We Planned a Stunning Bay Area Wedding for Just $10K

Park venues and food trucks FTW


Lynn, career counselor & Keith, university relations

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A handcrafted, heartfelt, feels-heavy day.

Planned budget: $5,000

Actual budget (paid by the couple): $10,000

Number of guests: 120

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Where we allocated the most funds:

Catering ($3,300): From the start, we knew we didn’t want the typical lunch/dinner menu. We originally wanted to do brunch food, but found that it didn’t photograph as classy as we liked. We received quotes from over ten different companies before settling with our food truck Go Streatery. We specifically wanted a truck that would match with our theme, as many food trucks were too cheesy for our taste. This truck worked perfectly as it not only looked the part with its succulents and string lights, but our guests also all raved about the delicious food. Plus, it had great reviews on Yelp from catering other weddings.

Photographers ($2,000): We originally hired one photographer, who quoted us $500, as she had not photographed a wedding yet. But after receiving a very kind gift from a family member, we expanded our budget and wanted to put that money toward photography. We talked with our original photographer and her photographer idol, who was also a classmate of ours in high school, and they gave us a combined quote for both of them.

Wedding Planner ($750): We knew a friend who was a wedding planner, so we contacted her, and she gave us a great discounted price. Since we planned on doing most of the work, we went with a day-of coordinator.

Chair Rentals ($400): While the venue did provide chairs, we knew that they would distract from the overall feel of our venue. We quoted quite a few different companies as well, and went with the cheapest one that also provided low-cost delivery (which can sometimes be a huge cost!). We found that jumper rental companies by far had the cheapest prices, and were lucky to find one that also had wooden white chairs rather than just the plastic folding chairs.

Coffee and Tea ($400): We had thought about getting a local coffee shop to bring a pour over bar to our wedding, but in the end decided that it was not worth the money, as most of our guests would not notice the difference between a $4 and a $2 cup of coffee. We had originally planned on going with Peet’s, but last minute got a return email from a local coffee shop who said that they would not only provide iced coffee and tea, but also would come set up and clean up. The iced coffee made the price a bit more expensive, but was worth it in 80 degree weather.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Venue ($540): We chose to have our wedding at Shinn Historic Park because it offered a $300 discount for Fremont residents. Because it was owned by the City of Fremont, it was not priced like most venues. We also chose it because it allowed us to choose our own vendors.

Dress ($820): We got a 20 percent discount on the dress! I also found that BHLDN had extremely reasonably priced dresses and stuck to my budget when trying on dresses in store. Though I only tried on two dresses in total, I knew that it was the one!

Alterations ($130): Yelp has a great messaging function that allows you to quickly and easily contact businesses on the app. I copy-pasted the same question asking for a quote to over ten tailors in the area and went with the one with the lowest price and most reviews.

Veil ($25): I was shocked by the high prices of a simple piece of fabric, so did not budget much money toward getting a veil. Though I originally bought an $8 veil from Joann, I didn’t like the material. After shopping around, I found a rentals shop in Fremont and was amazed at their prices of $15 to $40.

Kimonos (5 for $50): Every kimono I bought for myself and my bridesmaids was on sale at Macy’s. I made sure to use the $10 off $25 coupon whenever I could, and searched the clearance racks and over five stores to get all four pink robes for my bridesmaids. Though they were all slightly different from each other, no one could tell the difference.

Hair and Makeup (3 for$100): My maid of honor knew some girls at church who did hair and makeup for their friends’ weddings, so recommended me to them. My hair and makeup (including a trial) was $40, while my bridesmaids’ hair and makeup were $30 each. I gave my bridesmaids the option of having it done or doing it themselves.

Flowers ($50): I ordered my flowers and greenery through a wholesale seller in Fremont and put together my bouquet myself. I also bought artificial flowers from Michael’s every time there was a sale and used coupons on top of it when I could.

Shoes ($30): Nine West nude heels bought from Marshall’s (and they’re reusable for so many more occasions)!

Wedding Party Gifts ($70): I made floral hair pins for my bridesmaids, which cut down on a lot of the costs, and he bought bowties and pocket squares for his groomsmen from Nordstrom Rack  (which always has a treasure trove of men’s wear).

Bowtie ($25): Nordstrom Rack all the way.

Boba ($150): The hardest part about catering boba was that most shops were not open until noon and weren’t able to serve boba in bulk. We didn’t want to have individually cupped drinks because we were going to have other drinks as well. Luckily, we talked with the manager at Ten Ren Cupertino, and she went out of her way to make sure we were able to have our favorite drink at our wedding.

Punch and Water ($60): We waited until soda was on sale and bought liters of Sprite for $1 each, added with peach nectar from Target. We also used Google Express credit to buy gallons of water. We did end up leaving with leftovers of both.

