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How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K


Short, sweet, and full of love

Ellie & Chris 

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: Intimate and heart-felt ceremony, short and sweet reception.

Planned Budget: $1,500

Actual Budget: $2,000

Number of Guests: 30

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

Our Story

Chris swept me off my feet during winter break at my university. We met, of all places, at a bank where he worked. After an exchange of a few emails, he asked me out for coffee. I remember sitting across from him in this cozy little pub, thinking how at ease I felt, and I had this strange feeling wash over me that “this is what being on a date with your husband would feel like.” Comfortable, intelligent conversation. Witty jokes, unpretentious chatter. It felt right.

We dated for two years, during which time I met Chris’s incredible daughters from his previous marriage. Those two tweens are my sassy little angels, and it’s been an honor getting to step in and co-parent them as they transition from little girls into little women.

Near our two-year dating anniversary, a large mass was found in my abdomen. Surgery was required. Chris and I were scared, because the lump was so large and showed a complex structure that lead to a chance it could be cancer. Two long months passed between discovering the mass and having it removed, during which time we didn’t know what we were facing. It gave Chris and me a lot of time to talk about our lives, and the night before surgery, acknowledging that minuscule chance that always exists that something could go wrong on the operating table, I forced myself to say goodbye to my best friend. I told him what I would want from him if I wasn’t beside him anymore. We wept together.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

Just a few hours after surgery we got the news that the mass didn’t appear cancerous, and we’d have the official results in a few days. The mass hadn’t spread, however, which was a good sign. I was sewn up with one less ovary, but for now, I would live. What a strange thing, to face the possibility of the end of your life. The next few days in the hospital with Chris were long and surreal. The recovery process back home was painful but problem-free.

The whole experience was four months long, from discovery to recovery. In that time, Chris and I had a lot of time to think about what it meant to be committed to one another. Sickness and health and all. It felt wrong to be facing scary surgeries as boyfriend and girlfriend, it felt so impermanent. We even considered marrying each other unceremoniously before the surgery. After the surgery we were certain marriage was for us. Chris proposed, and we were married two months later. After everything we’d recently faced together, a long engagement wasn’t the right way to go. So we left out everything that didn’t feel sincere, and did just our thing.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the most funds

Our photographer. Originally Chris didn’t even want a photographer, dismissing the importance of having images of our wedding day. We argued about it for a while, and even though we got Raven for a great deal (she gave us an APW discount, plus worked with us since we only needed her for two hours), Chris wasn’t super excited about having a photographer. He hated being in pictures as a kid and still hated it now. He said it felt uncomfortable and awkward, unnecessary. So it was important to me that I found a unique photographer who would take more candid shots and had the right personality. After working with Raven, and especially after seeing the pictures, my husband was shocked he ever argued about it, and is so happy with the result.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the least funds

The wedding party. The flower girls, Chris’ daughters, got some new shirts and accessories to wear, but the rest of their outfit came from their closet. I asked my bridesmaids also to wear something from their closets, and had them carry books containing elements from the ceremony rather than flowers—we’re all avid readers. One had a section cut out for our wedding rings, another had a section cut out for the necklaces I was giving to my new stepdaughters during my vows to them, and another contained our vows. Oh, and my veil, which was fifteen dollars on Etsy and I still wear around the house.

Also, our wedding rings. My engagement ring is from amazon.com and cost a whopping $110. My husband’s wedding band was ten dollars, and my wedding band (made from stainless steel and lab-created gems) cost, I shit you not, A DOLLAR. And I adore it.

