Our 130 Guest Atlanta Wedding Happened in a Happy Cloud of Magic

A budget of $15K and a whole crew of friends helped


Cristen, podcaster & Chris, av genius

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A culmination of our time, sweat, and creativity that was nothing but celebratory and a little magical.

Planned budget: $13,000

Actual budget: $15,000

Number of guests: 130


Where we allocated the most funds:

Soon after I’d gotten engaged, Meg Keene was a guest on my podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You. It was the most fortuitous interview—even though I resisted asking her for all the advice. One thing she mentioned that really stuck in my brain was to outsource the stuff you aren’t super pumped to DIY. That way you’ll be able to spend more of your time making the thing you really love. In my case, that was a massive jellyfish-like installation to hang from the ceiling. (It looked a hundred times better than how I just described it.)

Short story long, the chunk of our money went to the florist because I’m all about the greenery, the DJ because (for me) even mediocre music is a mood-killer, and chair and table rentals added up quickly. Food and booze were our medium tier of spending since an amazing friend/chef offered to prepare our wedding food as his gift to us. A bestie of mine made the wedding cake. Another friend served as my day-of coordinator, and I can’t emphasize enough how much easier she made the whole event; especially if you’re going DIY, find an organized friend with event planning experience or find room in the budget to hire one. Totally worth it.


Where we allocated the least funds:

Invites, place settings (disposable bamboo place settings matched the reception space perfectly), Cristen’s shoes, Chris’s ring (since he wanted titanium), event planning, and eighty-sixing favors and parting gifts.


What was totally worth it:

I didn’t price compare florists because I truly loved this specific shop and wanted to invest my money in them. That’s really what wedding planning became, in fact: a series of considerations about whom I’d like to invest at least a few zeros in. Once that became my mindset, I truly started to enjoy it. So for the flowers, I could’ve founded cheaper ones or bought fewer, but I adore flowers and it was worth every peony.


What was totally not worth it:

We tried to cut out as much extraneous stuff as possible. This one’s a curveball, but we totally didn’t need the photo booth. We’d been to wedding before in more confined spaces, which makes the photo booth kind of a necessary getaway. But our venue was so roam-able, the photo booth got lost amid the milling about.


A few things that helped us along the way:

Hands down APW!

Also, paying for all but a small percentage ourselves. When planning a wedding that you really want to like, financial leverage is everything. Looking at Pinterest together was also great. We learned so much about our different style preferences that just normally don’t come up in our typical couple conversation. Seeing my therapist was truly the best (no joke!), and online booze calculators work and are totally worth the time!


My best practical advice for my planning self:

Give yourself a reasonably long engagement. Practically, it lengthens your runway for having to pull off a lot of stuff (even if it’s a super chill event). Personally, it gives you and your boo time to fully experience this underrated phase of engagement. I felt pure calm marrying my husband because we had weathered a long-enough relationship that it contains some rough spots, and we learned that we could be really good at next-level conflict resolution. To me, that’s so important—and way more important than wedding planning.


Favorite thing about the wedding:

Never not smiling; the gorgeous venue decorated and lit with love by my sisters, friends, neighbors, me, and my husband; our last dance.


Anything else to share:

APW seriously helped plan the wedding that honored my husband and myself and our families. Also speaking of families, there were certain elements of the wedding that were purely there for our (more religious, conservative) families; they didn’t feel disingenuous though because, in a way, they were our gifts to them. My husband and I decided on our non-negotiables, and one of those was making our families feel as welcome and comfortable as our besties. It paid off with an event vibe of pure community, joy, and lots of spiked lemonade good times.



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