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How We Had a Chill DIY Party for 240 Guests in the Phillippines

Pink hair, don't care (+wedding doughnuts for life) ?

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Angela, product manager & B, user experience designer

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Laid-back, casual “Minimum Viable Wedding”

Planned budget: $11,500 (PhP 500,000)

Actual budget: $12,680 (PhP 557,800)

Number of guests: 240

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Where we allocated the most funds:

1. The food and reception venue
2. Band and band equipment
3. Wedding rings

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Where we allocated the least funds:

We didn’t spend on a videographer. Instead, we used a GoPro that was an early wedding gift for some casual clips before and during the wedding.

We planned our wedding ourselves, with the help of our bridesmaids, cousins, and parents. My brother and his wife made our table numbers; B’s cousin hand-drew what would become the backdrop; my cousins went with me to source and handpick our giveaways; my maid and matron of honor helped handle all the day-itself emergencies. We borrowed the wedding accessories (pillows, secondary veils—part of the Philippine Catholic wedding tradition), handed down from cousin-to-cousin. My mom gave us a gift of boiled duck eggs (balut, a local delicacy), which we served as an appetizer while people were trickling in before dinner.

We saved by going for a casual “engagement pictorial” shoot by a close college friend who’s a professional photographer, and even our wedding was shot by my sister’s friend.

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What was totally worth it:

THE BAND. And our amazing sound system. From the start, we knew music would be a key part of our wedding. Based on the APW Checklist’s tips, we chose our top priorities, so we started drafting our playlist the moment we decided we’d get married. Having a full live band play for our friends and family was awesome. They got people singing and on their feet, which was everything we’d wanted.

Our table decor/giveaways (succulents and ornamental plants in gold and white pails) were also really worth it. Not only did we save money, but a highlight of our night was seeing people start angling to get their little succulent-pails the moment we announced that they could take the little gold and white pails home with them.

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What was totally not worth it:

Having my brows done by a salon I had just tried. When they say brow shape changes your face, apparently it’s true. If you want to look like yourself on your wedding day, I advise that you just stay as close to your natural brows like my makeup artist fairy godmother advised.

Also not worth it: arguing about the seat plan, and not delegating early enough. We tried to do everything everything ourselves in the earlier weeks. I should have followed an early bit of advice I read: Let others help you.

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A few things that helped us along the way:

1. Family and friends
2. Not a promotional bit, seriously: A Practical Wedding
3. Squarespace, Google Drive, and Flipboard

We couldn’t have done this without all the help we got with planning, scheduling, sourcing, crafting, driving and commuting back and forth, and shooting pictures. And without each other’s patience through the really rough planning patches, we never would have made it.

We used probably every APW planning post, from invitation wording, to DIY bar calculations, to the “only checklist you’ll need” (which is really a godsend), to stage management tips. Also, online tools really help DIY weddings happen. All of our budget, copy, and task spreadsheets were on Google Drive, accessible to everybody.

We loved our Squarespace online invitation (and so did our friends) that we sent to all of our younger guests. For the older generation, we still sent physical invites, just in case.

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My best practical advice for my planning self:

If you only do one thing, have the prioritization discussion at the start of wedding planning, and be brutally honest. When you start wanting to buy or spend on things, that prioritization will save you. And on the actual wedding day, you’ll be happy you saved up for the things that really mattered.

If you don’t want to spend upward of $200 on a dress, don’t. Believe me, there’ll be a ton of other things you’ll think of spending on along the way anyway. Also, be considerate to friends with young kids, who may not have a choice but to bring their child.

Find the right advice to listen to. Which basically means the ones that match your vision (or lack of it) for your wedding day. Also, try to think of everything you hated and loved as a wedding guest. And solve all of that. We’re experience designers, and the most important thing when designing anything is understanding the “customer” or “target user,” the person who’ll be consuming the experience: the guest. Because even if it was “our day,” we wanted it to celebrate the love and the people who made us who we are.

My favorite and most memorable bit of advice: “Think of this as the first party that you and your husband will throw for your loved ones.”

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Anything else to share:

We knew that we just really wanted to have a relaxed, fun party for the people we love. It didn’t have to be a “wedding” wedding. The bottom line was we wanted to enjoy, and we wanted our friends to enjoy. We were lucky that we both didn’t want the pageantry (and ruffles) we’d gotten used to seeing (also, we really wanted to save money).

In terms of approach, we were inspired by a concept that we like and believe in at work: “Minimum Viable Product.” B and I build digital products (apps and websites), and, in product development and start-up project management there’s a concept called “Minimum Viable Product,” which means developing only what’s necessary for the product to work. So this was what inspired us, our own little Minimum Viable Wedding.

Why? In Manila, weddings are lavish—the entourage typically has a set entrance dance, many couples have choreographers for their first dance, brides have morning prep pictorials with their gowns on mannequins, and receptions have same-day edits (a 2-minute video recapping the highlights of the day, costing upward of $230 added to normal video coverage). It gets really, really expensive. (Also, a “cheap” wedding gown is upward of $270.)

My husband and I are independent design consultants. We just started our consulting team last year and we need to focus our budget on running our business and establishing a new life together. We just really wanted to drink and hang out with people. We literally wanted “a practical wedding,” so we designed our wedding day to have only the elements that we cared about, that we felt were important for people to have a good time: drinks, good music, sitting guests with the people they knew and were comfortable with, lots of food, and doughnuts.

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