Although the average overall cost for a wedding these days is around $20,000, is it possible to have a great wedding and a beautiful dress for less than $3,000. I know it can be done because I found my perfect dress and had a wonderful and affordable wedding that included about 20 of our closest family and friends. One friend at the end of the evening even commented that ours was the best wedding she had ever attended. Here is how to do it:

Shop in the junior’s dress section of a department store. Like most brides, it took me forever to find my perfect dress. But when I found it, it only cost $50. Even if you don’t usually shop in the junior’s section, I recommend giving it a try. They do have a great selection of fun and fancy dresses that are perfect for either bridesmaids’ dresses or bridal gowns. There was quite a good selection of cream, white, and off-white dresses at Macy’s. The one I chose was an off-white knee-length halter-style dress. It had a diaphanous layer over a form-fitting satin dress.

Hold an outdoor wedding. It only cost about $80 to get the permit from the city to hold our beach wedding. We held it at sunset on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There was a small circular seating area at the overlook with built-in benches.

Ask a friend to officiate. Anyone can become a wedding minister through the Internet for less than the cost of dinner. We asked a good friend to officiate and we wrote our vows. It was much more intimate than asking someone who does it for a living who wouldn’t have known us as well.

Buy your flowers in bunches from a farmers’ market. We actually bought ours from Home Depot but, in retrospect, I’ve learned that you can get better deals, fresher bouquets, and local flora from your neighborhood farmers’ market. It’s usually about $5-10 for a very large bunch of gorgeous flowers. Friends sprinkled the flowers all over the ground where we took our vows and tied bunches of them to the railing near the cliff.

Ask a friend to take pictures. My sister-in-law is a professional photographer and she volunteered to take the photos. Her wedding gift to us was a beautiful wedding photo album. Several family members took video of the ceremony. One thing to remember: If you have an outdoor wedding and you want to be heard, rent speakers and microphones. Words can get drowned out by the sounds of nature.

Hire a local restaurant to cater. This will be your greatest expense and something that people will remember, so go ahead and splurge. It can be more interesting than the usual chicken-or-beef fare if you choose your favorite ethnic restaurant to do the catering. We picked a wonderful Indian restaurant that was well versed in catering. They set up a beautiful display on the beach in ornate copper warming plates. We set up a canopy earlier in the day to protect the food.

Make bonfire s’mores in lieu of wedding cake. We used bonfires and tiki torches to illuminate the beach reception so a natural dessert choice for us was s’mores! Of course, the kids especially loved the dessert and it brought out the kid in all of the adults.

Having an affordable wedding allows you to focus less on the material world and more on the reason you are gathering together for this special day. To have a wedding is nice; to begin a life with one you love is life’s greatest gift. Consider the words of George Eliot: “What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life – to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”

Source by Katie B. Marsh