Chronicles Of A Father With Cents

Simple Life. Personal Finance. Family

How We Spent Under $16,000 for Our Wedding

One of the events in your life you that may cost you a boatload of money is your wedding day. There is so much to do when planning an event where the two people getting married are in control of literally everything: venue, what to wear, wedding rings, seating arrangements, food, drinks, music, theme, colors…I could go on but you get the picture. It’s no wonder why some couples just opt to tie the knot at city hall where all you need is a city official, close friends, family and minimal planning. It can get overwhelming but if you have a vision of how you want it to look like and give yourself an ample amount of time to do it then you can make it happen.

With us, the family members our parents wanted to invite was more than we expected. Add in our friends and co-workers, we invited just around 200 guests to our wedding. That did not stop us from having some great ideas and keep a good budget for this once in a lifetime event.


With guest list of that many people, I would assume you set your budget at least $20K which is already a lot. But we had our sights set to spend around $15K because we knew that if we can cut corners on some areas that we could meet that number. For instance, a video grapher can range from $700 to close to $2K and we initiating planned not to have one at all and depend on any video recordings our guests would take. So that eliminates that cost.

With flowers, Mother with Cents is allergic to them and didn’t want them at all. Instead she created a bouquet full of flowers made out of felt. This way Mother with Cents and her bridesmaids can keep the flowers as a remembrance of our wedding and not have to worry about the flowers dying. Check them out:

Boutique Felt Flowers for Mother with Cents

More Felt Flowers for our Wedding

With make-up and hair, Mother with Cents doesn’t like using make-up with the exception of some lightly tinted lip balm. And she prefers to keep her hair in a bun all the time with our wedding day with no exception. That was fine by me since they we didn’t spend a penny on either of them.

So here is the breakdown of our wedding costs:

Venue : Stern Grove

Type: Outdoor

Location: San Francisco, CA

Guests: 200

Time of Year: Summer (August, Peak Time for weddings)

DJ/Emcee -$300

I have a few friends that were working as DJs/Emcees on the side and having this hook-up came in handy. They only asked $300 to DJ and Emcee our reception and we happily agreed. With that low of a number, I gave them a $50 tip each

Formal Wear – $275

Being a Filipino descent, I decided to have myself and the rest of my groomsmen wear a barong, a traditional formal shirt that’s worn in weddings. For the most part, the color of the barong is cream but I went outside the box and got some gray colored ones. Fortunately my parents were in the Philippines earlier in the year and bought barongs for me and my groomsmen. I believe the grand total was around $75 for all four of them. With pants and shoes, I required all my groomsmen to wear black slacks and shoes. Since they already have both, there was no need for them to go out and buy them.

For Mother with Cents, she had her wedding dress from China for $200 . You can see it here:

She bought her heels from DSW shoes and returned them after the wedding. So we only paid for the wedding dress. For her bridesmaids, she had them wear purple dresses. My sister was one of her bridesmaids and Mother with Cents had a spare dress that was her size. The two other bridesmaids went out and bought them out of their own pocket.

Rings – $160

I got mines on eBay for $10. For Mother with Cents, we bought her wedding ring at James Allen for $150. Here they are:

Invitations and Save the Date magnets – $250

We had a simple wedding invitations where it was only two cards with the info and had leafs in the background to show the nature theme for our wedding.. For RSVPs, we had our guests to either call our google voice number to message us if they were going or simply email us back at our wedding email address. This eliminated putting extra envelopes and stamps to mail the RSVPs back to us. For the mailing labels, I printed some standard labels and did not go the route of having some fancy labels with some nice penmanship. It was simply a white label with Times New Roman font.

Venue for Wedding and Reception -$2,250

After looking at a few places, we wanted our wedding at an outdoor location. With the weather in San Francisco being unpredictable especially during the summer months, we hoped that it would be at least overcast. We decided to have our wedding at a park called Stern Grove. By the looks of it, it doesn’t feel like you’re in San Francisco because of the tall trees that surround this park. In the Bay Area, Stern Grove is known for throwing free concerts in the summer since they have an amphitheater. But they can also hold private events like weddings. And with a clubhouse inside the park, we made good use out of it. The cost to rent it for a whole day on a Saturday was close to $2250. Not bad at all considering that we held both our wedding and reception here.

Officiate : $120

We had a friend officiate our wedding since he’s a great public speaker and really wanted to be part of the festivities. We covered the $120 cost for the license fee that covers him to be a licensed wedding official for a day. He did a great job at our wedding which made the day more memorable. He recently told me that he officiated another wedding this past summer because of his experience doing ours. He might have a side hustle in doing this.

