Did you know that the average wedding cost in the United States last year was over $25,000? My husband, Paul, and I agreed that we had no interest in spending that kind of money on our wedding. We are working to side hustle and save money wherever we can in order to achieve our dream of a year traveling the country. Rather than drop $25k, we planned an amazing wedding in our favorite city, New Orleans, on almost no budget at all. How did we do it? A lot of careful planning and research enabled us to have a wedding on a budget that was also the wedding of our dreams.
The first key to our super-cheap New Orleans wedding was that we decided to go solo. We didn't exactly elope. Our families knew that we were getting married. Rather than drag everyone down to our dream wedding destination halfway across the country, we chose to create a marriage-honeymoon combo just for ourselves. Both of us have already had the big dream wedding in white with 100 guests and 6 attendants. At our ages (both hovering around that half century mark), it seemed silly to go that route again. So we created a small, intimate ceremony just for the two of us. It was incredibly romantic. And of course we videotaped it to share with friends and family later. No guests means no catering, no invitations, no band, and no reception hall. A huge savings if you are trying to plan a wedding on a budget.
Guest Cost: $0
New Orleans has a wide variety of beautiful parks, churches, and picturesque homes where you can get married. The secret we discovered is that you can get married in many of the parks for free! So that is exactly what we did. We got married in beautiful City Park on a romantic stone bridge surrounded by 800 year old oak trees. I can't imagine a more beautiful setting for our fairy-tale wedding. And best of all, it didn't cost us a dime. The only cost - associated with any wedding - was the marriage license. Our license in Orleans Parish cost $28 + $5 for a certified copy.
Wedding Venue: $33 for marriage license.
Our next frugal win was my dress. As I mentioned, I have already done the big white wedding dress. My first wedding was in 1991, so I will leave it to you to imagine just how over the top that dress was. (Although it was classically simple compared to my mid-1980s prom dress. I shudder to even recall that monstrosity). So I went looking for a simple long dress that I could wear for the wedding. This turned out to be a challenge. I looked at a number of online sites, but everything was either too expensive or not really fancy enough for a wedding. Next up were the department stores. But again, I just couldn't find what I was looking for at a reasonable price. I really wanted to keep the dress under $300 if at all possible. We were striving for a wedding on a budget after all.
That's when I dove into the clearance section of Lord and Taylor's. Ok, to be perfectly honest, while I was wandering around the "gown" section, Paul dove into clearance. Paul wears his frugality as a badge of honor, yet is surprisingly good at finding clothes that fit me perfectly and look great. And did he ever come through on the wedding dress.
Would you believe he found me a gorgeous dress for $51? Yup. You read that right. Affordable wedding dress: accomplished.
Wedding Dress: $51
One of our best finds was a wonderful woman in New Orleans who offers her services both as a wedding officiant and an all in one photographer. Samantha McGovern of Romance in New Orleans really does do it all. And beautifully so. Samantha helped us choose a location, worked with us to personalize our ceremony, officiated, took photographs, and videotaped the ceremony. Her website even told us what we needed to know to get our marriage licence in New Orleans. (Fun fact, we were the first couple from our small town in Massachusetts to ever get married in New Orleans. They had to add our town into their record system!)
Samantha made our day so special, and we will never forget her. To top it all off, at the end of the day, she gave us a disk containing all of her pictures and video to take and use however we wished. Rather than paying hundreds of dollars for photo printing and album creation, she gave us the freedom to print what, when, and where we want. And her fee? Are you ready for this? For advice, officiating, providing witnesses, filing the marriage certificate, photography, videography and the photo files: $395. Boom! If that's not wedding on a budget pricing, I don't know what is. it still boggles my mind. If you're getting married in New Orleans, you have to check out Samantha's services.
Officiant, Photography, Videography, etc.: $395
In retrospect, I shudder to think how expensive the bouquet for my first wedding must have been. For our New Orleans wedding, I knew I wanted a simple, affordable bouquet. I started by contacting a couple of florists in New Orleans to inquire about pricing. I knew that I wanted a simple bouquet of hydrangeas and that I didn't want to spend more than $100 on flowers that would be dead minutes after the ceremony ended. The wonderful florist that I ended up working with, Flora Sauvage, asked me to create a Pinterest board to give them an idea of what I was looking for in a bouquet (how brilliant is that?). So I created the board, and Flora Sauvage created a fabulous wedding bouquet with a matching boutonniere for Paul all for $68.
Bouquet and Boutonniere: $68
If you are lucky enough to live in New Orleans, or are looking to get married in your own hometown, the wedding budget above will cover your bases. Paul wore a suit that he already owned, I re-purposed some nice shoes, and we were good to go. We did treat ourselves to a fancy wedding dinner at Commander's Palace (which was amazing, by the way). But that wasn't part of our wedding proper. We traveled to dinner by New Orleans streetcar in all our wedding finery. Sadly, that turned out to be a better idea in theory than in practice, as it was hot the day of our wedding and the streetcar broke down for about an hour. By the time we got to Commanders, we wished we had opted for an Uber.
However, New Orleans was a destination wedding for us Northeasterners. By planning our wedding there, we were able to wrap our honeymoon right into our wedding trip. This saved us money on further flights, and as March is off-season in New Orleans (after Mardi Gras, at least), made for a very affordable honeymoon.
I think you would have to agree that $547 for a wedding is amazingly affordable. If you include the flights, hotel, and expenses for a destination wedding and honeymoon in New Orleans, we top out at a grand total of $2,281. Under $3,000 for the entire wedding and honeymoon experience.
Wedding Costs: $547
Honeymoon/Destination: $ 1,734
For $2,281 we got the affordable wedding and honeymoon of our dreams. We are so thrilled to have had our frugal wedding in New Orleans, and would recommend it to anyone with a heart full of romance and one eye on the budget.