How We Planned Our Budget, Mountain Wedding for $2K

A quiet ceremony, with a backyard reception


Matt, Luthier and doting dog parent & Alice, Vet student

One sentence sum up of the wedding vibe: A quiet mountain ceremony followed by a casual backyard reception a week later.


Planned Budget: Whatever we could manage bit by bit

Actual Budget: About $1,600 to $2,000

Number of Guests: 12 for the actual ceremony, 30–40 at the Pennsylvania reception


Where we allocated the most funds

Food was important to us, and a restaurant seemed like the best solution for such a small group of people on the day of the ceremony. We made reservations at a local Southwest restaurant in Asheville called Zia, which we all enjoyed so much that we only have one photo of the dinner! We went there a few hours after the ceremony for a sit-down dinner followed by homemade macarons that I made two days before the wedding. My dress was also a splurge (by my standards, a bargain for the rest of the wedding world), which my mom kindly ordered for me.

Our biggest expenditure on the Pennsylvania reception was definitely the rented tent, tables, and chairs, which totaled around $800. Food and booze probably came next. We had some lovely Prosecco (a good option instead of Champagne, in my opinion, as you can get a much nicer bottle for the same cost as a less delightful Champagne) given to us by a family friend and wine aficionado, and bought a few cases of a variety of craft beers. We also served DIY gin and tonics.


Where we allocated the least funds

Everything I haven’t mentioned, really. I’m a full-time student and Matt doesn’t exactly rake in the dough at his job, so we knew this would have to be a modest affair, which was just what we wanted (and actually provided a simple justification to our would-be critics about why we were having such a small, private ceremony). Our flowers at the Pennsylvania reception were important to me, since Craggy Gardens is considered a fragile biome and no live plant material is allowed (and I just love flowers). I had a dried flower bouquet at the ceremony. For the reception, my mom asked for help from a family friend and fellow-gardener, and together they made the arrangements with wholesale sunflowers and other blooms from their own gardens.

What was totally worth it

Getting married on the mountain. We went back and forth about locations a bit, since the weather at Craggy Gardens can be really unpredictable and there is about a three-quarter mile hike to the ceremony spot, but it is one of our special places as a couple, and just seemed like the right thing to do. We had the contingency plan of a picnic shelter if it decided to dump rain on us, but we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather. It was both sunny and not too hot or humid, which is a rare combination for North Carolina in June. Our guests only got a little bit tired walking up to the ceremony (we had advised people to wear appropriate shoes).

Having a bigger reception in Pennsylvania was also totally worth it. I’m not a huge party person, and we knew we didn’t want dancing or anything too formal, but it was a wonderful way to include some of our very beloved family and friends in the wedding festivities. I am very close to all of my aunts and uncles in particular, but knew that having them all come to North Carolina with their families would necessitate a bigger affair than we were really looking to plan. The backyard reception was just right, and was also a nice excuse to see our family and friends again (I live in Scotland most of the year, so I hardly ever see them).


What was totally not worth it

Worrying about family issues so late in the game. Although we planned a pretty relaxed celebration, we had some family difficulties that made the planning experience much less enjoyable. Instead of struggling with chair covers and seating charts, we struggled with some deep-seated relationship issues with my husband’s family, which at times made it feel like our wedding couldn’t possibly be a happy affair. While we are still working on some of those issues, they didn’t affect our enjoyment of the wedding, our wonderful “honeymoon” trip from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, or our reception. We made a lot of attempts at trying to resolve things (or at least put a band-aid on things) at the last minute and had some pretty tough phone calls the week leading up to the wedding. If we could do it again, I think we should have tried to deal with some of those issues a little sooner.

A few things that helped us along the way

My parents helped us out so much. They pretty much planned the entire reception in Pennsylvania, just asking our advice on who to invite and what we should eat and drink. It wouldn’t have been possible without them. Our wonderful friends who drove a thousand miles to attend our tiny ceremony. Our other friends who made trays of Korean dumplings, brought flowers and Prosecco, took photos, dog-wrangled, and just came with much-needed good wishes and smiles and blessings. And Skype, which allowed us to plan this with me in Scotland and Matt in North Carolina (and allows us to keep in touch now that we’re temporarily apart again).

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My best practical advice for my planning self

People love you. They will still love you if you don’t invite them to the ceremony. They’ll understand, because they know you, and know that you still want to celebrate with them. And people will love Matt even though they haven’t met him, because he’s got a personality that barely fits in his 6’3″ frame, and because he’s friendly and kind, and most of all because you love him, and that’s what matters.

Favorite thing about the wedding

Marrying Matt. Getting to spend a day in one of our favorite places, eating fish tacos, having a few drinks at our local pub with our last few friends, wandering around the bed and breakfast the next day in a happy daze. Having our beloved German Shepherd Maple as the ring-bearer. And getting to feel so loved again a week later, with more of our friends and family.

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Budget Breakdown

Ceremony and Dinner in North Carolina

Park permit: $60 for non-exclusive rights to get married at Craggy Gardens. We had a few hikers arrive at the top just after the ceremony ended, and they shared our watermelon with us!

Dinner: Around $360 for dinner at a Southwestern restaurant and margaritas and craft beer for twelve people.

Dessert: Macarons made by me two days before the wedding, probably around $25 in supplies (almond flour was definitely most of that). The benefit of macarons, besides being cute and delicious, is that they actually taste better after a day or two, once the filling has sort of mooshed onto the shell.

Rings: $270 for both from Ash Hilton, with a custom design in ethical sterling silver. They are so great to work with, and this is the most comfortable and practical ring I’ve ever worn (I don’t have a very jewelry-friendly profession).

Outfits: $300 for my dress from Whirling Turban. My mom found the shoes on sale at a department store near her house. Matt’s shirt was $6 on sale at a local department store, and the rest he already owned.

Pennsylvania Reception

Tent, chairs, and tables: $800 from a local rental company, who was really, really disappointed that we didn’t want a dance floor and lighting.

Plates and cutlery: Not sure what we paid for these, but we used disposable ones made of biodegradable potato starch.

Booze: Probably around $60 on two cases of craft beer on sale. We had Prosecco for the toasts that was a gift from another friend. We also did DIY gin and tonics, and also had a giant pitcher of pink lemonade that was nice with the gin or for non-drinkers.

Food: Cookout-style marinated chicken and sausages from a local farm, grilled by my dad, and simple sides. Macarons and fresh fruit for dessert. Not sure what it came to, but probably around $85 for the meat and minimal cost for sides and appetizers, many of which came from our guests. One friend owns a Korean restaurant, and brought huge platters of dumplings for an appetizer.

Flowers: Wholesale sunflowers and blooms from my mom and her friend’s garden, given to us and arranged by her friend as a gift. We ended up filling the trunk of my car with sunflowers when we went back home two days later, since I couldn’t bear to leave them all behind.



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