On September 4th, 2016 Jon and I put it on paper and threw a party like never before. Really that’s all it was. We wanted a wedding that truly celebrated who we are, individually and as a couple, our love for each other, and all the amazing people in our lives as well though!
While I thrive on planning and decorating and cooking and hosting – the list goes on and on – I did not want to give in to the trap of incorporating certain things just because it’s tradition. So much of the culture around wedding planning has, in my humble opinion, diluted what it’s really all about! Two people, committing their lives to each other and their community coming together to celebrate that commitment. All too often that beautiful focus is lost in the sea of invoices, appointments, budgets and fulfilling the never ending list of traditions and expectations.
So, in case you’re curious, here’s how we did it…
Set measurable goals for yourself.
Figure out what your priorities are first. For us, the biggest priority was a beautiful and flexible venue. The prettier the venue, the less we’d have to decorate; the more flexible the rules at said venue, the less money we’d spend trying to jump through hoops. We eventually chose to rent a six bedroom home in Gatlinburg, TN.
Maybe for you the most important thing is the honeymoon, the photographer, or the food. Talk about it and reach a compromise before making any big decisions.
Now you can set goals based on your priorities. Being able to measure your goals is important to being able to hold yourself to them, especially with budgeting. Here are the main goals we set for ourselves:
- Keep the budget under $10,000
- Spread out the planning as much as possible to avoid stress
- Spend more time and less money
- Keep attendance under 100 people
- Write our own ceremony and vows
We were able to meet all of these goals, and it was all because our community of generous and talented friends and family surrounded and supported us in making it happen.
For our bachelor/ette parties we went out for dinner with a small group of close friends and our two parties met up at one of our favorite bars after dinner. We had a cookout at the venue for the rehearsal dinner. A family friend and one of my biggest heroes came in to coordinate for me and I didn’t worry about a thing! My mom, mother-in-law, grandmother, bridesmaids and friends helped with decorating and set-up, one friend in particular put together all the floral arrangements, and my aunts led the army that prepared all of the hors d’oeuvres. All hail the matriarchy! My brother walked down the street from the rental house where everything was held to ask a neighbor if we could borrow a weed-eater! Other friends of ours also helped according to their own talents: one friend who works for a wine distributor gifted us a case of wine, another (Shane Hunter) did the photography, another did my makeup and help my bridesmaids with theirs, and yet another friend last minute offered to come do videography for us which we were planning to skip altogether!
The most overwhelmingly beautiful thing about that weekend was knowing how much love our friends and family put in to make it happen. It wouldn’t have been nearly as meaningful to us if we had simply paid a bunch of strangers to do everything for us. And the most important thing? Everyone had SO much fun! There was way too much food (which both the mothers had worried about) and the kegs and wine ran out just when they needed to haha! We played music off of my computer through a sound system that my brother-in-law loaned us and danced on the patio under lights my dad, grandfather, and brother were able to string up. It was all beautiful. Perfect really if you ask me. 🙂
Some cool things we did that I would recommend for EVERYONE:
- Rent a house – NOT a “venue” Doing this ended up being about the same price as getting a venue, but we got it for four days instead of one! This also gave us a ton of freedom when it came to decorating, food, and booze. We weren’t limited to a venue’s requirements for a caterer, bartender, florist or photographer which happens often. Talk about a money saver. PLUS we got to stay there the whole weekend.
- Kegs, cases, and Costco. When it came to food and booze, we saved a ton of money by buying and prepping the food ourselves. My aunts and a couple friends helped with prepping it all, but I planned the menu and specified the shopping list. All in all we ended up spending around $700 for food for the whole weekend, and we had WAY too much honestly. (That price doesn’t including the cake.) While the majority of the food came from Costco, we also purchased some items from Aldi and Gordon’s.
- Alter your mother’s dress. Yup, I went there. I understand that not everyone can do this, but I only spent $350 for a custom veil and major alterations to a lace neckline and sleeves. And it looked gorgeous. Other than that I spent $20 on a pair of sandals at Target that I still wear and $15 on a pair of earrings at a boutique and viola! I did get lucky because I’m practically a carbon copy of my mom and there were no changes to the size or hem needed, but I’m so glad I did it!
- Don’t do tuxes. Just don’t. It’s expensive, you have to return them, and they will all be miserable wearing them. My husband picked out the same pair of pants for our groomsmen to buy, asked them to wear brown shoes and a white shirt, and gifted their ties and suspenders to them. It was all pretty simple if you don’t count my husband toiling over what he wanted. ❤
- Don’t squish all your bridesmaids into the same dress. I think this is just mean… to each their own but… not all women are built the same. I specified the length and color at David’s Bridal and asked them to confirm with me before they bought it just in case I hated the style or something, which I never did. Because I did this, two of my bridesmaids were even able to buy second hand dresses for way cheaper!
- Buy your flowers wholesale! Everyone knows someone that can throw a flower arrangement together like nobody’s business. And boy did I! I bought all of our flowers at Costco, some online and some in store. Altogether I spent $250 on our flowers plus some small expenses for things like ribbon, floral tape, wire, and foam.
- DIY people!!! Some things we did ourselves? I made chalkboard signs, wine bottle tiki torches, and put together our guest book in a gorgeous blank leather book my mother-in-law bought for us. My husband made seed packets for our favors by printing the labels on blank seed packets and harvesting seeds from plants he propagated himself. My father-in-law built an arbor for us that was masterful. My mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and myself all brought decor items and serving-ware from home. My grandmother made a silk flower arrangement for the the foyer. AND we made our own invitations!!! I purchased 200 blank invitations that had envelopes, R.S.V.P. cards, and pretty little silver stickers for $13. My husband painted a watercolor mountain scene that we then scanned in for the background, then I designed the the text and hand wrote the addresses with a calligraphy pen.
There were a lot of ways that we could have done things even more affordably and opted not to, but ultimately I think that we successfully planned and hosted a wedding that we feel genuinely shared our love for each other and the values we share as a couple with our friends and family. That is what made it perfect for us. Check out the pictures below and feel free to ask questions or share your wedding planning wisdom in the comments!
Decor & Venue
Photo Credit: Shane Hunter