How I Planned and Executed an Intimate Wedding with 25 Guests for $100 in 4 Weeks

I am a planner by nature. I can also be very frugal when I want or need to be. So when one of my dearest friends told me that she was getting married at the courthouse, I begged her to let me plan a wedding for her instead. Lori and I have known each other for nearly 20 years now. She’s been my mentor, my manager and my friend. She’s fought several different flavors of cancer and tumors in these 20 years. So much so, that she has a hefty medical line in her monthly budget to pay off horrendously large medical bills (don’t get me started on U.S. medical care), hence the original plan to just get married at the courthouse. I needed a project and something positive to focus on and she very much deserved a wedding. I was over the moon when she gave me the green light.

I had just 4 weeks to plan a wedding that looked expensive and catered to 25 guests with literally $0.00 budget. The challenge was exhilarating and the results are something I’ll always be proud of. The whole story follows.

When I was first given the opportunity to plan this wedding, I felt really overwhelmed, but I also knew that with a little help I could totally pull it off. I gave myself a $100 budget (this was my gift to her and her fiance) and then I started by reaching out to my friends and family who had talents I could utilize. My husband is an ordained minister, so we had the “clergy” set. My sister runs For The Love of Jo’s Belly, which is a cake decorating business, so I asked her if she’d donate the cake and she was more than happy to help. One of my best friends from way back in Middle School used to work for a florist, so I asked her if she’d design the bouquets and wedding flowers. A good friend at work does a lot of videography, and Lori used to be his manager, so I asked him if he’d videotape the ceremony for us. Lori and her fiance had just bought a home together and lucky for us, it was the perfect venue for the wedding. Lastly, the bride-to-be made lasagna, bread and salad to feed the small guest list. This took care of 6 very important pieces!

The secret to my success, however, was community. Not just those I know, who were so generous with their time and talents, but also my community at large. If you aren’t familiar with the Buy Nothing Project, I suggest you check it out. Buy Nothing is an organization that is volunteer run in just about every city across the United States. It’s considered a “Gifting Community”. The idea behind it is that instead of throwing out that baseball mitt, outgrown children’s clothing, coffee pot, computer, enter any other item here, you instead post it on the site (which is typically a facebook page) and offer it to your community. This keeps items out of the landfills and promotes reuse, recycle, upcycle. In my hometown, our volunteers on the Buy Nothing project had some sort of falling out, so you’ll see me refer to Green Bees instead of Buy Nothing, but it’s the same concept.

I posted on the Green Bees page with an ISO (In Search Of) and gave a brief explanation of the situation (why I was throwing the wedding) and asked for some specific items like old pallets, an easel, wood rounds, beer, wine, champagne, tea light candles and flowers and herbs (the bride wanted a lot of herbs in her bouquets) and logs to build a trellis. What happened next blew my mind. Not only did I get everything I needed, but the community started offering items I hadn’t even asked for like a calligrapher to add the words to the signs I was making from the old pallets, a photographer, Nikki Manley Photography, offered up her services for the bride getting ready through the reception, and a hair and make-up gal offered to come and get the bride ready! As time went on, my asks became more difficult to obtain and I didn’t hold much hope, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, right? We ended up with 25 chairs, 25 chair covers, mix and match china, mix and match wine glasses, silverware, so many flowers and herbs, a veil, jewelry for the bride, twine, ribbon, so much stuff! The alcohol alone was insane! We ended up with 22 bottles of wine, 8 bottles of champagne and more beer and cider than I could be bothered to count! Between community loaned and gifted items, items I had and items the bride and my other helpers had, we had very, very little to purchase.

The few things I wasn’t able to find, I purchased. I spent $35.96 buying some bouquets at Safeway to round out our herb and floral collections with some splashes of color. I spent $45.30 at Dollar Tree purchasing 30 votive candle holders, 5 vases, some ribbon and batteries. Lastly, I spent $32.13 on Ebay for 25 cloth napkins, 25 chair sashes, 6 table runners and 1 table cloth.

I am forever grateful to my community for backing me up and helping me to do something special for a very special woman in my life. For a total of $113.39 and a lot of free labor from very good friends, family, and neighbors, we were able to produce the wedding you see below.

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