How We Planned a Wedding for 255 People

Our semi-DIY huge blowout bash

Caroline, Writer & Mitchel, Engineer

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: A quirky, casual fiesta.

Planned Budget: $50,000

Actual Budget: $60,000

Number of Guests: 255

Where we allocated the most funds

We allocated the most funds to our caterer, who also coordinated all the rentals (tables, chairs, linens, etc.) for the day. We are huge Tex-Mex and margarita hounds and were hosting a number of guests who had never been to Houston, so a major priority was making sure the food and drinks were killer. Barbara McKnight and the team at Culinaire totally understood our ambitious vision to bring together all the best elements of Texas cuisine—BBQ (ribs and duck legs), Tex Mex (fajita stations), and Gulf Coast seafood (campechana). Babs didn’t even blink when I insisted on serving our margaritas in kitschy cactus-stem glasses, and I love her for it!

Our other big spend was on the band, Shinyribs. I find that when I attend weddings, I rarely remember details of what they looked like but I always remember how they felt. I remember what the energy was like, whether the dance floor was packed with a multi-generational crowd, whether it was hard to go home. Hiring a great live band gave it such a palpable energy that my husband and I felt like we were floating all night, and the lights had to be toggled to kick us all out of the venue (no elegant early exit here).

Where we allocated the least funds

Live florals and centerpieces. We opted out of doing a formal sit-down dinner and instead our caterer created a sort of never-ending cocktail party, with different food stations set up throughout the venue. Because we didn’t have seating allocated for everyone and wanted people to move around a lot and socialize around cocktail tables, there just wasn’t a need for elaborate centerpieces.

So, I teamed up with family to create all of the tabletop and ceremony decor. My sister-in-law and I made the paper blooms that went in each mercury glass vase, my mom grew succulent terrariums for months preceding the wedding, and our ceremony arch was a huge, collective labor of love. Taking a cue from Easter service, our guests contributed to and completed the arch with fresh-cut blooms as everyone was seated. We also relied on other craftspeople through sites like Etsy for elements like the customized papel picado flags.

What was totally worth it

Planning it ourselves. I really wanted to put together an incredibly fun event for all of our family and friends, and really didn’t want to feel like I was attending a party someone else threw in our honor. So even though it could have probably (definitely) been more organized and polished, and someone with actual wedding-planning experience probably could have anticipated our dog jumping in the koi pond, it was awesome to revel in everyone’s reactions all night.

What was totally not worth it

Party favors. Ours went out early (they were plastic cups, meant to be put out at last call) and I have no idea what became of them.

A few things that helped us along the way

Etsy for the DIYs I just couldn’t do and APW for their ultra-helpful logistical aids and budgeting tools and for their non-crazy checklists!


My best practical advice for my planning self

My advice would be to set your budget, divvy it up according to personal priorities and then let some stuff go. For example, I know how pretty the custom invitations sounded, but actually feeding and watering people once they get to the big event is more important. No one you want at your wedding is going to bow out over the calligraphy.

Favorite thing about the wedding

Seeing everybody we loved from all the various chapters in our lives together in one place. The way I see it, the only other opportunity you get in this one existence to bring everyone together like that is at your funeral. Your wedding you at least get to attend, so you might as well go full monty.


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