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Millenial Money: How to spend $12K on a $40K wedding amidst a pandemic...


A newly-wed couple holding their dog while stood in front of a flower arch
Credit:James & Jess Photography

I'm always drawn to the CNBC Make it channel which is a Youtube channel that showcases how a range of people around the world earn, manage and spend their money with titles such as 'Living On $210K A Year In NYC | Millennial Money' It's a hub of information and ideas as it covers everything from budgeting to investing and of course, how to pivot during a pandemic and restructure your income.


As a wedding planner, their most recent video immediately got my attention: 'Planning A $12K Wedding In Santa Barbara, CA | Millennial Money' as it followed a couple who had managed to pull off their rescheduled wedding in May 2020 within a $12,500k (approx £9,000) budget- despite it being valued at around $40K (approx £28,700).


How they met:

Kayla took Andrew's 'spot' in a local coffee shop and eventually after 2 years during a fire alarm evacuation, she finally broke the ice and initiated a conversation with him about what he was currently reading. His answer of "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck must have impressed her because 5 years later, their wedding took place!


Plan A:

Originally the couple planned spend around $40-50K on their '300 people in a 'big sweaty dance party' with multiple disco balls, 5 course meal and amazing flowers' July wedding. They had already spent $500 and sent out their 'Save The Dates' in early March, not knowing that less than a week later, lockdown would be announce and therefore rain on their planned parade.


Plan B:

They quickly scaled back and rescheduled for 24th May 2020, inviting 18 guests (22 including the couple, their baby and their dog) to their ceremony at the Hotel Californian (who gave the space in exchange for "content creation" as they wanted to promote it as an ideal spot for small events) & reception at The Lark.

A newlywed couple walking down the stairs with their dog
Credit:James & Jess Photography

Togetherness was key

The Bride was 8 months pregnant when they got married so their entire wedding was centred on the idea of family, togetherness and food which were most important to them. This is something I tell all my couples: realise what the day means and what is most important to you, then stick to that and don't get distracted by everything you think you're 'supposed to' have!


"We focused on our baby. We focused on each other. We focused on togetherness. These were always values for us, but they had new significance because of the intimacy of our smaller wedding."

- Kayla Picciuto Elia


How they kept costs down

The couple has run a company based in Santa Barbara called 'Party Proper' that offers party services for hire, such as 'DJ 's, musicians and engineers' since 2017 and set a revised budget of $10,000 using savings & a little help from family and industry friends who 'donated' their services for free, at reduced rates or trade/contra to save their dream day. They also gave their vendor's creative licence on the decor and concept to keep things playful but also 'fun, funky & wild'!

All images credited to James & Jess Photography


'We wanted a really lovely 5 course meal, we wanted amazing flowers, I wanted to be all in sequins... but if you stripped all that away, what's behind us is our love and that's what's going to take us through the rest of our lives. That's worth celebrating anyway!'

- Kayla Picciuto Elia


His favourite part of the wedding:

"...seeing my bride walk down the aisle... special moment that I don't think I was prepared for."


Her favourite part of the wedding:

"...our vows: we did vows to each other but we also did vows to our baby which just felt like it brought everything home, the why behind our wedding.."


The budget breakdown:

(credit: CNBC.com)

  • Wedding planner: $500 (approx £360 ). (Real value: $8,000 / £5,700) A friend, who runs Array Creative Design, donated her services, but the couple paid $500 for supplies and a generous tip.

  • Photographer: $0 (Real value: $7,300 / approx. £5,250) James and Jess Photography donated their time.

  • Videographer: $0 (Real value: $6,500 / approx. £4,600) In keeping with the couple’s desire to be creative, their videographer, BStudios, shot the entire wedding vertically and livestreamed it on the couple’s Instagram so friends and family who weren’t able to attend could watch.

  • Reception venue, dinner and drinks: $6,000 (Real value: $6,000 / approx. £4,300) After the ceremony, the couple hosted a five-course meal at The Lark, one of their favorite restaurants.

  • Ceremony venue: $0 (Real value: $3,000 / approx. £2,150) The Hotel Californian donated space for one hour.

  • Engagement ring: $2,000 (Real value: $2,000 / approx. £1,400) The couple picked out the ring together at Apres Jewelry in Los Angeles, the same day Kayla had her first ultrasound.

  • Florist: $500 (Real value: $1,750 / approx. £1,250) The florist, Alexis Ireland Florals, donated her time, and the couple covered the cost of the flowers and a tip.

  • Wedding bands: $1,500 (Real value: $1,500 / approx. £1,000) Andrew’s band cost $1,100 and Kayla’s cost $400.

  • Audio equipment rental: $0 (Real value: $1,000 / approx. £700) They used the equipment they own for their business.

  • Vocalist and band: $0 (Real value: $700 / approx. £500) Live music would typically cost $350 an hour, but three of Andrew’s family members, as well as one additional musician, performed as a gift to the couple.

  • Bride’s outfit: $450 (Real value: $450 / approx. £300) Kayla bought her wedding dress from Free People for $150 and a sequin duster from Blanka Boutique for $300. She also wore a matching sequin mask, in true 2020 fashion.

  • Champagne toast: $500 (Real value: $500 / approx £360 ) They purchased wine from their officiant, a friend who owns Satellite wine bar.

  • Groom’s suit and shoes: $500 (Real value: $500 / approx £360 ) Both were purchased from Nordstrom.

  • Wine for rehearsal dinner: $300 (Real value: $300 / approx. £200) The couple hosted an outdoor pizza party for their rehearsal dinner. They bought the wine and Andrew’s parents covered the food.

  • Marriage license and fees: $300 (Real value: $300 / approx. £200)

  • Bride’s hair and makeup: $0 (Real value: $200 / approx. £140) A friend who does hair professionally did Kayla’s hair, and she did her own makeup.

Total: $12,550 / approx. £9,000

Value: £40,000 / approx £28,700

What's next..?

Although the couple admit that it felt a little 'frivolous' spending on a wedding mid-pandemic, but decided that it was worth the cost for the importance of completing the 'act' of getting married.


They are still planning to have a big party to celebrate with wider family & friends once it's safe to do so!


"Because of Covid19 we shifted our expectations of our wedding and really shifted into the 'why' behind the wedding instead of the 'what'/ the why became the focal point & our love and our families coming together & really rejoicing behind the meaning of why we're getting married in the first place."

- Kayla Picciuto Elia