Decor was practically free. Since we were in an art gallery, we hardly did any extra decor. Our venue set up chairs the night before, and I set up three arrangements of carnations and baby’s breath (about seven dollars) in vases from my house, along with some doilies (one dollar) on stands around the gallery, along with frames from the thrift store (fifteen dollars) containing little stories about our love story. That’s it. Oh, and some balloons that were supposed to go outside and someone stuck by the altar. Shit happens, you just gotta laugh.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

What was totally worth it

My bouquet and my dress. I bought flowers in bulk from a large flower seller, since I’d worked in a flower shop before, and made my own bouquet. I bought some extra carnations, and decided last minute to throw together some boutonnières for my family members to wear. That special touch cost me less than ten dollars, but I think it meant a ton to everyone to have that little extra something from me. My dress was a close second for the most expensive thing, coming in around $500, but I absolutely adored that dress. I wore it after the wedding on our ten-hour road-trip to Washington, D.C., stopping for barbecue in South Carolina.

What was totally not worth it

Sending out fancy invitations ordered online. Sure, some of my friends my own age probably got some Pinterest-style jealousy, but the announcements, invites, and shipping cost over seventy five dollars, and I just don’t think I got seventy five dollars worth out of it. I ended up sending out some additional invites online and they were just as cute.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

A few things that helped us along the way

Some family drama arose amidst the planning, and I read somewhere online an advice column about making sure you’re not addressing ANY element about your wedding more than your vows. After I read that, I spent a good ten minutes everyday re-reading my vows, re-writing them, reviewing them with my husband, and practicing them out loud. It made the whole planning process feel much more sacred.

Our officiant was also incredible. She went above and beyond her call, helping me write and edit the whole ceremony.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

My best practical advice for my planning self

Don’t let anyone other than you and your future-spouse tell you how to do your wedding. So what if it’s a Wednesday morning? So what if it’s a standing reception? So what if the only beverage is champagne and sparkling cider? So what? It’s your wedding, it’s your day, and nobody else cares as much as you do. Nope, not even your family, not even your best friend. And if they do, their priorities are not where they should be. Don’t let outside voices affect the way you want to enter into your marriage.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

Favorite thing about the wedding

How offbeat it was while still maintaining a classic feel. Wednesday morning, non-religious, not even spiritual, no cocktail hour—just ninety minutes start to finish (including ceremony, reception, and pictures after). I absolutely loved how genuine it felt, and how everything reflected both me and my partner.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

Other Thoughts

I thought people would care about wedding programs and a guestbook, so last minute I ordered some postcards for a “unique” guestbook, and typed up some programs. But you know what? I don’t think anyone even cared about that. I was so concerned with people thinking of my two-months-engaged, Wednesday-morning, tiny wedding as not quite legitimate that I did some things just to prove myself. But you know what? The personal things that I had in my heart the whole time counted the most. I pasted pictures from my friends’ weddings that would be there to a red poster-board and wrote a little message of thanks to them for all the inspiration and encouragement, and they were all FLOORED. It cost less than two dollars, but meant the world to those people.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding

I also want to mention that my husband’s family didn’t come to the wedding. Not because they didn’t love us (they’re our biggest fans), but because they lived in Illinois, and it was kind of last minute, and on a weekday. And that was all okay. It was also my husband’s second marriage, and he is in his thirties. Most of his friends are seeing more divorces than marriages—weddings just don’t mean the same to divorced or single men in their thirties and that’s okay. That’s why Chris didn’t have any groomsmen, by the way. For him, standing at the altar with his daughters on his side said a lot about where he was in life, and that was a very heartfelt and personal decision that he made. I just want people to know that it’s okay to do the guest thing differently, to acknowledge what makes your situation unique, no matter what.

How We: Planned an Intimate, Weekday Wedding for $2K | A Practical Wedding


The Info:

Photographer: Raven Shutley APW Sponsor | Location: Lawrenceville, GA | Venue: The Lona Gallery | Ellie’s Dress and Necklace: David’s Bridal | Veil: Etsy | Chris’s Tuxedo and Socks: Men’s Wearhouse | Bakery: Blue Rooster on the Square | Officiant: Hannah Hill (Note from Ellie: She worked with us to do a completely non-religious, non-spiritual ceremony.) | Wedding Rings: Amazon | Honeymoon Registry: Traveler’s Joy | Announcements, Invites, and Guestbook Postcards: Zazzle

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  • Emily

    This is awesome and beautiful! I especially loved what you said about focusing on the vows more than any other part of the wedding. Also, the only bridal party that we had were his daughters (my now step-daughters) and I felt very honored that they were willing to stand up there with us. Thank you for sharing!

