Wedding Budget Diary: Suki + Anthony

The Wedding Budget Diaries:
Real Weddings. Real Couples. Real Budget Breakdowns.

wedding budget diaries

This installment of the Wedding Budget Diaries comes from one of our favorite Instagram friends, 2buckchuckbride! Suki and Anthony planned a wedding on a budget that reflected their personalities, as well as their values and priorities. The result was a unique wedding filled with tons of fun surprises that was a blast for all who attended. We hope that Suki's perspective helps you feel a bit more at ease about planning the wedding that you and your partner actually *want* to have!

xoxo, Jessica

Couple: Suki Lanh and Anthony Bono
Wedding date: September 28, 2019
Location: Columbus, New Jersey
Ceremony:  Smithville Mansion
Reception: Lunch Reception at Mangia’s Brick Oven Pizza & Grill, Evening Bonfire Reception in Groom’s parents’ backyard 
Guest count: 67
Color Scheme: White and green
Theme: Bear with us. Nerdy, Neo-Futurist Theatre Inspired Botanical Natural History Museum
Dress code: Fall casual
Wedding party: 10 bridesmaids, 5 groomspeople
Music: Apple Music, bridesmaids, and a DJ at our reception 
Food: Italian, Family Style 

Anthony and I fell in love over our mutual passion for storytelling. Between my experimental theatre and comedy background, his enthusiasm for role-playing tabletop games (think Dungeons and Dragons), and the fact that we met in a screenwriting class while pursuing our MFAs in Film, it should have been obvious that our love story was going to be bursting with creativity from the start. We knew our wedding was going to reflect this, and that our budget was going to get a little creative as well. 

How We Set Our Wedding Budget

We settled on a total budget of $5k for our wedding. Here’s how: 

  1. We wanted a wedding budget that we could reasonably stick to without financial help from our families, putting anything on credit, or pulling from our savings. There is a great calculator in The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer that helps you determine how much you can comfortably put away per month towards a wedding. 
  2. We made a list of our priorities (basically everything we’d need to pay for) and figured out what resources were available to us.
  3. We utilized our network. Did we know a free venue we could use? Does mom still have a ton of cardstock from her scrapbooking days? Do we have any family or friends who would be happy to gift us with their DIY or baking skills? Could we have a family friend officiate? Could we use Dad’s scrap wood to build an arch? And so on. Once we confirmed these resources were DEFINITELY available to us, we’d take them off the list. Seeing the remaining items allowed us to have a better idea of what we’d need to put our money towards and what our overall budget looked like. 

Our wedding priorities

As storytellers, we knew we wanted our wedding to feel like an experience. Not just something people sat back and observed, but rather a celebration that engaged and connected them. My mother-in-law gave us The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer for Christmas (smart lady!) and there is a section that asks you what the ultimate goal of your wedding is. Anthony and I wrote “To make everyone feel like they’ve learned a little bit more about us” and “To make everyone feel like they’ve taken part in something.” 

With that in mind, it was easy to distill what elements of our wedding would be priorities for us and what we’d be ok with skipping. The big question we always asked ourselves was “How will it make our guests feel? Will they remember this or take anything away from this?” And if the answer was “eh” or “no”, then we skipped it. That really helped us figure out what to prioritize throughout the planning process. 

Asking for Wedding Help 

Our community is a major reason why we were able to stick to our budget! So don’t be afraid to ask for help. This goes back to my previous post of determining your resources. I think there’s this stigma that it’s “cheap” or “tacky” for couples to ask their loved ones to help bake, coordinate, DIY, etc. 

When you get engaged lots of people will say “Let me know how I can help”. Take them up on that offer! The people who love you will feel honored to help in any way they can. Think of it as their wedding gift to you. Plus it’s a beautiful way for them to feel connected to the wedding process. 

Alternatively, ask for help but remember that these people are doing it because they love you. Very likely, your family and friends are not professionals, so you have to be ok with the fact that they’re doing their best and their best is enough. 

