Today, a small wedding makes sense. The fact of the matter is, our wedding habits are formed from a time when nearly all the guests lived within a 20 mile radius. I suppose you could argue that 20 miles, in the old days, was still a full day’s travel, and that a five-hour flight from the East to West Coast is not much different, in terms of time and relative expense. Nevertheless, it is a lot to ask of our more distant relatives and friends to get on a plane for a wedding. When you consider not only the expense to the families of the wedding couple, but also everything spent by guests on travel, hotels, gifts, clothing (such as matching dresses for bridesmaids), and so forth, the total cost of a wedding today is completely absurd. Just stay home and send the couple $1000 via Paypal.
Once you have cut down the guest list, it is not too hard to keep overall expenses low. I would aim for less than $3000 for the wedding, all in, with about 20 guests. This is enough for a pleasant venue and a nice dinner.
But, let’s say that you want a big wedding, which we will define as 50 to 100 guests. Here is a real-world solution, which you can adjust to fit your own real-world circumstances.
Near us is a State Park that has a nice stone building, or “pavilion,” on a lake. It has tables for about 80 guests, and attached bathrooms and a kitchen. It costs $150 to rent for a day.
Let’s say that we will max out this facility at 80 guests. We will need a few things: tablecloths, dishware and glassware for 80 people. Probably, we can rent this somewhere, but actually, used high-quality dishware and glassware is so cheap these days that we can probably buy high-quality china for 80 people for less than one day’s rental fee. I would guess about $300 would do it. You might also ask guests (basically, older mothers) to bring their own quality dishware, glassware and table linens for use at the event, if they live nearby.
Ask some of the guests to do the cooking and serving. Probably, this will be older moms, accompanied by younger daughters. Other guests, who have more money than time, can be asked to provide some materials for the dinner, such as wine or necessary ingredients. Some guests can simply make a monetary contribution. A few guests offering $100 each would cover most food costs.
All in, the total cost might be around $3000 for 80 guests, which can be completely covered with wedding gifts/donations, for a net cost of $0.
Hold the wedding ceremony at the facility, or at a church.