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Introduction To A Broke-Ass Wedding: Matrimony On A Budget…

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“Your wedding is in Vallejo, on a Sunday, and in November? Aren’t you afraid of gun shots, work schedules, cold and rain?”

In order to abide by the rules of a broke-ass wedding, throw away any ideas of what you want your wedding to be like. Because in California, the wedding you have in your pretty little head (if you’ve done some research via wedding sites) is gonna cost you between $10,000 and $30,000. Yeah, even that cute little “rustic” wedding in the re-purposed barn where everyone sat at a long communal rescued wooden table on hay bales. Like Dolly Parton once said, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”

Our budget for our wedding ceremony and reception was $3,000 for 50 people. Since I come from a family that has more baby showers than weddings, I wasn’t hung up on wedding traditions. But, not so modern that I would embrace the concept of a dessert only cocktail reception. The weather was ideal autumn climate: cool with clear skies. I knew from the many summers spent at my aunt’s Vallejo residence that our venue was near the beautiful (and gun shot free) part of town. And as for it being a Sunday, our reception was over by 7pm.

Keep your guest list small. If you haven’t spoken to your fourth cousin in seven-months, you’re probably not as close as you’d like to think. Tell your mom that if she wants to invite your seventh-aunt who’s 100th removed, she can pay for her plate of food. Also, if I knew one of  my guests wasn’t in a relationship, they did not get a “plus one.” Ask yourself, do you want to pay for your guest’s date’s dinner? Hell no.

Put on your DIY hardhat. Two friends catered. The three-tiered wedding cake with violets came from my former pastry instructor and mentor. Wedding favors were made by my mother and good friend. Professional photographer was a friend of the family. And they all hated me in the end.

SAVE THE DATES– I bought some fancy calligraphy pens and fancy ass paper at the craft store. If you haven’t come to rely on Pinterest as your go-to, you’re trippin’.

PICK A WEDDING VENUE – This was our biggest cost. Look for hidden costs like cake cutting fees; for every piece of cake they cut (per person), they charge. $1.75 per person at 50 people is $87.50. And they do not give you the option of having your Uncle Buck cut and serve the cake himself. Which is why they have the beautiful hustle that is…the cake cutting fee. 




GET THE MARRIAGE LICENSE – $100 and can be purchased up to 30 days in advance anywhere in California. We got our license in Oakland, we got hitched in Vallejo.

INVITATIONS (set a date) – Letter-pressed Art Deco wedding invitations for $400? Uhh yeah, no. Michael’s blank kits that start at $15 for 50.

THE DRESS – Mine was a sleeveless, soft ivory, scoop neck, knee length dress with a built in slip, on clearance for $15 from the Avenue, $3 at the thrift store for a long sleeved, lace and sheer overlay, and finished it off with a super basic two-tiered fingertip veil I also purchased at the thrift store, for $7.

But, if you’re dead set on a tiered wedding gown that matches your cake, there’s always 

OFFICIANT – A friend was the officiant, it was free as the state of California doesn’t require ANY certification. You just have to write who was insane enough to ordain them on your wedding license. Or, wrangle one up with Here Comes The Guide’s extensive list of Northern Californian officiants.

CATERERS – Use culinary schools! Someone I know spent $3,000 on their wedding food for 150 guests: green beans, roasted chicken thighs and pesto pasta. She was bamboozled. Hell, you could pot luck with family favorites, but swap the plastic picnic serving ware for more elegant options.

CAKE – My final project for advanced pastry class in culinary school was a three-tiered cake. Some of us used fondant. I know what a cake really costs. I’m looking at you Walmart and Safeway with your $200 cakes that cost $5 to make. But, if you’re broke and you enjoy the taste of Maria’s frozen burritos…supermarket cakes are always an option. Or, you can ask the culinary schools, they pocket the proceeds from student labor.

PHOTOGRAPHER – I was not a fan of the unflattering shots guests took with their Vivitars and then posted on Facebook. Nerve shattering. But, the photographer can be expensive: bride and groom getting ready shots, ceremony shots, reception shots, family staged photo shots. Before we found ours, I did a search on Craigslist. And I have nothing against using Instagram for your special day.

REGISTRY – You’d be a fool not to take advantage of shopping online at your favorite stores without purchasing anything.


In this series of write-ups, I’ll separate what we did, how we did it, and how much it cost. Next week we’ll start with: The Site.


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