Lisa and I started discussing our wedding plans about 8 seconds after I proposed (see proposal video HERE). Initially we were going to wait at least a year because everyone said that planning and budgeting take forever. I, however, think that everyone is just lazy and indecisive, so I gave us 3 months to plan the wedding, execute the ceremony, impregnate her, and have the baby. I’m typically pretty efficient so 90 days seemed like a reasonable period of time to make all of Lisa’s dreams come true by throwing out her shoes, putting a child inside of her, and allowing her to cook for me for all of eternity.
Here she is barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, as god (aka me) intended her to be.
After I allowed her to prepare my meal, I provided her the opportunity to clean the grout with a toothbrush.
Prior to this post-wedding romance, we had the wedding which you can read about HERE. This current post will break down how we pulled off a great Las Vegas wedding on a reasonable budget.
When we started planning I read somewhere that the average couple spends $30,000 on their wedding. I was determined to give Lisa the wedding that she wanted so I braced myself for a huge financial hit that would ultimately result in me selling a kidney to pay for it. Not my kidney, mind you. One of you dear readers would have been the unfortunate recipient of a Cosby-like drugging followed by a groggy awakening in a tub full of ice. I’d have felt guilty (for wasting all of that ice), but it’s only the best for my bride.
We were considering 125 guests, a lakeside venue, and the typical catering, DJ, dessert bar, photo booth, photographer, etc and so on and so forth. We already had most of it planned out when Lisa, reminding me of why she deserved an engagement ring in the first place, decided that she wanted a small wedding.
Me: Define small.
Her: We’re only inviting midgets.
Me: We will look super tall.
All of which would have been my preferred conversation, but what actually went down was a close second. She said that she just wanted to invite immediate family and our dearest friends who were already in the wedding party. Suddenly our guest count dropped by almost 100 and your organs came one step closer to not being harvested. As we further discussed the budgeting issue I offered up that Vegas was the
cheap wedding capital of the world, and that we could plan something that was both fun and affordable. Lisa gave me an enthusiastic “Yes!” so I unpacked my suitcase and canceled my one way ticket to Guatemala. The wedding was back on! It took all of 2 weeks to plan the entire thing and the grand total for the ceremony and subsequent celebratory components came to $4,970. Granted, that’s not including our hotel room because those were expensive upgrades that I treated us to and totally unnecessary. Since I could have opted for much cheaper accommodations, for a much shorter period of time, I’m not counting that against the total. You could get a decent room for 2 nights at $150/night and it would barely register against your total.
That’s right, $4,970 for an entire wedding not done Juggalo style in a trailer park with a 2 liter bottle of Faygo.
How, you ask, did I pull off this financial miracle? The way I pull off all of my miracles, with style, grace, and perfect hair. Let me break that down for you…
1) The Wedding Dress $300
The average amount a chick spends on a wedding dress is $1,281, or roughly a down payment on a Harley Davidson Fat Boy, so if your bride-to-be spends that or more she doesn’t love you. The average amount of time they take to choose the dress is roughly 654958485747 visits to wedding stores where she will spend 95% of that time crying because she feels fat and the other 5% crying from joy because she found her dream gown and is happy that you won’t be getting a motorcycle.
Lisa and I happened to be in Vegas after a Spartan Race when she suggested that we stop at a dress store she’d seen online. I waited outside so, should she find a dress, I wouldn’t see her in it and also because shopping for girl clothes makes me suicidal. Eight minutes later she texted me and said, “Come look at what I found,” because we’re clearly hung up on tradition. She tried on one dress, looked great. She tried on a second dress, looked amazing. We agreed that was the dress. With terror gripping me to the depths of my soul I asked her the dreaded question, “How much?” She said it was $300 and dropped the motherfucking mic on wedding dress shopping. We went to lunch less than 30 minutes after she went in search of her wedding dress and below is a photo of the most beautiful girl in the world in her $300 wedding dress. Below that is my Harley Davidson Fat Boy.
My wife took this picture of me sitting on the cost of your wedding.
2) The Wedding Rings $245
Given that Lisa already had a magnificent engagement ring with a beautiful blood diamond to show off, she didn’t want an expensive band for the ceremony. I had to drag her to the jewelry store and force one on her that cost around $200. She returned it the next day and found one for $20. Yes, $20. That’s two tanks of gas for my Harley and a strong indication that this marriage might actually work out. My ring, on the other hand, was $225. It’s made of Tungsten which is forged from the tongue meat of dwarves that eat metal and shit lava rocks. In the store it was $300 so I searched online to save a few bucks by buying from the dwarves directly.
