Wasting Money & Alienating Family: A Wedding Noob's Guide to Wedding Planning

Hello, I'm Christine! I got married on April 22, 2017. I decided to make this blog post as a way to complete my wedding "journey" & to help other would-be brides like me that had no wedding experience (attending, being in it, etc.) before they got engaged. I found some of the most frustrating parts of wedding planning being no one upfront with costs & timeframes, so I'm providing as much information as I can! Of course, keep in mind these are the prices we paid between February 2016 and April 2017 and they made be completely different now. Click on any section to find out exactly what we did for that part of the wedding planning process.

Some Starting Words of Advice

First of all, if you still haven't put any deposits down, do yourself a favor & just elope. This CollegeHumor video is so accurate, it's scary. Seriously. Our wedding was incredible & looking back, there are much better things I could have done with that money & way better things for my mental health.

Secondly, I'm not sure what's normal or not with weddings, but I confess that I probably cried at least once a week and in the first weeks and the final weeks of our 14 month engagement, I cried every single day. I have several degrees, and nothing in my life has been as challenging or emotionally damaging as planning this wedding. I realized that it takes a lot of support around you at all times to make it through and counteract negativity.

That being said, the actual day turned out wonderfully but really wasn't worth the hassle/cost/time. My incredible, never stresses about anything, husband would beg to differ but that's why I married him. Completing this guide makes me feel a bit better because I have something tangible to show for it that can help others, especially knowing I could have married my husband for $85...

P.S. -Yes, it's about spending time with love ones & showing your commitment to your spouse to the world but really, you can do that for way cheaper with way less people.

Quick Links: Vendors, Templates & Cost Breakdown; Photographer Blog with Photos; View All Photos

Getting Started (Start with the Guest List):

We got engaged on April 21 & got back from our trip to Hawaii on April 23. We started the guest list during the plane ride home.

We used a Google Sheet we used to organize the guest list: We broke it up by families & friends in order to be fair to all parties (John has a smaller family & I have a very large one). In addition, we used this document to keep track of addresses, phones numbers & email addresses. We looked through our phones & Facebook to make sure we included everyone we wanted before going to our parents.

Putting together the guest list caused so many battles, tears, anger, sadness & resentment.
I don't have any advice to avoid this except... elope.

Once we had a semblence of a list, we started considering venues that could accommodate our size of 200+ people.

Time Started: 2 days after engagement (14 months before the wedding)

Get a Website & Email Address:

So, I'm a web developer by trade and John also works in IT so literally 2 days after we got engaged we picked a domain, We bought it from GoDaddy for 2 years. We choose GoDaddy because my other 6+ domains are there with unlimited hosting so it was the obvious choice. John already had email hosting through Google so to added it to his for $5 per month.

Though I'm a web developer, I didn't want to take up too much energy designing a site from scratch so I purchased a theme from Theme Forest and did all the editing and customization myself. For fun, I also installed Google Analytics on the site to track our web traffic.

On the website we created exclusive pages for the wedding party & those attending the rehearsal.

I highly recommend a seperate email address because we got so much junk email from vendors, wedding shows, contests, etc. It was must easier to have it all in one place for us both to check and have it not cluttering our regular email. We used a domain email address but a Gmail would be just fine.


  • $22.00 for the domain
  • $5 per month for email address
  • $17 for the theme.
  • Total: $156
Date Purchased: 2/23/16 (14 months in advance)

Choosing a Date:

We had a few requirements that helped us narrow things down.

  1. Wanted at least 1 year to plan so February 2017 or later.
  2. Want an outdoor ceremony so had to be in Spring or Autumn because summers are too hot for us.
  3. Wanted a date convenient to school/work schedules

We settled on April 8 or April 22 because April 16 was Easter, thus; people could work around that schedule (plus both our mothers work at schools and we had children traveling).

At this point we also started figuring out what the weekend activites were going to look like and decided to have the rehearsal on Thursday, rather than Friday & have a welcome event on Friday. We also wanted a goodbye event of some sort and since we wanted to have a carnival themed wedding, we thought Six Flags about 45 mins away would be a great place & breakfast prior to.

Date Decided: February 2016 (14 months in advance)

Choosing a Wedding Planner:

We met with one professional full-time wedding planner before we realized that was way beyond our budget, so when we found out that our friend, Michele Farquharson (of Virginia Michele Planning), was starting to get into wedding planning, it was like fate! She went above & beyond for us and well exceeded our contracted 5 hours of in-person/phone coordination in the contact.

Cost: $1,000
Contract Signed: 3/15/16 (13 months in advance)

Choosing Colors & Themes:

I knew I wanted a carnival theme because John & I love theme parks and Disney World so that was a pretty easy decision. We knew we wanted it to feel a bit retro in style & we both love bright vibrant colors. Given that information, our Wedding Planner picked some colors for us that we loved and worked well with the wedding.

Our Colors:

Creating a Budget:

We started the budget within a few weeks of getting engaged. I wish I could remember where we initially got this template but this is the budget template we used to estimate costs, log actual costs & keep track of remaining balances.

As you see, we ended up almost $10K over budget. Catering ended up costing $3,500 more than anticipated, alcohol costs $600 more than anticipated, we didn't plan on a videographer or second photographer so that was an additional $1500, we spent about $400 extra on entertainment, and of course, even though everyone told us to, we didn't take into account $2,300 in tips.

Choosing a Venue:

Choosing a venue was a bit more challenging. Actually, it's the item that made us almost cancel the wedding multiple times.

In the end our top priorities were:
  1. Outdoor option with indoor back up (that wouldn't cost a bunch of extra money. Renting a backup tent is SO expensive!)
  2. Could hold up to 200 people
  3. Did not have only 1 exclusive caterer (or a catering price over $100 per person)
Secondary priorities were:
  1. Not a church or just a plain hall
  2. Not a VERY popular venue/hotel
  3. Located in Baltimore City

We looked at a lot of venues and I mean... a lot, farms, vinyards, empty plots of land, halls, museums, parks, hotels, stadiums, etc. Seriously, ask me about any of them... We even put a deposit on one and had to cancel it.

Some of our favorites were:

So, we came down to the last 2, obviously. We actually preferred the Arboretum but they only booked venues 1 year out and gave preference to government organizations which made me nervous given how many venues were already booked 13 months in advance.

We ended up with the MD Historical Society, which had some great ammenities though: parking lot, bridal & groom suite, outdoor space with indoor backup, guided docent tour, awesome mastadon as a backdrop.

We did several tours before & after signing the contract & I found it easier to get as many people together as once, i.e. DJ, photographer, wedding party, parents, planner, etc.

Some other things to note about venue searching:

  • Before you fall in love with something, make sure your parents or other relevant parties see it first.
  • There are very few venues without exclusive lists & even fewer that will let you self cater.
  • Read contracts carefully, things you always envisioned may not be allowed. In our venues case confetti, sparklers & red wine were not allowed.
  • Many venues prohibit decorations affixed to walls.

