Someone posted a thread on a wedding forum I go on and asked this question. So far her guest list is at 47 people. A lot of people are saying DIY stuff and have a smaller guest list. Here was my response. I think it can be helpful to any bride out there who is on a very tight budget.
We have a guest list of 170 and we're trying to keep it under $3000. Definitely possible! We're doing great so far. It's all about priorities and the big picture.
By big picture I mean this: are your guests or even you going to remember 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the road that you had fake flowers over real flowers? Didn't have favors? Had a friend taking the pictures? Probably not.
Here's what I recommend, even without having a smaller guest list to cut costs!
Brunch is much cheaper than dinner. Plus you can get away with not having alcohol (since it's so early in the day) but if you must have alcohol, mimosas and sangria are perfect brunch drinks that don't break the budget.
Call in favors from friends! If you know someone who loves taking pictures and has a nice camera, see if they're willing to do your photography as a gift to you! You can save sometimes thousands that way...photographers in my town go up to $1500 for 6 hours of shooting the day of. That's most of our budget! So we're getting it for free from a friend and his wife who are gifting their talents to us.
Network! Ask around about bridal shops, flower places, music, etc! A girl I work with told me about a bridal consignment shop. I was iffy on buying a used dress (I'm superstitious) but it turns out "consignment" to that shop meant inventory buy outs, so I got a BRAND NEW dress, valued at $2300, for $200. AND I asked the shop owner about alterations. Got my dress altered almost completely for less than $50 because of a lady she knows.
Consignment and thrift shops are awesome. You can get great stuff there. I got all of my centerpiece vases for less than a buck each at Goodwill.
I'm saving money on my hair and makeup the day of the wedding by having a friend do it for me with the makeup and hair stuff I already own. No need to buy extras.
Our friend's dad is a notary (all you need to marry you in our state) and he's marrying us for free.
We're having our wedding at a state park. The venue cost for the WHOLE day, including ceremony and reception with tables and chairs included? $160.
My shoes were $20 brand new. My necklace and earrings for the day of were $4 (yep. But I didn't see it as a priority though so I didn't want to spend a lot there).
I paid $50 for my bridal portraits from a professional photographer (and by professional I mean someone just starting out in the business...much cheaper prices than "seasoned" professionals and pictures just as great)
Our invitations were from VistaPrint and we got 100 of them for FREE. Sign up for the emails on VP b/c they send around free stuff all the time. Our invitations are awesome and were free. FREE! Can't beat that! Well, we did pay shipping, but who can really say they got invitations for $6 for 170 people?
If you do Save the Dates and RSVP cards, go postcard style! The postage for that is 28 cents as opposed to mailing an envelope for 44 or something cents. Our RSVP cards (bought off of VistaPrint) were free and they're postcards and we're saving a whole lot on postage. Same with the STDs...bought them when they were free (told you they have a lot of free deals on that site) and they were postcards so postage was much cheaper.
Make your own food. We're doing a brunch reception with NO caterer at all. I work in a restaurant and so many of my coworkers have offered to be our "staff" that day and help make the food. But you don't need to work in a restaurant to get that kind of help. Family and friends are usually willing to help with it. We're having all sorts of food with the help of our family and friends, so it'll be much cheaper than paying for a caterer.
I have an app on my phone that sends you coupons. Watch for coupons. I got a coupon for Party City that was 50% off of one item. No lie, and I know this sounds bad, maybe a little trashy, and probably a little dumb, but I printed off like 5 or 6 of those and went to Party City two different times and used all of the coupons. I went through the line as many times as I had a coupon (luckily there was no line, and the kid behind the register was fine starting a new transaction for me each time...b/c it was Christmas time). So I bought all of our silverware for our guests (the plastic kind that looks real) and spent $15 on all of it as opposed to $30. I looked stupid going throug the line that many times but hey, I saved money!
Same wth Hobby Lobby and Michael's. They have coupons like that all of the time and I've saved a bunch that way too.
That's all I can think of right now. If I think of more, I'll post again! But it's totally possible to have a wedding for so much cheaper than $5000.