How We: Planned A $10K Backyard Wedding In Seventeen Days

With seventy of our nearest and dearest in tow


10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Planned budget: $10,000

Actual budget: Probably about $11,000

Number of guests: 70

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the most funds

Our big-ticket items were rentals, photography, and exterior house lighting.

Rentals: I went a little crazy with the heat lamp rentals…and of course on the day it was eighty degrees and about sixty at night. We still turned them on though! I spent a lot of time researching party rental places and settled on Unlimited Party Rentals in LA. They were great and cheaper than a lot of other rental places I checked out.

Photography: I had my eye on Rad + In Love since I got engaged last March. Michelle didn’t have much planned for a Tuesday in December so I was able to book her pretty quickly. Photography was very important to us—the day was going to fly by and we wanted to make sure we had incredible photos. If I could go back and change anything, I would have both ladies photograph the wedding. Once you get a taste of their work you just want more and more…

Exterior House Lighting: My husband hired a house decorating company to deck us out in Christmas lights (minus the reindeer in the front lawn). Although this was a bit more expensive than we had anticipated, it was totally worth it. They spent eight hours installing all the lights and it looked magical.

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the least funds

Decor: Although we didn’t spend too much money on decor, it was certainly the most time consuming aspect of our wedding. My husband and some of our dear friends built and designed the structure we got married under and my girlfriends and I decorated it with fresh flowers and eucalyptus leaves. We also hung some balls from a tree, made a welcome area from an old kitchen table and chalkboard I bought at World Market, and I borrowed some decor left over from my friend’s wedding earlier in the year. I think I also borrowed some of her wedding gifts as well.

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Flowers: My girls and I also took a trip to the Los Angeles Flower Mart and purchased all the flowers for the house and table arrangements for about $250 (if you live in LA and haven’t gone I would HIGHLY recommend it). I am not particularly savvy with flowers but my bridesmaid and dear friend knew exactly what they were doing. We spent the whole day arranging flowers, we pooled all our flower vessels and made as many arrangements, big and small, as we could. The looked amazing and even decorated the back door (where I walked out with my father) with burlap and flowers. Something I hadn’t even thought of and there was sure to be lots of pictures of me coming out of that doorway—might as well make it look good!

Food: I cater with a fabulous friend, Annie Stapelton. She’s known my husband since he was a child and I knew she would do an awesome job. We had crudite platters, lots of assorted cheeses and crackers, spiral ham and cheese so people could make little sandwiches, turkey roll ups, nuts, fruit, and LOTS of homemade mac and cheese.

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Desserts: One of my best friends is the head nighttime chef at SweetSalt in Toluca Lake and their pastry department, run by Heather Wong, makes some of the most incredible desserts in LA. Heather is also one of the few pastry chefs who makes Taro confections—one of my absolute favorite flavors. She made a beautiful two-tiered Taro Cake (bride’s cake), a Chocolate Truffle Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting (groom’s cake), assorted macarons (seriously the BEST macs in Los Angeles), and little passion fruit tarts.

Alcohol: I was able to order a bunch of wine and champagne from my restaurant at cost. I only ordered what the restaurant already had so anything we didn’t drink the restaurant was able to buy back. A friend of ours paid for the keg. We also had two pre-mixed cocktails, a vodka lemonade and mulled whiskey cider. I used Simply Lemonade, vodka, and fresh lemon juice. For the cider, I simmered some cheap-ish grocery store cider with some expensive mulling spices, added whiskey, and called it a day.

Music: Our friends have a band so we asked them to play and also make a playlist.

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

What was worth it

Taking the leap and giving ourselves such a short amount of time to plan our wedding. My mother-in-law, who passed away sixteen days after our wedding, had been battling cancer for about four years and we realized we needed to act fast so she could be there. We did it, it was awesome, she loved it, and in all our years together, it was the best decision we’ve ever made as a couple. Throughout my earlier attempts at wedding planning, I got hung up on all the things that I didn’t want to do. For example, picking out wedding invitations and arranging seating charts and spending money on things I probably didn’t need, but would ultimately be pressured into getting.

With this decision about ninety percent of the things I didn’t want to do disappeared. Invitations? No time, we sent emails and texts. Seating arrangements? Ain’t nobody got time for that, sit wherever you want and talk to my parents while you’re at it. What if it doesn’t feel like a wedding that is uniquely “us”? Because of the nature of our circumstances, our wedding was unlike any other. We found an aesthetic along the way, worked together as a team and brought our families and friends together on a beautiful California day in December. In the end, none of those things mattered.