(Maryland Historical Society)
(Maryland Historical Society)
(Cylburn Arboretum Volmer Center)

Venue Cost: $3,300 + $200 for security. Total: $3,500
Contract Signed: April 2016 (12 months in advance)
Sample Contracts

Wedding Insurance:

Our venue required insurance and it seemed like a good idea to cover any issues, so we went ahead and purchased $1 million in liability coverge as well as property coverage from a Special Event Insurance Policy from USAA.
Cost: $350
Date Purchased: 4/17/2016 (12 months in advance)
Sample Policy

Setting Up a Shared Bank Account:

The day we returned from Hawaii we went over to PNC which has been my bank for 8 years and opened up a joint checking account & joint 0% interest credit card so we could start saving money into it. We put a fixed amount in ($1,300) every month from February 2016 through the wedding and put in extra money (tax returns, gift money, etc.).

We made the decision to pay for everything with credit if there was no additional fee in order to get the points and to save the cash for things that were check only like the caterer & DJ.

We also opened a checking account specifically for gift money so it wouldn't get all mixed up with wedding money. All of these accounts were free with PNC & came with Visa cards.

Choosing a Caterer:

Since our final two venues were about the same price, before we made the final decision on a caterer, we priced out all 12 on our venue's exclusive list as well as other caterers in the area (since the Arboretum didn't have an exclusive list) to figure out which would be cheaper overall.

In the end, though the arboretum would be cheaper, the thought of waiting an extra month stressed me out too much to hold out for it and we went with the MDHS with Chef's Expressions as our caterer because they were the only ones on the list that kept costs within our budget of $80-90 per person for everything & had good food.

When asking caterer questions I combined questions from Martha Stewart & Here Comes the Guide to create a 5 page monstrocity of a PDF of caterer questions.

We went to maybe 4 tastings & one meeting in which they didn't do tastings until after a contract was signed, which I thought seemed a bit ridiculous...

Our catering costs included all the meals, non-alcoholic drinks, servers, bartenders, an event coordinator, some tables (venue had some), linens & napkins. We provided pies (gifted to us by a friend, Rebekah Rodarte, who is a professional baker) and alcohol (see below).

Some tips to avoid a huge surprise come final bill time:
  • Get the right amount of hours to start. (We were off by 2 hours)
  • Estimate a guest count higher than expected, not lower. (We were off by 13 people + 10 vendor meals)
  • Ask the costs for any extras before you say yes.

Initial Cost: Our initial quote ended up at $13,583.96 for 160 people for 4 hours. ($84.90 per person)
Final Cost: Final cost was $18,109.66 for 173 people for 6 hours ($104.68 per person)
Contract Signed: 5/27/16 (11 months in advance)
Final menu

Gift Registry:

Since everyone online kept saying people would buy you gifts as soon as you are engaged, we went ahead & put together our registry. Since we had been living together for well over a year before we got engaged & we owned our home, there wasn't much we needed but we found a few physical items (that we ended up removing because we're moving overseas) and opted for Honeyfund as a gift registry.

We tried out several but we liked this one because it was easy to use for our guests, let us link to other registries & gave us multiple payment options (PayPal, Google Wallet, etc.).

Pro Tip: We put any gift money we received, regardless of if it was through the registy onto Honeyfund so we could use it as a central area to log gifts. This was especially great because you could also mark if thank you cards were sent within there.

Our Registry:

Cost: $19.99 (free version had less customization options & more ads)
Date Purchased: 5/1/16


This was an easy one, our friend, Marlayna, that is also my co-worker is an incredible photographer, so without a second thought we reached out. Initially, we didn't spring for the 2nd photographer but eventually felt that it was worth it to be able to capture the girls & guys.

Engagement photos were included in the overall cost & she did an excellent job with both those & the wedding.

Even though she was my friend, she still got the third degree like any other vendor, here are the Wedding Photographer Questions I asked.

Initial Cost: $2,040 (for 1 photographer)
Final Cost: $2,515 (including a 2nd photographer for 4 hours)
Contract Signed: 5/3/2016 (11 months before wedding)

Engagement Photos:

Since we opted for a carnival theme, I went through and reached out to an area carnival, Jolly Shows at White Marsh Mall to see if we could come by early to do a shoot. They were nice enough to oblige for only the regular cost of admission/rides.

Photos Shot: 4/30/2016 (12 months before wedding)
Final Costs: Included in photography package
Engagement Shoot Blog on Charm City Wed

Save the Dates:

We used one of our engagement photos for our save the dates. We opted for a postcard to save money & used a stock template that Vistaprint had printed on linen paper.

Because we had a weekend of activity & family traveling from all over, we wanted to send them out early so we got the website done, the cards printed & collected addresses by end of May.

Final Cost: $66.95 for 120 5.5"x4" postcards
Purchased: 5/9/16 (arrived 5/13/16) (11 months before wedding)
We started mailing save the dates in June (10 months before the wedding)

(Save the Date tip right)


I knew I wanted a DJ that I had heard before and since I went out pretty frequently that wasn't too much of an issue. I also wanted someone that knew me and knew what I liked so I wouldn't have to give too much direction & finally, I knew I needed someone that could work in music that would appeal to so many different groups of people, from my Nigerian family, my hipster friends & John's country loving family.

That's why I picked James Gross (aka James Nasty) for the job and reached out within a few weeks of getting engaged to secure him. We had an initial meeting on 5/12/2017, he toured the venue with us, I sent him my Spotify playlists about a month early & we had a final meeting about a week before the wedding where I went over all the lists, the emergency contacts, etc. with him.

He also helped us with a second PA for the ceremony, as well as microphones.

Total Costs: $1,000 + DJ insurance $126
Contract Signed: 5/17/2017 (11 months before the wedding)

First Wedding Party Gifts:

So we both called our wedding party shortly after we were engaged to ask but I decided to have a little wedding party meet & greet and figured a small thank you gift was in order.

We opted for custom Cards Against Humanity cards ordered from We used a template from My Wasted Life to create the cards. We had all the wedding party names, our names & some additional cards.

Total: $90.48 for 10 decks of 18 cards & 1 deck of 36 cards
Date Purchased: 5/9/16 (arrived 5/17/16) (11 months before wedding)

Hotel Blocks:

So, we got a few hotel blocks but no one ended up using them, so it likely would've been easier (though it was free of charge for us) for people to just book their own hotel rooms.

That being said, we did rent out an inn for the duration of the wedding weekend. We found Biddle Street Inn & Preston Inn on Air BnB and contacted the owner to get a contract for the weekend. We ended up paying a discounted rate for the rooms and put the wedding party & John's family from out of town there as well as a restaurant space for the rehearsal dinner.

Though we prepaid, the guests reimbursed us for the rooms. In hindsight, we really only needed to block the rooms for Friday & Saturday night but it was convenient to have them as options for the other nights, as well, though they were only half filled those nights.

We had the guests pick what rooms they wanted in a Bed & Breakfast Google sheet, and assigned a price to each room per night so that they knew the cost in advance and could pay us.

Price: $4654.65 for 14 rooms for 4 nights + a basement restaurant space for the rehearsal dinner.
Contract Signed: 5/25/2016 (11 months before the wedding)

Collecting Addresses & Other Important Emails:

Since we had sent out Christmas cards the year before, we actually had some addresses of friends & family but in order to ensure that we didn't have those wrong and to get new ones, we created a Google Form & linked to it on our wedding website & sent it out via MailChimp, an email marketing tool. We were able to get about 90% of our addresses this way all for free!

Because I do digital marketing for a living, I did get fancy & used merge fields & customized email templates but really, it's pretty straight foward to use without and design or development experience.

We sent out a few other emails via MailChimp throughout the 14 months of planning with important information about accommodations, RSVPing online & more.

Email Examples:

Cost: Free
Date Started Requesting Info: 5/27/2017 (11 months before the wedding)


At first, we didn't plan to have a videographer, so when we went to a bridal show and Matt at Editing Life Videography, we dismissed him until we were ready. We got back to him a few weeks later to only do the ceremony, cocktail hour & first dance because they had reasonable prices & the video examples they had were great.

Total: $800 (+3% credit card processing fee)
Contract Signed: 6/1/2017 (10 months before the wedding)

Getting the Dress:

In early June I started my dress search, though according to most wedding forums I was already way behind and would never find anything... I called & emailed almost 2 dozen stores with high ratings & price range listings not too high on Yelp/WeddingWire to get a sense of their selection, sizes, prices, availability off rack, etc. We wanted to not go over $500 but that became a bit unrealistic during our search. I also discovered in my search that some bridal stores don't allow photographs, which sounded so stressful...

Since I started calling around in June, I was able to choose the exact date & time I wanted and planned to visit 5 places with my mom, John's mom & maid of honor all in the same weekend in August.

Bridal Salons Visited:

I ended up trying on about 10 dresses per location and choose my dress within the same weekend of my search from Love & Lace Bridal--a cute consignment shop that was appointment only with 1 bride at a time. The dress fit almost perfectly so required little alteration and John's mother had the skills to alter the dress for me. When she came a month before the wedding she replaced the zipper with a corset, took the dress in slightly, and replaced the white tule with colored tule.

At Love & Lace Boutique:

After Alterations:

Total Costs: $800 including dress & veil (alterations about $100 more)
Date Purchased: 8/28/2016 (8 months before the wedding)
Appointments made in early June (10 months before the wedding)
My List of 20+ Boutique Information


We had some issues with pricing, but after all was said & done we booked the Central European Tour from Adventures by Disney and broke down all the activities of that tour into our Honeyfund so people could choose to gift us airfare, lodging, etc. or could gift us things like an after hours dinner at the Vienna Zoo or a pretzel making class. The Adventures by Disney tour includes about 2 meals per day and includes the costs for travel in Europe, hotels & activities. Except gratuity for our travel guides all other gratuities are paid for.

We booked out honeymoon about 6 weeks after our wedding through the travel agent Dreams Unlimited Travel which added in extra discounts.

Total Cost: $8,698 for the trip + $2,739.80 for airfare = $11,437.80 + any extras we buy on the trip
Date Purchased: 6/13/16 (10 months before the wedding, 12 months before the vacation)

Pre-marital Counseling:

Though we're not religious, since I have diagnosed depression & anxiety, we opted to do a few weeks of couple's counseling prior to the wedding. We used Pschology Today to find a therapist that was progressive in their views.

We went to see Brooke Bralove in Bethesda 2 or 3 times before we realized our insurance wouldn't cover it the way we thought. We switched to Stephanie Bathurst at PsychCare in Columbia which was covered by our insurance, thus cost us only $15 per session. It was great to talk with her about our goals & expectations in marriage & in our relationship and of course, to work out a whole lot of wedding planning stress.

Costs: $15 per session with insurance, approx. 15 sessions ~ $240
Date Started: October 2016 (6 months before the wedding)

Boudoir Shoot:

I knew I wanted to surprise John with some tasteful photos, so I asked my friend Katie Vee to step up and help me out. She gave me the option for hair & makeup with I declined (finding people with experience with black hair/skin is hard).

She came by the house and we had 2+ hours of photo, outfit changes, etc. I invited my best friend/MOH along to help with outfit changes, hair, makeup & overal comfort. Photos came back quickly & book arrived a week or so before the wedding.

Costs: $400
Dates: First Contact 1/14/2017; Contract Signed 2/19/17; Shoot 3/4/17; Picked up Book 4/17/17

Caricature Arists:

A friend of the best man does characatures: Kristen Lohman & her friend Stephanie Martin, so we got them booked for the event for during cocktail hour & into the reception. We had them for 2.5 hours from 6-8:30PM. We had them pre-print the background so that all they had to do is make the charicatures in black & white on the day.

Costs: $75 per hour per person + $30 for the printed paper = $405
Date of First Meeting: 9/14/2016 (7 months before the wedding)

Bride Shoes & Jewelry:

I ordered 3 sets of shoes, one for photographs/to walk down the aisle with that has a small heel & was an ombre to match my girls. I bought a pair of flats with rhinestones for our first dance & I bought a pair of pink glittery flats for my Nigerian outfit. The first 2 were purchased from Amazon and the pink flats were purchased from Target.

Ceremony Shoes ($42.99):

Amazon Link

First Dance Shoes ($28.57):

Amazon Link

Second Outfit Shoes ($25.17):

Target Link

I had shoe decals were $7.70 from DaintyCraftzOnline on Etsy that said "I Love You"; John's said "I Know" but they never were affixed to his shoes in the chaos of the day so if that's something you want to do make sure you task someone to make sure it's done (someone that is attentive to details...)

The pearls I wore with my dress were a gift from John's mom from Macy's & the earrings were the maid of honors after mine borrowed from my momwent missing. The watch was the one right off my mother's wrist, as was the bracelet. When I changed outfits, all the jewelry I were was my mothers (again mostly off of her) and the traditional coral beads were provided by my aunt.

I bought the tiara from Amazon for $10!

The bra & panties I were under we purchased from Amazon, $37.09 & $15.49 respectively.

Pro Tip: If you're ordering from Amazon and it's not Prime (or any other online store), give yourself at least 1 month for arrival just to be safe.

