Courtney’s Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Photos in this post by Milana’s Photography (apart from photos labeled iPhone photo)

Hi, friends! It’s Courtney (Melissa’s daughter) here. I am so excited to be here today to share my wedding planning advice as well as a look back at our wedding which was this past July! I have shared lots on Instagram, but we recently got all of our photos from our photographer so I have lots more details of the day to share, as well as some budget friendly tips I learned along the way in wedding planning.

If you’re new here or missed it, I told the whole story of the proposal in this post (my now husband Dong planned the sweetest surprise proposal on the beach!). You may have seen my wedding mood board and some of the planning details here in this post, and today I’m excited to be back to share how it all went!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

NOTE: Pin this post and share it with a friend who’s getting married! There are SO many decisions to make for weddings that it can be overwhelming. While I was planning I really appreciated real wedding inspiration where people would share in detail exactly what they did, and exactly where they got things. At the point of decision fatigue, it helped me simplify to just to trust the suggestions of someone who went before me, and saved me a lot of time of researching and sifting through the vast amount of options. So, I’ll go into detail in this post and share some advice throughout to hopefully help you too. Feel free to this post along to anyone you know who is in the wedding planning process!

SOURCES: You’ll find lots of my specific sources linked throughout the post (I also rounded up similar sources here on this Wedding Sources page. I hope you find this a helpful resource if you’re planning a wedding…or if not, just enjoy the post! 🙂

Alright, get yourself cozy with a cup of tea and a blanket if you’d like while you scroll this post…it’s a long chatty one! Ha!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Here’s me and my HUSBAND 🙂 (that still feels wild to say!). Our wedding day was indescribably special. Officially beginning our life together as a team, surrounded by so many people we love (people who have shaped us, loved us and supported us!). It felt like a dream and we have felt so lucky each day since.

We were so thankful for generous support from our families in making this wedding possible. Our ultimate goal was to design a beautiful wedding that would feel magical and full of personal details, and be a really fun and memorable day for everyone.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

At the same time, we tried to be really mindful of how much we personally felt comfortable on anyone spending for this one day. Weddings are expensive in general. There are all kinds of weddings out there, and for us we didn’t want to get too caught up in making this day TOO wildly elaborate / or over the top…we wanted to keep it more down to earth. There were certain areas we felt were worth investing more in, and areas we felt better saving on. With every possibility, we stopped to consider if it was something we really wanted, or thought would have a true impact on enhancing the day…or if it was just an ‘expected’ wedding detail that we didn’t personally feel the need to have. What that balance looks like will be different for everyone of course!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

In my wedding mood board post I described our ideal vibe as: “not so fancy/glamorous that everyone is wearing slick tuxedos and sequin ball gowns and we’re eating filet mignon salmon dinners on the finest of China imported from France and a string quartet is playing. 😉 Ha! But also not like, Dad BBQ-ing out on the lawn in an apron and we’re all wearing ripped jeans. You know? Somewhere in the middle. How’s that for a description! Ultimately…a magical, cozy, charming, and fun party!” …I feel like we accomplished that perfectly for us!

I won’t get into specific budget numbers in this post because there are so many variables that can impact the costs (although I’m happy to share if you message me!), but for general reference we spent well below the average wedding cost in our state (Seattle area). We were so happy with the outcome of everything, it was truly a perfect wedding to us (exceeding what we even dreamed) and we felt very blessed.

If you read my mom’s book Simple Gatherings, you might remember her encouragement to focus on what guests remember most: the atmosphere, the feast, the conversation, and the special touches. We definitely used that advice as we planned our wedding!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
iPhone photo

The very first wedding detail we decided on was the venue, Christianson’s Nursery in Mount Vernon Washington. It’s a lovely garden nursery with a charming historic schoolhouse, beautiful rose gardens, picturesque greenhouses, a rustic barn-like building, adorable gift shop, views of the mountains and more. I had my eye on it before we got engaged and were immediately smitten when we took a tour! It was also just a short drive from where we live, which was nice that we could easily visit to visualize while we planned. We also loved that we’d be able to come back to visit a lot in the future, too. It felt like such a special place to begin with, and now even more special with the memories of our wedding there.

