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Monday, November 12, 2012

Aspen Wedding on a Budget

My daughter Tess and her hubby recently celebrated their VERY FIRST wedding anniversary
This weekend I was going through photos and reminiscing about their day. One of the first things that comes to mind for me was that day in September 2011 when they decided to toss the original "big wedding plan" that would have taken place this past summer, opting to put together a smaller wedding with just family and close friends (around 35 of us altogether) Much sooner. Like... IN 30 DAYS. My daughter had her heart set on trying to have an outdoor wedding and in Colorado there's not much of a chance of that past October, and they just decided they didn't want to wait anymore to begin their married life together.  

Talk about brain scramble-ghaaa! With a practically non-existent budget, a DIY spirit, and the help of dear friends and family, we pulled it together! It turned out to be a lovely celebration, full of personal and meaningful touches and plenty of sentimental details. I hope you enjoy seeing how we did it and maybe you'll find some inspiration for your own DIY celebration!

First, the location:
Why Aspen?  (about an hour from where we live) After all, Aspen and "affordable" aren't exactly synonymous. Well, the kids got engaged there, so there was a sentimental attachment. We looked at every outdoor location possible, and decided on this beautiful location- Hallam Lake at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. 
 We chose it because it had a gorgeous lakeside location for the ceremony, a large deck just outside the nature center, and most importantly, we could also have the ceremony inside the building if the weather didn't cooperate PLUS they were totally cool about us waiting until the very last minute to decide. Perfect!

Unfortunately, the NIGHT BEFORE the wedding, Aspen got 6 inches of snow! The day of the wedding the temps in Aspen hit a high of about 45 degrees. These photos show what it looked like when we arrived that day. Tess had to give up her dream of an outdoor wedding, but she was a trooper and just went with the flow. We focused on the pretty features of the building, like the high ceiling, the beams and the pretty skylights.
 Beautiful, but....brrrrr

 Magical setting!

We decorated with very simple diy white tissue pom-poms tied up with white yarn.

I have to say the staff at A.C.E.S was so kind and helpful to us! They just couldn't have been more accomodating, even offering us extra space upstairs to dress and get prepared. Plus they provided all the chairs. The cost of this lovely Aspen location? $200.00 for three hours! 
By the way, that's my dad in "action mode" back there. Can you believe that he and my mom drove all the way here from California on really short notice so he could walk Tess down the aisle AND play guitar in the ceremony?? Mom and Dad, you're the BEST!
Next, the all-important DRESS!: 
So, Tess is a well-trained thrift store shopper. Thank you, thank you-no applause necessary : ) Before they changed to the speedy wedding plan, she called me from the thrift store one day to tell me she found a gown and veil with the original David's Bridal tags attached-$799.00 for the dress and $125.00 for the veil. She hadn't asked the store for their price yet, but she assumed it was still going to be more than she could afford. She wanted to know if she should even bother trying it on, risking falling in love with a dress she couldn't afford. I suggested she go ahead and try it and call me back. A short time later she called to tell me she not only really liked it, but the woman at the shop let her have the gown AND the veil for $20.00 together!! I'm pretty sure that was an angel at the counter that day.....

It was too big for her, but at that price we knew we could have it altered and still stay on budget (what budget?) The entire gown was covered with sequins and tiny pearl beads and she really wanted just simple lace on the skirt and train. The veil had sequins on the edge also, which she wasn't crazy about. 
Don't cringe now, but I spent a couple of days removing all the sequins and pearls from the bottom half of the dress, leaving just tons of soft beautiful lace. I carefully trimmed the sequined edge from the veil and stitched on a few of the tiny pearls from the dress. It cost $90.00 to have the dress altered to fit perfectly, bringing the grand total to $110.00 for a $925.00 gown and veil!

