It is actually possible to have an affordable, fun, green wedding. We consider ourselves lucky to have the wedding that we had, but I notice that a lot of people are having trouble comprehending how to have a wedding on a budget of $5000, so I made sure to keep track of how we spent our money. Sure, there were some things missing from our wedding - some were personal preference (no meat at the brunch) and some were because of financial reasons. But, because we made sure to prioritize, those things that some people might say are "missing," were not really missed by us at all.

My parents gave us a gift of $5,000 and that's about what we spent. Which includes everything except for a lot of time and labor we and our lovely friends and family put in. If I did not list it, we probably did not have it. Good luck!
Here's the cut and dry version of our budget:

$ 420 - Attire
$ 170 - Ceremony location and cost of officiant
$ 225 - Reception site rental and linens
$ 585 - Food and Drink for 100 people (we had a pancake and Mimosa brunch)
$ 210 - Stationary (Paper, ink, envelopes and stamps)
$ 25 - Flowers and Decorations
$ 5 - Music (We had a friend play his Cello for the wedding)
$2300 - Photographer
$ 300 - Wedding rings
$ 150 - Gifts for our attendants and other helpful individuals
$ 125 - Wedding Favors - Etched wine glasses
$4515 Total cost of wedding


CEREMONY: We both wanted an outdoor wedding. We considered a lot of places, but accessibility was important. We've got lots of cute little old ladies in our families. After a little investigating we decided on a local state park that had a beautiful shelter built by the PWA in the 1940's of local quarried rock. The price was right being just $25 per day. We rented the shelter for the night before as well and barbequed there for the rehearsal dinner.
The only draw backs were the not so nice bathrooms. We own a couple of wooden TV tray like folding tables. I put one in each bathroom with a basket of assorted hand sanitizer, lotion, tissues, mints, Tylenol and safety pins. After the ceremony the baskets were brought to the receptions' bathrooms.
I should also mention we didn't really have a rain plan. It was going to happen outside rain or shine with out a tent. We're really lucky it didn't rain.
We rented chairs for the audience. It was $110 for 100 chairs to be delivered and picked up. However, we had to put out the chairs and return them to their racks. Luckily we had some obliging friends and family who took care of this.
RECEPTION: We needed a location that would allow us to bring in our own food. We wanted to use local or organic food as much as possible and many catering services charge outrageous prices to alter the menus enough to accommodate a green wedding. Since we weren't having the wedding at a church, why not the reception? My groom's church had just built a new community room. In fact for a while we worried it wouldn't be done in time for the wedding, but they did manage to get it put together just seven days before the wedding. The cost of rental was $75 for four hours and $25 for use the kitchen.
Total in site rentals = $235


It was important to me that only natural fibers were used in the wedding party's clothing. This turned into a huge hassle. Eventually I revoked that rule. Between the mothers having difficulty and my bridesmaids complaining I told them to pick something they wanted to wear and just not tell me what it was made from.

WEDDING DRESS: I knew I wanted a really simple, not very formal dress since the wedding was going to be outside in the morning. It also had to have straps. I work outside and no matter how much sunscreen I put on I was going to have a tank top tan line. I spent a lot of time searching eBay. I bought 5 different dresses and really loved two of them. The one I wore for the wedding is from J. Crew, the ‘Sophia Long’. It's 100% silk. It fit perfectly and didn't need a stitch of alteration. I resold the dresses I didn't want on eBay and I actually turned a profit. The cost for my dress was $88 including shipping.

GROOM‘S SUIT: An other eBay find. After much looking and debate we bought this linen suit. He looked very hansom. It did require some alterations. A friend recommended a woman who does alterations out of her home. She took in the suit jacket and hemmed the pants for $18. The cream French cuff shirt was also off eBay, as were his sandals. We got his tie at the same shop we got the groomsmen's shirts. His cufflinks were my wedding gift to him. I got them from a local antique mall. His outfit cost came in at a total of $288.95.

ACCESSORIES: I wanted my accessories to have meaning and a story. A friend whose amazing with making jewelry took several necklaces and bracelets that were my grandmother’s, great aunt’s, mother-in law’s and some of her own beads and remade them into a necklace for me to wear. She also created drops for pearl earring my groom had given me. My something barrowed was my aunt's pearl bracelet. My something old was this seed pearl purse I found at an antique mall.

