• Caitlin McAninch

How I Had My Dream Wedding with a $10k Budget

My wedding day was everything I ever dreamed of. I’m not a fancy girl or anything, not high maintenance, but I do like nice things. If you’ve read my travel posts, I’m definitely no budget traveler! But, when it came to my wedding, I was a bit more willing to spend a lot on a honeymoon than my actual wedding. And that’s not a bad thing, right?

When it comes down to it, we did spend a lot of money on our wedding. We set a $10,000 wedding budget. And unless you’re super rich (which, good for you), $10,000 is a lot of money. Especially when you’re 25 years old and only two years into your career. Even with you and your new fiancé pitching in, with two incomes, $10,000 is a lot of money!

I found this on The Knot from an article published in early 2017. These numbers are based on the national averages in 2016 for weddings in the USA. Total, The Knot’s survey of 13,000 real brides found that the national average of weddings in 2016 was $35,329. Holy shit balls. (Yes I just said that.)

That number is something I can’t comprehend. At my first job out of college, I made $30k a year. How the hell is someone my age spending that much on one day?

I’m not a negative Nancy about weddings. I’ve been dreaming of my wedding day since I was a girl. I wanted the whole thing. I wanted to feel like a princess. I wanted a beautiful, perfect day. And trust me, I had the whole day all planned in my head. But I DID NOT have $35k to drop. When I got engaged, I had been driving a car as old as I was. If anything, I’d be spending $35k on a new car. Come on people. AND SERIOUSLY?! Who wants to put a wedding on a credit card?!

Okay. Enough of that rant. I want to share how I had my perfect day for a third of the national average. Because if you saw my post here, you can see, I had an amazing wedding. It was a BLAST. Best day of my life, and we had en epic reception party. So here’s my breakdown according to that list above from The Knot:

Venue: $1,715

Photographer: $1,750

Wedding Event Planner: $0

Reception Band: $0

Reception DJ: $695

Florist/Décor: $1,359

Videographer: $0

Wedding Dress: $222

Groom’s Attire: $250

Wedding Cake: $0

Ceremony Site: $120

Ceremony Musicians: $0

Invitations: $227.38

Transportation: $0

Favors: $40

Rehearsal Dinner: $570

Engagement Ring: A lot… lol. And we’re not going to add that into the total.

Officiant: $0

Catering (Price Per Person): $11 (total was $850)

Wedding Day Hair Styling: $0

Wedding Day Make-Up: $0

So with that above, my wedding total is $7,798.

I want to break these numbers down even further, so let's go!


So we booked two separate areas of the Galena Regional Park, which is a city park in Reno, NV. Because it’s a city park, we had to purchase insurance. Our venue was an hourly rate at $60 per hour. We booked 2 hours at one area for the ceremony, WeCheMe Lodge, simply because there was a two hour minimum. And we booked our main reception building from 8am to midnight so we would have plenty of time for set up before the wedding and clean up afterwards.

Full break down of wedding venue:

Rehearsal Dinner: $570 (Dylan’s parents paid for this)

Ceremony Site: $120

Reception site: $2,000

Insurance: $95

Deposit returned back to us: -$500

Total: $2,285

Our venue included tables and chairs, but we were not allowed to take the chairs outside. Because of this I looked around at renting chairs for our ceremony site. The cheapest chairs I found were around $3 per chair. Because we had a short, non-religious ceremony, we opted to not rent chairs. Dylan’s grandmother had 24 folding chairs for the big Thanksgiving gathering she has every year, and we just used those! 12 on each side for the elderly people in our wedding. And no lie, only 3 people sat down in our ceremony. Everyone else remained standing the whole time. See below:


We hired a photographer I knew from high school. Her work is amazing and I am so happy we opted to spend money on a great photographer. The photos are truly a gift that I will cherish for life. DO NOT SLACK ON GETTING A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER!

I wanted a videographer really, really bad. But. I knew it was something I wasn’t getting. Simply put, there wasn’t one in Reno that was within my budget. I am blessed because I met Brice. Brice started at my work and one day at a happy hour we got to talking, and he said he was interested in building his wedding portfolio, and he offered to do my wedding video for free. I get that this isn’t a normal thing. But, Brice is in sales. He’s just a guy from work (well, not anymore we’re bffs). But you never know who you might know that can help you out with something in your wedding.

