Wedding costs are so incredibly specific to your area that unless you read about someone’s experience who got married in the same town/city as you, you won’t really be able to glean that much from their experience.
That being said if you get married in Los Angeles (Santa Monica) you can do it for under 5k. In Beverly Hills that will get your guest catered, maybe. The three biggest components that shaved off money for me were:
- Number of guests: this was easily the biggest factor, and also allows some of your other cost-saving measures to be feasible. If you host ~35 people at your wedding.
- Timing: Get married on a Monday. This alone could accounted for 50% of our savings. Because it was during a weekday, your reception venue may give you a discount, and your photographer might give you a rebate was well since it is a dead time for them. Talk to the photographer about it. I once spoke with a photographer who said that she gets non-weekend/non-Friday weddings about once every two YEARS, which was why the discount was so worth it for her. She is a very successful and well-known photographer in my area.
- Venue: Because there were only a few dozen people, you are able to get married anywhere, even on a beach for free. Make sure that you contact city officials and have them confirm that you gathering is allowed, in most cases the cost is nothing since you won’t need a permit. Find a party company and rent chairs and tables from them to be set up at the venue, again a Monday wedding will save you big.
- Decorations/party favors: Spend the time making the decorations that you will need for the reception by hand, or ordering things from places that don’t normally do wedding business (which brought down prices dramatically). For example, you can order pens to give away in bulk from an unsuspecting company stationery supply company. Instead of a guestbook considers something a little niftier. For example you can purchase blank jigsaw puzzles online, then lay them out at the reception location, your guests can draw and sign. Then together on our 1 year anniversary you can re-assemble the puzzle.
There’s more, but those are the big ones.