This couple from Manchester, NH share how they came in under their original wedding budget and saved on their rustic-chic wedding.
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 Manchester, NH share how they pulled off their $36,195 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.
A bird’s eye view of this couple and their wedding budget.
Fields of Work: Beverage Distribution & Medical Device R&D
Ages: 34 & 31
Location: Manchester, NH.
Wedding Date: 10/22/2022
Wedding Location: Freedom, NH
Venue Type: Summer Camp, all-inclusive lodging and food, BYOB
Wedding Party Members: 10
Wedding Style: Rustic-chic
Original Wedding Budget: $40,000
Actual Wedding Budget: $36,195
Payment Breakdown: Groom $13,000 and Bride $23,195
How did you keep track?: Google Sheets
How did you pay for your wedding?: As a couple
Time for the budget breakdown - their original budget vs. actual spend on each wedding item or service.
Original budget: $16,000
Actual spend: $20,000
What we got: We budgeted $16,000 for both food and venue and ended up spending $20,000. Of the $20,000, $9,600 was for the venue which included all tables, service linens, glassware, plates, silverware, day of coordinator, set-up, breakdown, and access to the entire facility for a 48-hour period over the weekend.
Original budget: Included in venue price.
What we got: Of the $20,000 we budgeted for our food and the venue, $10,400 was for the food. This price included appetizers during the cocktail hour and the reception dinner.
Original budget: $1,200
Actual spend: $910
What we got: Beers, seltzers, wine, water bottles, and non-alcoholic drinks (soda, juice, etc.). We were fortunate to have most of the non-macro beer donated by my husband's company, since they are a brewery.
Original budget: $1,000
Actual spend: $1,350
What we got: My bridal gown and shoes, a rhinestone belt, alterations, and my husband's suit. Not included in this price was the $170 veil, which my mom paid for.
Original budget: $2,000
Actual spend: $1,400
What we got: All of the flowers for the tables, 2 wedding arch arrangements, an arrangement for the fireplace behind the head table, my bridal bouquet, 6 bridesmaid bouquets, and my husband's boutonniere. The cost was reduced because my mom did the table, fireplace, and arch arrangements.
Original budget: $4,000
Actual spend: $2,500
What we got: Our ceremony setup, cocktail hour setup, and reception setup totaling 10 hours of contracted service.
Original budget: $6,000
Actual spend: $3,600
What we got: An engagement photo shoot and 8 hours of contracted service for both photography and videography. We hired a husband and wife duo and were able to benefit from a discounted rate for our videographer because he is new to the industry. The photo and video breakdown was $2400 for photography and $1200 for videography.
Original budget: $1,200
Actual spend: $410
What we got: Save the Date postcards, Invitations and RSVP postcards, a self-inking return address stamp, stickers for our favors, a large stamp and map and information cards for our "Welcome to Camp" bags, and Thank You cards.
Original budget: $500
Actual spend: $655
What we got: This included my husband's ring and my wedding band, which I upgraded to match my engagement set, after purchasing a very simple coordinating band at first. I did manage to get my wedding band 60% off of the retail price because it was being discontinued.
Original budget: None
Actual spend: $250
What we got: Our officiant. We originally did not have a budget because I was going to have a family friend get ordained and perform our wedding ceremony, but ended up paying $250 to have a woman from the area officiate our ceremony.
Note: Individual figures may not total the overall budget due to approximations + omitted items.
A deeper look into all the decisions – what’s important, what’s tossed, and more.
I had been saving for a while and started looking into what certain things may cost. I did not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money, but I also wanted to have the exact day I was dreaming of.
This was sort of give-and-take. Some items were much more expensive than I had thought they would be, but I prioritized the venue, entertainment, and photography/videography.
I then worked to stay within or under budget on other items by buying my dress at a local boutique that gets designer sample dresses (what you see is what you get, and you leave with your dress day-of), doing a LOT of DIY, shopping around for hair & makeup services that were reasonable, second-guessing the expensive photographer/videographer that we were originally considering (this was a FANTASTIC decision in the end).
One large Google Sheet with multiple tabs for tracking our budget, money spent, different checklists, guests and their dietary restrictions, RSVPs, and a sleeping plan (unique to our venue!).
I did not hire a wedding planner or coordinator. The venue provided a coordinator on the day-of, who really helped with all of the set-up, breakdown, and general coordination of activities. I didn't find that leading up to our day I really needed anyone else to provide opinions or coordinate and I am kind of a control freak when it comes to how I like things.
When we arrived at the venue, we just had to set one table up the way that we wanted it and then the on-site coordinator took over from there!
One of the main budgeting challenges we faced was that I was in a car accident a month before our wedding and needed to try to quickly purchase a new car. I was able to work things out with my insurance company, but there was a bit of time when I thought I might have to pull from our wedding budget.
I worked to purchase items from other brides who had leftover items or lightly used items from their weddings (through resale groups on Facebook). I was able to get all of my napkins this way and an unplugged ceremony sign.
I didn't really cut anything to stick to my budget, but I did try to consistently take a look at the budget and make sure that we weren't overspending in any one area. I had my girls chip in for their hair & makeup so that I could also stick closer to the budget I had originally planned for.
We ended up spending a lot more on gifts for the bridal party than I had originally envisioned, but all of the personal touches made it completely worth it.
My upgraded wedding band was a surprise that I did not originally budget for, but I am very happy that we ended up splurging a little for it to complete the set.
We did not open a joint account until after we were married, but we do constantly discuss our financial goals. We need to make a will!
I wish we had done a 2-hr cocktail hour so that my husband and I could have enjoyed our appetizers! We were taking couples' photos during the entire cocktail hour, so we never got to have the delicious food our guests were offered during that time.
While these items were not originally budgeted for, they helped add to the aesthetic we were trying to achieve.
Our venue offered Camp activities - archery, kayaks, paddleboards, and plenty of land sports to keep our guests busy while they were not engaged in wedding activities.
We also had the opportunity to house all of our guests in cabins on-site, so that nobody had to worry about driving late at night or after they had been drinking. We put together Camp Forget (our last name) welcome bags for our overnight guests with fruit snacks, Pirate's booty, a camp map, cabin assignments, and a list of activities.
We were able to offer a day-of brunch and a send-off brunch to all of our overnight guests. We also kept with the camp theme and made S'more favors for our guests to take home or enjoy at Camp! We had a photo guestbook, where we provided a Polaroid camera and double-sided tape, with lots of different color pens for our guests to leave us notes!
We were able to save a lot by pulling a few favors from friends, family, employers, and just generally keeping our eyes open for deals and discounts.
I would highly recommend saving, making a budget, sticking to it so as to not take on debt in your first months/years as a newly married couple, being realistic about what you can and can not fit in your budget, but ultimately remembering that the day isn't as much about what you look like, but how you feel marrying your favorite person!
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.