Our $50K Jewish Wedding in the Malibu Mountains Was Intimate and Imperfect

Turns out, autumn perfection looks like this

NICOLE, entertainment travel specialist & gary, art director

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: We chose a sunset ceremony at a secluded residence in the mountains of Malibu in front of an intimate group of friends and family.

Planned budget: $45,000
Actual budget: $50,000
Number of guests: 65
LOCATION: Malibu, California

Where we allocated the most funds:

Having good food was very important to us. From the beginning we knew we wanted to do different food stations for all the food we love from around the world. During the cocktail hour, we had Spanish-style tapas and a seafood bar influenced by our trip to Barcelona. In addition to a full bar we had Indian-inspired specialty cocktails for our upcoming honeymoon to India. The dinner stations represented food from where we grew up and now currently live, lobster and chips, New York sirloin, and California chicken roulade.

Where we allocated the least funds:

The flowers and decor. I’m a big fan of DIY and I knew I wanted to make my own decor. Since we were going with a vintage theme, I purchased decorative china plates, gold flatware, and glass goblets from a variety of places online and in local thrift stores. It took some time, but I enjoyed the hunt! After the wedding I was able to sell most of the items to a company that rents them out for events. Los Angeles has such an amazing flower market downtown I knew we would save a lot of money doing the flowers ourselves. We spent around $450 on the flowers and greenery and had friends and family help set everything up the morning of the wedding.

What was totally worth it:

Renting the house out for the entire weekend. That gave us plenty of time to decorate and set everything up. It was also so nice to not have to go anywhere when the wedding ended that night. Also we had both our dogs, Ditzy and Coco, with us at the wedding, which was a must for us from the beginning.

What was totally not worth it:

We hired wedding planners but in the end it felt like we did most of the legwork ourselves. It may have been we just hired the wrong team of people that did not exactly mesh with what we were expecting. We had our wedding at a private residence that was high up in the hills of Malibu, which presented a lot of logistical headaches. Having a day-of coordinator for our situation was very necessary because of all the moving pieces.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Because we both work in the entertainment business, we had connections to vendors that were able to give us some good discounts. We got a great deal on the AstroTurf, only paying for the labor; we hired drivers that we had worked with on shows to take our guests from the hotel to the venue; and I hired my favorite makeup and hair stylist that worked on the same TV shows as us. Also our friends and family helped us decorate and set things up before the wedding.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Try to enjoy the moment; resist the urge to stress over every little thing. Something WILL go wrong. Half our ceremony ended up being in the complete dark, but you know what? No one really cared. Guests were pulling out their cell phones and shinning the phone flashlight toward us. It was funny—and just be able to laugh about it.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

The intimate and unique location. Having our families meet for the first time and celebrating with everyone that we love.


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  • Ashweck

    Evangeline was supposed to photograph our wedding but had to cancel. I have been drooling over your photos as she posts them. She really does an incredible job.

    Was she as lovely to work with as she seems?

    • Nicole

      Yes Evangeline was AMAZING!

      • Ashweck

        She did an amazing job and I love that you had a candy apple bar. Also so pleased to see more than an instagram post!

      • Thank you! Love to you and Gary, you world travelers, you!!

    • I’m still so bummed about that Ashley, I wish I could have been there with you! In hindsight you were correct, traveling with Vivienne at 2 weeks old would have been INSANE! I still want to see your wedding photos, email me a link! Also, maybe we can do an anniversary sesh next time I’m on the East Coast!? <3

      • Ashweck

        Vivienne is beautiful; we love seeing pictures of her on your social media. We just got our full wedding album yesterday and we absolutely love them. (In a bit of kismet, the man who ended up shooting our wedding was only available because of a cancelation… sometimes fate is funny.) And we’d love to do a shoot with you any time you’re in town!

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  • Oooh, a s’mores bar? That sounds AMAZING. And I love your dress! You too look very stylish, and you have some wonderful photos to remember this special day…