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Our $20K Authentic and Chill Backyard Wedding in Rhode Island

Surfer boy meets surfer girl (at 55 and 64)!

Medelise R., Realtor and Artisan + Frederick N., Real Estate Investor and Semi-Retired
One sentence sum up of the wedding vibe: It was a beautiful, authentic, joyful, and chill backyard wedding.
Planned Budget: Under $30k
Actual Budget: We kept it just around $20k
Number of Guests: 65
Location: Our backyard in the surf town of Matunuck, Rhode Island
Photographer: Lensy Michelle

Where we allocated the most funds: We spent the most on food and catering.

Where we allocated the least funds: Since we had the wedding in our own backyard, we saved a ton on not having to book a venue. We also DIY-ed a photo booth out of our camper van and opted not to have an elaborate wedding cake. Instead, we served locally made pie with ice cream!

What was totally worth it: Having food that people raved about and that we loved was totally worth it. Additionally we were happy we invested in beautiful flowers and a band that kept everyone dancing all night!

What was totally not worth it: Honestly, everything we spent money on was worth it and we would do it the same all over again.

A few things that helped us along the way: Having an experienced catering company was one of the best things we did since they took care of a majority of the logistical planning that could have otherwise been pretty stressful.

My best practical advice for my planning self: “Relax and enjoy the process. Do it your way and stop worrying about what anyone else thinks!”

Favorite thing about the wedding: So many things! The flowers were absolutely amazing! The food! Having everyone we love around us! And definitely our photographer, Lensy Michelle, and how she made the day so fun for us. Additionally, having our camper van set up as an extension of us and our lifestyle was super fun and meaningful.

One of our favorite parts of the day was the photo shoot we did prior to the ceremony during the morning of our wedding. Our photographer, Lindsey, was so excited about our surf story that she insisted we try to take some surfing photos on the morning of our wedding day before our guests arrived. We got all prepped, packed our surfboards in my surf buggy, a 2010 light blue Element, which is a great surf buggy, and headed to the beach. The photographer and I rode our retro beach cruiser bikes behind my fiancé who was driving the car, down to the shore. It was the best!!!

My favorite picture from the whole day was taken then—the one of us in front of the lockers at the beach with our surfboards, surf suits, board shorts. It turned out better than expected and the photo even used on the bathing suit designer’s Instagram account! Probably the funniest part of the day was when we were trying to get the shot at the beach with me wearing my veil and holding the surf boards. It was really windy and there were a ton of beach goers watching that we didn’t know. After several attempts with the veil flying off into the wind, Lindsey had the winning idea of putting my hair partially up with a hair tie so we could jam the veil’s hair comb into it so it wouldn’t fly away. The results.. well, look at the photo!!!

It was really great to have these super fun and nontraditional images in addition to the photos of us in our wedding outfits.

Anything else: We loved our whole wedding day! Every single second of it. From our surfing photoshoot in the morning to dancing the night away with our live band! After having to cancel our venue plans so many times because of COVID, we just scaled the whole thing down and created a special venue right in our own backyard! One of my favorite things about our set-up in the yard was using our beautiful camper-van as a photo booth and setting out polaroid cameras for people to take a picture and leave for us.

It was really important for us to include both my children and Fred’s grandchildren in the ceremony itself. From the very beginning, there was no doubt we would have his granddaughters be flower girls and his two twin grandsons be the ring bearers. It was important for me that my two grown children be involved as well. My daughter was my Maid of Honor, and I chose my son to walk me down the aisle. It all worked out so wonderfully and it was a great way to connect emotionally to having a new family on both sides, an extension of the families we both already had.

Since surfing is an integral part of our love story, we wanted to incorporate it into our wedding vibe and decor as well. In addition to out morning surf-session photos, we hung multiple tapestries (to hide the not-so-flattering underside of our deck) and had our surfboards on display alongside our camper-van.

Our band was a local group of guys that specialized in surfer-vibe Dick Dale and retro surf songs. We used the beautiful yet simple landscape features in our yard such as the giant pear tree to create a simple yet gorgeous setting for our ceremony with such minimal cost. With a small gathering of close friend and families, we didn’t need to worry about assigning seats and having a super formal sit down dinner. Instead, people could relax and feel free to spend the afternoon in a fun and casual manner. My husband and I spent several days creating a beautiful sitting area outside the tent with a fire pit and glass bottles hanging from trees with lights in them to create a really stunning outdoor space. It literally cost us less than $100 to create this area using items we already had!

Some of my favorite pictures from the day are us with our surfboards on the beach or where you can see our surfboards in the background decor of the wedding setup. My husband and I met on an online dating site called fitness singles where you can search for matches by sporting categories. It was important for both of us to be with someone that enjoyed surfing and that maintained an active lifestyle even at the ages of 55 and 64.

Fred’s wife of 40 years had passed away a year before we met, and I had been single for ten years after a marriage of 24 years. We found each other there and even though we lived in different states and three hours away from one another, it was an immediate connection. We never looked back since the day we met. It seemed only fitting that our wedding should tell the story of who we are as a couple and what we love about our life together.

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