Fun fact: our wedding was on a Wednesday! We found this venue about 9 months before our hopeful wedding date, but they had very limited date options left and most were weekdays. We already knew we’d consider a weekday wedding (they are often a pretty significant cost savings, and while we’d of course be sad for anyone to miss it, we were also okay if it ended up being a slightly more intimate guest count!). We made sure to send our save the dates well in advance so any guests who wanted to attend would have time to prepare. We ended up having around 115 guests attend which was just what we hoped for.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
iPhone photo

Behind the schoolhouse was this sweet English rose garden. We originally considered doing our ceremony back here on the lawn, but decided instead to use this area for a ‘garden party’ welcome reception where guests could mingle and sip lemonade before the ceremony. We then had the ceremony at the same venue in a barn-like building which I’ll share more about later.

Fun fact: this schoolhouse was built in 1888! It was an active school until 1906, then in 1984 Christianson’s purchased it, restored it, and moved it into their rose garden.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

When we were planning we knew we’d want some a-frame chalkboard signs, and one day we stumbled upon these a-frame signs just sitting outside for free at a local shop that didn’t need them anymore! Such a happy discovery. (Check your local Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, or join local wedding Facebook groups, people often sell their wedding items there!). I gave the signs a quick fresh coat of white paint, chalkboard paint, and used a chalk paint pen to write on them.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Similar Wood A-Frame Chalkboard Sign

I was pretty pleased with how my chalkboard signs turned out, if I do say so myself! I enjoy hand lettering but am definitely not a professional calligrapher, especially on a chalkboard. It took some trial and error. I found it was best to lightly write everything out in regular chalk first on faint straight lines, then write over that with a chalk paint pen, go over everything again to add thickness/detail, and then clean it all up with a damp q-tip. Painting these and writing everything out did take me hours in my apartment while blasting Taylor Swift and I actually really enjoyed it, ha! But if you have a calligrapher friend or want to hire a professional and save yourself some time, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. 😉

Fun fact: if you have The Inspired Room book, I hand lettered the Tolkien quote in the back which you can download for free as printable artwork here!

Having the wedding schedule posted is such a nice thing for guests so they know what to expect and won’t miss out on anything. I included our schedule on paper programs as well. This is one of those details that was important to us to include for the overall guest experience!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

I designed our wedding welcome sign and other things for our wedding with Canva (it’s free, or you can pay for Canva Pro which has lots of perks that I’ve found very worth the cost!). We had the sign printed at Fedex on thick paper, then I just put it in an Ikea frame I already had in my apartment. The easel is one of the few things we decided to rent from a local wedding rental company (here is a similar one). We draped this faux eucalyptus garland over the sign and…voila! A simple but warm welcome for our guests.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

A fun activity that greeted our guests outside the schoolhouse was a Polaroid guest book photo station! I had seen this idea at many weddings before and knew I’d want to do it too. This instant camera was the first thing I bought for our wedding and I knew I’d enjoy using it after the wedding too. Sometimes people have a guest book for guests to write in and tape in their Polaroid photos, but a few friends told me their books didn’t get filled super well. Instead, we decided we’d instead have fun putting together our own memory book later with everyone’s photos. We also had another way for guests to share notes with us that I’ll show you later in this post.

You can definitely save money in wedding planning when you think outside the box and shop around a bit first. Anything advertised as ‘wedding’ specifically will almost always cost more than the same item outside of the wedding category. Sometimes you might even find something that can work in your own home! This cork board frame has been in my mom’s home for years (we got it at Home Goods, but here is a similar cork one on Etsy, and similar linen one from Wayfair).

We hung up twine with push pins (we used cute patterned ones we had but these floral push pins are adorable!), and clipped up mini wood clothespins for guests to put their photos. We had this out for guests to use during our welcome reception, and brought it over to the after ceremony reception, too. I also made a cute DIY sign for the Polaroid station–I’ll share more photos later in this post!

