Our $13K Same-Sex Church Wedding In The Deep South

The first same sex-wedding in our church

Jenna, pharmacist & Christina, pharmacist

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: First same-sex wedding in our church, followed by an intimate celebration.

Planned budget: $10,000
Actual budget: $13,000
Number of guests: 45
LOCATION: Columbia, South Carolina

Where we allocated the most funds:

The most expensive costs were for two brides apparel—dresses, alterations, and shoes for two dresses ran around $2,870. Catering, photography, and flowers were each close in cost, accounting for around 40 percent of our actual expenditures. We got recommendations on photographers from Christina’s hairstylist, and we fell in love with the pics we saw on one site in particular. We arranged coffee to meet her that week, and we were able to have candid discussions surrounding budget the first time we met. She was fabulous and worked with us to create a package within our means and still captured all of our special moments!

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One of our friends works with a caterer and we were able to work with him to create a special menu that matched our taste, while also less expensive than other catering companies in our area. The first florist we met with was super open to planning an LGBT wedding (which was a concern in the South), and also was extremely familiar with our church. This was one of our last planning pieces, and we were on a time crunch! Thankfully we loved the pictures of his work and how comfortable we were meeting. We decided to work with him for bouquets and floral arrangements at the church that, while slightly above our original budget, we decided were worth it. For flowers at the reception venue, our honorary bridesmaid arranged fresh flowers bought in bulk into vases we purchased, and it turned out beautifully for much less.

Church/pastoral fees and alcohol were around $1,000 each. Instead of working with a bartending company, we asked our caterer if he knew someone we could hire to serve still and sparkling wines and beer, and we purchased the libations ourselves.

Where we allocated the least funds:

Venue: While this would normally account for a much larger portion of the budget, we were especially lucky this was gifted from our friends (Christina’s bridesmaid) who own a super chic local salon.

DJ: A friend and colleague who has played multiple weddings for other colleagues offered to DJ as our wedding gift. We did pay him as a “thank you” for the time and effort of creating the playlist that created the ambiance for a spectacular evening, but this was a much cheaper alternative to a local DJ or live music.

Decor: The venue itself is super chic and gorgeous in its own right. We tried our best to incorporate the general vibe of the salon into the decor plans so that additional items—candles, vases, flowers, etc.—were relatively inexpensive while adding to the already beautiful atmosphere.

What was totally worth it:

Intimate wedding party and guest list: The fire code limits on the reception venue required we set our guest list to under fifty (allowing a buffer of around five people for the photographer, bartender, and caterer). With such a small guest list, we quickly decided that one attendant each would be the most appropriate. These two great friends, along with one honorary bridesmaid, helped each step of the way—with both emotional and detailed planning support! I’ve never attended a smaller wedding, but I think that it created an amazingly intimate, relaxed environment where we were truly able to mingle and celebrate with each of our guests.

What was totally not worth it:

I realize we just said the limited guest list is what was “totally worth it,” but arriving at that list was a difficult task. With an abundance of meaningful people throughout our lives, there were undoubtedly those who had been integral figures that are fully supportive but weren’t able to attend. The majority of these list-narrowing decisions centered around people who had been most integrally involved in our lives as a couple.

With planning our wedding in under four months, on top of a hectic work schedule, we made executive decisions toward planning more quickly than we likely would have given a longer period of time for preparation. While this increased efficiency, there were times the stress level was elevated also! I think I would recommend six to nine months as an ideal time frame for planning a wedding of this size to newly engaged couples (versus the three to four we spent).

A few things that helped us along the way:

Everyone we worked with was fantastic. This includes our pastor and pianist (who both spent a great deal of time to choose meaningful passages and music), photographer, florist, DJ, caterer, and friends. I can’t think of one vendor who wasn’t absolutely perfect to work with.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Less is more. We made cuts where we could without compromising quality. When you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, reach out to friends who have either recently been through the wedding process or have local contacts.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

That we took the plunge and decided to have a wedding ceremony. Originally we planned not to have a ceremony, and instead we booked a trip to Italy. During pre-marital counseling, four months before the booked trip, we decided to plan a wedding to be able to celebrate our lifelong commitment to each other and with those closest in our lives. Looking back we’re so glad we made this decision—and we will always cherish the memories!

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