Our $15K Wedding With Bourbon, Beer, and Love

Plus a tiered Rice Crispy Treat wedding cake

Heather, Community College Adjunct Faculty & jesse, software engineer

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: The greatest party of our lives, representative of us, shared with our dearest loved ones.

Planned budget: $11,000
Actual budget: $15,500
Number of guests: 115
LOCATION: Vancouver, Washington

Where we allocated the most funds:

The bulk of our costs came through food and drink, photography, and venue and DJ, which each cost around $3,000, totaling about $9,000, give or take. We chose early on to focus on important pieces of our wedding vibe—food and drink, music, photography, and finding a venue that was indoors and met our needs for space, as well as style. The Fort Vancouver Artillery Barracks, built in 1904, featured restored tin ceilings to the historically accurate white-oak hardwood floors. The building had an ideal combination of historic character and warmth. Our DJ came set with sound, lighting, and an unlimited photo booth with props. Music plays an important space in our relationship; we found a DJ that would incorporate our love of funk and brass bands while blending in songs that get folks up and dancing. We loved seeing our guest photos captured with the booth and the fun props, and the uplighting added a great feel to the reception room while keeping the historic feel of the venue. Photography was important to us as well as our families. We focused on natural light and candid photos, and Take 5 Photography was the perfect fit to capture us and our day.

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Heather’s parents are former bakers and baked cookies in all of our favorite flavors, and Heather’s mom also made a crisp rice cereal cake. The “cake” featured a handcrafted topper of both of our dogs, one of the many touches Heather had her hands on. We featured our favorite cookies and candies, and incorporated Jesse’s hometown with Hershey’s Heath Bars brought in from the candy factory. We were fortunate that our venue allowed purchase of our own beverages as long as we had a licensed bartender present to serve, so we booked Heart & Honey bartending and brought in our favorite local beers, including one from the brewery where we had our first date and the place where Jesse proposed to Heather. Along with beer, we featured a signature bourbon cocktail, rosé wine, and sparkling water. We hired our favorite Neapolitan pizza food cart to cater the wedding.

Where we allocated the least funds:

We wanted our wedding to reflect us as a couple, so this meant a fair amount of hands-on prep for the event. We knew we would need to rent some basics like linens and glassware, and purchase some aspects of decor like ribbons and pizza serving stands. We spent the least amount on flowers and decor. We borrowed vases and glassware from family for our dessert table and used found items from our home for styling.

For other decor, Heather and her bridesmaids got together early in the summer and hand dyed cotton napkins to use at the wedding and ceremony backdrop. We really wanted sustainable options to reduce the waste from this event. Our plates and cutlery were biodegradable and compostable, and the napkins were a great takeaway for our guests and provided a fun crafting opportunity. We used various items from around our home to complete the table decor, incorporating family wedding photos, a hand-crocheted lace tablecloth made by Heather’s grandmother. Heather also created the groom’s and groomsmen’s boutonnières, incorporating Jesse’s love of beer with some dried hops and vintage shell casings. Heather brought in thrifted vases and put together all floral arrangements for tables, bridesmaids, and her own bouquet with her mom a few days before the big day. Blooms by the Box was an amazing resource; they had easy-to-use purchasing, and the flowers were delivered on time and healthy. Heather was able to create her dream bouquet in addition to all floral needs for the wedding for under $500.

What was totally worth it:

The entire thing! We were over budget, but the memories we have from the process and the photos collected throughout the evening are something we both cherish. It was such a labor of love to work together on this event and really work to incorporate both of our styles and personalities, as well as our identity as a couple, into our wedding day.

What was totally not worth it:

Early on we worked together to identify what was important and not important to us. We had ditched many wedding traditions, and so with that our day was exactly what we had hoped. The whole thing was great, and there is not much looking back that we would change or cut for cost.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Family and friends: we have amazing people in our lives. Without their support for the DIY, borrowing items, and help for setup and take down of the wedding, we would not have been able to pull off the greatest party of our lives. Our parents! Heather’s mom and dad gifted us some money to help with the wedding and also provided all of the baking for the dessert table. Heather’s mom was there day-to-day and helped greatly with the floral breakdown and creation of the bouquets and table centerpieces. Jesse’s parents gifted the catering for our rehearsal dinner, which was a wonderful evening at our home with our wedding party and extended families. The budget planning documents from A Practical Wedding were essential! From the moment we started planning, we used these sheets to keep ourselves on track and accountable—even though we went over budget, we knew where exactly that would be happening.

My best practical advice to my planning self:

Get off of Pinterest! Don’t sweat the small stuff, not everything is going to go as planned, and that’s okay. It’s okay to keep it simple and really focus on what is important to us and what our needs are when it comes to this day. Traditions aren’t for everyone; find out what is the most important aspect of this day and celebrate it. It’s about fun; the marriage is the work. The wedding is the fun kickoff party to the next step in life.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

There were so many moments that stand out. For Heather, the highlights include being driven to the venue in her dad’s ’65 Mustang, having both of her parents walk her down the aisle, and having photographs of our parents’ and grandparents’ wedding days.


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