We rented the drink dispensers from a local company–here are similar ones.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Similar Floating Glass Copper Frame // Pressed Flower Stickers on Vase // White Wood Card Box

We had a welcome table out front, with this white wood lidded box with a slot for guests to put cards.

Florals, pressed flowers, dried flowers, and other botanical elements were a recurring detail throughout the wedding! (You might have seen my post awhile back where I shared how I asked my bridesmaids with these dried flower messages in a bottle.) I got several packs/varieties of these large pressed flower stickers and used them wherever I could (I stuck them to that vase above!).

We designed our save the dates and invites in Canva (and printed them there too on their deluxe matte paper). We sealed up the included envelopes with these pressed flower stickers for save the dates, and these other pressed flower stickers for the invites. On the front of our invite envelopes I also stamped them with this botanical stamp in black. I love all the fancy formal stationery possibilities out there, but I was happy with these and felt they were well suited for our garden nursery wedding!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

My wedding dress was my absolute dream! I got it from here (no longer in stock there, but it is called the Danielle by Nouvelle Amsale). I found it on a big sale here at the time with only one size left. I actually ordered it online crossing my fingers it would be what I hoped (it was easy to return if not!). I tried it on with my mom, sister, and grandma and it was an immediate ‘yes to the dress’ with only minor alterations needed!

The floral details, the sleeves, the flowy tulle skirt, little sparkles throughout, a bow on the back…I just loved it all so much. I know my 5 year old self (who frequently wore princess tutus / princess hats / tutus etc. even to the grocery store and insisted everyone call me Pink Sparkles) would have been proud. 🙂 My shoes were these sandals in a mauve pink color called Neutral Mood. They were cute, comfy, not too tall and had a nice thick heel for traipsing around in grass.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

My groom looked so handsome! Fun fact…our wedding date is embroidered inside of his suit jacket. 🙂

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Sources for bridesmaid dresses, in order left to right: 1 (in Taupe Floral) // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 (in Blue Floral)
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget! Turn on your JavaScript to view content



Mismatched Floral Bridesmaid Dresses

I had five of my very best friends as bridesmaids (I actually had six, but one was pregnant and her due date was days before our wedding so she sadly couldn’t make it!).

How fun are their mismatched floral dresses?! I loved this idea originally and then set it aside thinking maybe all one color would be easier for everyone. But eventually I came back to the idea I loved the most, and I’m so glad. I loved how it turned out and the floral felt so right for our venue!

All my gals got to choose their own dresses (or could even use a dress they already had, or borrow one if it fit the general guidelines I gave!). Several of my our bridal party gals got dresses from this store, which had lots of nice dress options.

I really just wanted them to love how they felt in their dresses, and they appreciated that they got to choose. And I know every bride says this…but I actually believe they will be able to re-wear these. 🙂

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Dong also had two gals in his bridal party–they wore these solid grayish blue dresses–we liked how it showed they were a part of ‘his people’, while still coordinating with my bridesmaids! Our guys wore these suspenders.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

My bouquet was from a local florist called Humble Bouquet and I could not have loved it more! I gave her an inspiration photo from my Pinterest and she created the most dreamy bouquet with flowers from her garden! Garden roses, forget-me-nots, peachy colored Icelandic poppies, feverfew, strawflowers, and more. All tied up with a pretty blue natural silk ribbon (similar to this). If I could just walk around holding this bouquet all day every day, I would. 🙂

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
iPhone photo
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

I pinned my Grandma Shirley’s cat pin to the ribbon (my dad’s mom who passed away a couple of years ago–I know she would have so loved to be a part of this day, so it was really special to have a little memory of her along with me!).

