At Our $8K Texas Wedding We All Jumped In The Water

This is what a DIY wedding looks like

Ellen, Academic Advisor and artist & Zane, Video Editor

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A joyful celebration in nature (including a quick dip in Jacob’s Well) followed by a low-key backyard hang.

Planned budget: $7,000
Actual budget: $8,000
Number of guests: 80
LOCATION: Wimberley, Texas

Where we allocated the most funds:

Food! Zane’s parents graciously agreed to foot the bill (about $3,000), which literally made the wedding possible. Matt’s El Rancho, one of our favorite Tex-Mex restaurants, was our first pick for catering. They were amazing to work with. A traditional “wedding” caterer could not have done better. The second biggest expense was probably the restroom trailer. I spent hours looking for one for less than $1,200 and finally found one for an amazingly affordable $600!

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Both our ceremony venue (Jacob’s Well) and our reception venue (my childhood home) were free. My cousin, River West, graciously offered her photography services for an incredibly discounted rate. We picked wildflowers from the side of the road and supplemented them with flowers from my mom’s garden. We recycled Topo-Chico bottles as our vases. My sister did the arrangements. For the reception venue, we cleared out the carport, placed a drop cloth over the ugly parts, hung some bunting and string lights, and let the beautiful yard and garden speak for themselves. My sister-in-law works at Big Bend Brewery and was able to score us TONS of beer! We supplemented it with a self-serve bar with wine and drink dispensers full of sangria and large-batch mint juleps. We borrowed tables and chairs from my father-in-law’s church and used butcher paper in place of linen. My dresses were both $150 after a 20% off coupon.

What was totally worth it:

Having a traditional officiant. We went back and forth on whether to have a friend officiate or a pastor. In the end, we compromised with a family-friend pastor! Lori did an amazing job accommodating the diverse range of beliefs among the guests, and we were so happy with her Address/Sermon! It was so nice to know that the person running the show was an experienced professional!

What was totally not worth it:

We set up a spooky scene at a Y in the road to keep people from going down an old driveway. It had cobwebs and “Danger, Haunted” signs and the best skeleton money could buy. The skeleton was stolen. We borrowed a friend’s skeleton. That skeleton was stolen. We would never have put our skeleton friends in danger if we had known that there were thieves wandering the woods. And we were out $140.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Our family and friends, duh! They helped clear cacti, spread gravel, hang decorations, you name it! We had friends show guests where to stand at the Well, and two friends helped park cars at the reception. Another friend was our MC and in charge of our wedding playlist. My brothers and sister-and-law kept the bar well stocked. I don’t even know all the little things people did that day to help out (who turned on the lights when it started to get dark?). Also, our parents were incredibly supportive throughout the whole process. They never pressured us or guilt-tripped us. They let us create our vision and stepped up to help whenever possible. I can’t imagine the day without our photographer, River West. She put us at ease and captured our authentic selves. We especially love the underwater photos. She happily jumped chin deep into the water without a change of clothes to get those shots. Her artistry speaks for itself when you look at the photos.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Stay within your comfort zone whenever possible. Zane and I are both introverts with a generous sprinkle of social anxiety. I don’t even throw my own birthday parties anymore because I hate the idea of asking my friends to stop what they are doing and celebrate me. The week before the wedding was definitely a low point for both of us. It suddenly seemed like we were asking a lot of our guests. Drive to the middle of nowhere, stand in the hot sun, watch our weird ceremony, drive even farther to the reception in a carport. I kept going over the guest list in my mind and thinking of ways they’d be disappointed or uncomfortable.

We wouldn’t have been able to go through with it if we hadn’t been totally within our comfort zone in so many other ways. The reception venue was my childhood home and favorite place in the whole world. Our “staff” were our family and friends. Our photographer was my cousin. Our officiant was a family friend. We weren’t on anyone else’s schedule. We had weeks and even months to decorate the venue. I got to DIY everything. We cut out first dances, speeches, cake cutting—anything that felt forced or made us the center of attention. It meant that we had more room to have fun in the moment.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Jumping into Jacob’s Well for our recessional and having so many of our loved-ones jump in after us. We never doubted that it was a really good idea, but nothing could have prepared us for how affirming and joyful it was. We knew a small handful of people would jump in, but the mood was infectious and soon it was a free for all. Our dads held hands and jumped, my mom and sister jumped even though they hadn’t planned on it, our friend Harry revealed he’d been hiding a speedo, uncles and coworkers and childhood friends took the plunge… and all the while everyone was hugging and laughing. A-MAZ-ing!

Something Else I’d like to Share:

I was worried I would regret not hiring a wedding planner or day-of coordinator. I can now say we definitely did not need either of those things. I needed something to do to keep me busy. Laboring over a spreadsheet and trying to catch every little detail kept me from worrying about other, stupider things. I love a good DIY project and this was a big’n. Everything was contrived to run without a planner. We had tons of time to set up the reception venue, and we cut out a lot of the elements that would have needed coordination. We had more than enough help in our family and friends. We could not have done it without them.


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