Our $44K Wedding Was the Ultimate Jersey Shore Pizza Party

Plus a Valentino wedding gown for $250

Sharon, sourcing manager & justin, product designer

SUM-UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: Big pizza party at the beach, filled with lots of our favorite people, tschotzes, and confetti cannons.

LOCATION: Asbury Park, New Jersey

Where we allocated the most funds:

Our venue, which included the ceremony and reception spaces, a massive amount of food, and an open bar was 25 percent of our total budget. Though Porta is already beautifully decorated, it was important to both Justin and me that we make the space our own. Another 22 percent of our total budget went toward florals and decor. I spent months scouring the Internet and antique sales to collect the mid-century articulating candle holders and brass birds used on our guest tables. I even worked with an artisan group in Guatemala to weave our custom aisle runner and collected batik textiles on a trip to Vietnam. We wanted to be sure that we were investing in decor that would be used again. We’ve since gifted the candelabras to family and friends and have hung up wedding backdrop behind our dining table.

Where we allocated the least funds:

My Valentino wedding gown was $250. For real. Sample sales are the best, and the only cheap, part of living in NYC. This particular sale was so good that I found two dresses. I couldn’t decide between them, so I just went for both! I panicked post alterations when I realized the beautiful, fully beaded gown I was hoping to dance in at the after party didn’t allow for that much movement. I ended up purchasing a third dress online a month before the wedding for under $200. The grand total for all three gowns was $470.

Another way we saved was by skipping the invitations. We just sent out simple save the dates, lovingly designed by Justin, that directed our guests to our Squarespace wedding website. The investment we made in the site was well worth it and less than the cost of formal stationery! Our wedding was a “semi-destination” wedding, so it was important that we had a way to continually update and spread the late-breaking planning news with our guests in a well-designed, easy-to-use format. Our Squarespace site helped us get our guests as excited about Asbury Park as we were!

What was totally worth it:

Almost everything! If I had to pick three things:

  1. Booking our photographer early! I would have been devastated if I had not had Cassie there to shoot our day. She captured each detail perfectly. I look back at my photos and can’t even believe that our party could have been as fun her photos make it seem!
  2. Having a welcome party open to everyone over a traditional rehearsal dinner allowed us to spend more time with family and friends all in one place. We hosted it at a speakeasy tiki bar. How could we not have fun?
  3. We had to end our reception by eight. Initially, we planned to do an after-party bar crawl. All it took was one peek at the Asbury Hotel’s new rooftop theater to change our minds! Having a designated private space, especially such a cool one, gave us peace of mind day of. I was worried it would be a bit cold out there at night, as it’s just one block from the beach. We found some amazing fair trade blankets that we handed out to stay cozy. Our guests loved taking them home at the end of the night.

What was totally not worth it:

The failed DIYs. We spent A LOT of money on craft supplies for things that just didn’t pan out. I wanted to hand gold leaf napkins at one point. I spent several weekends creating what ended up being a pretty cool streamer backdrop, which ultimately didn’t fit the vision.

A few things that helped us along the way:

My bridesmaids and family that patiently listened to me vent about the stresses of flowers, cookie table design, and my never-ending search for the perfect pair of flat wedding shoes.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Set priorities from the beginning. Be realistic about what you want and how much it costs. Even if it seems excessive, if you’re really not willing to sacrifice those table arrangements, just own up to it and find another place to pare down. I cut down on a lot of those things in the beginning, only to realize later on that they were actually important to me. It’s a lot easier to plan for ahead for those things, than to try to make up for the added cost later on.

I wish someone would have told me to just enjoy the ride and get ready to learn a lot about compromise! Weddings bring out a lot of surprising emotions and opinions. I was surprised to learn just how traditional Justin really was. I really didn’t want a traditional diamond engagement ring, or really any ring at all. However, it was incredibly important to Justin that he give me that gift. Justin ended up working with Endswell to redesign the ring his father gave to his mother. It was the perfect compromise!

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Outside of all the typical amazing things about weddings, I love that creating our day allowed us to support so may small, local, and women-owned businesses. Our florist is a former coworker of mine that just launched on her own. Can you believe our wedding was her first? I totally trusted her, and she absolutely killed it! The welcome bags and bridesmaid “swag bags” all included details purchased from local makers and businesses. My favorite was a gift card for a psychic reading by Asbury Park’s famous Madame Marie.

Something else I’d Like to Share:

I enjoyed the roller coaster ride of wedding planning so much that I’m now consulting on the topic! I launched IILLE, my planning and styling passion project, just a few months back and am now planning three weddings! The first planning tool I hand to all of my clients is the APW planner. Even if you have a pro on your side, you can never have too many resources helping you cut through the crap!


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