How We: Planned An Intimate Florida Backyard BBQ

A collaborative effort by family and friends

Alexis, Public Information Officer, City Gov’t & Andrew, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Brewer

One sentence to sum-up the wedding vibe: The wedding was a showcase of the bride and groom’s love, with a relaxed and intimate setting emphasizing togetherness of family and friends.

Planned Budget: $15,000—$20,000

Actual Budget: $20,000

Number of Guests: 80

Where we allocated the most funds

We spent the most money on what people love most, food and drinks. The second highest budgets we had were photography to remember the day, flowers, and rentals.

Where we allocated the least funds

Music. An iPod plugged into a speaker for $75 worked out just great. DJ in a box.

What was totally worth it

Getting a professional wedding photographer instead of just a friend who takes good pictures. It was so nice. And having professionals in general. The flowers too were something I underestimated. They really transformed the space. And premarital counseling. Andrew and I really got to know each other so much better through the counseling and it improved the way we communicate with one another. It set us off on the right foot.

What was totally NOT worth it

Spending a ton on a dress. Don’t get me wrong, you want to look beautiful. But the dress aspect is overhyped. I realize most brides disagree, but I’m glad we spent money where we did. The second was reading bridal magazinesyou’ll end up doing a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really mean anything it just seems important because the magazines say so.

A few things that helped along the way

That would be people. First my sister and mom really kept me focused on what truly mattered and grounded. And then there were the professionals we hired. Wow. Getting good vendors is a must. Get people who love what they do and know how to do it well. There is such satisfaction in knowing that you don’t have to worry and it will be taken care of in an amazing way. Our caterer, photographer, rental company, seamstress, and cake vendors were amazing. Especially from planning across the country.

For example, on the day of the wedding, well actually two hours before the wedding, our cake vendor brought the cake over to the house. It was a disaster. The cake literally imploded. She tried to salvage it, but I was standing there in the kitchen and it was collapsing in on itself. I took a deep breath, she cried for a second, and then left the house, went back and made seventy-five cupcakes and a smaller cake and brought them back before the reception. No one was the wiser and everyone said that the cupcakes (chocolate with salted caramel buttercream frosting) were the best they ever tasted. Amazing vendors make it such a good experience.

My best practical advice to my planning-self

If you want a low-key wedding, be a low-key bride. And stick to a shorter engagement. The longer you have, the more tempted you are to add stuff that doesn’t add value.

Favorite thing about the wedding

The way my husband looked in his suit. The amazing feeling I had saying my vows. The love and support overflowing from the people who were there. The family style “pass the platter around” dinner. And maybe the fact that we had a giant Jenga game, archery, and croquet.

Other Notes

This was very much a collaborative wedding. Andrew’s brother made the brisket. Our family friend cooked the salmon. A family friend made the beer special for the wedding. Another friend loaned us platters. And those who showed up early ended up helping set everything up and were actually eager to help.


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  • scw

    omg, that ceremony picture with the pup!

  • Kayjayoh

    Archery? ZOMG, really? More details on this, please?

    • holly gardner

      Yes, that’s something I’ve never seen before! So much fun.

  • Rachel

    I love that timeline! Was that DIY?

    • holly gardner

      Yes, he’s a designer!

  • Emily

    Just gorgeous, and it looks so fun, too! I love the blue bridesmaid dress – anyone know where I can find a dress like that? Beautiful, elegant, flattering, and it looks pretty comfy too!

  • vegankitchendiaries

    This photog was amazing, so great job choosing that as your splurge! The lighting (and the love!) in the pictures is just dreeeeeamy. In a way, it’s reassuring to see vast disagreement from all of the ‘how we did it’ submissions on what was and wasn’t worth spending money on… It’s definitely going to vary, couple to couple!

    I also really agree with being thankful for shorter engagements. Especially, if you’re neurotic like me! It will have been 11 months of being engaged and while most of it was fun we’ve got a month to go and I’m kind of looking forward to not thinking about this ‘party’ we’re putting on a daily basis.

    PS. Can I just say.. this groom is such a Baldwin. I can still say that before *I’m* married, right? ;)

    • vegankitchendiaries

      P.P.S. The ADORABLE kiddie pics are making me broody!

    • holly gardner

      Documenting their wedding day was so wonderful. I literally cried as she started to walk down the aisle. I’ve only had that happen a couple times, and it shakes me to my core every time. Such a lovely day and a great couple!

      • vegankitchendiaries


  • Lindsey d.

    Lovely! We had a near cake-tastrophe as well, but thankfully I knew nothing about it until we arrived at the reception, where all was not as expected, but well.

  • Ally

    YES YES YES on the dress comment – I loved mine but WTF do I do with it now? Now it just feels like $$ sitting in my closet slowly turning yellow…

    Also YES to the ipod dj and shorter engagement.

    …and that TIMELINE GAAHHH!

    • For any other brides that may be reading this, I suggest considering getting a used dress. I wanted a beautiful, elegant, and elaborate lace dress. I ended up buying my dream dress which is worth $2200, used (so worn one or twice…)for $350. The best part is that she’s close to my size, so I only need it taken in
      at the hips, and that’s it! I also plan to re-sell it when I’m done
      with it.

      Mind you the dress is from 2 seasons ago (not a problem for me) and I got super lucky. But it’s worth a try.

      • Ally

        I’ve been considering selling mine. Did you find a particular site was the best for buying/selling? Are the dresses always cleaned prior to selling? I’m not into the idea of spending $400 to clean it before I know how much it would sell for.

        • I’m about 5’9”, my dress’s former bride was about 5’11” and wore
          heels, so I have some flexibility.

          I bought my dress from, which I think is a primarily Canadian site. There are plenty of other sites dedicated uniquely to used wedding dresses. My friend sold hers on Kijiji (Craigslist-like site).

          My dress was advertised as dry-cleaned but it’s not a requirement. That may have been factored into the price I paid.

          Or you could choose to donate it:

      • ART

        I tried looking for a used dress and what I found was that apparently, I’m tall – most of them had been shortened so that they wouldn’t work for me. That was a bummer, but if you are not quite so tall, the used dress market may be a jackpot! Also, tall ladies – consider selling your non-shortened dresses! :)

  • Daniella

    The timeline!!

  • Kara E

    / If you want a low-key wedding, be a low-key bride. And stick to a shorter engagement. The longer you have, the more tempted you are to add stuff that doesn’t add value. /

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! May your marriage be as beautiful as your wedding clearly was!