05/03/2012 11:46 am ET Updated Jul 02, 2012

My Low (Almost No) Budget Wedding

One evening he took me out for dinner by the beach. The stars were shining, the food was delicious and the company was divine. When he pulled out a vintage diamond ring and asked me to marry him, I was so excited to see if the ring fit, I forgot to answer him! But I quickly said "yes!" and we shared the news with our close friends and family. My dreams were coming true! An amazing man wanted to spend the rest of his life with me; I had a gorgeous ring and big plans for the perfect wedding day.

But we were 23 years old and hadn't started in our careers yet. He was working on a Master's and I was substitute teaching part-time. We were basically broke. My parents? Well they had just helped me and my siblings through college. I vividly remember pressing my parents for a number. "I need a budget" I told them. I was ready to hire the photographer, try out various flavors of wedding cake and go dress shopping. When they told me they had about $2,000 to spend on the wedding, I felt the wind go out of my sails. That's an impossibly small budget, I thought. Can two people even get married with such a small amount of money?

For background, I had been a wedding coordinator for about three years after college. I helped people plan their lavish ceremonies and receptions and I had very specific ideas about what my day should look like. All of a sudden, my plans were out the window. Lavish, no. Simple, yes. It was time to get seriously creative.

Since my dream wedding was out the window, we started from scratch. Basically, if we wanted to be able to serve any food at all, everything else would have to be free. I quickly thought of a friend who had a knack for photography. Maybe she would be willing to take pictures for us at no charge? My mom suggested I try on her wedding dress that my grandmother had made for her 30 years earlier, and it fit perfectly. With a few alternations, it was reinvented and absolutely gorgeous. My creative roommates agreed to make the bouquets and floral arrangements (which I later heard involved snipping hydrangeas from various people's front yards!) My mom and I scoured every thrift store and flea market in Southern California to find vintage teapots that would later be potted with plants and herbs for the table centerpieces. Our guests were served deli sandwiches and fresh fruit and our dessert table held every flavor of cheesecake you can imagine stacked on vintage cake plates.

It wasn't perfect, but it was beautiful. And more than that, it was ours. It was our day... a special day to celebrate the beginning of our lives together. It was filled with tons of personal touches and close friends who made it even more special by loaning us their talents and time.

That night, we checked into a little bed and breakfast by the beach. As I hugged my new husband, I realized we were just as "married" as the couple who spent $200,000 on their wedding. And maybe we'd even had more fun than they did! After all, it's not about how much you spend on your wedding, it's about celebrating the beginning of a marriage. And you can do that with almost no budget at all!