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Wedding and Honeymoon for under $3,500

These days you hear a lot about how out of control wedding costs are. I’ve seen quotes as far back as 2013 where the average cost of a wedding is over $28,000 dollars.  People go into debt for years to ensure their special night and the attached honeymoon go off without a hitch. That being said, this being a personal finance blog you know the Full Time Finance household managed to do a wedding and honeymoon for much cheaper. How much cheaper? This post will talk about how our wedding and 11 day Hawaiian honeymoon cost less than $3500.

Limiting the Wedding Guest List

Myself and Mrs. Full Time Finance got married back in 2010. Neither of us wanted a large wedding, but we still needed a wedding of about 50 people. My extended family especially is large, so even cutting down to 50 people was quite a feat. Ultimately we limited our invitees to direct family plus a select few friends who offered to help with the wedding. This required making it clear to uninvited cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends that we wanted a small wedding. We tended to not invite people of certain categories, for example the only exceptions for cousins was one who came to be a photographer. Limiting by category removed some of the “why wasn’t I invited” family drama that inevitably comes from a smaller wedding. No one felt like they were singled out for a lack of an invite.

No DJ, just an Ipod

Our limit of 50 people was not only limited by finances. My wife also is a bit of an introvert. As such she didn’t want to be the center of attention for a huge room of people. Therefore we also cut expenses like a DJ. My wife didn’t want to be up and dancing in front of a room full of people. Instead the music for the event was some songs from our mp3 collections randomly looped on an iPod into a stereo system. Total cost, nominally the cost of electricity. The side benefit being we got to choose the songs that had meaning to us.

Church Weddings are Cheaper

For the wedding my wife chose a church for the location. In total this cost us about a 200 dollar donation to the church. It fit with my wife’s desires to be married in her childhood church. A family friend of ours is a retired pastor. He delivered the sermon which kept the costs further in check as we were not paying for a ministers time.

Backyard Reception for the Win

After the wedding we did our reception at my in-laws back yard. Catering in our case was done by the culinary catering service from the local University. Total cost per plate was around 20 dollars a person. So about 1K on food costs. The food was actually really good, though we had chosen a back yard barbecue approach for our reception which is why the costs were so low. Burgers and hot dogs more fit our lifestyle choices. Besides you can’t mess up hot dogs, BBQ, and burgers. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fantastic wedding meal. I’d rather have great hotdogs, burgers, and BBQ then poor quality Salmon and steak.

Beer was the alcohol of choice. We had a friend who is a part owner in a brewery. He did us the great favor of bringing us a keg and borrowing the taps from his business. I gather we are still one of the few people to ever have their beer on tap at their wedding as they do not sell kegs to the public. Anyway, everyone seemed to have a blast despite it being one of the hottest days of that summer (man was it sweltering). Because of the size we got to meet with each attendee individually.  It felt much more personal than some of the huge fancy weddings I have attended.

Used Wedding Dress saves Big Money

For the dress my wife bought a used dress from a used bridal dress store and had it adjusted to fit her. I believe the total cost here was about 500 dollars. I utilized a suit I already have, so no tux rental in this case.

Lean on your friends for Wedding Photography

In our case we have 2 friends who are amateur photographers. Both of them were exploring expanding into side businesses of wedding photographers. We paid them each 100 dollars to photograph our wedding. One of the photographers specializes in People. The other historically specialized in cars. Between the two we ended up with a fantastic mix of setting and people pictures. Beyond the 200 dollars total for their pictures we paid another 50 for them to produce us a photo album of our wedding. Our choice here not only kept our costs in check, but I gather also helped spark our cousins now successful photography business.

Memorable but Not Extravagant Wedding Gifts

Finally for wedding attendees we provided gifts of a picture of them on the special day and higher end chocolates. Total cost about 150 dollars.

Total Initial Cost of the Wedding, $2,100

So total cost for our wedding was 1K (food)+200 (church)+500 (dress)+250 (pictures)+ 150 (chocolates) or 2100 dollars. But what about the honeymoon to Hawaii. How did our wedding and 11 day Hawaiian honeymoon cost less then $3500 when we are already exceeding 2000 dollars?

Honeymoon Travel Gift Card Registry

It’s common at weddings for guests to provide gifts of a nominal amount. In our case we were both well established in our lives. We largely had all the traditional wedding gift items. As such instead of asking for a mixer, we asked for money put into a Marriott gift card fund. All told 95 percent of those attending put money into this fund (to avoid upsetting more traditional older attendees we did throw 1 or 2 traditional gifts on the registry for them to choose). When all was said and done these gifts paid for 11 nights split between the JW Marriotts on both Kaui and Maui. So our honeymoon housing was free.

Honeymoon Flights on Miles

For the flights to Hawaii we used my frequent flyer miles from my business trips. Our points paid for economy American Airlines flights from Philadelphia to the airport on Maui. After six days we took a puddle jumper to Kauai. After six days on Kauai we flew home. Qantas at the time charged us 25 dollars and about 190K points for the 2 of us for this trip. So add another 25 dollars.

