Our $40K San Francisco Wedding with a Wild Dance Party and Fantastic Costume Change

A jumpsuit and a floral blazer strut onto the dance floor

Kendra, nurse & Shannel, psychotherapist

sum-up of the wedding vibe: A day beaming with love and a wild dance party.

Planned Budget: $30,000
Actual Budget: $40,000
Number of Guests: 196
Location: The Green Room, San Francisco, California
photographer: Studio XIII Photography

Where we allocated the most funds:

Catering. Feeding 200 people was going to be expensive no matter what, and it was important to us that the food be delicious. We also made sure to choose a venue and a caterer that allowed us to bring in and serve our own booze.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Our venue was so beautiful that it didn’t require much. We printed out pictures of our parents’ and grandparents’ wedding photos at CVS and got gold frames from Target. Otherwise The Green Room speaks for itself. We were extraordinarily lucky to have received monetary help from our parents to offset some of the wedding costs. Kendra’s brother works at Minted and gifted us all of our invitations and thank you cards. We had family and friend discounts or gifts on flowers, our engagement and wedding rings, our DJ, and all our alcohol. Like we said, we are really lucky.

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What was totally worth it:

Jamie, our photographer, and her second shooter Afra, went above and beyond and managed to capture not only how the day looked, but truly how it felt. We have said over and over since the wedding how thankful we are to have worked with the two of them. Our coordinator, Kendra Stapp, met with us several times in the months leading up to our wedding and was an absolute champion day of, managing our large and sometimes rowdy family, making a million moving parts run smoothly and stay on track, and keeping anything that did not go according to plan away from us so we could enjoy the day as stress free as possible.
Our venue was breathtakingly beautiful and Samantha, our venue coordinator, was so easy and pleasant to work with.

What was totally not worth it:

Unfortunately a few weeks before the wedding we were contacted by our caterer saying that we had to significantly increase the amount of food we would be serving. This went over our original contract by $13,000 and (obviously) made us way over budget. Though we were able to talk this down to an extra $7,000, it involved changing the way we were serving the food. This was a giant headache, and in the end (as we suspected) we ended up having far too much extra food. We were able to donate the extra, but this was so stressful and wasteful and was the only blemish on an otherwise fairly uneventful planning process. Despite the food being absolutely delicious I would not work with this vendor again and cannot recommend them to others.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Our friends and family’s support (both monetary and emotional). Our coordinator helped us get and stay organized from beginning to end. Being flexible and kind to each other, especially when we were at our most stressed.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

The best advice we received was that anything that goes wrong will be part of the story you tell about your wedding, and that if everything went right, then your story wouldn’t be as interesting.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Kendra: I have too many…Waiting for the ceremony with our bridal parties singing Lady Gaga, walking down the aisle with our parents to raucous cheers from our most loved people, crying during our vows, and our first dance. I loved so many things; I wrote a bunch more things here but Shannel made me cut it down.

Shannel: Our first look. It didn’t go according to plan – we intended for it to just be us, but of course all our friends and family were peeking in on us. During the first look everyone seemed to disappear and it felt like it was just me and Kendra. I also loved the speeches from my Maids of Honor and my dad, and our grand entrance to “Love On Top”.

Anything else:

This has been said a million times, but the day goes by so much faster than expected. Try to stay present in the day. Neither of us drank (or ate, unfortunately) as much as we usually would with this group, and were able to really experience the day. We were grappling with extraordinary grief during our wedding planning process and it can be such a challenge in the face of relentless cheeriness around wedding planning to figure those feelings out and decide how to move forward. We worked hard to honor our grief, honor our family, and allow ourselves to experience the deep joy of our wedding day in a time of life that wasn’t otherwise particularly joyful.


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