When The Wedding Planner Gets Married: Our $12,000 Wedding
Getting Married On A Budget & No One Will Notice The Difference :)
The Doctors House
Our Love Story & How This All Came To Be
As many of my clients know, a few years back I went through a divorce. God had another plan for me and it brought me (through online means and some "swiping"...LOL) to my new husband, Adam.
FYI I have no shame in admitting I took to online dating when I became a single mom. I would say that 90% of the couples I marry today, met online!!! #ThanksTinder Best decision ever!
Now Adam had NEVER been married before. I had. Because I had your traditional Italian lavish wedding way back when; having another wedding for me wasn't a big deal. Been there done that was my school of thought! We even discussed it on our first date...LOL. That and that we were both done having kids :) Way to cover the bases on a first date, eh?!
In time, I could tell that because Adam had never been married before I could see that it was something he really wanted. He started dropping the "commitment celebration" bomb on me after our first year of dating. It went a little something like this.....
Adam - "I know you said you didn't want to get married again, but what about a commitment celebration?"
Connie - "what do you mean by a Commitment Celebration"
Adam - "well... you know.... like we can wear some commitment rings, and do some commitment vows and maybe have a commitment celebration dinner with our family"
Connie - "Adam... you're describing a small wedding! are you telling me you want to get married and have a small wedding?"
Adam - "well.... maybe??? Yes???? Are you ok with that?"
That May 26, 2018 on our 1 year anniversary.... we got engaged :) Adam did good with a proposal at the top of the Skylon Tower on our anniversary weekend away to Niagara Falls.
So there the process began! Adam wanted a "small wedding" and if I was going to have a wedding it had to be nice but reasonable. I am a wedding planner after all :) Seeing as we have 4 kids between us and way bigger financial priorities, I didn't wanna go broke on this event as we would be paying for it all ourselves. Staying true to this financial goal as well as trying to make it a nice wedding for Adam who had never had a wedding, this is what we came up with!
Adam proposed to me with a beautiful blush pink and rose gold engagement ring. When we started our very early discussions about wedding themes, I asked my soon to be daughter in law, Izzy, what colours she thought we should use for the wedding. She immediately said I should do blush and rose gold to match my ring. She's 12 years old so it was important to me to include her in the wedding planning and also to have her pick things that she liked and would actually wear at this unique age :) So blush it was! It wasn't going to be my first colour choice only cause everyone was already doing it but... so be it! If you can't beat 'em, JOIN THEM! But i'll try and do it a little different !
Being a country girl, I'm a fan of anything rustic. I knew incorporating nature, flowers, leaves, wood, etc, in my special day was going to be important.
We have 4 children so I know knew I wanted the tone to be very family friendly and really focused around the uniting of our two families. The venue / seating was going to be important because we knew we were going to keep it small. I wanted everyone seated together like a large family dinner : )
Adam and I are in our 30s & 40s (yes... there's an age difference :). I asked Adam early on what type of dress he saw me in. Whether it was your traditional white ballgown and very bridal look or something else. I think its important to ask your groom what he envisions you wearing. He told me he envisioned me in something "classy but sexy" but he totally left it up to me. Interesting because that's how I always try to portray myself as well :) I kept that in mind when I went dress shopping. Mature & upscale is what I was going for.
The Venue :
The Doctors House
All You Need To Know About Privately Booking A Restaurant For Your Wedding
Adam and I are HUGE foodies! Having worked in the wedding industry for many years and knowing of The Doctor's House; I had taken Adam on a date night to the XXI Chophouse during our dating days and he LOVED IT. I remember thinking, "wow this place would be nice for a private event". It is your perfect balance of rustic and modern. The menu and wine list you cannot beat! As a wedding planner, I eat your typical banquet hall style food like every weekend. I was looking for something different and more "high end". XXI Chophouse had the perfect menu of gourmet dishes, perfectly presented and paired with exclusive wines. I couldn't resist ! It came at a whopping price tag though :( The min buy-out for the restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night was over $20,000! That brings us to our next planning item.....
So with the steep min spend on a Friday or Saturday we knew we had a little more flexibility on a Sunday. Coincidentally enough; our Anniversary of May 26th fell on a Sunday that year so it made the decision easy! We would get married that year and do a Sunday late afternoon / evening wedding. It meant getting married sooner then we had thought, but heck! Who cares? Since we weren't planning to do a lot of the traditional stuff, an early night was fine by us as we knew guests would have to work the next day. The min spend on a Sunday was was a lot more do-able. The min price per person at XXI for a Sunday was $160/pp plus tax, 18% gratuities and drinks.
