Kris, adjunct professor & Ben, business systems analyst
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A relaxed and simple day on the farm, celebrating our love and commitment with the people we love most.
Planned budget: $12,000
Actual budget: $20,000
Number of guests: 120
LOCATION: Marydel, Maryland
Where we allocated the most funds:
Rentals ($8,000), catering ($2,500), band ($2,000). We knew before we started the wedding planning that there were four must-haves: pizza, pie, animals, and a live band. When we were originally looking at venues, we wanted to have an outdoor wedding on a beautiful piece of land. What we didn’t quite consider was that a beautiful piece of land, while great, often lacks structures and amenities. We fell in love with a beautiful little alpaca farm on the rural eastern shore of Maryland, right in between our hometowns and just thirty minutes from the college where we met and fell in love. We said yes to the venue before shopping for rentals, and even though we spent nearly half of our budget on rentals, I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Two alumni from our Alma Mater own a rental company, Price Rentals and Events, and helped us tremendously with the wedding planning and rentals. They also introduced us to our incredible band, Dell Foxx Company.
We knew we wanted pizza and pie for dinner and dessert, so we contacted our favorite pizza shop. They had only catered a few weddings before, but they agreed to work with us, and the food was amazing! Bonus, cold pizza leftovers! Our best man’s wife and her friends just recently started their own pie shop, The Ugly Pie, and we knew we wanted their amazing teacup pies as our desserts. They delivered incredible pies that were the perfect complement to my mother-in-law’s homemade wedding cake. Our guests still tell us it was the best wedding they have ever attended because of the food, music, and animals. Mission accomplished!
Where we allocated the least funds:
Invitations, decorations, flowers, and cake. Our decor theme was a mixture of vintage and woodland. I am an artist, my mother is an artist, and most of our extended families are involved in some form of art or another, so I used these connections and my DIY passion to create the decorations. I was also able to trade my photography in exchange for vintage items from my favorite vintage store, Treasures ReFound. Our tables were adorned with vintage terrariums and planters filled with dollar store moss, painted plastic animals, and faux flowers. Our tent ceiling was decorated with branch wreaths (from Michaels, on sale with coupons) that were covered with boxwood from my Aunt’s yard, and faux flowers with moss. Hanging from the wreaths were remote-controlled tea lights in my grandmother’s vintage canning jars.
My fantastic sister in-law has a natural talent for arranging flowers, so she helped with flower arranging, including the bouquets. Our cake (for the ceremonial cutting) was made by my very talented mother-in-law who bakes as a hobby, and the cake topper was made by my mother. My uncle is an arborist, and we asked him to provide a few items, including stumps to line the ceremony aisle and wood slices for the tables. On the day before the wedding, he went to our venue, in secret, and installed an incredible hand-made wedding arch. We were so surprised and touched! When we buy a house, this wild and beautiful arch will adorn our garden. For our guest cards, we made 120 farm animal card holders. These were made from spray painted plastic animals, tiny wood slices, and alligator clips. This was by far our coolest DIY for the wedding. For our wedding invitations, we chose to make a four-page hand-bound book with a cover cut on my Silhouette Cameo. Although this process was long and arduous, everyone loved the invitations and most have kept them as mementos.
Additionally, our wedding rings are unique and inexpensive. My husband, who was not artistically inclined, went outside of his comfort zone and hand-made me a rope engagement ring. Because my engagement ring was so unique, we knew we wanted unique wedding rings. My ring is an antique opal and sapphire ring (opal representing the month of our engagement, sapphire representing the month of our marriage) and his ring is a handmade dinosaur bone and meteorite ring.
What was totally worth it:
We got engaged prior to heading off to graduate school in different states, so we decided that we would wait until after we both finished school to get married. This allowed us to have a three-year engagement, which was fantastic. Following several weddings we attended, the newlyweds would always advise us to elope. In these three years, countless people echoed this sentiment and told us that the wedding itself was not worth the money or the stress. Regardless, we persisted because it was important to us to celebrate our love with our friends and family at a big party. Every part of the wedding, any stress, and all of the money was completely worth it to us.
