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It’s true that weddings can cost a lot of money. According to a survey by Wedded Wonderland, the average cost of a wedding in 2019 is just over $50,000. Over the past four years or so, however, I’ve noticed a trend. Couples are becoming savvier with ways to simplify their wedding and to save money. They might downsize their guest list, make compromises on the bells and whistles, or take advantage of off-season offers. This could trim their budgets down to the $10,000 mark.

And then there are the exceptional couples who decide on a DIY wedding and pull it off with a micro-budget.  It’s possible. I promise! I saw it with my own eyes – and it was gorgeous. The creative and clever couple managed to host a wedding and reception for 70 guests, for under $1000!

Here’s how they did it and my top tips for pulling off an inexpensive and back to basics wedding.

Involve Your community:

Plan a wedding not based on commercialism, but on community, sharing, and participation. This amazing couple decided that instead of wedding gifts, they would ask their friends and family to contribute their time and skills. The wedding in turn was even more meaningful to those who attended, because they helped create it.

Use volunteers instead of hiring an on-the-day coordinator. The couple asked the local primary school to volunteer in return for a donation to the school. Four mums turned up and did a fabulous job of helping the guests get fed and watered easily. The donation made was a fraction of the cost of what the wages would have been, and they kept the event running smoothly.

Catering was avoided when the couple asked guests to bring a dish to share in lieu of a gift. It was a multi-cultural feast, served buffet style — from curries to salads to pasta to stews, the guests got to choose from a great variety of food. Alcohol was brought by guests, or brought out of the cellar.

Borrow a venue

The couple saved money by marrying at a family farm in the Margaret River region. You might be able to ask a family member, friend, or member of the local community if you can use their venue for this momentous occasion in exchange for leaving the grounds in better condition than you found it — this could mean offering a day of weeding and pruning or whatever the landowner considers appropriate compensation.

Let nature be your stylist.

Their ceremony was conducted under a lone peppermint tree, where the gnarly trunk and branches acted as the arbour. Home-made dream-catchers were hung up to add to the romance and a wine barrel was used as the signing table. Flowers were picked from local gardens (with permission) on the morning of the ceremony, and were used to create flower crowns, table decorations, and the bridal bouquet.

Go Vintage

The bride wore a gifted cocktail dress, while the groom wore a shirt borrowed from his dad, and shorts from the Op Shop. The rings they exchanged were made from a grass-tree frond and sap — temporary symbols until they could tattoo their “rings” on later. The tattoos cost them around $100

Get Creative

The reception site was created by building a wall of hay bales borrowed from a neighbouring farmer. Home-made bunting was strung from the windmill and criss-crossed above the space. A long table was constructed from salvaged pallets, and the seating from scaffolding planks, which were covered with sheets from the Op Shop. Crockery and cutlery was a mish-mash of op shop finds and donations from extended friend networks. Glassware were an eclectic mix of hand-painted jars that guests were asked to keep. The whole set-up cost them under $50!

Be prepared

What it did take was a massive amount of hours by family and friends to construct the table and seating, to sew the bunting and paint the jars, to paint the signs, to string the bunting and lighting, and to source all the freebies needed to make the event. If you’re thinking about a micro-budget large-scale wedding, do take this into account — you will need the support of an army of family and friends to help you pull it off — but it is possible!

Anita Revel of YesIDoWeddings.com is an award-winning Celebrant in Western Australia.

 

Credits

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Darin Collison of Darin Collison Photography loves to tell stories through his work. If you’re after a wedding photographer with a fine art, photojournalistic approach then you’ll definitely want to chat to Darin about shooting your wedding! First and foremost, he believes in documenting your entire day, including the big moments, and most importantly the small details and intimate moments that often happen when you least expect them to. Today he tells us about his process and how goes about capturing those special moments that are raw and evocative. He also lets us in on what’s changed in over a decade in the industry, what a typical day as a wedding photographer is like, and his favourite things about photographing weddings.

Where are you based?
Aspendale, Victoria.

Are there any local venues you work closely with?
Not really, although there’s a tonne of lovely spots close by – The Briars, Baxter Barn, Morning Star Estate, off the top of my head.

Do you travel for weddings?
For sure! I’ve been to Albury Wodonga, Cairns, NZ, Hobart – I’ll shoot wherever.


How long have you been shooting weddings?
Wow. I went full-time before my son was born. He’s eight now. So, around 9-10 years full-time, and shooting part time for several years before that, to learn my trade.

How would you describe your photography style?
Unfiltered. Candid. Raw. I want to tell the story. But mostly I want to make really strong images. Basically, I used to be a street photographer. I try to bring that sensibility to the day.

What’s a typical day in the office look like for you?
It’s amazingly glamorous, actually. I sit in my darkened studio editing wedding images. In my slippers.


What about a wedding day?
That starts the day before – charging tons of batteries, checking and cleaning gear. Worrying about the weather and the light. Planning where to park. Double checking the logistics. The day itself is… easy. In a stressful, full on and exciting way. Shooting is the fun bit.

