How to Plan a Wedding on a Budget of $10,000 or Less
Now that you’re engaged, you can’t wait to plan a magical wedding day full of happy thoughts and pixie dust. Problem is, pixie dust doesn’t come at bulk discounts.
The average couple spent nearly $30,000 on their wedding in 2022. That can be an intimidating number when you only have ⅓ of that in your wedding piggy bank — $10,000.
Photo by @megancaryphotography
Still, 10k isn’t hay, and you can totally plan an amazing wedding with that kind of budget. You just need to be a little creative and cut all your key expenses by one-third on average.
Ok, granted. Some expenses are pretty hard-set, like the marriage license. But there’s a lot of wiggle room to save money on other aspects of your wedding, especially if you’re not afraid of a little DIY.
Read on to discover our best tips for planning a wedding for $10,000 or less, along with an example budget for you to play with.
The Wedding Budget Breakdown $10,000
Let’s get precise about where all the money goes in an “average wedding.” We’ve already gone over the exact numbers in our previous blog: How to plan a wedding on a small budget. But here’s what the percentage breakdown looks like:
- Venue, cake & catering - 50%
- Photography/videography - 15.5%
- Music/Entertainment - 10.5%
- Flowers, decorations, & wedding favors - 9.7%
- Wardrobe, hair & makeup - 8.5%
- Miscellaneous expenses - 4%
- Invitations and other stationary - 1.8%
So, all you really need to do is adjust these percentages to fit your $10,000 budget. And that looks something like this:
- Venue, cake & catering - $5,000
- Photography/videography - $1,550
- Music/Entertainment - $1,050
- Flowers, decorations, & wedding favors - $970
- Wardrobe, hair & makeup - $850
- Miscellaneous expenses - $400
- Invitations and other stationary - $180
That said, you can tweak these numbers to suit your style (and we totally will!)
For example, if you don’t care about having a live band or DJ at your reception, you can funnel your entertainment budget into your wardrobe for a premium wedding dress. On the other hand, if throwing a rave reception is your priority, maybe you can save some dough by DIYing your wedding decorations.
It all depends on what constitutes a “dream wedding day” for you and your partner. Here’s an example of how you could go about it:
The Guest List
When it comes to your wedding guest list, size matters. The more people you invite, the higher your overall bill will be. After all, every new guest on the list will need:
- An Invitation: $3 to $8.
- A Chair rental: Between $1.50 and $6.00 each
- A Plate of Food: Averages $75 from a full-service caterer.
- A Slice of Cake: Not only will you need a bigger cake, but cake-cutting fees average between $2 to $5 (Seriously, it’s a thing.)
Got your calculator handy? Because that’s an average of about $87.75 per guest.
According to a 2021 survey from The Knot, the average couple invited 105 total guests to their wedding. If you’re keeping up with the calculator, that’s around $7,875 just on feeding everyone. Yikes.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to look into elopement packages. But if you’re determined to only spend 10k total, it might pay to minimize the guest list with a micro wedding.
A true micro wedding consists of 50 guests or fewer. And aside from saving money, it can also make your day feel more intimate and romantic — since you won’t have to make small talk with your fifth cousin whose name you can’t even remember.
Photo by @ashtonbrookephoto
That said, a 10k budget gives you a lot of wiggle room. So, if you really want more than 50 guests, you’ll just need to employ money-saving measures on catering and other expenses. (More on those in a sec.)
Wedding Venues on a Budget
Your venue is by far the biggest chunk of change at your wedding. The average couple spends $10,400 on this expense alone.
For the record, if you think that’s far too much to pay just so you can exchange vows in the middle of a barn, you’re not alone. And there are definitely more budget-friendly options out there. You might even be able to snag an awesome free venue if you have amazing family and friends.
Budget-friendly venue options to consider include:
- Hourly venue rentals: Sites like Peerspace allow you to rent aesthetic wedding venues by the hour instead of by the day. And since the average Peerspace wedding venue goes for $120 an hour, there’s plenty of opportunity to find a venue for $1,000 or less.
