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This couple is planning their wedding for under $10,000 – here’s how they’re doing it

Michelle Chiu and Aaron Price had $10,000 to work with for their wedding, and they're coming in below budget.
Michelle Chiu and Aaron Price had $10,000 to work with for their wedding, and they're coming in below budget. Mandy Blake/Mandy Blake Photography

A wedding in Canada generally costs around $30,000. But what if you only have a third of that to work with?

Michelle Chiu, a 24-year old photographer, and Aaron Price, a 25-year old sound engineer, are managing just that. The Toronto couple, who are getting married near Toronto in August, received $10,000 as a gift from Chiu’s father and decided they wouldn’t spend one cent more.

READ MORE: 3 stunning weddings that cost $10,000 or less

The first step was figuring out what was important and what was not, Chiu told Global News. Luckily, the two were in agreement: the wedding had to have great photography and good food. Everything else would have to fit around that.

The couple also decided they wanted to aim for 100 guests, so they made an “A list” of close family and friends and a “B list” of more distant relatives to draw on if space and budget allowed for it. In total, they sent out 138 invitations and have so far received 75 RSVPs.

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WATCH: Find out how three couples managed to have a wedding with a $10,000 budget.

3 stunning weddings that cost $10,000 or less
3 stunning weddings that cost $10,000 or less

With those two elements settled, they drew up their budget and set on their mission. Here’s how they’re doing:

Venue

Budget: $2,000 – Actual price: $1,400

“We wanted something organically pretty,” said Chiu, so they wouldn’t have to spend much on decorations.

The couple started scouting options all over Toronto, including booking space at the city’s parks and renting out someone’s large backyard on Airbnb. In the end, though, they settled on Steckle Homestead, a heritage farm near Kitchener that routinely hosts weddings on weekends.

They’re only renting the place for half a day, from 2 p.m. to midnight, which helped bring down the price and make room for a larger catering budget.

Food

Budget: $2,000 – Actual price: $2,800

Catering was a bit more expensive than expected. But for $2,800 the couple is getting a BBQ dinner for 100, a cash bar and linens for the tables.

Photography

Budget: $2,000 – Actual price: $2,400

Chiu had the names of of a couple of photographers she knows in Toronto in mind, but in the end, the couple settled for a Kitchener-based professional, which saved having to pay for travel expenses.

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Wedding dress

Budget: $1,000 – Actual price: $1,100

Chiu had initially set her sights on a Toronto-based outlet that sells pre-owned wedding dresses and donates the proceeds to cancer research. The place had gorgeous gowns for as little as $100, she said. After her mom offered to pay for the dress, though, Chiu decided to opt for a bridal store with a more reliable stock. The final price tag was just a tad above what she had budgeted, at $1,100.

Groom’s suit

Budget: $800 – Actual price: $300

Price’s suit ended up costing far less than the couple expected. He found the perfect fit at Asos, a British online fashion store that sells men’s designer and tailored suits.

Bride hair and makeup: $60

Chiu booked a local hairdresser for the big day. As far as makeup, she’s taking care of it herself, she told Global News. “I grew up in theatre and feel very comfortable with makeup, even for the camera.”

Flowers and décor

Budget: $400 – Actual price: $400

The couple is buying fake flowers from Michaels Stores, which Price’s dad, a props master in film and TV, has offered to arrange at the site. Chiu is putting together her own bouquet, with some inspiration from Instagram. They will also have candles, yarn ball lanterns, and string lights.

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READ MORE: These couples had $15,000, $35,000 and $85,000 weddings. What their big days looked like

Advice from the pros: A Canadian wedding

Chiu and Price didn’t hire a wedding planner, but they did sit down for a preliminary consultation with Toronto-based Rebecca Chan. Reached by Global News, Chan shared these tips:

1. The venue will likely take up half or more of your budget. In Chan’s experience, where to hold your wedding is the key decision. In order to save, couples can:

  • Consider a lunch wedding. Portion sizes can be smaller for a lunch reception, said Chan.
  • Hold your reception at a restaurant. Restaurants don’t generally charge extra for weddings. Most will let you rent out the entire space provided you spend a minimum amount.
  • Have a cocktail-style reception. Not keen on a morning wedding or restaurant reception? You can also save by opting for a cocktail dinner at your venue. You skip the pricey four-course meal, “but you also get to mingle with your guests,” said Chan.
  • Avoid having your wedding on a Saturday. Saturday is most couples’ preferred day to tie the knot — and that’s why wedding venues charge a premium for it.

2. Opt for a smaller wedding. Invite your immediate family and closest friends, said Chan. That way “you won’t have to compromise too much” to work within your budget.

3. Focus on a couple of vendors you really care about. Rather than trying to save on everything, spend on the must-haves, save on the nice-to-haves, said Chan. If you have crafty family members willing to help, take advantage of that, she added. Another great resource is friends who are just getting started in a profession such as photography or baking. They likely will be happy to charge you a friendly rate in exchange for the opportunity to showcase their skill and build their clientele.

4. Think twice about skimping on photography and makeup. Your friends and family will be taking pictures, too, but they aren’t pros and they won’t make photography their sole focus, warned Chan. Splurging on photos is worth it: “You can’t redo your big day.”

Makeup is another line item that deserves the appropriate space in a wedding budget. “Makeup that will work in front of a camera is very specific,” noted Chan, “I only recommend it for ladies who know how to do it.”

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READ MORE: Gift registry? Wedding bands? Here are the ‘traditions’ the wedding industry helped invent

Advice from the pros: A destination wedding

Dying to elope somewhere away from home? A $10,000 destination wedding is possible, according to Lisa Light of Destination Bride. Here are her tips:

1. Keep it small. “The fewer guests, the easier it will be.”

2. Choose all-inclusive options. All-inclusive resorts and cruises are generally the cheapest and easiest way to go, said Light. You pay a group price and your host will often offer free venues for things like welcome party of brunch.

In most cases, guests will pay for their own all-inclusive rate, which means bride and groom are only responsible for venue and catering fees. Sounds like offloading costs onto your friends and family? Not so, said Light. Group deals at resorts and cruises can make for some very inexpensive vacations, with rates as $135 a night including food and drinks.

READ MORE: Millennials are spending a lot of money to go to weddings

3. Make sure to bargain. “You have negotiating power when you travel with a group so work it,” said Light. Negotiate for add-ons like a welcome dinner, tours or WiFi to be included in your package.

4. Hold your wedding during the low or shoulder season. Avoiding the high seasons will save you a lot. But if you’re planning a wedding in the hurricane belt, know what your resort’s weather clause is and be sure to buy wedding insurance.