Be realistic about your expectations

When asking for help, you have to be honest with what’s available to you. Don’t force yourself or others to do things beyond your scope for the sake of saving money. There might be some things where you NEED to invest money to have the quality and experience you want.  

The same goes for the people who are helping you. But if you’re feeling so-so on someone’s skill, it’s not fair to put the pressure on them to meet your expectations. For example, just because your friend bakes cakes every once in a while and they’re the only person you know who bakes cakes doesn’t mean you should ask them to bake your wedding cake. The bridesmaid we had bake a cake for our wedding bakes A LOT of cakes, so she knew what she was doing. The friends who did our decor studied art in college or do it professionally.  Anthony’s father runs a plant nursery and has made floral arrangements for previous weddings. Our wedding was what it was because we centered it on the things that our family, our friends, and ourselves were best at. 


Our Wedding Budget Breakdown

Venue 

Budgeted: 0
Spent: $250 

We wanted to spend ZERO dollars on a venue. The venue seems to be the part that eats up most wedding budgets. We were just looking for some grass to get married on and maybe even dance on, too! 

Anthony’s childhood home had a large backyard that was ideal for events which would save us a chunk of money. Initially, we wanted to do the ceremony and reception there, but midway through planning realized it would be more comfortable for his parents if we only did the dancing/partying portion there and held the ceremony/dining portion elsewhere.

For our Plan B, we turned to the Burlington County Parks System. Your local parks system might offer wedding rentals and they’re usually pretty affordable. We rented an outdoor space at Smithville Mansion for 4 hours for $250, which was a reasonable enough time to do a morning ceremony. 

Feeding our guests

Following the ceremony, we had a lunch reception at our favorite restaurant, Mangia’s Brick Oven Pizza and Grill. Because we were paying for food, they didn’t charge us a venue fee! I highly recommend places like restaurants, bars, and breweries for wedding events if you’re trying to skip a venue fee. I’ll be straight up, this restaurant is in a shopping plaza that overlooks the Acme Supermarket. But the food though!!!

Let me put it this way. We’d rather serve our guests an amazing 5-course Italian meal with a view of the parking lot than cardboard pizza in a fancy ballroom. It also helped that the owner allowed us to come in the night before and decorate. Ultimately, it was really meaningful to have everyone we loved share a meal at one of our favorite restaurants. I remember looking around the room and feeling really emotional watching guests enjoy the food at the place Anthony and I had been coming to for years. 

Two receptions = double the fun

Between the lunch reception and what we called the “evening bonfire reception” at Anthony’s parent’s backyard there was a 2 hour gap. I should mention that although having guests travel to 3 different locations throughout the wedding day was not our first choice, people were cool with it because we communicated it to them early on. In our website and invitations we made it very clear that there would be 3 separate locations, travel would be required, and we even recommended places to stay that were fairly close. That way guests knew what to expect and how to prepare early on. It also helped that the locations were about 10-15 minutes between each other. Plus, I think people were totally ok with having a few hours of downtime to digest all that Italian food! 

We ended the wedding day festivities with an evening of dancing, gourmet pizza (from Mangia’s of course), and a bonfire in the backyard. Again, this location was particularly meaningful to Anthony as well as several of the guests. His home was always the “spot” for festivities and making memories, so it made sense to celebrate there. 


Food

Budgeted: $2180
Paid: $1747 

As I mentioned before, we had to split up our wedding day into 3 events which meant we’d feed guests 3 times…Uh, cue the sound of money flying away. But as you can see, we came in under budget for this! 

Morning Ceremony 

Since we were doing a morning ceremony which started at 9:30am (a little on the early side for most people) we wanted to offer our guests a light breakfast. We asked Anthony’s sister, Lisa, if she could gift us with her famous biscotti cookies. We also raided the pantry for tea packets and on the morning of the wedding we picked up hot boxes of coffee at WaWa’s. The boxes of coffee were gifted to us by Anthony’s parents, which were about $13.99 a box. WaWa’s also gave us free hot water for the tea. 