- Local bars or restaurants: Bars and restaurants can provide some seriously aesthetic vibes for a wedding and reception, often at a discount on Weekdays or weeknights. You can typically find a restaurant for around $25-$350 an hour on Peerspace. Plus, they may even offer event packages that include food and drinks. Win-win!
- A backyard wedding: If you, a family member, or a friend have a spacious backyard, now’s the time to put it to good use. All you need are a few backyard wedding decorations to upgrade the space into something totally special.
- National parks or public beaches: Parks or public beaches are totally free and open for public access. While some states might charge for a beach wedding permit or a pavilion rental, there are plenty of amazing spots out there you can set up totally free.
- A Religious site: Do you or your partner regularly attend a church, mosque, or synagogue? If you’re a member, you might be able to use the venue for free, although it’s customary to leave a small tip.
Total: Let’s budget $1,000 here. But again, you can totally get this for free, if you’re into backyard weddings.
Photo by @sarah.brookhart
Wedding Food Ideas on a Budget
“Laughter is the brightest in the place where food goes,” -Irish Proverb.
As we’ve already talked about, feeding all your guests can seriously eat into your budget (ba dum tss.)
If you go with traditional full-service catering for 50 people, you’re looking at $3,750 just for the dinner bill. While that’s doable with a 10k budget, if you’re inviting more guests (or just don’t want to spend almost $4,000 on a single dinner), there’s still some wiggle room here.
For one thing, instead of going with full-service catering (which typically includes multiple courses and even wait staff), you can try a more informal option, like a food truck.
Photo by @julietmaceyphotography
According to Roaming Hunger, a food truck can help you feed a crowd for around $20-$40 per guest. And not only is it more affordable, but a food truck can also lend your wedding a fun vibe and an adorable photo-op. Win-win!
Other money-saving measures you can employ for catering include:
- Drop-off catering: Instead of doing a formal sit-down dinner, you can have a local restaurant drop off food at your reception venue. According to Roaming Hunger, you can feed a crowd for anywhere from $12-$20 per person this way.
- Buffets: Instead of dropping off individual dishes, you can also save money by having your caterer set up a buffet. You can feed a crowd for around $25-$50 per person with this idea.
- Potlucks: Hey, why not? If you really want to save money on food, try asking your guests to bring a dish instead of a gift to your reception. You can transform your wedding reception into a potluck, making it totally free to you. But you can always bring a dish or two yourself — maybe by providing a home-cooked main dish and asking your guests to bring sides.
Total: Let’s budget $2,000 here, to feed 50 guests from a high-end food truck. Although, you have options if you want to feed more guests.
Wedding Cake on a Budget
"Romance is the icing, but love is the cake," -Julia Child
Once you’re done eating dinner, naturally, you’ll need something to smash in your partner’s face. Cake is the obvious choice here — and $10k can get you a whole lotta cake from a baker.
Ok, you may not want to spend your entire budget on the cake (no judgment if you do, though.) But you can still get a pretty sweet design for $1,000 or less.
Factors that may influence the overall cost of your wedding cake include:
- The size: A 5-6 tier cake will of course cost more than one with 3-4 tiers.
- The decorations: More elaborate decorations like flowers coated in edible gold leaf will naturally cost more than more standard piping.
- The flavors: Cakes with multiple or more complicated flavors might cost more due to the added cost of ingredients.
Single-serving desserts like donuts, brownies, or cream puffs can provide a tasty way to save money on your sweet tooth. Or, you could always have them alongside your cake — again, no judgment.
Photo by @ryannwinnphotography
Total: The average couple reportedly spends around $500 for their wedding cake. So, let’s add that to our wedding piggy bank.
Wedding Entertainment on a Budget
“Music is the soundtrack of your life,” -Dick Clark
And that soundtrack can be pricey, depending on who plays it. The average couple reportedly spends around $1,400 for a DJ or $4,300 for a live band to play at their reception.
But again, just because the “average” couple spends this doesn’t mean you need to. You don’t need Ed Sheeran to personally serenade you for your first dance to be special.