Knowing we had to spend a min of $10,000 and our guest list was only around 38 people ( the restaurant can only fit 40 people on the 1 side we wanted to use!); that meant we could go nuts on a high end menu and wine list :) Adam and I had a field day! We went to XXI Chophouse a few times for date nights prior to the wedding to make our decision and fine tooth comb what we wanted our wedding menu to be. The final menu was follows:
Wine Service & Antipasto bar featuring gourmet salumi, cured meats and cheeses
Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, fresh picked basil & extra virgin olive oil.
Wild mushroom risotto with pine nuts, English peas and shaved parmesan.
Choice of 10onz dry aged USDA RIBEYE OR STRIPLOIN WITH SEASONAL VEGETABLES, MASHED POTATOES
& AU JUS.
SELF-SERVE TOWER OF ITALIAN CANNOLI, PORTUGESE CUSTARD TARTS & FRESH SEASONAL FRUIT.
This menu ended up costing us around $180.00 per person BEFORE ALCOHOL
Since this ended up being a Sunday afternoon wedding we didn't have to go nuts with an open bar. Our families are not huge drinkers, but we are Italian :) So wine was a must. We had a small handful of friends who were more "beer and mixed drink people". We opted for a wine service to the table and open bar based on consumption. Our final bar bill was around $2000. We had the optics of an open bar without the price tag and everyone was well quenched! We also had unlimited non alcoholic drinks, coffee, tea, still and sparking bottled water in our contract.
Total Food & Beverage Cost (for 38 people) = approx. $9000
The "Save The Dates"
Getting annual family photos is something I do anyhow so the year of our wedding we just made them our "save the dates". I hired a local friend and amazing photographer, Rachael Annie Bell Photography to meet us at our local forrest - Scanlon Creek and we got er done! I whipped up the attached card on Canva design software and I printed them at Staples.
Family Photo Shoot, Printing & Postage = approx. $350
I enjoy getting a little crafty and i'm fairy handy with a computer. I already pay for an unlimited printing subscription via HP Instant Ink so printing and making my own invitations was a no brainer. This saved me a lot of money as making a small batch of invites would have been costly and a lot of places wont even do it. I only needed about 20 invites. So I headed over to my local Michael's craft store and bought my own invitation kit with a 50% Michale's coupon. Didn't they turn out nice???
Invitation Kit & Postage = approx. $50
As mentioned previously; rustic, modern, blush, earthy, boho, mature, upscale was the look I was going for. Given the fact that this was a restaurant wedding, I didn't have a huge amount of space to work with and decorate. On the same token, the space was naturally earthy and trendy in standard restaurant decor so I wanted to work with that.
Trying to create a special ceremony spot inside a restaurant was one of my main priorities. The restaurant had a natural cut out area near the fireplace sort of away from where I was planning to seat my guests so it made the ceremony site selection easy. I set up the site with a natural wood arbor, decorated it in vines and flowers. I brought in some wood crates and lanterns that I already had. The venue provided a small signing table to which I decorated with lace and some table top decor. We also used that table to do our family candle lighting ceremony and display Adam's dad's memorial sign.
Guests watched our wedding ceremony from their seats. Luckily everyone had a good spot!
The ceremony site stayed in tact as an open space / photo location for the entire event.
Arbour Rental, LOVE Marquee,Set Up & Decor = approx. $500
I'm adding in these details only because they are very special to me ;) As an officiant myself, i'm a firm believer that we need to remember that this isn't just about a wedding but also about the sacrament of marriage. For this season it was very important to me that we treated the ceremony seriously and had some religious elements to it. I carried some guilt with me going into my wedding that, since I had already been married once before on the Catholic church, that Adam and I could not get married again Catholic.
I hired a local friend and Officiant, David Blow to officiate our special day. He was amazing to work with as he was my mentor when I became an officiant myself and really got to know our family. David is very involved in his faith and Church and we always really connected on a spiritual level. He worked with us to come up with the perfect balance of a religious ceremony, without being in a church.
Adam and I opted to write our own vows which, to this day, I think we have some the nicest vows I've ever heard :) Maybe i'm biased.
We involved the children in the ceremony by doing a family unity candle as well as vows to our children.
We included a memorial component to our wedding as Adams father passed away in December, just prior to our wedding. We displayed his picture and a memorial candle during the wedding and we lit our individual taper candles to do our family unity candle out of his memorial candle. It was very special.
