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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  • This is glorious. Love the dress, the venue and the food. I also concur with the sentiment behind “A nice plus is that we can go back to the restaurant every year on our anniversary.” Most aspects of our wedding (cake, locations, flowers, etc.) are from local vendors that do normal stuff beyond weddings, so I’m excited to be able to take a walk near our reception venue or grab a slice of our wedding cake from our neighborhood bakery anytime I want to relieve a moment of our wedding.

    • Jane

      Yeah. Our main flowers are from our local market and I can just buy (or my FH can buy) pretty much the same bouquet every August.

      • RileysBigDay

        Buying wholesale flowers ended up saving us over $500! For about $150, we were able create 16 beautiful, understated centerpieces and a lovely bouquet.

    • Totch

      Our wedding cake was just a normal one off the bakery’s menu, so I’m picking up a small one on Monday to mark one month of marriage! (Also because we truly didn’t have time to enjoy it on the day)

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you for your sweet comment! We’ve been back to the restaurant since and high fived the bartender for keeping our guests liquored up all morning!

  • Vanessa

    “It was hardly the perfect day, but it was the BEST DAY.” New wedding motto.

    • YEP.

    • RileysBigDay

      Yes, thank you for your comment! In retrospect, all the little imperfections turned out to be great conversation fodder. We’re appreciative of the entire experience, with all the good and bad.

  • Mim86

    This is the wedding I needed to see. Seriously. I am making myself sick over trying to make everyone happy and not being “tacky” for our July 2017 wedding and omg to see you guys choose what is important, stick to budget and have such a beautiful wedding is a salve to my soul. Yall are beautiful, your wedding was beautiful and thank you!

    • sofar

      Trying to make other people happy is the worst part of wedding-planning because, despite your best attempts, you won’t make anyone happy.

      Plus, I learned people fight you and guilt-trip you over the stupidest things. But the day of, everyone shuts up as if by magic and then tells you it was a “beautiful wedding.” And those who do grumble the day of won’t affect you at all because you’ll be so busy. Even so, that doesn’t make the planning process (and telling people for the umpteenth time, “No I’m not wearing a veil. No it won’t ruin everything”) any easier.

      • zana

        Yeah, if you’re having trouble with the people-pleasing, it’s best to keep as many details to yourself. People will [generally] keep the judge-y comments to themselves on the day-of.

        • I agree! Only share with a few select people that you know will be supportive.

      • Mim86

        We are having nice plastic plates, a southern food buffet and getting married in a (albeit stunning) barn, sending online invites and I am daily having breakdowns over things being cheap.

        And OMG the veil. No one will shut up about me not wearing a veil. I don’t volunteer, but when they ask, I say no, and then they ask about hair and I say big ass hair and they look like they want to die. Im such a people pleaser and an introvert, so this is about the worst process of life.

        This is the reason I only come to APW. Yall drop mad knowledge without the judgment.

        • zana

          We did online invites and no veil. And the state of Pennsylvania is yet to revoke our marriage license ;)

        • flashphase

          I didn’t wear a veil, I have no regrets!!!! My mom also didn’t wear a veil and when someone told her I had to wear one to show deference to my husband, she responded “that’s not the custom in our family.”

          • ART

            ew and good for your mom!

          • RileysBigDay

            YAASSS, Mama Flashphase!

        • Totch

          No veil and I didn’t even do my hair! I stopped in to the salon for a trim that morning and then left it alone. A few people were a bit scandalized that I like, wasn’t putting in an appropriate amount of effort? But fuck em. Enjoy the big hair!

        • Katharine Parker

          If people are giving you a hard time (and you can predict that they might), don’t tell them! “I want to keep the look a surprise for the big day!” is a totally acceptable answer.

          It’s hard to do this with questions of logistics, but for all else, you can evade, if necessary change the subject, and be just fine. “A veil? I can’t reveal my wedding look just now–I don’t know what news will get back to Alistair! (wink conspiratorially)” “Plates? I haven’t even thought about plates! So many details, right? So how’s Tuppence’s new preschool going?” Unless people are super rude they’re not going to keep pressing you on what kind of plates you’re getting.

