Alyson, Book publishing associate & Sam, pilot
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A modest, homegrown affair in an old English manor house turned school.
Planned budget: $15,000
Actual budget: $18,000
Number of guests: 95
Where we allocated the most funds:
When Sam and I discussed our “must haves” we both had immediate answers. I wanted a photographer that would capture memories, not just snapshots, and Sam wanted great music from a live band. I would have been more than happy to whack on a Spotify playlist and call it a day, but the band was an easy sell for me nonetheless. Sam’s brother knew the band Tom & the Clementynes and had seen them play a few times before, so we already knew they would be great.
The photography was an even bigger spend, but I knew I wanted photographs that would feel special, not just because they captured a special day, but also because they are beautiful in their own right. I’ve been a long time admirer of Ash Carr and I knew she would turn both our candid and uncandid moments into instant heirlooms. Ash’s work is warm and genuine and nostalgic and I love it. Plus she was both incredibly professional and insanely chill.
Where we allocated the least funds:
We pared down the decoration and paper budget with a lot of DIY and scavenging. I spray painted toy airplanes, crocheted bunting, hand lettered escort cards, used online save the dates and RSVPs, and designed our invitations.
And of course we got a lot of help too. Sam’s mom created meters and meters of lovely bunting out of scrap fabric from old wedding and bridesmaid dresses, my dad created the bases for the table numbers, Sam’s sister created a photo board, and my bridesmaids all helped with their own bouquets and the flower arrangements. We commandeered vases and paperback books from Sam’s parents’ house for free too.
We were also very lucky that a family friend was able to bake all of our cupcakes for just the cost of ingredients!
What was totally worth it:
Our “must haves”! At one point we were taking a second look at the photography budget, but I’m so glad I had been upfront about what I wanted to prioritize before the wedding stress had me second guessing. We found plenty of ways to save without compromising on other aspects we felt strongly about. For instance, we wanted to provide our guests with drinks, but to save we bought all the wine, beer, cider, and champagne in bulk in the weeks leading up to the wedding.
What was totally not worth it:
Luckily nothing has made a lasting impression on me as being totally NOT worth it. But when I was drafting a guest list I was hesitant to invite American friends that I thought might not be able to attend for financial reasons because I didn’t want to make anyone feel guilty or pressured to attend. Sam pointed out how silly that line of thought was, and in the end I was actually surprised at how many of my friends were able to make the trip!
A few things that helped us along the way:
Planning a long distance wedding within a long distance relationship is no picnic. Google Drive came in handy A LOT. I had spreadsheets and docs for venue research, budgeting, guest lists, RSVPs, table plans, the weekend schedule, and even a map of hotels where guests were staying to coordinate taxis.
None of this would have been possible without the help of our family and friends who helped us with prep, setup, tear down, and a lot of emotional support. Plus, Sam’s family is an incredibly friendly bunch, and in addition to the band and wedding cake, they also had connections that helped us get the venue and the hog roast.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Know when to let things go, but don’t invite apathy. There were a few times when something didn’t go quite as I wanted, but I told myself that in the long run it didn’t matter and I dropped whatever it was without even trying to fix it. In those instances my friends were my greatest advocates and gave me the push I needed to remember that I was allowed to want to have things a certain way.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Sam and I didn’t plan anything special for our “exit.” We thought we’d just say farewell to everyone at the end of the night and quietly slip into our own car. I don’t know how it happened, but instead everyone lined up and created a tunnel with their arms leading us out to our car. We couldn’t have planned it any better than that.
Anything else to share:
I’ve never been to a wedding as an adult, so every wedding decision was really truly about what Sam and I wanted instead of feeling pressured to abide tradition.