What’s your approach to a wedding, starting from when you first meet the couple?
Basically, I just try to give couples as strong a sense of who I am and how I approach things as I can. If that works for them – awesome! Once it’s booked in, I get in touch a couple of weeks out from the day to get all the info I need. That way, on the day I can take photographs, and they can, you know, get married and have fun.

How important is it to make a connection with them?
Good question. I guess it’s important, but there’s a big difference between chatting to someone for an hour in what is kind of an interview type scenario, and then actually being there on their wedding day. One thing I have learnt is to never have any preconceptions as to what the day will be like.


Do you offer engagement sessions? If you do, why do you recommend them?
I do, but I kind of don’t push them. I… like to shoot for the story. Weddings are fun.

What are the top three best things about photographing a wedding?
Being on 100% of the time. You have to get in the zone and stay there all day. It’s amazing. Those moments when you know it’s all come together just perfectly in the frame. That moment when you realise you’ve found the essence of the day and a way to show it visually.

What’s the most challenging aspect of it?
Well, there’s a lot that can go wrong! The things that you can’t control tend to provide the biggest challenges. Weather and light – I’m looking at you.


What’s your favourite style of wedding to photograph? Why?
That’s almost impossible to answer. I’ve shot so many weddings of so many varieties, I really can’t single out a particular type. I guess… weddings where the emphasis is on enjoyment and participation do it for me.

You pour so many hours of work into a wedding! What’s some of the behind the scenes stuff that couples might not realise you do, especially after the wedding?
Hey White Balance! You wanna come here and answer that for me? Editing takes hours. I guess most couples are kind of aware of that, though. There’s a tonne of other things – chatting with the venue so you can maximise the chance of ducking out for portraits when the light is right is a biggie.

How do you guide couples through the wedding album process?
It’s a collaboration. I get my couples to pick their favourite images. Not the ‘wedding shots’, but the ones they love the most, whatever they are. I use their choices as a basis for designing the album. With a very strong focus on the story first, and then making sure each page works visually as well. I’m super fussy about it, actually.


What have been some the biggest changes in weddings since you started out as a wedding photographer?
Well, I shot my first weddings on film…

When I started, my approach was pretty unusual. Now, having a photographer that is there to document rather than pose is a far more normal approach.

One of the biggest changes is the move away from ma more traditional format – you know, church then wedding venue. People are being far more creative with  locations for all aspects of weddings, which rocks.

What kind of trends have you noticed in the weddings you’ve shot recently?
Less. Bunting 🙂 Seriously, while people want a really great looking environment, the accent has been more focussed on great food and music, rather than the whole place looking ready for a Pinterest spread.

When you’re not shooting weddings, where would we find you?
By day, I’m a mild mannered editor of wedding images. By night, I transform into… Super Dad! Which means, I’ll be in the kitchen. Tacos tonight.

Thank you Darin for sharing your thoughts and incredible work with us today! Your approach to wedding photography is beautiful and refreshing, and we’re sure your bridal couples agree! To find out more about Darin, head on over to the Darin Collison Photography website or check out more of his work on the Polka Dot Directory.

For their regional wedding, the beautiful couple Alison & Nick were after a laid-back festival atmosphere – and a menu to match! Preferring the idea of a relaxed, cocktail event, our catering brief was to create a menu that would fit the theme but also ensure guests were well-fed and dietary requirements were catered for.

Here is how the magic happened.
Alison and Nick opted for the perfect pairing of traditional hot and cold canapés, combined with a feature grazing table to keep their guests feasting well into the night! In keeping with the festival theme the grazing table was treated as a ‘buffet style’ dinner, so guests could fill a plate and eat casually amongst the venue’s greenery throughout the evening.

The canapés included light and fresh options such as a scallop ceviche & blue corn tostada and prosciutto with honeydew & gin jelly, which were followed by some more substantial mini-dishes including a sticky brisket taco with pickled green mango & papaya salad.

We love creating grazing masterpieces (and we’ve been doing them since 2001) and this table was no exception! Complete with everything from freshly shucked oysters, a glazed ham on the bone and huge 3kg wheels of cheese – this grazing feast ensured all guests were satisfied and could hit the dance floor!

As the wedding cake was cut, the dessert table was set. Combining the wedding cake with the dessert table is a great way to ensure dessert isn’t forgotten, so that whilst guests are admiring the cake they can also enjoy an array of sweet treats in between their favourite songs! Some of the favourites from the dessert table were the calvados, glazed apple tart tatin with clotted cream and our famous chocolate fudge with crème fraiche & honeycomb.

About Ed Dixon Food Design: EDFD have been bringing wedding dreams to life since 2001. From award winning catering, exclusive venues, styling and staff, we’ve perfected the art of the perfect wedding celebration! This is the biggest day of your life, enjoy the moments and let us take care of the rest.

Polka Dot Dream Team...

The below wedding vendors made this magic happen and are an approved part of the Polka Dot Directory. Visit their portfolios to learn more and enquire about their services!

Credits

This post features the following wedding vendors. If you've been featured below, we'd love to get to know you. Click here to join Polka Dot Bride.