I had a terrible time finding shoes. I looked in every shop I could find. Then I got my biggest stroke of luck. One day after work I stopped by a thrift store to drop off some things and there on the counter was a new pair of Ann Taylor satin ivory heals in my size. I bought them on the spot for $3.30.

MAKE UP AND HAIR: I did my own make-up. The only thing I bought new was lipstick. For my hair I had a stylist help me figure out how to do my hair and then I did it myself. Pictures started at 8 am so the salons weren't open. I made my own veil using this website. It was really easy and cheap. I could make it the exact color and length I wanted. I was very pleased with the way it turned out.

BRIDESMAIDS: There were three attendants. I told the girls to pick a dress or skirt/blouse set that kept with the Green wedding idea in browns, blues or greens. They looked beautiful and it would have been too fussy for our wedding to have them all dressed the same.

GROOMSMEN: The three guys wore their own khaki slacks and brown belts and shoes. We bought sage green button up shirts at a local shop on sale for $12 each. They looked really sharp together.

Total Attire Cost: $417.70


I am a florist, so my flowers were very important to me. In keeping with a Green wedding I didn’t want any imported chemically laden flowers. I decided to use flowers and foliage from my mother and mother in-law’s gardens. I also picked many of the flowers out of obliging road side ditches. Well really my mother and aunt did most of the picking.

Bridal Bouquet: I picked the flowers for my bouquet and the flower shop I worked for put them together. My grandmother’s name was Fern so I made sure lots of ferns were in my bouquet. There were also purple clematis, floribunda white rose, a weed I've heard called pancake weed and a type of purple wild campanula. My florist friends did add green hydrangea that was probably imported, but I didn't ask and I knew they created the bouquet for me and that made it special.

Bridesmaids Bouquets: I made my bridesmaids bouquets and the groom’s bout the morning before the wedding. Each bridesmaids bouquet was a little different. My sister, the forester, had green maples seeds in hers, my friend I played in the forest with as a kid, had wild ginger, and my tattooed friend had zebra grass for her wild side.
Bouts: I have a very strong rule that if you don’t have a lapel you don’t get a boutonnière. So the only guy who got a flower was the groom. His was several white floribunda rose blossoms. I didn’t have flowers for our parents or anyone else.
Center Pieces: I did make all the center pieces for the reception. I used antique vases and bowls from my mother's china cabinet. Half the tables had a vase with a mixed flower bouquet and half had three glass vases each with one kind of foliage. I don’t recommend doing your own flowers. It took about three hours right before the rehearsal dinner started for me to get them all put together. Luckily there was a very nice janitor at the hall who helped me clean up or I would have been late.

The total cost of the flowers was $0


We talked about having a sunrise wedding. Doesn't that sound auspicious and romantic? Then we thought the details out. All the guests would have to arrive in the dark and you'd have to get dress and ready at four in the morning. So instead, we had a morning wedding ceremony starting at 9:00 AM. The reception followed at about 10:30 AM and lasted to about 1:30 PM. The real party for the wedding was the rehearsal dinner. We invited all the wedding guests to a BBQ at the ceremony location the night before.

Ceremony Area - The ceremony was held with the shelter as a back drop. It worked out perfectly because the front had a peek that served as a beautiful frame for the alter.

Ceremony Music - Again we’re thinking eco friendly, so canned music with speakers were out. We have a friend who plays the cello and that just seemed perfect. He agreed and we asked that he pick the procession and recession. He actually composed the music and gave it to us a wedding present. The walk in was “Look, Isn’t She Pretty” and the walk out was “Okay, We’re Done, You Can Go Now”. I left the titles out of the program, but they make me smile. Our celloist friend was ser gratis.

Ceremony Officiant - The groom’s family is Catholic and mine is well, a little bit of this and that. I have never been baptized and having no intention of joining the Catholic church, we were extremely lucky. Father Terry is one of the most open hearted and open minded priests I have met. He agreed to marry us “in the Bride’s place of worship” which I decided was outside. It was really important to the groom that Father Terry do the ceremony. He did a wonderful job. He basically read the ceremony we came up with. We gave $100 to the church as his payment.

