How We Created a Pakistani and Mongolian Bay Area Wedding with 100 Guests for $15K

A mix of traditions new and old


Sahar, Quality Assurance Engineer & Ganbileg, Software Engineer

sum-up of the wedding vibe: New traditions and old traditions: A Pakistani-Mongolian wedding

Planned Budget: $10,000
Actual Budget: $15,000
Number of Guests: 100

Budget Breakdown

Bride and Groom clothes and accessories: $1,400
Venue: $1,300
Cupcakes: $400
Dinner Catering: $2,000
Appetizers: $500
Alcohol: $1,400
Food equipment: $200
Misc. decorations: $700
Flowers: $600
Hair for Bride, Bridesmaids, and Moms: $550
Makeup for Bride: $100
Photographer: $1800
STD, Invites, Programs: $250
Wedding coordinator: $600
DJ: $500
Groomsmen accessories: $175
Bridesmaid accessories: $125
Rehearsal Dinner: $600
Event Staff: $550
Tips, other expenses: $1,000
Total: ~$15,000

Where we allocated the most funds

I always knew that we would spend a lot on our photographer, because I wanted to budget enough to guarantee quality photos in the exact style I was looking for. We still ended up with a great deal, I came across our photographer, Ditto, by accident on Craigslist while searching for other wedding supplies. His photographic style was exactly what I wanted, and he charged $1,000 less than the next best photographer I’d found.

What I wasn’t expecting to cost so much was the alcohol! I was anticipating that more of my extended family would attend the wedding, meaning that we’d need to buy less booze because my side of the family doesn’t drink. In the end, eighty-five out of the hundred guests drank, so we ended up buying a lot of booze to make sure everyone had a great time. Our venue didn’t allow hard liquor, but even only buying beer and wine still doubled what we had originally budgeted. But I’m so glad we bought more than we needed because our guests lit up the dance floor!

Where we allocated the least funds

We spent the least amount of money on our venue and our catering. We knew from the beginning that we needed halal, Pakistani catering for our dinner reception, so going with a mainstream wedding venue wasn’t going to cut it. We didn’t want to be forced to spend $10,000 for an in-house cater to attempt making Pakistani food when we knew we could spend $2,000 for the real stuff from an authentic Pakistani restaurant.

We were lucky enough to find the Highlands Park House venue, which is owned by the county of Santa Cruz. They provide nothing except tables and chairs and the venue itself, making it a crazy affordable option ($1,300 for a ten hour rental!) in the Bay Area. It was exactly what we wanted because this way we could DIY everything, including the catering.

What was totally worth it

Our day-of coordinator was a godsend. I can’t imagine how the day would have happened without her help. I knew that I could do all the pre-planning myself, so I just needed someone to be there on the day of the wedding to line people up, coordinate deliveries, and tell people what to do. We didn’t have a close friend or family member that was able to take on this task, so we looked to Thumbtack, and found Elizabeth. She was absolutely necessary. If you’re going to DIY everything else, I’d highly recommend spending $500 to $1,000 on a good day-of coordinator who can help keep the day according to plan, and that way your family and friends can enjoy themselves.

It was also completely worth it to DIY our flowers. I spent weeks planning flower arrangements and doing test runs of bouquets (thanks APW for that tip!). We ended up spending $600 on flowers, and got our wedding party to help with arranging the seven bridesmaid bouquets, one bridal bouquet, two ginormous altar arrangements, eight boutonnières, and forty centerpieces. Because I had already spent so much time planning the flowers, putting them together was a breeze! And we saved a TON of money.

What was totally not worth it:

It was not worth it spending so much time thinking about shoes. I spent so much time trying to find wedding flats that would match my Pakistani dress, and stressing out because nothing seemed to work out. I ended up buying and returning several pairs that just didn’t cut it. I wanted flats because the wedding was outside and I wanted to be comfortable walking around in the grass, even though I knew that heels would look better. I finally managed to snag a really simple pair of flats that were decent, but I still bought an adorable pair of low strappy heels to wear just during the ceremony. So ladies, if you’re having trouble finding suitable wedding flats, just buy both heels and flats, and switch them out during the day after the photos!


A few things that helped us along the way

Our family was incredible. I am especially thankful for the help I had with my wedding dress. My cousin who lives in Karachi, Pakistan arranged my dress to be custom tailored there. I wanted to wear a Pakistani dress but for it to be made in white rather than traditional bright colors (usually red). I sent my cousin a few photos from Pinterest, but didn’t get to speak to the tailor myself at all. Apparently my idea of a wedding dress wasn’t glamorous enough for the tailor, he was surprised that I was wearing something so simple to be married in! I didn’t see the dress or get to try it on until two weeks before the wedding when it was shipped to me, but it was absolutely perfect and exactly what I had envisioned. The tailor even threw in a matching clutch purse he made.

My best practical advice for my planning self

When planning a multicultural wedding, figure out what is most important from each culture, and only include those most important themes in significant ways. Our original plan was a huge three day extravaganza of a wedding, with each day having it’s own theme of Pakistani, Mongolian, and traditional American so that we could include every single tradition from each culture. We quickly slimmed down this dream once we realized we were paying for the wedding ourselves. We instead started planning a one-day event with a pretty normal American wedding schedule, but with the most important Pakistani and Mongolian themes incorporated throughout the day, like me wearing a Pakistani dress and including a Mongolian “fire-pit” tradition similar to a unity candle ceremony.

Even so, there were some conflicts that we had to work out, like should I wear the traditional Pakistani dupatta that matches my dress, or a traditional Mongolian beaded headpiece? Also important to keep in mind: while the wedding day was a fusion of both cultures, we tried to honor each culture separately; this was to better ensure that each culture was distinctly recognized and honored by our guests who were mostly unfamiliar with both cultures. For instance, we had Mongolian dumplings (prepared by the groom’s family) during our cocktail hour, and a full Pakistani buffet for dinner, rather than mixing the two cuisines in one meal.

Favorite thing about the wedding

We were hesitating to incorporate anything religious in the wedding because we were going to have a private religious ceremony in a mosque, earlier and separate from the wedding. We were originally intending for the ceremony to be mostly secular with some inclusions of God and love, but no actual verses from our holy text. This all changed about a month before the wedding, when one of my cousins offered to provide a Quran recitation and translation for the ceremony, so we ended up opening our ceremony with his recitation. He recited in Arabic verses from the Quran about God creating a mate for you from the same soul, and our reader followed with an excerpt from The Alchemist about the language of love, and God’s part in bringing you to your mate. It was completely mesmerizing and perfect, and our guests loved hearing the holy text recited out loud—it was so different than what was normally presented at a wedding.

My other favorite part was my mom and Ganbi’s mom walking down the aisle together during the processional. They’re both wearing their culture’s traditional clothing, and they’re holding hands. Adorable.

Anything else

Wedding planning brought out my dormant artistic side. I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in at least five years, but I ended up with some crazy DIY art projects. I DIY’d my own designs for save the dates, invitations, wedding programs, thank you cards, and a rubber stamp and got it all printed through Vistaprint. I created a beautiful guest book alternative: a painting with leaves for our guests to sign that now is displayed in our living room. I also X-Acto knifed a foam board into L-O-V-E letters and Mod Podge and glittered the crap out it for our cupcake display.


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