Having a friend officiate our wedding was totally worth it because we chose the guy who introduced us, and he was able to add a close, personal touch to our ceremony that no one else could. Renting a relaxing VRBO (as opposed to a hotel) for our wedding party during our wedding weekend was also a fantastic decision! For just $800 we were able to rent a house in the woods and on the water for five days that housed our wedding parties. On the night before our wedding, we went for a moonlight kayak, and on the day of our wedding, all of us sat together on the porch eating breakfast and discussing the day ahead. We also knew that we would be so tired after the wedding that we would want to just go to sleep, and we felt more comfortable falling asleep in a beautiful log cabin surrounded by friends rather than in a stuffy hotel room (our friends have some great horror stories about their five-star honeymoon suites).
What was totally not worth it:
When we started thinking about our wedding, we agreed that we wanted every detail to reflect who we are as a couple. In pursuit of this, we used vendors that we had personal connections to, chose and made decorations that were reflective of our style, and did not worry about following tradition; rather, we followed what felt right to us. Because of this, every part of our wedding was worth it. There are a few things we omitted from the wedding because we felt they did not reflect us, including a traditional wedding ceremony and vows (we wrote our own), tossing the bouquet and garter, and taking a honeymoon immediately following the wedding (we are going to Ireland this summer for our honeymoon). We also opted to have a playlist for our ceremony and cocktail hour on a portable wireless speaker rather than ceremony musicians, and this was absolutely the right decision for us.
The one thing I wish we had money for in our budget was a videographer. However, as a professional photographer, the photography was most important to me, so we chose to spend our money on that.
A few things that helped us along the way:
I cannot emphasize how talented our friends and family are, and how much we used those talents to make our wedding day truly special. We leveraged every connection that we had to help us plan our wedding and traded our skills for wedding items. In addition to using connections for the photography, rentals, food, and decor, a close friend of mine helped with wedding day coordination. To save money, we bought alcohol in bulk for our
DIY bar (two signature cocktails, three wines, and three beers), clipped coupons for craft stores to buy decor items and DIY supplies, and bought as many flowers and decor elements from the dollar store as possible. As I said above, we made sure that every element of the wedding reflected us, and in pursuit of this we cut out a lot of “expected” or “traditional” wedding elements that we didn’t feel were us. This helped us save quite a bit of money. Having a small wedding party was also a great decision! We each had two people in our wedding party, plus our friend who officiated, and this kept costs and stress down.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Follow your heart and don’t listen to people who might doubt your vision. Choose things that spark joy and reflect you as a couple. As hard as you try to organize every detail of the wedding, something will slip through the cracks. Because of my poor communication, we almost didn’t have soft drinks for the bar, and the wedding folders for our bridal parties and immediate family that I spent hours carefully printing and composing were never handed out. Because we set up the rentals ourselves, the seating chart we spent days planning didn’t work, so we ditched it at the last minute and reworked the seating. The important thing is to make sure you have one to three designated “crisis” managers who can go to the nearest grocery store twenty minutes before your ceremony to grab soda and return in enough time to work the music for your ceremony (shout out to Maria, Dylan, and Anita!). Leading up to the wedding, people told us how fast it would go by, but we really didn’t grasp it until we experienced it. Take the whole thing in as much as you can because in the blink of an eye, it will be over.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Choosing a favorite part of our wedding is like choosing a favorite child. Because we infused ourselves into every part of our wedding, from our wedding entrance to Daft Punk, to our surprise dance (a choreographed rumba while eating cold pizza), down to the names of our signature cocktails. We loved each and every part of our wedding because it was a hundred percent us.
Something else I’d like to share:
When you are planning a wedding, it is important to work with your partner and listen to yourself. If someone doubts a choice you have made or insists you “must” have something in your wedding (especially in the wedding industry!) trust that you and your partner know what is best for your special day. If something doesn’t spark love or joy, don’t include it!