How we saved on a $10k, 200-guest wedding in Nebraska

A couple from Nebraska shares how they pulled off their $10k wedding.

By Emily Forrest

How we saved on a $10k, 200-guest wedding in Nebraska
Photo by Zola

__Welcome to Zola’s Wedding Budget Diaries, where we break down one of the industry’s greatest mysteries: how much weddings actually cost. __

But no two couples are the same, and neither are their weddings. Each wedding budget, big or small, has its backstory of unexpected surprises and compromises.

This week, a couple from Nebraska shares how they pulled off their $10k wedding.

Need to figure out your own wedding budget breakdown? Discover our free wedding budget tracker – also available on the Zola app – and start keeping track of your budget today.

Quick Hits

A bird’s eye view of this couple and their wedding budget.

About the Couple

Fields of Work: Teacher & Mechanic
Ages: 23 & 24
Location: Nebraska
Combined Salary: $65,000

About the Wedding

Wedding Date: 6/25/2022
Wedding Location: Lake Mcconaughy
Venue Type:
Ceremony - lighthouse over the lake
Reception - parents' house
Wedding Party Members: 30
Wedding Guests: 200
Wedding Style: Country

Budget Overview

Original Wedding Budget: $5,000
Actual Wedding Budget: $10,000
Payment Breakdown: Parents-$7,000 Myself and my spouse-$3,000
How did you keep track?: Spreadsheet
How did you pay for your wedding?: Parents and as a couple

Wedding Budget Breakdown

Time for the budget breakdown - their original budget vs. actual spend on each wedding item or service.

1. Venue

Orginal budget: $100
Actual spend: $2,100
What we got: Had to pay $100 to use the lighthouse at the lake. Decor was $2000. Since we used my parents' house and the lighthouse we had to rent all decor including tables, chairs, everything.

2. Catering

Orginal budget: $2,000
Actual spend: $3,800
What we got: This included all tableware rolls, chicken, chicken fried steak, salad, a vegetarian option, iced tea, water, two bartenders, and two serving staff.

3. Alcohol

Orginal budget: $1,000
Actual spend: $1,000
What we got: We had a semi-open bar with three specialty drinks and two kegs. The kegs we got from a caterer and bought liquor and mixers from Costco.

4. Couple’s Attire

Orginal budget: $1,000
Actual spend: $1,500
What we got: I got a new dress and veil and cowboy boots and my husband got a new pair of jeans as well as some new cowboy boots.

5. Florals

Orginal budget: $100
Actual spend: $100
What we got: We got fake flowers from our decor place and my bouquet and my husband's boutonniere was made as a wedding gift from a family friend.

6. Music and Entertainment

Orginal budget: $500
Actual spend: $600
What we got: DJ was $500 he was very young but had all the equipment and did a great job. I tipped him $100. In addition to this, we had a Photo Booth included with decor and yard games that friends and family brought.

7. Photography & Videography

Orginal budget: $2,000
Actual spend: $2,800
What we got: We had to get a photographer from Colorado but she had a second shooter and was there all day to take getting ready pictures until about 9 pm.

8. Paper

Orginal budget: $100
Actual spend: $200
What we got: Got pretty affordable designs from Zola and had them pre-addressed. Had to pay for stamps.

9. Wedding Bands

What we got: I actually don’t know what my wedding band cost it was not a part of our budget as my husband bought it with my engagement ring. His was $400.

10. Other Expenses

Orginal budget: $100
Actual spend: $100
What we got: Our officiant. Our family friend who is a pastor married us and we gave him a gift card.

Note: Individual figures may not total overall budget due to approximations + omitted items.

WBD 1 - $10k, 200-guest wedding in Nebraska

Wedding Budget Questions

A deeper look into all the decisions – what’s important, what’s tossed, and more.

How did you decide on your original wedding budget?

My parents told me what they could afford.

Once you decided on a set budget, did you actively attempt to stick to it?

