Our $5K Self-Officiated, Intimate Ceremony In The Park

Take an Instagram influencer and add coffee

Viet-Thi, Physician & Brian, Instagram Influencer

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Casual self-uniting ceremony with intimate community vows and, of course, coffee!

Planned budget: $5,100
Actual budget: $4,800
Number of guests: 12
LOCATION: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Where we allocated the most funds:

With Brian being an Instagram influencer (shameless plug: please follow him @bchanism), looking good in photos is literally part of his job. So it was quite important that he be the main focus of our photos (how’s that for a gender reversal?). Given that, naturally photos were where we allocated the most funds. Brian worked closely with New York City–based, made-to-measure menswear company called Articles of Style, and handpicked every inch of his suit. Worth. Every. Penny.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Catering. We are throwing a party in California next year with more than 150 of our family and friends, so we had to budget really carefully with this wedding. We opted to eat at our favorite cheese steak spot in Philly, signed our marriage license at our favorite coffee shop, and grabbed drinks at a speakeasy bar to keep everything extremely laid back and budget friendly for our guests. Our photographer is also a good friend of Brian’s who mainly shoots men’s fashion, so we got a very good rate. My dress was bought at a trunk show, so it was half the retail price! What cost more were the alterations.

What was totally worth it:

Marrying ourselves and having our guests participate with our vows as well! We personally crafted a self-uniting ceremony for our wedding, an opportunity made possible by Pennsylvania’s Quaker tradition, which dates back to the seventeenth century. The philosophy behind the Quaker marriage celebration is that the right for joining in marriage belongs to the betrothed, rather than any member of clergy. In that spirit, we created this ceremony together, as a blend of traditions that were meaningful to us both. We also had community vows, where our guests promised to support us in our marriage as much as we would support our loved ones. This was hands down our favorite part of the wedding!

What was totally not worth it:

Sweating the small stuff. Later that night, a purse got stolen, along with our signed marriage license. We were heartbroken at the time because we felt we weren’t married, but the vows we promised to each other and our loved ones are irreplaceable and true. Everything about that day was perfect and to let one incident ruin that day was just not worth it. Our license was easily replaced and only required another trip to city hall.

A few things that helped us along the way:

We took our time with researching and planning. Sites like A Practical Wedding were always the first place we went to. We made sure to not rush any decision and constantly communicated with each other what we felt was most important to us, drawing numerous inspiration from like-minded couples in the Real Weddings section of APW. A few family members were hurt that they were not invited, so we had to set boundaries and reassure them that there will be another time next year that we can celebrate our love together.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Something will always go wrong, no matter how small or big your wedding is. I received this simple advice from multiple people and shrugged it off. Don’t shrug it off like I did. Be mentally prepared to focus on you and your partner, on the most important day of your lives and in celebration of the love that brought you there.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

As we mentioned above, our favorite thing was the fact that we married ourselves among our most treasured friends and family.

Something else We’d Like to Share:

We highly recommend searching for photographers who are not necessarily in the wedding industry. Photographers in fashion, action film, and even photojournalism can produce great work, so pick your photographer based on their work, style, and mood!


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