Our $2K Vermont Summer Wedding Was A Family-First Celebration

On a former dairy farm—with cows!

Andrea, Administrative Assistant & Andrew, Department Administrator

sum up of the wedding vibe: A self-catered, self-sewn, Vermont wedding on a perfect summer afternoon.

Budget: $2,000
Number of Guests: 22
Location: Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

Where we allocated the most funds:

Ingredients for food and drink. I have always loved cooking, especially for a huge number of people; I get it from my parents and their families, who were coming to the wedding too. From the beginning, I envisioned a self-catered weekend with all my favorite foods, and we did it—a dream come true!

Before my family flew in, I had a crazy shopping day and went to Costco and three other grocery stores, and spent $700. At the time, looking at the giant beef tenderloin and several heads of lettuce and berries and chips and too many kinds of cheese to count, I thought, “Good heavens, this is way too much! There’s no way we’ll eat it all!” And then we did, hahaha.

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Although I spent a lot at the grocery stores, the cooking labor came from my family. We sliced, baked, prepped, and plated all of the food two days beforehand. I baked the cake layers and froze them a few months ahead of time. I made the syrup and buttercream. My mom, a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef, made sugar flowers and carried them on the plane on her lap. We frosted and decorated the cake together, laughing the entire time.

Where we allocated the least funds:

I sewed my own dress and put together a Spotify playlist. Also, since we had no bridesmaids or groomsmen, we did not need to coordinate outfits with anyone. We rented Andrew’s suit just for the weekend. Since there were just twenty guests, I designed and printed the save the dates at work. We sent out invites through email and I managed the RSVPs and most everything else through spreadsheets on Google Drive.

In addition, we were so grateful to be gifted many things for the occasion, including

  • Wedding bands (family rings—Andrew’s dad gave them to his mom when they were together, and his mom gave them to us)
  • The fabric for my dress (a present from my mom)
  • Photography (Eric of Discovery Photography has known Andrew’s family since he was nine)
  • Venue and guest housing (Andrew’s mom’s properties)
  • Flowers (from Andrew’s mom’s garden—my aunt arranged them in vases—and two additional gorgeous bouquets from a family friend at the antique show on our wedding morning!)

What was totally worth it:

Making my dress. People gasped in horror last summer when I announced my plans to sew my wedding dress, but here’s the thing. I’ve been sewing since I was about ten, and my projects have almost exclusively been elaborate Halloween costumes and dresses for myself, so… no big deal. Really.

I started by making a practice dress a year in advance, which helped me calculate the difference between sewing size and regular size, and it helped me get a sense of how much fabric I would need. I made a second practice dress in September of a different style, then started sewing the real dress (in a THIRD style) in February.

It was awesome to have a huge, intensive project to work on throughout the dead of winter. When Andrew’s grandmother’s machine started making funny noises in March, I treated myself to a new one (counted in our wedding expenses). The dress was mostly done in late April, although I kept fussing about the hemline, and the straps, and fitted lace overcoat versus flowy chiffon cape, until about two weeks before the wedding. I was able to make the dress of my dreams, and it was everything I ever wanted.

What was totally not worth it:

On impulse, I bought several decor items that I didn’t end up using, mostly inspired by late nights binge-reading APW, haha. These included balloons, tons of bamboo skewers and novelty toothpicks, flagging tape, and nude gaffer tape (you know the APW article I’m talking about…). These were given away for free on our neighborhood sharing forum after the wedding.

I also got bummed early in the invite process when it became clear that my friends from California would not be able to make it. Cross-country flights are pricey! But we have resolved to visit the West Coast next year in a victory tour to see everybody.

A few things that helped us along the way:

A few things that helped? More like how many people helped! Did I mention that I strong-armed all of my family members into peeling carrots, filling peppers with cheese spread, and running to the store for lemons and herbs? Did I also mention that Andrew’s mother hosted us at her gorgeous farm, and provided housing for my family too? Andrew’s brother threw together a tortellini salad out of thin air when we were running low on food at our bonding dinner the night before the wedding, and his stepfather rigged up the lights and sound for the reception. My mom baked mini cakes as favors, and my aunts arranged them in adorable gift bags. The day after, my aunt made three trips to the airport to make sure everyone got to their flights on time.

On top of all of that, two of Andrew’s mom’s friends (including her high school English teacher) called her up in February and informed her that they were going to be our kitchen helpers on the wedding day. They were absolute angels. As I was standing in the kitchen two hours before the ceremony, assembling bacon-stuffed mushrooms in my gown, they swept in, took my notes on how long the food had to bake and at what temperature, pressed a bottle of water in my hand, and told me to scram.

Everything, everything was a labor of love, and our hearts overflowed with gratitude.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Chill out, let people help you, and for goodness’ sake don’t make yourself dizzy on a Sunday night with twenty-four tabs open looking for new appetizer recipes. Knowing your families’ propensity for cooking and snacking, nobody will go hungry. I promise.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

My family are all city people. They flew in from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Manila to attend our wedding in what is charmingly called Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I had to explain a few times that no, you can’t take an Uber here from the airport… no, you won’t have 4G after you get off Route 100… It took a couple of repetitions before it really sunk home for them. They woke up on Friday morning in their Vermont farmhouse vacation rental going, “The air here is so pure! We heard a cow moo!”

The ceremony and reception were very natural, very laid back, which was just what we wanted. No seating plan, no order of entrance, no readings, no speeches. We milled around on the hillside until our officiant showed up a few minutes to 4, and for vows she just had us say a few sentences on the spot. They really did come from the heart. We were married in less than twenty minutes and then got to hang out eating and drinking all night with our favorite people.

My little brothers broke the tops off champagne bottles using a trick they’d seen on YouTube. About a dozen cows and calves roamed in the field around the property and mooed the whole time. Our officiant said Andrew’s name as “Andre” throughout the ceremony and we raised our eyebrows at each other, trying not to laugh. Andrew’s brother live streamed the ceremony over Facebook to his wife in Slovakia. We had cocktails by the bonfire on the hill the night before and the night of. We headed up to the bar on the second story of the barn to hang out and eat the potato chips I’d forgotten to serve at the reception. Amazing.

Something else We’d like to share:

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t make your own dress or food or cake. You are capable of incredible things, especially when supported by awesome family, friends, and spouse.

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