Lunch Reception 

Our budget was $2,000 to feed 80 people. We decided to budget $25 per person. In the end we had 67 guests attend the ceremony and lunch. We also asked our parents that if they had anyone they wanted to invite who was not on our initial guest list, it would be helpful to us if the parents could pay for their meal. They agreed to this. 

Here’s my big tip for food. Mangia had a variety of “packages” at different price points. There were some foods offered in the higher price points, for instance Anthony’s favorite, orecchiette with broccoli Rabe and sausage, which was not included in our package. Instead of saying “We want this more expensive plate at a cheaper price” (which is rude, please don’t do that), we asked them “We have a budget of x amount per person. What kind of orecchiette pasta can you do that fits our price point?” Your caterer can help you sub an ingredient that might work better for your budget. Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer what is possible with your budget per head. You’d be surprised at how innovative they can be! 

For dessert, we asked Anthony’s Aunt Chris to make her famous cookies and they were a total hit. We saved a lot of money by skipping the tiered cake, plus no one seemed to miss the traditional cake cutting ritual (the cake I mentioned previously was for a cake eating contest in our ceremony). 

Evening Bonfire Reception

The evening bonfire reception was an opportunity to invite guests who couldn’t attend the ceremony. This put us at 75 people. Since this evening bonfire reception closely followed the lunch reception, we knew guests weren’t expecting another full sit-down meal. We budgeted $180 for gourmet pizza, chicken wings, and s’mores and ended up spending $197. It also helped that we also had a ton of leftover biscotti and cookies from earlier. 

Feeding our guests good food was our biggest priority. We were concerned that guests would be hungry with our budget, but people told us that our wedding day felt like a constant stream of food which is a pretty great accomplishment if you ask me. 


Alcohol 

Budgeted: $300
Paid: $427 (gifted)

I’m a total craft cocktail snob and Anthony loves craft beer. Unfortunately, a fancy open bar was not in our budget. Even so, I’d say we got pretty damn close to creating one ourselves!

We made two big batch signature cocktails for guests to self-serve out of 2-gallon drink dispensers. When it comes to mixed drinks, using a middle-of-the-road liquor is fine. So for instance, use Svedka instead of a premium vodka like Grey Goose. The big batch cocktails were the only liquor drinks we provided. Otherwise, the guests chose from our beer and wine options. 

Savvy Alcohol Tips

My biggest takeaway: Guests will drink whatever you serve because you are providing them FREE ALCOHOL. Don’t feel obligated to break the bank to impress anyone. They will drink it and they will love it. 

On that note, if we could do anything differently, we wish we went for more mid-range wines and beers as well. The bulk of our guests went for standard stuff like Corona, Bud Light, White Claw (everyone LOVED the Claw) and skipped over our personal favorites like red blend wine and fancy IPAs. 

Lastly, check to see if your liquor store will accept returns on unopened bottles or boxes of beer. Let your caterer or bartender know this is your plan. They will make sure they are only opening stuff they need instead of opening a bunch of stuff that won’t get drunk. 


Photographer 

Budgeted: $1000
Paid: $1000

This was another big priority for us! We understood that most quality professional photographers would not work for less than $1000, and most of them would actually want a lot more. But we managed to find a pro who was enthusiastic about our vision and willing to work with that amount for 2.5 hours instead of her usual base package of 8 hours. The reason we were ok with a shorter amount of time was because we decided documenting the ceremony was our biggest priority.

We didn’t mind not having pictures of the lunch reception or the evening reception where people would mostly just be eating or dancing. Finding a photographer who would do this required a lot of research. Some photographers said no, but forwarded us to someone who they thought could help us. The right vendor for you will help you create a custom package that matches your needs. But similar to what I said in the Food section, this was a situation where we said “This is our budget, what services can you provide with that amount?” versus demanding “We want the premium package at a much lower rate”. 


