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beach wedding bride groom

Chris and I got married on November 12, 2011. It was, by far, the best day of my life. I know most mothers say that the best day of their life was the day their children were born. Well, I have had two all natural, drug-free childbirths. My children being born was the best thing to happen, however the days I spent laboring in pain for hours aren’t on the top of my favorite things to do list, just sayin’. Our wedding day, on the other hand, was one I could relive over and over. We had a beach wedding here in Naples, Florida. Because it is our anniversary this month, I wanted to share how we had our beach wedding on a small budget, in hopes this helps someone else with some creative ways to save money on a wedding.

Even if you aren’t having a beach wedding, you will find that a lot of these ideas can work for any kind of wedding, they aren’t specific to the beach. If you are looking to have a DIY wedding, you will love these ideas!

beach wedding creative ideas

How We Planned an Awesome Beach Wedding on a Small Budget

I am going to walk you through all of the ways we saved money and got creative to DIY our wedding, but first I just have to say it was a joint effort. Collectively as a family we pulled together everyone’s talents to make it work. Thankfully, I have some super talented and helpful in-laws who live close by. You can still DIY your wedding without family members though, so don’t be afraid to go at it on your own!

beach wedding

We got engaged on Christmas Eve of 2010, so we had a little under a year to plan our wedding. We didn’t even really get started right away, so I would say everything was mostly done within the last 7 months leading up to the wedding. We knew right away that we wanted to have a beach wedding, but living in Naples, FL we knew it could be very expensive. We had to get creative right away to make our dream wedding happen within a very small budget.

Beach Wedding Invitations

The first thing we started working on was our Save-the-Dates. Once you do that, you have time to work out the rest of the details. I DIYed our Save-the-Dates and our invitations. For our save-the-dates, I simply created the artwork I wanted and used to create magnets. We decided to do message in a bottle invitations to go with our beach theme, and I had a lot of fun creating them myself!

beach wedding invitations

The first step was to the create the artwork, which was simply text on a page, formatted to fit onto a half-sheet of paper. Once I was happy with the text layout, I formatted two per 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, so I could essentially print once on my own printer at home, and cut it in half to make two invitations.

Finding the right paper took a bit of trial and error. We wanted it to look aged and it also needed to be able to roll up nicely. I finally found some really thin, almost transparent paper. However, it didn’t have the right color to it. I found an “old paper” background artwork online and printed that on the front and back of each piece of paper, and then printed the text onto the pages.

In keeping with the aged look, I didn’t want to have straight edges, so I cut them out using scalloped scissors and just moved my hands to make each one a little different.


I was able to find the glass bottles with corks online, and they even came with the perfect sized boxes to ship them in. It’s been 7 years since then, so I can’t remember the exact site I got them from, but I found these very similar bottles.

I found the sand, tiny seashells, and small hemp rope at Michael’s. Rolling the invitations into tight enough rolls and tying with the rope was probably the hardest part of this project, but after the first several I got the hang out of it and had a good system going. My mom helped me with this, and we filled each bottle with a little sand, a few shells, then rolled the invitation and tied the rope to it. We tied the other end to the cork so the invitation would be pulled out when the cork was pulled out.

These message in a bottle invitations were a hit with our family and friends! Most of them kept them on display somewhere in their house. It was a really fun project to work on, and I was really proud of the end result!

Now let’s talk about the wedding dress

I am going to most likely go against all popular opinions here and tell you that I was looking for a dress without anything sparkly on it. I don’t like shiny things. I don’t like sequence, shiny stones, glitter, need I say more? Walking into most bridal stores is kind of a nightmare for me. I mean, finding a wedding dress that doesn’t have any sparkly elements can be … challenging.

Then there is the other big factor of wedding dress shopping: price. I was never interested in, or able to, buy an outrageously expensive wedding dress that I would wear one time. Do you get a discount for taking the sparkly stuff off?

wedding dress

If you’ve ever found your perfect dress, you know that you just know when you know. It’s kind of like the husband part. I was lucky enough to find a dress in a small local shop, that didn’t sparkle all over. I knew when I tried it on that it was not only perfect for me, but for our beach wedding theme. When the shop owner told me it was from last season and she would also discount it 50%, I knew it was the one. I know most brides wouldn’t be excited about having a dress from “last season”, but this bride couldn’t care less about what season a dress is from, and trust me, no one at my wedding could tell what fashion season my dress came from either.

With the wedding dress, comes the wedding shoes

Because we were getting married on the beach and having our reception in a wooden pavilion on the beach, I knew high heels were out. Also because I don’t ever wear high heels, high heels were out.

Half of the wedding I was going to be barefoot, so I really just needed something to wear during the reception so I didn’t get splinters in my feet. Enter: matching bride and groom shoes.

