How We Planned a $20K, Old School Bay Area Wedding

An elegant, unplugged affair


Kaisha, Marketing Consultant & Dylan, Theater Technician

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: A casually elegant, quaint affair full of old school Bay Area charm!


Planned Budget: $10,000

Actual Budget: Around $20,000

Number of Guests: 90-ish


Where we allocated the most funds

Our photographer and ALL things related to catering. One thing Dylan and I immediately decided was that we wanted to have an unplugged wedding. We were determined to make our wedding the best party we have ever had, so to have our guests focusing more on taking and posting pics rather than enjoying the day is something we wanted to avoid. We therefore determined that we should invest in a great photographer who could beautifully capture as many details of the day as possible. And because I’m a ham but Dylan isn’t, we needed someone that he had to feel particularly comfortable with. Gabriel ended up being that photographer–once we chose him we never looked back, and the incredible pictures he took are proof that we made the best decision.

As for food, we take our eats and drinks VERY seriously. My mom was beyond generous enough to pay for our caterer and bakery of choice as well as the extremely necessary waitstaff. We chose a local Greek restaurant called Ikaros as our caterer, who wasn’t on the venue’s list of caterers, so we had to pay extra to use them. We figured there would be enough variety to serve the meat eaters and vegetarians, the food is fairly healthy, plus they’re just damn tasty. Our cake came from Carolyn Wong, with whom Dylan worked at a restaurant years ago. Every one of her samples tasted divine, she was sensitive to our cake budget, and to create our requested decoration was…wait for it…a piece of cake!


Our venue was a single room and we’d planned to have a buffet, but waitstaff was paramount. NorCal Event Staffing helped me figure this piece out and everyone they had at our wedding was super professional and so much fun. Lastly, we knew we could not deny our friends an open bar so we booked Bay Area Bartenders who not only took great care of our guests, but set aside my new hubs’ chosen whiskey so he could partake anytime he wanted throughout the night.

Where we allocated the least funds

Things handed out to guests, because they are usually discarded or left behind. I made the programs, menus, and place cards at home, and we opted for no favors.


What was totally worth it

Our wedding day coordinator Lori was SO worth it! She’s not even a professional wedding coordinator–she’s a Stage and Production Manager for local performances that Dylan worked with from time to time over the years. She made sure everything stayed on schedule and gave everyone their final payments, so we truly didn’t have to think about anything. A coordinator on the day, if you can afford it, is a worthwhile luxury. And if you can find someone like Lori who may not normally do weddings but has the production experience, you’ll easily save $1000+ compared to pro wedding coordinators.


What was totally not worth it

Our engagement lasted only six months, so we weren’t working with a lot of time. I learned very quickly in the wedding planning process that spending days exploring a lot of options wasn’t worth it. I tried on maybe eight dresses during my single appointment and picked my favorite, then I never looked at dresses again. After deciding on the restaurant we didn’t look any further. Same with the venue, the florist—pretty much everything. I skipped bridal magazines, explored blogs like APW and Offbeat Bride maybe a few times for inspiration, and if both of us thought having some particular things didn’t matter then we decided not to bother with them. There’s almost a freedom to knowing you just don’t have enough time to hem and haw.


A few things that helped us along the way

Our family and friends really came through for us. My mom, one of her friends, and a few of Dylan’s friends were at the venue that morning helping get things set up. My sister, who was my Maid of Honor, sat patiently with me all morning—including through two hours of hair and makeup—to be supportive and eventually help me into my dress. My bestie/Matron of Honor drove back and forth between the venue, the hotel, and her house dropping things off, helping set up, helping with getting me ready, then getting herself and her own family ready. One of my dear friends gifted me with my fascinator. Some of the guys met Dylan at a nearby bar Merchant’s Saloon before the ceremony to hang out with him… and probably calm him down. He even got a pep talk from a few of them before showtime. Writing this now, I realize that I didn’t have a care in the world that day because we were surrounded by nothing but love and support. We were beyond fortunate.


My best practical advice for my planning-self

Planning a wedding will make you crazy if you let it. The key is this: don’t let it.

Don’t force yourself to adopt some tradition you care nothing about. Don’t take stock in others’ opinions if you’re happy with your decisions. Don’t follow trends if you don’t like them. Don’t invite people you don’t like, or who don’t bring positivity to the party. If your wedding costs $350 total, that’s money you earned and it’s too much to spend on things that don’t really matter to you.


Favorite thing about the wedding

The exchanging of vows. Somehow that few minutes really did feel as though it was just the two of us in the world.



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