Favors (120 for $170): As we read from many other weddings, favors often get left behind, so we didn’t want to spend too much on our plant favors. After receiving quotes from many nurseries, we found that the cheapest price we could find was on eBay for $1.13 a plant. The seller was very helpful and personally called to make the large order. We then just wrapped the plants in brown kraft paper and stamped wedding our logo on it.

Tablecloths (22 for $120): Google tablecloths and you’ll find some of the cheapest prices around! We waited for the sale and bought them in bulk. We even sold them all after the wedding through Craigslist!

Tent Rentals (2 for $345): This was one of our best finds: two 20′ x 30′ tents for under $400. Most places we received quotes from were $600 to $1000. After messaging a ton of companies on Yelp, one company gave us the best price we had ever seen.

Decor ($400): A lot of our decor was DIY, so the most cost incurred was in the materials. We shopped at Moskatels, a wholesale store in Los Angeles like Michael’s. We also used a ton of coupons and continuously added to our decor collection over time.

Postcard Invitations ($60): Who keeps those invitations anyways? After a while, we were sure that those invitations would eventually go in a box somewhere to collect dust. So I designed the invitation myself and just printed them as postcards through Vistaprint.

Thank You Postcards (120 for $20): Saving us some time and energy, the coloring postcards we got were a hit. We bought three different coloring book postcards from eBay and used a $10 off coupon.

GIFTS AND FRIENDORS: Our friends supplied various elements of the day as gifts—this included the videography (you can see our video here!), DJ, officiant, and the get-away car. Our family also paid for the wedding cake and groom’s attire (and didn’t disclose what they spent).

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What was totally worth it:

With a passion for DIY crafts, we brought many pieces we had made into our wedding. Our marble and gold coffee cart, which was a birthday gift from him, served as the communion table during the ceremony. As a graphic designer, I happily used my skills to create our wedding logo, invitations, and signage. It was the first time for other DIY projects, from arranging a bouquet to making macrame knots. Though these projects took a bit more trial-and-error than we anticipated, they turned out beautifully in the end.

On each table sat a unique vintage camera collected from a mom and pop shop we discovered in San Francisco, hearkening back to when we met in photography class in high school. He jokingly claimed that I would fall in love with him in San Francisco, and I laughed it off as any high school girl would do. Summer came, and we fell in love in the foggy city that became the heart of our adventures (and later the spot of the proposal!).

As Bay Area natives famously known for our love for boba (also a shared obsession among our friends), we knew we had to bring it to our wedding. And the boba was a hit! We catered it from our favorite tea shop in Cupertino, paired with delicious peasant food catered by the Go Streatery food truck (oxtail and grits, anyone?). Dessert wasn’t complete without the Taiwanese egg tarts and Italian cookies, favorite comfort foods from both families. With his love for coffee, we catered from Mission Coffee, a local coffee shop we used to walk to from our homes in our younger days. Lemon zeppoles also reflected his Italian heritage and love for cooking.

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What was totally not worth it:

We realized that a lot of our decor never made it to the tables because we lost a lot of preparation time with so much going on. It was disappointing after the wedding to see boxes still taped up and never opened. We definitely should have planned for more time to set up because we had created so many detailed pieces for centerpieces and decor.

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A few things that helped us along the way:

We had an immense amount of help from our family, who doubled our budget when they saw that we really wanted to save for our future. We also had a lot of friends and family involved from the set up to the clean up of the wedding, allowing us to focus our budget on the important purchases.

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My best practical advice for my planning self:

The day really does go by in a blur! My best practical advice is to have a more intimate, smaller wedding if you are a couple that enjoys the slower moments. In hindsight, we spent a lot of resources and energy on details that weren’t all that important. Planning a wedding on Pinterest didn’t help either, as we got lost in the myriad of ideas and inspiration. Lock down your style and stick to it! Then focus on the important moments, like the first look and the vows, rather than things.

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Favorite thing about the wedding:

Our wedding reflected our love and life story with each detail carefully picked out for the day. We had our park venue in mind early in the planning process, located in the city where we met and fell in love. With a grand vision in mind, we constructed a gold and floral archway with ropes for the ceremony, complemented by hand-cut antique books planted with succulents. Under this very archway, we each shared own handwritten vows. Her vows had him and their guests in tears.

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Anything else to share:

Having our own wedding jump-started my own beginning for working in the wedding industry! After everything settled down, I started doing floral design, event planning, and engagement and wedding photography. It was such a great opportunity to take everything I had learned to help other couples on their special day. Plus, we were able to sell a lot of our wedding items (including the dress!), to invest in our future work.


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