Our Wedding, Our Style, on Our Budget


Growing up, I dreamt of being married, not getting married.  I did not have visions of a big church wedding with flowers everywhere and everyone in formal attire.  Instead, I would imagine all the meals I would cook for my husband and have ready when he got home from work.  My visions had a 1950’s Betty Crocker feel, which is not at all what one would expect from the most tomboy girl ever.  So, when it came time to get married, I had nothing set in stone that were “must-haves.”

In October of 2014, after 8 years together, we got engaged.  The planning began immediately. 

Goal #1Family, friends, fun, and relaxation – our style

To ensure we were able to have all of our immediate family in attendance, we chose our date around all of the family kid’s Spring Break.  This put us right into St. Patrick’s Day week.  Since we are both Irish this was perfect, so we chose to get married on St. Patrick’s Day. 

With us both living in the Washington D.C. area and our families in Oklahoma and Georgia, we needed to choose a location.  We decided on my hometown of Savannah, Georgia.  But if you know anything about Savannah, you’ll know that Savannah hosts one of THE largest St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations in the entire world.  With the town set to be completely full, we had to choose a location and look for hotels that were not already booked, but still reasonably priced.


While searching for our location we kept one thing in mind…we wanted this to represent us.  Our style.  No frills, not fancy, relaxed and no pretense.  We chose Skidaway Island State Park for 3 reasons.  First, it was on the complete opposite side of town from the St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans.  Second, it was a very relaxed location with plenty of nature and pretty views.  Third, it was CHEAP.  We reserved the “group shelter” (which sounds horrible actually) which was an air-conditioned building along the marsh with a large room, bathrooms, a full kitchen, outdoor grilling area, a basketball court and volleyball court right outside.  This might not sound like your ideal wedding, but it was perfect for us.  The only problem, I reserved it from out of town, so it was sight unseen.  We had my dad go visit it once to make sure it wasn’t a rat trap.  My friend Sara, who happened to be visiting family in Savannah, also went by to take pictures and fill me in.  It was a go!

I should also note that in the vein of laid-back and relaxed, we asked everyone to come dressed casually.  The wedding party would be dressed for the ceremony, but we quickly changed back into casual wear. 

Goal #2 – Keep it reasonably priced

We got married from start to finish for a total of $2,000.  This included my dress, Garrett’s jacket, and Irish shoes to go with his Kilt, invitations, decorations, wedding cake, food, location, our travel, our hotel, photography, parking for guests, our Virginia reception, and even included the kennel fees for our dogs while out of town. 

Goal #3 – Handle everything ourselves

We made our own invites and had them printed at a local print shop.  We bought our very minimal decorations from A.C. Moore and Michaels (using coupons I might add.)  We ordered our wedding cake from Sam’s Club.  Before you scoff, that cake was G O O D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It may have visually been basic, but the taste of that cake was fantastic, even a year later when we ate the top of our cake. 

We planned the wedding reception to be a cookout.  So, we bought all our ingredients and food from Sam’s Club and the night before the wedding, my mom, sister and I made all of the sides. I literally spent the night before my wedding slapping hamburger patties into shape.  I loved it.

The wedding happened just as we wanted.  Our friends and family gathered together to witness our wedding and then we all hung out and ate a lot of food. 

Upon our return to the D.C. area, we had planned a separate reception for our friends who could not make the trip to Savannah for the wedding.  This was held at a restaurant in Gainesville, VA and it was such a great time celebrating with our friends.

Goal #4Keep it stress-free

For the most part, the entire planning process and wedding was stress-free.  I love organizing things and making them happen so for me this was fun.  Of course, there were little things that popped up throughout the process that were nerve-wracking, but overall it was just as we wanted it, laid back.

However, in hindsight, we would have gotten a wedding planner.  But didn’t I just say it was relatively stress-free?  Yes, but it could have been a LOT easier had we hired a planner. 

If I could do it again, below are the items I would have hired a planner to assist with:


Location selection – Making arrangements and reservations from out of town adds a little apprehension to the process.  A planner could have discussed options with the venue and provided details, pictures and layout planning of the wedding day.

Photographer Selection – Pictures are a great reminder of past events but can get very expensive, very quickly.  With a no-frills wedding, we didn’t need an over-the-top photography session.  We needed someone who understood our style and our budget.  Having a planner assist with this would have been very helpful.

Parking arrangements – Ensuring that the guests knew not to pay when they entered the park and that we were paying all of their parking and entrance fees.  A planner could have helped with the process of this coordination between guests and the park staff.

Decorations – We were super minimal on decorations, but it would have been nice to have someone else taking care of that instead of our doing it before we went back to get dressed.  😊

Ceremony steps - We wrote our own vows. Wait, let me be serious here, I wrote our vows and the whole ceremony..LOL  What we did not think of were the steps between arriving at the location and us getting down the aisle.  We literally made it up as we were walking.  It was a mess, but we laughed because, eh, what do you do?  A planner would have thought of these things and made it seamless.

Virginia Reception – Having just come back from our Savannah wedding, we were ready to relax but needed to plan the local reception we were having.  We had a hard time choosing a place that would accommodate all of our guests, and stay within our budget. 

We had an excellent Georgia wedding and a fantastic Virginia reception.  It was everything we wanted, and most importantly we were surrounded by our loved ones and friends. 

If you take anything away from my story, know that

-       You do not have to follow conventional wedding expectations and traditions if that isn’t your style

-       You can get married without going into debt

-       And while yes you can do everything yourself, don’t.  Hire a planner, because there will be things that will slip between the cracks without them.

Thanks for letting me share my story of not sacrificing our style and having a wedding fit for US. 

Jessica Cain

J. Renee Services LLC, 6564 Loisdale Court, Springfield, VA, 22150