Stationary & Flowers:
In keeping with our shoestring budget, Tess gave me the go-ahead to design their invitations. I started with a vintage postcard that I've had for quite some time. 
I added black photo corners and an autumn-themed stamp where the postage stamp would go. I used a Fall leaf that Tessa brought home from Aspen for me the night she got engaged (aaw) and a section of a hymn that was meaningful to her. I did a sort of paste-up on light brown cardstock leaving space on the side for a wide lace ribbon she wanted to have added. I took it to the local copy shop to be printed and got some nice black card stock to mount it to. I think all totaled the set-up and printing (25 invitations), the lace ribbon we already had, the black cardstock and envelopes from Target cost under $40.00! No, it's not "fine" stationary, but it was created with love and it's a one-of-a-kind.
I recently did a little project with these oak leaves saved from the wedding decor here
All of the wedding and reception flowers came from the supermarket. If you cannot afford a florist for your event, you must check out the floral department of your local supermarket! They had an abundance of lovely autumn flowers to choose from at wonderful prices. The key here is NOT to pay them to make arrangements for you! We paid about $70.00 for all the flowers (about 2 days before the wedding) and Tess and her girlfriends made all the bouquets, boutonnieres, and darling mini-centerpieces using vintage bottles and my grandmother's silver salt and pepper shakers. So cute!
Tess used a vintage handkerchief of her great-grandmother's to wrap the handle of her bouquet, and wore her grandma's pearls.

*A note about the bouquet: Tess had originally asked the supermarket florist for Ranunculus flowers.
Sadly, when they arrived they had been crushed. The store offered to substitute roses they had in stock. The roses were more expensive, but they gave them to her for the same price. Again, she was a trooper and went with what was available. I think she created a lovely bridal bouquet for herself.
 DIY programs printed on our home computer.
 Sweet little handmade bridesmaid's bouquets.

The ceremony! :
Tessa's baby brother (then 4) was the ring bearer.

 DIY bird's nest ring pillow
DIY "Here Comes the Bride" sign, carried by Tessa's little sister
Grandpa beside her, her beloved straight ahead.....
Maid of Honor and Grandpa play/sing "For the Beauty of the Earth" during the unity candle lighting.
Gotta be some tears, right? 
 Followed by lots of smiles!

 New family!

 One other money saver for everyone involved-Tess asked her girls to choose their own dresses and just gave them general guidelines for colors and style. They all looked gorgeous! My middle daughter (pretty redhead on the left) found her dress at a second hand shop in Aspen for very little $.
What the heck is so funny?? : )

After the ceremony Tess changed into her reception dress, which was a gift from her Grandma purchased from a darling little shop in Glenwood Springs. They don't have a website, but I found a really great blog post by Victoria Hayden about the shop here: Elizabeth Dean Boutique.         
I guess if you're going to stand in the snow for wedding photos, you might as well wear your baby blue Ugg boots : )

While they finished up photos, my helpers and I zipped off to decorate the reception site at a restaurant about 30 minutes away. I regret that we released the photographer at this point (a budget decision) so only got minimal snapshots from the party. The restaurant allowed us to bring our own tablecloths and decorations and my son-in-law Cory made a great playlist on his iPod that they let us hook up to the sound system in the room we reserved for the party.
The groom's mom did a fantastic job on the wedding cake, designing it to look like a birch tree trunk with Cory and Tessa's initials and wedding date carved into it. It was delicious!
She used a sweet little pair of birds in a nest as the cake topper, along with a mini "Love" flag banner that I made by stamping pieces of cotton canvas and attaching to a silk ribbon.

Instead of a traditional groom's cake, Tessa decided to make two giant homemade chocolate chip cookies for Cory (his favorite) They were a hit!

We asked a friend to create a "guest tree" for us, instead of using a more traditional guest book. Guests stamped a fingerprint "leaf" on the tree and signed their names next to it. I love the way it turned out!

Another friend baked fall leaf shaped butter cookies for favors. We added some fall themed chocolates and a sweet homemade thank you tag.

Last DIY detail: My middle daughter and I made ribbon wands with little bells to wave and jingle the bride and groom on their way at the end of the evening. 

 Aaww...there they go : )

Oh. My. Goodness. This post was really long, thanks for sticking with me!

All said and done, I believe the total for the ceremony and reception (every detail included) came in under $2000.00.

Was it totally crazy planning and executing even a small wedding in just a few weeks? You bet it was. But it was also really fun and we'll never forget that crazy month. We couldn't have done it without everyone pitching in to help us, and we are eternally grateful.

It wasn't the quintessential "dream wedding" you might think of, but it was warm and creative and meaningful and it represented the bride and groom well. What more could you ask for? 
Thanks for letting me share a special time in our family's history!

How about you? Have you ever had to pull off an event with not much time or money? I'd love to hear about it!