I tried to stick to it but realized my parents had not had a wedding for 25 years.

Top Three Priorities:

  1. Decor - so I could fancy up the barn
  2. My dress - so I could look and feel great on my wedding day
  3. Photographer - my pictures look amazing and so fancy even though our wedding was in a barn
  4. Bonus: Open bar - so my family would show up lol.

Bottom Three Priorities:

  1. Florals - Fake floral looks just as good
  2. DJ - as long as they had the equipment I didn’t really care if they just played a Spotify playlist
  3. Venue - I knew I wanted to do it at my parents' house since it overlooks the lake and is free

Did you hire a wedding planner?

Yes - I had a friend from high school who has since started her own business. She was amazing. Since we had the event at my parents' house we had to start from scratch. She set up all my tables, decor, Photo Booth, and ceremony sight and I overall just felt a lot less stressed knowing she was taking care of everything since I didn’t have a venue coordinator.

What, if any, were the main budgeting challenges you faced?

As a teacher, I don’t make much so we had to really decide how much we as a couple could spend. Most of my budget went towards my makeup person, my bridesmaid gifts since I had 13, and giving gift cards to my friends and family who helped out

Did you need to cut anything to stick to your budget?

A fully open bar.

What did you add that resulted in you going over your budget?

A makeup artist for me and my maid of honor, a day of coordinator.

What, if any, fun extras did you throw in while planning that you didn’t originally budget for?

We did a photo booth and mason jars with stickers on them with our names and wedding date (those were also our party favors).

What did you find to be the most effective way to save money for/on your wedding?

We had a huge wedding with 200 people, so the fact that we kept it so low is impressive. The biggest expense was the venue and florals for most people so that is why we chose my parents' house and to rent fake florals.

Did you think at all about or prepare for your newlywed financial future while you budgeted for your wedding?

No we did not.

What is something you didn’t buy that you wish you did for the wedding?

Honestly, I got everything I wanted on my wedding day.

What wedding expenses surprised you the most?

Photography for sure.

What is the weirdest or most out-of-the-box thing you bought for your wedding?

My parents-in-law rented out an entire restaurant for our rehearsal dinner since we had an out-of-town wedding. It was the pre-wedding.

Any other details you want to share?

Money was tight for sure but we still had a beautiful wedding and I am lucky I had friends and family to help me out with several things like officiant, hair, makeup, desserts and wedding cake, and venue. Everyone really came together for us and provided services as a wedding gift.

Zola, The Best Place to Track Your Wedding Budget

At Zola, we want your wedding to be everything you’ve dreamed of. We’re here to make it happen from start to finish, from helping couples curate wedding registry ideas and create a unique wedding website with matching invites and paper, to offering free wedding planning tools like guest lists, seating charts, and our new wedding budget tracker!

If you’re having—or anticipate having—trouble keeping track of your expenses, try using our wedding budget tracker, also available on our app. This will take you to a fully customizable budget sheet you can update throughout wedding planning. No stress, no mysterious expenses.

Zola’s helping couples share those diverse stories with those eager to learn more about what it really takes to plan a wedding. If you’re interested, in share your Wedding Budget Diary with us today.

Up next for you

Couple sitting on steps in wedding attire, with text "The First Look Report 2024"

How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost? Full Breakdown


Stay within your wedding budget! See average wedding cost breakdowns by state, guest size, and vendor service, plus money-saving tips from the experts.

Composite image of green Le Creuset lidded pot to be added to registry along with other registry suggestions like gift cards, experiences, and cash funds

Top Wedding Registry Ideas + Advice


Searching for wedding registry ideas? Check out our list of favorites and find something for every budget and every couple.

All the Items That Make Up a Wedding Budget

Wedding Budget Checklist—From Venues and Vendors to Tips and Favors


We know that many couples go into wedding planning without knowing exactly what goes into organizing one. Here's a list of everything you need to factor in when making your wedding budget.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola

Find even more wedding ideas, inspo, tips, and tricks

We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.