How to Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding for $10,000: Part 2

This is the second part of my recounting of our wedding week in a 10-bedroom cabin holding 22 people, with a total of 45 guests on the Big Day, and how we kept the total costs to $10,000.

Go back and read Part 1 for the deets on The Dress, how we found the right place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and why we decided to do it our way rather than the standard Wedding Industrial Complex  “Big White Wedding”.

 

Food & Booze (& Cake)

My parents stepped in again and were total heroes here.

My mom bought all the food, cooked it, and served it. I know, she should be sainted someday. My aunt and other family members also chipped in and made this dream a reality!

To be fair, I did offer to find and order catering. Honestly, we were price shopping Chipotle at this point. But my mom LOVES cooking, especially for a crowd, and insisted she wanted to. I think she may have regretted that in the end…

For drinks, we had only wine and beer, local moonshine (because let’s be real, we were in the Tennessee mountains!), and anything else the guests wanted to bring to share.

This kept the costs for wining and dining 45 people pretty low, which totaled about $1000.

Before you’re all “whoa I can feed 45 people for way less than that!” keep in mind this total includes the breakfasts, lunches, drinks, and snacks for the 22 of us who stayed in the main cabin for all 5 days leading up the wedding as well.

wedding burrito buffet
We had a burrito buffet! Beef, chicken, and 2 types of beans plus cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

For the wedding dinner, we had a burrito bar!

Yes we are very cool, I’d be happy to be your friend 🙂 Burritos are their own food group to the boy, he could pretty much live off them forever. I also love me a good burrito, so I was totally in.

Mom and a few others cooked for hours in the days leading up to the wedding, to make huge batches of grilled steak and chicken, black beans and pinto beans, and grilled peppers and onions.

We had chips and tortillas, cheese, salsas, and lettuce, and let everyone build their own. It was awesome!

About the cake…

Neither of us are super crazy about cake, or really sweets in general.

Lots of family members thought we were totally nuts, but be honest folks, how many weddings have you been to where more than half the cake is still left at the end of the night and you’re begged to take a few pieces home?

Plus the thought of eating a frozen cake a year from now was not at all appetizing to us.

So we opted for cupcakes, in our colors, and found these amazing cake toppers on Etsy. This might be my favorite little detail of the whole day!

However, on the day of, I had a lovely surprise in store for me.

A family friend from way back, who is so well known in my home town it’s unreal, had baked us 2 cakes special, and my mom had driven them down from Ohio to make it a part of our day.

It was very sweet and very special.

She also had found the cake topper my grandmother and grandfather had used at their wedding in my grandmother’s basement, and had it retouched to use for our cake.

My family is pretty much the best.

grandparents wedding cake topper

Flowers / Decorations

Here again my mom was a total superhero.

She decorated basically the whole cabin herself. We had colored tulle swags on the banisters outside and all down the stairs, fabric flowers and bows draped all around the cabin, and a light-up decorated white metal arch they had bought online.

I’m not including the arch or flowers in the total, because they have used it several times since for other events back home. And because if they hadn’t bought it, I wouldn’t have used it!

It was a really nice addition to the day though, and made the photos much cuter. If you factor in the decorations, that adds only another $200 or so to the total.

I love flowers, but hate spending money on flowers that will die within days. Originally I was adamantly against flowers at all, I wanted to get a fake bouquet for me and that’s it.

But in the end, I did end up caving and buying flowers for me and my girls, along with matching boutonnieres for the guys and wrist corsages for the moms.

I searched online for all the flower shops in the area, and created a spreadsheet. The first thing I did was contact each place, and made sure to NOT mention the word “wedding”!

That instantly doubles or triples your quotes, honest.

I simply requested “five bouquets in purples and blues with silver accents”, and waited to see what they suggested. I also requested ranges for other possible add-ons, like centerpieces or corsages.

Once I had all the quotes in writing, I checked out their website and portfolio and reviews, if they had any. Then I got back to my top two to ask if that was their best offer.

The one with free delivery had the best quote as well, so that is who we went with.

They showed up to deliver the flowers on the morning of the wedding, which was awesome because we certainly didn’t have room in the refrigerator to store them overnight!

The total for 1 bridal bouquet, 4 smaller bouquets, 5 boutonnieres , and 2 corsages came to $268.89.

I think they did a fantastic job with the colors and flower types for the money spent. I really love hydrangeas, and the blue ones were absolutely beautiful.

We ended up putting the bouquets into glass vases immediately following the ceremony to use as the centerpieces on the tables during dinner too.

Music

We are blessed to have a very talented pianist in the family, his grandmother is a professional level player. She very kindly offered to play the ceremony music for us. My sister in law brought her digital keyboard, and we set it up just inside the door on the porch we used for the ceremony.

She played a beautiful classical mix as the parents and wedding party processed in.

The song for when I walked in was not Pachelbel’s Cannon in D, or “Here Comes the Bride”. It was a song we chose together that has special meaning to us, and still makes me tear up a little bit when I hear it to this day.

Then because we were having the ceremony and reception in the same place, and that place was a cabin in the mountains with limited space, we knew we would not have a dance floor and did not want or need a band, live or otherwise.

Good news for the boy, as he is very adamantly against dancing, especially in front of people.

Did I want a father-daughter dance where I was trying not to step on my dad’s toes, and towering over him in heels?