Decor

Budgeted: $50
Paid: $20 

We were determined not to spend any money on physical objects that we’d only use once. So with the help of our family, friends, and utilizing our own home decor, we did a lot of shameless begging, borrowing, and stealing (there may have been a lamp I stole from a bar in college). One relative had an extraordinary amount of lanterns they were willing to lend us! Another had a mirror they weren’t using anymore which we repurposed as our Welcome Sign.

We also implemented our own childhood memorabilia like action figures, trinkets, rocks, things we had collected over the years. Bringing elements of our lives into the decor reflected our personality throughout the wedding. At our lunch reception, we even left a note at the bottom of the menus encouraging people to interact with the decor on the table runners. It made me smile to see guests play with dinosaur toys and flip through the books we put out.

*A Note on DIY*

People seem to think they are saving money by completely DIY-ing their wedding. That’s not necessarily true. If you don’t already have access to craft materials or supplies, that stuff adds up. And if you’re not a particularly crafty person in any other situation, you’re often left with a bunch of craft supplies that end up collecting dust. The friends who did DIY for our wedding were artsy people that already had tons of craft supplies. If they needed materials, we again implemented our “beg and borrow” rule first, and if we couldn’t acquire the materials for free we would purchase it. In total, we spent $20 to purchase extra materials. 

I also think it’s responsible to consider what happens to these items after the wedding. The options are either trashing it, keeping it, or selling it. We personally wanted to keep our wedding as low impact as possible, so we tried not to DIY anything we wouldn’t want to keep or sell. 


Invitations/Paper Goods 

Budgeted: $20
Paid: $0 

I have a controversial relationship with paper invites. I think they’re beautiful, but I personally couldn’t justify spending so much money on something people would inevitably throw away. We sent e-vites through Joy, a free wedding website and app that comes with the e-vite feature and has a handy RSVP tracker. The e-vite forwarded guests to our website which had all the important details they needed. Keeping everything digital made it easy to connect with guests leading up to the wedding, not to mention our website was gorgeous and we got lots of compliments on it! 

We created 2 print invitations in total. One for an older relative who wasn’t so tech-savvy and the other to use in our photographer’s flat lay! I’m obsessed with flat lay photos of invitation suites, and the photo makes it look like we spent a lot of money. 

Getting Crafty

For all other paper goods like table numbers, name cards, and programs, we again defaulted to beg, borrow, and steal mode. Anthony’s mom had a ton of cardstock from her scrapbooking days we could use, so we printed everything at home. Cardstock is one of those random things that people buy in bulk for a one time project and then it sits around collecting dust in a craft closet, so don’t be afraid to ask around (remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help.) We were trying to be conscious of how much waste we were creating and only printed stuff we thought was absolutely necessary for communication. Normally we would have skipped the printed programs, but we wanted to make sure our guests had physical maps, addresses, and contact information. 


Flowers

Budgeted: $220
Paid: $204.36

We agreed that we wanted to do more greenery than flowers in order to cut costs. Anthony’s father runs a plant nursery and helped us determine what greenery would be in season, which meant it’d be easier and cheaper to obtain around our wedding. We also limited fresh florals to my bouquet, Anthony’s boutonniere, the parents’ boutonnieres, and the florals for the arches. We purchased everything from local flower markets which came out to $99.36. I really think opting for greenery and shopping local/finding in-season flowers helped with the price. We also arranged everything ourselves the night before. If you’re planning on DIYing your bouquet, I recommend practicing with grocery store flowers until you feel confident. You don’t want to be stressing out on how to put a bouquet together hours before the wedding.

Fresh for Decor, Faux for the Squad

We had 15 people in our bridal party, so we knew fresh florals for each of them would get pricey. I think the fear with faux florals is that couples are afraid they’ll look fake in photos. My argument? A great photographer will make them look amazing! Instead of the traditional bouquets, we opted to give everyone boutonnieres made of faux florals. We purchased stalks of florals from Michaels, and each stalk had about 12 or so “blooms” on them which made it easy and affordable to cut up and create several small boutonnieres. This came out to about $105. It helps that Michaels ALWAYS has some sort of discount on their website, so make sure to sign up for their emails. 