  • vegankitchendiaries

    I just loooooved reading this How We Did It – it sucked me right in!! I always cheer extra hard for folk who pull off a beautiful wedding on a budget. Guys, look at these pictures! It’s EVERY BIT as gorgeous and meaningful as any $60k wedding!

    If the bride is reading this, please tell your step-daughters that they look OH SO COOL with those fingerless gloves :)

    • eenie

      I enjoyed learning what items cost a dollar! Because damn that’s impressive.

    • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

      Bride here:) Thanks so much! Yeah, I’m continuously shocked at just how lovely the pictures came out. I give all the credit to Raven (the photog) and the gorgeous venue, which was stuuuuupid cheap, and two blocks from our house. Ah, good times. :)

  • nikki

    “Oh, and my veil, which was fifteen dollars on Etsy and I still wear around the house.”
    YOU CAN DO THAT?!?! I know what I’m wearing to the dinner table tonight.

    • vegankitchendiaries

      I got a fifteen dollar etsy veil too and mine looked AWFUL! I had to re-buy a $50 one locally (cheapest I could find after checking 6 bridal shops). Mine was hard and crunchy… YOU LUCKED OUT.

      • http://thescienceoffood.info/ Cassandra

        That’s why when I ordered a cheap ($10) veil off a sketchy Chinese website, I got two (two different vendors). The first one to arrive is beautiful, perfect, exactly what I wanted. The second looks like a mosquito net with cheap sequins (which is lace in the picture) sewn onto it. Can’t win em all.

      • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

        Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that. I really did luck out, which seemed to be a theme of my wedding planning process. All of my bride friends were all, “HAHA YOU ARE ENGAGED WELCOME TO HELL.” But I can’t stress enough how much saying “NOPE” to shit that you don’t love, no matter how unpopular your call is, really makes the planning process less stressful. Sorry to hear about your shitty veil!

    • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

      Bride here! Haha, I love that, and I hope you actually DID wear it to the dinner table. I put mine on one time for sexytimes and my husband about lost it haha, who knew how fun rewearing your wedding gear could be?!

  • Sarah

    This is beautiful.

    • http://freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com/ Sarah

      !!! I Sarah Post This Testimony Coz My Husband Is Back Thanks To Dr.Ukaka

      My Name is Sarah am from u.s.a I want to use these medium to testify what no one as don through the internet,the great dr ukaka brought back my husband after my husband has left me to one of his co_worker in his office,she casted a spell on my husband dr ukaka reveal it to me and he break the spell and my husband who swear that he will never come back to and my child,and he called me all sort of names,he now came back to me and my child on his kneels begging for forgiveness he said he did not no what come over him but what will I do than to forgive him,that devil of a girl want to take away my joy,I thank you so much dr ukaka you are indeed a great spell caster,is any one trying to take away your lover or your lover is trying to live you for no reason,I will advise you to contact this great doctor on this email:freedomlovespell@hotmail.com,a problem said is a problem solve also contact him for help.website address: freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com

  • Grace from England

    This is one of my favourite how-we-did it ever, because:

    1. $1 wedding ring – high five!
    2. Pictures of your friends’ weddings on a poster board – how beautiful and thoughtful
    3. “…to acknowledge what makes your situation unique, no matter what” just, yes

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Megan

    Our wedding approach was similar. My husband’s joke was “$10 shirt, $10 haircut, $10 ring.” My ring was a $75 splurge from Amazon.

  • StevenPortland

    This is one of my all time favorite postings — for the photos, the sassy commentary and the focus on what really matters. Congrats all around! Our reception is in 3 days and I was going to force myself to buy a guest book during lunch, even though I don’t want one. And now thanks to your posting I am going to skip the stupid guest book. Thanks!