I got ready with my bridesmaids in the sweetest little 1920’s cottage behind the Schoolhouse.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

My sister Kylee was my maid of honor, and also kindly offered to be my hair and makeup artist. 🙂 I have so many memories of her doing my hair and makeup for all sorts of occasions since we were little, so it was really special to have her help me get ready on my wedding day!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Kylee’s Blue and White Floral Dress
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

This biggest shoutout of all goes to my beautiful mama (who you all know and love!). Everything about this wedding would not have been possible without her. Incredibly grateful for her love, care and support!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Ever since a Valentine’s Day date years ago where we went to an acoustic concert inside a greenhouse in Seattle on a rainy evening…I loved the idea of getting married in a greenhouse/conservatory type space. Searching for greenhouse venues is actually how I found this venue! They host super small weddings and events in the greenhouse, but we had too many people for that so we decided to utilize this space for our ‘first look’ photos (pictures before the ceremony) instead.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
iPhone photo
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
iPhone photo
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

My bracelet was from a UK based small business called Wild + Flower. I had been following her on Instagram for years admiring her pretty jewelry she hand makes using pressed flowers from her garden. Our invitations and other wedding details had pressed flowers on them, so I loved the idea of having a keepsake bracelet to tie that in and be another memory of the day! (Speaking of jewelry, I shared the meaningful story of my engagement ring in this post!)

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Our ceremony was inside this beautiful barn-like building at Christianson’s. This structure used to be a pea vining site in the 1940’s-1960’s, and now it’s used as an event space they call The Vinery.

Cozy indoor wedding ceremonies have always been my very favorite. I loved that we got to have parts of our wedding day inside and outside.

Fun fact…Dong and I met on a dating app and I messaged him first after resonating with a line on his profile that said he was an “indoor person who loves the outdoors”. He replied and said “nothing like a nice warm drink and a blanket after a hike!” and I thought…alright, I like this guy already! Our wedding day was the perfect mix of indoors and outdoors for us. 🙂 I’ve shared more of our dating story on my Instagram in story highlights!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

I think the venue is the most important decision to make in wedding planning–it sets the tone for the overall feeling and impacts every other decision. I remember when we toured this venue feeling assured that it was such a naturally stunning space to begin with that if for some reason we couldn’t bring in a single bit of decor, it still would have been beautiful and a dream to us. So any detail we chose to add felt like icing on the cake!

A sweet idea my mom thought of was to line the aisle with rose petals from the rose bush outside my family’s house. She picked these rose petals the night before! The rose bush was planted in honor of the previous owners’ mom, so it felt even more special. I loved the pop of pink color it added to this rustic space!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

One big perk for us of getting married at a garden nursery is that it was already full of beautiful plants and flowers! If we’d done our ceremony in the garden we would have been pretty much all set with flowers and plants, but our venue was so kind to even let us ‘borrow’ a few of their plants and pots to bring inside this ceremony/reception space! My best friend Emily went around and picked out plants and pots she knew I’d love to decorate the stage with (above). I honestly had no plan for decorating the stage, I was just leaving it simple so it was such an unexpected extra bit of loveliness!

I designed our programs myself in Canva, as well as all our other paper items. Canva has pretty individual pressed flower elements you can use for free (we used them to design our own save the dates, invitations, RSVP cards and more too). I arranged each little leaf and flower and I loved them so much! We printed the programs double sided and used these tiny gold heart paperclips to attach another little paper.


One of my favorite wedding moments, walking down the aisle with my dad!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

My grandpa (my mom’s dad) officiated our ceremony for us! Several months ago Dong and I were out to dinner talking about the wedding and had the random idea of asking my grandpa to officiate. He had never officiated a wedding before, but we thought about how special it would be to have him up there with us and it made us both tear up right there in the restaurant! My grandpa is always up for a good challenge and we had a feeling he would be pretty tickled at the thought of getting to add this to his repertoire of interesting life experiences. We asked, he was so honored and said yes!

You can see a video of how we asked him to officiate in this reel (there’s a story highlight here in my Instagram profile with more of the story too). He did an amazing job and it made an already unforgettable moment even more memorable.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

One unique thing we did at wedding ceremony was that we swapped the traditional sides of the bridal parties. I faced my bridesmaids instead of having them behind me, and Dong faced his party. I would highly recommend that to anyone getting married! Standing there on one of the biggest moments of my life and getting to glance over and make eye contact with the women that have meant so much to me for years, who have walked through season after season with me leading up to this one…I loved that. We felt so thankful to have all these genuine friends by our side!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

We decided to write our own vows (did I finish mine late in the depths of the night the evening before? I sure did!!!). I’m so glad we did that. Listening to my soon-to-be husband’s vows for the first time up there was so surreal, such a full feeling of peace, love, and gratitude.