Also deciding to do it at our house was totally worth it. Everyone was so comfortable, and since most people had been to our place before it was all very laid back.

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

What was not worth it

Worrying that I was imposing a major inconvenience on my family and friends that were coming in from out of town. Flights from the East Coast to the West Coast during peak holiday travel season aren’t cheap. My best friend took time off work to come out a few days before the wedding to help. My husband had a family friend fly in from London. People took the day off of work (it was on a Tuesday) and took their kids out of school. Ultimately, these worries dissipated because instead of seeing it as a huge inconvenience for others, we started looking it as, “Oh my god, we are so fortunate to have such supportive and loving people in our lives.”

I was also constantly freaking out about the number of people that were coming. What started out at twenty-five people quickly escalated to seventy; my husband got very excited and told a lot of people. I was freaking out about it—are we going to have enough food/alcohol/toilet paper/chairs? It went on and on in my head. My husband really helped me out on this one; he very calmly and firmly told me to chill the eff out after I brought it up for the eight hundredth time.

A few things that helped us along the way

Our families giving us their unwavering love and support every step of the way. My best friend Mara stepping in and doing some on-site party organizing and stage-managing. My co-workers covering all my shifts and taking me out to get my nails done. The new Beyoncé album. Our friend and officiant, Michael, who helped us craft an incredibly personal ceremony and listened as we laughed and cried about how we met and the evolution of our relationship. A Practical Wedding, both the blog and the book. I had read APW and became obsessed with a backyard cake and punch reception vibe. It wasn’t until our unique situation presented itself that I realized I could actually do that. East Side Bride. That woman gives the best no-nonsense wedding advice EVER. Her readers are snarky and supportive and the damn fashion on there is just to die for. And most importantly, our friends. This wedding would not have been possible without our incredible circle of friends.

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding

My best practical advice to my planning self

From food to music to flowers to set up/break down to decor to cleaning out our damn garage and everything else that a last-minute backyard wedding requires—our friends were there for us every step of the way. Each and every person went above and beyond what we asked of them. I remember watching everyone at work in the yard the day before the wedding. It was like a Michael’s had exploded in our backyard: hot glue guns, buckets of untrimmed flowers, bits of wood and power tools all over the lawn. But there were all these people there, laughing and talking and enjoying themselves, who were donating their time and energy to help make our wedding the best it could possibly be.

Keep doing what you’re doing—it’s going to be awesome. And yes, it’s okay that you bought another dress just for the car ride to the hotel.

10K Backyard Wedding | A Practical Wedding


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  • Moe

    I love it all, and I didn’t realize this took place in LA. (so did my backyard wedding) My high school friend works at the flower mart and when she heard about my wedding on Facebook she offered her help. I got a ridiculous deal on my wedding flowers for DIY centerpieces. (I did’nt put them together, friends did. I don’t know the first thing about arranging.) If you’re within a 50 or even 100 miles radius of the flower mart, its worth the effort.

  • Okay seriously, this is my dream wedding.

    • Laura C

      Cosign. After reading this, I’m ready to cancel our wedding-wedding and just turn our planned backyard rehearsal dinner into the wedding.

      • The Bride!

        Do it!

  • vegankitchendiaries

    Thanks for taking about four seconds to follow up with the How We Did it because I honestly don’t think I could have waited any longer. AWESOME WEDDING.

    • scw

      I started refreshing at 12:29 (est) waiting for it to post!

  • vegankitchendiaries


    • The Bride!

      We went to Party City and bought all the giant confetti canons they had in stock. Our officiant assigned some of our friends to pop them off after our vows :) My brother in law was kind enough to clean it all up the next day ;) ;)

      • vegankitchendiaries


      • Ally

        omg where did I go wrong in life that I am I just now finding out that confetti cannons exist?! that confetti pic is just the absolute best.

      • vegankitchendiaries

        Literally just bought my canons online!

  • emilyg25

    Love it! Like you, we had a backyard wedding with a lot of help from family and friends. There’s just something about that that creates a magical, low-key, community-oriented, intimate kind of fun. You guys did a lovely job! Congrats!

  • Bsquillo

    Such a beautiful wedding- the dress, the decorations, the flowers, but especially the people surrounding you. It’s clear you have a ton of people who love you guys. Congratulations!