    • Class of 1980

      Confession: I have always hated signing guest books.

      You have my permission to not buy one. ;D

    • sara g

      We don’t want a guest book, but still wanted a record of everyone who was there… so we are having people sign their names on beach rocks which we will display in a cool vase or something. :)

    • http://thescienceoffood.info/ Cassandra

      The guest book just crossed my mind recently, and I worried that I’d have to either a) spend a lot of money on something or b) put a lot of time and creativity into something. I settled for blank 8 x 10 pieces of printer paper that people can sign if they wish. If we like them than we might scan the sheets and have them put as pages in our wedding album.

      • http://freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com/ Sarah

        !!! I Sarah Post This Testimony Coz My Husband Is Back Thanks To Dr.Ukaka

        My Name is Sarah am from u.s.a I want to use these medium to testify what no one as don through the internet,the great dr ukaka brought back my husband after my husband has left me to one of his co_worker in his office,she casted a spell on my husband dr ukaka reveal it to me and he break the spell and my husband who swear that he will never come back to and my child,and he called me all sort of names,he now came back to me and my child on his kneels begging for forgiveness he said he did not no what come over him but what will I do than to forgive him,that devil of a girl want to take away my joy,I thank you so much dr ukaka you are indeed a great spell caster,is any one trying to take away your lover or your lover is trying to live you for no reason,I will advise you to contact this great doctor on this email:freedomlovespell@hotmail.com,a problem said is a problem solve also contact him for help.website address: freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com…

    • Eenie

      I just attended a wedding that had silly prompts around a blank sheet of paper. Each table had a cup of crayons. You could draw whatever you wanted. It gave everyone something to do during cocktail hour and was really fun! A lot better than the pressures and backlog of signing a guestbook.

    • Another Meg

      I just went to a wedding where they had a calendar out and a note asking everyone to put their name on their birthday….

      Oh, screw it. Would anyone even notice if there wasn’t a guestbook?

    • Kara E

      Don’t worry about it if it stresses you out…we had “advice and wishes” postcards (my husband had the printer do them up cause he’s detailed like that – but I was just going to buy some index cards or cut up some nice paperboard and tell people to give us their best and worst advice on marriage). Some people wrote stuff, some didn’t, but we put them in a box and read through them occassionally. One of these days, I’m going to scan them all into a book.

      That said, one of my elderly family members used her wedding guest book for every guest who came to their home over the 60+ years of her post-wedding life. I always loved that and someday when I feel less self conscious about it, I’m going to get my own life guest book.

  • Alice

    What a lovely post. Your wedding is beautiful. We also had a very small affair, with a $6 peacock blue shirt for my hubby (which looks SO beautiful in the photos) and a pair of jeans he already owned. Not much fuss about anything else. His family also didn’t join us, albeit for less happy reasons, and we were worried that between the lack of his family amd the smallness of our celebration, people wouldn’t feel like our wedding was legit enough. It absolutely was. Thanks so much for affirming this again.

    • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

      Not having all your friends and family at your wedding is weird, and we definitely had some fallout… some disgruntled friends who felt entitled to attend, family that felt guilty they couldn’t make it, others who were totally unsupportive of our marriage but still felt entitled to be invited… it goes on and on… the focus, at the end of the day, are the souls that will sleep in our beds and eat dinner cooked in our kitchen, day in and day out. US. The rest of the world can deal with their own obsessions, but that will NOT be my marriage. Holla!

  • HannahESmith

    Love everything about this. This is truly inspiring!

  • carolynprobably

    Really love this. Top to bottom. Congratulations!

  • Class of 1980

    So many superfluous items not included at this wedding, and it still looks like a wedding!

    So much can be stripped down without any loss whatsoever. You both look happy.

  • Rachel

    This is one of my favorite wedding posts on APW. I would never have guessed your budget from the pictures! Kudos!

