Our $12K Pre-Raphaelite Autumn Wedding

Dreamy, romantic artists in the Shenandoah

miriam, graphic designer & samuel, office administrator

sum-up of the wedding vibe: A dreamy, romantic celebration of love, crafted by two artists and their close friends and family, and held in the Shenandoah.

Planned Budget: $10,000
Actual Budget: $12,500
Number of Guests: 70
Location: Natural Bridge Station, Virginia

Where we allocated the most funds:

Photography and food and drink. APW is always there to remind couples that you won’t remember how your wedding looked, you’ll remember how it felt. I wanted to be absolutely sure that I had a photographer who would really capture how our wedding felt. Our photographer, Ashley (who I have known since grade school!), did that perfectly. Sam and I are both very into food. Sam and I love cooking together and trying out new foods. It was therefore really important to us to have really good food but still within our tight budget. Sweet Treats Bakery, who did our cake and food, was phenomenal! Not only were they super easy to work with on our budget, but the food was perfection! The buffet had the steak that was actually tender and not overcooked! During the reception my father came up to me and said, “People don’t really get excited about the food at weddings. People are excited about the food at this wedding.”

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Flowers, hair and makeup, and invitations. I knew going into this wedding that I was going to have to keep the budget tight, but I was determined to keep my dream big. I looked at what needed to be done and determined how many of the things I could do myself and what of those things I would enjoy doing. I’m naturally crafty so I was actually excited to work on some of the crafts. All the floral arrangements were done by the bridal party and myself the morning of the wedding. It was a really nice time to sit around, laugh, and do a fun thing together before getting ready.

Our wedding was one of the first big weddings at our venue. The owners, Chris and Cliff, offered us the venue space for free for the use of our photos (we did pay for all our rooms in the inn and the use of the cottage on the property). Most of the dishes and glassware came from a friend who got married just thirty-three days (and four states) away. The linens and small votive candles were also leftover from other weddings of people I know. In the beginning, I was just going to rent sound equipment and forego a DJ. But one of my brothers who works as a music producer in a church offered to bring all the equipment. It was much, much better than what I was initially going to rent, and both of my brothers had a fabulous time MCing together. Also, due to an issue with some of our rentals, they ended up refunding us a portion of what was paid.

What was totally worth it:

Taking the time to find a place where both families could really be together. Having everyone in one place made the whole thing feel like a community effort. There were always plenty of eager hands to help pitch in when needed. Not to mention being surrounded by loving family while declaring our love was pretty spectacular.

What was totally not worth it:

Re-hemming sixteen tablecloths. The tablecloths were free but too large for our tables. With some help I cut off about eight inches and hemmed them all. It was insanely time consuming. At the end of the day, it was nice having free tablecloths, and getting a nifty new tool for my sewing machine was fun. But it was, overall, exhausting.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Sam and I honestly could not have pulled this off without the help of our friends. Having a bride friend who I could share decor with was a lifesaver. And having my best friend and maid of honor with me the whole time was invaluable. Even though she had a million other weddings she was involved with this year, she was always there to talk me down when I got too obsessed with a tiny detail, listen to me panic about the budget, and literally take over a project when I no longer had the mental ability to make decisions.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Be true to your vision but be real with yourself about how much you can handle. Don’t forget to involve your partner. One of my favorite memories from the planning process is the day he and I made all the invitations together. And whenever possible, do projects ahead of time!

Favorite thing about the wedding:

The super fun dance-party reception! After the stress of pulling it all together, having a big meal with everyone I love followed by tearing up the dance floor was the absolute cherry on top. Especially when someone asked who made the amazing playlist and I proudly answered that it was me.

Something else I’d Like to share:

At one point, the morning of the wedding, one of my sisters-in-law said that I was the calmest bride she had ever seen. While I had been stressed out the day before due to the filthy state of tent when it arrived, I had accepted long before that things would go wrong the day of the wedding. Knowing that some things just wouldn’t work out and that at the end of the day no one would notice or care brought me into this really calm headspace that morning. So remember, everything won’t go smoothly, and that’s totally okay.


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