kind enough to make a few for our desert! Yum!
Our budget friendly wedding bands. Charlie’s band was bought at Riddle’s Jewelry for $70 thanks to a discount and a 15% coupon. My engagement ring and wedding band were bought at Kelsey’s Jewelry, a mom and pop shop in Bemidji, MN (Which is no longer open) for $1500.

After sailing back to The Shores of Leech Lake from the reception dinner, we enjoyed the rest of the evening by a bonfire with live music entertainment and more good food including cupcakes, hot dogs, and s’mores.

The cupcake stands were made for FREE by me out of a tree trunk and a wooden crate that I had found.
The evening ended with a final send off under a sparkler arch of friends and family.

The Final Tally:

Wedding Ring &  Bands : $1570.00

Invitations: $23.00 (including postage)

The Dress and Veil: $450.00

Tux Rental: $70.00

Officiant: $200

Venue Rental and Food for 30 guests: $2,000.00

Photography: $1,100.00

Flowers including bouquets and boutonnieres: $400.00

Cocktail Hour Drinks: ~ $130

Music Entertainment: $200

Bonfire Munchies: $175.00

Cupcakes and Wedding Cake : $75

A Case of Votive Candles: $25.00

Wedding Gifts to each other – Pearl Necklace: $99.00  Custom Cuff Links: $30.00

Two Night Stay at the Chase + Couples Message: $250.00

Everything else was made or used with things we (or friends and family) already had!

It is said that the average cost of a wedding today in the U.S. is between $19,000 and $33,000 (not including a honeymoon or the rings) and that one – third of American couples go into debt for their special day.  We didn’t have an exact amount set aside, we just knew we wanted to keep it as low as we possible could. After adding up all of the expenses, I’d say we accomplished our goal of having a small intimate outdoor wedding that we LOVED without breaking the bank or going into debt to do so.

Other tips and tricks that helped us keep our wedding cost low:

borrow what you can

have a small bridal party

cut the size of your guest list

buy seasonal flowers

buy flowers online

Make your own invitations and have guest RSVP via email, phone or wedding website

skip save-the-dates

consider an outdoor wedding at a scenic location (no decorations needed)

buy your dress off the rack (or even secondhand)

ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts

If you found our wedding tips and tricks helpful, please pin this post by hovering of the “pin” tab! 🙂

I’d also love to hear what tips and tricks you did to keep you wedding costs low! Comment below 🙂

*This post is dedicated to all the wonderful people who made our wedding day so special that are no longer here with us including Kevin Kleve (Bride’s Father), Scott Nocton (Family Friend and Wedding Officiant) and Randy Swchinghamer (Family Friend and Music Entertainment).

Happy DIYing,

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2 thoughts on “Our DIY Wedding on a Budget

  1. Loved reading this blog. Great ideas for keeping costs down for soon to be brides planning their wedding. Even though was done on a budget, your photos prove that weddings can be done on a budget and end up elegant and beautiful. The pictures are beautiful. Happy 4th anniversary to you both.

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