        • Lawyerette510

          Big ass hair sans veil sounds glorious to me! I didn’t have a veil and I didn’t miss it.

        • Jane

          No veil here! Solidarity. To be fair, my friends and family would probably raise their eyebrows more for wearing one than for going without.

        • RileysBigDay

          “I am daily having breakdowns over things being cheap” – I constantly felt this way as well! Doing things on a budget meant a lot of decisions being made against the cost of my mortgage.

          Are elaborate flowers worth 1/3 of my mortgage? No? Ok, onto the next one.

          I also got the same “conversations” about wearing a veil. My answer was, I’m spending $$$ for a fancy updo. Hell no I’m not covering that up.”

        • Bethany

          This was my wedding exactly (minus the online invites – we did paper) and I wore a knee length dress so I got lots of “You should really think about a veil… you won’t look ‘bridal’ enough.” My response was always I don’t want to look like a “bride” I want to look and feel like myself, which usually satisfied people.

          I’m one of the last of my group to get married and I was definitely feeling a little nervous about it feeling cheap too. But everyone had a blast, the food was delish, no one commented on the plastic plates/utensils/cups, and I’m SO GLAD I didn’t spend $$$ on upgrades I didn’t care about. My goal was to not throw money at things that weren’t going to add any fun to the day and I think we really stuck to that (for the most part).

      • RileysBigDay

        “Trying to make other people happy is the worst part of wedding-planning” – YES. I think it’s natural to want to please others and make your friends and family proud. At the end of the day, I think it’s more important to know you succeeded (or failed) based on your own convictions.

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you for the sweet feedback! Making everyone happy should start with making you and your significant other happy first. If it doesn’t, then it’s likely to not be worth the money, effort, and stress! Smile lines > worry wrinkles.

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  • Photographing this wedding just reaffirmed why I love shooting weddings and especially APW readers. I’m sure you can tell from what they wrote but these two are freaking awesome! We ended up bringing our dog Chichi along and she and Riley got a play date in their matching hot pink hoodies. That brunch was to-die-for too! The people you should try and listen to are the ones who say you should do what you want and not worry about making others happy! As a recent bride myself I can attest to what Debbie says about not giving a shit about anything Pinterest worthy on the day of. Try to not stress out and happy planning everyone!

    • Lawyerette510

      But where are the pictures of Riley and Chichi on their twinsie play date?

      • Ask the APW staff! ;)

        • Lawyerette510

          Fingers crossed they are just saving them for a #weddingpetwednesday montage on Instagram

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you and Evan so much! Riley says hi to Chichi!

  • CMT

    I love the cake!

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you for your sweet comment! The venue was able to cut it up and package them into small takeout boxes, so it doubled as a wedding favor. Two birds, one delicious stone.

  • Lisa

    That dress! Beautiful!

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you! We tried on several white dresses but none of them was very “me.” The red, however, made me feel ALIVE.

  • Katherine

    This is absolutely amazing.

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you for your sweet comment!

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  • Brynna

    This is lovely!!! We had an almost identical brunch wedding this past Saturday. Cheers to brunches!

    • Jane


    • RileysBigDay

      Brunches are the best. Congrats!

  • Totch

    Gorgeous wedding! Riley is very lucky.

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you! We think we’re quite lucky to have her too.

  • ssha

    “The only thing we were supposed to do was honor each other in an authentic way that made sense to us.” ?

    • Lawyerette510


    • RileysBigDay

      Once we figured this out, a lot of the planning was easier to suss out.

      It is completely out of character for us as a couple? Yes? K, on to the next one.

  • Lawyerette510

    This is everything!

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you for your sweet comment!

  • Laura

    I just love this so much. All of it.

    Congratulations to you both (and Riley)!

    • RileysBigDay

      We (including riley) thank you for your sweet comment!

  • “Oh, and white dresses are nice, but a red gown makes you feel like the flamenco dancer emoji.”
    *Goes off to buy a red dress just so I can use this line.

