I was part of a conversation among wedding professionals recently discussing the proposition, “Can you have a wedding for 100 guests for under $5,000?” The overwhelming majority of professionals weighing in on the subject were adamant that it wasn’t possible. I beg to differ.
I think differently because I ask the question, “What do you mean by ‘a wedding’?” I agree with my colleagues that if you want to throw a lavish Saturday night party with dinner and dancing for 100 guests, it’s unlikely you can do it on such a limited budget. But if you want to get married with 100 people present and give them some refreshment afterwards while you greet them, it’s certainly possible.
As I like to remind my clients, in order to get married (at least in the state of Illinois), all you need is a marriage license and someone to sign it. That can be obtained for under $100. A Cook County marriage license costs $60 and you can have a friend become ordained for free through an online source such as the Universal Life Church. Put all the pieces together, and you’re married.
That’s the bare-bones version without any more guests than you can fit in your living room. If you want to invite 100 people and give them a meal, it will cost a wee bit more, but I believe it can be done for $5,000. At a restaurant, you could have a breakfast reception at $20 per person. (We’re up to $2,060, for those who are keeping track.)
If you use only the equipment that comes with the restaurant (linens, dishes, etc.), your only decor costs could be centerpieces for the tables. Figure 10 centerpieces at $75 each (if you hire a good florist), and we’re at $2,810.
Figure $1,000 for clothing if both spouses are buying all new clothing off the rack, and the total is $3,810. That leaves close to $2,000 for invitations, postage, cake, favors, etc.
Professional photography is going to be too expensive, as are many other things that are considered necessary for a wedding these days. Or, you could re-arrange your priorities and put the money toward photographs by spending less on food and centerpieces. There are many ways to have a wedding on a small budget if you’re creative and keep an open mind.