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Our DIY Retro Wedding

Growing up, I never really spent much time fantasizing about my wedding day... And for the majority of 2016, I regretted that.

Planning a wedding is said to be one of the most stressful times in one's life. Throw that in with graduating college and moving out into your first apartment all within a six month span, and you've got a panic attack waiting to happen.

Despite the anxiety of it all, I had a lot of fun planning the wedding with my now husband. With a lot of help from our friends and family, we pulled off something spectacular: An amazing Vintage/Etsy/DIY wedding on a tight budget of $7k!

The Dress

The overall theme was retro/mid century with a classic 1950s -1960s vibe. It's pretty much impossible to find a dress that fits both that theme and my body. Anything authentic would require the 1950s housewife diet of cigarettes and amphetamines. Even reproductions were hard to come by, and I'm "average-sized," (whatever that means.)

Etsy was my go-to for nearly everything. My wedding dress was handmade by Etsy seller MichyLouDotCom. She was incredibly easy to work with. I sent her my measurements and she sent me a dress that fit like a dream! The best part? It was $350. I got a custom wedding gown for less than some of my friends have spent on flowers. Although it's still more than I'll ever pay for any other piece of clothing EVER, it was worth it.

The Tux

Grant was lucky enough to stumble upon an original 1960s tuxedo that fit him perfectly! My parents found it at a garage sale and picked it up "just in case." Well, mission accomplished. We bought the shirt, bow tie, and cummerbund from Younkers or something (I had a coupon and there was a sale going on.) Overall cost? Somewhere around $30.

The Shoes

Fun fact: I wore these shoes as part of my Amy Winehouse costume the first night I flirted with Grant. I had trouble walking down some stairs (I don't do heels,) and he offered me his arm. Swoon. Anyway, I hadn't worn them since, so why not wear them on my wedding day? Full circle, people.

Grant's shoes were a gift from his mama, so they're not really part of the budget, either... But he found some socks that he absolutely needed. They cost $8.

The Rings

Grant knows me pretty well by now, so of course he proposed with a vintage art deco ring. The square shape made it nearly impossible to find a wedding band, however. So I turned to Etsy yet again, where I found elegantjewelbox from Athens, Greece. Was I wary to buy online from over seas? A bit. But it was seriously down to the wire— I had about a month before nuptials when I clicked that "check out now" button. After communicating with the owners to assure speedy delivery, I was not disappointed. Most of the local places I had checked out wanted thousands of dollars for bands, and this beauty cost $290.

Grant's band was unique. During the planning process, he came up with the idea that he wanted to get a sterling silver band on our honeymoon to the Grand Canyon. Since I'm obsessed with southwestern sterling jewelry, I was on board (and even more convinced I was marrying the right guy.) But what to do about the ceremony? Well, during one of my weekly Target runs, I stumbled upon a silver band in his size for $12. Problem solved.

For our unity ceremony, we built a lego heart (pictured above.) BricksWithoutMortar helped us with that.

The Flowers

We went with paper flowers for a number of reasons:

  • They're unique

  • They last forever

  • They're more affordable

  • I'm a graphic designer, so it's kinda cute.


My favorite person to work with was MyDinosaurDreams. I found The Sorcerer's Stone and Half-Blood Prince at a garage sale (50¢ each) and met with her locally to deliver the books. She created such beautiful flowers from the pages. And at $6 per dozen, I couldn't get enough!

I ordered the red flowers from lillesyster on Etsy for around $20/dozen, then I arranged each bouquet myself.

I made boutonnieres for Grant and each groomsman, usher, parent, and grandparent from supplies purchased at Michael's:

I made brooches for the bridesmaids with the discs and bar pins linked above as well (along with some black paint and starburst charms.) The total flower budget gets a bit fuzzy, but it was under $300— including centerpieces!

Ceremony Decorations

Grant and I went to Greenwood Park on our first date. It's one of Des Moines' oldest parks and it features an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Long story short: we didn't need much for the ceremony.

My father-in-law built the arch for us based on my design. We decorated it with tulle left over from my bridal shower, as well as paper pom poms from PaperFlowersStore. We used the poms for reception decorations, as well.

Reception Decorations

The biggest life saver of the event? The fact that our reception venue let us set up the day before. That was a key selling point for me when we chose Johnston Lions Club. It was seven miles away from the ceremony site, but that gave us time for a private photography session after we said "I do." The Lions Club also let us use our own caterers (Grant's sister and her boyfriend are chefs, so that was a must.) Sure, it wasn't a grand ballroom or anything. But $1000 for a 48-hour, 200 person venue rental? Yes. Please.

