Last August I was so happy to hear my best friend of over a decade, Brittanie (you may remember her from the bathelorette party I planned a few months back) was finally getting married to her longtime boyfriend, Jamal! Shortly thereafter I was appalled to find out I was not invited! How could she do this to me?! It was purely a cost savings measure in her plan to have the lowest cost wedding possible. After much complaining, crying a nagging I finally scored and invite and so glad I did because her wedding was one of the most personal, precious weddings I have ever had the pleasure of attending. It was so perfectly Brittanie and she didn’t have to spend a ton or go into debt to make it happen!
It goes to show a budget wedding, even in the pricest parts of San Diego can still be beautiful and perfect. Here’s is Brittanie's guide to how she did it, and tips to use when planning your own budget wedding in San Diego or anywhere!
My now husband and I live off a single income - his - while I'm finsihing nursing school. So for us, having abudget wedding was of the upmost importance. As we started planning the very, veyr small wedding we had family and friends from both sides who wanted to attend and we realized we did want to commemorate the occasion with some traditional aspects.
Things that were most important to me were having a real wedding dress, having great food at reception and saving money so we could splurge on the honeymoon! We chose to delay our honeymoon until this December for an epic extended European getaway.
I got married to my husband on in August 2015 at Coronado beach. It turned out to be the most perfect, special day I could have imagined and I did not break the bank to pull it off. I honestly wanted to have the cheapest but classiest wedding I could afford, so here is my simple guide to planning a budget wedding in San Diego.
My initial plan was to get married at the court house but they only did weddings mon-fri at the downtown location. So we opted for an "elopement package" for someone to come out and perform the ceremony and file the paperwork with the courthouse- this included a beach ceremony as long as there was less than 25 people total present- and no permit needed since there was 25 people only which is the limit. The minister emailed us ceremony options to choose from/vows, and we kind of picked and chose parts of some and added in our own stuff to personalize it.
We took pictures around the beach and the Hotel del Coronado before leaving for the reception.
We were transported to and from the wedding in a 1927 Cadillac courtesy of a man I met in the community through nursing.
We held the reception at our of our favorite Thai restaurants in Downtown San Diego – Rama Thai which is sadly now closed. It had a spacious backroom perfectly for a party, so serene with rock walled waterfalls, privacy and plenty of seating. Since we had our wedding in the morning, we opted for a lunchtime reception which happened to be a slow time for the restaurant which allowed us to have the whole back room to ourselves at no extra cost. We brought our own alcohol and prepacked the menu items (house salad/papaya salad to start, curry, rice, and drunken noodles as an entrée) so the table could be served together.
We did not have a traditional wedding cake, but ordered three cakes from Extraordinary Deserts that did not disappoint! They were gorgeous, more reasonably priced and perfect for our group.
When possible I used friends for services like hair/makeup, photos and a homemade flower bouquet using store bought flowers and ribbon.
The wedding and reception both were close, intimate and personal and made the day that much more memorable in our lives. We didn’t miss a thing by watching costs closely.
The reception lasted a few hours and then my husband and I returned to the Hotel del Coronado for a staycatation, including dinner at the hotel and a couples massage the next day.
Costs of everything that went into the wedding: $7,770
Grooming Prep (wax- brazilian, armpit, eyebrows, upper lip, discounted hair cut/color done by a friend, mani/pedi) - $150
Ceremony - $300
Reception/Food - $1,000 ($800 + $200 tip - paid for as a gift by my mother)
Wine/Champagne - $150 for 15 bottles
Photos (by a friend) - $200
Bouquet - $45 (Costco flowers and Michaels ribbon)
Hotel for wedding night - $450 (free valet at many hotels when arriving in wedding attire)
Dinner at the hotel (not reception) - $250 – the restaurant threw in some fun wedding freebies like wine to start and a special appetizer.
Couples Massage day after wedding - $200
Honeymoon (cost not included in the wedding) - $10,000
We believe in splurging on vacations. Typically our motto is "Fuck it, we are on vacation!" The honeymoon is no exception:by the time our honeymoon is complete we estimate that we will have spent $10,000 total for the honeymoon. We are flying from San Diego to Europe to embark on a 7 day Viking River Cruise down the Danube River. Stops included on our cruise: Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia), Vienna (Austria), Durnstein & Melk (Austria), Linz &Salzbur (Austria), Passau (Germany). From Germany we will take a flight that lands in France. We will then roam France for three days: we plan to see the Eiffel tower, the Lourve, and Disneyland Paris. From Paris we will then board a train that will arrive in Chamonix (French Alps), where we will enjoy an additional 3 days (please look up Chamonix skywalk and be blown away by this winter wonderland). Chamonix is really close to the Switzerland and Italy border so we may take a day trip to either place. Finally, we will take a train back to Paris and stay one additional night before boarding our plane back to San Diego. From start to finish our honeymoon is 16 days long. The cruise (all inclusive food & ALCOHOL) + ALL flights cost:$6,000 total. We have then spent Approximately $2,000 on hotels, trains, tickets to attractions, etc. And we have budgeted $2,000 for anything else that comes up along the way including food when we are on land.
