June 16 is in the books as one of the happiest days of our lives! Our destination wedding celebration in Galveston, Texas was nothing short of a dream come true in many different ways. We're especially thankful for all our friends, family, vendors and partners who helped us navigate the waters of planning our own wedding!
After our engagement we wanted at least a year to enjoy the new milestone. What we didn't know was what to expect when beginning to plan our own wedding on budget. It's a VERY daunting responsibility when you have many details to account to pay for and hundreds of people to consider inviting when you limit yourself to a $35,000 budget, which is around the national average cost of a wedding nowadays. So that year to enjoy our new milestone - was a big crash course in how to plan and save for our nautical destination wedding in Galveston. Let me tell you how we made it through with NO DEBT and tips to use during planning.
The best engagement gift I got myself was Southern Weddings' Joyful Wedding Planner. I went back and forth many times if it'd be worth just paying a professional wedding planner to help me. When looking at cost though, it was easy to convenience myself $44 v.s. $4,000+ of my budget was a realistic purchase and I'd have a lot of learning to do. This planner helps remind brides what really should stay at the forefront during wedding purchase decisions and to make family, tradition and small touches of personalization go a long way. The brainstorming sheets and advice from the editors of Southern Weddings were cornerstones of our planning process and I highly recommend the planner. You're also sure to get many compliments from vendors during meetings about how organized you are (even if you don't feel like it yet)!
To my surprise, Pinterest didn't help as much as I thought it would, shocking I know. I already had a Pinterest board full of ideas, but when you've got expensive taste and a budget to stay on you're looking for anything you can get for free, or that will take away as little of your budget as possible. The Joyful Wedding planner helped me multiple times to come back down to reality and consider what our celebration is really all about and it's not making it look like a spread in a magazine. I eventually abandoned looking on Pinterest and began looking for partners and venues that could cost-effectively help create a wedding celebration within our budget by showing me what I had to work with and we'd go from there. I had to tell myself I couldn't do it all. There's absolutely no need to load yourself with the stress that society, friends or even family puts on wedding expectations. Do what matters to YOU, this is YOUR special day!
Once I had the right mindset, we were ready to start seriously planning. After searching for a checklist and cross-functional way to keep record of everything from to-do tasks to guest information, I decided to use Google Sheet's all-in-one wedding planner template. This way, I could give access to Todd and our parents so they could have real-time updates on our plans at their hands. Using a Google Sheet also comes in handy when you're in vendor meetings and instead of writing notes on paper, you can quickly update your spreadsheet and be done. If you end up downloading the template and have a hard time deciding how to customize for what you need to keep track of, leave a comment or send me an email and I'll give you some recommendations. These are the tabs I used: To-do List, Coordination List, Attire, Wedding Day Itinerary, Day-of Music, Budget Estimator, Rehearsal Dinner Guests, Payment Calendar, Guest List, Hotel & Transportation.
Now, I can't tell you the many dozens of available vendors who will serve the Galveston area, or which area is best for your wedding celebration - but I can tell you which vendors we narrowed down our search to and we think they're awesome to work with!
Bridal dress - Pence and Panache
Bridesmaid dresses - Revelry
Groom and groomsmen suits - Menguin
Church - Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Ceremony vocalist - Amy Brennan
Ceremony harpist/pianist - Harp Elegance
Photographer/Videographer - J&D Productions
Reception venue - Sea Star Base Galveston
Lighting and DJ - J&A Entertainment
Cake - Stacie's Sweet Creations
Wine and beer - HEB
Florist - J. Maisel's Mainland Florist
Catering - Affairs to Remember
Guest favors - Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
Spa services - Moody Garden's Hotel
Rehearsal dinner venue - Fisherman's Wharf
Guest accommodations - Best Western Plus
Expect many phone calls, meetings and email exchanges to happen as you plan your destination wedding. Since you won't always be able to meet vendors in person till perhaps the day before your wedding, it's important you have a really good idea of what you want from them. Over communicate, never under communicate your expectations from vendors. You're the manager of your event, it will be your job to check up on vendors and make sure things are on your schedule. Notice how many times I mention YOU. :) It's also in your favor to take a risk, be gutsy and ask questions about: getting a discount or special package for multiple services being done, custom products, free products in return for committing to share pictures or do a review for them etc. Get a couple eyes other than your own to review contracts to make sure you're not going to get yourselves into a bad deal. I can't even begin to tell you how disappointed we were in several instances where we were presented with contracts that literally looked like a high schooler wrote it and we could get taken advantage of - needless to say they never got our business. Negotiate the best deal you can get for the sake of your sanity and budget, you'll thank me in the end when you have excess money leftover to put towards your honeymoon.