Full break down of photography:

Photographer: $1,750

Videographer: $0

Total: $1,750


Now originally I thought I would be spending like, $50 on music. I thought I’d make a playlist on Apple Music, rent speakers, plug in and press play. About a month before my wedding I realized that there was no way that was possible. I mean, I can’t press play and then run down the aisle…

I called around and found a DJ business here in Reno and just told the owner my story. I let her know that my budget was limited, but I did want to have a party with good music. She let me know she had an intern that had not done a wedding yet, but he was ready to go out on his own. And because it was his first time, she gave me a discount! Their normal rate is $1,100 and she dropped it down to $695! And DJ Mike was amazing! We still talk about him! It was seriously a party!

And as an FYI, the service included music at my reception and ceremony, which is why we didn't need to add a band for the ceremony. I walked down the aisle to music that I love!

Full break down of music:

Reception Band: $0

Reception DJ: $695

Ceremony Musicians: $0

Total: $695


Our wedding was almost all DIY, or “What do we have that we can use”. That means we took a lot of the decorations that were already at my mom’s house or mine. I figured a good way to do this section is sort of drop images from my wedding, and explain how much and where things came from.

Dylan’s dad built our ceremony arbor with sticks we got off a tree that we chopped down. The fabric is part of 16 reams I purchased for the reception venue. The flowers are fake from Hobby Lobby. My mom went to Hobby Lobby all throughout the wedding planning with the 50% off coupons and bought a majority of our décor for a discount.

We bought wood from Home Depot, Dylan’s dad cut it all up, stained it, and then my friend Shelby wrote on them! The lantern is from my mom’s house.

This desk is from my mom’s house. My wedding coordinator and friend, Jolene, made this little sign and our guest book.

Our wedding favors were a DIY project that cost about $40 total. You can learn all about how to make them here in this post.

We already had pallets, we just stained them, and hung pictures of ourselves on them! We owned all these frames. Printing all of these photos was like $2 at Costco. The pinecones we just took from outside at the venue!

So we splurged on our dance floor. It cost $214 to rent this dance floor, that included set up and dropping off/picking up. It was 12 by 12 feet, and worth every penny! Really brought the room together! You can also see the fabric we hung up on the rafters in this image. I loved the look, and we didn’t have to cut any of the fabric we bought, so I am hoping I can resell it!

In this photo you can see the sweetheart table. We bought the linens because it was way cheaper to buy than to rent, $6 per table cloth to buy opposed to renting was going to be $15 a table. We also picked up burlap, bought lots of Christmas lights for the area above the dance floor.

In these photos you can see the details of the sweetheart table. The silver candleholders are from my house, they are things I pull out every year for Christmas. The flowers are our bouquets that we just laid out on the table. Pinecones are from outside our venue, the vine is from hobby lobby, and in the far corner of the second picture you can see the wooden candleholders we made from the birch tree we chopped down!

I don’t really love dessert. So, we did smores! My mom bought everything for this table, and she told me it cost about $95 to put together.

Our cornhole game was made by Dylan’s dad and stained. Then Shelby also wrote on these! The beanbags were $20.

Now I saw this idea on Pinterest and loved it for a photo spot. The photos that came from it were great! But we made it by buying crown molding at Home Depot, and spray painting it with gold spray paint. And the chair was Jolene’s. And the sticks to the side were just outside!

I also got Snapchat filters. Mainly because I am seriously social media obsessed, and I thought it would be cool. I got two, and they totaled $13 together. I designed them myself on Canva.

Full break down of décor:

Florist: $417.69 (bouquets and boutonnieres)

Wood, Stain and paint from Home Depot: $60

Christmas lights: $108 (we ordered 25 strands of these white lights)

Fake flowers: $200

Smores table: $95

Flameless candles: $70 (we bought 15 flameless tall ones and lots of these flameless tea lights from Amazon)

Linens: $80 ($6 per table, as opposed to renting was going to be $15 a table)

Fabric for hanging: $316 (we got 16, but shipping was expensive)

Snapchat Filters: $13

Total: $1,359.69

Wedding Ensemble

Now I was really worried about spending on this one. But, I found a dress I loved online. I talk about it more in this post, so feel free to check this out for details.