Price: $167 + Gifted Necklace & Borrowed Items
Date: January 2017 - April 2017 (3 months to 1 week before the wedding)

Bridesmaid Dresses, Shoes & Jewelry

I created a shared Pinterst board with my bridesmaids where I let them pin the dresses they liked most. I also pinned my ideas there I just search eBay, Amazon & Google Shopping for ombre, pink, orange & coral dresses. I then told them to go through and heart the ones they liked. After that, I sent the girls an Amazon list of the bridesmaids dresses that were the finalists & I ordered all of them in a size large enough for all the girls to fit (usually 12-14), so we could just pin back for the smaller girls. I went a bit overboard & ordered 17 dresses but they were all returnable! I made sure every dress was under $100.

I got the dresses delivered to my house and had all the girls over to try on the dresses together while John's mom was in town to measure the girls. I also made a weekend itinerary for anyone that wanted to hang out for the weekend.

We ended up choosing 3 Calvin Klein dresses in orange or pink ombre from about 3 seasons ago & an orange & pink Vince Camuto dress for the maid of honor. John's mother was able to tailor the dresses as needed to fit the girls.

I ended up purchasing all the dresses myself, averaged the cost of the dresses among the 5 girls and then had them reimburse me. The dresses came out to $30 per dress.

Try Ons:

Day Of:

Price: $30 per dress ($22.51 for 3 of the Calvin Klein dresses from Bonton, $34.79 for 1 of the Calvin Klein dresses from Lord & Taylor & $47.94 for the Vincent Camuto dress.)
Date Purchased: 8/20/2016 - 9/23/2016 (7-8 months before the wedding)

With shoes & jewelry, I just sent a list of shoes I liked (mostly from Amazon) and had the girls pick & pay for their own or things similar.

Collecting RSVPs Online:

So before we even got our RSVPs out, we wanted to give people the option to just RSVP online, so we signed up for RSVPify. It let us keep track of all of our events such as the rehearsal & brunch in one place, as well as the beginnings of a seating chart. We were able to embed it into our website & guests were able to update their RSVP which made things easier, as well.

At the time it only cost us a one time fee of $28.27 for the single event plan with unlimited secondary events but it looks like the pricing has changed since then.

Pro Tip: When we started getting RSVPs back in the mail, we RSVP'd them online anyway so we could keep RSVPify as the system of record for all RSVPs.

Price: $28.27
Purchased: 11/5/2017


After pricing out invites all over & ordering samples, I knew I wanted the fancy invites with the little pockets, but I didn't want to spend too much to make that happen. There was also no way on earth we were hiring a calligrapher, so we opted for the DIY route. My wonderful maid of honor designed the invitation suite and we got it printed from Cards & Pockets.

Though I was anxious to get them out, I ordered a full sample first before we ordered the full batch to see exactly what it would look like.

We also ordered a stamp with our name & address for the reply card from Office Depot.

We had to assemble, address & stamp ourselves but it saved us hundreds of dollars. We screwed up quite a lot of envelopes so ended up ordering 25 extra outer envelopes to make up for it. In addition, in order to address them, we used a makeshift template.

We also sent out a couple of celebrity RSVPs just for fun!

We sent them in batches as we completed them and we were gifted stamps which saved us hundreds of dollars.

Pro Tip: Since RSVPify let you upload your guest list with group assignments to put parties together., we kept track of that group assignment in our Google spreadsheet guest list & also wrote it on the back of the RSVP cards so if we got something back illegible or without a name, we knew who it belonged to.

Price: $395 for 125 invites + $8 sample prints + $12.74 for 25 extra envelopes
Date Purchased: 12/22/2016 (5 months before the wedding)
We recieved our 17 pounds of paper on 12/28/2016 and started mailing in the first week of January, took us about 3 weeks to get them all out.

The Men's Attire:

We decided that the guys wouldn't be wearing tuxes, but instead just suspenders & bow ties, while John wore a vest & a regular tie. The guys covered their own clothing. They rented the pants & shoes for $90, purchased the shirts for $30 and we purchased all of their ties & suspenders.

The clothing was rented/purchased from Men's Warehouse & the guys were able to go to a MW close to their homes to pay for their items. We had them all sent to us so there would be no issues of lost luggage.

Price: $120 per guy + ties & suspenders
Date Ordered: 1/3/2017 (3 months before the wedding)

Six Flags:

We wanted to have a fun party the day after the wedding to give us more time to spend with guests and invite friends we couldn't invite to the wedding. We thought it'd be fun to go to Six Flags and get a pavillion lunch.

We ended up getting a package that included parking, lunch & park entry for $51.90 each & got a photographer, Devin Trent, who did our Christmas photos the year prior to, for 4 hours at $120 per hour. We had the wedding party put their wedding clothing back on for some extra fun photos!

We had guests pay for their own park ticket through us via PayPal or cash & mailed them their tickets.

Price: $51.90 per person (100 person minimum) + $480 for photographer
Deposit Down: 10/26/2016 (6 months before the wedding)

Photobooth Rental:

I've known the people at Pixilated for years so it was a no brainer that they would be our photobooth of choice! Our wedding planner designed our image tag and we opted for the SMS option so we wouldn't have paper all over the venue of left photographs.

Though they provide props, I spent a few extra bucks ($4.87) for some more carnival themed props from Amazon.

Total Costs: $901 + $4.87 = $905.87
Date Reserved: 11/29/2016 (5 months before the wedding)

Renting a Truck for Decor:

So we ran into an issue with decor where the items we were going to be bringing to the venue were much larger than what a regular or truck could hold (8 foot poles, 30 24" ballons, etc.), so at first we thought, perhaps we'll rent a UHaul. It turns out UHaul's are not available for multi day rentals typically so we ended up renting a 24' Budget Truck instead.

We initally rented from the Budget on Boston Street but the reservation was moved to the Budget on 25th Street. The customer service was absolutely terrible (opened the store 30 mins late, rude, etc.) but the truck worked out just fine.

Of course, as car renting goes, we had to tack on insurance per day so our originally quote of $147.40 for a Friday to Sunday rental ended up being $236.11, but was overall still a pretty good deal.

Price: $236.11 for a Friday to Sunday rental
Date Reserved: 3/1/2017 (2 months before wedding)

Spa Treatments:

So, I knew I would spend Friday during the day getting pampered a bit since I haven't gotten a manicure since prom... I also knew I wanted to get a facial but I was worried about any irritation so I didn't want to do it the day before.

For my facial, I went to Zena's Spa in Mount Vernon and spent $80 on an hour long facial which was a treat. My face felt like an angel's butt when we were all done!

For the rest of my spa treatments, I went to the Quintessential Gentleman in downtown Baltimore and got a massage, manicure with shellac & nail art, pedicure & an eye brow threading (also got lunch!), some of my bridesmaids also joined in and got a variety of services, as well. Everything for me took about 4 hours.

I scheduled everything for the girls & they all paid their own way.

