The Offbeat Bride: Jessica, Photographer

Her offbeat partner: Matthew, Musician & Photographer

Location & date of wedding: Mashamoquet State Park, Pomfret CT. 10/7/2006

What made our wedding offbeat: We decided to get married after having seen each other in person only five times (over a year and a half) and burning through countless verizon cell-to-cell minutes. We had only two months to plan the wedding, and I (the bride) was living in California while the groom and the wedding was in Connecticut. I arrived in Connecticut four days before the wedding and thankfully had family and friends who handled all the preparations while Matthew and I generally freaked out.

…And yes, it was an $1000 wedding. In fact, we spent a little under $1000. Here's how we did it.

2662175123 7d1e8306cc b alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

My dress was handmade and came in at about $100. I had planned on putting a bouquet together at the last minute, but forgot about it until I was half way down the aisle. We had candles in mason jars, a meat and cheese spread, cupcakes (instead of a cake), and Starbucks coffee that the guests enjoyed before the ceremony since I was an hour and a half late.


My father and one of Matthew's oldest friends traded off officiating the wedding. Matthew's father (with advanced Alzheimers) was his best man, my childhood best friend was my maid of honor, and we had a flower girl who never made it down the aisle. We passed on a lot of the traditional wedding “stuff” because it didn't fit into our personalities. In the end the most important thing for us was the commitment of marriage and to have a wedding that was in tune with our creative impulses.

Our biggest challenge: Besides the time constraints of planning a wedding in such a short amount of time, our biggest challenge came the day of the wedding:

Walking down the aisle

The night before the wedding I stayed at a “charming” new england B&B a half mile from the site, and had planned on getting ready there as well. When my friend/hair stylist/makeup artist showed up with my sister and wedding dress, the innkeeper freaked out on us about opening the curtains in the room and ranted and raved about only two people being allowed in the room at a time. With all the stress and confusion of wedding preparation I had an uncharacteristic emotional melt-down and had to be relocated to hotel 10 miles down the road. By the time I made it to my wedding, an hour and half late, I had an inch of makeup coating my face to hide the effects of a morning of crying. (…I'm so embarrassed right now).


My rings

The general consensus is that the innkeeper held, um, prejudices toward my sister with blue hair and my stylist with tattoos, large plugs, and a pierced septum, which didn't fit into her quaint, country image.

As hard as it was that day, it in no way affected my life beyond that afternoon. It quickly became a “war story” to be passed around and laughed at.

My favorite moment: During the ceremony my dad shared how if some guy he didn't know called him up from across the country and asked to have his guitar, he'd say no way, but when a guy called and asked if he could have his daughter he had no hesitation. Beyond that the whole day is a big blur that I only remember through photos.


My offbeat advice: As a wedding photographer I have seen brides freak out about what feels at the time to be insurmountable obstacles, but I can say from experience that in the end nothing else matters and you WILL laugh about it later.

Too many people get caught up in the “stuff” of a wedding and forget that it's about the relationship and commitment. Having spent under $1000, we're just as married as a couple that spent $30,000.


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Comments on Jessica and Matthew’s laid-back under-$1000 wedding

  1. this is inspiring! here i am freaking out over a much larger budget with about a year to go. if you can do it on a tiny budget in a little while, i am sure i can do it! and i think i can even do it with less stress and less money! thanks!

  2. Gorgeous! Your wedding is inspiring and memorable. “Having spent under $1000, we’re just as married as a couple that spent $30,000,” is such a true statement that few seem to understand.

  3. I needed to read this today. Congrats on your marriage :-).
    We’re a month away from our own wedding date and I’m starting to feel the pressure to have everything sorted out. It’s immense and seemingly immediate. Thanks for putting it all in perspective – it’s one day, hopefully of many.

  4. This is so inspiring. Considering my FH & I want a laid-back, really inexpensive wedding, this helps a lot.

  5. I’m so intrigued by your story and inspired by your ceremony decisions. And your dress is divine, your friend’s mom is very talented!

  6. Jessica, you are my hero. I’m hoping that in the end, I’m able to keep my wedding under $2000. (Thanks to a lot of DIY) It’s encouraging to know this can be done and still look beautiful. AND, for your philosophy on the day, you took the words right out of my mouth. That’s exactly what we are trying to emphasize on our big day.

  7. “…and ranted and raved about only two people being allowed in the room at a time.”

    Am I the only one hung up about this? WHAAAAAA? That “innkeeper” sounds completely insane. I can’t imagine how stressful that must have been.

    • Yeah, I’m with you there. I’m impressed that the writer was willing to relocate, because only 2 in a room at a time is absolutely ridiculous and I’m willing to bet that the innkeeper hadn’t warned them about it beforehand…

      Even if it wasn’t for my wedding, I can’t imagine that I would have left. Props to the bride for maturity.

  8. No Liz, it’s not just you. I felt a strong urge to head across the country and give that innkeeper a bit of verbal…um…”perspective.” But instead I decided to just marvel at the coolness of that tree branch aisle!

  9. About that innkeeper…yeah, everyone knows what I’d like to say about that, so I will refrain.

    But I LOVE LOVE LOVE the knotted tree roots aisle. I am hoping to find a “natural chapel” like that somewhere in Tennessee or thereabouts. (Suggestions welcome, guys.)