But total, what we spent on my dress and accessories was about $500. My dad bought my dress, and as a wedding present, my aunt paid for half of my wedding accessories. We got Dylan’s suit on special because we bought my dad’s suit at the same time, and so Dylan’s was half off (originally $400). And he gets to keep it, it wasn’t rented.

Dylan’s cousin, Elyse, did my hair. She does hair for weddings for a living, and is damn good at it. She did all my bridesmaid’s hair, too, all for free. My beautiful friend, Jenna, did my make-up. She used to work at Mac, and is so talented at doing make-up. She was already invited to my wedding when she offered to do my make-up as my present. She did most of my bridesmaid’s make-up for $60 per girl, and they paid for that. See? It’s all about who you know that can help!

Full break down of wedding ensemble:

Wedding Dress: $222

Wedding accessories: $1,040

Groom’s Attire: $250

Wedding Day Hair Styling: $0

Wedding Day Make-Up: $0

Total: $1,512

I actually have dedicated an entire post with more details about how I got ready for my wedding for under $1,000. So check that out!!!


So I’ve never had good wedding food. Not really anyways, I mean it’s always fine. But. When it came down to deciding what we wanted to do, I knew I wanted our favorite food. And Dylan and I love tacos. So we got our favorite Taco Truck from Reno’s Food Truck Friday. It was a hit. Like, it went so well. I was worried about it, but we only got positive comments about it, and total to feed all our guests, it was $850.

Now drinks. I wanted an open bar, but I didn’t really know how to do that. We ended up hiring a bartender, she charged $200 for the night, and she told me what to get for two signature cocktails – which cost me $80 to buy everything. My mom got the champagne for our toast from Grocery Outlet, 12 bottles for $96 – and we had 4 left over. My parents bought like, 12 cases of wine when they went to Napa at some point this year, and spent $450, but my mom has TONS of wine left. My friend Kellen brought a keg with him as our wedding present, so we had one keg of beer, which was fine.

And that’s how we fed and beveraged our wedding!

Oh yes. And I bought a bar off of Craig’s List for $200 because I thought it would look legit. And it did.

Full break down of food:

Wedding Cake: $0

Catering: $850

Alcoholic Signature Cocktails: $80

Plates, cups, and napkins: $60

Champagne: $96

Water: $13

Wine: $270 (We spent $450 but we have so much so my mom said, say $270)

Bar: $200

Bartender: $200

Total: $1,769


There are a lot of other things that go into the wedding, too. But here’s the breakout of what else is left from the Knot’s list:

Wedding Event Planner: $0

Invitations: $75 (Made them on a cricket)

Save the Dates = $152.38 (got them on Etsy)

Thank Yous = $0 (Did a collaboration with Basic Invite)

Transportation: $0

Favors: $40

Engagement Ring: A lot… lol. (Dylan’s ring was around $400, and mine was more than that)

Officiant: $0

Total: $267.38

Some of those details… My day of coordinator was Jolene – my friend’s mom that is also my hair stylist, that also knows her way around doing a wedding. She did not charge me for helping out with my wedding. Our officient was Dylan’s sort of Great Uncle. He is a judge in Nevada that has married many of the couple’s in Dylan’s family, and he did not charge us. I will say it one last time, it’s all about who you know that can help!

We each drove to the wedding separately in cars of our wedding party. And Dylan’s brother drove us back to our hotel afterwards. No shame.

A Small Wedding Budget is Okay

Looking back I have no regrets about my wedding. Everything went perfectly. Everything I wanted, I had. I don’t think there is a single thing that I wish I would have spent more on.

I feel like I have a lot of knowledge about how to do your wedding on a budget, so if you’re getting married and have any questions, please ask! I have knowledge to share!

To see more wedding blog posts, visit my Wedding section of my blog:

BTW, I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, so some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Nice, right? Keep in mind that I link to Amazon and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases.