How my husband and I planned a wedding in one week and stayed under our $3,000 budget
- When Sara Lyle got remarried, the most important guests were her son and her now husband's two kids.
- Creating a fun wedding weekend for the kids was a priority.
I've been married twice and, as a result, had two weddings. The first, almost 10 years ago, occurred two months after my father, my hero, passed away. The setting — a hillside home overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains — was gorgeous. Only 12 close family members and friends were invited. Despite its beauty, the day was infused with grief as my dad wasn't there in person.
In contrast, my now-husband's first wedding, closer to three decades ago, was a traditional affair. The formal ceremony took place in their family church, and hundreds of people attended the reception. The newlyweds drove off at the end in a car covered with "Just Married" graffiti.
Both of our first weddings were what we had wanted at the time. However, for our second wedding — with each other — we desired something different. My 8-year-old and his 13 and 15-year-old sons would be our most important guests. And, this time, the ceremony and celebration were for us, free from the weight of others' expectations.
We just didn't realize we'd end up pulling it off in a week and keep it under a $3,000 budget. Here's how we managed the wedding whirlwind, ensuring our kids were part of every step.
Our proposal starts the wedding countdown
During a getaway over Memorial Day weekend without the kids, my then-boyfriend surprised me by dropping to one knee and proposing, set against the backdrop of a vibrant Lake Erie sunset.
Contrary to the famous song's lyrics, diamonds are not this girl's best friend. So, the fact that he went to significant lengths to find a simple, antique opal engagement ring meant a lot. More importantly, I had no doubts about wanting to spend the rest of my life with him. I said "yes."
We told our immediate family and best friends, but we didn't want to officially announce the engagement — you know, with a social media post — until we could tell our kids in person. My husband had individually asked each of them for their blessing before proposing, so now we wanted to share the news with them together as a family. We waited for the following weekend when we had all three kids with us again. After the big reveal, there were hugs all around.
The wedding plans were fast-tracked and then put on pause
Both being from the same Florida beach town, we considered various options, from hometown venues to wedding weekend cruises and "destination" choices, including the Ohio resort town where my husband proposed. We even explored elopement and micro-wedding packages in Colorado, where we live.
Beyond the logistical difficulties and budget concerns of planning a wedding — especially a long-distance one — the biggest challenge was working within our respective custody-sharing calendars. Unless we were willing to wait until the following summer break, the only extended holidays with all three boys were Thanksgiving, the week and a half after Christmas, and the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in mid-January.
The first two options got dismissed pretty quickly, partly due to the expense of flying all five of us anywhere during the holidays. Doing an outdoor wedding, which we both wanted, over MLK Day weekend in January was also a non-starter since most Floridians — including the majority of our families — consider anything below 70 degrees "freezing."
Planning the wedding was becoming a source of stress, not excitement. We stopped talking about it for weeks.
Spontaneity for the win
With Labor Day weekend coming up, marking the end of summer and including my husband's birthday when we'd have all three kids, I had a spark of inspiration. I mulled over the idea for a couple of days before finally asking my husband, "Would you want to get married with the boys on your birthday?" to which he replied, "Are you serious?" I was, but I left the decision squarely at his feet. Within two days, he was all in — and we were racing against the clock.
It took us several days to book an officiant (costing about $500) and photographer ($1,000), which we found online and interviewed over the phone. We also confirmed that we wouldn't need a permit to get married at our desired outdoor location — the Garden of the Gods national landmark in Colorado Springs — and reserved rooms at a nearby lodge with an indoor water park, mini-golf, magic wand thingies, and more. The wedding weekend was as much for our kids as it was for us — and we wanted them to have fun. It's why it was our biggest splurge, close to $1,200 plus food and activities.
Then, it was time to send out the invitations
Using Canva, I designed personalized invitations for each boy to "celebrate a special day just for the five of us!" We placed the envelopes in their usual spots at the dinner table.
Once they opened them — and, as expected, got most excited about spending the upcoming weekend at a theme resort — the questions began. Given my husband's and my shared history of divorce, they wanted to know how long we thought we'd stick together, sparking a candid conversation. Awkward? A little. Necessary? Absolutely.
Ironing out the details
From that point, Amazon and Etsy packages arrived at our front door every day: shirts, shorts, and shoes for the boys, which they still wear; our wedding bands, under $90 for both; and dried flowers for my wedding bouquet, about $20 and another $15 from Michael's for ribbon and a few more stems. Before we left for the wedding weekend, we took about 20 packages back to the local UPS center to return them. I apologize, Planet Earth, for the extra carbon emissions.
In other spare moments, my husband and I shopped for things better tried on in-store — including my wedding dress, which I found on a whim at H&M for $60. Score! We each wrote our vows plus Family Blending ones to read to the kids. While we didn't want them to feel pressured to say anything during the ceremony, we did want them to know how important they were to us.
Even though we DIYed most of the event details, trusted friends and even random strangers helped make it all happen. This includes the Office Depot print center employee who wouldn't let us pay the $7 for the invitations because it was a "wedding gift" as well as a friend down the block who lent me a family heirloom to wear as my "something borrowed."
Our minister offered to bring a Bluetooth speaker to play an instrumental version of "Unchained Melody," a special song that reminded me of my dad. Our photographer saved us from a soaking-wet ceremony — and gloomy pictures — by alerting us that morning of heavy rain forecast for later in the day. As a result, we moved everything up, including asking a mobile beauty bus (which cost about $150 with tip for hair and makeup) to meet me an hour earlier. Thank goodness for kind people.
The wedding ended with a rainbow
With little time to spare, we kicked off the main event with the processional song. Our sons served as ring-bearers. My husband and I independently quoted the same song in our vows to each other. We recited the Family Blending vows to the boys. In a symbolic nod from my dad, a rainbow appeared right after the ceremony ended. All three kids signed our marriage certificate as witnesses.
Here's the thing about getting remarried in your 40s, at least in our case: You have enough life experience and wisdom to know that a healthy, lasting relationship takes serious sustained effort. Also, you are keenly aware — to quote the band Old Dominion — that "Life is short. Make it sweet."
Ours is even sweeter, having shared the journey to our wedding day with our kids.
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