Our $5,228.55 Wedding

To this day, it still seems surreal to be married to this amazing woman; a beautiful, passionate girl with a creative mind that was willing to share in this awesome adventure with me. Poor Ines, she’s only just now realizing what she got herself into ūüėČ –

In the latter part of our dating years, Ines and I were pretty open about the kind of wedding we wanted: the themes, colors, pricing, schedule of events, the need for an open bar, the loathing for¬†hour-long ceremonies; however, I’m not sure we ever truly planned to work our big-day-budget under $5,500 until well into the final stages of setting everything up.

After I popped the big question and she passed¬†me an “I suppose:”

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…the planning started.


After a few weeks of preliminary conversation, we had a pretty good idea of what our priorities were:

1) Amazing photography – an absolute must

2) Intimate venue (able to properly house a small wedding of under 10 guests)

3) Killer food

and…

4) A minister that didn’t scare us or plan to perform any weird rituals

Even having watched episodes upon episodes of “Four Weddings,” “Bridezillas,” and like-wedding shows off Bravo, I was still very much unprepared for¬†ALL that is entailed in wedding planning – it seemed that Ines had a leg up just by having one extra X chromosome. For all you guys and gals out there having some trouble getting started, we wanted to break down our costs and some additional tips to go along with the price to help you make the best decisions for your big day.

Venue – Casa Ronde√Īa Winery, $536

One of the first things we wanted to accomplish was selecting the venue (after choosing a time frame from which to work). We had a particularly difficult time accomplishing this as we were inside a 2-month window to secure a space; however, our wedding size, being rather small, worked in our favor. It took some serious online research, dozens of calls and emails to prospective event centers, and a few book-and-cancel decisions before we happened upon this gorgeous looking vineyard in north Albuquerque.

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While the winery grounds themselves were a little too big for our party size, the barrel room and attached rotunda were just what we needed:

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While it’s possible to book a venue on short notice, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Also, don’t fall in love with a place until you know you can secure it – you don’t need that kind of heartbreak in your life.

It’s not impossible to find a place on the cheap either; here’s some additional tips that might help you get¬†a lower¬†overall price tag:

– Don’t be roped in to package deals that don’t accommodate your needs; always ask the site manager if there are other options or ways to accommodate your requirements – after all, you’re the one potentially giving them business.

– If your dates are flexible, inquire as to what months are less busy for a particular venue; the “low season” may be associated with lower costs.

РBYO/DIY the décor, seating, and other ceremony materials as much as you can as it may result in discounts from the vendor.

Photography РSpears Photography (now Four Locks Photography) $1400

This was our #1 priority on the day, and just like our venue, it took many, many, many google searches and deep digging into proverbial rabbit holes before we came upon Lloyd and Joleta Spears, a wham-bam photography couple who truly captured the emotion and memories of the day. They were there from the morning to the wee hours of the evening, snapping away; we were so happy with how the photos turned out, and could not have been more pleased with the investment. The total amount included 11 hours of photography w/ over 1,000 photos (copyright release included), a couple hundred of which were edited.

**The stress was high in choosing a photographer, but once we did it was very stress-free

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There’s no way around it, great photography is going to come at a price, but that’s not to say there aren’t great photographers out there with reasonable prices. Some things to look out for when choosing an individual to document your special day:

– Just like venues, photographers often offer package deals that might not fulfill your needs, or may exceed your needs; it is well within your purview to inquire about custom packages or tradeoffs.

РAlways meet with your photographer beforehand; this allows you to get a feel for their personality, photography style, and provides you an opportunity to give input on what types of photos you desire.

– In our opinion, it’s always best to secure the copyrights to your photos instead of purchasing vendor credits or photo¬†packages (albums, frames, etc.). While you may have to wait a little longer to hang/frame your photos, a CD with the entire gallery allows you to pick and choose for the rest of your life. Plus, if you ever want to do your own editing or share the photos online (say, on a family blog), you have the ability to do so.

Minister – Scott Cameron, $300

When we first met Scott at a local caf√© w/ his lounge-attire and earring, we were pretty skeptical – an hour later we were singing his praises. While, we’ll always remember our near-catastrophe (see license story¬†below), we’ll never forget how kind, gentle, loving, and amiable he was to our ideas. He was extremely patient on our wedding day and¬†made our ceremony truly¬†one-of-a-kind.

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Minister fees usually run between $100-$300, which includes the licensing, rehearsal, ceremony, and program development.

You’ll want to:

– Meet with the officiant beforehand to ensure their style jives with you and your spouse (much like the photographer).

– Ask the individual if they have any experience with your type of ceremony, or if they have any suggestions about developing the ceremony events

– Ensure you schedule the rehearsal so that they can attend; the last thing you want is confusion from your officiant on your big day

Food РRehearsal Dinner: Cosmotapas, Dinner Reception: High Noon Saloon, $784.55 (including all drinks)

These two restaurants in Nob Hill and the Historic District were to die for; we surely could not have picked two better venues for our dinner parties. The staff at High Noon was extraordinary, and made our guests feel like royalty. Plus, it’s where we signed our marriage license…wait, what?

