is $20k enough for a wedding today?
February 20, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

In you opinion how much of a wedding can you get for $20,000 in Chicago and the southwest suburbs?

trying to plan my wedding; $20K is the most I can spend. Just wanted some opinions of whether its do able and what you did to save money on a wedding. Planning on about 180 guests. Thanks.
posted by irie1972 to Shopping (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This really depends on what you view as important for your wedding. I got married for about $4500 total in Houston, Tx. We had about 40 people, got married in the private room of a nice restaurant, and had an outstanding dinner (hot hors d'oeuvres plus a nice sit-down dinner). I didn't care that much about the flowers, so I ordered stuff from here and put it together myself with a little help from my maid of honor. My mother-in-law sewed my dress (and I got something very personal and original for very little money). Having nice hair and makeup was important to me, so I went to a very nice salon and booked an appointment with their wedding person.

We saved money by getting married in the restaurant (beautiful, already decorated private room with separate spaces for the ceremony and reception and an event coordinator - $0 [they make their money on the food and drink]). The flowers were inexpensive, and I figured roses don't need a lot of special fussing to be pretty. The materials and accessories for my dress cost about $200. My dad made a bunch of CDs for the background music - he has an extensive jazz collection and we saved the cost of a band or DJ. We also got an amazing souvenir in the form of those CDs that we treasure. We got a wedding photographer who was working to get established, so we got lovely pictures for a very reasonable price.

You should absolutely be able to have a nice wedding for $20,000. You just have to figure out what really matters to you, and ignore all the wedding industry nonsense about what you *must* have.

It's a party to celebrate the lifelong commitment you are making to another person. It's not about being a princess for a day, and for a lot of people it isn't even a once in a lifetime event.
posted by jeoc at 4:24 PM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

I planned our Chicago/southwest suburb wedding in 2008, and I think prices have risen since then so my figures are likely low. When we were looking the rental costs for many facilities were over $3,000 for rental only.

We ended up getting married and having the reception in a public park facility. We had looked at the public spaces through the Chicago Park District but the catering/rental costs and higher sales taxes made the price too high.

You may be able to keep under your budget if you can find an inexpensive caterer. We cut catering costs by having a lunch instead of a dinner. The quality of food was important to us, so the per person price was probably higher than it needed to be for a lunch, but it was still around $35 a person, not including the rentals for plate/glasses/etc. Had we done a dinner, the cost would have easily been about $50 per person, not including the rentals.
posted by statsgirl at 4:54 PM on February 20, 2011

I agree that 20K for 180 guests will be just fine. And if you want to spend that on your wedding, you are allowed to. Everyone has an opinion on your wedding budget, but it's your budget and not theirs.

My biggest wedding expense is the catering, so the guest count is very important. We ended up going with a package deal from the hotel that gives us a DJ, decorations, cake and bar included. We priced it out and figure we are getting a better deal with the package price, even thought it is much higher than a regular caterer. The kicker is that the hotel will handle lots of details we would have had to handle ourselves so we are getting a reception coordinator for free.

My biggest savings so far was getting my dress from Nordstrom's for only $200. It still needs to shortened, but that's it. Also, statsgirl's tip about having it at a public park is a good one. We had several places around that were cheap but elegant and we would have picked them if they had not been booked.
posted by soelo at 5:01 PM on February 20, 2011

Katherine Legge is gorgeous and rents for only $1300, but it may be too small for you unless you want to seat some guests on the ballroom level. I went to a really amazing wedding reception at a union hall on Joliet Road in Countryside; it was definitely a big enough venue for 180 people.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:16 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

We did wedding last may in downtown chicago with 120 guests for almost exactly $20k. We did have to do make some compromises (we did all of the invitations and whatnot cheaply online, we had a DJ instead of a band, buffet instead of plated service, etc), but we loved how it turned out. We used a venue that didn't advertise much, and were surprised at how much we got for our money. If you're willing to do a catering hall in the suburbs, I'm sure you can hit your target.

That said, if you invite 180 people, you won't have 180 guests. You should probably budget for somewhere between 140 and 160.
posted by Oktober at 5:17 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I threw a wedding for 100 people for $2,500 people in California. I was not willing to go into debt for a party. Our wedding was outdoors, at a park (we rented the facilities for about $900). Food was barbecue, my uncle was the cook. Maybe this sounds ridiculously lowbrow for you or maybe not. Point is, you can do it pretty cheap if you want. All our guests had fun.

What is it that you really want? It's not going to look like the ending of a romantic comedy for cheap, but that doesn't mean you can't all have an awesome day for cheap.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:00 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can do a wedding on less than $1000 or a wedding on more than $100,000. Number of guests attending does play a big factor, but so to does the style of the wedding you want. What did you have in mind that is making you unsure of your budget? has a lot of budgeting help, and so do just about all the other wedding resource sites.

What kind of venues do you have in mind? Did you want a band, a DJ, or an iPod? Catering for 180 guests will be a major part of the budget, probably second to the dress in most cases. Did you want full on plated dinner service, buffet, hors d'oeuvres, open or cash bar, etc.?