Chris has been wearing the same type of shoes for years. I actually just realized how many years he’s been wearing them because he still wears them and we got married 7 years ago. When I happened upon the same type of shoe for women, I knew I had to wear them for our wedding.  It was comfortable, cute that we matched, and I got to re-wear them multiple times after our wedding. Seriously, I wore them until one day my big toe popped out through a hole in the front as I pressed the gas pedal in my car.

Beach wedding bride groom shoes

Bridesmaid dresses and other details

We kept our wedding party small, which not only saved money, but kept it more personal. My sister’s bridesmaid dress was the burnt orange color we picked for our wedding because of the sunset.

Beach wedding bridesmaid

I found some hair clips at a local store, and my mother-in-law fancied them up a bit. She did such a great job that I didn’t even mind the bit of sparkle.

Wedding hair accessory

My good friend, Candice, who is a hair stylist, did our hair and make-up for free. It’s always great when you have talented friends who are willing to help you out!

Beach wedding make-up

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

I found an assortment of really cute handkerchiefs at a local thrift store, and decided to buy the whole lot. I kept the one with a bit of orange on it for myself, and used the rest for gifts. Before the wedding I gave one to each of my close family members, assuming they were all going to cry, ya know. Mine served as a pop of color, a tissue because I knew I was going to cry, and my “something old”.

something old something new something borrowed something blue

My sister, Heather, gave me the little penguin (if you didn’t know, penguins are my favorite animal), which served as something new. It had a blue bow on it, something blue. I also borrowed my cousin Brandi’s garter from her wedding, something borrowed.

Let’s get into the wedding details and decorations

This was truly a collaborative effort, especially with Chris’s mom and step-dad, who used their own talents to create things for us. For starters, the arbor my father-in-law, Bill, built for us.

You can rent or purchase these, but they are expensive. So, in true DIY fashion, Bill built one himself. It was so beautiful. He did an amazing job! It was way better than anyone of the arbors we could have rented, and truly made the wedding ceremony’s whole look.

beach wedding arbor

Those flower arrangements on the arbor? The handy work of my mother-in-law, Lynn. She used to be a florist and is extremely talented at flower arrangements, obviously.

She also made all of the bouquets as well and did an amazing job. So, we only had to pay for the flowers we needed for those things, and she worked her magic. She also made these cute glasses for us, and loaned me the cute purse you see below.

bride's bouquet

The night before the wedding I realized I had a bunch of (fake) starfish and orange ribbon hanging around, so I pulled out the hot glue gun and made some extra decorations, which ended up being perfect to hang on the chairs at the ceremony. I wasn’t too attached to these and couldn’t repurpose them, so I sold them on Etsy after the wedding.

beach wedding decor

Going along with our beach theme, we really wanted a beach boardwalk feel, where you can get all the good saltwater taffy, rock candy and funnel cake. Naturally, that meant we need to have a candy table. I ordered the candy online, and when looking for what to put it in, I opted for things we could re-use.

wedding candy table

Those canisters? I purchased them so I could re-use them, and used them in my kitchen for sugar and flour for several years, until they were broken when we moved. The wooden box is still displayed on a shelf at our house with a candle in it. We left bags out for our guests to fill up and take home some candy.

We also had cute little candy canisters for wedding favors, which I also found online and filled with a little of the taffy.

beach wedding favors

And our wedding cake? Eh, cakes. Funnel cakes to be exact. What’s a beach boardwalk without a funnel cake? Chris and I have never been big on wedding cake, and we’ve certainly never been too stuck to tradition. Thankfully, our wedding venue included a wedding cake within our food package and agreed to do individual funnel cakes for our guests instead of one big fancy cake. They were a hit!

wedding cake funnel cakes

In addition to making our bouquets and arrangements for the arbors, my mother-in-law also made these beautiful table centerpieces. I still use some of the glass vases for flowers when Chris brings them home to me.

wedding centerpieces

We purchased a bunch of the coconut candles, which we used in our house until they were all used up. So many things from our wedding were reused for a long time, some still are.

My in-laws also made this awesome ring-holder for our little ring-bearer to carry down the aisle. I thought it was so creative! I also appreciated the fact that the rings couldn’t easy come out of it, they were tied in there good! No one wants to search the sand for rings mid-wedding ceremony!

beach wedding shell ring holder

Our Wedding Reception Place Cards and Table Names

We decided to name our tables using names that had meaning to us. For example, Vasari was the community Chris lived in when we met, and where we had our first kiss (right in the middle of the street). Boat Hook Loop was the street we lived on when we moved to Orlando for Chris’s job, which he hated, and we had the worst 9 months of our entire relationship, but came out of it stronger. Raven’s Row was where we always watched football on Sundays with friends. Palmetto Dunes was where my in-laws lived, where we spent a lot of time, and where Chris took me to meet his parents for the first time. There were more, but you get the idea. For each table I made a sign that said the table name and then a short back-story about the name of the table.

wedding table name signs

I used a thick card stock with a textured feel and the same background art, font color and fonts I had used for our wedding invitations.