3) Groom’s Outfit $175
I Googled outfits until I found one I liked then simply went to Macy’s and pieced together what I saw in the photo, albeit in different colors. Guys do not have to spend a lot of money to look good if they are already as good looking as I am. If they aren’t well, doesn’t really matter what they wear, does it. My outfit is simple, stylish, and I can utilize it again and again and again given that I wear dress pants and a tie for weddings and funerals exclusively. By the way, please don’t ever invite me to your wedding or a funeral because I find them both equally painful to attend. However, should I attend, I will look smooth as fuck.
4) “Rehearsal” Dinner $550
Our ceremony was so small and simple so we didn’t require an actual rehearsal. However, I wanted to take our family and friends out the night before the wedding so that everyone who didn’t know each other could meet in a relaxed environment. Hence, we had a “rehearsal” dinner. A major mistake that most people make in Vegas is being afraid to leave the Strip and dine where the locals eat. Lisa and I try to explore the less touristy areas whenever we travel, so on a previous trip to LV we found this little dive-y Ethiopian restaurant called Merkato. It had over 100 reviews and 4 stars on Yelp which means that very few people have died of food poisoning there, a good sign. It was the perfect place to have our dinner because it was cost effective, had great food, and the communal style of eating forced everyone to interact and share their Ebola with the other guests. Not everyone loved the meal but they all pretended to enjoy the experience which is all that truly matters. The staff at Merkato went out of their way to accommodate our party and treated us to a great time without charging us an exorbitant amount of money. I owe them a rating and review on Yelp which will literally be a game changer for them, because my writing is so magnificent. Incidentally, this dinner was also where I revealed the gender of my baby which you can read about HERE.
5) The Venue $650
Vegas has countless venues, both indoor and out, that are awesome and reasonably priced. The trick is to stay off of the strip and out of the hotels as they will beat you, mug you, and psychologically traumatize you when it comes to having a wedding there. We looked at a number of outdoor venues in the park system like Valley Of Fire, Red Rock, etc, and they were all nice. The only issues were the driving distance and that they didn’t have any amenities like a music system, decor, or a bathroom. Although we didn’t want a traditional ceremony, we did want a little bit of infrastructure so that we could customize our venue. On the way back from scoping out Valley Of Fire, Lisa found a place online called The Grove. We drove straight there to check it out and she was instantly in love. They had multiple outdoor areas for a ceremony each with its own unique setup. They had a wedding gazebo, a little pond-side area, and the best one, the almond orchard. The orchard had a long brick pathway lined with almond trees and at the end was a little altar with grassy areas on either side for seating. I liked it well enough but Lisa decided on the spot that this was it. As always, the romantic side of me immediately kicked in and I demanded to know the cost. The packages for ceremony and reception were probably cheaper than most places but still ran in the thousand of dollars. We only wanted to have our ceremony there which came with one major restriction. If you weren’t holding your reception at The Grove you could only have a morning time slot for your ceremony. The good news was that the cost for doing so was $550! The other good news is that Lisa and I are morning people so 9am was perfect for us. The goodest news is that our guests had to drag their lazy asses out of bed early as shit on a Saturday morning in Vegas but we don’t care because fuck them! When we learned that a limo, photographer, even chairs, were included in that price, I immediately produced my credit card and paid in full for our venue before anyone changed their mind. The reason my total up top is $650 rather than $550 is because they only give you 30 minutes for your ceremony. We added 30 additional minutes to allow for more pictures with our guests which was well worth it. The day of our wedding the sun was shining, temperature was in the high 60’s, and our discount venue looked like a million bucks. Check out these pics. BTW, those sheets in the trees aren’t bandanges or giant rolls of TP, they’re decorative.
6) Photographer $100
The photographer is included with the venue price but since we extended our time we had to shell out a little additional for that as well. The venue package only included 25 photos so the additional $100 came with 15 more shots for a total of 40. It wasn’t easy to narrow down the 200+ pics to our favorite 40 since we look so good in all of them but we managed. Truth be told, we weren’t too invested in these pics other than the fact that they’d include friends and family. We had a shoot scheduled for the Monday following our wedding with our good friend Leyna of Yellow Heart Photography and those were the ones we really wanted. So I guess the $100 for a photographer was kind of a cheat, but if you have a friend who’s an amazing photographic artist ask them to do a shoot for you as a wedding gift.