After the ceremony, we both breathed a sigh of relief that everything went so well and we were excited to enjoy the rest of the night!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Taco Food Truck

We had a taco food truck cater the dinner and let me tell you…it was great. We had researched all the potential catering options and this came out to be our favorite and most cost effective. It also just simply sounded FUN. And it was. People raved about the food! We had the taco truck which came with chips / salsa / guacamole. We also added on a mango salad bar to the catering which I’m really glad we did–it helped give people two places to grab food so the line was no big deal, and the salad was really delicious!

While planning the wedding I had seen a lot of people online concerned about the logistics of using a food truck, but it all went well for us. We chose a truck that had done weddings before and had good reviews (Los Chilangos). If it’s in your budget and you have a larger guest count, you might want to do two trucks (or at least have a separate buffet like our salad bar) to prevent long lines, but that wasn’t an issue for us.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Reception Table Decor and Flowers

Our reception table decor was one of the many wedding details I took a long time to decide on. There are so many beautiful ideas out there, and I liked a lot of them. (I’m sure a lot of us can relate even with home decorating!). I really just wanted simple, pretty, and not 10 million dollars…ya know? A simple dream. But, with weddings even ideas that seem simple can really add up once you multiply them by every table or guest! So after investigating what felt like every option on the actual worldwide web 😉 I felt really happy with what we ended up with (both from a visual standpoint and budget-wise)!

The plan: simple white tablecloths, light gray napkins, pops of color and whimsical garden flowers, touches of warm wood, and glowy candles everywhere. 🙂

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Similar milk glass bud vases

We did not choose to hire a florist for our wedding (apart from my bouquet), and instead got our flowers from a local farm who offered DIY buckets with a selection of the season’s best flowers (we used Mossy Gate Flower Farm). I gave her my inspiration photos of simple bud vases with a mix of garden flowers, and the day before she delivered the buckets for us for us to arrange. The buckets were full of beautiful sweet peas (which smelled AMAZING), sweet Williams, feverfew, snapdragons, lilies, billy buttons, some greenery and more. We also got a few bouquets of flowers from Costco to add to the mix. This saved us a lot of money! On a few accent tables we used faux flowers like these realistic faux peonies, but used real for all the main areas.

My sister so kindly channeled her innermost florist and arranged all of the bud vases the night before! She even put together the bridesmaid’s bouquets with the flowers and boutonnières with some of the greenery. I loved how it all came together!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

For the vases, we rented vintage white milk glass vases from a local rental company (Cranberry Sky Heirlooms). The vases each had really pretty unique shapes and textures, and the white milk glass was so beautiful along with the pops of color in the flowers. These milk glass vases are similar if you’re looking for some!

I had also looked into buying vases (like these glass bud vase sets) thinking I could try to sell them later, but that cost added up a lot too (in addition to the hassle of having to take home hundreds of vases after). In the end I was really glad we just rented extra pretty ones. The solid vase instead of clear was a good move too for a nice clean look instead of seeing all of the stems.

I also decorated the tables with these pretty watercolor cards I had from a card deck. I’ve shared these on the blog before as a creative/budget-friendly seasonal artwork or gift idea (see that post here). I use these cards as artwork in my apartment, and randomly realized one day they could be a unique and pretty detail on our wedding tables! They each have different artwork on them with a quote on the other side. I picked out my favorite quotes and artwork and placed them in these wooden place card holders.

