Our $25K Summer Camp–Style Wedding

Even weddings can be a retreat for everyone!

caitlin, child life specialist & reed, phd student

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A DIY summer camp retreat for our people!

Planned budget: $20,000
Actual budget: $25,000
Number of guests: 130
LOCATION: Montague, Michigan

Where we allocated the most funds:

We allocated the most funds to the overall vibe and comfort to our guests who were all traveling a ways to come celebrate. Anything that would make the weekend better for them was a priority including welcome bags, food, and drink (we are in Michigan so good craft beer was a must).

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Decor—a majority was DIY, gathered, or rented. We had a family friend make the wedding cake, my sister do the invitations, and my mother-in-law and Reed’s aunt arrange centerpieces.

What was totally worth it:

Having it at a summer camp, which cost $3,000 for the whole weekend to rent plus staff for activities such as lifeguards, rock climbing, and archery. People arrived Friday evening and got the chance to reunite with old friends and meet new ones, and no one had to worry about driving from place to place. There were plenty of activities around, and people got the chance to relax and have a break from a “typical wedding.”

What was totally not worth it:

Preparing for all types of weather. Fall in Michigan can be snowing, raining, or sunny, and we prepared for each of them in excess, including umbrellas for all the guests, blankets, etc. It was 92 degrees the day of our wedding.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Reed was good at keeping things in check. We did a lot of the planning together, and he was a good voice of reason, but he also contributed to some really fun aspects of the wedding.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

A lot of the stuff doesn’t matter. I had to keep reminding myself with each idea that people wouldn’t miss it if it wasn’t there. For example, we had thought about having a tie-dye station. Would it have been awesome? absolutely. Would it have been expensive and hard to manage? Absolutely. Were people just as happy with friendship bracelet–making? absolutely.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Seeing people who didn’t know each other twelve hours prior doing activities together. The night before the wedding we had a big game of Mafia going with people from all different parts of our lives; the little moments like that made it all worth it.

Something else We’d like to share:

We made the ceremony very much our own, incorporating aspects that we wanted and leaving out parts that weren’t meaningful to us. Our whole ceremony was done by our friends and family, and it was very special to us to have each of them contribute.


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