7) Coffee/Donuts $100
Since we gleefully decided to torture our guests with a 9am wedding (wake up bitches!), we wanted to offer up a little treat to take the edge off. I suggested that we hose them all down with cold water as they arrived but Lisa is all uptight and wanted to provide them with refreshments. I say that nothing is more refreshing than an early morning ice bath but she vetoed that awesomeness. Instead, guests arrived to a table decorated with our likeness (courtesy of artist Callow Lilly) along with Starbucks coffee, freshly squeezed-out-of-a-carton orange juice, and donuts. We considered using disposable mugs but wanted to class it up (because I exude class and elegance) so we found these vintage looking mugs at Ross. Unfortunately, the Ross we found them at only had 8, and we need well over 30, so we went to five different Ross locations in order to complete our set. Acquiring these mugs took more effort than planning and executing the entire remainder of the wedding and Las Vegas weekend, plus I got my quota of white trash shopping for the decade.
8) Reception Brunch $1,700
When you decide to do a morning wedding the reception meal is infinitely less complicated because brunch. Although I’m typically not a fan of buffets, we’d heard great things about The Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. I wasn’t sold on even entertaining it as an option until I read an article entitled, “Could A Vegas Buffet Be One Of America’s Best Restaurants?” After that I knew we had to check it out, so Lisa and I went there and half-way through our first plate we were in. It was a no-brainer. Not only was the food amazing but everyone could gorge themselves until they puked on all types of delicious food for a very reasonable cost per person. The national average to feed your wedding guests is $66 per person or roughly one “6” short of satan himself taking a dump on your plate. And, I think most would agree, wedding food generally sucks. I’m not saying that it’s all terrible, but how many times have you attended even a high end wedding and said, “Boy! This chicken and green beans is the bomb!”? Also, how many times have you preceded any statement with “Boy!” unless you are one of the original Little Rascals?
We fed all of our people for a mere $35 per person and they raved about the food. Granted, they may have still been starving after avoiding the Ethiopian food the night before but oh well. You’ll never give so many people so many options for such high quality food as your able to at a solid Vegas buffet. Plus, brunch is considerably cheaper than dinner so feed those fat fuckers during the day, it’s worth it.
9) Wedding Assistant $150
We needed someone to pick up, then set up, our coffee and donuts the morning of the wedding. So I put out an ad on Craigslist and got close to 100 submissions for assistants. I included in the ad that someone with a nice camera and shooting ability would get priority consideration, ensuring that I’d get some extra photos or video. We didn’t care to pay an outrageous amount for a videographer but we thought it would be nice to have some moving pictures if possible. The girl we ultimately chose, Alexa, has a burgeoning photo business aptly called Alexa Takes Photos, so we got double our monies worth. She met up with us the day before the wedding, collected all of our table decorations, a little petty cash, and instructions on what to do the next morning. The day of the wedding she picked up the coffee and donuts, set it all up, took beautiful video of the ceremony, and cleaned up the entire place before we left. She was courteous, reliable, and did exactly what we asked all with a great attitude. If you need a girl Friday for anything you do out there she’s the one to call. You can see an example of the video she shot with my niece’s singing performance HERE.
10) Transportation $600
Because we had an early ceremony off the strip and away from the hotels, followed by a brunch at a different location, we didn’t want anyone to be hassled with driving. Undoubtedly, people would have gotten lost, been late to the ceremony, had trouble parking for brunch, and basically been a pain in my ass. As such, I decided to avoid me going in to a murderous rage and booked a bus to cart everyone around. It wasn’t cheap but it was well worth it. The morning of the wedding everyone met at our hotel in a designated area. Everyone except Lisa and her girls, that is, because they were picked up at another entrance by the limo that came with our venue package. The bus carted everyone comfortably to the venue where they disembarked to find the coffee/donuts we’d provided (I am so thoughtful). After the ceremony we took pics then the entire group re-boarded the bus to head to brunch, except for Lisa and I who rode in the limo. Once brunch was over the entire lot of us, practically catatonic at that point, were dropped back at our hotel to gamble and/or nap. Although the expense of the bus seems unnecessary, it made the entire day flow smoothly, on schedule, and with no hassle incurred by the guests. Without it they’d have had to get up early, drive to a hard-to-find venue 30 minutes from their hotel; then drive back to a hotel on the strip; valet their car; have lunch; then wait in line for their car and drive themselves back. Spring for a bus you cheap bastards.