Buy Used Wedding Dresses


Attire

Bride & Groom Attire
Budgeted: $200
Paid: $722.20

Wedding Party Attire 
Budgeted: 0!
Paid: 0! 

Oy vey, this is where we really went over budget. 

In the beginning, I set my budget at $3,000 for a dress. YES, $3,000. My whole life I thought the only way to feel like a beautiful bride was to wear an expensive dress. So I did the thing where I went to the fancy bridal boutiques and I tried on the thousand-dollar gowns and I realized… I felt just as beautiful wearing a polyester dress from Forever 21 as I did in these lace and silk dresses. 

Once I decided I couldn’t justify spending thousands on a white dress I’d only wear once, I became determined to find a white dress that looked “bridal” enough but could also be worn again. I found a dress I loved on Lulus.com and waited until they were having their monthly sale to purchase it. The original price was $150 and I bought it for $96.30. I did extensive alterations to it which came out to $123.05. 

Wedding Accessories

I purchased my belt and earrings off of Etsy ($94.15) and my cape from Wish.com ($20). My advice for purchasing off of Wish is to make sure there are several legit reviews, not just “Great quality! Great product!” and check that there are at least a few photos of the product. 

Here’s the kicker. One evening I was scrolling through Facebook and I SAW THE DRESS OF MY DREAMS in an ASOS ad. I didn’t even realize I wanted this dress until I had laid eyes on it! Instant impulse buy.

Turns out, it was definitely the one ($285). So once again, I went back to the seamstress and had my second wedding dress altered for $70. 

The Final Attire Tally

The only thing Anthony purchased for his outfit was a vest from Ireland which came out to around $100. His alterations cost a mere $30. 

Altogether on attire, we spent… $722.20, a far cry from our initial $200 budget. 

HOWEVER! I will be selling my first wedding dress and we plan to reuse our wedding outfits for future formal events. So I’d say it was a good investment, or maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. In any case, I have a sequined gown I love in my closet and that makes me happy. 

Wedding Party Attire 

We didn’t feel comfortable asking our wedding party to buy outfits they’d only wear once, so we gave them general parameters and encouraged them to shop their own closets. 

For the bridesmaids, I asked them to wear white dresses in any style they wanted. 

For the groomsmen, Anthony asked them to wear white long-sleeved button-downs, dark jeans, and a paisley tie, stuff they probably already had. He also asked them to wear any vest they wanted as long as it wasn’t green. One of the groomsmen found a vest he thought would look nice, so the rest of the groomsmen proactively bought the same one! 


Music 

Budgeted: $1000
Paid $1250

I had some incredibly talented musicians in my bridal party and I knew I wanted them to sing and play music during the processional. Initially, I wanted to keep everything minimalistic (read – low cost) by having them sing without mics or using speakers for the instruments.  Thankfully, my music savvy friends gently explained that although ultimately the music would sound good no matter what, it would create a more memorable guest experience with the right equipment. After all, that’s what Anthony and I had always wanted! My bridesmaid and her husband play live music professionally, so they were able to provide all the equipment needed. Hearing my best friends sing Anthony and I down the aisle is probably one the greatest gifts we could receive. It was a lovely reminder that a beautiful wedding day is made possible by the love and support of the community. 

Evening Reception

For the evening reception, I wanted an epic dance party. I LOVE to dance, so having a DJ was an absolute must-have for our wedding day. I considered just blasting a Spotify playlist, but ultimately I decided that I wanted someone else to handle intuiting the mood of the guests and keeping the energy up. A Spotify playlist sounds fun in your living room or car, but when your goal is to have a massive dance-off in the backyard you need to call in the big guns. 

Because we hired the DJ for a shorter amount of time and we didn’t have him do stuff like MC the cocktail hour or reception, he agreed to do it for our $1000 budget. We added on the additional $250 subwoofer because it would give the backyard that “vibrating club vibe” we were looking for. 


Wedding Party Gifts 

Budgeted: $95
Paid: $96.82

We allocated $80 for the parents’ wedding gift and $16 dollars for our 15-person bridal party. 