Total Costs: At the QG: 30 minute massage: $55, shellac manicure with nail art $55, pedicure with polish $50, eyebrow threading $14 + lunch; $80 at Zena's Spa for the 60 min facial
Date Scheduled: 3/13/2017 (1 month before the wedding)

Cotton Candy & Popcorn Machine Rental:

To go along with our carnival theme, we rented cotton candy & popcorn machines. In hindsight, for simplicity, we probably should have gone through our caterer to get this done but for the cost, we have no complaints! We went with a company called Party Plus Bounce Rentals that gave us 2 attendants for 4 hours and rented both machines, including pick up & drop off for only $220! We heard nothing but good things and the attendants were very nice! I actually got the final cotton candy of the night!

Price: $220
Contract Signed: 2/21/2017 (2 months before wedding)

Final Guest List & Seating Chart:

So we set a deadline for paper RSVPs of 3/1 & for online RSVPs of 3/15. We were of course still getting RSVPs through the end of March (we emailed, called, texted & asked parents to do the same). We ended up with 2 people that literally never gave us an answer which as a precaution we marked as coming. I still don't know if they came but we paid $208 for them.

Once we put it all together the best we could, we ended up with 21 tables (including our sweetheart table) with 173 guests. We assigned to the seat not just to the table and used an app called AllSeated that our planner provided to get everyone seated properly.

Costs: Included in planner fee
Date Complete: Around April 1 (3 weeks before wedding)

Escort Cards:

Again, I looked to Theme Forest to get a cute escort card that I was able to use a bit of my graphic design skills to update as we saw fit. We printed them out at the print center where I work, Commonvision, on 11x17 paper on card stock for $17.01. We also bought little clothespins, twine, and a cheap clothing rack. We drilled holes in the clothing rack & ran the twine acorss several rows, affixing with hot glue, combined the escort cards by party and clipped them to the twine.

Costs: $7 for template, $17.01 to print, $20 for clothing rack, clothespins, hot glue & twine were negligible.
Date Printed: 4/7/2017 (3 weeks before wedding with same day turn around)

Place Cards:

For the place cards, John & his cousin purchased 100 4oz mason jars each. John made peanut butter (all you do it blend peanuts in a blender! He added honey & cinnamon too), and his cousin made jelly. We got stickers printed with each guest's name and affixed them to the top of the mason jars with a little colored sticker that indicated their meal choice.

We ordered the stickers & template with 300 stickers for the mason jar labels from for $13.15 & printed them with a regular printed.

In order to ensure that everything was placed correctly, I printed out sheets of 8.5x11 paper from a regular printer for each table and labeled each person and their food choice.

Costs: $13.15 for printing + cost of colored stickers
Date Printed: 4/5/2017 (3 weeks before wedding)

General Signage:

Since we opted for no programs or menus (our guests choose their meal preference in advance), we wanted some large general signs instead. John designed the signed and I got them printed and mounted to laminated foam board, again at the print shop at my job (Commonvision). We paid $15.45 per sign to be printed and paid $8 per easle to display them including a program, food menu, drink menu, parking & a welcome sign.

We also purchased a template from ThemeForest for our smaller signs & just used a regular printer to print out 8.5x11 pages. We ordered 8 cheap frames & 12 sign holders for $1 each from The Dollar Tree.

Pro Tip: The Dollar Store has some amazing wedding items! We got so many items for the wedding that didn't need to last long (like frames) for only $1!

Costs: $77.25 for signs printed; $9 for theme; $40 for easels; $20 for frames & sign holders = $146.25
Date Ordered: Large Signs: 4/6/2017 (3 weeks before wedding with a 5 day turn around); Dollar Store items: 2/28/17 (Arrived 3/13/17)

Rehearsal Ceremony, Dinner & Sunday Breakfast:

Our wedding planner single handedly organized the entire thing from the practicing to decor to deliveries. We ended up with about 30 people using the restaurant space within the inn we rented out. We had food, chairs & tables dropped off. Menu was chicken, salmon, salad, rolls, cheesecake from Jay's Catering. Rentals were from ABC Rental.

We also paid for breakfast sandwiches, hashbrowns & drinks to feed 30 for Sunday morning which we picked up from XS in Baltimore.

Costs: $871.64 for dinner, $285.32 for rentals, $152.53 for decor; $153 for Sunday breakfast

Final Schedule:

One week before the wedding, I put together a comprehensive schedules including times, attire, and pricing for the wedding party, parents & vendors:

I also included a comprehensive contact list for everyone and added in a final guest list & contact sheet to the wedding planners comprehensive schedule.

Ceremony (and Cocktail Hour) Music:

I had a friend of mine play "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters while I walked down the aisle. He did it as a wedding gift to us and also helped (with an assistant) in playing the recession music & music in the bar/cocktail area throughout the day. We did have a borrowed amp from the best man and a borrowed PA from the DJ that helped.

Pro Tip: If you're in need of audio equipment, lighting, instruments or mics Guitar Center rents out equipment for very reasonable prices.

Cost: Free


So, we opted to provide our own alcohol for the wedding to save costs. Our planner & caterer worked together to provide us a list of recommended alcohol to buy when we provided our list of signature cocktails.

Unfortunately, my family does not drink much and were more than half the guest list, so we ordered way too much. Thankfully, most of the beer we had was given to us for free from DuClaw Brewing as unshipped beer.

We went to Cranbrook Liquors to get the alcohol. They have a quarterly event where they sell all alcohol at cost plus $1, which they call Cranbrook Dollar Days. Though we got the alcohol very cheap, there is no refunds and they only take debit, cash or check.

Cost: About $1,100
Date Purchased: 3/28/2017

Getting the Marriage License:

In Baltimore City, you can go down to the Calvert Street courthouse to get your license. It costs $85 cash only and only one of the two couples needs to be there. I brought John's passport & my own, with me & knew his social, date of birth & state of birth. They gave me the license on the spot and instructions on what to do next. We did have to wait 48 hours before we could actually get married but all in all it was a pretty easy process (and oddly enough, I could do it all without John).

Cost: $85
Date: 3/21/17 (1 month before wedding)

Getting an Officiant:

Though we're not particularly religious, my family is and we have numerous church leaders in the family. Because of that, we asked my uncle, a minister, to be our officiant. We had 2 phone calls with him and had 1 meeting face to face to go over the ceremony, as well as, some philosophical discussion on marriage.

Though the ceremony would be religious, we had a few requirements:

  1. At no point would he express that marriage was only between a man & woman,
  2. We would be writing our own vows
  3. There was a welcome statement he had to say which I borrowed from the Unitarian Church to make it known our stance at the start of the ceremony: "Whoever you are, wherever you're from, whatever you believe, and whomever you love, you are welcome here."

