Planning Was a Nightmare, but Our Winter Wedding Was a Blast

PLUS a gluten-free reception and horses as a cake topper. Why not?


Laura, marketing manager & Jonathan, a/v tech

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Organized DIY gone wild.

Planned budget: $15,000

Actual budget: $18,000

Number of guests: 40

Where we allocated the most funds:

Our venue and caterer! Jon and I got married on the last day of winter, so we were able to get off-season pricing for a lot of things, which really helped out a lot. We knew we wanted to have a weekend event so things could be as laid back as possible. Eventually, I ended up finding Arrow Park by chance and totally loved it. We rented out the lodge for the weekend and the in-house caterer, Love + Rosemary, did our reception as well as brunch the next morning. They totally killed it!

Where we allocated the least funds:

Shockingly, dessert! I’m gluten-free and so were a handful of other family members at the wedding. Jon’s uncle is vegan, and so on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to either a wedding or an event and haven’t been able to eat anything. It’s awful. I don’t really expect people to cater to me, but on the other hand it is nice to be able to eat! I knew that I absolutely wanted there to be a little bit of something for everyone to eat. So, after getting quotes from a few bakers, I just knew I wanted to make my own desserts. The cakes we were getting quotes for were SO expensive. I bake too, so I totally understand the prices, but it just wasn’t something we wanted to spend a lot of money on.

I ended up baking a gluten-free coconut raspberry cake as our “official” wedding cake and bought the rest from Whole Foods and a local restaurant that made vegan desserts! The day before the wedding, Jon and I walked into Whole Foods and said, “Alright, we need some cakes for our wedding!” The guy behind the counter was so confused. Since we had gotten married at the end of March, they had a little carrot cake with a bunny poking out of the top. I was so excited for that because Easter is my favorite holiday! We ended up spending under $200.

What was totally worth it:

Doing what we wanted to do. Making our wedding, well, our wedding! Since we paid for, I want to say, 85 percent of the wedding ourselves, I made it perfectly clear that we were inviting who we wanted to invite (since it was a small wedding) and doing it the way we wanted. You’d be surprised about the little things that pop up along the way with people telling you how to plan your own wedding. I tried to listen to every piece of advice that people gave us, but at some point you have to put your foot down. This is your wedding! Some of the stuff was ridiculous. But we got through it!

As for vendors, I made sure my husband, ahem, took care of some of the planning. I was so stressed out. I needed help! I hated planning our wedding. But since my husband is also a musician, I wanted him to pick out our wedding band. Truthfully I didn’t know much about them besides that the singer was a friend of Jon’s. They ended up being a-m-a-z-i-n-g. They really pulled the entire night together. At this point I was done making decisions, I told Jon to just pick the song I would walk down the aisle to. Juan ended up playing Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” for me, which my husband had picked out. It was really out of this world.

What was totally not worth it:

I spent way too much time worrying about literally everything. All the little things, like what kind of stamps to put on our invitations, etc. It was absolutely not worth it. In the end, those things don’t even matter. No one remembers what kind of stamps I had on the invitations. I barely even remember the stamps! But during the planning process, it seemed so important!

If I could go back I would also totally not spend as much time and effort as we did stamping our escort cards and sawing into little plastic zoo animals! We should have gone for something more simple but, oh, Pinterest.

A few things that helped us along the way:

APW! I loved utilizing this website as inspiration. More so than Pinterest! I know, I know. It’s crazy. But APW had everything I needed in one place that was easily clickable and searchable without ending up in an endless loop of searches at 2:00 in the morning. With other sites, I would end up searching for floral ideas and end up somewhere looking at DIY s’mores kits. APW helped me stay focused!

Taking days off from the wedding planning also helped. I was getting seriously obsessed. You need to allow yourself to do things other than wedding stuff. Get a massage! Treat yo’ self! A week before the wedding, I treated Jon and I to a massage. It was very needed.

Our moms were so helpful (sometimes)! If they weren’t driving us crazy, they were usually holding us together. It was like a roller coaster. Stress does intense stuff to people. You just have to try to stay as true to who you are as a couple, while not making your moms too mad. It can be done! I’ll never forget my MIL’s face when she saw our cake topper for the first time. It was a bride and groom wearing horse and unicorn masks. Sorry, Mom!

Our photographer, Lily. She helped us with the timeline for the day of the wedding. I had no idea where to even start. She asked me a few questions and it was all pretty much done in a matter of ten minutes. She stayed calm the entire day, even when we were running a little behind and even when we couldn’t find my engagement ring! Spoiler alert, if you ever can’t find anything… that means your mother probably put it somewhere else! THANKS MOM! ;P

Finally, our maître d’s, Beth and Stephanie, at Arrow Park. They made everything so easy. I can’t stress that enough. They felt like family on the day of the wedding. Beth took care of everything for me when we arrived. She set up all of our little decorations, flowers, everything. I had no idea. She even let me have time to take a bubble bath! Everyone was scurrying around downstairs, putting together our day, and we were upstairs in this beautiful clawfoot tub, relaxing. Does that ever even happen on a wedding day? It was magical!

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Don’t sweat the small stuff, girl. I know that sounds really cliché, because it is. But it’s so true. None of it matters. What matters is that I got to marry the most awesome guy. What matters is that after all those headaches and late nights, you get to call each other these… really weird names that you’ve waited… maybe, your whole life to hear: husband and wife.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

We loved it all, honestly. I’m not a cohesive person and neither is Jon. I’m all over the place. I expected our wedding to be all over the place, a hot mess so to speak. But… it wasn’t. It was amazing. I loved having everyone together in the same room for a good occasion for once.

Families don’t get together enough! That was the best part, really. The love in the room. The music. Our signature cocktail. His hands with a new gold band wrapped around them. Going on an adventure in the middle of the night, through the woods and onto the beach. Wondering if there were bears out there in the dark. Laughing. Lots of laughing. Playing video games on a projector at 11 p.m. My brother getting locked out of his room shortly after. Not being able to find the spare key. All the brothers in the family trying to drunkenly not break the door down. Lots of laughing. Everything.


Anything else we should know:

Communication is key! Communicate with your partner, with your friends, with your families. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. Stay true to your vision and your relationship with your partner and I guarantee you’ll have the most beautiful time.



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