Lauren, phd candidate in geography & Isaac, investment analyst
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A day full of laughter, with earnest vows, good food, and a great dance party.
Planned budget: $10,000
Actual budget: $14,000
Number of guests: 120
Where we allocated the most funds:
On food, venue rental, wedding planner, photography, and bartending service (but we bought the alcohol separate and it didn’t cost that much). We thought we’d save money by going DIY and renting an art space and hiring a taco truck, but it turned out that there are a million small line items that added up, and we probably didn’t save much over throwing the party at a more traditional venue. Example: We spent $600 on licensed, insured bartenders (a requirement for our venue), which was a lot, considering we still had to go out and buy all the alcohol, mixers, cups, straws, etc. Overall, we loved the finished product; it just took a lot of work to get there.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Flowers, cakes, and decorations. I ordered bulk flowers from Costco for $100, and the day before the wedding my friends arranged them in mason jars. I carried a bouquet of dried flowers, which I bought on Etsy for around $50. I loved the bouquet, and we’ve kept it as a centerpiece in our kitchen since the wedding. We ordered delicious Chantilly cakes from Whole Foods, and spent around $175 for cake for 120 people. We also decorated with table covers, burlap runners, mason jars, white lights, and other decorations I bought for $100 from a friend who got married a couple of months earlier—and then I sold it all again on Craigslist after our wedding. I bought my ceremony dress at a consignment shop; it was new, but technically pre-owned. I got my reception/party dress at David’s Bridal after monitoring their sales and buying it at a steep discount on Christmas Eve. I ended up spending about $1,000, total, on both dresses.
Also, instead of a rehearsal dinner we rented a picnic pavilion at beautiful North Boulder Park, ordered a dozen pizzas, and played wiffle ball— it was a highlight of the weekend!
What was totally worth it:
Paying to hire professionals (photographers, wedding planner, caterers) so we could relax and enjoy the day. Also, we rented three Polaroid cameras from Luminoids and placed them on a table with film, a sketchbook, markers, and glue. Our guests took some amazing and hilarious photos and glued them into the book with special notes. It’s such a great way to remember the wedding. I also set out nametag stickers and markers to encourage people to introduce themselves and make friends. They were a hit! Apparently a teenaged boy named Godzilla was at our wedding!
What was totally not worth it:
Stress and worry in general. Worrying that our guests won’t have fun, or that people won’t figure out how to get from the ceremony to the reception. Worrying that everything wouldn’t go off as planned. Stressing about looking fat in my dress, and overall not getting as fit as I had attempted. It all just didn’t matter. I ended up spilling coffee all over my dress moments before the ceremony started, and then spilled coffee again over my reception dress. And it didn’t matter. All I really remember is all the laughing and dancing we did with our friends and family—and how hard Isaac laughed when he saw the coffee on my wedding dress.
A few things that helped us along the way:
Hiring a wedding planner! We absolutely could not have pulled off the organized party we did without professional help. Michelle made a wedding day timeline—down to the minute!—that ensured the ceremony and reception went off without a hitch. And knowing she was working behind the scenes, Isaac and I were able to unplug and just enjoy our time with family and friends. Hands down, hiring Michelle was the best investment we made for the wedding.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help—but be specific. So many friends asked if they could help with the planning, but I kept saying no. When I finally realized I couldn’t do it all myself, I organized a work session on the day before the wedding from 9 to 11 a.m. at my house, with specific goals: make flower arrangements, make crudités plates, iron table covers. When people have specifics, they can show up and they know what to do. We got more done in that two hours together then I had done in two weeks alone.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Marrying Isaac! And also my best friend Michael Dorsey acting as our officiant, which was the only thing I’d dreamed of when I used to dream of my wedding. Having Tim, an amazingly well trained therapy dog, as our ring-bearer, and my eight-year-old BFF Neva was our flower kid. And that so many folks came in from all over the world: from Isaac’s family flying in from Fiji, to my friends and family traveling from all across the US to celebrate with us, it was, hands down, the best day of our lives.
Anything else to share:
It’s totally okay to set a budget that is reasonable for you, and choose clothing, food, venue, etc. that both works for you and fits in the budget. Sure, I would have loved a more detailed, high-end dress, but with a limited budget I had to work within my price range. At the time it felt limiting, but it’s incredibly liberating to come away from a big wedding, with a weekend full of events and meals, and have everything paid for. Starting a marriage debt-free (okay, ignoring student loans) is really empowering.