How We: Planned Our Super Intimate Semi-Destination Atlanta Wedding

An immediate family-only affair

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.

Other Notes

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.

The Info:

Photographer: Bri McDaniel APW Sponsor | Location: Atlanta, GA | Venue: FUSE Arts Center | Alicia’s Dress: Custom Made | Alicia’s Shoes: Luichiny | Alicia’s Makeup: Kristina Ross | Alicia’s Hair: Shannon at Loop Salon | Marco’s Suit: Suitsupply | Marco’s Tie/Pocket Square: The Essential Man | Catering: Maggiano’s Little Italy | Cake: Publix Bakery | Cake Topper: DIY | Bouquet: DIY (from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods flowers)

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  • That dress is heaven!

    • H

      I know – LOVE IT! I scrolled down the whole way to see where it was from…custom made! Gah!!

      • vegankitchendiaries

        Yes… but custom made by DressilyMe! They could recreate it for you (or something similar) and likely for a killer price. I had my dress ‘custom’ made by a similar place in China and did REALLY well out of it.

        • Anne

          I got my bridesmaids’ dresses custom made from a Chinese Etsy seller (Jane Wang at OkBridal) and though it was nervewracking, the dresses came out beautifully! They look a lot like the floor-length chiffon J. Crew bridesmaid dresses, but for $125 each instead of $365 each. Woohoo! She also did some customization for us and the turnaround time was just a few weeks.

      • Alicia8406

        Thank you all so much!! I researched and debated for quite some time on whether or not to take a chance on a dress made overseas. But after considering the price point, the option for complete style customization, and having everything made-to-measure, it was worth the gamble to me. I had a great experience with Dressilyme, wonderful customer service and amazing turnaround time. I would definitely recommend a similar route for brides who are a bit relaxed and flexible about their gown expectations.

    • up_at_Dawn

      It really is! Wow!

  • Kelly

    beautiful! Could you tell us about the mothers’ prayer?

    • Alicia8406

      Sure! Toward the end of the ceremony, our officiant invited our mothers up with us for a prayer. We all joined hands as the officiant spoke on the mothers’ roles in our lives individually and requested that they continue to nurture our lives, embrace us as a new extension of the family, and encourage and reinforce our vows. It was beautiful, especially since our mothers are such HUGE parts of our lives; we really wanted to recognize them in some way.

      • Meg Keene

        We had a parent blessing too. It was super nice. This sounds… super super nice.

  • Lauren

    what a beautiful day!

  • StevenPortland

    Wow, what beautiful photos. Well done on everything. I should tape this to my computer at home to remind me constantly: “No one ever really cares about that small stuff as much as you.” It might enable me to let go of the small details that tend to take up too much work.

    • Alicia8406

      Yes, let it go! And thank you!!

  • mvanengen

    That cake! How do you fit so many delicious flavors into 3 layers? Beautiful, and really meaningful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Alicia8406

      One tier was vanilla with fresh strawberry filling (hubby’s choice), one was marble with canolli filling (my choice), and the anniversary tier was plain vanilla with cream cheese frosting (easy to freeze). They were all so yummy, I can’t wait for anniversary dessert!

  • Tennymo

    dress + aqua shoes + groom’s suit = you all look AMAZING. congrats on such a fabulous wedding for a fabulously affordable price.

    • Alicia8406

      Thank you!

      • Kelly

        Yesss and you’re husband is KILLING it in that blue suit with brown shoes…showing my FH right now…also I love the playfulness in that first photo. The whole day seems so gorgeous and intimate. Everyone just looks so happy to be sharing a private little corner of the universe

  • Ashley

    This beautiful wedding makes me so happy that we’re having essentially the same thing — a short ceremony, followed by an intimate dinner with 16 of our closest friends and family. I hope it turns out just as gorgeous as this wedding!

    • Alicia8406

      Oh, it will! I just couldn’t imagine doing it any other way!

  • Sarah E

    Style for miles. Blush tulle is my wedding dream (ok, one of them at least). APW brides rock it every time. Congrats and Best wishes!

  • jashshea

    You dress. His suit. Oh My. Style mavens, the lot of you!

    • Alicia8406


  • Marcela

    Publix cakes are the best! We had a Publix cake at our wedding and it was so beautiful.

  • Claire

    just gorgeous!

  • That cake is from a GROCERY STORE? Why do I live on the East Coast?

    • Ariel

      my thoughts exactly!

    • Alicia8406

      Yes!!! And it was so delicious! We’re currently up the mid-Atlantic east coast, too, and really miss Publix!

  • Ally

    That picture of the cake and flowers is perfection. I’d blow that up and frame it! Also the dress and shoe combo is SO dreamy. Love this and love how affordable it was – it CAN be done! Congrats!

    • Alicia8406

      Yes, it can definitely be done!!! And thank you!

  • lady brett

    ooh, lovely!

  • AG

    This all looks so beautiful and happy! Love the space, love the intimacy, love the dress and shoes – on their own and together!

  • Emily

    This is a wedding! I love everything about it: its size, its personality, its class. You are making me wish I had been brave enough to only have 15 people at my wedding… at 45 people keep calling it “intimate” and I keep thinking “are you crazy! That is a LOT of people.” Beautifully done, thank you for sharing.

