*Based on 140 guests in attendance*

All Photos by Karlee K Photography

June 6th, 2014 was an incredible day. This is the day we got engaged. This is the day everything became real. I knew I was going to marry Joey the moment I met him & the day that this was confirmed was finally here. When Joey & I started talking about the wedding & how we wanted to start out our lives together, we didn’t fully know where to start, but we both agreed that we weren’t going to start by being in debt over our wedding. We had a certain amount of money set aside (thanks in part to our amazing parents) & we knew we wanted to purchase a home right after we got married, so sticking to the budget was a necessity & going over was not an option. After doing some research, I was sure I could plan our dream wedding for less than $20,000… and I did!

I want to preface this information with the full understanding that everyone is different. Everyone has different dreams & plans for their wedding day. What I have written below  is simply a guide. These were all very intentional, personal choices for me. After all, it is titled “How I Planned MY Dream Wedding…” Your budget allocation & dream wedding may differ from mine & it probably will. We all have different aspects of our wedding that matter more than others. For example, you will notice how little I spent on flowers. Do I think flowers are a stupid way to allocate your wedding budget? Absolutely not! But for me, there were other things that mattered more to me & I only had so much money to spend. You will also notice that we did not have a professional Videographer, however we were lucky enough to have a friend take some great video for us. A great wedding video is crucial & many of you will opt to remove something that was important to me in order to be able to include a Videographer. That is the beauty of personalizing your wedding! I hope the below simply gives you the hope that you can also have the wedding of your dreams within a reasonable budget for you.


Disclaimer: Our wedding was in 2015, so it is possible that some of our vendors pricing has increased slightly. I tried to check their websites for their current pricing, but some were unavailable. I am still confident that someone could plan a wedding with the same budget in 2018 or 2019 if they did their research & stuck to a plan. Also, I am not a "pro" so all of my tips are called "regular person" tips because I am just like any other bride trying to ball on a budget.

Venue (Friday Wedding) - $4800
Shenandoah Mill, Gilbert AZ

I had been to a wedding at our venue a few years prior & knew I wanted to get married there. I was thrilled that when I brought Joey to tour it after we got engaged that he was on board. I was also thrilled to hear that they allowed outside vendors & catering. Many venues have all-inclusive packages, but what can sneak up on you here is that you end up paying for items that you don’t really want or need, leaving less room in your budget for the items that are important to you. Our venue was very laid back & allowed us to use almost anything they had onsite, so much of our décor was taken care of because of this. If you are trying to stick to a set budget, it is important to do your research & find a venue that does not charge for every single additional item (i.e. charging per chair, etc.) because this can add up & before you know it, you have completely busted your budget wide open!

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Find a venue that keeps you in control of your budget.

Professional Photographer - $4250
Karlee K Photography

This was priority #1 for us. I am a huge advocate for dishing out big bucks for a photographer. I can’t imagine a more important element on your big day. To us, this was more important than the venue, the dress, the décor… A good photographer is not a preference, it is VITAL. Many photographers will include your engagement shoot in their pricing, so check into that before booking a separate photographer for your engagements.


REGULAR PERSON TIP: Check your photographer’s portfolio before booking. All photographers are unique in their style, so make sure your money is well spent on a photographer that is exactly what you’re looking for. You only get one chance to capture your wedding day photos!
Joey Chanel Engagement-JPEG-0016.jpg

Dress (Maggie Sottero “Francesca”) - $1250
Suzanne’s Bridal Boutique, Mesa AZ

Like most of you ladies, I had been secretly stalking Pinterest & searching for my wedding dress, even before I got engaged. I had so many dresses pinned, you would have thought I was a wedding planner or owned a bridal shop. But there was one dress that always stuck out to me: "Francesca" by Maggie Sottero. I knew I had to at least try it on. I went to one shop, tried three dresses on & knew this was the one. My dress shopping journey was fast & easy & my dream dress was priced very reasonably.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Choose a dress budget & stick to it. There are literally THOUSANDS of dresses to choose from & there is, without a doubt, one that you will love that you can afford.

