How to Throw an Inexpensive Wedding in 11 Days

Posted on Aug 31, 2010

You have ELEVEN days to put a wedding together – Go!  I think I had this expression on my face when I heard the news.  Granted, there was no pressure on me or my mom-in-law to give my sis-in-law a fabulous wedding.  My sis is the sort who would be happy getting married at the court house, but my mom-in-law and I dreamt of giving my sis an amazing wedding.  We wanted her to have the best day of her life.  We were planning on a big production next summer and hadn’t started on those arrangements yet.  When plans changed suddenly, we rallied together and put on a wonderful shindig.  Here is how we did it.



Form a Team and Make a Plan – Fast!

One person can’t put a full wedding together.  It’s too much.  There are too many details and you need help to not go insane.  It’s already an emotional time and having my mom-in-law to lean on was invaluable.  After we heard the news, my mom, sis and I put our heads together immediately.   We knew we were in this together and being an united front saved lots of headaches.  We had the entire wedding planned in 2 days.  Hashing out all details immediately gave us time to implement our choices.



I’m about an hour from my mom and sis.  We created Google documents that we all could edit.  We had a running To Do list with names of who was doing what and the due date.  This working document changed a lot, but since we all had access we all knew how the plans were flowing.  We also used Google documents for the budget, shopping lists and a Day Of time line. Thanks to our iPhones, we did a lot of communicating by sending pictures.  They sent me pictures of dresses my sis tried on and I sent them pictures of the things I was making.  It was the fastest way to stay on the same page and to coordinate efforts.



Reuse and Recycle

We were trying to spend as little as possible and my sis came up with the brilliant Mix-n-Match theme.  This opened all kinds of doors for us.  We didn’t buy a single paper product.  We gathered surplus supplies from previous weddings, baby showers and memorial parties.  Yes, things didn’t match – but that was the point.  This freedom saved us a lot of money and we could focus our attention on more important things.


Pool Your Resources

Part of our planning was figuring out what we could borrow from friends and family.  I tapped my other sis for paper lanterns and other decorative items from her wedding last summer.  There is no sense spending money on things you can borrow.  She also makes the most amazing rolls.  She happily made a million rolls for the reception as her wedding gift to the bride.   My husband is a record junkie.  He hand picked over 100 songs and played them on his lap top using computer speakers.  My brother-in-law is a camera wiz.  He videotaped the ceremony and took many great photographs of the reception.  My mom-in-law is collecting all the photos people took and will create a photo album for the bride and groom.  Friends also arrived early to help set up.  I firmly believe that it takes a whole village to put on a wedding.  Having help from loved ones made the day more personal and  a lot more fun.



Don’t be Picky

There is no time in 11 days for any kind of Bridezilla antics.  When things didn’t go according to plan, we rolled with it and made it work for us.  The gathering of friends and family to celebrate and eat good food was our first priority.  So the cake leaned a bit and the ceremony had a couple of glitches, nobody cared.  The mood was perfect and that is what will be remembered for years to come.


Know Your Limitations

This was somethin
g I had to repeat to myself as a mantra.  I like to dream big.  I daydreamed of making my sis all kinds of wonderful things including her bouquet like I did for my other sis last summer.  But I had to have a firm talk with myself and made some realistic choices.  From favors to food, I choose things that I could do well and I wouldn’t be working on around the clock.  I used tried and true recipes because there was no time to experiment.  I also made favors I knew how to make and that I could make quickly.  This was not a time to learn new skills.



The total cost of this wedding was roughly $1,350.

This included everything from rings and the marriage license to wedding clothes and cake.  The ONLY thing this total did not cover was a 2 night honeymoon at the Oregon Coast.  My mom-in-law splurged on this as her wedding gift to her daughter and new son-in-law.   With more time, we could have cut down the total by several hundred dollars.  With only having 11 days, we did pay for some convenience options such as buying a cake and not making our own.



Breakdown of Expenses:

  • Clothes & Rings – $500 This covered both rings, the wedding dress, the groom’s suit and new outfits for my three nieces and nephews.  Everyone else wore clothes we already owned.
  • Food & Champagne/Wine – $450 This was a big expense.  We wanted people to eat well and we were feeding about 45 people.  This cost covered the cake, all of the food and beverages.  To cut down this expense, you can have a potluck wedding or ask a few friends to provide different dishes.
  • Tables & Chairs – $210 Again, we could have rallied to gather tables and chairs from friends and family.  This was a convenience expense, but added a nice formality and elegance to the reception.  This cost also includes rented tablecloths for the tables.
  • Flowers – $75 We could have saved this money by gathering flowers from our yards.  This could also be another wedding gift from a friend with a great yard.
  • Photography – $50 We had many people taking digital pictures.  This money is budgeted for a future wedding album so the happy couple can relive the wonderful day.
  • Incidentals – $100 This covered the marriage license, thank you cards and other miscellaneous things.


Completely Free Items

  • Location – We had the wedding at my mom-in-law’s farm.  The setting was gorgeous and I couldn’t imagine a better place to hold the wedding.
  • Officiant – My husband became a minster through the Universal Life Church and performed the ceremony.  If you go this route (and I highly encourage it), make sure you know the rules governing your state.
  • Music – A laptop or iPod playing songs tailored to the bride and groom is better than a DJ any day.
  • Supplies – We used what we had.  All plates, cups, utensils, serving dishes, vases, baskets, etc were things we had or borrowed.
  • Favors – I only used items I already had include bubbles leftover from my wedding a decade ago that already had bells tied round them.  If you aren’t a pack rat,cookies or truffles wrapped in a bag and personalized for the occasion is a extremely inexpensive and thoughtful favor.  You can also forgo favors if there is no time or money.  It is a luxury item.
  • Corsages & Boutonnieres – I made felt flower broaches for all the women, groom and officiant.  Another option is pinning a single flower to suits and dresses.  This can be done for next to nothing.
  • Alterations – My mom-in-law hemmed the wedding dress and the groom’s mom altered his suit.
  • Jewelry – I made pendants and earrings for the bride and the Matron of Honor (me!).  I also made earrings for the immediate female family members as presents.  Another option is wearing jewelry you already own or borrowing something special from a friend.
  • Hair & Make-up – We all did our own make-up and hair.  No trips to the beauty parlor for us!
  • Invitations – On such short notice, we went the Evite route and that worked great!  We also didn’t have a program or any other printed material.


I’m so pleased with what we managed to put together in 11 days.  It was work!  Our sweat equity was a big factor in creating such an inexpensive wedding.  My mom-in-law and I were completely exhausted after the wedding was over, but knowing that we gave my sis a perfectly imperfect wedding was worth all of the time and stress.  And really, it was over so fast that it all seems like a blur now.  Maybe there is something to having less than 2 weeks to plan a wedding.

1 Comment

  1. I loved reading about this! It was especially cool how your MIL got the flowers for so cheap but they look so great.

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