  • Amanda

    Oh wow. This might be my favorite wedding ever on APW, just because it is so, so, so mindful and that’s saying a lot given how mindful everyone is in this community. But especially…..

    This: “Don’t let anyone other than you and your future-spouse tell you how to do your wedding…..It’s your wedding, it’s your day, and nobody else cares as much as you do. Nope, not even your family, not even your best friend. And if they do, their priorities are not where they should be. Don’t let outside voices affect the way you want to enter into your marriage.”

    And THIS!: “I pasted pictures from my friends’ weddings that would be there to a red poster-board and wrote a little message of thanks to them for all the inspiration and encouragement, and they were all FLOORED. It cost less than two dollars, but meant the world to those people.” WHAT AN AMAZING, HEARTFELT IDEA! I wish this post would have happened 3 months ago so I could copy it!

    And THIS, THIS, THIS!: .”I just want people to know that it’s okay to do the guest thing differently, to acknowledge what makes your situation unique, no matter what.”

    Your thoughtfulness through the whole process just really resonated with me. From one brand new tween stepmom of to another, congratulations on your beautiful, thoughtful wedding and best wishes to you and your new family!

    • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

      oh my goodness! thank you so very much Amanda. :) I’m so excited that APW shared our wedding story because i think it really will resonate with a lot of people. happy new marriage+family! :D

  • sara g

    Wow… is all I can say. Beautiful. I wish you both the utmost happiness together!

  • Irene

    Mind BLOWN by idea of $1 ring. I just looked at Amazon and found a super pretty $5 enamel and gold-plated ring, if anyone’s interested! http://tinyurl.com/lw6xlbf

  • Amber

    What a beautiful wedding! “nobody else cares as much as you do. Nope, not even your family, not even your best friend. And if they do, their priorities are not where they should be.” This is so important to remember! I’m brand new to APW, just got engaged on Monday, so perhaps I’ve missed relevant posts, but does anyone have advice on how to plan a budget wedding without doing it on a weekday, or reusing existing wardrobe pieces? I feel like there should be a happy medium between extravagant “WIC” wedding and a smaller scale wedding that gets to have place holders and favors etc. without dropping a house downpayment on one day.

    • http://www.wrightremedy.blogspot.com/ Addie

      Buy Meg’s book. Seriously the best wedding planning money you can spend. After that, determine what is most important to you and then give yourself permission not to do the other stuff.

      • Another Meg

        I agree with this. Also, there are a ton of “in-between” weddings on the site, it’s just a matter of wandering through the real weddings section.

  • LAH

    “I pasted pictures from my friends’ weddings that would be there to a red
    poster-board and wrote a little message of thanks to them for all the
    inspiration and encouragement, and they were all FLOORED.” Oh man, I wish I would’ve thought to do the message of thanks! LOVE that!

    Seriously, though, my husband and I scoured, scanned in and printed out old family photos and hung them up on twine around the lodge where we had our reception. I assembled whatever I thought wouldn’t fit on the walls into table-specific books using a hole punch and binder rings. That project cost us, at most, $50 and it was a HIT. Everyone loved looking at the photos and reminiscing. I cannot recommend decorating with photos enough!

  • Heidi

    Thanks for this beautiful post. It really emphasizes what matters about getting married (ie. the getting married part!). I really needed this reminder that the experience matters most to the two people getting married, and that’s who should decide what the day will be. Congratulations to a very real couple– and kudos for being true to who you are, and making the day unique to you.

