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How we had a big, beautiful wedding for less than $5000

serina bird the joyful frugalista wedding budget

I’ve just got married to amazing man. And it was an amazing day that our 200 or so guests enjoyed. The best part?

Because we set a budget of $5000 to begin with, after the celebrations were done we were debt free and still happy.

What was our secret?

The essential ingredient is love – when the bride and groom radiate love, the vibe is infectious.

All you really need for a wedding ceremony is a bride, a groom, two witnesses and someone to officiate. You can, as some billionaires choose to do, have an intimate backyard shindig. Anything else is just cream on top.

Being a frugalista, however, I wanted something that was unique and romantic but also had a bit of drama.

And above all I wanted to involve our family and communities in creating something that was a genuine celebration. We had both been to weddings that (while beautiful) were stiff and formal.

Instead, we wanted to have fun. And we achieved that.

Highlights included putting on my beautiful Hollywood-style satin dress (purchased in Antwerp, Belgium no less), travelling to the church in a vintage 1958 Chevy, arriving at the reception venue in a horse and buggy, and being heralded in by the Canberra town crier.

Meanwhile, guests were entertained by a magician and a country music performer. (I did say we included a touch of drama.)

Neil and Serina tied the knot earlier this month after spending just $5000 on their special day. The average Aussie wedding costs a whopping $65,000. Photo: Erna Glassford (@simplycheecky).

We reduced costs by:

1. Sending digital wedding invitations

We used an app called Appy Couple ($39), which allowed us to send stylish, personalised invitations that guests could access via a website or app. We also recorded a short Youtube video. With postage alone starting at $1 and design and printing costing several more dollars each, this saved us hundreds.

It was also environmentally friendly. Not everyone was up with the technology, so my mother-in-law and I designed and printed out a few hard copy invitations using a free Microsoft template.

2. Dressing the groom and best man in op shop clothes

My husband’s pure wool Anthony Squires navy jacket cost $7.50 at Vinnies. He later found an almost identical one for $12 for his best man.

White shirts were purchased at Costco and moleskins online – both are items they will wear for many years to come.

3. Making floral arrangements ourselves

We went to a wholesale florist and bought a large bunch of baby pink roses, baby’s breath and daisies – total cost $86. I also purchased florist tape for $2.

I felt proud to have made the buttonhole flowers for all the bridal party, including my husband.

My sister and I also made two beautiful vase-fulls for the bridal table and nearly 20 small arrangements for other tables.

And the bridal bouquets? Totally fake non-wilting pink peony roses purchased from Kmart that looked fabulous in the photos.

4. Baking and icing my own wedding cake

We wanted something stylish and retro, in a 1950s style. I hadn’t seen anything I liked, certainly not in our price range.

So I baked my own three-tier limoncello-soaked fruit cake. I iced it with marzipan and white fondant, stacked it (with the help of a chef friend) into tiers separated by Grecian columns, and decorated them with shimmering pink DIY sugar roses and plum blossoms.

I had never attempted anything like this before: Youtube and my local cake decorating store were my friends.

5. Hiring a community hall as a reception venue

My husband used to live in a rural community, and still has ties there. So, we used the community hall for our reception.

Not only was it cheap but it meant that we could involve and support his community.

With the help of friends, we decorated it the day before with fairy lights, bunting, lace curtains for tablecloths, LED candles and white tulle.

Proud frugalista Serina Bird got creative to cut costs for her wedding without cutting back on romance. Photo: Erna Glassford (@simplycheecky).

6. Making and buying cheap booze

We looked out for specials at Dan Murphy’s and bought online using eWish cards (5% saving) and discounts with Cashrewards (often around 3%).

We also bought cheap alcohol through Cellarmasters, Aldi and Costco. Plus we made our own lager, ginger beer and apple cider.

At the end of the night we were surprised to find that the homemade lager (around 50c for a 750ml bottle) and the Aldi rosé ($5 a bottle) had been the most popular items.

7. Going for DIY DJ

We paid for a country music singer who helped set the country mood. But after that, we relied on our own music.

My sister had prepared a fabulous Spotify list; yet we didn’t even refer to it once.

Instead our MC facilitated a karaoke session and lined up songs by request – some of our guests had amazing voices, and some moments (such as my husband crooning Keith Urban’s Making Memories of Us) were priceless.

8. Opting for presence rather than presents

We asked friends and family to bring a plate of food to the event, or contribute in another way, rather than buy a gift.

And what a feast we had: a giant pan of Spanish paella, home-made wontons, Sri Lankan curry, chicken pad Thai, sausage rolls, arancini balls, steak, homemade sausages, quinoa salad, cheesecake, tiramisu and banoffee pie were just some of the offerings. There was something for everyone.

9. Asking friends to take our wedding photos

Two close friends took photos, and another friend videoed the event.

Another friend took photos of food and guests, and two friends used a drone. Some of these friends are semi-professional photographers, and their photos were unique. We also encouraged guests to share photos via a hashtag.

That meant we received some photos in real time or soon after the event. And they were beautiful and spontaneous – our friends knew us well and their love for us was reflected in the photos that they took.

10. Being chauffeured in borrowed style

We accepted with gratitude offers of transport that had a bit of pizzazz.

One of my husband’s friends chauffeured me to the church in a lovingly restored Chevy Bisque car that had been in his wife’s family for over 50 years.

Then we arrived at the church venue, courtesy of my husband’s uncle, in a buggy pulled by two horses – with the town crier ringing a bell in front. Talk about making an entrance!

Our wedding budget

And the price tag? I am still decreasing our overall spend by selling items but so far we only $3200 out of pocket. My dad contributed $1100 and my mum around $120 for flowers – well within our budget.

Written by Serina Bird

Serina Bird

Serina Bird is a proud frugalista who has amassed a million dollars through frugal living. Serina’s first book, The Joyful Frugalista, is on sale February 4. She blogs at msfrugalears.com.

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