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A $4K Joyous and Colorful Ceremony In North Carolina

How we got our little wedding across the finish line

Maria, Non-Profit Manager + Evan, Software Accounts Manager
One sentence sum up of the wedding vibe: Colorful, joyous celebration of love, family, and community.
Planned Budget: Unplanned
Actual Budget: $4,000
Number of Guests: 22
Venue: The Cookery
Location: Durham, NC
Photographer: Allie Mullin Photography

Where we allocated the most funds: Our venue, graciously gifted by Evan’s parents. We planned our COVID wedding for a local city park, but the city cancelled event permits three weeks before the wedding, and so we scrambled to find a new venue that met our criteria—outdoors, covered, with restrooms, electricity, and parking. We reached out to The Cookery on a whim—we’d done work with them before, and figured it couldn’t hurt. They jumped at the chance to get this little wedding across the finish line, and we were thrilled with the beautiful tented patio space.

Where we allocated the least funds: Food and drink—we decided to send guests home with miniature bottles of sparkling wine, cider, lemonade, and water, and boxed up slices of cake, rather than serve food and drink at the wedding. This allowed guests to keep their masks on the whole time, and kept things short, sweet and safe.

We were also gifted most of our gorgeous decor. My parents made our backdrop (my mom is a professional illustrator), Evan’s parents made our welcome sign and lent us the heirloom crystal bowl for our altar arrangement, and also lent us the ivory tablecloths, my mom made our escort cards and table numbers, and we arranged our flowers together.

Finally, a good friend lent us the speakers, and microphones for the Zoom call, as well as his expertise, which was a lifesaver. We could’ve rented everything from a local event production company, but brainstorming and troubleshooting with him was much more relaxed, and fun!

What was totally worth it: Doing our own flowers. Not only were they exactly what I wanted and far less expensive than what we could’ve sourced from a professional, but I got to spend the months leading up to the wedding designing and practicing and immersing myself in the world of colors and textures and form. This year has been a rough one, with most of my creative outlets out of reach due to COVID. So having an artistic project to geek out on was wonderful. We spent around $600 on flowers and supplies for the wedding, and another $100 or so on grocery store bouquets for practice arrangements in the months leading up.

What was totally not worth it: Worrying about what people would think of us. For having a wedding at all right now, for doing the cake and champagne the way we chose to, for being invited to join via Zoom vs. in person, for not being hosted the way one would expect at a normal wedding. Walking that line between being safe, being generous, and being true to ourselves was very stressful at times.

A few things that helped us along the way: Friends and family coming together to help, tutorials from APW and Flower Moxie! I got the idea of doing our own flowers from APW, and between the how-to guides here, and Flower Moxie’s abundant resources, I felt well informed and prepared.

My best practical advice for my planning self: Don’t be ashamed to let people in on your excitement and worries. Yes, it’s the worst year in your lifetime, and everyone is terrified and stressed, but that doesn’t make it trivial or shallow to be excited about your wedding. People will be grateful for the opportunity for joy—the sooner you admit how big of a deal this is to you and let them in, the more you will be able to share and the less isolated you’ll feel.

Favorite thing about the wedding: The ceremony. Our officiant, a dear friend, had us write letters to one another and give them to her, and it was really meaningful to hear each other’s words for the first time in front of our closest loved ones. We wrote our vows together, and found words that felt completely true to us. Our blessing was given by one of my closest friends, written for us, and grounded us in the spirituality of the day.

Because we’re waiting to have our reception, the entire wedding was just the ceremony, and it gave a feeling of expansiveness and relaxation to it. I think the ceremony itself lasted around 25 minutes or so, but I have so many memories from it, from our son handing me a toy truck in the middle of our vows, to our officiant cracking everyone up in the middle of tears, to the spontaneous father-daughter and mother-son dance after most of our guests had left—it felt like we had all the time in the world, because we did.

Anything else: We decided to get ready together for purely logistical reasons (we live 20 minutes from the venue, and needed to be ready for photos before anyone else), but it ended up being a great opportunity to slow down and connect between the bustle of setting up, and the emotion of the ceremony. We live together and start every day together, and so it made perfect sense for us to start this day together as well. Thank you to this community for planting the idea that a couple can get ready together.

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