How do you throw a party for 150 people without going into debt or looking cheap? Like this.

I’m not your typical woman: Planning my own wedding is my personal version of hell.

I don’t care about the superficial aspects of the ceremony and reception, but I definitely care about their costs. Unfortunately, it’s not up to me. My wedding is for the families that my fiancé and I are merging, not for us.

So we’re throwing a party for 150 on a tight budget, and trying to look like we’re not. I’m saving thousands, but — if everything goes right — the difference in price won’t be obvious to attendees.

We’re not cutting corners by getting married in a courthouse or in a friend’s backyard. We’re not skipping food or booze. It’ll look like a lot of the weddings we’ve been to. It’ll just cost a lot less. Here’s how we’re doing it…


Over the course of three weeks, I Googled, emailed and called almost every venue in town. After laying out the prices in a spreadsheet and noting what’s included with each, I discovered that a local nature preserve was by far the cheapest. But that doesn’t mean the easiest…

  • It’s outdoors, so weather will impact our celebration. But it does include a covered area for the reception.
  • The cost (about $450) includes the use of tables and chairs. It doesn’t include tablecloths — I’m still waiting on an estimate for renting them. If need be, my mom and I can have craft night and make some.
  • Over the next two months, I’m also bringing home empty liquor and liqueur bottles to use as centerpieces.
  • The other decorations will be handmade using materials from Dollar Tree.


I hate spending money on clothes. So, I was on the lookout for deals even before Adam proposed.

One afternoon, I saw an ad for a sample sale at a local formalwear shop and pounced. I went alone, tried on two dresses, and decided on the second. It was $300.

To complete the look, I’ll be borrowing jewelry and my mom is helping to sew my sash. (Noticing a theme?)

My fiancé recently tracked down a $595 tux online. We both plan to wear dressy shoes that can be reused indefinitely at work. As for hair and makeup, I’ve hired and/or enlisted friends to make sure I’m camera-ready.

Food and drink

Both my fiancé and I are in the restaurant industry. A friend of ours is the head of catering at a local restaurant, and she’s offered us a deal on a buffet-style meal, snacks, and staffing. Another friend, a trained pastry chef, has agreed to make our cake.

As a bartender, I want to make sure all our guests are happy and entertained. Since liquor’s not cheap, we’ll serve beer and wine at the reception. The plan now is to go through a wine rep friend and buy cases to maximize value. For beer, we’ll buy a keg, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.


Most of the cost of a wedding lies in the details. One of Adam’s oldest friends is an extremely talented photographer, and will be documenting our wedding. She knows our quirks, and has the experience to capture it perfectly.

My dad has graphic design experience, and will be putting together our save-the-dates and invites. Depending on the time constraints, yet another friend may design the programs and print them as their wedding gift to us. One of my closest friend’s mother arranges flowers for fun, and so I’m hoping that she’ll be able to help.

Before we make it to the big day, there are sure to be some unexpected last minute costs, so our wedding budget includes a bit of wiggle room. But we only have that wiggle room thanks to careful research and friends and family who are willing to donate their time to create a memorable experience.

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Meet the Author

Clair McLafferty

Clair McLafferty


McLafferty is a freelance writer based in Alabama.


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Article last modified on August 13, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: My $5,000 Wedding Budget - AMP.