Most of the reception decorations were either DIY creations, or sourced locally from the amazing Funky Finds Vintage & Retro. And since Grant works in hospitality, we had access to borrow some lighting and linens.

The Cake

We ordered a small $40 birthday cake* from local bakery Crème Cupcakes. To give it a multi-tiered look, we wrapped two vintage hat boxes in craft paper + washi tape and stacked them gradually with the cake on top. We found the deco wedding cake topper at Funky Finds, then we cut the cake with the same knife Grant's parents used at their wedding!

For our guests, we ordered sheet cake from Costco. (Yeah, seriously.) Everyone who tried it loved it. Three sheet cakes at $20 a pop were supposed to serve 150 people, and we now have about 75 pieces of cake in our freezer. People still talk about how good the cake was at our wedding over six months later!

$100 for cake + $10 for two hat boxes + happy guests = happy bride.

* During every ordering process throughout the planning stage, I tried to avoid the word "wedding" as much as possible, since the Wedding Industry is notorious for overcharging. IDK how much Crème charges for wedding cakes, but I know a small round birthday cake costs $40.

Stationary and other design

I'm not gonna lie, it didn't hurt that I'm a graphic designer. I designed everything:

  • Save The Dates

  • Shower invitations

  • Wedding invitations

  • RSVPs

  • Maps

  • Programs

  • Return address labels

  • Envelope seals

  • Thank you cards

  • The stickers on the record albums we used as chargers (and they doubled as favors!)

  • The menu signs and place cards

  • Photo booth signs

  • Wedding website

  • Et cetera, et cetera.

I had never realized how much design goes into a wedding! If you're not a designer, it can cost you big bucks. Of course, there are many complimentary services out there. If you're working with a theme, though, you need a design specialist on your side. The only thing this portion cost me was my time and printing fees.

I used Vistaprint for every piece of stationary. Pro tip: Avoid the "wedding" tab! If you have a complete design, business postcards let you print a higher quantity for a lower cost. I used this method for save-the-dates, invitations, and RSVPs. For our wedding programs, I printed them as bi-fold brochures. I also included a map to the reception on the back to cut costs. And as always, Vistaprint had some sort of promo code available.

Other little details:

  • PHOTOGRAPHY: My dear friend Eric Brockob shot all of the gorgeous photography. He was amazing to work with and I'd recommend him to anyone!

  • DRINKS: We had an open bar and commissioned some cousins to take turns tending it. Kegs and boxed wine were the most cost effective options.

  • FOOD: We paid for the food, but the catering was gifted to us by my sister-in-law and her boyfriend (for which I am eternally grateful.) We set up a double-sided buffet and had our hostess release tables one by one. It was a great set up that went very smoothly.

  • MUSIC: We hired a cheap but highly rated DJ. There was quite a bit of microphone feedback... I would recommend hiring a DJ that's familiar with the acoustics of the venue.

  • TRANSPORTATION: I asked my friend Austin if we could use his 1960s Cadillac for some photos, and he volunteered to drive us to the reception! We're truly lucky to have such amazing people in our lives.

  • HAIR & MAKEUP: My extremely talented makeup artist aunt, Shelly Banks, provided me with her makeup expertise, and my friend Tiffani styled my hair, as well as all of my bridesmaids!

  • GIFTS + FAVORS: We gave small gifts to everyone in our wedding party, as well as hostesses and the personal attendant. We provided guests with bubbles during the ceremony, and used record albums as chargers during the reception. Guests had the option to take them home as favors, and most of them did!

  • PARTY ATTIRE: We told the bridesmaids and groomsmen to wear black. We chose black because we figured everyone would already have something in their closet that would work, and that was true for the most part. We gifted bow ties, suspenders to the guys, and the girls got scarves and brooches. For the kiddos, I bought the flower girl dresses at wherever I found Grant's shirt (Younkers?) and the personalized "Ring Bearer Security" shirt is from busybeesgifts.

It was such a wonderful feeling to share the day with everyone we love. We truly couldn't have pulled it off without all of the support from our friends and family. After planning for over a year, we couldn't be happier with how it all played out. And the best part of all is that we get to spend the rest of our lives together!

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