To finish off the ceremony, we had the kids come out with bubble guns!
Wedding Officiating - $350
The Table Scape
I wanted the floorplan and table seating to resemble a large family dinner. With that in mind, I created a large kings table in the main centre body of the room. At this table we sat with our children, parents, grandparents and best friends. The other smaller tables around the restaurant I broke up into friends and other extended family members who attended.
I lined the centre of every table with a mix of greens and some loose blush and white flowers; including wax flower, blush spray roses and blush carnations.
I scoured thrift stores and found various candelabras which i spray painted rose gold.
The venue did not allow for open flame so I used all LED candles.
The tables at XXI Chophouse were a nice wood already. I didn't want to cover them. Their standard serving ware, etc. were also really nice so I just incorporated them into my decor which saved me TONS!
I couldn't believe the cost of flowers! I'm so happy to that reached out to my local community and heard about Mid Valley Florals right in the Holland Marsh! They grow the flowers right there at their greenhouse as well as do flower arranging. Using their service saved me tons of money! My wedding flowers were fairly limited. I just got:
- my bridal bouquet
- isabel's jr bridesmaid bouquet (a smaller version of mine)
- loose flowers for the guest tables including wax flower, spray roses and blush pink carnations
For my table runner greens I ordered Costco Online greenery rolls. They come either pre cut in 20" lengths OR you can get a 60' roll. I opted for the 60' roll so I could custom cut the lengths for my arbour and guest tables as I saw fit.
All Wedding Flowers = approx. $400
Keeping Adam's request of "classy but sexy in mind"; and being open to colours and things that were non-traditional helped me in my search. I was fortunate enough to come across this dress right off the rack at just a regular mall store during prom season. I was VERY hesitant on it because of the fact that it was off the rack and only $200!! I was also not sure about whether to go with WHITE or BLUSH. I was insecure about the fact that is was 2 piece and showed a little of my tummy. But I LOVED the fact that it was high neck, lace and totally different from what I've ever worn before or seen other brides wear.
I couldn't make the decision on my own so I opted to invite Adam to the store to see me in the dress and help me decide. He helped me choose the blush colour and I think he did great :)
With a heavy heart, I sold my wedding dress after the wedding to another mature lady who was planning to have a destination wedding for $150 so I got almost all my money back! Plus I've lost a lot of weight since my wedding and I wouldn't fit into it any more anyhow and realistically when would I ever wear it again???
Once again, I let Isabel my step daughter choose what she wanted to wear. Shes not a "girly girl" so her wearing a dress that she was comfortable in was a big deal. Shopping with her is a nightmare lol. We were lucky that, once again, we found this simple white lace dress off the rack that she liked. She wanted her shoulders covered so we added a navy cardigan to the ensemble to match the boys.
My Dress = approx. $200
Adam was in charge of the boys. I told him I didn't care what he wore or the our other 3 boys. Adam chose to go with suite rentals because finding 4 tuxedos for 4 different ages and body types plus matching shoes was going to be impossible. Our boys' bodies range from tall and skinny to husky so finding things that matched off the rack was near impossible. Shout out to Freeman Formal ware in Woodbridge for these amazing, high-fashion matching tuxedos for my men :) They all looked so cute. They did a great job at getting everyone fitted for their body type in the same look. It came with a hefty price tag though at over $240 per person for the rentals. That was a tough pill to swallow (the boys rentals were more than my dress!); but for Adam it was all about the ease. He just forked out the cash. didn't they look adorable :)
Tux Rentals = approx. $250/pp
Hair & Makeup
One thing that was a little challenging with a Sunday wedding and a small bridal party was finding people who would do hair and makeup. Since it was just my step daughter and myself, it took some research but I was lucky that a local salon was willing to work with me. It was 1 make up artist and 1 hair stylist that came in and did my daughter and I. We took turns. I was VERY happy with how it all turned out!
I opted to use some clip-in hair extensions which my regular hair dresser coloured for me in advance. Under the advice of the hair stylist, instead of opting for a pre-made floral crown for my boho look, I instead just purchased a gold hair clip and she added her own florals once my hair style was done. I was happy for this suggestion as I've seen some really massive floral crowns and bride's who weren't happy with them.
For Isabels hair, we opted to purchase our own hair hand / crown and the hair stylist added a little bit of flowers to her hair style.
