Southern California Wedding on a Budget
February 23, 2010
United States

We are doing sneak peeks today to give you a little glimpse into all of the wedding gorgeousness we get on a daily basis. Although we're only showing a little bit on the front page, we've uploaded all of the images into our gallery from each weddings so you can choose the ones that you want to devour. Like these images from this next wedding.

If it was the wedding invitations and paper goods from the last wedding that I fell in love's DEFINITELY the flowers from our next wedding. And the gorgeous bride. And her dress. And her veil. And her SUPER cute story.

budget wedding

budget wedding

budget wedding

budget wedding

budget wedding

(sorry, I just couldn't trim this adorable bride's ADORABLE story...)

Well, this is a story of the little wedding that could. After my husband proposed on August 15th, 2009 during a Tchaikovsky firework spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl, we decided that we wanted to skip the tortuous 18 months of wedding planning and "Just Do It"! Since I was not willing to sacrifice my life long vision of a Fall Wedding, that meant that we had approximately 6 weeks to bring my dream wedding to life.

We started with the location. My husband works for the Four Seasons Aviara in San Diego and we had previously taken a vacation to the Four Season Biltmore in Santa Barbara the year prior. While relaxing on our lounge chairs at the spectacular Coral Casino at the Biltmore, I had turned to Tom and told him that this was where I wanted to get married. I never forgot that picturesque scenery, so a year later when it came time to decide on a wedding site, there was no hesitation. I called the Biltmore, informed them of Tom's employment with the company, and asked if it was even a possibility to have a wedding at the Biltmore on a tight budget. Turns out, it is totally possible...especially if you are willing to compromise. We were able to reserve the Escala Garden for a 4pm wedding on Thursday, October 1st. The fact that we were willing to do a mid-week wedding, coupled with a nice employee discount on the ceremony site and rooms, didn't tax our modest budget of $15K.

Now, with October 1st as a solidified date, we had to decide on our guest list. Since I am one of those girls that has always dreamed of the huge wedding with 200+ guests admiring the bride in her finest hour, my stomach sank when I thought about having to sacrifice guests for the Four Seasons location. However, after talking it over with our families, we came up with a perfect compromise. We would make our Biltmore wedding a private affair, with just our immediate family...parents, siblings, nieces, and nephew. With such a small group, we could afford to extend the party to 3 days, with a Montecito Reception Dinner, spa treatments, and a Day After Brunch. Then, my parents would host a casual backyard reception for 200 of our friends and family a couple of weeks after the ceremony, where we could have the "dinner, drinking, dancing" type of party that I had always envisioned. Genius!

With six weeks until the big day, the very next thing on my To-Do List was locating a dress. Since designer dresses typically need to be ordered months in advance, I found myself in a bit of a pickle....especially since I was hell bent on wearing Monique Lhuillier. Well, this is when God stepped in and really got to work. I went onto and found two dresses that I really liked that seemed to be in my size. I emailed the owners my measurements, and after I received confirmation, I set up appointments for the very next weekend to drive up to LA to try them on. Our first visit was to the home of the owner of a gorgeous ivory French Alencon Lace Monique Lhuillier trumpet gown. Come to find out, Angie (a form SMP featured bride) had purchased two Monique dresses at sample sales in LA and had never actually worn the dress that I was looking at. As soon as my mother buttoned the dainty pearl buttons down the back and I turned to look in the mirror, we both began to cry. It was perfect! And once again, it was a great price! $2,000 for a never-been-worn designer dress that fit me to a T....."Yes, please, I will take it!"

The next week or two was a whirlwind. I secured the wonderful Maren Parsons to be my official day-of coordinator and Jon Ireland to preside over the ceremony (both dramatically adjusted their prices due to our Thursday date). Next, I hit up the SMP "Little Black Book" to locate a photographer and florist. Camille at "Modern Day Design" had the most impressive website and I figured that I would not be able to afford her amazing work...but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I sent her some inspiration photos with a cream, peach, and green color scheme. I was in need of a bridal bouquet, a Maid of Honor bouquet, three flower girl bouquets, wedding site flowers, and centerpieces for dinner. I had hoped that Camille could recreate a spectacular four post structure that she had previously done in the Escala garden at the Biltmore. Well, not only was she available, but she could do everything I wanted for a price that was well below what I had anticipated. The stars were definitely aligning!

On to the photos... This is where the "God-sends" got even greater. A dear co-worker of mine, Katherine Nagel, from Anthropologie had recently relocated to Santa Barbara with her husband. Mark was attending photography school at Brooks, and Katherine had just had a baby. I kept my fingers crossed that they would be willing to take time out of their busy schedule to shoot my wedding. probably guessed it...they said "yes". And not just yes, but they would do it for a mere $600. Katherine had previously shot two of our girlfriends weddings, and I was obsessed with her artistic eye and unconventional style.

Now, let me note here, that the wedding photography was of the utmost importance to me. I decided that since we were saving so much money by using Katherine, we could splurge on some more photos during our Honeymoon at the Carneros Inn in Napa. The Little Black Book led me to Lisa and James of Elle Jae Weddings. I spoke with Lisa on the phone and asked her if she and James would be willing to come to Carneros and do a little "Post Wedding" shoot. She agreed to shoot us at the "engagement photo" rate, which is ridiculously less than wedding shoot rates. So, in the end, we got several hundred photos from multiple amazing locations for only $1,000! Are you kidding me!

Let's recap: Four Seasons Site (check), Designer Dress (check), Wedding Coordinator (check), Officiant (check), Photographer(s) (check). Now it was just the minor details....ballet flats from JCrew, flowergirl dresses from ebay, Maid of Honor dress from JCrew, a vintage diamond crucifix from a local pawn shop, a handmade mantilla- style veil with an alencon border that matched my dress, compliments of my Mother-In-Law. I also utilized Maren Parsons and Angie for referrals for Make-up (The Studio Agency) and Music (Anthony Ybarra, Spanish guitarist). Finally, I booked our wedding dinner at Tydes restaurant at the Coral Casino at the Biltmore.

Our Wedding was everything I had envisioned: a classic and intimate event with a hint of "vintage", pulled together through the Spanish architecture of the Biltmore, the incredible lace of my gown and veil, the cream garden roses in my bouquet, and the Spanish guitar softly playing in the background.

It was romantic. It was beautiful. It was perfect.


Vendors: Day-Of Coordination by Maren Parsons Events / Makeup by The Studio Agency / Flowers by Modern Day Design / Photography by Katherine Nagel /  Photography by Elle Jae Weddings / Music by Anthony Ybarra / Location, Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara / Officiant: Jon Ireland Dress by / Men's Attire by Friar Tux Shop / Maid of Honor Dress by JCrew / DJ, Kingsley Quan Reception Photographer: Ben Wendorf (no website)