    And also, your hair totally kicks ass.

  • Molly P

    This is such a gorgeous wedding. Congratulations! :)

  • lady brett

    that is beautiful (primarily the 17 day decision part, though the end result is pretty amazingly gorgeous).

  • MisterEHolmes

    Everything is just so beautiful! It sounds like an incredible experience and thank you for sharing!

  • JSwen

    Can I ask what kind of makeup your artist used on you? Your skin looks flawless in the daylight and flash shots!

    • The Bride!

      I’ll ask Kelsey, and get back to you :)

    • kelsey link

      hello! cat’s makeup artist here. i used bobbi brown concealer and foundation, stila cream blush, urban decay’s naked eyeshadow palette, makeup forever waterproof (obviously) mascara and a very light dusting of laura mercier’s starlight powder to give her a glow. i finished her with two spritzes of skindinavia finishing spray. she looked incredible in person too and barely needed any touching up! :kelsey –

  • Cat

    This makes me feel SO empowered! This is my vision, all the people we love, crammed into our yard. Punch and fancy snacks. All the goodness, none of the nonsense! Thank you, thank you for sharing!

  • Class of 1980

    Pink dress! :)

  • Kayjayoh

    Best laugh of the day: “It was like a Michael’s had exploded in our backyard:”

  • Kate V

    The dress! The dress! I need more about the dress.

    • DREA

      Her dress is from BLHDN: Annabelle bridesmaid dress in Rose. I bought the same one!

      • Heather S.

        I bought this dress too, in that color! Looking forward to wearing it in May. Very affordable and I see she also bought the belt that the bhldn model wears. I am looking for something a little more colorful and creative, but it is beautiful.

    • HCl

      Looks like Jenny Yoo’s “Annabelle” dress. Found it at both and Nordstrom, in different colors.
      Seeing these photos I’m so sad the dress didn’t work on me: it is beautiful and light and comfortable, but not intended for the overly-busty.

  • Jessica B.

    Absolutely GORGEOUS wedding! Wow. Bride: You are so beautiful and I adore your dress, hair, makeup, etc. I’m sorry for the loss of your mother-in-law; it’s so wonderful that she was able to celebrate with you guys. Congrats on your marriage!

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  • tashamoes

    “The new Beyoncé album.”
    What a beautiful How We Did It. So great.

  • Leslie

    Yes! This one really spoke to me. In December, my now-husband and I decided to scrap our original wedding and throw one in three weeks. It’s funny to think we were probably frantically wedding planning at the same time :) I am blessed that the decision was not prompted by tragic circumstances in our case. We were simply worn down from the time and money it was costing us to do our wedding in the way we had planned. We also knew my husband’s job was uncertain (he ended up being laid off exactly a month after our wedding), and didn’t feel right about draining our savings. For anybody who is focusing on all the things you don’t want to do, planning a quick wedding instantly takes care of that. Things are automatically tossed out because it’s not possible to do them. I also tend to fret and think about decisions over and over long after they are made, and it forced me to make decisions and move on without looking back. Are there things I wish I would have done differently with more time? Sure, but I got so, so much more. As a chronic control freak, I was forced to let go and let people help because things wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise. In exchange, I have never felt so much like a community in my life. As I waited for the ceremony to start, I watched two of my best friends coordinating with each other over their cell phones to get everybody to the ceremony in an orderly fashion, and time it with the musicians. At that moment, I wanted to cry because I I felt so firmly loved by their actions.

  • I’m totally bookmarking RAD + IN LOVE for a someday wedding. :) And I second the LA Flower market. For my wedding to my ex (also in December, a few years ago), we got a ton of roses, carnations, and baby’s breath for about $75.

  • Owww. I love this! Planning doesn’t have to take months. This is so sweet! She sounds like a bride that knew what she wanted and just went for it. Doesn’t hurt either to have some great friends and connections!

  • Ally

    I love everything about this. Just perfect.

  • MeganinNY

    Just. Beautiful. That is all.

  • I love everything about this!!

  • Elemjay

    I would like to know a bit more about the practicalities eg toilets, seating, crockery. Any chance Cat could explain what was requirdd?

  • Moonie

    I wish I had a house to throw a backyard wedding in. It’s the dream. Too bad my bf’s parents live super far and my parent’s backyard has a pool. I am considering his grandmother’s house. If only.

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