Meet me at: Debbiedoo's Newbie Party!
Savvy Southern Style: Wow Us Wednesday!
Embracing Change-Creativity Inspirations! 
Cowgirl Up! Farmhouse Porch 
At the Picket Fence-Inspiration Friday! 



  1. You guys created a beautiful wedding. I love weddings, thanks for sharing and thanks for following my blog. I'm happy to follow you as well.

  2. Oh what a beautiful wedding day. The dress is so beautiful - and for a bargain! Some things are meant to be... Lovely pictures, happy anniversary to the couple! J9 x

  3. What a lovely location to have a wedding in. Everything is just beautiful.
    I'm stopping by from Debbiedoo's and I'm a new follower on GFC! We live in the Pacific NW and hope you'll stop by my blog for a visit!

  4. Just beautiful! All of the pictures are wonderful, but the one of the bride and her grandpa tugged at my heart. So many great ideas in one post! I have never seen the "Here Comes the Bride" sign and I love it! Have a great Wednesday!
    Blessings from Still Woods

    1. That particular photo sure tugs at my heart, too! I appreciate your visit!

  5. It was a dream wedding. So much love. Such a lovely couple. Congratulations to all indeed. I am so glad you shared.

  6. I don't know why but I cried during half of this post ( maybe because my daughter is getting married next summer? maybe because I'm in full menopausal mode? lol )
    You captured her day magnificently!!!
    Definitely your newest follower - would love to have you follow back when you have the time
    Big hugs,

    1. Aw, Susan, moms of the bride-to-be have full rights to be emotional (menopausal or not-haha)Thank you for your kind words, and following. Best of luck with your daughter's upcoming wedding!
      I'm heading over to visit you back :)

  7. I think the wedding turned out absolutely beautiful. Her dress is gorgeous. She is beautiful and they are in love. blessings Paula Lusk

  8. So gorgeous! She looked beautiful! As an event planner I can relate to the amount of work that goes into a wedding and getting all the details just right.

    1. Oh, Ann-Marie I bet you could tell some stories! I appreciate your visit!

  9. Nice post Mommy Dearest. You should also give credit to Krystine on her pictures por favor. And some of those I feel like I've never seen before...I need to go back and look at them again.

    1. I think some photos are Krystine's and some were Eddie's. I will go back and give her proper credit. Does she have a website for her photography? I know she is away for awhile. Love you Tess.

  10. Thanks so much for sharing your daughter's beautiful wedding day! Warm hugs, Esther

  11. I love the wedding you staged. I think it has far more meaning that a wedding done by a wedding planner - not that they aren't lovely.

    My daughter hasn't found Mr. Right (lots of Mr. Almost), but when she does we have talked about not having an over the top wedding. Thank goodness that is her idea. She has gone to so many over the tops in the last year, she says that she thinks simple is better.

    And you proved that.

    Thank You.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. It is a little sad when brides lean toward "show" rather than substance. I guess there's a perfect balance to be had in there somewhere? (dictated by budget, of course!) Thank you for visiting!


  12. It seems to have been a lovely wedding and the dress your daughter found was just amazing!

  13. What a lovely post and wedding. Congratulations to all of you on a job well done, and the one year anniversary for the couple. I actually teared up reading this - the family love shines in the photos. My daughter is getting married in late August near Denver. I live in the Pacific Northwest and she just graduated from nursing school. We actually have a pretty decent budget, but are still trying to DIY in the areas where we can - it makes good sense. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Debbra, thank you so much for your sweet comment! I wish you all the best as you plan and prepare for your daughter's summer wedding!


  14. Jeanette,

    I have to tell you how lovely your family is, and what a gorgeous wedding your daughter had! We have about three months to plan (and make everything!) for my daughter's backyard wedding this summer. I am inspired!

    xo, Tanya

  15. This is one of the loveliest and tasteful weddings I have seen online- regardless of budget-So many weddings have turned into huge impersonal productions these days-
    the photo of her in the dress and uggs is just darling! Congrats!

  16. Wow! I just found your blog from Cozy Little House. I had to read the post on your daughter's wedding. I think small weddings are so much prettier than these big, enormous ones. Your daughter's wedding was absolutely beautiful. They mean so much more when it's immediate family. I love her dress! I wish them a happy life together.

  17. What a beautiful wedding and a gorgeous, gorgeous bride. Love her dress! All the details are so pretty and all on a budget!! Job well done. Loved all the photos.

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