I’m a notorious over-gifter, so I really had to challenge myself to stick to one, just ONE meaningful gift per person. It was important to me that these gifts were items our bridal party could use long after the wedding. I bought 16 whiskey glasses from the Dollar Tree ($16) and my Maid of Honor used her Cricut machine to engrave each person’s favorite movie quote on the glass. Boom! I was done! Or so I thought…

For Anthony’s parents, we purchased art from Etsy featuring side by side prints of what the night sky looked like on his parents’ wedding day and our wedding day. This came out to $52.25. 

What were we gonna do with all this extra money? 

Obviously, succumb to my over gifting tendencies and purchase more gifts for my bridesmaids. Sticking to the theme of “stuff they will use” I bought canvas makeup bags (7.99) and a pack of fun scrunchies and hair clips (13.89) on Amazon. My Maid of Honor used her nifty Cricut (maybe the theme here is to have a bridesmaid with a Cricut?) to put their names on each makeup bag.


Hair and Makeup

Budgeted: $0
Paid: $0

Makeup

Two years before the wedding if you had shown me a beauty blender I would have thought it was a sex toy. Now I consider myself fairly decent at what the professionals like to call “beating your face”. 

I had a co-worker who I thought always had amazing makeup. One day I asked her if, in exchange for a bottle of wine, she could teach me how to do my wedding makeup with the products I already owned. So after work, I dumped out the contents of my makeup bag in front of her and she did makeup on half my face while letting me practice on the other half. I’ll admit, my side was a little rough at first. But after lots of practice, I was finally able to achieve my wedding look in my sleep! And I even wore it out to a couple of events for a “trial run”. 

Hair

As for hair, I turned to the trusty Youtube and practiced, practiced, practiced. I wore my hairstyle at my bachelorette just to see how it would turn out. But on the day of my wedding, it was so hot my hair wouldn’t hold a curl (which NEVER happens). It wasn’t bad. Surely wasn’t perfect. It looked… OK. And honestly, I was about to have a really fun day that was gonna make up for all my “ok” hair days, so I made the choice to accept it and move on. 


Miscellaneous 

Budgeted: $60  
Paid: $93.38 

We did not believe in giving out favors BUT these miscellaneous items were actually a massive part of creating a memorable and fun guest experience. 

Pins
Budgeted: $15
Paid: $34 

During the wedding ceremony, we had a cake eating contest. Each side of the aisle would get a cake. On “Go”, each guest would have to take a bite out of the cake and pass it on. The first side to finish their cake would win a special prize– pins with our faces on it! 

We didn’t realize these would be as big of a hit as they were. At the evening reception, we put the leftover pins in a bowl and by the end of the night, every single guest was wearing it on the dance floor. Today, our friends say they still keep their pins. One of our friends, a doctor, wears it on his white coat. 

Extra Large T-Shirt
Budgeted: $15
Paid: $21.38 

We did not want to do a traditional bouquet toss, so instead, we printed an extra-large t-shirt with our faces on it (Walgreens) and threw it into the crowd. Guests went absolutely NUTS for this. Whoever caught the t-shirt got to have a dance-off with the bride and groom. The guest who caught it was actually our officiant and she wore it around for the rest of the evening. 

Dinosaur Costume
Budgeted: $30
Paid: $38 

Why did we get a used inflatable dinosaur costume on eBay? To create a memorable moment! During the ceremony, Anthony and I tricked the guests into thinking I was about to walk down the aisle, but instead, a bridesmaid in a dinosaur costume came running out and tackled Anthony. Our guests' reactions were absolutely priceless and it made for a hilarious conversation piece throughout the rest of the day. 

The reason I included this Miscellaneous section was because I want to reiterate that what the guests took away from our wedding was not the florals or the theme or the venue. It was the experiences we created for them. It made us feel amazing when guests told us this was the most unique, memorable wedding they had ever been to. Our guests won’t remember what color the linens were or which flowers were in our centerpieces, but they’ll sure as hell always remember how they felt on our wedding day. And to us, that was the best compliment we could have received. 


