How We Broke a Few Wedding Traditions with Our $20K PNW Wedding

“You may now kiss the groom...”

Ederlyn & Geoffrey

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Our closest friends and family joined us at a cozy minimalist hotel for a moody beach wedding that embodied the Pacific Northwest.

Planned budget: $17,900

Actual budget: $19,900

Number of guests: 51

Where we allocated the most funds:

VENUE: For the venue, we wanted to have the ceremony and the reception at the same location to minimize booking and transportation issues, and we wanted to avoid dealing with separate caterers and multiple vendors. We had a difficult time finding a place that fulfilled all of this until we remembered Adrift Hotel! (We’ve stayed at the Adrift before on lazy winter weekends.) The Adrift Hotel was effectively a one-stop experience for us, which really helped us. As part of our package, we were able to have the rehearsal dinner and decorate the reception room prior to the wedding, and the staff at Adrift set up the chairs and arch at the beach on the day of the wedding. We also felt that it was important for us to enjoy a sit-down family dinner with our guests, and Adrift helped us set up a great dinner menu with a signature cocktail and a soft bar.

PHOTOGRAPHY: We actually found Dustin Cantrell on APW, and loved his portfolio! Geoff and many of our friends are avid photographers, so we wanted to let the guests relax and let the professionals work their magic. To that effect, we felt that it was worth having two pro photographers and an all-day package to capture the small and big moments.

DRESS: We actually visited Dress Theory and found the dress together! To be honest, the final choice was totally not what we initially had in mind, but once I tried it on, it was pure magic.

Where we allocated the least funds:

Invitations, decor, favors, flowers, music, and cake.

STATIONERY (save-the-dates, invitations, programs, seating chart, menu): We skipped physical save-the-dates in favor of digital ones, used Minted for the invitations (free addressing!), grabbed table numbers from Michael’s, and skipped programs altogether because the ceremony was very short. But we did have a bit of craftiness in us! We made the seating cards and menus ourselves. Geoff used Photoshop to design and print the menus on kraft paper card stock, and I wrote down seating cards using india ink and a calligraphy nib.

FLOWERS: We ordered succulent bouquets and boutonnières for the wedding party from Urban Succulents. We now have quite a few succulents growing as souvenirs of our day.

DECOR: For the reception room, we went with assorted paper lanterns, mercury candle votives, table runners, and strings of outdoor lights.

MUSIC: We created Spotify playlists and used AV equipment provided by the hotel.

LABORS OF LOVE: My pastry chef sister donated the wedding cakes (chocolate hazelnut and lemon curd), a close friend served as our officiant, another close friend set up a bonfire on the beach the night before, and all of our friends helped decorate and tear down after the wedding.

What was totally worth it:

Everything that we splurged on, and a couple of other things!

PHOTO BOOTH: We took our camera and made a photo booth using a tripod with a flash, umbrella, and a remote. (All items we already had.) The total cost to us was for a large wooden frame, assorted props, and decorative fans to hang on the wall was $50. Having more than five hundred photos of our friends and family hamming it up in style? Priceless.

DINNER: It was worth extra to have the food served family-style. People who didn’t know each other before the wedding quickly became friends over plates of food and bottles of wine.

VENUE: Booking the venue for the whole day gave us plenty of time to set up and tear down.

What was totally not worth it:

We pre-paid for three cases of wine and four twenty-four-packs of beer because we didn’t want to be surprised with a large bill after the wedding, and that’s what the online calculators predicted for a cocktail hour plus four hour dinner. We wound up taking home almost half the booze we ordered, which we’re still trying to drink through six months later.

Creating a Spotify playlist saved a bunch of money and let us play some of our favorite songs, but a playlist can’t read a crowd, and after a few drinks, people tried to start adding their own songs that were less-than-danceable.

The wedding cakes were an amazing and delicious gift from my sister, but she spent several days working on it and wound up getting injured in the process. If we had it to do over again, we’d tell her to just relax and stay injury-free!

A few things that helped us along the way:

Obviously… the APW website was a huge help! We used Minted, found Dustin, and cribbed the day-of schedule templates online.

It also helped to avoid the mainstream wedding magazines and blogs filled with glamorous and pricy weddings. Looking at magazines and blogs may be inspirational, but you start to find yourself wanting fairly crazy things you’d never even heard of before. Though to be honest, reading too many DIY wedding blogs can also make you feel really inept in the face of people’s outrageously beautiful projects—there’s a balance to be struck!

We set an artificially low initial budget estimate (think thirty to fifty percent less, not eighty percent less) to make us seriously evaluate every single expenditure, and we made compromises on expenses to help keep things in balance. Keeping a reserve in the budget also helped us to cover unforeseen emergency expenses without stressing us out as the wedding got closer.

Our friends were amazing in coming together and trying to help us, even when we didn’t quite know what kind of help we needed! People helped decorate the venue on the day of the wedding, which felt like a pre-wedding party, and everyone helped take down the decorations before heading to the after-party.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Set an artificially low budget (think thirty to fifty percent less, not eighty percent less) to keep the final total affordable, while allowing for a couple of targeted splurges along the way. Be ready for surprise expenses that you’ve never even heard of until now.

While being relaxed and open-minded about wedding details is a good thing, sometimes it helps people to be actively directed. When people started asking us questions we didn’t know the answer to, it was extremely stressful! So while we had never thought of things like “wedding colors” or “themes” before, it really helped people when we could start verbalizing what we wanted and the schedule we were working with.

If you’re having an outdoors beach wedding, don’t worry too much about decorations. The sky, the water, and the wind will all have their way!

Having a wedding is sort of like accidentally setting your house on fire, and seeing your community come out with fire trucks and hoses, a plan, and probably some casserole. The love shown by our friends and family that day was overwhelming to witness, and we are grateful for it.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

We loved getting to share the beauty of the Pacific Northwest with visiting friends and family. The day before our wedding, the sunset was utterly glorious and then we had a roaring campfire with marshmallows and all! It was such a relaxing moment to sit with everyone and catch up before the wedding day.

We took the chance to shape the wedding ceremony into something that fitted us: we walked down the aisle together because we wanted to bring each other into this, we worked in Filipino wedding traditions (coins and cord), we wrote our own vows, and we asked four of the guests to do small readings for the ceremony. Geoff called in a wonderful last-minute change before we all walked down the beach: we changed the ceremony so that our officiant concluded the wedding with “Ederlyn, you may now kiss the groom.” It was awesome!


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