11) Reception Party $0
The brunch was the reception meal, but we also wanted to have some type of “party”. Obviously that wasn’t going to take place during the day so we freed our guests after lunch to rest up for the nights festivities. There are countless clubs, shows, and entertainment prospects in Vegas but we wanted something that suited both our personalities and our budget. The Bourbon Room in The Venetian Hotel fit all of our requirements and then some. First and foremost, it’s an 80’s hair metal themed rock n’ roll bar that gets started at 9pm with a brief performance by it’s host Marvelous Mark. Mark is a shirtless, bedazzled cross between Brett Michaels and a comedian doing his 3rd open mic. He’s cheesy as hell but funny-adjacent and gets the crowd involved in the show. Secondly, this place is right off the casino floor, has no cover charge, and plenty of seating. As you can see, we’ve covered the wedding DJ, the music, and the venue for exactly $0.00 so far. The music is the icing on the cake because they played everything from Poison and Prince, and from Motley Crue to Morris Day. It was like they let me pick the playlist.
Now, this is the part where some people might differ in their way of thinking but, since Lisa and I don’t drink, we didn’t pay for the bar. It was cash only and everyone could indulge as they saw fit. That cut out a major expense that would have changed our budget entirely. One thing to keep in mind is that doing a “reception party” this way means you’ll miss out on a few things such as the traditional first dance,
idiotic heartfelt toasts, and whatever other various happenings that are standard at a reception. Fortunately, Lisa and I didn’t require those things for our night to be special. Our family and best friends surrounded us and everyone seemed to be having a great time. In fact, most of them were still there when our tired asses left to head up to our room for the night. Oh, I forgot to mention that we stayed at The Palazzo, which is adjacent to The Venetian, so we walked down to our reception and back to our room. Some of our guests stayed there as well, while others stayed across the street at the perfectly suitable Treasure Island where they saved a ton of money. Either way, the evening festivities were easy and accessible. Anyone that wasn’t feeling the vibe could take 10 steps out into the casino and do a little gambling and free drinking if they desired. This completed our effort to provide our guests with a fun weekend, make our events convenient, and to give them the freedom to do their own thing if the wanted to. It was no dollars well spent.
12) Photo Shoot Venue $400
Finally, we did spend a little on the venue for our post-wedding photo shoot, but we wanted to do it somewhere cool since we had such a great photographer at our disposal. Leyna had suggested The Neon Museum which is the perfect spot for us. It’s a graveyard of old Vegas signs so it’s the perfect combination of vintage junk-cool and historical significance. I won’t even go on about how amazingly beautiful the photography is and how incredibly perfect we look on camera because we are so unbelievably good looking, so just check out the photos in my Facebook album.
So that’s that. Again, keep in mind that I didn’t list the hotel cost because we chose to stay 5 nights in a luxury suite which is an unnecessary expense. You could easily arrive in Vegas on Friday morning, stay two nights in a decent $150/night hotel, then leave on Sunday. I didn’t include it in the budget because it’s up to you what you spend on accommodations in that city. You can stay at the Hooters Hotel for $29/night if you want. Also, I didn’t include airfare because we live in LA so we drove. If you have to fly it’s only because you live somewhere stupid rather than in Southern California where the weather is perfect and the earthquakes occasionally weed out the weakest among us. I also didn’t include tips and incidentals but you can figure that out yourself unless you went to public school in the South, in which case you can’t read this either.
The point is, you can do a really nice wedding for a fraction of the average cost if you step outside the box and throw “tradition” out the window. We decided to keep our guest list small so that we could share our wedding with those closest to us, but with this budget you can scale up pretty easily. If you think about it, the only cost that goes up with more guests is the brunch, so figure roughly $35 per additional person. Even if you add 30 – 50 more people you’d still be exponentially lower in cost than the average wedding.
Remember, when you plan your wedding it’s not about spending the most money on the most extravagant things. It’s about you, as a couple, enjoying one of the most important moments of your life with the people you love. Make it fun, make it memorable, but make it yours. Then go home and buy a goddamn motorcycle because you’re a man and no woman is ever going to tell you what you can or cannot do. That’s what love is all about.