Hair & Makeup for 2 people = approx. $350
We opted against the traditional wedding cake. With our food package with XXI Chophouse came a dessert so we instead upgraded that and requested Italian Cannoli and Portuguese Nata (Custard Tarts) to match our two cultures :) They added some fruit platters to the tables to finish that off with a coffee & tea service to the table. Since we met online, I ordered a fun custom cake topper off Etsy.
Cake Topper = approx. $20
Since this was a small Sunday wedding, opted against your traditional big dance party but added in some other fun elements.
My step dad is a musician and I asked if he would play some live music at our wedding. He was generous enough to learn how to play some special songs that I wanted, including "I wanna grow old with you" from The Wedding Singer movie and "Falling In Love With You" by Elvis Presley.
In addition, we still opted to have a DJ at our wedding for regular background dinner music and some fun dance music. Our DJ also acted as an MC so was able to queue in our speeches, dances and special announcements. A special THANK YOU to GianLuca / DJ Alchamixx for being such a great sport and part of my crazy Italian family for the day! He fit right in!
Basic DJ / MC Service for a few hours = approx. $350
Surprise Carnival Dancer
I wanted to do something special for my groom on our wedding day. This is sort of an inside joke between us but when I met Adam he told me he was Portuguese. Turns out, he's actually more Trinidadian then he is Portuguese :) Both his parents and grand parents were born and raised in Trinidad. So, as a joke and an omage to his culture, I hired Carnival Spice's Shakira to perform a traditional Caribbean Carnival Dance at the wedding. This was A BLAST and THE BEST feature of the wedding. It was a complete surprise and it worked out perfectly. Although we didn't have any dancing at our wedding, this little half hour performance got people up at their tables and having fun. She even had my grandmother and mother in law gyrating :)
30 min performance = approx. $350
the party favours
We all know that party favours are a little waste of money :) With that in mind, I didn't feel the need to go crazy with them and I used the opportunity to personalize our wedding more and add to my table decor. Since Adam was a child, his mom always slipped mints into his lunch box. We decided these little Tic Tac boxes were the perfect little touch and thank you to our guests. You can get them in big boxes at Costco or even the Dollar Store. My best friend helped me with the labels!
Party Favours = approx. $30
Photography / Videography
You can really spend a lot on photo and video for your special day. I remember with my first wedding I spent over $10,000 on these services alone and I said NEVER AGAIN. Although I value the artistry, time and effort that goes into photo and video, I prefer photographers who will work on an hourly basis and provide all images digitally so that I can print on my own. Actually, at this point its been almost a year and I have still not printed any wedding photos :) I prefer online galleries. So im glad I saved the money and got digital files only.
Who ever watches their wedding video??? Not me! Once again we opted for a short recap wedding video. The 2-5min except is all I needed! You can watch it here!
A special THANK YOU to Maple Clover photo video for working with us on BOTH SERVICES and a limited budget!
4 Hours of Photo/ Video Services = approx. $2500
When Adam and I first started discussing the budget for our wedding, we were both on the same page about the fact that we wanted to have a WICKED honeymoon! With 4 kids we really appreciate the alone time :) So with that in mind, we opted to half our wedding budget and spend the other half on the honeymoon of a lifetime! We are SOOOO GLAD we did that!
A Royal Caribbean Greek Islands Cruise is what we did. Round trip out of Rome, Italy we visited all the Greek Islands including: Athens, Rhodes, Mykanos and Santorini. We spent some time before and after in Italy and it was the perfect adult getaway.
Later we took the kids on a family cruise and honeymoon which was also a lot of fun!
Best Honeymoon Ever! = approx. $10,000
So my friends, you see you don't have to go broke getting married :) Adam and I had what I think is a beautiful and high end wedding without breaking the bank. Of course this involved a lot of savings in planning & knowledge on my part as a professional wedding planner, however i'm happy to share the knowledge on how I did it with all of you. Even though I do this for a living, I will say that I STILL hired a day of coordinator and associate to assist me with my day of onsite set up and contact. It was THE BEST decision!
A special THANK YOU to all the vendors who helped make our wedding so special.....
If this blog post inspired you to use any of these vendors, please mention my name :)
- Event Planning & Management - Perfectly Planned Parties by Connie Butera
- Photo / Video - Maple Clover David Stokes
- DJ - GianLuca DJ Alchemixx
- Wedding Arbor & LOVE Marquee Sign - Richa @ Wedding Peony
- Venue - XXI Chophouse @ The Doctors House
- Flowers - Mid Valley Garden @ Teresa
- Carnival Dancer - Carnival Spice @ Shakira