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Our $40K Serendipity Gardens Palm Springs Wedding

With a pool party

Laila, Student Affairs Administrator & Desto, Human Resources

sum-up of the wedding vibe: It was a celebration of love in the midst of the California desert!

Planned Budget: $40,000
Actual Budget: $48,000
Number of Guests: 125
Location: Serendipity Gardens | Palm Springs, California

Where we allocated the most funds:

We allocated most of our funds for the venue, wedding photographer, videographer, and rental property. These were nonnegotiables for us. We knew that the wedding needed to be in California (we are originally from Chicago and New York), since many of our family members had never seen the beauty of the mountains and palm trees that we see everyday. In addition, we knew it had to be outdoors because what would be the point of having it in California?! In addition, we knew that photography and videography would be what we would have left to share and look back on after our special day. Lastly, because our celebration would bring in so many out of town guests, we knew we’d want some extra time to celebrate the following day under the desert heat and in a pool with our family. So we booked a house.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

We were so lucky to have so many talented friends and family chip in. For example, one of our groomsmen helped us with the awesome design of our invitations and directed us on the most cost effective ways to print. Similarly, another close friend coordinates events and weddings and offered to so graciously gift us with her day-of services. We bought everything and she put all the design elements together day of. Lastly, we knew we wanted to have our favorite snacks available after the ceremony for our guests to enjoy. We decided on our favorite Chicago-style popcorn from G.H. Cretors. We reached out to find out the best way to get the freshest batch for the wedding day.

G.H. Cretors emailed us back and said, “We love weddings. We’d love to gift you our popcorn. Just tell us when and how many bags you need.” We were so grateful and appreciative of such a beautiful gesture! Another friend who works at a local high-end restaurant offered to help us feed our guests at our pool party free of charge; we just needed to buy the food. We planned the menu together, and she took over the barbecue while our guest feasted and enjoyed the pool. We were also lucky to book a house in Palm Springs that was owned by a good friend. Because of this, we were able to have about thirty or forty people over… something that is unheard of when renting any house in Palm Springs without a $1,000 or more additional fee. Lastly, we opted out of having a photo booth, something we thought we wanted the whole time, but decided that a photographer and videographer were a necessity even though it was pricey. We made the right decision. We totally didn’t miss having a photo booth!

What was totally worth it:

We spent an extra $1,000 to add an hour to our event. In Palm Springs, unfortunately there is a 10:00 p.m. curfew, which was a really hard thing to swallow, but we opted that being outdoors was more important than partying the entire night. So we paid the extra cash to start earlier and celebrated from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. To also account for this we added our pool party the next day at our rental property.

What was totally not worth it:

I spent $1,700 on my dress (alterations included). I loved it, but I kind of wish I had budgeted less and got a lightweight party dress. It’s really hard to move around the dance floor in a ball gown. Also, a family member so graciously did my hair and makeup for the wedding. Unfortunately, because she lived far away, we never set aside time to do a practice run through, so our first run through was the wedding day. It worked out because my bestie had some life-saving hair extensions and her makeup bag to do touch ups along the way. We had many edits, and it caused unnecessary stress and a waste of time. Also, I didn’t really know what I wanted and expected her to know (my fault). So, my advice: get someone you can practice hair and makeup with before your wedding day so you and your stylist know exactly what you want.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Accept help from others. Use a spreadsheet to budget and start tracking the moment you start spending on anything. We started tracking once we got engaged. We had meetings every Sunday to check in. This was super helpful, and it also allowed us to better plan when we could anticipate projects getting done. Don’t procrastinate!

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Don’t cut corners on the important things.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

The venue, dancing outside, having family all together, and the pool party!

Something else I’d like to Share:

When tracking your budget add everything! We started our budget the minute we got engaged. If we visited a venue we counted gas, lunch, etc. I’m not sure that everyone does that, but we wanted the full picture of what all things associated with the wedding would cost, including flights for our bridal shower/bachelorette/bachelor party back home in Chicago and driving family around Los Angeles and to the airport the week after our wedding. I’m sure the actual price of our wedding would be different if we didn’t include all these things, but we wanted to be realistic.

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