Alicia, Medical Laboratory Scientist at A large hospital & Marco, Audio/Video Specialist at A major ad agency
ONE SENTENCE SUM-UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: A super intimate, entirely planned online, DIY’d, semi-destination, family-centered celebration.
Planned Budget: $5,000
Actual Budget: Approximately $4,000 (excluding rings)
Number of Guests: 13
Where we allocated the most funds
Photography: Marco and I are photography hobbyists, so we placed great importance on the photography aspect of our big day. We wanted a natural creative who could vividly capture the look, feel, and emotion of the day in true fashion (no awkward poses, please). When Bri and I connected online, I could see that her approach was exactly what I envisioned, but I feared that her amazing work was outside of our budget. Luckily, since our wedding was very small and pretty simple (no extra fluff worth eight-plus hours of coverage), Bri worked with me to create a package to fit our needs. Looking at our shots, I feel like I should probably send her another check!
Food: Having good food (and lots of it) at our post-nuptial dinner was non-negotiable. We ended up going with delivered catering from Maggiano’s, which was absolutely delicious. The assortment of delectables, plus delivery and set-up, ended up being about $40 per person, which is still well below national average and extremely reasonable considering there were only fifteen of us. This allowed us to be able to put in a little extra to hire a couple of professional wait staffers to give our guests special table-side treatment.
Where we allocated the least funds
Flowers and decoration: We’re not big flower people and could never in our wildest dreams justify spending a small fortune on them. I did know that I still wanted to carry a bridal bouquet, so I figured I was certainly crafty enough to make my own. Armed with the tips from Meg’s grocery store bouquet post, Marco and I went to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and spent about $40 on bundles of whatever looked fresh and pretty (ranunculus, Gerbera daisies, spray roses, button poms, etc.). I stayed up a little later than I probably should have the night before the wedding and made my bouquet (I think it turned out great for a first-timer). We put the extra flowers in vintage milk glass vases that my mom collected and used them as centerpieces. We didn’t do much else for decoration and just let the venue stand on its own.
Cake: Along with a tasty dinner, having a delicious wedding cake was very important to us. Luckily Publix Super Markets are renowned for their delicious, professional, and affordable wedding cakes. We were able to get a beautiful three-tiered vanilla/fresh strawberry/marble/cannoli/cream cheese creation for a little over $200.
What was totally worth it
Keeping the guest list small and family only: From the day Marco and I were engaged, we both knew that we wanted a wedding celebration that was intimate and meaningful, allowing us to be fully engrossed in the moment and not distracted by anything else. We also knew that we wanted only those closest to us to be present, spreading nothing but love, positivity, and genuine well wishes during such a pivotal moment in our relationship. Deciding on an “immediate family only” wedding was a huge decision, leaving out a lot of our friends who had become like family over the years. Luckily, those same friends seemed to be very understanding to what we were trying to achieve and still sent lots of love. As for the family members who were present, many felt like our wedding was like a small family reunion. Knowing how much they enjoyed the day confirmed that we made the right decision.
Writing our own ceremony: A traditional scripted wedding ceremony was just never going to work for us because there were so many interesting, non-traditional things we wanted to include, and lots of traditional language we wanted to exclude. I did a lot of researching and rather enjoyed crafting a ceremony that was uniquely ours, including both traditional and personal vows, a hand ceremony, ring warming, and mothers’ prayer.
What was totally not worth it
Stressing about keeping the guest list small and family only: Small, intimate weddings are not the norm around here, so most people do not know how to approach them. At some moments during planning, we were faced with guests placing wedding industry norms onto our non-traditional wedding. In turn, I stressed a bit about the disconnect between what we were planning and what others were expecting. Looking back, it was definitely not worth it to give those things so much energy; my future husband and I were confident in what we wanted, so I should have always focused on what mattered to us and not the expectations of others.
Sweating the small stuff: For our ring warming ceremony, I found and ordered the cutest little Limoges trinket box shaped like a French macaron in the same color as my dress. Of course it didn’t arrive in time before we left for Atlanta. I was pretty disappointed because it was so cute and photo-worthy, so we spent a lot of unnecessary time driving around trying to find an adequate replacement. I decided upon a little sparkly box that didn’t feel as special, but it really didn’t matter because the ring warming was so quick and no one seemed to really study the box! No one ever really cares about that small stuff as much as you.
A few things that helped us along the way
Since I planned the entire wedding from afar via the Internet, I was helped tremendously by online classifieds like Craigslist and wedding blogs and forums like APW and Wedding Bee. I researched for months and was able to find excellent online resources for all of our vendors and was pleased with every single one we hired.
My best practical advice for my planning self
I wish I could go back and tell myself that it is okay to let go and allow others to assist. At the time, my resistance to help was a tiny bit about relinquishing control, and a whole lot about not wanting to be a bother. I’ve realized now that a lot of people, especially loving family members, do genuinely want to relieve you of stress and responsibility when you’re self-planning such a major event. Accept the help.
Our wedding was so unique in a variety of ways, definitely a labor of love and thinking outside the box. We currently live in Virginia but thought it would be a lot easier to bring the wedding to our families who were all living further south, so our biggest hurdle was planning everything hundreds of miles away. We decided upon Atlanta for the close proximity to all of our guests (an hour and a half drive), the ease of travel for us (a quick direct flight), and the abundance of resources provided in the metro area.
I planned everything according to what I could find online, relying heavily on posting ads on various sites. I really had to trust my instincts with emails, photos, and telephone conversations because I wasn’t able to meet face-to-face with any of the vendors until less than two weeks out from the wedding! It was an absolute blessing that every single vendor was AMAZING, from the jazz soloist and keyboardist who agreed to perform whatever we wanted for the ceremony, to the officiant who was completely open to a customized ceremony. I am still in awe that everything went so well, all on a budget we could reach in our pockets and pay right off.
Favorite thing about the wedding
If I had to narrow down to one moment, it would be sitting at the reception table with our families surrounding us. We set the tables up like a big Sunday dinner (which it technically was) where everyone could see and talk with each other. Everyone seemed so comfortable and relaxed, both of our families mixing and mingling, all laughing and joking, all in a festive mood. It was such a great feeling. This is what it was all about.