A gig-booking service can connect you with local talent who can bring amazing music to your wedding reception — often at super budget-friendly prices. And you’re helping a local musician live their dream.
Sites where you can book entertainment for your reception include:
- Thumbtack: According to their website, you can typically book a musician from the site ranging from $100-$300 an hour for your wedding reception. You can book a DJ here for around $500 - $640 per event, on average.
- Gigsalad: According to their blog, you can book a wedding band with the site starting at around $850 for 4 hours. DJs average $400-$600 for 4 hours.
- The Bash: According to their blog, you can book a DJ with this service for around $115 an hour.
And hey, if you’d rather cut this expense altogether, a Bluetooth speaker can do the trick just fine.
Photo by @fykephoto
Total: Let’s set aside $500 to book a DJ from a gig site.
“You look so beautiful in white,” -Shane Fillon.
You could probably walk down the aisle in a paper bag, and your partner would still choke up. But we don’t blame you if you want something a little more special for the occasion. After all, it’s not every day you have an excuse to dress up like a walking fairy tale character.
The average wedding dress costs around $1,800. Again, totally doable with a 10k budget, especially if you want to rearrange some of your other wedding expenses.
But if you look good and save money while doing it, options you can consider include:
- Getting a used gown: Sites like Nearly Newlywed and Still White allow you to find used or pre-owned wedding dresses — at major discounts over their brand-new counterparts.
- Renting your gown: Sites like Rent the Runway allow you to rent designer wedding dresses — often starting at as little as $50. And no one will know it’s a rental unless they ask.
- Grabbing a dress off-the-rack: Department stores like Nordstrom carry gorgeous white dresses, often starting for $50 — sometimes even less if you’re shopping off the clearance rack.
Like wedding gowns, you can apply the same principles to suits and tuxedos — grab one used, off-the-rack, or rent one. Sites where you can make that happen include:
- Tux rentals: Sites like Generation Tux and The Plunge can help you find snazzy formalwear that you can return after your wedding.
- Used tuxes and suits: UsedTuxedos.com sells… exactly what you think they would. And you can get suits too, if that’s more your style.
- Off-the-rack suits: Again, department stores like Nordstrom are your friends.
Total: Since we saved money on the venue and catering, let’s splurge here and allot $2,000 to find your dream wardrobe for yourself and your partner. Treat yourselves!
Photo by @katherinerose.co
The Hair & Makeup
At the average wedding, it reportedly costs around $250 for a hairstylist and makeup artist to style a bridal look for the day. Really, that’s a drop in the bucket for a $10k budget.
But if funds are getting tight for another element at your wedding, you can still cut this expense by DIYing your hair and makeup. Beauty Youtube and Tiktok are full of gurus who can help you look your best for the occasion. And if you want to go the DIY route, it’s the perfect excuse to buy that new eyeshadow palette you’ve had your eye on.
Total: While you could easily cut this expense entirely, let’s allot the full $250 for your hair and makeup — because it’s your wedding day, and if ever there’s a time to splurge on a little movie-star pampering, it’s today.
Photo by @marybethhphotography
The Flowers and Decorations
“Love is the flower of life,” -D.H. Lawrence
The average couple spends around $2,300 for wedding flowers from a florist. While that’s doable for a 10k budget, you still might need to make compromises or cut back on certain decorations, depending on what type of flowers you want and what’s in season.
Luckily, there’s an easy solution to get all the budget-friendly flowers you want without cutting back: artificial flowers.
Photo by @michellegodfreyphoto
Artificial flowers are far cheaper than their real counterparts, so you can have more decorations with a smaller budget. And they even come with other perks, like not wilting. Plus, faux flowers are perfect for DIY projects, which is ideal if you want to prep your floral arrangements ahead of the wedding.
You can get a package of DIY bridal flowers from Ling’s Moment for $299. The kit has enough flowers and greenery to make:
- A bridal bouquet
- 6 bridesmaids bouquets
- 6 corsages
- 7 boutonnieres
And if you don’t have that many people in your wedding, you can always put the flowers to good use in another DIY project.