  • Philippa

    This was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful – congratulations, guys on what looks and sounds like a truly special, genuine and heartfelt wedding – and the building of a new family. I’ve been truly inspired by this post, especially “acknowledge what makes your situation unique, no matter what.” You guys absolutely nailed it, and I’m prepared to wager you’re going to be one of those couples that friends paste on poster board at their own weddings to say thank you. Congratulations!! x

  • Anon

    ” I just want people to know that it’s okay to do the guest thing differently, to acknowledge what makes your situation unique, no matter what.”
    Thank-you so much for this! The vast majority of my partner’s family will not be at our wedding. Even though it’s for the better that they are no longer in our lives, the fact that they won’t be there makes me feel like we are somehow… deficient I guess. I mean, I definitely wish that they could be at the wedding genuinely supporting us, but failing that I kind of just wish they were coming so we could save face. I’m not proud of this at all, and it’s nice to be reassured that it’s okay to be different from someone who’s been there.
    Congratulations to you both. A beautiful story :-)

    • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

      I think 90% of brides feel deficient when planning their weddings. Not thin enough, skin not clear enough, dress is too plain, or too daring, or their vows are too non-traditional, or they don’t have enough money for the alcohol or food they want, or their venue is cool but their grandparents will hate it, or they got engaged too early, or too late… the list goes on and on, my friend. I think there’s camaraderie in admitting we’re all a little bit obsessed with people-pleasing when it comes to our I-Do-Day. Remember, remember, remember: You are marrying one other person, and your opinions are the ONLY two that count.

  • Meg

    The dress looked absolutely beautiful on you and I have the same wedding band! (Gemvara right?)

    • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

      I don’t remember the brand of the ring… though I will leave this honest followup, that ring tarnished after about four months of wearing it everywhere. Although, I wore it in the gym and swimming and stuff. I bought another one (identical, $1) for now, and plan to basically keep buying replacements (they’re so damn cheap dude) until we have the dolla dolla billz to upgrade.

  • http://www.ellierockhill.com Ellie Rockhill

    Bride here! Here’s our wedding video, also, by Ben Wills (http://benwillsphoto.com/)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KR68LRyjqc

    Song from the video was the one we walked down the aisle to!

  • Katie

    I love that they got married on a weekday. My boyfriend and I aren’t engaged yet, but it’s coming up soon I think. Our first date was February 29th, 2008, and I’d love to get married on our 8th anniversary (technically 2nd because of Leap Day, but whatevs). However, it’s a Monday. The symbolism of the date is important to me, and I wouldn’t necessarily care about not having a big Saturday night blow out drunk party. Plus only having to acknowledge your anniversary once every 4 years is extremely enticing to me.

  • Ashley Meredith

    I really love this more narrative style of “how we did it.” Generally what I want from the series is more story and more numbers, and this delivered both.

    However, I can’t help commenting on this: “weddings just don’t mean the same to divorced or single men in their thirties.” I’m not sure if I’m understanding that comment correctly, but if I am, well, that’s kind of a sweeping generalization.

    When it’s true, it’s, as you say, okay. But I happen to have gotten married to a divorced man in his thirties (three years ago yesterday!) and the wedding was… how do I best respond to the way I took that comment?… a big deal to him. I was prepared to elope if it meant less stress but he absolutely wanted a wedding, it was non-negotiable, he wasn’t willing to get married without his family and his best friends there. (Happily, I didn’t MIND having a wedding, and if we were going to have one, our wishes were very much in line.)

  • Stacy {Woodsy Weddings}

    I love how easy-going the bride is and really focused in on the details important to her. It looks like it was a fun wedding!

  • http://freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com/ Sarah

    !!! I Sarah Post This Testimony Coz My Husband Is Back Thanks To Dr.Ukaka

    My Name is Sarah am from u.s.a I want to use these medium to testify what no one as don through the internet,the great dr ukaka brought back my husband after my husband has left me to one of his co_worker in his office,she casted a spell on my husband dr ukaka reveal it to me and he break the spell and my husband who swear that he will never come back to and my child,and he called me all sort of names,he now came back to me and my child on his kneels begging for forgiveness he said he did not no what come over him but what will I do than to forgive him,that devil of a girl want to take away my joy,I thank you so much dr ukaka you are indeed a great spell caster,is any one trying to take away your lover or your lover is trying to live you for no reason,I will advise you to contact this great doctor on this email:freedomlovespell@hotmail.com,a problem said is a problem solve also contact him for help.website address: freedomlovespelltemple.yolasite.com