Bridal Jewelry/Shoes/Accessories - $75

Cost Breakdown:
Shoes: Nine West (TJ Maxx) - $40
Jewelry & Accessories: Brand Unknown (TJ Maxx)- $35

I am not a person who pays much attention to designer brands, so this one was easy for me. Those of us who have shopped at TJ Maxx know of the possibilities. There are some amazing deals at times, but you have to hunt for them. My sister found these beautiful, nude kitten heels for me, as well as my jewelry. I fell in love quickly; with the look of it all & the price.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Start shopping for shoes & accessories as soon as you purchase your dress. Bargain hunting at TJ Maxx or similar stores can take some time, so give yourself plenty of room to have the patience to find those perfect pieces.

Save the Dates & Invitations - $250
Shutterfly & Zazzle

This was low on the priority list for us from a budget perspective. Both of these sites have super cute, affordable options & we had to prioritize. We knew that most people do not hold onto these items forever, so it was an easy choice for us to go fairly cheap on the save the dates & invites. I designed both by myself on these websites. They have so many options, so it was hard to choose, but once I did, they both made it super easy to customize my choices.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Save money on stamps & envelopes & ask people to RSVP via email. It is easier to keep track of & it’s cheaper!

Groom’s Outfit/Shoes/Accessories - $435

Cost Breakdown:
Suit: Express Men - $350
White Dress Shirt: Already Owned
Shoes: Macy’s Sale Item, Perry Ellis - $45
Socks: Already Owned Dress Socks
Tie: TJ Maxx, Michael Kors - $20

Suspenders: Kohl’s Brand - $20

Ok, so he looked GOOD. I mean, REALLY good. The entire outfit came together so well & because he purchased his suit from Express versus renting it, it was an easy investment to make. Plus, it fit him properly because it wasn't rented. We shopped sales for the rest of his attire.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: DO NOT RENT. Rented suits never fit how they should & there are plenty of places where you can purchase a suit for the same cost.

Beauty - $375

Cost Breakdown:
Hair & Makeup (includes trial run & travel cost) - $300
Ideal Bridal, Scottsdale AZ

Airbrush Tan  & Mani/Pedi - $75

Hiring a hair & makeup artist (yes, she does both!) was a no-brainer for me. I can somewhat do my own makeup, but "LOL" at me attempting to style my hair in an acceptable enough way for my wedding. These photos will be timeless & it was worth it to me to not stress on my wedding day about if I was going to feel confident & look how I had always imagined I would. I spent good money on my dress & my photographer & the hair & makeup was last piece of the puzzle to make sure everything came together. Don't forget a little spray tan & nice fingers & toes; these are essentials, too.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Research your stylist’s portfolio before booking so you can make sure their style is a good fit. Also, provide photos of what you are looking for. Even the most talented stylists are not mind readers!

Officiant & Officiant Gift - $100
Johnjay Van Es & Rich Berra

We were sure we wanted someone we knew personally to marry us. We met via my husband’s job with the Johnjay & Rich Morning Show on iHeartRadio in Phoenix, so the choice was simple for us...plus, they were both already ordained so it could not have been easier! I wrote up the ceremony & asked them to add their own flair to it. It was absolutely perfect!

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Find a friend or family member to marry you. Pay for their license online & get them a nice thank you gift.

Wedding Party Gifts (based on 5 people on each side, 10 total) - $400
Etsy, TJ Maxx, MAC Cosmetics

I think some people go crazy with their budget on this one, which is thoughtful for your bridal party, but if you are on a budget, you can still get really nice gifts for about $40 per person. We gifted my bridesmaids a MAC lipstick, the earrings they’d wear in the wedding & we paid for them to get airbrush tans. I made them wear beige dresses, it was the least I could do. The groomsmen were given wooden boxes with their wedding ties & suspenders, and mini alcohol bottles.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Gift your bridal party practical things they will need for your wedding, like accessories or makeup…& of course booze. They will be grateful!

Photo Booth - $1025
*Unnamed* (May we suggest Modern West Photobooth?)