Then, I made matching place cards with each guest’s name and the name of their table. My father-in-law, Bill, had a wooden box in his garage that he asked me if I could use, and we came up with the idea to fill it with sand and use it as the place-card holder. He painted it orange and even went as far as to build a mini arbor in it.

beach wedding place card holder

Making all of the signs and cards myself was not only fun, but it saved a lot of money!

Not Your Traditional Wedding Guest Book

Instead of a traditional wedding guest book that gets put away somewhere and never looked at, we had wishing stones. I am still so happy about this decision, as this basket of rocks sits in the middle of our patio table full of our friend’s and family’s wishes for us.

wedding guest book wishing stones

We simply set out the basket of rocks, a permanent marker, another basket to place them in, and a sign to explain what they needed to do.

beach wedding wishing stones

All of the baskets, by the way, I picked up at thrift stores and still use in my house today.

Our Wedding Officiant

I really struggled to find the right officiant for our wedding. Since we weren’t getting married in a church, wanted to write our own vows, and wanted to basically control everything our officiant said, it was hard to find someone to marry us. Not the mention, they were also expensive (like everything else for a wedding)! That’s where the idea to have my father-in-law marry us came in. Bill is Chris’s step-dad. Chris’s dad, Gene, was his best man in the wedding.

Beach wedding officiant

Bill is a huge part of our lives and we really couldn’t imagine life without him. In order to marry us, he became a legal notary. I then wrote up our wedding ceremony, being the control freak that I am, and provided it to him ahead of time to look over.

We each wrote our own vows, and it was really special to hear what we had to say to each other. It was also special that our officiant stopped to cry a couple of times during the ceremony. I was really happy that our entire wedding was really only made up of people who are close friends or family.

Other ways we saved money on our wedding

  1. We created a playlist of songs (thanks, sis) and just used speakers at our reception to play the playlist. No need to pay a DJ, especially because our guest list was capped at 50 people.
  2. We worked it out with our venue to bring our own alcohol instead of paying for theirs. We only offered specific things and brought a limited amount. Most of our family members don’t drink, so we wanted the option for those who do but didn’t want to pay a fortune for it.
  3. Chris worked out a deal with our wedding venue for the food. Their options were plated or buffet. Plated is always more expensive than buffet, but buffet just wasn’t as appealing to us. Thankfully, Chris is in the food & beverage world and was able to work out a deal for family style. We were able to pick several options as if it was buffet style, and rather than having guests choose the one thing they wanted, each table was served with a family style portion of everything. This way they could choose what they wanted, but not have to get in a buffet line. It was cheaper, more personal, and gave our guests more options.
  4. All of those burnt orange cloth napkins you see in the pictures? I bought those in bulk online, and still pull them out for special occasions (mainly Thanksgiving because of the color). Buying them was cheaper than renting them, and once again they still get used today.

father walking daughter down the aisle beach wedding

Our wedding was magical. From the moment my dad walked me down the “aisle”, it was all more than I could have imagined.

My sister and I even surprised the audience at our reception with a little impromptu dance to Push It by Salt n Peppa, which we learned the night before in our hotel room.

wedding reception surprise dance

Our reception was perfect, on the beach as the sun set, and gave us that perfect orange coloring that inspired it all to begin with.

Beach wedding reception sunset

We danced, celebrated, and had the best night ever.

The one thing that I did splurge on was a good photographer. If I could give you one tip, it would be not to go cheap in that area. As you can see, we have amazing photos from our wedding day. I knew that a good quality photographer would cost more, but I also knew that it was worth it. There is only one chance to get that right, and you will be stuck with those wedding photos forever, no chance for a redo. Find a great photographer and know that the cost is worth every penny. Because this was important to me, I actually got a second job working at a breakfast and lunch restaurant on the weekends, which allowed me to save up the cash to pay for our photographer. Chris was working a lot at that time, and we had no kids, so it was actually enjoyable for me and helped me get in extra exercise pre-wedding (bonus).

wedding reception dancing

Reliving our wedding day to write this blog post has been so much fun. If you are currently planning a wedding, I would just encourage you to remember that most of the “stuff” won’t matter so much later on. Think about what matters most to you and spend more on those things. Planning so you can re-use things saves money and ends up being more meaningful later. Get creative, make your day magical, but go with the flow and remember the real point of your wedding day. Have fun with it so when you look back, you don’t have memories of how stressed you were over things that didn’t end up mattering at the end of the day.

beach wedding small budget


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