Not into DIY? Faux flowers can still come in clutch thanks to pre-arranged decorations.
You can grab a pre-arranged wedding decor package in Sunset terracotta for around $335, which includes tons of decorations for a gorgeous ceremony and reception, including arch decor, a garland for your head table, and flowers to put on welcome signs.
Total: Let’s set aside $1,000 for DIY or premade faux flower decor.
“We keep this love in a photograph. We made these memories for ourselves,” -Ed Sheeran
The average couple spends around $2,400 for a wedding photographer. And if you really care about capturing bridal catalog-worthy photos to hang on your mantle, this might be worth the splurge. After all, you can’t exactly go back for reshoots later on.
That said, there are also ways you can get a better deal on this expense. Plenty of pros offer packages that only cover a few hours of coverage — instead of following you around with a camera for the entire day. So, if you don’t need photos of every second of your day, there’s potential to save some dough.
You can also look into student photographers, who typically charge less than their pro counterparts. According to Fix the Photo, student photographers typically charge $50-120 an hour. So, if you’re ok with helping a student build their portfolio, you could potentially have a full day of photo coverage for $1,000 or less.
Total: Let’s set aside $1,500 for a more basic package from a pro or a really good student photographer.
Photo by @alyBarnettphotography
Invitations cost an average of $530 for a professional to make them up and mail them out. And hey, that might be ideal if you want something high-end or don’t want deal with them yourself.
But if you don’t want to spend more than $500 for someone else to handle your mail, you can DIY your invites for way less.
You can find free and printable invitation templates on sites like:
- Cards & Pockets
- Greetings Island
- Paper Source
Just pick out your favorite, customize it with your names and dates, then print it out on some cardstock.
You can find a pack of fifty 8x10 cardstock sheets from a craft store for around $6. The number of packs you’ll need depends on how big your invitations are and how many guests you have (and how many sheets of cardstock your printer wants to eat.)
As for postage, you’ll have to pay around $0.58 for a standard envelope, but you’ll need to double that if you’re planning on sending RSVPs. But, you may need two stamps, depending on how much your invitations weigh.
And if you want to be extra, try customizing your invites with embellishments like ribbons. It’s an almost effortless way to give them a more high-end look — and you don’t have to pay someone else to do it for you.
Total: Let’s set aside $150 here, for cardstock, printer ink, ribbons, or any other supplies you might need, plus postage.
Miscellaneous fees and expenses can rear their head at any point during you’re planning process – and they can cut into your budget if you’re not expecting them.
Common miscellaneous expenses for weddings include:
- Your marriage license: This is a fixed expense that varies by state, but the average is around $60.
- Your officiant: Officiant fees typically total around $350. But you may be able to cut this expense by having an ordained friend or family member conduct your ceremony. (and it’s actually pretty easy and cheap to get ordained online.)
- Table and chair rentals: Averages between $1.50 and $6.00 a pop.
- Delivery fees: If you get your catering delivered, you might need to pay a delivery fee or tip the driver, too.
- Cleanup fees: If you’re renting your venue, you’ll typically have to pay a cleanup fee after you’re done for the night.
- Taxes: Yes, even the IRS will want a slice of your wedding cake.
Total: It’s a good idea to set aside around 10% of your overall budget to cover miscellaneous or unexpected expenses. So, let’s allot a cool $1,000 here.
So, let’s recap our overall budget for this $10,000 wedding. Our final numbers are:
- Venue rental: $1,000
- Catering: $2,000
- Cake: $500 Entertainment: $500
- Wardrobe: $2,000
- Hair & Makeup: $250
- Photography: $1,500
- Flowers and decorations: $1,000
- Invitations: $150
- Miscellaneous expenses: $1,000
That brings us to a grand total of… $9.900. So you even get an extra $100 to throw at whatever you want!
Maybe you could splurge on a swimsuit to try out on your honeymoon, or a special present to surprise your partner after the ceremony? Whatever you want to do with it is up to you. Just head out and do it.