Q&A with the Bride
What was your estimated budget to start?
What was your ending budget?
What items did you splurge on and what items did you save on?
Splurge – The rings at $3,800 total. This was by far the most expensive wedding item. Cost of engagement was approximately $2,800. Costco has by far the best bang for your buck in regards to wedding rings and quality of the diamonds, which is where Jamal picked my ring up. However, Costco did not have an impressive selection of wedding bands, therefore we went to Robbins Brothers in Mission Valley. His & her bands came to $1,000 for both.
Save – Wedding Cake. We went with 3 beautiful decorated cakes from Extraordinary Deserts that were amazing. We looked at the wedding cakes and found that for a one tier cake to serve 20-25 it would cost $200. We went with for 3 whole cakes - 2 white, 1 gluten free chocolate cake for my sister that totaled $180, and all cakes had beautiful red roses on them.
Was there anything you bought that looking back you could have not done and saved the money?
I want to say yes, because of course we could have done things differently... but ultimately I truly believe the answer is no, everything we bought served a purpose for our special day.
What areas were your biggest savings from?
- Photos by a friend
- Having the reception at a restaurant that did not charge
- Having the venue be the beach (which is free!). Many of the venues I looked while planning my wedding were $5000+ dollars with food costs estimating $50-100 per person and typically alcohol was not included.
Is there anything you feel you missed out on by having a budget wedding?
I really don't feel like my wedding was lacking much of anything. We were surrounded by my 22 closest friends and family on the beach of Coronado and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Where was your wedding?
The 20 minute ceremony was on Coronado beach with a smal standing crowd, photos were taken on the beach and around the Hotel del Coronado. The “reception” was held at Rama Thai, a restaurant downtown.
How many people total were at your wedding and reception?
25 at the wedding and 28 at the reception
What was the best part of having a small budget wedding?
"I think the best part about it was that it was really intimate (I was able to hand write personalized cards to every person and use the cards for assigned seating at the restaurant and it was a really nice touch that most weddings don’t have) and I was really involved in the planning/arranging. We planned the wedding in less than 2.5 months and I went in with the attitude that not everything would go as planned but to take problems as they arose and find a suitable solution without being a dreaded bridezilla"
Pick out things that mean the most to you, that you have to have and that you’re willing to spend on.
Make a budget for how much you are willing to spend on each item.
Anything labeled "wedding" is going to much more expensive than a similar item that does not have the "wedding" label. For example wedding shoes were costing $150-300 when I looked online, but when I searched for fancy shoes on DSW website my wedding shoes cost $55.
Remember to treat yourself- we did with a couples massage the day after our wedding
For the wedding dress - Before going wedding dress shopping look at styles online so you don’t get overwhelmed. I advise being up front with the style you are looking for, your budget, and what you don't want and bring friends with you (I wouldn't advise on bringing more than 2/3- more friends = more opinions = more stress and problems). When picking up the dress, also consider what additional you need to make the dress perfect (such as a belt, bralette, slip, etc.) Also, try to find a dress that fits you perfectly to limit alterations costs and beware of unnecessary upsells at the bridal shop that you could get cheaper elsewhere – check Yelp like I did. This saved me over $100 on the cost of length alterations.
Consider a restaurant reception versus a venue.
Bring your own wine and champagne. We bought ours from Costco and brought it to the restaurant and paid the $15 per bottle corkage free which was a huge savings from buying it there, and they kept everyone’s drinks full the whole time.
Use friends for their services like hair/makeup, photos, etc.
Any of these services could be gifted as your wedding present too – reception food, hair/makeup, transportation, honeymoon activities, etc.
Make your own bouquet with store bought flowers and ribbon. It’s easier than you think and will look just as beautiful.
Brittanie and I both hope that her budget wedding experience will be a guide for your to start planning your own wedding. Do you have any other tips to add? Leave them in the comments!