Our Unconventional $12K Wedding Was a Stylish (Donut-Filled) Dance Party

Food trucks and a Trader Joe's spread

tera, clinical research compliance officer & tyson, risk management manager

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A budget-friendly party for our nearest and dearest, made complete by pizza, donuts, and lots of drunken dancing.

Planned budget: $10,000
Actual budget: $12,000
Number of guests: 110
LOCATION: Salt Lake City, Utah


Where we allocated the most funds:

Food and drinks: Our venue was small and couldn’t feasibly hold tables and chairs for over one hundred people, so a migratory-type dinner with a food truck seemed like the right way to go. We also set up a donut wall and a grazing table inside the studio (basically a long charcuterie board full of cheeses, meats, dried fruit, and nuts). The grazing table was a crowd favorite—we couldn’t keep it stocked long enough to get a picture of the full thing. We got so many compliments on both that and the food truck. Seriously, the truck guys were awesome. They kept the pizzas coming all night, which was especially nice as the evening wore on into drunken munchies territory. They even made custom cheese-less pizzas for a few of our vegan guests free of charge. The best part: the grand total for the food truck was $1,200. The grazing table food cost an additional $200 (thank you, Trader Joe’s, for your amazingly cheap selection of delicious cheeses and salted meats).

Our venue allowed us to bring our own booze in, so we just hired a bartender for the night. We offered a selection of wine and beer, as well as bride and groom big batch cocktails: Pimm’s Lemonade for me (recipe courtesy of APW) and an Old-Fashioned for my husband. Grand total for bar service and alcohol was just under $2,000, and we had a bunch leftover, which is kind of great because we’re now stocked up for the apocalypse.

Where we allocated the least funds:

Photography and flowers: Both our photographer and florist were just starting their businesses at the time we hired them, so they offered us awesome discounts in exchange for our permission to use the wedding in their portfolios. Our florist used mostly locally foraged plants in her arrangements, which also cut down on cost.

What was totally worth it:

The DJ: We were just going to iPod playlist–it, but decided to hire a DJ on the advice of several of our friends who have hosted weddings. We ended up hiring a former co-worker of Tyson’s, who turned out to be insanely good. He was mixing ’90s hip-hop, ’60s funk, and contemporary upbeat music, and people were going nuts. We ended up spontaneously asking the venue owner for an extra hour—which they graciously granted us—because nobody wanted to stop dancing.

What was totally not worth it:

Worrying: I worried so much about having an unconventional “standing” reception with no seated dinner, which was exacerbated by reading bridal boards anywhere outside APW. (Seriously, just don’t even do it. It’s a cruel world out there.) When the blessed day finally arrived, I was weirdly calm, but I had spent months fretting over this event that turned out to be the most incredible day of my life.

A few things that helped us along the way:

APW was a godsend: When I would start feeling anxious about our untraditional setup, I would come here and soothe myself by reading about real weddings that were every bit as—and oftentimes more so—unique as my own wedding. I was so comforted and inspired by the innovative couples on this website. I also made it a point to delegate tasks as the big day approached. Telling people what to do and asking for help are not things I’m comfortable doing, but everyone was stoked to be involved, and it really took the stress off of us toward the end.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Go with your gut: Even if an element seems weird or scary, if it feels right to you, trust that. The people you’ve invited genuinely love you and are excited to share this experience with you, no matter what. When the day arrives you’ll be so blissed out you won’t know when things go wrong—and they inevitably will. My big batch cocktail dispenser broke en route to the venue, so my sweet bridesmaids had to hightail to the store for extra supplies and mix up a batch of hooch in the coat closet (a detail I didn’t find out about until a few days after the wedding).

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Seeing all of our people in one place was the most magical thing ever. My dad was drinking and chatting with my friends. A mutual friend of ours was getting DOWN on the dance floor and pulling anyone in her vicinity into it. Tyson’s brother and our officiant were dancing so vigorously that his brother’s pants split right down the butt seam, a wardrobe malfunction he delightfully incorporated into his dance moves. It was so cool to see all of our most favorite humans all sharing the same space. Many of them have become friends with each other on social media.


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