Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Laid back and low waste, a housewarming turned wedding in an intimate DIY garden party with taco bar.
Planned budget: $5,000
Actual budget: $7,000
Number of guests: 55
Where we allocated the most funds:
We hired a friend of mine who is a personal chef, and she drove from Sonoma, California, all the way to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, (several days of driving!) to create a vegetarian Taco bar for us. We were able to pay a bit less than we would with traditional caterers, and we had way more control over the menu, style, and presentation of the food. All of the food was prepared in our kitchen in the days before and up to the wedding. Food is such a big part of our lives that we really wanted to share a more unique food experience with our guests, and it was a huge hit. It also allowed us to spend some quality time with my friend and her husband, as they stayed with us so they could prepare the food. We also had leftovers for a month!
Since we were doing this in our backyard, we needed to rent tables, chairs, linens, glasses, servingware, coffee/tea jugs, water dispensers, and a small tent from a local party rental place. We probably rented more dishes than we needed, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. I also didn’t want to generate any waste, so we rented linens and glassware instead of using disposables.
We originally weren’t going to hire a photographer (I know, crazy right?); with the casual vibe we were going for it seemed a bit overkill and we thought it might blow the budget. Of course if you talk to ANYONE they will tell you that it’s the one thing not to skimp on, and I would have to agree on this one. I’m SO GLAD we decided to do this! We found a local photographer here on the coast who doesn’t usually do weddings, but she digged the non-traditional vibe we were looking for and agreed to do our day. She even included a preliminary couples photo shoot for us, which gave us a chance to get to know her and feel comfortable in front of the camera. She blew us away with these photos and really helped us capture the whole vibe of the day.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Using our backyard helped us keep our costs down. It was also really important to us to keep a minimal environmental footprint, avoiding creating more waste with our wedding. This meant borrowing, thrifting, renting, and getting creative wherever possible.
We didn’t do traditional invitations; we created a wedding website and sent it via email to our friends and family. My sister officiated the ceremony.
Decorations were pretty minimal, as we had a beautiful (and floral) venue already, with plenty of flowers growing in our garden beds, and we had some family bring us extra flowers on the morning of the wedding. We used a borrowed arch that our friends built the summer before for their wedding.
I made my own necklace, earrings, and flower crown (using lavender from our garden), and did my own makeup and hair. I found a great pair of shoes for $20.
We were gifted with the beverage costs (from the in-laws) and did an open bar in the backyard. We ordered a few cases of wine and champagne and had three mini-kegs of beer. We ended up with some leftover beer, but ran out of white wine early.
We borrowed mason jars (we used sticky chalkboard paper and chalk markers to make reusable labels), linens for tables and napkins, hanging lights, glass jars and vases for tea lights and flowers, wedding arch, disco ball, bouquets, mixing bowls, baking sheets, baskets, balloons for signage, driftwood for decorations, and Giant Jenga.
What was totally worth it:
Doing a taco bar versus sit-down catering was so worth it to us. It really helped set the tone of the experience for us, and we loved seeing people rave about how good the food was!
The photography is a cost that we were more than happy to pay, and we cannot believe the value we got here. We were able to use the couple’s shoot for our guest book, and we used the wedding photography to create custom thank you cards and a gorgeous album. The photographer is now a friend of ours, so this was totally worth every penny! We also took thirty minutes while our guests were just about to start eating and walked to our neighborhood market to take some pictures together, and I’m so glad we did this.
We loved having the event in our backyard, so it was worth bringing the tables and chairs to us in order to have the intimate backyard garden-party vibe we were looking for. We hired a friend of a friend with catering experience to help serve drinks, pour champagne for the toast, and keep an eye on food plates and glasses, and it was totally worth it.
We used Mixbook to create a photo guest book for guests to sign and left it near the gift table. It was such a great suggestion from a friend of mine, and gave us a beautiful book with messages we can go back to for years to come.
Cupcakes for dessert! These didn’t last long, and I wish I had ordered more. Way better than cake, and allowed for a variety of flavors!
What was totally not worth it:
We ended up renting a few more plates and coffee cups than we needed, but it was a minimal expense, so I can’t really complain here.
We also put together some playlists for the dancing in the evening, but decided to give over control to our guests. This led to some tension where guests had different ideas of what was fun, danceable music. I’m not sure what we could have done differently, so we had to let go of any expectations on this. We still enjoyed watching our guests bust a move, even if it wasn’t music we wanted to dance to!
We also found that our guests didn’t care for the dark beer option and we had a fair bit leftover; we probably should have selected one standard light beer and not worried about having so many different options.
A few things that helped us along the way:
Family and friends really pulled through for us, especially on the day of the wedding! We had lots of helpers arrive in the late morning, but I was so busy running around that I barely had any time to delegate properly. There were so many tiny logistics I hadn’t figured out yet, so it was invaluable to have some decision-makers and order-takers to help set things up and take initiative.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and make sure to get specific about what you want people to do. It’s much easier to give people a specific role than to ask for general “help,” and better to secure help before the day of! Decide in advance if you want to do a dance party. Otherwise, just relax and enjoy the day. People are there for you!
Favorite thing about the wedding:
I have never before experienced the kind of high that comes from having all of the most important friends and family in your life in one room (or backyard to be specific), beaming love at you. It was one of the most incredible and beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. It’s indescribable. It is probably one of the only days in your life where you may experience that level and intensity of love, community, and connection. I loved the whole vibe, it felt very “us.” It was also so wonderful to have people from both of our lives connect for the first time and create lasting connections.
Other things we’d like to share:
We organized a number of optional events before and after the wedding, and we highly recommend this! The day of the wedding was such a blur that I felt like I didn’t get enough time to really connect with each guest. Having some extra events before (brewery visit, public market) and after (beach day) allowed us a little extra time to spend with everyone.
The event originally started as a housewarming, and slowly evolved into a low-key wedding. We wanted to bring in our out-of-town friends and family and figured we probably couldn’t get people to commit to the trip without calling it a wedding! Once we finally acknowledged that it was, in fact, a wedding, we had four months to pull it all together, which was pretty easy with our laid-back DIY-style.