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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  • Rebecca

    Um, you’ve got some photos in there from a different wedding…

  • Lisa

    Beautiful wedding! I love those photos of you two in the woods. They look so ethereal and joyful.

  • Elizabeth

    “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).”

    Omg this times a thousand. There are places on the internet where if you suggest not doing assigned seating it’s like you suggested sacrificing a dog.

    • Jan

      For real. Before I found APW I found myself browsing, um, other sites for guidance, and hooolllllyyyyyyy shit. Those people are nuts.

  • This looks like a really fun wedding I would have loved to been at! Pizza ad a donut wall? Yum!

  • Emily B

    A) This wedding looks like it was *so much fun*!!!! and B) Whoa hold up, you did this all in a yoga studio!?!? That is genius, I never even thought of that! Fiance and I are looking for venues and we’re both yogis…but I never even considered that some studios might host events. And some quick googling found me some in the right location that could be potential good fits, so thank you thank you for sharing this!!

  • Lea

    It looks awesome! And your photographer *killed* it. Saying you’re going with a budget photographer is another thing that will get you flayed on other wedding boards.

    • Jan

      The photos are stunning– really, really awesome steal for the couple! I hired a budget photographer for my first wedding and he was (fart noise).

    • dave

      Experience produces consistency, in photography as in everything else. Hiring a budget photographer is great as long as you don’t mind having a smaller selection of winners you can display. You may also get inconsistent editing/colors/etc…in this wedding above you can tell that the photographer is still looking for their signature style, and some pictures are warm, some cool, some pinkish, some green, etc. etc. After some time, this photographer will solidify her look and the images will look more consistent.

      If you go in with reasonable expectations, you should be okay, and maybe you’ll get someone who is on the cusp of raising their pricing and get a good deal…As a wedding photographer, I’ve heard waaaay too many stories of disappointment in this area, and it sucks knowing that there’s nothing I can do to help. Bums me out every time.

  • Zoya

    I am now *so mad* that we didn’t have a grazing table at our wedding. What a fabulous idea!

    • PAJane

      I’m also pretty mad about not having a TJ nearby.

  • PAJane

    I love the detail about the secret closet hooch.

  • Sarah

    They are so fly I can’t even. The dress. The hair. The tweed. The moustache. THE BROWN LIPSTICK. Dying over here.

  • Krate

    Whaaaat. What a party!! You look amazing and I bet people felt like getting to know new people in part because you didn’t seat them at tables with people they knew. This might not have worked for every wedding or group of people but you made it work!! And that budget! This is one of my favorite weddings I’ve seen on here because it’s gorgeous, fun, practical, and different!

    When we thought it might rain we almost had to switch last minute to something like this. I was so worried but I see now I shouldn’t have been. Now I almost wish we had! But it was much less stressful and still a great wedding that we didn’t have to.

  • suchbrightlights

    If you want to redo your whole wedding and invite some strangers, I would LOVE to be a guest at this kind of party. It sounds like you had a ton of fun and I salute all your choices!

  • agoldenblackbird

    The donut wall is the best thing and I am totally stealing that idea.

  • Candalyn

    We’re getting married in Salt Lake this summer and we just booked that pizza truck! I have had meltdowns from both our mothers and a few others besides but we are super excited for the food AND the price. I am going to send this link to all of them to show how beautiful a pizza food truck wedding can really be. :)

  • Kara Davies

    Can we stop and appreciate the beauty of this groom’s suit for a sec? Absolutely gorgeous!

  • NC

    A yoga studio!? What a great idea!!!

  • Jan

    Just seeing this post now– your wedding looks so fun, and your DRESS! So light and airy looking. Love!

    We desperately wanted to do a grazing reception (originally with food trucks, but that ended up being super expensive). I hated the idea of everyone having to sit down at the same time to eat, but my in-laws lost their minds when they heard we wouldn’t be serving a dinner. We caved and did a buffet, and while I loved the food at our wedding, if I could go back in time, I’d hold my ground and do it my way. Ah well.