OK – FULL DISCLOSURE. I am changing this one up a bit because it’s my blog & I can. BUT, even at the higher priced, better quality booth, we are still under our $20k budget –you’re welcome. This was the only aspect of our wedding we would go back & change if we could. We WOULD NOT recommend the photo booth we hired for our wedding. We spent $400 for 2 hours & we certainly got what we paid for. The booth was bulky, the props were cheesy & the photos were horrible quality; plus, we didn’t get any digital copies & nothing was custom. To be fair, we didn’t know any better at the time. Modern West was not even a thought in our minds at this time. You may think I am biased, & I can understand that, but part of the reason we started Modern West was because of our negative experience with our photo booth choice for our wedding. We wanted to do better & we knew we could. The price estimate I have listed above is our average wedding package, which includes all of our services for 3-hours plus the photo guest album. We truly believe that your photo booth is just about as important as your photographer. Photos are memories! It is the one visual you will have for a lifetime when you look back on your wedding. I can confidently say that there are other areas of your budget that are worth reevaluating in order to be able to include a high quality photo booth. It’s a necessity!

PRO-TIP (OK, so this tip I can claim pro-status on): Save money by using the printed photos from the booth as your guest “thank you” favor. We can even literally print “thank you” on them if you want.
I want to note that these images are from Modern West Photobooth, NOT our wedding photo booth. I can't even bear to post one of those. YIKES.

I want to note that these images are from Modern West Photobooth, NOT our wedding photo booth. I can't even bear to post one of those. YIKES.


Flowers & Boutonnieres - $500

Cost Breakdown:

150 roses: Costco - $200
100 baby’s breath
(150 greenery fillers for the same price): Costco - $100
DIY boutonnieres & silk flower bouquet supplies:
Hobby Lobby - $200

My florist friends are going to KILL ME. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE flowers & our friendor florists can do some stunning things with them, but since I had to make cuts somewhere, I couldn’t wrap my mind around spending thousands of dollars on something that was not going to last for more than a couple days.  I am also sure some of you are cringing at the thought that I only spent $500 on flowers. I can understand that flowers are one of the more important elements for some people, but for me since I wanted to stick to a specific budget, it was not top of my priority list. I have to say, I have no regrets on my choice to slim down our flower budget. Believe it or not, you can get real flowers in bulk at Costco & they are beautiful! We purchased 150 roses, half blush & half white (they have all types of flowers if roses aren’t your thing) as well as 100 stems of filler. I created the bridesmaids “bouquets” with my mom & sister the night before by using a single rose, some filler & tying it with a ribbon. BOOM, done! We also made the groomsmen boutonnieres with silk flowers & supplies purchased at Hobby Lobby. Thank you, Pinterest! I was very fortunate to have one of my bridesmaid’s mother gift me the most beautiful bouquet made of silk flowers; all I had to do was purchase the flowers. The best part about this is that Joey & I both have our flowers still because they are silk. The rest of the roses & filler were placed in various spaces & used in various ways around the venue & on the tables. I was impressed how far a $500 flower budget could stretch.

REGULAR PERSON TIP:  Don’t go nuts on your bridesmaids’ bouquets if you are on a tight budget. A single rose & some filler look beautiful & won’t break the bank!

Dinner & Buffet Service by the Venue - $1400

Cost Breakdown:
Dinner: Rigatony’s, Chandler AZ - $1300 with tax & tip
Venue Buffet Service - $100

I cannot stress this enough: good wedding food does not have to cost $50 a plate! My absolute favorite restaurant in Arizona is Rigatony’s. It is an Italian restaurant & I have been eating there ever since I was a child. When we got engaged, this was one of the first things we started to think about because trust me, we love food. We looked at their large party to-go menu & we were pleasantly surprised that based on their pricing, we were going to be able to feed our  guests for EIGHT DOLLARS PER PERSON. Yes, you are reading that right. We were a bit hesitant because we thought there was no way it could be that cheap & that we would have enough food, so we slightly over-ordered. We had Baked Ziti, Fettuccini Alfredo & Italian Sausage PLUS Antipasto Salad & Ciabatta Bread… & guess what? We had plenty of leftovers that we ate with family the next day.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: If you choose a venue that allows outside food, opt for quality food buffet style. This is one of the biggest areas you can save money! We were able to save a couple thousand dollars by passing on a formal plated dinner option.

