It took me a while to sit down and collect thoughts to write our wedding planning details: not to show off, but we had a low budget and we pulled off a decent wedding. I want to share this experience with the hope that other young couples like us who don’t have a unlimited budget carefully listen to those “once in a life time” sales pitch, and to plan a wedding of their own.
On average, US couples spend $25,656 for their weddings and that does not cover honeymoon. We budgeted half of that amount and we spent what we budgeted.
I’m a big fan of adaptive agile and MVP (minimal viable product), and funny enough, my wedding was a perfect lean agile planning experience.
Define your stakeholders
In other words, who is going to sponsor your wedding. In my case, it was my husband and myself, which means our main job was to make ourselves happy. We got to plan the wedding in our own way, define how many people we invite, who we invite, where we want to host the reception, and all other details.
As a child I went with my parents to many of their co-workers’ weddings. Those are big, elaborate weddings, lots of people, but I don’t remember my parents even talked to many people except a few.
On the contrary we want to throw a small and intimate party. We didn’t want to create the awkward situations where nobody knows anybody. We wanted our guests to feel special about being invited.
We downloaded an iPhone app called WeddingHappy. It has an exhaustive list of things you can possibly do to plan a wedding (which was mind-blowing). My husband and I went through the list, got informed, and created a Google Spreadsheet of things we “have to” do, and some stuff that’s “nice to have”.
For those “nice-to-haves”, if we can get to it, we’ll get to it. If not, not a big deal.
MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
People asked me if I was nervous or panicking before the wedding because we didn’t hire a wedding planner. I wasn’t at all, because we only planned the MVP.
People wouldn’t notice if you have one button off, or you don’t have table center pieces, or if your makeup is not perfect.
We didn’t have a DJ: Andy mixed the music and we played it using an iPod and a speaker; I was a temp DJ to introduce guest speakers, and connect between moments.
We didn’t have table center pieces: we only spread some rose pedals on the table.
We didn’t have a wedding color: that’s not important for us, we wanted our wedding colorful and encourage our guests to wear what they want to wear.
We didn’t have a photo booth, we bought a polaroid, and asked a friend to take instance photos of guests.
We didn’t have flower boys flower girls and we only had one maid of honor and one best man.
We didn’t plan a Hawaii wedding to drag all of our guests to fly 5 hours and stay for 7 days. It was local in Santa Barbara in a beautiful rooftop with a panorama view of the city.
We didn’t invite co-workers: it’s really hard to invite a few and leave out a few so we decided not to bother.
We didn’t rent a limo, or even do gift registry.
We didn’t send out save-the-date or invitation letters. It was all via email (thanks to MailChimp) and referencing to a website that I created. Guests RSVP’d through the website as well. We only sent letters to those who don’t have email addresses.
I didn’t go to the dress shop to try many dresses over the course of many weekends and had a hard time deciding. I went to the shop by myself, tried on 3, and nailed down one, and moved on to other important things to do. All brides are beautiful in any dress: I believe myself too.
We didn’t spend a year to plan the wedding. It was 3 months at the most.
We heard so much about “once in a lifetime” BS from the vendors and we concluded with the fact that wedding industry is lucrative and we don’t want to blindly throw our money to them: we still got our mortgage and debt to pay.
As long as we had fun, the guests had fun, anything else doesn’t really matter that much. And this is the minimal viable product that we were trying to plan, and it worked. The only decision based off “once in a life time” was the venue Canary Hotel Rooftop. Andy and I fell in love with the rooftop and we had to have our wedding there despite of their “luxury” charges.
A friend of mine told me two months after the wedding that this is the best wedding she’s been to. I was glad.