The wedding of Meghan Sheffield and David Newland, of Coburg, Ont., was as dreamy as weddings come.
Photos of the couple’s ceremony show what looks like an enchanted forest, with beautiful flowers, a kid playing a tambourine and a bride wearing boots under a vintage dress.
“It was much like a Hobbit wedding,” said Newland. “It was about appreciating the glory of nature.”
And it all cost cost less than $10,000.
That was all the couple had to work with, at a time when both Newland and Sheffield were cobbling together a living with freelance jobs.
Crafting the perfect wedding with that budget required them to put in “a good investment of time,” and to draw on the help of family and friends, who provided anything from homemade delicacies for the potluck reception to hair and makeup.
Sheffield, a social media manager, bought her dress at half-price from a vintage shop for $15. The total cost was about $500 after alterations.
Newland, a folk musician and brand ambassador at Adventure Canada, which organizes Arctic tours, enrolled his band members to play the processional and throughout much of the rest of the day.
And Sheffield’s relatives, many of whom have organized events on a volunteer basis, “must have sawed a mile of bunting from old sheets and Hawaiian shirts,” Newland said.
The bunting would serve to adorn the hall of the Ganaraska Forest Centre, some two hours north-east of Toronto, which the couple had rented for the wedding on Thanksgiving weekend in 2011.
That’s where everyone went for an hour or so of square dancing after the ceremony. (The couple paid around $700 for a square dance band.)
For the photos, bride and groom received a special rate from a friend who is a commercial photographer.
Sheffield’s sister, who works in the restaurant industry, got a deal on wine and donated it to the couple as a wedding gift.
Many guests arrived at the site the night before so they could spend the morning setting up.
That community and team spirit was exactly what the couple was hoping for.
“I really enjoyed being on team ‘us,'” Sheffield told Global News.
Bu most of the contributions came unprompted, she said.
“We asked for what we needed and were so grateful for everything else we got.”
Not everyone’s family and friends would be up for devoting hours to a do-it-yourself wedding, and couples have to be careful not to make too many demands, Sheffield cautioned.
“I could have stage-managed the wedding of my Pinterest dreams,” she added, “but what I got instead was so much more unique.”
Wedding budget: Just shy of $10,000
Big ticket item: venue ($5,000)
Key savings from: time investment from family and friends
Venue: Ganaraska Forest Centre
Date: October 2011
Daria Gage and Carlos Sanchez Seco Villalba, from the U.S. and Spain, respectively, did it all for US$8,000 (C$10,600) by holding the wedding close to home: in Mozambique.
Gage, an NGO program director, and Sanchez, an optometrist, had been living in the coastal town of Pemba, in the southern African nation, for years when they decided it was time to tie the knot.
“We knew that if we had the wedding in the U.S. or Spain, there would be so many people we would feel obliged to invite,” Gage told Global News.
So they decided to hold the ceremony in Mozambique, confident that the need to buy a plane ticket would naturally whittle down the guest list.
“We weren’t so much trying to save money as much as having a small wedding,” added Gage.
In the end, around 30 of the couple’s friends and family RSVPed, and Gage and Sanchez picked Nuarro, an eco lodge on the beach, as their venue.
Bride and groom spent $4,000 to put everyone up for one night. Three meals were included in the price, but since, in April, the resort had no other guests, it offered to turn dinner into a reception buffet – for free.
Gage, who was pregnant with her son at the time, ordered a $250 floaty dress online (“I just wanted something that wasn’t simply a white sun dress.”)
Guests were told the dress code was “no shoes,” she told Global News.
They skipped the honeymoon because, Gage said, “in Mozambique, we already live in a honeymoon.”
Wedding budget: US$8,000 (C$10,600)
Big ticket items: venue ($4,000) and open bar ($4,000)
Key savings from: location and small guest list
Venue: Nuarro Lodge
Date: April 2016
With three kids and a mortgage, Kamy Pillay and David Selman decided to marry mostly for practical reasons.
But when they decided to formally say “I do,” they wanted to make sure the day was as special as their shoestring budget would allow.
Pillay and Selman, two engineers from Naperville, near Chicago, rented a gazebo in a nearby park for the ceremony, which took place in May 2013. They contacted a high school, and the band teacher recommended a quartet, who played for an hour for $75 (although the couple volunteered an extra tip).
They also rented chairs and linens but bought plates and stemware from Crate and Barrel, which Pillay said was cheaper than renting. Tulle provided inexpensive decor for the chairs and the rest of the gazebo, and family helped the couple set up in the morning.
After the ceremony, the party had a picnic in the park with appetizers from Pillay and Selman’s favourite restaurant – bruschetta, samosas, hummus, and veggies and dip. The cake, which cost $300, was delivered on site.
But the couple did splurge on photos. A friend of Pillay’s who is a professional photographer flew in from New York for the occasion. Her services cost $2,500, including airfare.
Wedding budget: Less than $10,000
Big ticket item: photography
Key savings from: venue and small guest list
Date: May 2013