Excursions and Food were still Expensive

On the trip we spent a decent amount of time eating out. (figure about $400 plus another $150 for the lunches and breakfasts we generally made ourselves in kitchenette in the hotel) We also took some more expensive excursions: A helicopter ride around Kauai’s Napali coast ($200) and a couples message ($200). However we also did some cheap things. We hiked the Kalalu trail to the end and camped over one night (20 dollars for a camping permit). Easily this is my favorite hike of all time, 11 miles of up and down around gorgeous uninhabited coast to a hidden quarter mile long beach with maybe ten other people present. It’s for serious hikers only, but if you ever get a chance I strongly recommend it.

We did Rent a Car

We also hiked numerous trails in Maui. This included hiking to the bottom of the crater It was like what I would picture walking on the moon to be. A total unworldly experience. We drove along the famous road to Hana and stopped at numerous places along the way to swim under and over waterfalls, taking in the beauty as we went. In Kaui in addition to the prior mentioned trail we did still more hiking and offloading around the great outdoors of the garden island. Finally we lounged on the beach. It was one of my favorite vacations and something we want to some day repeat. In order to get around in both locations we rented a car at ($400) which rounds out our total costs for the trip.

Total Honeymoon Costs: $1,395

So the travel to Hawaii added 25 (flights)+ 200 (helicopter ride)+ 200 (couples message)+ 550 (food) + 20 (camping permit)+ 400 (rental car) So add in another 1395 for the Honeymoon. So combined this brings us to 3,495 dollars for the whole deal. As noted our wedding and 11 day Hawaiian honeymoon cost less than $3500. The one thing I didn’t mention when I started this post was my father in law gave us $4K dollars towards our wedding. As such the real cost to our budget of 11 days in Hawaii and our wedding provided about 500 dollars towards our Mortgage. With or without my father in law’s help, I hope this post illustrates you do not need to spend 28K to get a wedding and honeymoon worth a lifetime of memories.

Do you have a story of keeping costs of your wedding and honeymoon down? I’d love to hear it.


  1. Leo T. Ly
    Leo T. Ly July 17, 2017

    I would love to have a small wedding, however, since my wife was the eldest daughter in the family and her family was pretty traditional, I had to compromised a little and invited jus about 350 people. Fortunately for us, our wedding tradition gotten us a lot of cash from our guests. This pretty much let us break even for hosting the banquet.

    Coincidentally, we also went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and we are planning to go back for our ten year anniversary next year.

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 17, 2017

      It truly is a lovely place. Glad to here it balanced financially with such a large wedding.

  2. Mrs. Adventure Rich
    Mrs. Adventure Rich July 17, 2017

    While we didn’t keep our budget to $3,500, we did have a wedding for significantly less than what it could have been with a few of these ideas! We had a church wedding, rented two big picnic areas at a local park for around $400 for the reception, has $7/person tacos and had a blast!

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 17, 2017

      Honestly given how both me and my wife are, I suspect we had more fun doing it that way. In todays day in age of ultra expensive weddings it also increases the likelihood of it being memorable for your guests. After the 3rd or 4th super expensive wedding they tend to blend together.

  3. Jack Catchem
    Jack Catchem July 17, 2017


    “The real cost was $500 towards the mortgage.”

    You are a mad genius.

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 17, 2017

      Thanks Jack, glad you liked the twist at the end:)

  4. Mr. Need2Save
    Mr. Need2Save July 17, 2017

    We had a small wedding as well, probably less than 50 people. Mrs. Need2Save and I paid for it ourselves at the tender age of 23. I don’t recall the exact amount we spent, but I’m willing to bet it was more than $3,500 all in.

    We did Cancun for our honeymoon, but I’m thinking of Hawaii for our 25th anniversary. I’ve never heard anyone having a bad trip in Hawaii. I imagine you would recommend it?

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 18, 2017

      Most definitely though having been to three of the islands each has a different flavor. I’d say Maui is most like Cancun, very touristy but beautiful. You can lounge on a resort full Time if desire. Kauai is the place to go to hike and camp. That is our personal favorite. On a seperate trip we did the big island, it reminded me more of the mainland.

  5. SMM
    SMM July 18, 2017

    The Ipod idea is great. Especially if the DJ stops in the middle and is talking and breaking up the music. Services like Spotify are so popular in that you can make your own play list and have recommended music too!

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 18, 2017

      Spotify is a great choice. Our wedding was a bit before Spotify took off so it was more our personal music collection. These days it seems that purchasing music is no longer needed, just purchase the service.

  6. Liz@ChiefMomOfficer
    [email protected] July 18, 2017

    I paid $2k for my wedding as well, but it was back in 2001, so the I Pod wasn’t an option back then. We did get a free band playing at the restaurant, because we didn’t get the wedding package and that place had a band play every Saturday night. It’s amazing just how many ways there are to save on weddings!

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 19, 2017

      Most definitely. It sounds like you had a very enjoyable wedding without breaking the bank!

  7. High Income Parents
    High Income Parents July 19, 2017

    This is awesome. I’m saving this one for when my kids get married. Sounds like a great time and didn’t break the bank.
    Our wedding was too expensive but my wife’s parents wanted to pay because they didn’t help with college or car or anything like that.

    Tom @HIP

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 19, 2017

      Thanks HIP. I’ll be nudging our kids this direction when they get there as well. Too many kids start their married life off deeply in the hole.

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