Our $20K Boston Wedding Combined Reggae, Salsa, and Fresh-Made Churros

Plus a mariachi band so good they made us cry

Desiree and Daniel's wedding at The Villa in East Bridgewater, MA | Kelly Benvenuto Photography | Boston Wedding Photographer

Desiree, u.s. air force & Daniel, u.s. air force

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Our wedding was full of emotions, music, laughter, and good food!

Planned budget: $15,000

Actual budget: $20,000

Number of guests: 134

Where we allocated the most funds:

Going into the wedding I knew that sticking to a budget would be hard because of how much weddings cost in this day and age. I had no idea how much extra it would be by having a wedding in Boston. Ideally I wanted to have a venue in downtown Boston at a hotel so that my guests could have all the drinks they wanted then just take an elevator up to their rooms. Then we went to a Marriott and saw that a plate of chicken started at $125! That is when reality really took over. My best friend (maid-of-honor) gave me great advice, “Make a list of the things that are most important to you and focus the majority of your budget on these things.” Daniel and I agreed that food and the photographer would be the most important things. When we were planning, I just kept this list in mind and it relieved a lot of stress.

Where we allocated the least funds:

I knew that some people went all out for wedding details like the cake. I really didn’t care about the “typical traditions” and the cake was not high on my priority list. While I love dessert, I was not too stressed about having a lavish cake—I just wanted a dessert that tasted good and that my guests would enjoy. We ordered a small six-inch cake just to cut, and around 110 cupcakes that came in three different flavors. Cupcakes are easy to box up and take home, so this was ideal and way less pricey than a cake. I did not want to spend a lot on flowers and decor, because flowers die and decor would just got to waste. Our venue was already gorgeous, so I didn’t have to worry about adding much decor. I ordered simple things, like something for the sweetheart table and stands for the cake. I found all of this on eBay and at HomeGoods. So while I was able to find decor I loved, we spent very little on this.

What was totally worth it:

When our wedding was over, Daniel and I talked about the things that we were really glad that we did. We were extremely glad that we went with a DJ who happened to be a DJ that Daniel had known from college. I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure just how much experience he had with weddings. He was great! He had our guests pumped up from the very beginning, making our entrance exciting. He played all the types of music I had requested, giving the wedding the type of vibe that I wanted. He also listened to our guests and played the long list of requests they had. We had a photo booth that was a hit. The adults and kids loved it, and we have so many great photos of our guests from it.

As with any wedding we had guests decline, and per our contract with our venue we still had to spend the money we would have spent on their plates toward other food. We added freshly made churros (they were being fried in front of our guests) and Chinese food for a late night snack. While we had not originally planned to have these, our guests were surprised and loved this added treat.

Our photographer, Kelly Benvenuto, was definitely one of the best things that we invested in! Our guests loved her and she was so easy to work with. I had heard nightmares about other people’s experiences with their wedding photographers, and we were lucky to have found Kelly. Kelly captured everything that I had asked for, and her pictures are phenomenal. We received so many compliments on how wonderful the pictures came out. While our wedding day only lasted twenty-four hours, we now have photos that will last us forever!

A few things that helped us along the way:

My husband is stationed in Nebraska and I am stationed in Georgia, but we decided to have a wedding in Boston (somewhere I am not from). My godmother making herself our wedding planner definitely saved us! She is from Boston and has connections everywhere. If it wasn’t for her we would not have easily found a venue, a church to get married in, a bakery, nor had a great florist. I was able to send things ahead of time to her house, and she was able to handle details I could not since I live outside of Massachusetts. Without her we could not have pulled off the wedding!

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Stop worrying about what your guests will think about every little detail of your wedding. Don’t stress yourself out about whether or not your family and his family will get along at the wedding. Yes, your family is going to get on the dance floor and have a great time no matter what. That is how they are, that is one of the reasons you love the family you come from. Accept the fact that your wedding will be over the budget you planned, because while you like being cheap and frugal, you like nice things—and if you are going to splurge, why not let it be on this one day. You will be sick to your stomach about the people that you had to leave off of the guest list; if you could you would have invited everyone and their mom, but just pray that everyone understands.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Our families uniting. We had a Catholic Mass for the ceremony. There is a point during the ceremony where you shake the peoples’ hands next to you and say, “Peace be with you.” When this moment of the Mass happened I was not paying attention to anyone but those at the altar with Daniel and me. Then I heard quite a bit of noise behind us and turned to look at the pews. Behind us our family and friends had left their spot in the pews to come together laughing and hugging one another in the center of the church. The love that filled the church was overwhelming. Some of these people had never even been introduced but knew that our families were joining and fully accepted it.

After the Mass we had mariachis outside of the church; it’s a Mexican tradition to have mariachis serenade the bride after the wedding. Our guests had no idea that there would be mariachis playing music as they exited the church. The sound of the trumpets and singing was phenomenal, bringing my side of the family to tears. During the reception we played reggaeton, reggae, salsa, old school… music that represented each of our backgrounds, and whether or not it related to the people in attendance, everyone was on the dance floor enjoying themselves and celebrating with us. The love and fun that took place at our wedding was more than what we could have ever asked for and what we will remember.

Anything else to share:

When Daniel asked for my hand in marriage my aunt and cousins began making bridal plans at Kleinfeld’s for our upcoming New York girl’s trip. I had already told my mom that I didn’t want to spend more than a grand on a dress and preferred to find something in Atlanta. However, I love Say Yes to the Dress, so I went along with the appointment. We got to the salon and a Lazaro ball gown immediately captured my eye. It just so happened that this dress had been on the runway at his fashion show the night before and was brand new to the salon as of that morning. He was having a trunk show that day and was actually walking around Kleinfeld’s to see his dresses on the floor. I had the opportunity to meet him and when I said yes to this (not within the Atlanta dress budget I had set for myself) dress, he actually drew a sketch of me in the dress. My experience at Kleinfeld’s was incredible!


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