Total Cost = $100


We had such a beautiful location for the wedding that it didn’t need decoration. My one recommendation to others is to start with a beautiful place. It will be so much less work in the long run.

Linen Rentals: For the reception we were in a very beautiful church, but the community room was very plain. We weren't really sure if we were going to be able to use it because it was set to be completed at the beginning of June and they were behind. They actually opened the room one week before our wedding, so that's when I really started to consider how to decorate the hall. The quickest fix was to rent white table cloths from a local rental company for $15 each for an 8 person round table. We also paid $16 each for several long table cloths for the gift table, family pictures and guest book table. Total rented linens $124.12
Cloth Napkins: I insisted that we have no disposables used at our wedding. So when it came to napkins I looked into renting cloth ones. I discovered cloth napkins were about $0.40 a piece. So instead of renting, I bought many, many vintage cloth napkins in lots off eBay for less than $0.40 a piece. In the end I came up with enough for one per guest. There was one at every place setting. It added a lot to the room and people sat at places because they wanted a certain napkin. I am pretty sure people took them home too. I was missing about 20 at the end of the day. Which is fine, I plan on making them into a quilt at some point, but even missing 20 I have more than enough.
Misc: I mentioned the floral center pieces I made using my mom’s antiques and flowers from her garden. I also made flower arrangements for the guest book table, bathrooms and the family wedding portraits table.

Total cost for decorations $164.12

Invitations and Other Stationary

We made our own invitations. My lovely groom did all the water colors and a lot of the layout. I did a lot of the wording and some graphic design. We used PhotoShop to make the images and a desk top printer for the printing. They were one of the things we got the most compliments on.

I ordered the paper from here: We used Genesis™ Recycled Stationery in Milkweed 8.5 x 11 80# cover. I recommend paper that is at least 80# . That is the minimum thickness the USPS will take for postcards. Becareful, they also have a minimum size.

We tried not to use much paper. We did this by making the RSVPs and Rehearsal Dinner invites postcards. It also cuts down on the amount of money you spend on stamps.

For the wedding program I made, it was a 8.5x11 page that was folded in half length wise. It looked really slick. Although I do have to admit some of the font got a little small. A lot of people commented on the quiz on the back of the program. It gave people something to talk about before the wedding started. We had a friend who's got a good sense of humor stand up during the toasts and tell the answers.

Stationary Budget:
$73.90 Stamps (100 Invitation, 150 Postcard, 80 Thank You)
$84.00 Ink ($12 per color cartrige)
$26.99 Card Stock (500 pages of #80 paper)
$30.17 Envelopes (250 matching card envelopes)

Total = $211.06

Wedding Favors - Etched Wine Glasses

As for wedding favors I collected miss-match clear wine glasses and champagne flutes from thrift stores and etched them with our initials. (I bought each glass for under $0.50.) Guests used their glasses for mimosas and then took them home as their gift from us. I was really nervous I would make a whole bunch and then no one would take them home and I'd have a whole bunch of miss matched wine glasses. Surprisingly there was not a one left in the reception hall when we went to clean up.

I bought the etching material from this website: Basically you take a design and then they make the stencil for you. We bought the glass starter kit plus 16 oz of etching cream for $62 (which was way more than we needed, I could have bought the 8oz cream and been fine). The glass starter kit comes with stencil that they print for you using your design. We could fit four of our designs in a 4" x 5" area, so we got four little stencils. It took me three evenings to do about 60 glasses. Make sure to use the wine glass etching instructions as they are a little different.

Total Cost $125


Reception Food - Although the almighty budget was always in the back of our minds, we decided that we still wanted to have some great, local/organic food for our wedding. This led us to do something crazy, that I would not recommend to the weak at heart. We did all the food prep ourselves. We decided to go sans meat. For grand children of Iowa Pork producers this was a hard choice. However, we felt in the interest of an Eco-friendly wedding meat was not a good option. Instead we taste tested lots of pancake recipes and found a butter milk pancake recipe from The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated that was perfect. In addition to pancakes we had scrambled eggs (from the farmers market) and tons of fresh fruit (from a local berry patch). I was going to make the syrup, but at the end of the day I couldn' t find a recipe that stored well so I could make it in advance. We wound up buying syrup from our local grocer, whom I always like to support anyway.

