Are you planning a wedding and not sure where to hold the ceremony and reception festivities, where to buy the perfect dress, or which hotels to book for your out-of-town guests without spending thousands and thousands of dollars? I’m here to tell you that you can have the wedding of your dreams in the Wilmington area for under $5K!
On April 22, 2006 I married my husband on the beaches of Fort Fisher, 5 minutes south of Wilmington city limits. Our wedding cost totaled a mere $1000! That is including my dress, ceremony site, minister, ring, photography, videography, decorations, invitations, and the reception foods.
If I can have a magical wedding for only one grand, then so can you! I’m going to share with you some of the secrets and experiences I discovered which saved me money. Hopefully you will use some of them in planning your own special day.
One of the first things an engaged couple does before their big day is having professional photos taken announcing their engagement. Shop around for the best prices. I had my pictures taken at Photo Innovations in Mayfaire Town Center. They had an advertised special which I discovered on their website and later saw posted in their window. We walked away with over 200 elegant, stylish portraits for under $100.
When it’s time to order invitations you have a few choices: order them or make them yourself. I, personally, decided to make my own. I ventured to Wal-Mart and A.C. Moore to browse around for invitations that suited my taste. They offered a set of 50 pre-embossed cards as well as envelopes and wedding bell stickers to go along with them. All I had to do was download the template from online, enter my own text, any way I wanted it, and then printed them out. Total cost was $25. By making them yourself, you can save over $100. Party City as well as online sellers were pricing 50 personalized invitations at $100 – 150.
CEREMONY & RECEPTION SITES:
Traditional weddings take place in a church. In Wilmington, there are several churches you can choose between if you are not a member of any. Kenan Chapel in Landfall offers a precious 100-capacity site for $600. You aren’t allowed to decorate with pins or tacks, and you can’t rearrange their furniture. When you go to look at this chapel, the peaceful surrounds and beautiful landscaping will definitely win you over.
If you love flowers, then Airlie Gardens is the perfect place to hold your wedding. You will be surrounded by lovely oak trees and camellia-lined aisles. The Intracoastal Waterway, which offers breathtaking aquatic scenery, is within a few steps. The fee is $1500 for a wedding only. But, if you want to have your wedding and reception there, then the fee is $2500.
Why not get married on the beach? Ninety-five percent of them time, the weather is sunny in Wilmington, so an outdoor wedding is almost always doable and successful. For a ceremony at Wrighstville Beach, you will have to apply for a special event permit and then pay a small fee, usually around $50-70. Right down the road, Carolina Beach as well as Kure Beach offer their beaches for free. Just a tad more to the south, historic Fort Fisher has a gazebo you can rent. This is where my husband and I got married. The oceanfront gazebo is large and has amazing views of the ocean and rock-lined shore. It was $250 to reserve the gazebo for 2 hours.
The reception was the hardest to plan. Many restaurants had specials and wedding deals, but they were still on the expensive side. We saved tons of money by limiting the menu and cooking the food ourselves. Instead of having an entire 5 course meal, we served crackers, fruits, pretzels, and chicken and turkey wraps. As far as beverages, we bought 2 margarita and daquiri buckets from Food Lion and just added the alcohol and froze them the night before. Those 2 buckets ran $7 a piece and served about 100. Even my wedding cake was homemade. I opted for a cupcake tower instead of a traditional cake. It was a lot easier to create and easy for my guests, especially the younger ones, to pick up.
Another reception option is to have a potluck. Have your guests bring a food dish, or how about asking your friends and family to help you?
A wedding gown is extremely expensive. I’ve always wondered why anyone would spend hundreds of dollars on a dress you would only wear one time. I drove around Wilmington one morning, stopping to browse three or so bridal shops. When I saw the price tags, I was blown-away. I could not afford any of them, and I wasn’t about to go in debt for a one-time-only dress. That’s when I noticed the clearance sections. There were gorgeous gowns hanging on the racks for $100! Nothing was wrong or out of style about these. They were reduced in price because they were discontinued. When browsing the clearance area at Elegant Brides on Oleander Dr, I found my gown for $99. Even David’s Bridal in Mayfaire has $99 days.
My musical selections were provided by my friend who is an excellent vocalist, guitarist, and accordionist. I didn’t have to pay her anything for her services! Ask a friend or family member to sing and play music at your wedding; it can save you about $200. I’d also recommend contacting UNCW and posting a classified ad for a student who plays an instrument and/or sings. You’d be surprised what a college student will do for $50 or so.
A minister is also a big expense. For a 20-30 minute ceremony, our minister cost $250. There are a few ministers who will travel out to your wedding site, such as Rev Penelope Morningstar did for ours. Rev. Chris Mays of Carolina Beach will officiate your Wilmington area wedding for $175.
I only have a few simple suggestions for purchasing your husband’s wedding band. One is to search online, another is to look for deals at jewelry stores, and lastly is to try the pawn shop. I bought my husband’s 14KT white gold 8mm band for $85 from the reputable online retailer Goldmine. Pawn shops also have a fair deal on bands. The ones I saw in Wilmington shops were clean and scratch-free. I’d never be able to tell it had been used.
Decorate your ceremony site with colorful flowers that are artificial. Don’t spend tons of money on real flowers from a florist that will only last a few days. Shop at AC Moore or Michaels and find pretty artificial arrangements or make your own. Lace, greenery, vines, and artificial flowers that I used to decorate our Fort Fisher gazebo did not cost more than $100. The best thing is that I was able to take those mementos with me. I didn’t pack them in the garage either, I used them around the house. I have my bouquet made in an arrangement on top of my TV right now.
Everyone wants to rent a limo for their wedding. How long are you really riding in the limo? You rent it for $50 an hour (four hours being the minimum for a wedding), and you’re only really using it for maybe an hour the entire time. There are bridal packages from most all the Wilmington limo services for under $1000 if you absolutely have your heart set on having a limo.
An alternate option is to rent a car for the day. Fifty dollars an hour for a limo versus fifty dollars for a convertible you can drive around in all day! There are convertibles, SUVs, and even luxury foreign cars you can get.
I hope you come away with some good ideas after reading this article. Weddings can definitely get pricey, but it doesn’t have to if you put some of yourself into it. Don’t hire someone to do things that you can do, like create invitations, cook the reception foods, etc. If you have friends or family members with a special talent like photography or taking videos, get them to help out. You can certainly come away with a beautiful, remarkable wedding in Wilmington for under $5K!