    • Alicia8406

      Thank you so much!!! Best of luck to you on your big day!

  • L

    Just dropping in to say that I LOVE that there have been so many “how we did it” posts lately! Choosing a favorite type of APW post is like choosing a favorite child, but these are definitely at or near the top of my list. Keep ’em coming!

    • Meg Keene

      Keep writing ’em! No seriously, we can do a lot here, but we can’t write those. We spend a lot of time REQUESTING them, but, still.

  • SarahG

    Beautiful! I have a totally superficial question: how did you make the cake toppers and did they get glitter on the cake? I want to do something like that but whenever I craft with glitter, it goes *everywhere*. Did you have a template or just get mad creative? Amazing wedding, congrats!

    • JDrives

      Try glitter cardstock! I got mine cheaply on Amazon but they’re out of stock :( Your local craft store might have some though.

    • Alicia8406

      That is it, glitter cardstock! I went to the craft store and bought one sheet of glittery scrapbook paper ($0.89) and one long wooden dowel ($0.49). I freehanded the lettering, cut the dowel into equal lengths, and double-side taped front and back lettering onto the sticks. That’s it! There was no glitter fall-off at all.

      • Meg Keene


      • Jess

        You free-handed those? Dang…I’m impressed.

  • vegankitchendiaries

    Obviously everything here is PERFECT but I have to say firstly… your hair looks awesome! Can I ask for details? Flex rod set?

    • Alicia8406

      Thank you! And that’s exactly what it is (flexi rods) :)

      • vegankitchendiaries


  • Margi

    If I ever get married THIS is exactly how I want my wedding to be. My ex and i would argue about what our wedding would look like; he wanted a huge party and I wanted something exactly like this – just immediate family. I guess that was one of many red flags!

  • Lian

    This post came at a really great time for me – with six months to the wedding my fiance is suddenly stressing out a lot, making this the first day where *I* am stressing out a lot.
    “No one ever really cares about that small stuff as much as you.”
    and especially this:
    “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.”

    is really helping me. So thank you.

    • Alicia8406

      I’m so glad that was able to hit home for you. There’s so much pressure surrounding this whole wedding thing, and we tend to stress ourselves out over the smallest, most insignificant details. When it gets to that boiling point, just take a time-out and remember what’s important: taking a step forward to starting a beautiful new life with your partner and best friend (and celebrating that with loved ones).

  • anon

    Everything about your wedding seems just perfect. Love it. If I was close with my family I would want something just like this. I’m so glad your day was so special.

  • Meg Keene

    David is so super picky on dress clothes that he’s rarely impressed by wedding outfits. His word on the grooms clothes, “That is a great fucking outfit.” Highest praise I’ve heard from an APW groom outfit… ever.

    • Alicia8406

      Haha!!! Mister was flattered to hear that!

  • Jess

    Love this! My fiance and I are taking a similar approach later this summer (13 immediate family members). The description of your motivation for the small wedding fits so closely with all that we’ve discussed in our planning and decision to go small as well – it’s fun to read something I relate so strongly to as it’s less common.

    We’re about to start diving into ceremony planning – here again, your description sounds very similar to our needs (i.e. including non-traditional aspects, excluding certain traditional wording). Did you find any resources particularly useful when planning your ceremony?

    And your photos are fantastic. What a beautiful wedding!

  • Emily

    What a beautiful wedding! You’re both glowing.
    I’m intrigued that you were able to find vendors on Craigslist. I haven’t gone that route yet – and might not be able to, since the wedding will be in Vermont, where the internet is still circa 2003 and human population recently exceeded sheep population – but I would love any tips you have about sifting through and finding good people. Did you search for services that matched your needs, or did you post ads?

    • Alicia8406

      Haha!! Well, I can say I was lucky because Craigslist is pretty active in Atlanta (especially with entertainment). What I found most effective was posting very detailed ads in the Wanted section, as opposed to answering ads. I got A TON of unwanted replies (DJs replying to ads asking for a photographer, musicians quoting booking fees 3x what I listed my budget as, etc.) and was very discouraged at times. I was glad to be able to finally find a musician (the only vendor booked from CL) who fit my needs, but it took several weeks and reposts. So, the best tips I can give are 1)Be very detailed with your ads (use keywords vendors may search, tell the exact style you are looking for, disclose your budget) 2)Give yourself plenty of time, since you are expecting the talent to find you, and 3)Always try and find an online presence (website, portfolio, Soundcloud, Youtube videos) of the people responding (to avoid trash and spam).

      • Emily

        Awesome, thank you!!

  • Catherine

    Congratulations to you both, Alicia and Marco. The photos of your wedding day are beautiful and you look like you had a lot of fun. I wish you a long and happy marriage.

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  • Legatosaurus

    This is my favourite wedding on this site.

  • CJ

    I love, love, love the pink dress! Gorgeous!

  • Jessica Harris

    Alicia, what can I say,
    where do I start….. simply B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!! I have such a warm feeling
    inside after seeing you and Marco’s special day. You were a goregous bride and
    Marco was quite GQ. Beautiful couple: ) You have proven that marriage is not about the many uneccesary things people so often deal
    with:people, drama, etc. Rather, love and family. I am so happy for you two but
    I am more happy that you all did exaclty what you wanted to do! Love you both
    and wish many blessings upon your