Food Serving Equipment - All provided by the church. Churches have a lot of great resources. I was so happy to have all the help I got from their women's group.

Plates and Silverware - We used the churches plates and silverware. Although the head table did use our wedding china. I inherited place settings for eight from my grandma and that was perfect for the head table. We also used some of the serving pieces from it for fruit on the buffet.

Serving Staff - To take care of all of the food and drinks, as well as help clean and pack at the end of the night, we enlisted the church's women's group and a group of kids who were looking to raise money for a service trip. The kids made the pancakes. I did mix the dry ingredients for them and all the fruit was prepared the day before by my loving friends and family. The church women served mimosas, coffee, tea as well as helped with set up and tear down. All for the low price of $1 per guest. We tried to donate money to the kids service trip but their leader insisted on covering that himself. We later vistited their car wash and paid $150 for a wash and wax ;) .

Wedding Cake - It seemed like a sugar over kill to have pancakes and then cake. So we had a panCAKE cutting instead. The church women made up a pretty plate of pancakes that was put on my mother's cake stand. We used my grandmother's cake knife, which all the grandkids on that side have used. The cake cutting was right before we started eating.

We only ended up paying $5 /person. Total Cost = $512


Alcohol: We had a brunch reception, so a lot of alcohol wasn't really necessary. Guests could have their choice of champagne or mimosas. We bought the champagne on sale after New Year's for about $5 a bottle. After consulting the local liquor store we tried a couple champagnes. A dry brut champagne works best. We decided the best mix was about 1/3 champagne to 2/3 orange juice. However, I think the church women served it back wards as we had a lot of champagne left over. In fact I think there is still some in my mom's basement. The person who sold it to us said it would be good for up to a year, I guess we'd better drink it. $125

Juice: I bought organic orange juice. It's a lot more than regular orange juice, but it's so much better. Plus at a Green wedding, I wouldn't have anything else. $73.80

Coffee and Tea: The church women set up a coffee station and went from table to table serving. I also brought a collection of teas for people. The church women charged $25 for the set up and service.

Total Alcohol & Drink Costs = $231


We started seriously planning about six months before the wedding. All the photographers I knew in my home town were already booked. So I expanded my search and came up with three photographers who were willing to drive and had our date available. Maggie who I contacted, but never returned my calls, Craigola a nature photographer who sometimes does weddings ($800) and Mark Kegans a journalistic photographer out of Des Moines who takes beautiful pictures ($2,600).

I struggled for a long time on this one. I knew I wanted a really good photographer. I sunk half our budget into Mark Kegans. As you can see from the pictures on this site. (But not this photo. He'd be pretty cool if he could take his own picture of himself working. Although if he had taken it, it would be much nicer than the one at right.) Mark did a beautiful job. I love all his photos. He gets a glowing review from me. He was polite and unobtrusive, but his sense of humor still came across. We got the smallest package which included almost 300 4x5 prints in a keepsake box and a CD/DVD set with large resolution images and ready to print images. He doesn't make albums, but I can make an album (although I haven't gotten around to it yet). If you are having a wedding in Iowa I highly recommend Mark. He's a very talented photographer.

Wedding Rings

My groom made our wedding bands. He also made my engagement ring. With the guidance of a local jeweler he made my engagement ring from cast platinum.

Our wedding bands are made of palladium. This is a metal that in its purist form would look as white as platinum. However, when ordering the metal we didn't realize how much alloy was in it. It actually has an odd cool gold color.

I instantly recognize the metal now as being my ring. There is only one other person I know who wears a palladium ring and it always surprises me because I am so used to being the only ones who has a palladium wedding band.

My groom used his brother's dental equipment to cast the rings and a lot of time and effort to shape and polish them into rings. He's an amazing fellow.

The only cost was that of the metal.

