How We Planned Our Front Lawn Budget Wedding for Under $7K

Friend-powered and fabulous

Vanessa & Jesse

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: A “small on funds, big on heart” at-home wedding held under a giant magnolia tree.

Soundtrack for reading: “Love Like This” by Faith Evans

Planned Budget: We just tried to keep it as cheap as possible as we went along. That being said, when we first got engaged we totally thought we’d be able to pull something off for $2,000.

Actual Budget: About $6,500. Ha.

Number of Guests: 70ish

Where we allocated the most funds

Dinner: I knew I wanted The Loving Hut Express food truck to cater from the start. We are both vegan and we knew their cruelty-free menu would go down well with even our meatiest of friends and family. Once Loving Hut agreed to serve the best burgers in the city, I had trouble imaging how the “dinner hour” was going to go exactly… I wasn’t sure if they would be able to feed 70ish people within an hour. We decided just to have the truck open at the same time as the dance floor (right after the first dance) and let people eat (and dance) when they felt like it, which ending up working just fine.

Booze: As a DIY bar, we set up beverage tubs filled with ice and a highly varied selection of bottled import and craft beer. We also had some wine for the winos, and locally made soda for the non-drinkers.

Rentals: It was incredibly difficult to source rentals within our budget in Vancouver. I eventually took glassware, tableware, and cutlery off my wishlist to scale back on costs. Our only rentals were a dance floor, tables, chairs, tablecloths, and a very basic sound system.

Where we allocated the least funds

Wedding Attire: I saw a dress I liked on Pinterest with a crazy gold sequin bodice and a long, white chiffon skirt. I emailed a picture to a wedding dress factory in China where they recreated something similar for $100. I spent another $200 on alterations once it arrived.

Rings: Jesse’s ring was made by an Etsy seller in Seattle and we ordered it in Sterling Silver to keep costs low. My beautiful wedding band was Jesse’s grandmother’s, and given to us to use shortly after we got engaged by Jesse’s mother. I paid only to have it resized.

Dessert and Appetizers: We have a bit of a reputation for being “cookie people” so we planned to self-cater cookie platters for dessert. I wanted to make three hundred cookies from my favourite recipes in the week before the wedding but I was too busy running around that week, so I only managed about half of that. Luckily, my sister’s wedding gift was actually a vegan coconut carrot wedding cake they decorated with fresh flowers. Everyone said it was the best cake they’d ever tasted. Friends and family DIY’d all of the pre-reception appetizers the day of. This was mostly veg crudités, hummus, dips, bread, crackers, fruit, and stuff that was easy enough to quickly arrange on platters. A local faux cheese-maker also supplied us with several rounds of delicious artisan nut cheeses.

Cutlery, Glasses, Tableware: I had this vision in my head of all of our guests having a champagne toast (with flutes, non-negotiable) during the reception until I saw the sweetest wedding on APW one day where the guests were toasting with plastic cups. A penny dropped and I realized, “Wow, I can’t believe how much I don’t care about cups.” I ordered loads of inexpensive compost-friendly tumblers, plates, and cutlery and never looked back.

What was totally worth it

Doing our own flowers. The morning before the wedding, I wrapped up bouquets for myself and my maids. My stepdaughter and I made centrepieces together taking brightly coloured alsotromeria and stuffing glittered mason jars. Robin from Bootah Jardin was the most amazing and helpful florist ever! She specializes in helping DIY brides and didn’t once balk at our paltry floral budget. She even offers free demo classes, for people to get comfortable with their bouquet-making skills.

Getting the “Best Sisters” to sort their own dresses out. My bridesmaids were my sister, my sister-in-law, and my BFF (who has been mistaken for my sister for the last twenty-three years). My only instructions where to pick a dress in the “aqua family.” They could get a light mint $10 clearance dress from H&M or a dark teal $300 gown from BCBG—their choice. They looked flawless.

What was totally not worth it

I got a bit cray-cray in the last few days, wrapped up with very last minute details that I just should have scrapped altogether. Why was I desperate to finish making boutonnières at two AM the night before my wedding day? Naked lapels would have been worth the extra sleep. Why was I insisting our table runners were ironed an hour before the ceremony? I have absolutely no idea.

A few things that helped us along the way

My angelic mother-in-law had recently started her own greeting card business and spent what must have been an ungodly amount of time hand making our beautiful invitations. The response from guests to her handiwork was incredible.

My oldest friend is an amazing photographer and offered to take pictures for us as a wedding gift. Her boyfriend is also a photographer and acted as second shooter. I’m in awe at the amazing pictures we’ll always have to look back on. This was the first wedding she ever shot (!!!) but I always knew one thousand percent she’d knock it out of the park.

Although our wedding day felt like a bit of a blur, I can very clearly recall how overwhelmingly grateful I felt. I spent months through the planning process imagining our wedding, but I couldn’t have ever prepared for the outpouring of love from all of our people. Partly because of the weather (and partly because I’d delegated nowhere near enough) the hours leading up to the ceremony were pretty frantic and there was a heck of a lot of elbow grease and ad-hoc solutions from our buds who pulled off one million small miracles on the day of the wedding. When we got news that we were due for rain, people from all over the tri-city area brought white pop up tents. At the final hour, my angel of a mother-in-law draped muslin from tree branches as a backdrop for our ceremony. While I waited nervously in my bedroom, I spotted an old friend from the office setting up place cards last-minute. A dear family friend turned up with sixty samosas to serve guests a midnight snack. In countless other ways, the day would have been a flop if our community wasn’t there to pick up a thousand dropped balls.

My best practical advice for my planning self

“You live in the Pacific Northwest, so maybe you should have a rain backup plan?” Three days before the wedding, the forecast was predicting rain all day. Luckily, things dried out about two hours before we went down the aisle. Jesse spent hours up a ladder, unsuccessfully attempting to weave ugly black tarps through the tree canopy, while I (very maturely) insisted that “everything was ruined,” and it would have been nice to avoid all that.

On that note, I’d maybe also tell myself to RELAX and to trust that everything will be as awesome even if we would have had soggier day than we ended up having.

Favorite thing about the wedding

The “making it offish” part, for whatever it’s worth! We may have both flubbed up their vows a bit (he actually called me “Vanilla” by accident) but we both wept like babes and I felt so, so happy.

Also… Jesse’s daughter hijacking the playlist, demanding the chicken dance, and schooling the entire dance floor like a boss.


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