Musician: $240

We searched through craigslist for various musicians that would play violin and guitar for our ceremony and but didn’t have a good feel for all of them. We wanted the performers who wanted to make a name for themselves. So we got in contact with the SF Conservatory of Music School and gave us a couple of students that just started performed small events that summer. They charged us $240 for playing for an hour. They provided some light music before the ceremony and started were on cue throughout the ceremony. Both of us were more than satisfied with their performance

Catering, Rental, and Labor – $9,300

This was the most expensive portion of our wedding. With 200 guests at our wedding, we had to find ways to cut corners. We went through a local catering company that provided the food, table/chair rentals and linen. With the plates, instead of the standard China, we went with high end plastic plates with nice looking utensils from the online vendor, Smarty Had a Party. This worked well because they looked really nice for how much we bought them at. With food, instead of having our guests choose what type of food they want on the invitations, we went buffet style so our guests can go back for seconds if they wanted too. The food that we put out was prime rib, stuffed chicken breasts and cheese tortellini with creamy pesto sauce. And side dishes that included potatoes, mixed green salad, dinner rolls and fresh fruit platter.

Cheesy Tortellini with Pesto Sauce

Prime Rib

Between the wedding and reception we served our guests hors’devours (appetizers). They included crab cakes, spanakopita, and chicken skewers. We didn’t have a chance to eat them since we were too busy taking pictures but from what our guests told, they really loved it especially the spanakopita. That’s was all we needed to hear.

For drinks, we had the catering company provide the water and soda and we had to buy the alcohol. We decided to serve wine and beer only. For the wine, we had a bottle for each table and some extras at the bar. For the beer we had them served in the bar as well and our guests could drink as many as they wished but warned them to drink responsible. So me and my dad went on a Costco run and bought lots of cases of beer that costs just over $200. Then we went to the beverage chain store, Beverages and More and bought close to $100 in wine and it was all in one day.

With the labor, we had a staff of about a dozen people from the catering company. It consists of 10 service staff, 1 bartender and 1 captain. The captain helped us throughout the whole planning process with countless emails, ideas and mapping out our whole wedding day. She was a tremendous help to us.

S’mores Bar – $50

Since they had barbecue pits close to the clubhouse, we decided to use it as part of our reception. We wanted to have some sort of campy feel to our wedding day so we decided to have our guests roast marshmallows on the pit and make s’mores. We provided the graham crackers and the chocolate bar and all of our guests had to do was after the roasting, sandwich the Hersey bars and the marshmallow onto the graham crackers and enjoy their s’more. Whenever our guests discussed our wedding, the one feature that stuck out to most was having s’mores. It was a nice touch to it.

Skewers, Crackers, Marshmallows and Hersey Bars for the S’mores

Our wedding guests roasting their marshmallows

Photo Booth: $775

Another part of the reception besides the S’mores Bar where our guests can have some entertainment was the photobooth. They enjoyed taking numerous pictures of themselves and take them home. The photo booth company provided an album where our guests can place their pictures and sign complimentary phrases on it like ‘Congrats’ or ‘Great Wedding’. It’s a nice keepsake for us

Cake: $250

We got 3 tier coffee crunch wedding cake from Eastern Bakery in Chinatown. Check it out

The cake was able to feed all of our guests and they all loved the coffee crunch cake.

Table Decor – $60

We had pine cones and picture cubes at each table for our guests. Mother with Cents and I literally went to various parks and collected the pine cones. From researching the web, it was suggested that to clean pine cones with vinegar and we went ahead and did that. For the picture cubes, we bought close to 20 of them from the crafting store Michael’s. We used their 50% off coupons and paid around $3 for each one. We put pictures of us from when we were babies to the engagement photos.

Pine Cone and Photo Cube for our Table Decor

Photographer -$1500

We found a couple that was doing event photography as a side hustle on Craigslist. We liked their work and contacted them about six months before the wedding. They met up with us at a Starbucks and discussed about what our plans for the wedding in terms of location, types of pictures we wanted. They also took our engagement pictures a few months before which is included in the price package. We liked them and did a great job photographing our wedding.

Miscellaneous Items(Unity Sand, Fingerprint Tree, Gift Box, etc..) – $100

It was Mother with Cents’ idea to use unity sand for the ceremony. For those that are unfamiliar, the unity sand combines two different colors onto a vase. The sand symbolizes bringing together two lives into one and everything the bride and groom will become into the future.

Another great idea from Mother with Cents was the fingerprint tree. All guest of our wedding were encouraged to put their fingerprint onto a tree and she drew up. We provided the fingerprint kit and most of them partake in this fun activity. After they fingerprinted the tree, they would sign their name so we would know whose fingerprint was on the tree. We have the tree framed in our living room today.

We used a birdcage we bought from Michael’s to put our guests’ monetary gifts in. We had a family member watch the cage throughout the wedding and reception in case an outsider tried to sneak in and take it. Fortunately nothing like that happen and it was a great to have during the festivities. A few days later we returned the cage to Michaels and literally used it for free(shhh….don’t tell them) hehe!!

Their were other small items like card stock paper, picture frames, wedding toppers and ribbons that we all bought at Michael’s and used their coupons to buy all of them. for an estimated amount $100.