    Your wedding was beautiful. 🙂

  10. Wow! I love your location for the ceremony – lovely! I especially like the aisle you made.

    I’m getting married in about 4 months, and we’ve only had a couple more to think about what we’re doing. Sadly we’re both procrastinators. Uh-oh. But your story has given me inspiration! Thank you very much. =]

  11. Offbeat advice is perfect! I totally agree with that and don’t think wedding needs to cost an arm and a leg. It’s always stressful during the time of marriage but in the end it’s all about the rest of your lives together.

  12. OH my… I love your aisle! How very beautiful and fitting for the setting! (And free!)

  13. Thank you SO much!!! We are freakin’ out about our budget and all these expensive venues and few to choose from in El Paso!!! I’m off to google Parks… We want an outdoor ceremony anyway!!

  14. This is lovely.. I adore the woods setting.

    It’s so great to see that you could have a freak out and still go on to be a lovely bride!

  15. Your story and your beautiful pictures made me cry. What an inspiring wedding.

  16. I am LOVING your story! I am also a wedding photographer, engaged to a man 1500 miles away… cell companies hating us… Planning a crazy classy <$1000 wedding!

    I hope to see more pics! Sounds like you have some creative ideas!

    Congratulations to you both! And LOL about what your dad said! Thank you so much for sharing!

  17. Sorry about asking to see more pics…

    Click on the link…

    oh dear…

  18. Your so right about getting caught up in the “stuff” of wedding, and you are just as married as the bride who spent $30,000. i love your dress i can’t believe it was only $100 damni need to meet your dress maker, hehe. The mason jars and the candles really seemed romantic. Congratulations!!

  19. I’m part of the “wedding business monster” and I have to say – it’s refreshing to hear about a wedding done well for less than $1k. What an inspiration!

  20. Absolutely beautiful! The aisle is just breathtaking and so is the locale. I love it.

  21. Thank you!!!! It helps so much to see a bride that didn’t spend thousands and thousands of dollars on her wedding (not that there is anything wrong with it if you have the money)!
    My fiance and I are planning our wedding right now and it’s ridiculous when people are telling me 5,000 is a “low budget” wedding. Your ceremony was beautiful and thanks for the inspiration!

  22. You pictures are sooo beautifull!!! It looks like you a a memorable and special wedding. I’m getting married 18th of july 2009 in Holland (we’re Dutch) and it will also be an outdoor, lowbudget wedding.I will steal some of your ideas!! thanx Willemijn

  23. This is FANTASTIC. Way to go for pulling it off- staying true to yourselves, and not sweating the small stuff. Bravo! 🙂

  24. You’re so right! You guys got married because of love, and not for a big wedding party. That’s so nice!

  25. Awwww This is toTaLLy awesoMe & KuT3!
    I’m getting married in February 13th & our story is similar to yours; we met through a video game.
    Lovely wedding & the best of luck for you.

  26. I too am in love with the aisle. My fiance and I are considering a nearby state park (we’re going to visit tomorrow) and that’s an awesome and eco-friendly way to make an outdoor space more structured.

  27. This is the park I spent my summers growing up in North Eastern CT. You made the park look even more beautiful!

    • I’m getting married in about a year (summer 2012) and I’m using this wedding for ideas and the inspiration for my wedding. I love it! It’s given me hope that we will be able to have a beautiful wedding on a small budget.

  28. Beautiful story, beautiful wedding. I am really inspired to keep it simple to focus on what’s really important.

  29. I was reading this and thought…this could be me (minus the meltdown) because we’re planning something small and we’re doing it our way. Congrats on not letting anyone tell you ‘how it should be’

  30. No matter how many times I come back to this website, I always read this blog. It is simply beautiful.

  31. I LOVE the aisle! And I think it’s a good idea and money saver to not have chairs for the ceremony! Most ceremonies aren’t very long these days so a few chairs for moms with babies and the elderly would suffice! Plus with it being in a woods, it would be SUCH a hassle to set them all up. Blessings!

  32. Wow. Beautiful, inspiring, and lovely. in simplicity and humbleness there lies great peace. God bless ur marriage and may u have m an y more great and wonderful memories full of joy and confort.:)

  33. Love this! I am in Connecticut (in fact I grew up 10 minutes from Mashamoquet!) and am on a budget as well, too perfect. Do y’all still live in CT? I currently live 15 minutes from there. Needless to say I was VERY excited to read this post 🙂

  34. how did you find the venue/site? did you have to reserve it or pay for it? I want to do an in the woods ceremony. please and thank you. CONGRATS!

  35. I’m very encouraged as seeing your wedding. We will need to spend under $1k if not less. Yes, it’s possible to plan in a couple months. I find myself noting things we don’t want to include, one being a traditional venue. Congratulations on your love!

  36. Actually looking at the pics one would not know this is a 20 grand wedding i am serious, some of these expensive weddings arn’t much different so obviously wedding shops caterers see a bride coming, and think everyone wants to spend thousands.Heck some take loans out to do it, then come back from honeymoon to live in a small rental, when the wedding thousands could be used for a home deposit…and yes all for one day.I also had this type of wedding i borrowed a dress, and i bought shoes wee thing of flowers to hold, held it in folks garden and i only had immediate family few friends and a afternoon buffet tea after.Well with only 15 people there was enough food prepared by mother and her friend…and yes you are correct we are just as married as the 30 grand people.Also i have known 3 couples who borrowed heavily for weddings and ended up breaking up with several years, one 6 months.Imagine spending that large amount then that happens.

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