Just asking whether 180 guests on $20,000 is possible isn't a lot of help; the only answer is yes, of course. But we have no way of knowing if it's possible for what you want.
posted by asciident at 7:02 PM on February 20, 2011

We saved money on:
*invitations: got some blank ones we liked at Target and printed them at home.
*flowers/decorations: we got married in a park, so we didn't have to do flowers for the ceremony (other than my bouquet and bridesmaids bouquets), and got some cheap pots and annuals at a garden store to make living potted centerpieces for the reception--no DJ
*music: we had a string duet for the ceremony, but went with our own iPod mix at the reception.
*photography: we had a cousin who's is a good photographer (and has a nice camera) take family photos after the ceremony--there aren't any shots of me jumping up in the air with my bridesmaids or anything like that--and printed them at home (but we also have a really fancy printer)--if you don't have access to the good photographer, nice camera, and fancy printer I wouldn't recommend skimping on photography, though.
*catering: buffet, and chicken instead of beef or fish--as long as it tastes good nobody will care
*and we skipped some of the extras like having a flower girl, a bouquet for tossing, a garter to take off in front of everybody...nobody seemed to miss it. I also bought a cute blank book at Borders for guests to sign instead of an official fancy guest book.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:38 PM on February 20, 2011

i have your exact budget. the problem i had when trying to keep costs down, but still live up to the "niceness" that other parties involved were looking for, was that when you get above 120 people you start having to look at "wedding venues" instead of a nice restaurant. and wedding venues charge per fork/piece-of-cake/napkin so all of a sudden you hit the 20k mark pretty fast.

however, there are always ways to cut -- have it on a friday/at lunch time, cut out the bridesmaids/groomsmen, make your own invites etc.
posted by nanhey at 8:40 PM on February 20, 2011

Short answer: Yes, doable!

Long answer: We had 140 people and spent probably 16K.
If you our a person or people you trust are willing to take on more responsibility, here are a few things we did to save money:

--hired people we knew who were servers in fine-dining to serve, bartend, etc. Paid each of the a few hundred bucks for the night.

--had a big first course of baguette, cheeses, charcuterie, olives, tapenades, and such. big baskets on each table. could get very nice stuff from a good cheese store and still not spend a lot. elegant, and way more delicious that caterer-fare!

--bought all the booze at Costco or similar

--had a restaurant deliver the main courses with warmers (but not serve or do any full catering). only certain foods will work for this, we did Turkish--kebabs, rice, salad, some sides.

--did flowers and some decorations ourselves (though our venue really didn't need much)

--did invitations ourselves

The big thing is whether your venue will allow you to take all this control. Parks and such will sometimes, but places used to having lots of weddings often make you use one of a few caterers they're used to, and then it's hard to keep costs low.

Also going this route made the actual day more stressful--a lot of balls to keep in the air. I'd highly recommend tapping a trusted friend or friends to run point on logistics the day of, so that you don't have to be worrying about it.
posted by slipperynirvana at 12:02 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are so many ways to economize and still have the wedding you want that it's impossible to make much of a dent in them here. Try reading the non-WIC (Wedding Industrial Complex) blogs like Practical Wedding, Offbeat Bride, Thirtysomething Bride (doesn't matter your age), Indie Bride (the forums), and Intimate Weddings (even if your wedding will have 100+ guests, there's still something to learn from reading tips from people planning smaller weddings).

For example, for my recent winter wedding I ordered flowers from the wholesaler Blooms by the Box (which has no lower price limit) and created a beautiful tall centerpiece of calla lilies, curly willow, and cranberries. That and three other arrangements cost me less than $100 because I received the flowers via UPS and arranged them myself.

If you want to stay sane and save money, I recommend you largely stay away from the WIC sites and "experts" that prescribe you must do this or that, such as the Knot, Martha Stewart, and all those bridal magazines that exist to sell dresses, diamonds, and housewares.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:20 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Short answer, you should be fine at $20,000. Long rambling answer below.

Our wedding with about 100 guests was I believe just north of $10,000. We opted to do it outside of the city. Chicago is beautiful and all but we went about 3 hours west of the city. Which added some expenses of it's own. We skipped hiring a DJ because I've never seen/heard a wedding DJ I liked. You can always iPod it at the simplest.

I second the getting someone else to do logistics on the day of. Stage managers can do this really well or get a professional. You can try contacting An Event Less Ordinary , they can just do day of type stuff or help you fully with planning. We were going to use them because I know Carolyn and trust her, but they already had a client for the same date as our wedding. If you do go to a planner just tell them what your budget is and that you must stick to that, and tell them 10% less than what your actual budget is just in case.

Photographers range all over the cost spectrum. We used Peg Tierney after she did a friends wedding. She was great, well worth the cost. Great shots (you'll see some of ours on her site) and she is easy to work with. She is fun I highly recommend her.

We did table decorations ourselves, made the invitations by hand. My Aunt made the wedding dress, actually my kilt might have cost more than the dress in the end. Borrowed my brother-in-laws PA system for music. Tho rental on a PA isn't terrible. A local florist did the bouquets and boutonnières.
posted by MrBobaFett at 6:15 PM on February 22, 2011

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