Cake (Kind Of) - $350
TopIt Cupcakes, Gilbert AZ

While a cake was not a priority for us, we love sweets & we were not willing to completely skip dessert on our wedding day. Another great way to save some money if you are trying to stick to a budget is to pass on the cake & order a ton of cupcakes. It is common for couples to order a cake AND cupcakes or other desserts & end up spending close to $1000 on dessert. Many times, there is a ton of cake left over too. With cupcakes, you get a variety of flavors & it a fun alternative to the traditional cake. We ordered about 110 cupcakes & we had two or three dozen left over.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: If you are not a cake or cupcake person, find a local sweets vendor that offers alternative dessert options.

The Bar - $850

Cost Breakdown:
Beer & Wine: BevMo -$700
Bartending Service: Hey Bartender AZ - $150

Beer. And. Wine. Only. We all want to throw a killer party for our friends via our wedding, but let’s be reasonable. Liquor is SUPER expensive & people tend to take shots when liquor is available, therefore a) costing you more money & b) leaving more room for your guests to get completely stupid sloppy hammered drunk at your wedding. We wanted to meet in the middle between open bar & cash bar, so we chose an open bar with beer & wine only. This choice also saved us thousands of dollars.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Buy your liquor at BevMo during their 1 cent bottle of wine sale. We bought 60 bottles of wine for the price of 30 this way. We also realized that kegs weren’t much cheaper than bottles & we thought bottles were a tad classier, so we went that route. BevMo will also buy back your unopened alcohol if you have any left over ("LOL," what is “left over alcohol” though?) This all only works if you book a venue that allows outside alcohol.

Décor & Rentals - $750
DIY Shabby Chic Weddings, Gilbert AZ
Goodwill, Etsy, Decor from my house, Venue provided items

As I mentioned previously, our venue had a great deal of décor & rentals available to us, so that was extremely helpful in sticking to our décor budget. I rented quite a few pieces from a local company, made many Goodwill trips & did a lot of DIY (thanks again, Pinterest). I also used a lot of items that I already had as décor in my home.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Choose a gorgeous venue with an aesthetic that already fits your wedding style. That way, you don’t have to stress about adding a ton of décor to spruce it up & make it your own.

Day Of Coordination – $2000
Konsider It Done, AZ & UT

I was SURE I didn’t need this. I had everything planned to a tee & there was nothing I needed a planner for. At the last minute, I changed my mind because I started thinking about who was going to help things run smoothly on the day of. When I thought about it more, I realized our family was going to end up having to do this & we didn’t want to put that burden on them. If you cannot afford full planning services, I highly suggest that you at the very least hire a day of coordinator. Kris & Tyler were worth every penny!

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Do not skip the day of coordinator. That is all.

DJ/Entertainment - $700
DJ Paulie Amendola

I think the DJ or live band is a no-brainer for everyone & most people agree that this is a very important part of the budget. We spent what I felt was a very reasonable amount of money for our DJ & he was everything we had hoped for!

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Interview your DJ & make sure that their style matches what you are looking for. We were lucky because we had seen our DJ at another wedding we attended & he was exactly what we were looking for.

Miscellaneous Supplies - $225
Costco & Etsy

Once again, Costco comes in clutch. We did not have fancy china, glassware or utensils at our wedding. I am sure many of you will opt for these things & spend less than I did in other areas & I can completely understand that. We chose to go for the fancy disposable stuff that Costco sells when it came to plates, cups, utensils & other items & just dressed them up a bit. This section also includes the cute suits we custom ordered on Etsy for our pups to match Joey.

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Fancy place settings can be pricey, so this is a good area to save if you are on a tight budget. Also, spending money on dog outfits is highly encouraged.

Miscellaneous Disaster Fund / Other Items - $250

Even if you are on a budget, this is IMPORTANT. This certainly came in handy when we ran out of beer (as did our day of coordinators!).

REGULAR PERSON TIP: Do not spend every single penny of your budget. A decent Emergency Fund is crucial.

GRAND TOTAL: $19,985