Professional Tips for Hosting a Budget Savvy DIY Wedding

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Photo's Courtesy of Kristen Gardner

Photos Courtesy of Kristen Gardner

I have been writing and re-writing this post inside my head for over a month now because I am beyond excited to finally share my thoughts on how to host a budget friendly do-it-yourself (DIY) event.  DIY weddings are all over the internet these days; many of those tips may be DIY, but they are not necessarily budget-friendly.  DIY doesn’t always equal inexpensive, so it’s important to keep that in mind when you start planning your event.

Over the past 15 years of planning wedding and events, I’ve planned over-the-top full service events, destination weddings and many DIY weddings, but I have never done a DIY wedding like Courtney and Marc’s Farm wedding.

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As a planner, there are some couples that you just connect with, and Courtney and Marc were that couple for me. Courtney and I met a couple years ago; she attends a Bible study I host on Tuesdays. She is a strong, beautiful and caring girl who says it like it is, and that is something I admire. She is also the talented photographer behind the lens during most of my recent family photo sessions. If you have not had a chance to see her work you should visit her blog at Courtney Anderson Photography or check out my son’s first Birthday {here}.

So without further ado, here is Courtney and Marc’s beautifully captured day and my budget savvy tips for planning an unforgettable DIY wedding.

1. Set your budget and define your guest list.  Your budget and the amount of guests you plan on inviting go hand-in-hand: more guests = more money spent. Everything adds up when you take the DIY route…. everything! If you are able to keep your numbers contained, then you have a good chance of sticking to your budget. Courtney and Marc set their guest list to 50 people and they really stuck to it. In the end, they had a total of 54 guests (that number includes some very young children), so they were right on target and budget.

2. Shop the rack.  There are so many deals out there for brides, so why shop expensive boutiques?  Bridal gowns can cost thousands of dollars and couture gowns can cost as much as a car. If you are on a budget, skip the boutiques and head straight to the mall. Nordstrom, J. Crew, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Ann Taylor are just a few retail stores that carry bridal lines.  They also have amazing sales and discount coupons available online.  If you aren’t finding that one-of-a-kind look, skip the bridal line and shop their evening gown section. I have found the most amazing gowns off the rack at Neiman Marcus, including a Ralph Lauren Gown for 80% off. In the end, I paid just $11.00 for it!  Just because you are a bride doesn’t mean you need to shop in the bridal section, and you will be amazed at what you can find.  Courtney found the most amazing dress from BCBG. Not only was it under $300.00, but she received an additional 20% off. If you love Courtney’s look as much as I do, you can find her dress {here}. Courtney also found the most adorable dresses for her three daughters from discount sites like Very Jane, Zulily and H&M.


3. Buy local, seasonal flowers and make your own arrangements.  Courtney was one lucky bride as her mom offered to handle all the flowers. She made all the bouquets, boutonnieres, flower girl crowns, ceremony arrangements, buffet arrangements and centerpieces. She shopped locally, picked blooms from her friends’ gardens and created the most beautiful bouquets and arrangements which included peonies, roses and ranunculus. They saved a ton of money by taking on the flowers themselves and Courtney’s bouquet looked beautiful and professionally designed. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that DIY flowers do add a level of stress–the flowers have to be fresh, so flower shopping and bouquet arranging is a last minute detail, meaning there is only so much that you can do ahead of time. Luckily, Courtney’s mom really was able to capture Courtney’s style and the flowers turned out beautifully.

Look at her flower crown!!

Centerpieces are very expensive when working with florists. Add in vase rentals, candelabras and candles and you are spending $100.00 per table at a minimum. A great way to save money is to minimize your table decor by using a collection of bottles or glassware that you may already own. Courtney and her mom used a collection of vintage mason jars, glass medicine bottles and silver urns for the ceremony, table and buffet arrangements. Simple vases are available via amazon, Wal-Mart and Target. The end result was simple yet perfect for their casual but elegant affair.

Below are a few additional cost saving ideas. If flowers are not your thing or if you simply don’t have room in your budget for blooms, check out these tissue paper arrangements {you can make this via this kit HERE}. I also love the painted soup cans and empty beer bottle vases. What a crafty and inexpensive way to showcase your flowers!

