Our $9K Brunch Wedding in Newport Beach Was Casual AND Chic

PLUS a red wedding dress and a sweet MOH puppy


Debbie & Kenny

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Casual chic brunch wedding with Fruity Pebbles French Toast and a MOH puppy

Planned budget: $10,000

Actual budget: $9,000

Number of guests: 70


Where we allocated the most funds:

The venue (which included food) and photography. While food and venue accounted for the largest chunk of our total budget, finding a similar venue and separate catering would have run us at least twice as much had we gone down a more traditional route with dinner and dancing. To us, this was worth it. A nice plus is that we can go back to the restaurant every year on our anniversary for a celebratory brunch.

As for photography, we wanted our guests to be at the center of the wedding, which is in large part a huge THANK YOU to the friends and family who raised and nourished us through our relationship. We wanted the photography to reflect that. We found Evangeline’s work via APW and Fearless Photographers, and we’re so glad that we did! We were looking for someone who can capture little moments, not just between the couple, but during the entire wedding. A lot of photojournalistic work we pored over lacked a certain romance, but Evangeline was the first photographer that both Kenny and I wholeheartedly agreed upon, which never happens! She met with us via Skype, and the rest was history. When we received our photography, it completely validated all of the hard work we put into the wedding because she and her husband, Evan, captured it all so wonderfully. Every time we go through our wedding pictures, we relive and smile at the little moments from the day and remember why we did it our way.


Where we allocated the least funds:

Paper goods, music (we used Spotify plugged into the restaurant’s AV system), and cake (sheet cake from our fav bakery, King’s Hawaiian Bakery). Our mothers were also so, so generous to gift us with the photo booth service and flowers.


What was totally worth it:

We allotted $10,000 for the wedding, and were determined to stay under budget. That said, we designated the most funds to the food and venue, photography, and photo booth, and they were all completely worth it! Many guests have said to us during and after the wedding how much fun they had because of these three things.

Food and Venue: Our only hard requirements were that it had to be dog friendly and easily accessible for our older guests. It was extremely important to us that the ceremony to be as simple and enjoyable as possible for our grandmothers. While there’s no shortage of venues in SoCal, so many were out of out of our designated budget for food and venue given the above. We knew we had to be creative. Rent an Airbnb and providing catering? Ugh, cleaning. Hold it at a public park and get an In-N-Out Truck? Ugh, permits AND cleaning. Then, we remembered our date night at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations, an intimate, industrial-chic kitchen and whiskey bar in our area. I called their events director and everything magically clicked: full morning buyout, which was much more affordable than dinner and included service and all furnishings and utensils; customized crazy delicious brunch menu with bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys; and we could bring our dog, Riley! Best of all, we were able to have all of the above at budget.

Photo Booth: This was a bit of a surprise to us, but having a professional photo booth that printed unlimited prints for each guest AND a copy for our guestbook was totally worth it. Nearly every guest participated and it was so much fun to see our family and friends make silly faces all morning! We went with GC Photo Booth based on their stellar Yelp reviews and customer service. They definitely earned that five-star average. In full disclosure, we didn’t pay for this service (it was gifted), but we wholeheartedly agree it was one of the best elements of the wedding and recommend it to all our friends.


What was totally not worth it:

We got a lot of “aren’t you supposed to do this and that” and it really stressed me out to the point where I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to make people happy and the wedding Pinterest worthy, but it wasn’t worth figuring out how to squeeze in things we didn’t give two shits about during a day for which we cared a great deal. Ultimately the only things we were “supposed” to do was honor each other in an authentic way that made the most sense to us, and that is exactly what we ended up doing.

We cut out a lot of physical clutter, like decorations and paper goods. Since the venue already had a ton of character, the only decor we brought were DIY centerpieces we made the day before with flowers from the local wholesale market. We used Paperless Post and appycouple.com instead of sending out paper invites and collecting RSVPs. We didn’t create programs and just framed an engineering print with people’s assigned seating. While we did do place cards, they were very easy to DIY and injected a lot of personality into the reception.


My best practical advice for my planning self:

Be true to yourself and your partner. If it doesn’t make you happy or make your life easier, then don’t do it just because someone says you should. Conversely, people are just trying to help in their own ways, so take their input with a grain of salt and also be grateful for their support.


Favorite thing about the wedding:

We loved our wedding, but the thing we loved most was how it reaffirmed our love in each other, our relationships with our friends and family, and of course our infatuation with Riley.


Anything else we should know:

I forgot my vows and didn’t know where I put it until it was my turn to speak at our makeshift altar. I had to ask our guests via microphone, “Did anyone see my purse?” Luckily, Kenny’s cousin had it with her. Kenny got sorority girl drunk on two bottles of champagne. It POURED rain immediately after, and we found out there was a leak in our roof an hour before we were supposed to drive up to Santa Barbara. We ended up staying home that night, ordering take out, and watching Batman vs. Superman on HBO in our sweatpants. It was hardly the perfect day, but it was the BEST DAY.

We were the “Jim and Pam” from The Office in our tiny advertising agency. Kenny and I had an immediate connection, and everyone knew it but us. It eventually became obvious that we were going to be best friends or something more. We bonded over our similar upbringings, a terrible boss, and The Jersey Shore. We both had significant others at the time (scandalous!), but the pull was so strong and resistance was futile. Kenny and I broke it off with our respective BF and GF, and we never looked back.

Two years, a shelter dog, tiny house, and eight jobs later, we held our sweet, little brunch ceremony and reception in front of seventy family members and friends. We deemed it #RileysBigDay, after said shelter dog, and had a memorable and amazing morning that truly embodied US.

Oh, and white dresses are nice, but a red gown makes you feel like the flamenco dancer emoji 💃.


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