In the end, the ceremony turned out fine and all my requirements were satisfied (though at no point will I ever be subservant to anyone, especially my husband).

Pro Tip: Our wedding planner had him sign our license and kept it since she's local to us, so all we had to do was go pick it up from her with some of our other things and drop it off at the courthouse.

Cost: Free
Date of First Contact: 1/28/2017 (3 months before wedding)

Writing Vows:

To be honest, I just kind of winged mine from the top of my head. When I finished it, I told John the length & tone so he could match it. I also gave him this page from Shutterfly that I thought had some really good advice.

When we were done John had his mom read both our vows to make sure they were conistent in length & tone.

I ordered little greeting cards from Zazzle that I customized a bit so we had something nice looking (see: not our phones) to read off of.

Notice the blanks... Zazzle won't let you use copywritten terms like like "Hogwarts" and "Golden Snitch" in their greeting card.

Cost: $3.14
Date: 3/21/2017 (delivered 12 days later)

Flower Girl Dresses:

We had 2 flower girls an almost 3 year old (my neice) & a 1 year old (my cousin's daughter).

Wedding Rings:

Mine was purchased on Amazon from DazzingRock on 1/23/17 for $209 (3 months before the wedding). John's was purchased from Embr for $198 (approx. 2 months before the wedding)

The engagement ring is custom made (with John's gradmother's stone as one of the 3) and was purchased from Samuelson's (also gave us a complimentary cleaning before the wedding)


My cousin, Fredricka Williams, is a professional hair dresser & incidently the daughter of our officiant so she did my hair, as well as the hair for all the bridesmaids. I had the bridesmaids pay for their own hair. In order to achieve full princess lion look, I purchased $100 worth of natural hair clip in extensions from Beauty4U in Catonsville. On the day off, she did all 6 girls' hair with the help of her sister & even gave me a trim.

Since some of my bridesmaids had hair the color of popsicles, I decided to spend $20 on curly, colored, clip in extensions from Amazon so that all the girls, including me, had a bit more color!

Cost: $60 for bride + $20 for trial + $20 in colored extentions, $100 for natural extentions = $200; $50 per bridesmaid
Timing: Initial meeting in October, first trial 3/12/17 (1 month before the wedding)


Ricka recommended her friend Merha Habte for my makeup. We did my first makeup & hair trial at the same time. She brought all her own products & even gave me samples. I don't ever wear make up but I appreciated the gesture! I gave the girls the option to pay to get their makeup done but they all did their own, though the made of honor got a little help from Merha the day of.

Cost: $65 for bride + $30 for 2 trials ($51 per bridesmaid, but they opted to do their own makeup)
Timing: Initial phone call in February, first trial 3/12/17 (1 month before the wedding)


The pinwheels were created by John's mother using paper, buttons, paper straws ($7.50), sticks, tape, thread & felt from Amazon. The vases & lollipops were purchased in bulk from The Dollar Tree for $1 each. The vase base was made from foam ($25.94) and wrapped in tickets ($14.95) purchased from Amazon. The quote stands ($26.40) & the Hooray flags ($13.98) were purchased from Amazon. The popcorn was purchased unbuttered & unsalted in bulk and popped with a popcorn popper we already owned.

The actual quote template was purchased from ThemeForest for $14 and altered by me (had to make us the right colors...). Printed at Commonvision on laminated car stock for $21.79.

The 24' balloons were purchased from Party City for about $4 each & included high float to make them last longer. We used a stencil purchased on Amazon to write on the balloons after they were blown up and filled them in with black chalkboard paint we had around the house.

Pro Tip: We pre-ordered the balloons from Party City and also did two trial runs to see what the balloons would look like. We picked up 30 balloons (even though we only needed 21) the day before the wedding using the Budget truck and after lost balloons and mess ups ended up with a few over the 21 we needed.

Total Cost: Approx. $325 for 21 tables
Date of Centerpiece Trial: About 1 month before the wedding

"Flowers" for Boutineers, Arch, Kids, Etc.

We opted for no flowers, obviously, because they're expensive & to be honest, I don't particularly care for them. Instead, we opted for paper flowers & pinwheels. To assemble the arch, John's mom purchased the arch, paper, steamers & wire from Michael's. She also created the pinwheel boutineers for the guys & the mini pinwheels for the flower girls & ring bearer (it was supposed to be a bubble blower for the ring bearer but it was lost in the shuffle).

Total Cost: Approx. $250
Date Started: About 1 month before the wedding (I wouldn't recommend that timeline, though)


Since I wasn't having flowers, I decided on a Paper Bouquet that I purchased from My Wooly Mammooth on Etsy. She was very accommodating and let me pick the colors/style I wanted.

John's mother affixed the ribbons ($12.99) on it based on our wedding colors.

The bridesmaids carried large 12" pinwheels, as well. I bought the paper ($22.76) on Amazon and John's mother created them.

Total cost: $75 for bouquet + $12.99 for ribbon + $22.76 for paper = $110.75
Date purchased: Bouquet ordered 1/14/2017, arrived 2/2/2017 (2 months before the wedding)

Guest Book & Card Box:

Again, my amazing maid of honor stepped up! She created the design for us based on some we'd seen & liked. We printed it on a 24x36" canvas from an Amazon store for only $35 & ordered some thin tip permanent markers for guests to write on.

Pro Tip: Our wedding planner had people sign the guest book on rehearsal night so people had more of an inclination of what to do with it.

Since we love to travel, we used two little suitcases that we bought on Amazon as our card boxes. All John had to do was cut slots on the top of them.

Total Cost: $35 for guest book + $7 for pens, I believe the suitcases were about $30
Date purchased: Guest book ordered 3/15 and arrived 3/21/2017 (1 month before the wedding)

Thank You Cards:

We actually ordered 2 sets, one for before the wedding with a shot of us on a bench that says thank you from our engagement shoot & one from after the wedding with one of the preview images our photographer took. Both were designed & printed from Vista Print (envelopes included). We sent out the first set to anyone that sent us a gift prior to 2 weeks before the wedding & we intend to send thank you note to anyone that sent us gifts after that time with our new cards. Since we had an outfit change during the wedding, we printed both outfits on the cards.

Pro Tip: After you check out with Vistaprint lately, they've been doing deals where they offer you an additional set of whatever you ordered as an add-on item for a pretty good price!

(1st thank you card at bottom)

Total Costs: $19.98 for 30 of first set + $61.97 for 100 of second set = $81.95
Date purchased: 1st set: 3/4/2017 (arrived 3/10/17); 2nd set: 4/29/17 (1 week after the wedding)

Hotel After Wedding:

So for the wedding day, the girls got ready at our house & the guys got ready at the venue/at the B&B we rented out. So, John & I didn't get the hotel for Friday night, but instead on Saturday & Sunday since we has activites planned for Sunday. We thought about doing The Ivy Hotel to be extra fancy for the wedding but could only afford one night there so instead went for 2 nights for less at Kimpton Hotel Monaco downtown. I highly highly recommend it!