The artwork is almost all flowers/garden focused, so it felt very meant to be for our garden nursery venue. I loved that they gave something fun for people to look at on both sides while they were at the tables!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Glass votive candles
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

For table linens, we rented the tablecloths so we could just send them all back afterward. We got mostly white for the dinner tables and a few light gray for accent tables. But I did choose to purchase affordable dinner napkins (it saved a significant amount of money than renting, wouldn’t be much of a hassle to deal with after, and we did end up selling them to a friend!). I got them here in silver (they were just light gray, not shiny). I wouldn’t say they were the BEST quality, but they did the trick. They looked really pretty on the table, and for a piece of cloth guests would just be wiping their hands with…that’s one detail I’m glad we did not splurge big bucks on. 🙂

We rolled them up and tied them with baker’s twine, and another special touch from mom…sprigs of lavender cut from her front yard!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Since our dinner was a taco food truck, we embraced that casual vibe for our plates and flatware. One of my favorite weddings I’ve ever attended had used palm leaf plates for a more casual dinner and I remember thinking that was such a cool and unique detail. We purchased sturdy compostable palm leaf plates from a local rental shop called Bellingham Wedding and Event Rentals, and compostable birchwood flatware from them as well. These are not the exact ones we got so I can’t vouch for the quality, but here are some a few you can look into if you want something similar: Bamboo flatware // Palm Leaf Plates

I also printed out little menus for each spot so guests had an idea of what the food truck offered before they got up there. (The menu ended up changing slightly without me realizing it, whoops, but it was the thought that counted ha!)

We didn’t do assigned seating but had some reserved spots at a few tables for bridal party and family. I wrote out names in white on Kraft paper place cards (they came with the wood place card holders). I just used a chalk paint pen I had to write them out, but a white paint marker like this would be best.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Taper candle holders // Candles by LD Designs // Find more similar candles here

These pretty hand painted floral candles are from a local artist LD Designs, I saw her candles at an art market and it was love at first sight! We used them on our head table and a few other places throughout. If you’re looking for similar candles, I found these on Amazon and more floral candles in my Wedding Decor Source page here.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Taper candle holders // Candles by LD Designs // Find more similar candles here

I used these pretty ceramic taper candle holders (I chose this shape to make sure the wax wouldn’t drip on the tablecloths). I love their imperfect pottery look! I got a few of the small, medium, and large sizes. We use them now for decor in our apartment!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Each table had a thank you note from us, as well as ‘about the newlyweds” cards we made with little fun facts about each of us. We had several different cards around the room, so guests could explore the space to find more and mingle with other tables at the same time. Guests told us it was such a fun way to get to know each of us better, even our families learned little facts they didn’t know!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Similar wood bead garland // Similar wood oval bowl

Message in a Bottle Station

Another fun activity for guests during the reception was this message in a bottle station. I had seen this idea online before and since we had a message in a bottle proposal, I had to do it!

Our guests wrote us advice and well wishes on paper scrolls, then placed them in our big glass bottle with a cork top (that’s the same bottle Dong proposed to me with!). We used the paper in this small perforated sketchbook for the scrolls. We also got gold jump rings like these and pre rolled the scrolls with the jump rings around them so it was easy for guests to unroll, write, and roll back up.

I put the scrolls in that little wooden bowl my husband already had…I loved that it reminded me of a boat! Here’s a similar wood oval bowl.

That little chalkboard sign was another ‘use what you have’ moment. Long time Inspired Room blog readers may remember–that used to be hung up in my mom’s pantry with ‘be kind’ written on it!

I also typed up our proposal story for people to read!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

There were two upper lofts–we used one for the drink bar, and the other for desserts and our Polaroid photo station.


Polaroid Guest Book

I mentioned earlier we had our Polaroid guest book station for guests to use outside before the ceremony, and we had it inside up here for the reception afterward, too. Guests used this camera and got to take a photo for their own keepsake, and a photo to leave for us! I wrapped extra film in this floral gift wrap. I also had a basket full of faux flowers (like these faux peonies) for guests to use as photo props if they felt like it!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Source: Over the Table Rod

That metal rod over the table is something we brought–we used it for both this and the message in the bottle station. We didn’t get a good photo of them decorated, but we used eucalyptus garland and a wood bead garland over them to add height and detail to the tables! You can see more fun ways people use these over the table rods for seasonal and party decor here.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Sources: Polaroid Camera // similar square shadowbox frame // these dried flowers // similar tabletop easel

I’m really not that much of a DIY gal and avoided getting too in over my head with wedding crafts…but I decided to whip out a hot glue gun for making this little Polaroid Guest Book sign. I used a shadowbox frame like this one, printed out the sign at Fedex to put inside, then hot glued these dried flowers to the paper. I loved how it turned out! I put the frame on a little tabletop easel like this one.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
Sources: These compostable sugar fiber paper plates // These floral paper napkins // These gray cocktail napkins

