My Budget-Friendly Wedding Was Still Totally Perfect

Photo: Courtesy of Jonas Seaman/A Practical Wedding.
No catering. No renting. No leaving the neighborhood. Three cakes.

One-sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: Close friends and family showering us with love in a tiny neighborhood restaurant.

Number Of Guests: 36

Where We Allocated The Most Funds
Food and photography. We wanted delicious and healthy food that wasn’t mass-produced, and we wanted beautiful candid photographs that would reflect the feeling of the entire day.

Where We Allocated The Least Funds
I made our programs and favors, and we didn't spend a lot on our clothing, either. My shoes, for example, cost $23. Oh, and I didn't spend a dime on my makeup; I went to a makeup counter at Nordstrom and got a free makeover.

What Was Totally Worth It
Everything! We didn’t want to deal with catering or renting anything, so we specifically chose a venue that served food and that we could do everything in. We were so happy we went that route.

Related: A Guide To Nailing The Perfect Wedding Vows

Our fathers served as our officiants. While it took a bit more planning, since none of us had ever done this before, it was worth it to have the very personal ceremony we wanted.

What Was Not Totally Worth It
Looking back, it wasn’t worth it to have our whole extended family trek to the local arboretum for the formal family photos. We could have done the photos in front of our house, which would have been lovely. It would have prevented a bit of the back-and-forth of the day — and would have given us more down time.

Photo: Courtesy of Jonas Seaman/A Practical Wedding.
A Few Things That Helped Us Along The Way
A lot of people helped us out! Aaron’s older brother and his wife played music for the wedding and did all the planning around that themselves. His younger brother and his girlfriend planned, picked up, and arranged all the flowers themselves. Their mom made the name cards for the place settings; she, as well as three of our friends, all made cakes (so we had four delicious, homemade cakes). Our fathers did the bulk of the scripting of the ceremony, and my sister and mother helped pick readings. Friends donated their time and support all along the way, too.

My Best Practical Advice For My Planning Self
Ask yourself, as well as those who are important to you in the process, what your/their priority is — and then don’t feel bad about actually prioritizing it.

Related: How To Buy Booze For Your Wedding

Also, our photographer took us away from everyone for a “portrait walk” after the ceremony but before dinner. While the point was to get some great photos, and it is wonderful to now have those photos, what I appreciated even more about the portrait walk was that it gave Aaron and me space and time to have some quiet moments to ourselves after the ceremony. I hadn’t realized how valuable that would be, and am so glad we did it.

Favorite Thing About The Wedding
We had one dance, and one dance alone. Having this “first dance,” as well as an opportunity to dance with my dad, was something that was important to me, but neither of us wanted a dance party, and certainly the wedding we had set up for ourselves — everything and everyone in a small restaurant — didn’t lend itself well to a dance party.

After the toasts, we walked over to the end of the long table, asked the Volunteer Park Cafe staff to switch to our song, and started dancing. A minute or two into the song, we invited others to dance if they wanted to, and it turned into a wonderful few minutes of people smiling and dancing with each other — right there with us. It turned out beautifully.

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