The average modern wedding costs more than an astronomical $28,500 — enough to put any couple in debt.
In 2003, Trae Bodge and her then-fiance, Chris, were determined to spend a more modest amount: $9,000 ($11,200 in today’s dollars).
But Bodge, then running a small cosmetics company, and her entrepreneur fiance still wanted an elaborate affair. They had envisioned a three-day event and had more than 100 guests on their list already.
“We didn’t have a lot of money and our parents didn’t have a lot of money, so we knew we couldn’t spend a lot,” says Bodge, now senior retail expert for couponing site Retailmenot.com.
Through careful and creative planning, they were able to trim $18,000 from their budget and still have the wedding of their dreams. All price estimates were sourced from TheKnot.com’s annual Real Weddings Study.
Average price: $5,431
Trae's engagement ring was actually her grandmother's wedding ring.
'I think using a family ring to propose is something that's really sweet and special,' Trae said. 'There's no need to go out and spend $10,000 on a new ring. As a woman, maybe you're wanting this big rock and maybe you've picked one out but ultimately you're marrying that debt. Why would you want to do that?'
Average cost: $150
Chris was thrilled when Trae showed him his wedding band ---- a sterling silver ring she had made by hand in a jewelry-making class.
'He was so excited to hve a ring I made myself that he totally didn't care that it cost probably all of $5,' Trae said. 'I wanted to make sure he was cool with that.'
Typical cost: $1,135
The couple invited half of their guests over for a barbecue and group breakfast the day before the wedding.
All of the food and supplies were sourced from Costco.
Average price: $12,905
Their plan was always to have a three-day wedding celebration ---- not exactly a cheap feat to accomplish. But they lucked out.
'We found a B&B in upstate New York that was new to weddings and convinced them to let us take it over for the weekend,' she said.
For $5,000 they booked all 18 rooms at Big Indian Springs and asked guests to pay a portion of the bill, which slashed another $1,000 off their tab.
'They even let us decorate and then they bought the decorations from us afterwards, but that was a happy accident.'
Typical price: $230
With an outdoor wedding in the middle of July, Chris opted for a tan summer suit instead of a pricey tux.
'When it comes down to it for a man, the most important thing is the fit,' Trae said. 'As long as you have it nicely tailored, it doesn't matter where you bought it.'
Typical cost: ~$200
Hair and makeup was a cinch. Trae asked one of her friends to donate her services.
And she sourced all the products from her own line of beauty products.
BRIDESMAID/GROOMSMEN: They saved big by having only one bridesmaid and groomsmen. They covered their lodging and let them pick their outfits.
Average price: $1,997
Trae enlisted her friends for help decorating.
They sourced rice paper lanterns from Ikea and finished off the look with white Christmas lights.
They purchased all the floral arrangements straight from Manhattan's floral district.
Average price: $7,875
Trae helped cut her catering bill by taking care of the place settings and utensils herself.
'We used paper and plastic instead of china and silverware for our wedding meal,' she said.
'If you decorate beautifully and the food is amazing, no one will care ... and who cares if they do!'
Typical cost: $1,000 - $3,000
The couple held the reception at their hotel and crafted a music playlist themselves.
The catering company supplied tables and chairs and dropped them off at the venue.
Typical cost: $3,000 - $4,000
Thanks to a gift from Dad, Trae was able to offer an open wine and beer bar at her reception.
With $1,500 she hit up Costco for drinks and opted for a self-serve bar, cutting out the expense of a bartender.
Average price: $2,379
Their photographer was a very welcome wedding gift.
'My dad's girlfriend knows a National Geographic photographer and he and his wife shot our wedding together,' she said. 'We fed them and we paid for their hotel but other than that we didn't pay for anything.'
They also accepted digital copies of all their photos instead of paying to have the photographers personally edit and print them.
Typical cost: $4,500
Rather than ask for blenders and coffee makers, Trae and Chris asked for donations for their honeymoon.
'There are services that do this for you, but our my maid of honour did it and I returned the favour when she got married,' Trae said. 'We took an unforgettable 3 1/2 week trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. We sent all gift givers postcards during our trip and created an online photo album afterwards.'