Our $18K, Twin Peaks–Inspired, South Carolina Destination Wedding

How spray paint and a handmade dress helped with a pet emergency

MOLLY, UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR & ZACH, teacher and aspiring writer

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: An intimate, somewhat quirky, somewhat traditional, and totally us celebration of our love for each other, our family, and our friends (and Twin Peaks).

Planned budget: $15,000
Actual budget: $18,000
Number of guests: 45
LOCATION: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Where we allocated the most funds:

We decided early on in the planning process to allocate most of the budget to food and photography: food is what people remember, and photographs are how we remember. We were so happy we did. Carolyn and Geoff of Carolyn Scott Photography were absolutely THE BEST. They not only gave us stellar photographs, but they were such a joy to have as guests. Also, they gave us amazing recommendations for things to do in Charleston for our honeymoon (like visit a haunted prison) and were very excited to talk to us about all things Twin Peaks.

Where we allocated the least funds:

We used Paperless Post for both save the dates and invitations. We spent less than $40 for a few print copies of each for keepsakes and to send to those who don’t use email. This not only had cost-saving perks, but we were also able to use the messaging feature in Paperless Post to send a gentle reminder to RSVP!

Since we were planning this South Carolina wedding from Maryland, we wanted to keep any supplies we would have to transport to a minimum. Since we landed such a lovely venue, we didn’t want to clutter it up with decor anyway. What decor we did have we DIYed ourselves and used recycled/found/borrowed materials. We used frames I found in my mom’s attic for signage; I made a paper wreath out of an old book my grandmother gave me (for this purpose), made throw cushions out of fabric provided by my mom and pillows from our home, and borrowed a basket from my mother-in-law for the card box. All we had to buy were some candles, a couple cans of gold paint, some card stock, and a bit of ribbon!

I made my dress myself (with lots of help and around $200 of silk), my mother-in-law created all the flower arrangements, and my brother took care of all of the music.

What was totally worth it:

We were overwhelmed at many points about the cost of a wedding, specifically, a Charleston wedding. One of our dogs tore not one, but both ACLs during our engagement, after we signed all major contracts. (I didn’t even know dogs had ACLs.) There were many, many times we wondered how we were going to make this work. We kept to a tight monthly budget and did without little luxuries we were used to. We made it work. In the end, we had the most amazing wedding we could have possibly imagined, and a dog with two working knees! It was an amazing feeling on that day to know that this was the culmination of a year’s hard work and budgeting. It felt DAMN good. This is feeling empowered on your wedding day.

What was totally not worth it:

Getting sucked into the Pinterest vortex. Pinterest has its place. I became a regular user during/because of wedding planning, and I still use it for other things. It was certainly helpful to get inspiration for the overall look and feel we wanted, but it would often cause more anxiety and stress about how we would achieve that on the budget we had. In the end, our wedding looked nothing like any of the weddings on Pinterest, and we absolutely loved it.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Our amazing, generous, and talented family and friends. Zach’s mother created absolutely stunning flower arrangements. My mother created my beautiful hair combs and flew to Maryland to help in early stages of the wedding dress. A friend in Maryland, who I met after starting on the wedding dress project (who, as luck would have it, does dress alterations for a living), helped in later stages of the project, just as I was starting to think I was in way over my head. My brother arranged and played the ceremony music and hired our reception musician (and accompanied him some).

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Read all the real weddings on APW. Whatever anxiety-of-the-night that was caused by Pinterest would be quickly alleviated by reading APW. Also save for emergencies. The universe doesn’t care if you’re getting married. Emergencies still happen.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Seeing each other for the first time walking down the aisle. Pure contentment. Pure magic.


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