Total Cost: $300

Ceremony Script

Processional: played by Celloist
Father Terry:
On behalf of I welcome all of you, and am elated that you could join us for this marriage celebration. We are here today to encourage, celebrate and support the covenant these two people, beloved to us, now make. The marriage they are creating here has roots in themselves, and the love, friendship, and guidance each of us has offered them. They have asked us to be with them here today, because we are a community of loved ones. We rejoice in the ways life has led them to each other and brought them to the place where they now stand.

Father Terry: (To the groom) , the woman who stands by your side is about to become your wife. She will look to you for comfort, for support, for understanding, for encouragement, and for protection. You must never take her for granted, and always consider her along with yourself.

Groom: , as freely as God has given me life,I join my life with yours.Wherever you go, I will go.Whatever you face, I will face.For good or ill, in happiness or sadness,Come riches or poverty, I take you as my wife.

Father Terry: , the man who stands by your side is about to become your husband. He will look to you for comfort, for support, for understanding, for encouragement, and for protection. You must never take him for granted, and always consider him along with yourself.

Bride: , as freely as God has given me life,I join my life with yours.Wherever you go, I will go.Whatever you face, I will face.For good or ill, in happiness or sadness,Come riches or poverty, I take you as my husband.

Reading 1Colossians 3:12-16
A reading from the letter of Paul to the Colossians
[12] You are the elect of God, holy and beloved, be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.
[13] Forbearing one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. As God forgave you; now you must do the same.
[14] Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.
[15] And let the peace of God reign in your hearts, it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.
[16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With grace in your hearts sing praise to God.
This is the word of the Lord.

Reading 2
Adapted from "Union" by Robert Fulghum

You have known each other for ten years, through the first glance of acquaintance to this moment of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of Yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks - all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will and you will and we will”- those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”- and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “ You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed- well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another – remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another -acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another during these years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this- is my husband, this- is my wife.

Father Terry:
Moment of SilenceFather Terry: Please spend a few moments in silence, to listen to yourself, to the forest, and to appreciate your own blessings of love and family.

Marriage Vows
Father Terry: Since it is your intention to marry, join your right hands and declare your consent. Do you take to be your lawful wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live.

Groom: I Do.

Father Terry: Do you take to be your lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live.

Bride: I Do.

Exchange of Rings
Father Terry: The wedding ring is a symbol of unity, a circle unbroken, without beginning or end. And today give and receive these rings as confirmations of their vows to join their lives, to work at all times to create a life that is whole and unbroken, and to love each other without end. May the Lord bless these rings which you give to each other as the sign of your love and fidelity. (To the groom) , take this ring and place it on finger, and state your pledge to her, repeating after me:

“With this ring I thee wed.
I offer you my hand, and my heart as I know they will be safe with you.
All that I am I give to you and all that I have I share with you.”(To the bride) , take this ring and place it on finger, and state your pledge to him, repeating after me:

“With this ring I thee wed.
I offer you my hand, and my heart as I know they will be safe with you.
All that I am I give to you and all that I have I share with you.”

Simple Gifts

Father Terry:
Father Terry: , as a collection of words, this ceremony would count for little, were it not for the love and commitment you here pledge to one another. Your vows may have been spoken in minutes, but your promises to each other will last a lifetime.Those who are joined by this sacred covenant, let no one put asunder. As have pledged themselves to meet sorrow and joy as one family before this community of friends, I now pronounce them husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.

Guest Book Calender

I didn't want a traditional guest book. What would we do with it? Put it in a box where it can clutter up the place. Instead we got a calendar and had people sign on their birthday or anniversary. It turned out really neat. Now we know when everyone's anniversary’s are and in a lot of cases their birthdays too. It also encouraged more than just signing in. Lots of little comments were made. Now our year is almost up and I guess I'll put the calendar in a box where it can clutter up the place.

Family Wedding Pictures

I had all our direct family wedding pictures out on a table at the entrance to the wedding reception. Weddings are about creating a new family, but they are also about joining two families together and it was a neat way to look back on our histories. This turned out to be more difficult than I wanted it to be because my fiance's family is divorced. I did eventually get all the wedding pictures together, but I didn't have enough time to make tags for all of them. So half of them had nice printed tags and half had hand written ones. Oh, well that's how somethings go. Lots of people stopped to look at them, so I considered it worth while. Here's how a friend did her family portraits. Her's turned out much nicer than mine.

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