A Chic Wedding that Didn’t Cost a Gazillion

I planned a chic Christmas wedding in four months. It wasn’t a shotgun wedding or anything, it’s just that I was in grad school and we wanted to just do it. Neither one of us have wealthy families, nor did we want to spend tens of thousands on a wedding when we would rather spend that money on our home or vacations or building a life-size replica of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701D. I am floored by the talent and artistry in the Houston event planning industry, but we just couldn’t afford it. I scoured Google and Pinterest for inspiration, and began brainstorming the theme, imagery, layout, flow, and timeline. With a combination of an open multi-purpose venue, catering and bartending graciously manned by friends, DIY paper goods, artificial flowers and backdrop, and an off the rack dress, we were able to keep expenses under $10,000.



So how does someone who has never been in or involved in anyone else’s wedding plan a ceremony and reception with a small budget? I’ve thrown plenty of themed parties before and realized this was just an expensive themed party on a strict timeline. With the wedding so close to Christmas, it was obvious the theme would also be Christmas. I stalked Hobby Lobby’s weekly specials and for once appreciated their insanely early shelf stocking of Christmas decor. When Hobby Lobby put their Christmas supplies and florals on 50% off sale, I swooped in like a hawk. I purchased dozens of artificial poinsettias and winter florals, a multipack of 12×12 scrapbook paper, matching precut/prefolded cards, and mini ornaments.



With the artificial poinsettias and winter florals, I made my Bridal bouquet, and the bouquets for my Maid of Honor and Jerome’s Best Woman. Because I love color contrast, my bouquet had mostly poinsettias with ivory (canna, hydrangea) and pine accents. I wrapped the base of my bouquet in ivory satin ribbon. I also added a personal touch to my bouquet by pinning my 20+ year old Star Trek TNG communicator badge to one of the inside poinsettias. If you squint just right you can see it. For the ladies, who’s dresses were black lace, their bouquets were mostly ivory flowers with poinsettia and pine accents. I wrapped the base of their bouquets in black satin ribbon. If not for Hobby Lobby’s 50% off florals sale, I may not have justified the expense for a poinsettia backdrop. But as it was, I had over 200 poinsettias. I strung them up on fishing line, intermittent with pine and holly accents, champagne corks (of course) and ribbon, and hung them from a black iron curtain rod.



Probably the most versatile craft supply I used for my wedding was scrapbook paper. I purchased a 12×12 book of mixed design Christmas scrapbook paper on sale at Hobby Lobby, and ended up using the paper for wedding programs, minister script, table centerpiece placemats, reception table cards, Martha Stewart inspired drink straw flags, and miscellaneous signs. You’d be surprised just how much you can do with scrapbook paper, card stock paper, double sided sticky tape, and home printing!



My only splurges were an off-the-rack wedding dress from David’s Bridal (which wouldn’t really be considered a splurge at under $300) and the wedding cake designed by me and baked/decorated by PattyCakes Bakery in Galveston (also under $300). I did however paint the cake toppers myself. I found unfinished wooden peg people on Amazon and painted them to match Jerome’s hair, eyes, and tuxedo, and my hair, eyes, pearls, and dress. I also included the Star Trek logo on my belt and on his lapel just for fun. In case you forgot, we are nerds. I glued golf tees to the peg people to help anchor them into the cake.



I also completed some miscellaneous items for the wedding. I put mini ornaments, mini pine cones, and wine corks into mason jar fillers for each reception table. To serve double duty as a guest book and engagement memory book, we made a Shutterfly photo book with our baby photos, photos of us growing up, and photos of us together. This is typically what you would see at a wedding reception slideshow, but we didn’t want to fuss with that equipment. Guests signed well wishes on the photo book pages within, and the book still sits on our coffee table! To compliment the photo book, I wrapped a cheap hotel pen in black satin ribbon and capped it with a red amaryllis. Another cost cutting measure was my dear friend Alycia, who catered the reception, and I added my homemade preserves (recipes here and here) and salsa to the “brunch” layout.



Since we were getting married so close to Christmas and would follow the reception with a week long cruise, we decided to bring some Christmas gifts to the venue. We set up a table near the door with gift bags for family and wedding guests, who all received a jar of blueberry red wine jam as a wedding favor. We also included thank you gifts for those who were in our wedding (Minister, Maid of Honor, Best Woman) or helped in some way (photography, catering, bartending). And finally as a ring pillow alternative, I made a little ring box out of a silver pill box with the plastic removed and satin fabric added for padding. This stayed in Jerome’s pocket until pictures were made at the license signing. All in all, the wedding was well equipped with crafts and home goods. A few months of preparation was well worth expressing my style and personal touch at the wedding. I didn’t mind saving money either!



A short list of wedding crafts:

Bridal bouquet

Maid of Honor bouquet

Best Woman bouquet

Poinsettia backdrop

Photo book guestbook

Amaryllis pen

40 wedding programs

40 bells

40 reception table cards

40 drink straw flags

40 drink stir stick flags

Minister script

Seating sign

Guestbook sign

Bells sign

6 menu signs

6 ornament mason jars

Wedding cake toppers

Ring box

24 jars homemade jam

24 Christmas/thank you cards


Photo credit: Cupcakes and Lollipops Boutique


Next: Wedding Ceremony and Reception