(Let’s be real, those were off the second I said “I do” and bedazzled flip flops took their place).

Did I want to torture my 6-foot-6 hubby with paralyzing anxiety about being the center of attention?

Nope.

And so during the post-ceremony-reception, we had someone’s phone playing the radio softly, but it didn’t matter because it’s not like anyone could hear it! We had 45 people packed throughout a four-story cabin and out on the decks, everyone was talking and laughing and playing games, so music was not a priority.

This was a personal choice for us, because no one in either of our families is big on dancing. We did have tons of games scattered throughout the cabin, from Jenga to cards to cornhole to pool to board games.

And so our cost for music was $0, and no one was forced to dance awkwardly in front of all our friends and family! Though as the night wore on and the drinks stacked up, there was some dancing going on here and there…

Photos/Video

So it is probably no surprise by now, but we skipped the formal ‘engagement photos’. We just dressed up while on vacation and took some sort of posed shots. A family friend had a really nice camera, so we took some serious and some goofy pics and used those in our Save the Dates.

For the wedding, I searched online for days. I compared prices and websites, and used a couple bidding sites as well to get quotes. The person we eventually used actually came through my mom, who was also looking online for deals for us.

She bid $400 for 4 hours; before, during and after the ceremony.

We had a phone meeting to ‘get to know each other’, and I had a good feeling about it. She didn’t even require a pre-payment or down payment. We discussed how the ceremony was going down, our plans afterwards, and what type of “feel” I was going for with our photos.

We talked over email a few times, and I sent her a list of the shots that I really wanted. She also had a few great suggestions.

On the day of, she got shots of me getting dressed and primping, all throughout the ceremony, and then afterwards she did formal posed family shots, as well as casual shots for a few hours afterwards. She got all the artsy shots of the shoes, rings, flowers, etc.

artsy shot of bride wedding bouquetartsy shot of bride wedding bouquet

She also got a free dinnner for her and her daughter from the deal!

It did take about 3 months to get the final batch of edited photos back, but overall I was quite pleased with how they turned out.

We also had people all around us taking photos, which they shared with us via a free app & website, and had 2 more receptions “back home” in OH & TX months later (which our parents paid for, respectively) for those who couldn’t make the actual wedding.

For video, hubs is super into Virtual Reality, and we had a Ricoh Theta set up on a stand to record the whole thing.

Once it is all set up, all you do is press the “go” button, and it records everything as it happens, in 360 degrees.

That way, family members and friends who couldn’t be there could watch the video and feel as if they were actually present. And we have it to enjoy over and over again forever!

We probably saved thousands by doing this ourselves instead of hiring someone.

Favors / Transportation

We did not do general wedding favors, but we did get gifts for those in the wedding party and our parents.

The groomsmen all got matching blue or purple shimmery ties, purchased online weeks in advance. The girls got a nice Bath & Body Works gift set with the fragrance “A Perfect Day”. These were purchased months in advance while a huge sale was going on, to the tune of about $12 for 4 girls.

For the moms we got engraved silver cuff bracelets which said “Thank you for raising the man/woman of my dreams” with the date, and to the dads we gifted engraved “Father of the Bride/Groom” glass beer steins!

We chose not to do official favors, but we did have a bucket of bubbles which everyone used at the end to do a “we are officially married” tunnel for us to walk through.

Also, once the honeymoon was done and we settled into married life a bit, I made necklaces for my girls as a thank you. I saved some petals from each bouquet, pressed and dried them, and put them into a bevel and cast them in resin. Then I wrote a personal note and mailed one to each lady.

dried flowers and empty bevel to make a necklace

The ceremony & reception were in the same place, so no one had to worry about driving between two locations. They just had to get to the cabin and hang out for a few hours! This saved everyone the cost of a cab, Uber, etc. and the headache of logistics. It also meant that there were no double-charges for space rental.

The entire wedding party and the parents of the bride & groom were all staying in the same place together, so no one there had to worry about housing/hotels either.

A few people had driven in from neighboring states, while a few others who rented vehicles at the airport and were kind enough to ferry those without cars to and from their flights.

The Numbers

Okay, if you’re still with me by now, you probably really want me to get to the good part!

For those of you who are hard-core financial voyeurs, here is the total breakdown of all the wedding related expenses.

This does not take into account the flights and honeymoon, and thank goodness because that was a gift to us and probably was at least as much if not more than the actual wedding!

Flights $560.00
Location $7,338.56
Officiant $0.00
Rings/license $63.75
Music $0.00
Flowers $268.89
Food & Drink $955.50
Housing $0.00
Transportation $0.00
Paper $123.00
Apparel $135.45
Beautifying $39.00
Photo/Video $400.00
Favors/Gifts $120.00
TOTAL $10,004.15

And there you have it! This is how we hosted a week-long party and got married in the Tennessee mountains for under 10 grand!

If you are sure of your priorities and willing to compromise on everything else, you can absolutely have the wedding of your dreams without mortgaging your future to do so.

Please, for the love of all that is good, DO NOT ever get a Wedding Day Loan! Just wait and save up more. Or ask your folks for help. Or say no to the giant swan ice sculptures.

Let’s hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Did you do something unique at your wedding? Are you planning to do something creative? Just head to the nearest Justice Of the Peace? Did you go whole hog on a big white wedding and black tie reception?