Here’s how I planned my tiny Charlotte wedding for under $8,000

Here’s how I planned my tiny Charlotte wedding for under $8,000
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(Hayley is a dog​-obsessed wedding photographer​, entrepreneur and event planner)

Almost two years ago, I was in your shoes. Newly engaged and overwhelmed, I put off wedding planning for a few months.

Out of practicality and impatience, we decided in June that we should have our wedding before the end of the year.

It turns out that there aren’t as many resources available to brides who want to have an intimate wedding in Charlotte. I had to do a lot of research on my own to find a budget-friendly location.

Sure, there are charming venues like the Duke Mansion and The Van Landingham Estate that accommodate an “intimate” wedding of 100, but by Southern standards, our wedding would be almost non-existent.

[Agenda story: Southern Swagger at the Duke Mansion: 100 Years of money, power, and socialites]
[Agenda story: 11 photo tour of Plaza Midwood’s VanLandingham Estate, listed at $5.1 million]

I knew that I wanted a cozy space for up to 35 guests that would be neither too cramped nor too large.


One of my first discoveries was that most wedding venues have a minimum to spend (especially on a Saturday), regardless of how many guests you have.

This makes business sense for the venue, but a rental fee of $2,000+ wouldn’t make sense for us.

My next thought was, “How about a restaurant?”

Many Charlotte restaurants have private rooms they use for rehearsal dinners, so why not our wedding reception? Since we weren’t setting up a DJ or dance floor, a private room would work perfectly for us.

Plus, the rental fees are usually just a few hundred dollars, in addition to a food and drink minimum.



After deciding to have our reception at a restaurant, I narrowed down our options based on availability, menu offerings and aesthetic. One of the special things about having a small wedding is that your food options really open up.

Instead of your standard wedding buffet, restaurants will often customize a plated dinner menu just for you.

Once we chose Heist Brewery as our reception location and met with the General Manager, Spencer Farrell, they worked with us to create a custom Italian menu not available regularly – that made us feel extra special.

In addition to securing a reception space, we wanted an outdoor ceremony where our dog was a welcome guest. The most budget-friendly, beautiful option was at the Independence Park Rose Garden, available through Mecklenburg Parks & Rec., which cost us under $200.

Our 33-Person Wedding Cost Breakdown

  • Heist Saturday Library Room rental – $500
  • Food and two hours open bar with tip – $2,500
  • Cake – $50
  • Flowers & arrangement supplies – $350
  • Dress & shoes – $500 (sold later)
  • Suit & shoes – $700
  • Garden rental – $125
  • Officiant – $125
  • Ceremony coordinator – $200
  • Chair Rental – $175 (my brother paid & picked up)
  • My hair and make-up artist – $200 (wedding day + trial)
  • Paper goods – $50
  • Thrifted candle holders – $30
  • Photographer & his travel – $2,050 (4 hours)


Here are some other options to explore for an intimate wedding in a big, Southern wedding city like Charlotte:

  • St. Mary’s Chapel
  • Heist Brewery
  • Sugar Creek Brewing
  • The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
  • McGill Rose Garden (open to public w/ free admission, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
  • Your backyard
  • Bentley’s on 27
  • The Dunhill Hotel
  • Dressler’s Restaurant
  • Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
  • Carpe Diem Restaurant
  • Bonterra
  • The Fig Tree
  • 5 Church

Sure, Charlotte has a bunch of gorgeous venues for large, elaborate weddings – but if you look close enough, our city is also a perfect spot for tiny <35 person weddings.

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