I started saving early for my wedding during my college days, had a special gift from my parents that helped cover catering costs and both our parents helped with a couple DIY project expenses; everything else was saved for up until the week of our wedding and paid for in money we had earned, no debt. Know your wedding and savings budget forecasts, they'll be your guide of what you can and can't afford to do. Literally every cent counts towards the lump sum you can pull from for wedding expenses because there's always unplanned costs. So my secret to having a wedding celebration with no debt is to save money years in advance and have a plan.
Once you have a plan, you're ready to start customizing a wedding website to tell your celebration story! This is the fun part. I really enjoyed using Joy, a free wedding website and app service that houses everything like managing guest RSVPs, Q&A, wedding party intros, collection of photos, registries and all the little details you need to let your guests know about. They offer many different themes to choose from, you can see how we customized ours here. Since we decided to use Honeyfund as our main registry to assist with honeymoon expenses, we didn't have to worry about managing multiple sites or lists on our website and just in general. Honeyfund was easily integrated into our wedding website plus also had an app for us to manage our gifts and receive pledge notifications. If you're like us and don't need more "stuff" and rather invest in an experience you'll remember for a lifetime, this is up your alley.
By this time, you should have a better idea of the nautical vibe you're trying to accomplish. Knowing what each of your vendors can bring to the table is important to keep in mind as you decide where you can cut expenses by doing multiple DIY projects yourself on your own time and looking for ways you can get free supplies. Our Top 11 ways we did just this:
1. Gathered our wedding party, friends and family for beach day trips to gather driftwood, sea glass and shells to use as decor.
2. Crafted our own driftwood garland strands for each guest table.
3. My dad helped build our beautiful pier inspired cake stand.
4. Repurposed oyster shells into escort cards.
5. Designed, printed and laminated our own table numbers.
6. Built a custom gift envelope holder using a fishing pole and an old bait trap we found at a nautical flea market in Rockport, Texas.
7. Upcycled a vintage lifering we found at Nautical Antiques & Tropical Decor to be our guest book.
8. Todd's mom helped bound together the ceremony programs I designed and printed.
9. Todd's mom helped design and create dozens of custom koozie favors and pens.
10. My parents and grandparents helped put together little candy anchor favor bags for all guest tables.
11. Partnered with the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau to have goodies for an island time #LoveGalveston DIY favor bag activity.
Now you're probably like, how am I supposed to find that kind of time to do all those things? We had many late nights and are very thankful to have had our wedding party's help to complete everything. I might have had a couple complete breakdowns of feeling like things weren't going to ever get done and/or we were running too low on the budget... but it all worked out!
One of the two final and best resources you can do for yourself when you're planning your own destination wedding is to create a vendor contact sheet and a wedding party itinerary. Share the contact sheet with all vendors and wedding party members in case you aren't able to get a hold of (it'll happen). The sheet should have company name, contact name, phone number, email, website and their deliverables. The wedding party itinerary should include all details for the happenings taking place the week of your wedding. For rehearsal day and wedding day, you should have a good hourly breakdown of what activity is happening, where it's happening and when they should plan to be somewhere. This itinerary will help you avoid the craziness that most say they experience leading up to the wedding day. If you end up having a hard time deciding where to start on either document, leave a comment or send me an email and I'll give you some recommendations.
When I had gathered all of our DIYs, wedding attire and arrived to our accommodation on Galveston, all I could do was breathe deeply and enter a state of relaxation. We had accomplished so much and our special day was only 24 hours away; we were on island time now! The weather was perfect, all my final checkup meetings with vendors in the morning were on schedule and I knew guests who had arrived earlier in the week were having a great time exploring the many different things to do on Galveston Island. Getting email communications and meetings done in the morning with vendors allowed me to be more relaxed during our rehearsal at the church and ready to greet our rehearsal dinner guests without a sense of anxiety.
We decided to have an early afternoon wedding ceremony, which meant an even earlier morning rise at 5:30 AM to get hair/makeup done, get dressed and prepare for vendors to start arriving at our venues to stage decorations, complete our photography shot list and start preparing food. When you're on an island like Galveston for your wedding celebration, the mornings are beautiful. I got to see the sunrise from the seawall with seagulls flying over the water catching their breakfast and fresh winds of salty air to jump start my day. It was perfect.
Our vendors worked great together and if there were any hiccups in the plan, well I didn't know it till later that night and by that time it really didn't matter because I wouldn't have known the difference. Our wedding day flowed so smoothly, I was so happy. Happy to see everyone able to come together, some not having seen each other in years, enjoying great food, dancing, activities and Galveston Island itself.
I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into our special day thanks to J&D Productions' stunning photographs!
Planning a nautical destination wedding in Galveston on a budget is possible. Do you have a helpful destination wedding planning tip, suggestions on great Galveston Island vendors or venues? Comment below so we all can help each other!
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