Full Breakdown

Here is the total costs for our 200 guests wedding

Category Cost
Catering, Chair/Tables, Labor $ 9,300
Venue $ 2,250
Photographer $ 1,500
Photo Booth $ 775
Weddings Bands $ 200
Cake $ 250
Musician $ 240
DJ/Emcee $ 300
Invites and Magnets $ 250
Table Décor $ 60
Formal Wear $ 275
Wedding Officiate $ 120
Wedding Certificate $ 100
S’mores Bar $ 50
Miscellaneous Items $ 100
Make-Up and Hair $ 0
Total $ 15,770

So there you have it, all of our guests enjoyed the wedding, reception and loved the fingerprint tree, photo booth and the s’mores bar. We wanted them to least remember one of these features whenever they wanted to talk about our wedding and s’mores bar was the one they most liked while some really loved the fingerprint tree

Outside of how memorable it was for us and our guests, we accomplished our goal of keeping our wedding costs around $15K. And for that many guests, it was a nice feat to keep that low. We didn’t want to go into debt for a one day event and at that time I just wiped off my credit card debt a few months before so we had more than enough to pay off for all the costs. It was definitely a fun and memorable day for us and financially it was what we had in mind and our budget was what .

Here are more pictures from our wedding:

Readers, what did you think of our wedding costs? Did you have a budget for your wedding and how did it fare? Please comment below.


  1. Aww, it looks like you had an amazing time at your wedding! Good stuff!

    The food looks tasty and the wedding looks simple, yet filled with fun! I like the pine cones and the cube ideas. And how cute — from babies to engagement photos! I’m like obsessed with Michaels store when I need to buy things to craft! They’re like my go-to store 😉

    My fiance and I still have to decide what to do w/ our wedding. For some reason, I’m not excited about our wedding (not because I’m not excited to be married and my fiance knows that lol).

    I enjoy going to other people’s weddings, but I guess being an INFJ personality, I’m super shy, don’t like crowds or big gatherings, and I’m super private, so I don’t want any attention focused on me. I get super embarrassed in person when I’m the center of attention. *my embarrassed face* haha. And yet it’s so strange that I can type/write so much of this when I’m online hah!

    I guess I’ll choose a nice dinner out or something intimate with close friends and family. And once that’s done, I’ll run and hide in my little corner until I’m charged with energy again lol.

    • Thanks for nice words!! I couldn’t tell how many times we went to Michaels when we were planning our wedding. It felt like once a week for almost a year we would be there a get something. It’s an great store, I see why teachers and people who like to craft love that store.
      That’s the great thing about weddings, you can literally have it anyway you want. The only requirement is to sign a piece of paper saying the bride and groom are officially married. You can have 1000 people on their wedding day or none. Whatever makes you and fiancé comfortable as long the both of you are happy.

  2. Wow an outdoor wedding! Thanks for sharing such a special moment with your readers. Everything looked great!

    Getting married in Hawaii is so expensive. It can run over $30,000. If it were our day, we would plan it for a lunchtime event. It comes out way cheaper than dinner time.

    • No problem Melanie! Wanted to give an idea to readers that it’s possible not to spent 20K or 30K with a wedding of that many guests. It’s a matter of creativity, DIY projects and eliminating the unwanted expenses(ie videographer and flowers)
      Wow, $30K!? If you end up having one, a lunchtime event is good idea to cut down on the price and also try to have it during the week since all venues raise the prices on weekends.

  3. Your whole post made me think, “We did that!” You put us to shame on our rings! We spent $450 for both of our rings (my engagement ring was free and found on a playground by Mr. Kiwi when he was in middle school).

    Love your flowers! Looks like a great day!

    • Thanks Mrs. Kiwi! Mother with Cents isn’t really big flowers since she’s allergic to them so she happily had a project to create some out of felt and it turned out to be great. And we still keep it as a remembrance of our wedding day, My sister and the other bridesmaids still have theres as well.

  4. Stern grove looks beautiful! Amazing that you had 200 people and under $16k!! We opted against a videographer too because it’s expensive. Did you have alcohol at your wedding (I don’t recall reading that but not sure)? We had about 50 people at our wedding and it was in Hawaii. I was also thinking about the fingerprint guest book but we ended up doing a photobook of our engagement pictures and then people sign it and gave us words of advice.

    • We had wine and beer for our wedding. We thought about providing some hard liquor but with kids at our wedding, we thought otherwise and just limit it to wine and beer.
      We had our engagement pictures too at our wedding alongside with the fingerprint tree where our guests would sign it. We then framed it with all the signatures still intact.

  5. I love love love those felt flowers. We actually one upped you here – $3500 (+$500 for rings) for our wedding and honeymoon, but we had a lot of freebies thanks to our family. MIL made my dress, aunts made the cake / my jewelry, and my parents hosted at their house. We had 60 guests and a fabulous time. It also helps that we got married at 21 prior to Pinterest 😉

    • Thanks Angela!! I think the color combo for the flowers made it look even better.
      That’s so cool your family helped out a lot for your wedding so you wouldn’t have to spend a lot especially with the venue being at your parents house.

  6. wow, you guys rock!

    We managed to cut down our list to 110 people, but still managed to spend $40K 🙁 Well, at least we cash flowed the whole thing, we didn’t have to go into debt.

    99to1percent recently posted: How I make 6 Figures Working Only 16 hours/week

    • Wow $40K!! Well as long as you could afford it, paid it off and had a memorable wedding day then it was well worth it!!

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