Note: I originally planned to not see John after our Friday night events but ended up leaving the B&B Friday night at 4am to go home and we got ready & ate breakfast together the next day.

Total Costs: $436.92 for 2 nights
Date Reserved: 2/27/2017 (2 months before the wedding)

Dance Lessons:

I initially got a Groupon for Arthur Murray Studios but driving to Columbia and back & the overall cost ended up not worth it after our initial 2 visits though we enjoyed our instructor quite a lot. We ended up going with Beginning Ballroom in Baltimore for 4 more appoitments to which we practiced our firts dance song while learning the Foxy, a variation of the Foxtrot. We had a great time learning with them!

We went into our first dance feeling confident that we'd be able to wow our guests! During our first dance, our sweetheart table wasn't moved enough out of the way & my family started to shower us with dollar bills (a Nigerian tradition), so we weren't really able to completely showcase our lessons but we still had fun.

Total Costs: $49 for Groupon + $80 per lesson at Beginning Balloom = $369
Dates: 3/22/2017 - 4/17/2017 (Once a week)

Games & Grand Exit:

So we bought a few additional items to keep guests entertained throughout the wedding. Since the bar stayed in the cocktail area, people were frequently going in and out of the hall. On the tables, we had card games for people to enjoy. I loved seeing people playing Uno at my wedding! We bought those games from Target & Amazon. We also purchased little books ($17) where we asked people various questions/advice & left them on certain tables and asked that people pass them around, as of now, we're still missing 2 unfortunately :(. And finally, we had coloring books & crayons for children ($20) seated at the wedding to keep them distracted.

We had large versions of Jenga ($80) & Connect 4 ($81) that we bought from Amazon in our game room with the characature artists & popcorn/cotton candy machine. John's mom had also made corn hole during her stay so we had that available to play as well.

For our grand exit, our venue didn't allow fire or confetti so we wanted to come up with a creative way to leave. Since we had a carnival theme anyway, we opted for a 30 foot parachute ($103) that we all played with as a kid in gym class! It turned out even more amazing that I thought as we ran out for our exit (though, our getaway car (John's mom) was running a little late)! We got flash lights ($28) & light up whistle ($20) from Amazon for some extra fun & the maid of honor played our exit music.

Pro Tip: Make sure someone knows where your bags are before you leave the venue so it can be placed in the car. My maid of honor had to deliver my bad & phone to me at the hotel room at the end of the night.

Costs: Approx. $375
Date Purchased: Early April (1 month before the wedding)

Additional Wedding Party & Parent Gifts:

For our final gifts, John got his groommen flasks in nice wooden boxes from Urban Farmhouse Tampa on Etsy ($150), I also got my bridesmaids flasks from Marked Moments on Etsy ($67) (though one got pregnant in the time between when I purchased & when I gave it to her!). I also decided to get each one of my girls something that was uniquely them from Amazon to go with their flasks and wrote them all a nice note. We game them all their gifts at the rehearsal dinner.

For the parents, we got them a small 8x10 framed photo (printed from Walmart) of us from our engagement photos with the promise that we'd get them a larger photo from the wedding afterwards. The initial frames were purchased from the Plaza Art in Baltimore.

Total Costs: $380 + larger image to be printed
Date Purchased: Late March (1 month before the wedding)

Additional Decor:

Additional Light & Bunting

I really wanted bunting for our carnival wedding but we couldn't affix items to the walls, so John bought wood & poles from Home Depot, sanded & painted them to fit in the overhang area of the hall. He also bought string lights from Michael's and wrapped around the poles. John's mother created the bunting and affixed them to the poles as well.



Completion Time: Approx. 1 month

Marquee LOVE Letters

I also really wanted a marquee LOVE sign but everywhere we looked, the prices were insane so John made me one! He bought boards from Home Depot & together with him mom & best man they cut out the letters and holes. It was my idea to get a set of Christmas lights and just punch them through the holes instead of trying to have individual lights/sockets for each light. The sign turned out great though it was 150 pounds!



Completion Time: Approx. 1 month

Photo Display

I put together the photo rack by getting photos from our families and making copies or printing them at Walmart. I tried to include all the guests that I knew in the photographs then just used double sided table to affix them to twine that was attached vertically to a clothing rack and affixed using hot glue. When we were done the photos pretty easily came apart from one another and we ust used regular tape to tape over the double sided tape to keep them from ruining other photos.



Completion Time: Approx. 2 weeks


John's grandfather designed the cake topper for us and carved & painted himself as a gift!

The Bride, Groom & Capps bendy straws were a gift from the maid of honor.

We purchased the little chalkboards from Amazon ($9) and wrote reserved on them with chalkbaord paint also from Amazon.

MaryEllen at Lighthouse Lazer was nice enough to gift us engraved champagne glasses. She has been a client of mine in the past. This is the first non-paper item that has my name new name on it!

Total Costs: Approx. $400

Full Schedule including Day Of:

10AM - 2PM:

My girls and I watched movies (Grind & Frozen) while we got our hair, makeup done & they got dressed. The guys helped the wedding planner & caterer set up the venue.

2PM - 3PM:

John's mother came by our house where the girls were getting ready & took some photos around 2 (3 hours before the ceremony). Our photographer came by around 3 (2 hours before the ceremony), took photos of final touches & took over items to the venue that could be photographed such as my bouquet, the guest book, and the stationary.

Rain Plan:

It rained for the entirety of our wedding day, so thankfully we had a backup I could live with. We made the call around noon, day of. Regardless of the weather I knew I wanted an aisle not just people seated at our table so we were able to remove a few tables from the initial set up and replace them with a few rows to have an aisle for me to walk down.

The cotton candy & popcorn machines plus the large games were originally marked to be outside but with the rain we moved them into a small roped off room together.

The rain let up enough for us to do photos outside but our photographer also brought umbrellas.

We moved all the signs except parking indoors.

4PM - 5PM:

The girls & I arrived at the venue around 4 (1 hour before the ceremony) and that is where I put on my dress & jewelry.

Procession (started around 5:15):

  • Officiant already standing
  • My dad's eldest brother & eldest sister in place of my paternal grandparents
  • My mom's eldest sister & aunt's mother in place of my maternal grandparents
  • John's father & maternal grandmother
  • John's maternal grandfather & step-grandmother
  • My mother & brother
  • John, his mom & brother
  • The groomsmen individually (best man last)
  • The bridesmaids individually (best woman last)
  • 1st flower girl & ring bearer (accompanied by mom)
  • 2nd flower girl (accompanied by mom)
  • Me & my dad!

