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What does a wedding under $15,000 look like?

Each of the weddings here cost under $15,000 — and they're all different.
·5 min read

When it comes to wedding planning, narrowing down your budget doesn't always mean you'll have less options. As these three couples show, $15,000 can play out in very different ways. Read on for their stories, budget tricks and what they wish they had known before they started the planning process.

Because Nino and Shealyn got engaged at a pizza expo and own a pizza restaurant, having pizza play a starring role in their wedding was a no-brainer. But the couple soon realized that even a low-key pizza party can quickly add up.

“I’ve always been a budget lady," Shaelyn says. "I know how to make things work cheaper and everything. So, I was trying to keep it down. I'm not one of those who are like, 'Oh, we have to have the most expensive whatever.'"

The pair opted to rent a church-owned reception hall for the pizza-themed party. A cheese fountain was the buffet centerpiece. And due to hygiene concerns about people sharing serving utensils, the pair added an option of pre-wrapped Italian-style sandwiches with prime rib, porchetta, provolone and other ingredients, sliced and prepared at cost by some of Nino’s industry friends.

One of the key aspects in bringing their wedding together was bartering, including trading Nino’s pizza-making skills to the DJ in exchange for playing their wedding. And it helped that their large network of friends included photographers and videographers who wanted to take photos and videos.

They say that a key takeaway for them was the realization that the most memorable moments of the wedding will likely be priceless. “A lot of my family are musicians. So any family party, my brothers and my dad will take the stage,” Nino says. “One of my favorite moments was looking over and watching them rocking out.”

And even if your wedding is informal, Shealyn cautions that DIY can lead to burnout. Even if you’re planning on assigning tasks to your friends and family, having them do things on a time crunch during a wedding weekend can be stressful. “If we did it again, we might have hired someone to help plan and execute.”

With a baby on the way, Vincent and Mariana didn’t want to blow their savings on a wedding. But, as people with deep connections in the Las Vegas restaurant industry, they didn’t want to miss an opportunity to gather their social circles together. “We thought we were going to go away on vacation and just invite a few people. Then we started trying to make a list of people we thought would be there, and the list started growing,” Vincent says.

Getting price quotes was daunting, and many venues were too expensive. But as they talked through options with their connections in the restaurant industry, they found the ideal option: a wine bar and tasting room owned by friends.

“Buying out the wine bar was the most expensive line item, but it turned out to be the best value,” Vincent says, adding that the expense included a selection of small-batch wines. Mariana’s parents provided the wedding cake, and Vincent’s brother brought along a 110-pound roasted pig. Even better: The restaurant that prepped the roasted pig and provided the accompanying side dishes provided the food free of charge, as a thanks to Vincent for helping them out during their early opening days.

The couple says their biggest takeaway was to trust their instincts, accept generosity and know that people wanted to celebrate them. “Our wedding planner gave us the best advice. We were thinking about how people were going to want this, and people are going to want that. And Jolene, our wedding planner, said, ‘Hey, stop it. This is your day. You do what you want, and everybody's going to get on your page.’”

Susannah, an only child, had always dreamed of her dad walking her down the aisle while her family looked on. But when she got engaged to her boyfriend, Nick, the couple knew they wanted to keep their wedding budget relatively low. After all, the couple wanted to buy a house and start a family in the near future. And while they considered venues across the East Coast, they finally settled on celebrating in Susannah's hometown, on her grandmother's back porch.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to make the event family-only — but realized that even a guest list under 20 meant they had to budget for flowers, chair rentals, decor and travel. They also struggled with a key decision: What sort of food should they serve? As a chef, Nick initially toyed with contracting a high-end caterer. “Nick and I have very expensive tastes, but I knew our family would be like, ‘Why? What’s the point? Don’t spend your money on that!’’ Susannah recalls.

As Susannah and Nick brainstormed a menu that would keep everyone happy, their minds kept returning to the Mexican restaurant down the street. It had been a favorite of Susannah's grandfather, who had passed away several months earlier. Ordering food from there would be a sweet way to honor his legacy and anchor the evening in happy family memories.

Plus, this meant the couple could now focus the funds elsewhere. One thing that was especially important to Susannah was buying a dress she loved. She ended up spending several thousand dollars on the dress — a splurge that now worked in the budget.

“I feel like with the surge of small weddings, [some] people are skimping on the things that would make them feel special, because they are justifying it by being like, ‘Well, this is a small wedding, right?’” Susannah says. “But it doesn't matter if it's a small wedding. You should still be able to feel special, and you can do it within budget.”

From Capital One:

Capital One is on a mission to help customers succeed by bringing ingenuity, simplicity and humanity to banking.

For more tips and stories about weddings and wedding planning, visit Capital One's wedding planning hub.

This article is not intended as financial or legal advice. For specific advice for your unique circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.

This article was paid for by Capital One and created by Yahoo Creative Studios. The Yahoo Life editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.

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