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

With seventy of our nearest and dearest in tow

 CAT, SERVER/ACTRESS & JONney, ACTOR/EDITOR/BAND MANAGER/RED HEAD

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

Credits

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