Additional Budget Tips 

Plus Ones: We did not give every guest a plus one. Our rules were in order to have a plus one you had to be married, engaged, in a long term relationship, or if that guest was traveling from far away and would not know anybody else at the wedding. We communicated this by writing “Name & Guest” on the invitations. As we started receiving RSVPs, if we noticed an opening we would offer guests the option to bring a plus one. But honestly, a lot of our guests were cool with coming solo. 

Rings: We didn’t have the budget for gold wedding bands. Instead, we worked with our custom jeweler to create sterling silver versions of our rings that we could use on our wedding day. We didn’t include this in the budget because Anthony paid for it personally ($150). After the wedding we were able to invest in the custom gold bands really wanted. 

Final Thoughts On Our 5k Wedding

Budgeted: $5000
Paid: $5627.07 

Being flexible was crucial.

You really have to decide what hills you’re going to die on and what you just need to accept. There’s a saying in improv that goes “Yes, And”. The idea is that when your scene partner says something like “Blue unicorns eat hot sauce” you have two choices…Say “No you fool, unicorns don’t exist” and walk away or say “Yes, AND that blue unicorn puts hot sauce on his pancakes too”. Basically, you agree with your scene partner or your circumstance, you take what you are given and make it better instead of trying to force it into something it’s not. 

Example: Mangia was an Italian restaurant that looked, well, very Italian. The Fresco renaissance paintings on the walls and view of the parking lot were not really our style. Instead of trying to transform the restaurant into a beautiful ballroom, we leaned into it by creating fresco renaissance portraits of our dogs to hang on the walls and covered the view of the parking lot with greenery. We even blasted music from “The Godfather” during cocktail hour. We had fun with it and it showed, so our guests had fun with it too. 

It really helped that we didn’t confine ourselves to a theme.

We simply put together everything we loved, Star Wars, Harry Potter, books, rocks, plants, comedy, food, and created a wedding as eclectic as we were. This took a lot of pressure off to stick to an “aesthetic” and saved us a lot of money by not having to purchase anything for the sake of a theme. 

And finally, you don’t have to spend a lot of money for your wedding to be beautiful and meaningful.

It sucks to hear that couples feel like they have to get the 3 tier cake or they have to spend a lot of money on decor. These are just some things the wedding industrial complex wants you to believe are necessary to have an epic wedding because they wanna take your money! 

Ultimately, you need to put your money towards the parts of your wedding that are important to you as a couple. If designer wedding attire is a priority, say yes to that dress! Always dreamed of a 5 tier cake? Get that cake! If you want to skip the DJ and dancing after dinner, do that! Think about what matters most to YOU. 

In the end, we did go over budget by about 600. And that was us being really meticulous! But honestly, it was still amazing to see what we could accomplish within our goal. 

Savvy Wedding Wisdom

Every couple’s budget and priorities are different and no one should be shamed for the “wedding things” they did or didn’t do for their day.

When you’re in a rut, remember the goal of your wedding (aside from getting married to the one you love, of course). On days Anthony and I felt stuck, we went back to The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner book to remind ourselves. We wanted “To make everyone feel like they’ve learned a little bit more about us” and “To make everyone feel like they’ve taken part in something.” 

From there we would guide ourselves by asking “How will it make our guests feel? Did they learn more about us? Did they feel like they were a part of our wedding?” 

We’re proud of ourselves for staying focused on our priorities and choosing to invest in the emotional takeaways rather than the material. I hope this helps couples realize you can plan an amazing wedding day on any budget, as long as you stay true to your priorities as a couple. The rest will follow. 


VENDORS

Photography: Opal and Jaye Photography | Lunch Reception Photos: Stephanie Butchin | Venue: Smithville Mansion | Catering: Mangia Pizza and Grill | DJ: Michael Demby | Bride's Hair Accessory – HowlingMoonUK | Groom's Vest – Weavers of Ireland

Editor's note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more resources for planning a pandemic wedding here