We’re 1 today!!! 🙂
On our first anniversary, I thought I’d share how we pulled off our DREAM wedding – at a fraction of the cost! Despite being on a budget, we compromised on NOTHING!
I got the wedding I’d always dreamed of, in the company of loved ones and a ton of memories to last a lifetime.
For starters, my husband and I were firm on a few things:
- we were going to finance the entire wedding – its OUR wedding and we really wanted our parents to enjoy the day without worrying about expenses or logistics! Also we were 29 :)Old enough to arrange and finance all of it ourselves…
- we wanted an intimate wedding – not more than 35 guests
- everything about it was DIY – I don’t believe in spending brick loads on something I can do myself The most fun thing about DIY weddings is you, your family and your friends come together to create SO many memories… we still tell stories from that weekend like it happened yesterday!
Two things about me — My husband is literally the most supportive man I’ve met and constantly appreciated and encouraged all my little plans and dreams for our wedding- I’m an organized freak. So planning my wedding was something I looked forward to… and honestly as each month and milestone passed by, it felt more and more rewarding!
Step 1: This was the biggest decision we had to make going into this on a budget. We wanted it to be in a beautiful venue, I wasn’t going to compromise on that! I reviewed options from Bayareaweddingvenues, Wedding wire, theknot, received multiple quotes – all of which were disturbingly high for renting a ballroom for 8 hrs (upwards of $12,000).
I’d envisioned having all our friends and family spend the entire weekend mingling and celebrating together. The whole 8 hr rental without any room for the families to spend time together didn’t sit well with me.
So I tried an alternate route – I scoured down craigslist, vrbo, airbnb to look for large vacation homes in the bay area (coz we didn’t want people traveling hours to get to a remote venue) – like a villa with multiple rooms where our friends and families could spend the weekend together, have the privacy of setting up and decorating to our hearts content, and a huge backyard where we could have our wedding. And that was it!
I found this magnificent picture perfect rustic private Chateau in the foot hills of Mt. Diablo (off Walnut Creek), with sprawling endless gardens in the front and back yards, gazebos, multiple fountains and … I can go on and on. All for $450 a day! In effect we could have the entire place for the entire weekend for under 1/10 the cost of a normal wedding venue! I called the owner and described to her what I was planning, and she was this adorable woman who grew up in that house and was more than happy to lend us her beautiful home for the weekend.
All she asked was for an additional deposit since the lawns would take a beating with so many people walking around. She even threw in 5 tables and 40 chairs that had a beautiful rustic charm – and that was the setting for my reception! All in all, we spent under $2000 to have the entire house that accommodated around 20 of us for the whole weekend comfortably! The trick though is to start looking early. May is one of the most popular months especially for outdoor weddings. I locked my venue down in October for my May wedding (full payment + security deposit – its really competitive in California!)
The most amazing thing about this was our families and friends headed up to the Chateau the day before, started the drinking and dancing and most importantly getting to know each other! This is the start of a lifelong relationship … having everyone under the same roof really brought us closer as a family! Here’s a picture from the wild night before the big day…
This Chateau was fantastic and had everything you’d want from a venue … But that meant EVERYTHING ELSE was on us to arrange – the ceremony, reception, decoration, seating, catering, bar tending, receiving out of town-ers – name it!
The Wedding Planner:Step 2:
Be your own wedding planner – its the most satisfying way to pull off your wedding! I highly recommend using the wedding planner on WeddingWire .com- cuts down the need for a human wedding planner! Start with the checklist: https://www.weddingwire.com/weddings/checklistIts got a lot more than you really need, but you can tweak it around to your liking.
I went the old school way maintaining a spreadsheet for most of the planning and used the checklist just to get a high-level idea of all that I’ll need to handle going into this without any help.
My spreadsheet had the following: – Task list (by month Oct 2014 – May 2015)- Decor and arrangements (entirely DIY)- Guest list and seating chart (use planning tools on weddingwire.com for this :
https://www.weddingwire.com/wedding/UserMyGuests)- Food and cake vendors- Budget breakdown – clothes, food- May 9 (Day of) timeline and responsibilities- Wedding and Reception Dresses, corsages/boutonniere for bridesmaids and groomsmen- Songs Invitations: As beautiful and creative as mailed paper invitations are, expecting people to mail back their RSVP notes seemed a bit much to expect! Instead I used the Weddingwire website to create a simple wedding website primarily to send out invitations and receive the RSVPs and meal preferences.The awesome thing about this is, you can directly pull the guest list into the seating chart tool!
That’s my final draft of the seating chart
Weddingwire has a TON of recommendations and planning tools for you to pick from!
Decorations:Step 3: This was an important piece for me since I chose to do all the decorations myself, and that meant handmade sign boards etc. Luckily I gave myself enough time to think through these and research the web to find the most affordable yet beautiful pieces to put together.
Flowers: I didn’t really have to buy flowers since the wedding was in the backyard in May, the gardens were blooming! I LOVE pink and white tulips and bought couple of bunches from Safeway to put in the mason jars on each table.My husband often sends me flowers from Bloomthat . For my Bridal Bouquet, he ordered my FAV arrangement of pink and white tulips beautifully wrapped in burlap delivered to the venue! 🙂
I got some beautiful laser cut name cards and mini chalkboard signs for the table seating off Ebay.I reused the candle holders, lanterns, mason jars I already had at home to make center pieces.
