How I Did It: Held a 100-Person Wedding for Under $4,000

By Abigail Dalton

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When my husband and I got engaged back in 2010, I felt simultaneously thrilled … and like I needed to brace myself for an oncoming wave, whose only purpose was to sweep over me and pull all of my money out to sea.

The engagement wasn’t a surprise – being mature, rational adults, my then-fiancé and I had discussed marriage, finances, child-rearing and any number of important topics we thought we should cover before agreeing to be legally bound for life – and I had already been poking around the internet, looking at wedding-themed websites and blogs.

I‘d therefore had plenty of time to feel my heart drop into my stomach as I looked at people’s budgets. From lovely outdoor weddings where tent rentals ran up to $20,000, to charming hotel affairs that cost $175 per person, I knew a conventional (and expensive!) wedding wasn’t for us. We’re in our mid-20s and have savings, but we certainly didn’t want to spend them on a one-day event.

While I would have been happy to run off to city hall and cover dinner for a few close family members, my husband had other ideas. He has a big family that expected a wedding … so we gave them one, on our budget.

The surprising thing we booked sight-unseen
After examining our finances, and considering our spending priorities, we thought about what kind of wedding we could agree on – and came up with “relaxed and simple.” That is, lacking tiny, expensive details that would stress me, and by extension, him, out.

The venue needed to be somewhere we could hold the ceremony and reception. Once we realized a full meal was out of our budget (given that we would likely host about 100 guests!) we decided on a dessert reception. We also considered flowers and photography, as well as necessities such as an officiant and invitations, and decided on a budget of $4,000.