Yes, we left our wedding ceremony without getting our license signed (whoops), and luckily we were able to get ahold of our minister before he left on vacay. It was a funny, memorable scene, pushing aside some dinnerware on a nearby table, signing our piece of paper in front of our family with our minister standing by (who had changed into his comfy clothes):

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Planning the dinners is pretty straightforward, but there are few things to keep in mind:

– There is no universal food item that caters to everyone’s likes; that being said, there are some food items that a majority of people will dislike. Try to stay away from anything too bizarre (mystery meats, funky seafood,¬†items who scent¬†overpower the restaurant)¬†but feel free to enjoy eclectic foods or design your plating around the wedding theme.

– We had a sit-down dinner and gave our guests three options (beef, chicken, seafood) for dinner, and had it cooked to order instead of premade, but that completely depends upon your timeline and budget. Usually, more options = $$$

– If you decide to have a sit down dinner, don’t be stingy with the bar tab; after all, it’s a celebration and your guests have endured the traveling, ceremony, and group¬†pictures.

Flowers – $165

Luckily, I married a woman who didn’t care too much about an abundance of flowers. In fact, the only flowers we really had at the ceremony were three bouquets and our ceremony presentation that hung over the wooden doors in the barrel room.

One of the funnier memories I have is going into a florist to get some quotes, and having the conversation go something like this:

Florist: “So, Ines, what kind of theme or color scheme are you going for?”

Ines: “Well, I kind of like the ‘dead’ or ‘dying’ look…”

Florist (in hesitant surprise): “I think the word you’re looking for is ‘dormant’, dear.”

Haha, gotta love her – we learned the flower scheme Ines was hoping for included some willow and baby’s breath, both of which are relatively inexpensive as they are normally used as fillers. A local florist was able to accommodate our small request, and even though she didn’t give us exactly what we wanted, it turned out really nice; in the end, neither Ines and I noticed our flower arrangement above the doors until well after the ceremony. You’ll learn yourself how all the frivolous details fall away when all you care about is the person standing next to you.

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Flowers are just that…flowers; there are plenty of things to stress about, and the plants surrounding you are not one of them (spoken by someone who¬†worried about them a little too much). If you want something simple, try to use flower styles that are in abundance, or used for filler – these will be your cheapest options, but their simplicity is not without its own beauty.

Music / Entertainment – Francisco Mu√Īoz, $60

What a treat this gentleman was; we’d never met except through some online correspondence, but he managed to take our song, “When the Right One Comes Along,” and create his own rendition which he played during Ines’ walk down the aisle and throughout our service. Francisco showed up an hour before the ceremony, provided some amazing¬†classical guitar ambiance and was the perfect¬†addition to our ceremony.

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Wedding Cake – Cake Fetish, $62

We didn’t have that many people to feed and in hindsight are so very happy we didn’t opt for a larger cake. Ines and I were lucky enough to snag an opening for a tasting while we were visiting Albuquerque on our crazy planning weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed nom-nomming on delicious cake bites. We opted for a two-tiered 8″ / 6″ round cake with a simple design around the base. We also¬†added some leftover baby’s breath for extra styling. Ines and I got super crafty and made our own cake toppers:

Hey, they look like you! Darn tootin –

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 Décor Р$100, DIY

This is where we got to be truly creative; almost all of our décor was done using materials from garage sales, fabric stores, spare wood, and stuff around the house. There are an infinite number of potential crafts/projects you can do from the comfort of your own home that can save you hundreds, if not thousands, on decorations and other wedding items:

We used a collection of 50-or-so mason jars, some ribbon, burlap, a few tags from Michael’s, and votive candles¬†to create some¬†personalized adornments for our ceremony space:

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All of our programs and seating cards were created at home and printed on some quality card-stock in colors that matched our theme:

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Some of the other items included:

Bridal Gown – $215 (Ines got a sweet deal at a bridal shop, and she made it look like a million dollar Vera Wang)

After-Party Dress – $15, Forever 21

Gown Accessories (shoes, jewelry, slip) – $51

Hair / Makeup – $100, included a dry-run

Groom’s Outfit Dry-cleaning (Military Uniform was free!) – $30

Wedding Bands – $790 w/ insurance

Photo Albums (for family) – $150

Hotel Accommodations for Wedding Party (Pre-Wedding Day) Р$186

Champagne Flutes (engraved) – $10

Cocktail Hour Drinks and Food – $20 (meats, cheeses, water, and lemonade)

Transportation (gas to/from Albuquerque) – $100

Marriage license – $25

Wedding Party Gifts – $30

Misc. / Buffer Р$100


Our wedding was a truly intimate day, but it wasn’t without its share of stress; even with all the efforts to make it easy going, we still managed to have¬†some ER-MEH-GERD moments throughout the weekend, but looking back, we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

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