4. Order in BBQ, rent a trendy food truck, and keep the cake small or forget the cake altogether. Weddings have changed over the past few years and guests are no longer expecting traditional banquet hall dinners. In fact, most guests are looking to be wowed by creative DIY weddings and prefer lighter fare over a well-done filet mignon. Traditional banquet halls may be a one-stop shop but they are expensive, running $100.00 per person, excluding tax and 20-22% service. It is really impossible to stick to a budget when you are paying $100++/per person!  A great way to surprise your guests and save a ton of money is to order from your favorite carry out restaurant. Courtney and Marc ordered BBQ from their favorite spot here in Virginia. This particular restaurant does cater to weddings so going that route added additional service and delivery fees. We skipped their wedding menu and simply ordered enough platters for 50 people.  Courtney’s mom asked some very helpful friends pick up the food and deliver it to the farm. Once it arrived, I removed the food from the carry-out tins and placed it in pretty chafing dishes and platters. The food was a huge hit and Courtney and Marc fed their guests an awesome meal for a minimal amount.

Another cost-saving trend is to hiring a food truck. Rather than spend a lot of money on the typical wedding fare that a hotel or banquet hall would offer, you can save a fortune by serving delicious street food. Your guests will be pleasantly surprised and the truck makes for some adorable photo opportunities as well.

Another great way to shave your food budget is to skip the cake altogether or, at a minimum, downsize your tiers. Courtney really wanted to have a cake, but saved some cash by ordering only two tiers. She also ordered in cupcakes, which can be a cheaper option depending on who is making them. I have many brides that ordered in a sheet cake or no cake at all to help keep costs down.

Another budget savvy option is to set up a dessert station with all your family favorites. I come from a long line of great bakers, and I know that if I asked my aunts or my sister to make their favorite dessert, they would be happy to help.  DIY weddings are all about collaboration and most friends and family would be honored to be asked to help in one way or another.  Candy buffets, pie displays, cupcakes, cake pops and s’mores stations are just a few examples of inexpensive solutions to the traditional wedding cake.  I have to share that Courtney and Marc’s cake was by far the best wedding cake/cupcakes I have ever eaten, and I have eaten a lot of cake!  The design, the flavors (raspberry mousse and Godiva chocolate ganache frosting) plus the fillings (homemade key lime curd and fresh raspberry) were out of this world; I can understand why Courtney had her heart set on working with Loretta of CakeLore.

5. Keep the decor simple and homemade.  Time and again I see brides spend a fortune on ceremony flowers. I totally understand that you want everything to look amazing, but you and your guests spend such a small chunk of time at the actual site of the ceremony. Keeping the ceremony decor simple is a smart and savvy way to stretch your budget. Typically, you are unable to move or re-use your ceremony flowers, especially if you are getting married in a church (the arrangements are often donated at the end of the ceremony). Courtney and Marc chose a canopy of trees to be their ceremony back drop. We hung some glass decor balls that her mom owned and tied streamers of ribbon from the branches. Courtney’s mom filled vintage mason jars with vibrant flowers which I later moved to the cocktail reception. We purposefully kept the arrangements small and portable so I could easily move and re-use them during the cocktail hour and dinner dance. We tied a bit of leftover lace (the same lace used on Courtney’s invites and the streamers) to the chairs to help line the aisle. Keeping the decor simple is a huge cost saver and their ceremony was still beautiful.

Instead of ordering in a ton of extra furniture for the cocktail hour ,we used what we had. Courtney and her mom have a collection of quilts and baskets that we staged on a patch of grass.  It offered a place for guests to sit and the giant balloons were especially fun for the kids. I order these 3-foot balloons online and our local Hallmark store blew them up for me for $3/balloon (that is a bargain as helium is at an all time high!).

Transporting them was very difficult, but our dear friend Amanda not only offered to help set-up prior to the wedding, but also volunteered to pick up and deliver the balloons (to understand what a big task this was, it took 3 trips with her van to get 9 balloons to the farm!). We added some lace to each balloon to tie into our theme and it really made this space pop.