Wedding Photos & Cocktail Hour (6PM - 7PM):

Our photographers were incredible and provided the clear umbrellas for the rain, and was able to round up and disburse family members. We gave her a very small list of people we wanted in photos and allowed for 2 big family photo, as well. Our wedding planner & caterer did a good job of keeping other people out of the hall so they could flip the room and limit the amount of photos we took.

After we were done the photos, John and I went for a walk in the city in the rain to get some shots near the LOVE sign (and for so much attention on the street!)

Wedding Party & Parent Introductions & Couple's First Dance (About 7PM):

The parents were introduced each couple, followed by the groomsmen announced together, the bridesmaids announced together then the bride & groom. See the DJ sheet.

Pro Tip: Give your DJ/MC your pronouncement of everyone's name.

Grace, Salad Course, Speechs & Outfit Change (About 7:30):

Once we did our first dance ("A Whole New World"), my aunt did grace & the first course was served. John & I changed into our Nigerian outfits & ate our salad & the apps served during cocktail hour while we got dressed.

When we returned the entrees were served & toasts were given from the best man, the best woman, my father & my uncle.

Grace, Salad Course, Speechs, Outfit Change & Other Important Dances:

After speeches, we did the father/daughter (my dad & I sung "Stand By Me" to each other & transitioned to a song called "Nkem" which is my middle name), then mother/son (which was "The Time Warp") which opened up the dance floor for everyone else.

Line Dances & Cake Cutting (About 9PM):

After a few dances, we went ahead & cut the cake just to get it out of the way. This started dessert & dancing for the rest of the night. There was no bouquet toss or garter toss (because... ew).

Final Photos, Pop Punk Power Hour & Grand Exit (10PM - 11PM):

In the evening after our outfit change, we went over the the Washington Monument to snag a few more night time shots with the final cotton candy of the night!

I made a request early on to the DJ that the final 45 minutes of the night would consist of pop punk songs and he delivered right up to Brand New's "Soco Ameretto Lime" which signified the Grand Exit.

(Directly after the grand exit)

Cleanup & After:

Everyone (except the bride & groom) pitched in to get everything put into the Budget truck and emptied it into our garage. In the morning we returned the truck. We dropped off trash at the city dump & scrap wood at Second Chance in Baltimore. We're listing the rest of the items on Craigslist, eBay & Wedding Groups.

We provided guests with a link to upload their photos using Google Photos after the wedding & I intend to send a final email via MailChimp with links to videos/photos & about missing/found items.

For Large Tips: Photographer, Videographer, DJ, Wedding Planner & Caterer, we opted to mail tips with a thank you note & write reviews instead of giving that night.

Other events:

  • Thursday from 4PM - 9PM, was the rehearsal ceremony & dinner... I encourage you to make dinner as casual as possible, since many people haven't seen each other for some time and will want to socialize.
  • Friday from 3:30 - 9PM, we had a welcome reception & then went to the aqaurium... he had people pay their own way to both. Tip: Have people designated to arrive to place early/on time so you don't feel rushed to get everyone on time. Also, if you're doing a welcome event figure out in advance how people will pay.
  • Sunday from 8:30 - 4:30 was Breakfast & Six Flags. Tip: Don't be impatient. Wait a bit so you don't have to have a 100 person minimum instead of 75...

Final Costs:

Our final guest list was 173 people. Though we had a few people cancel after we submitted our final list to catering.

I kept all of our figures in our budget so you can follow along but in the end including the wedding, the rehearsal dinner, the upfront costs for the honeymoon & Six Flags we spent right around $55,000 (not including the engagement ring).

Between gifts from guests and contributions from parents & family, we recieved about $25,000 to cover costs. The additional $30,000 we paid for out of pocket in cash (or with a credit card & then paid off with cash without accruing interest).

Vendor Lists, Other Help & Advice:

THE Podcast to Listen To:
The Bridechilla Podcast was a life saver to hear sane people talk about weddings! I love Aleisha so much! She uses the term virtual bridesmaid a lot & it's absolutely true.

I checked these blogs regularly because I could relate to them and they didn't make me feel insecure, stupid & poor.

Detailed Checklists:
When I wasn't sure if I was doing anything right, these are what I took a look at to make sure I didn't wait to long to order something.

How to Build Wedding Timeline:
United with Love's How to Build a Wedding Timeline

Other Resources & Tools We Used:

Tools, Softwares, Stores We Used:


And finally, a bit of my own two cents...

  • Honestly, consider eloping and then having a party where you don't pay for a 4 course meal for almost 200 people.
  • Figure out your guest list BEFORE you plan anything else.
  • If you find yourself continually weeping from a wedding planning related activity. STOP DOING IT. Ask your partner, ask a friend, hire a professional, etc.
  • It took us 14 months to plan the wedding & things change a lot in that time. For instance, two groomsmen had babies, one bridesmaid got pregnant, our account manager at the caterer left & we changed event coordinators twice at the venue. Remember that other people's lives go on. Be flexible.
  • On a related note, it's important to feel a good vibe from a vendor you're working with but that person may not be there. When we met with the MDHS coordinator, she had been there for over 10 years so I thought, oh she's not going anywhere. She did. A similar thing happened with our catering manager. A large part of our decision was made for both large components of our wedding based on us liking the person we were working with. Make sure you like your decision regardless of the staff.
  • Once you figure out your budget, add 20% as a buffer. That will allow you to add in things at the end and not be shocked, for instance; we decided on dance lessons at the last minute.
  • Not everything needs to be high quality, it only needs to last for 6 hours...
  • For every aspect of the wedding (dress, venue, catering), figure out your top priorities & talk with your soon to be spouse often. (For example, does catering need to be organic, do you want to only buy local flowers, etc.)
  • People are way more willing to help than you think they'd be, so ask for help. My now mother-in-law stayed with us for a month before the wedding & helped out so much!
  • That being said, if you ask friends or family to do important tasks, you have to be prepared for the quirks you already know about those friends or family, don't expect or demand them to change their behavior because it's your wedding (even if you're paying).
  • Plan extra events if you have the bandwidth for it, otherwise if you have a big wedding you won't get to talk to everyone.
  • You can do whatever you want at your wedding. I barely left the dance floor so if you wanted to see me you had to come to me (thankfully, my husband visited tables which is why I married him). I also didn't feel the need to be introduced to people I didn't know at my own wedding.
  • You don't have to plan everything for everyone but if you really want someone to do it you need to explicitedly let them know, otherwise; people will look to the bride & groom as an example, i.e. if you want everyone to head to an event before you guys get there you have to tell them otherwise; they may wait for your cue.
  • Anything that needs to be worn by the bride, day of, should stay with the dress (since you won't forget or missplace that).
  • Read! Read! Read! your contracts. All of them. And ask even obvious questions even to friends.
  • Spreadsheets! So many spreadsheets! Also, Google Keep is a lifesaver for shared to do lists.