Ordered wholesale colorful drapes off of ebay for decorating the mandap for the hindu wedding.And for the mandap floor, I just ordered a beach mat and covered it with my fav silk bed sheet! Our friends and cousins came together on the wedding morning and pulled cushions, drapes, other pretty things from the house and prettied up the entire mandap into one of the prettiest mandaps I’ve actually seen! 🙂
Even the garlands we wore around our necks were made by our cousins and my mother in law – all with a bunch of roses and a burlap string! 🙂
Wedding Dress:Step 4: This was easy – I LOVED this lehenga I’d seen on Priyanka Chopra a few years ago. I knew I had to get married in it.. but again that’s probably comes with a 4-figure price tag! So, I looked up on ebay and other online stores. Found my beautiful blue velvet lehenga on my former classmate’s retail website www.mirraw.com for a whopping $110 !! All I had to do was get it altered :)My husband looks smashing in everything anyway 🙂
For my white dress, honestly I didn’t think much about it – I wanted tulle, I wanted something fun, contemporary and cute – found this pretty little dress on www.lightinthebox.com for $99! As for my gorgeous bridesmaids, we decided to color code and not force everyone to fit into dresses they’ll only wear once! Instead they chose to wear what they liked as long as it fell in the same color palette! You can’t see the corsages on all of their right hands but – I got those off of ebay too :)Here’s the bridal party from one of our “mood swing shoots” 🙂
Guest Book:Step 5:
Instead of using a guest book I created madlibs-guest cards that I laid out on each table and had guests fill up. This was hilarious as everyone seemed to have crazy raunchy things to say to us! :)I designed this on Microsoft Powerpoint – both front and back. Then went onto www.Uprinting.com and ordered about 50 of them! They came in the mail within 5 days and I plopped them along with a few pens in mason jars on the guest tables! That’s it.
Party FavorsStep 6: For party favors, I found a merchant on Etsy who creates custom Shot glasses! So I ordered 36 shot glasses with this writing in purple (coz that was my wedding theme) :”Two less fish in the sea. dee brat May 9 2015″I got 50 wholesale silk pouches for like $10 and wrapped the glasses in them and laid them out for my guests to pickup!
This is where I got incredibly lucky coz I have some of the best, most giving and loving friends in the world! Three of our closest friends who are fantastic photographers signed up to take pictures as well as videos of the entire wedding. I can’t imagine people so kind and generous to spend half the day shooting people drinking/talking/dancing/eating … All they asked was for me to rent coupe of professional lenses and flash for them! They used their own DSLRs Sony A6 and a Mark 5DII. I used www.borrowlens.com to rent the lenses – one of the easiest choices I had to make thanks to our friends! 🙂
What’s great about your friends taking pictures – they know every single person at the party, they know the moments that we care about, they understand exactly what we want to see when we look at our pictures. No professional photographer, no matter how fancy his camera or skills can capture what our friends captured for us! We revisit the photos and videos every few days and probably will for a very long time! 🙂
Our parents laughing and crying through the entire evening! 🙂
This was all handled by my husband. Again, we didn’t see the point in renting out a “photobooth” and spend 300$+ for the equivalent of “selfies and props with a remote”! Given the gorgeous setting we already had to our disposal, we setup our tripod, hooked up my old Canon T1i, got a $9 wireless remote and props from Amazon for around $15… and voila! we had our photobooth 🙂
Cake, Catering and Alcohol Step 8:
Again, I don’t see the point in 4 tier shiny wedding cakes. Its insane how the price almost triples the moment you mention “wedding” with cake. Every quote we received was shocking.So my husband found a wonderful mom and pop baking shop in the quiet Walnut creek neighborhood that makes custom cakes, with ingredients you like at a fraction of the price – the cake tasted like heaven and was delivered to our venue that morning.
we went to Bevmo and bought tons of white and red wine, beer and ice! We didn’t serve hard liquor, but our friends brought a lot of fine alcohol to keep them going! 🙂 We placed couple of wine bottles and glasses on each table so people could help themselves while seated.We arranged the remaining alcohol on a park bench right by the appetizers stand.
Appetizers and Main Course:
We kept this real simple!Appetizers were our bigger requirement as we wanted these served from 2pm – 7pm until main course was served. Whole Foods brought in loads of samosas and desserts to our venue!We worked with a small but yum Mediterranean restaurant in Walnut Creek (close to the venue). The caterer met our main requirement – bring in and setup glasswear and china, and serve hot appetizers (samosas and hot pita with a variety of sauces) all the way till 7pm along with alcohol!
And lastly, as DIY as this gets, one of my husband’s best friends got ordained for our wedding and got us married! Everyone’s eyes welled up, we exchanged vows, to love and cherish and stand by each other till death does us part. It was the most beautiful part of the evening and we’re SO lucky to have shared these wonderful moments (every single one of which we remember vividly) with our closest and dearest 🙂 We couldn’t have imagined a wedding more magical and perfect for us!
After the outdoor reception, we took the party inside and let the music rip… the rest is a blur… 🙂