Guests enjoyed lounging on the blankets into the night. You can see the ceremony flowers being re-used as well.


Wiffletree Farms offers this adorable carriage house for indoor receptions. It is a very rustic building but it holds a lot of charm. By adding in some globe string lights  and this handmade vintage doily banner, we were able to add the “charm” into “rustic charm”. Keep the props and decor simple in order to keep your budget in line.

6. Barter, trade and cash in favors.  Bartering is an old-fashioned term but the truth is, many people are doing it today. In fact, you will be amazed by how many people are open to the suggestion of trading services. We all have a God-given talent, so use it, share it and trade it!  Courtney and I traded our services. She took beautiful photos of my three boys and I helped her plan and execute her wedding. Courtney is a photographer so her service is pretty valuable to many people, thus making it something she can easily barter – people are always in need of photos, whether it be for business purposes or personal use. As I mentioned earlier, it is also a great time to ask friends and family for help. People really want to feel connected to you and your event during such a special time.  Asking for help may feel like a burden to you but it is an honor to those you are asking. Use their gifts, ask for help and see the magic it brings to your big day.

Above Courtney and Marc are exchanging their vows.  Our pastor and friend, Davey Shollenberger, officiated their nuptials.  Davey’s daughter and friend also attended the event and helped me set up, serve guests and clear tables (they worked so hard- I was totally impressed).  If we hired in a professional catering crew it would have been over $500.00 in service fees alone.  It was a family affair for the Shollenberger family– they were generous with their time and their service was a huge blessing to Courtney and Marc. Below is a vintage diamond brooch that Courtney wore in her hair. She borrowed that from the very talented Janet, of The Empty Nest. Janet was thrilled to offer this piece to Courtney and it really looked amazing in her hair. Just another way to save money – borrow jewels from generous friends that are thrilled to help you out.

Lastly, Courtney’s mom has an amazing collection of china and silver. She has been collecting pieces for years and it sure paid off this past May. Courtney’s tables were decorated with an array of mismatched china and silver. It was eclectic, colorful and made for a really pretty table setting. Using what you already have is a great way to save money. Courtney didn’t have to rent in china or flatware for her event and that is a big money saver.

Courtney and Marc pulled it off with some help from friends, family and their amazingly talented vendors. I have listed all her vendors below but I have to mention one person in particular. I have been dying to work with this person for a long time and Courtney’s wedding finally made that dream a reality. Kristen Gardner, of Kristen Gardner Photography, captured their day and all their DIY details perfectly. She is one-of-a-kind, sweet, and filled with unparalleled talent. Her photos speak for themselves but it was a huge honor for me to get to work with Kristen and a privilege to share her photos below. I want to personally thank Courtney and Marc for allowing me to be a part of such a special day. It was simply lovely. I want to thank all the amazing vendors that I got to work with, most for the first time, you are all rock stars!

Venue |Whiffletree Farm

Event Coordinator | Terry Kaye with Terry Kaye Events

Officiant | Davey Shollenberger

Videographer | Erin Sellers Video Scrapbooks

Cake | Cake Lore

Hair and Makeup | Brittany Stives with PR @ Partners

Music | The Imaginary Blues Band

Flowers | Marcy Anderson (Mother of the bride)

Rentals | Capitol Party Rentals

Dress | BCBG

Shoes & Crown| Vintage

Graphic Design | Amy Fewell

Thanks for stopping by~

terry name graphic



  1. I never realized the abundance of creativity from some incredible people. Spectacular post, wedding, and ideas. Thank you for sharing Terry, you are one of a kind, God has blessed you with many talents.

  2. I’m an event organizer and designer and in my own perspective I really love that DIY can flower vase. It is awesome! I’ll definitely try it out in my next event. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Hi there Amy, surely being a wedding planner for over 15 years should make you feel like a pro and surely you are one. I really love the DIY tips that you have shared here. Just want to ask, How did Courtney and Marc get on top of that tree LOL. Anyways thanks a lot for sharing this.


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