For dessert, we knew right away in planning that our dream ideal situation would be a dessert bar filled with a variety of our favorite delicious treats (different types of cookies, brownies, lemon bars…I mean who wouldn’t love that?). We planned on getting pre-made desserts from local shops before the wedding, but our amazing friend June SO generously offered to bake ALL of our desserts for us. She insisted! We were amazed and so blessed by her generosity.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

And let me tell you, these weren’t just whipped together, she went all out. She planned it all out ahead of time with tried and true recipes, creative vision for the displays…she made cheesecakes and cookies and cupcakes and gluten-free options and vegan options…what a dream! Guests were raving about how yummy everything was, and kept coming back to try of all the options. We were so grateful.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

How cute are these cupcakes? The little raspberries and lemon slices?! Such sweet little details. She truly outdid herself.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

A wedding cake was originally one wedding element we really felt okay saving money on. I was happy to just grab a Whole Foods Chantilly Lace cake and just toss a few flowers on it, mostly for the sake of doing the cake cutting tradition. BUT, our friend June not only made our desserts, but also made our wedding cake!

Guys. Look at that stunning cake! Straight out of my wedding inspiration boards. I was speechless when I saw it. This was just one of the many moments that day that left me feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude for the kind people in our lives that helped make this day extra special.

The cake was as delicious as it was beautiful!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

It was so cool to look around on the wedding day and see everything coming together! We didn’t have a wedding planner, so we were involved in planning each and every little detail. We loved seeing our guests just having a good time celebrating with us after all the planning that led up to this day. I took a moment to pause and realize how fun it was that people were eating the food we picked (remembering how my husband called 2746 catering companies and compared them on spreadsheets ha), each song we chose was playing in the background, the flowers my sister arranged were on the tables…in the vases I took forever to settle on, seeing people enjoying the little cards on the tables that we wrote and printed and cut out…and so on. If you’ve planned a wedding, you probably relate to that feeling! 🙂

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
iPhone photo

I changed into these shimmery gold floral sneakers for the dance. I made sure to take full advantage of my flowy dress and twirled around as much as possible on the dance floor. 🙂

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!
iPhone photo
Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Petal Toss Send Off

For our send-off, we set up a ”Petal Bar’! Guests got to pick out their own fun mix of dried flowers, add them into to add to these little white paper bags, and use them to toss as we left the wedding. I got a few sets these dried flowers which seem to be out of stock, but these dried flowers are very similar.

My mom and I loved the idea of guests getting to be creative in choosing their favorite flower mix! It was a fun extra activity for guests to do during the reception, and made for a memorable detail.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Some of my family! With the challenges we’ve all faced in the world the last couple of years, it was all the more meaningful to me to have so many people I loved all gathered together celebrating with us that day.

Fun fact: the night before the wedding, we all cozied up on the daybed in my family’s house and watched Father of the Bride while they helped me assemble all our programs. 🙂 That’s a memory I always want to remember!

We were so thankful for the kindness so many showed us to make this day so great.

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Thanks for letting me share some of this sweet day with you!

Anything else you want to know more about? Leave a comment on this post below or feel free to reach out on Instagram!

You can follow me on Instagram here and see more wedding details in my feed and highlights. You can also follow my wedding Pinterest board here for more ideas!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

Find my wedding sources, as well similar items and more wedding decor here on this Wedding Sources page.

None of the wedding nor this post was sponsored in any way, but you’ll see many of my sources and vendors listed throughout this post.

Photography: Most of the photos in this post are by our talented photographer Milana’s Photography. She did such a beautiful job capturing this day! (Some photos in this post are our own iPhone photos which I labeled below each)

Venue: Christianson’s Nursery in Mount Vernon

Pin the graphic below to save this post, and feel free to share with a friend in the wedding planning process!

Courtney's Wedding Planning Advice for a Beautiful Wedding on a Reasonable Budget!

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