    • RileysBigDay

      DO IT! I don’t regret it one bit.

  • Shawna

    Wedding pet heart eyes emoji! Everything about this FEELS like the best day. Obviously a great couple and a great photographer. Congratulations!

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you for your sweet comment! It really was the best day :)

  • Clare C

    What a beautiful wedding. Love the red dress: I’m thinking of doing the same, and definitely follow the advice below of not telling anyone except my moh and mother!

    @rileysbigday, Since we are planning a wedding with a similar vibe, but afternoon tea, not brunch, I wondered if you could help with some logistical questions…did you have a sit down brunch, and what was timing like for any first dance or speeches? Straight after ceremony or after some brunching time?

    • RileysBigDay

      @clarecaulfield:disqus, thank you for your sweet comment! While I didn’t hear any negativity around wearing a red dress (I’m Chinese, and red is a traditional color for brides), I definitely could have benefitted from keeping some details to ourselves.

      We did have a sit down brunch! After the ceremony, we took family pictures while the rest of the guests enjoyed pastries and cocktails. This lasted about 20 min, and we were able to mingle with the guests for another ~15 minutes before they were seated. We walked in and went straight into the first dance, which was short (< 3 min). Brunch was served quickly after. We took some time to eat and had speeches from our sisters (about 15 minutes total). Brunch concluded about an hour post speeches, and people started to stream out around 12:30 – 1 pm. The entire ceremony and reception lasted about 4.5 hours, which was really nice because people still had the rest of their day to enjoy.

  • Kristine

    #rileysbigday. I love everything about this wedding because it is so clear you two put what you cared most about into it and forgot the rest. That is so much easier said than done! Best wishes to you two and Riley.

    • RileysBigDay

      “it is so clear you two put what you cared most about into it and forgot the rest” – YES, it really was easier said than done! But, once we realized this was our “mission statement” of sorts, the overall planning process felt a lot more streamlined.

  • littleinfinity

    Currently planning a wedding in the LA area, and yes so much of THIS budget struggle ->> “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.” Those ideas sound so great in theory, but once I started really looking into the logistics, I decided they are better for someone who has a ton of experience in event planning (or who is more of an organizer/ cleaner than I am, lol). We are probably also going with a restaurant for this exact reason!! Your wedding looks lovely and that red dress is BOMB.

    • RileysBigDay

      Thanks for your sweet comments! I started out planning a more traditional wedding with a set budget of $10k. One place – a BEAUTIFUL place – quoted me $3000 for the day, and their required caterer quoted me $75/head. That was our entire budget! So I started looking on OpenTable.com and filtered for restaurants set up for events. That got me closer, but I eventually called Bosscat Kitchen. They had done several events before but never a wedding. We met with the event director, checked all my boxes, and the searched stopped there. I didn’t have to worry about renting tables or hiring a caterer or worried about parking, etc. I will say, though, the outside wasn’t particularly scenic as it’s located in a rather industrial/business area by the airport. That said, one of our FAV pictures from the day took place in the parking lot and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • morningbell

    Oh my gosh. This is one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever seen! I’ve been seriously stressed out about my 65-person restaurant brunch wedding, and I SO needed to see this today. Thanks for proving that getting rid of a lot of the wedding paraphernalia has no bearing on how magical your day is. Wishing you so much happiness!

    • RileysBigDay

      Thank you for your sweet comments! Honestly, getting rid a lot of “Pinteresty” things helped relieve a ton of stress. I thought about doing keychain favors and doily placemats and sparklers and mason jars and blahblahblah – and it would have looked amazing because the internet says it would, right? I opted not to have a planner so all of it would have fallen on my shoulders. It just wasn’t worth my sanity.

      Setting, and sticking to a budget, made decisions a little easier since $10k was not going to accommodate a lot of ancillary decor. Though we could have DIY’d a lot of things and saved money there, we decided it wasn’t worth sourcing the materials, effort of hand making everything, dozens of hours, and STRESS for us. It made more sense to put that money towards our honeymoon.

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