Why Are Weddings So Expensive? How to Save, When to Splurge. | Elopement and Small Wedding Planning Tips

Kelly Cameron Photography

Natalie+Andrew’s wedding at The Vineyard at Florence.

You’re looking for an elegant, pretty, pinterest-infused detailed wedding, but with a far more palatable price tag, right?  Something simple, still gorgeous, with quality pictures, lovely florals and an experience that makes you less stressed.

Most brides who contact me are just like you.  They want a beautiful day with an eighth of the price tag and a twelfth of the stress associated with a traditional wedding.  

So how can I help?

First off, let’s start with expectations. 

Why do weddings cost so much?

 What are your greatest expenses and how do you keep them down while still having something beautiful?

Kelly Cameron Photography

Creating a wedding celebration, you are paying for:

1) A Product (flowers, food, venue, photographs, details, decor, rentals, cake)

2) A Service (Expertise and labor -often along with a product)

3) Both

You get what you pay for.  Usually, this statement is true across the board. I say usually because you always want to research your vendors, read reviews and take a long, hard look at the proof of their products/services before you pay anything.  Vendors who provide quality products and services are generally not the cheapest folks.  Quality costs -whether it’s for a big or small wedding.  You’re paying for what?  A quality product and quality service.

Whether you’ve thrown a housewarming, baby shower, graduation party or get together with friends -you know that parties aren’t cheap.  A detail-filled, pinterest-style wedding (no matter how small) is going to cost you.  But it can be cheaper if done smartly.

Why do flowers cost so much?  You’re paying for both a product and the expert service of a florist to put them together.  For those of you unfamiliar with the floral industry, there’s a lot involved behind the scenes.  First, assisting in selecting the kind of flowers you want in your wedding.  Then the florist has to price what it would be to order everything that goes into the arrangements, bouquets, etc.  Then they provide you a detailed quote (trust me, that takes a lot of time.) Then there are whatever tweaks you want done based on the quote.  Then they order the flowers.  They make sure they have all the vases, etc. (included in the price as a rental fee.) When the flowers come, it’s HOURS and HOURS of skillfully assembling arrangements, centerpieces, bouquets, boutonnieres, etc.   Florals take a lot of time, and flowers themselves are not cheap.  If you decide to DIY your florals, -depending on the amount of arrangements, etc- plan on allocating at least 6 hours to their construction right before the wedding and having a cool place to store them. And plan on still spending a good chunk of change on the flowers themselves.

Kelly Cameron Photography

Why does catering cost so much?  If you’ve ever hosted a party, you’ll know you usually spend more on food and beverages than you anticipated.  You also know that it takes a heck of a lot of prep time to get everything ready, nicely set out, not to mention cooked up.  When you request catering, you’re hiring a crew of people to assist not just in feeding your guests, but in doing all the things a good hostess does -cooking, set up, arrangement, clean up, tear down, providing utensils, plates, etc.  That’s a big job, even if it’s only for a few guests.  For a small, light reception the food may only cost $500, but all the other pieces and parts required to make it useable and attractive are a significant addition.  If you’re planning on DIYing your reception, make sure you have designated people to do ALL of those jobs associated with catering, not just bringing in the trays from wherever you ordered the food.

Why are venues so expensive?  Well, for one thing, larger wedding venues are expensive because that’s what they were created for: large gatherings where people want a certain quality of environment and service.  Many venues provide certain things in their packages, such as tables, chairs, basic clean up.  They also have a large mortgage to pay because, heck, they’re on a sizable piece of property in a nice building, they’ve got to pay the bills somehow.  This is why I suggest elopements and small weddings during the week (Monday-Thursday) when venues offer a discount, or at non-traditional venues such as bed and breakfasts, restaurants/bars, gardens/parks, large property owned by a friend, etc.

“Really, do I need a coordinator?  Isn’t that just throwing money away?”  Darling, no matter how simple your wedding seems, there are so many elements involved that you DON’T want to be dealing with while you’re trying to get yourself ready, enjoying the moments, etc. during your wedding day.  You really want to be figuring out where the cake cutting stuff is in which box 20 min. before the ceremony?  Or trying to cue your friend to start music on their iphone to start your processional?  Or making sure the cake got delivered, the food is set up, your parents know where to be, the officiant has everything they need?  THAT is why you hire a coordinator.  Someone to take charge of the day so you don’t have to micro manage each moment that you truly want to be enjoying.  A good coordinator is WORTH IT. 

Kelly Cameron Photography

Wedding Photography -that’s just someone with a good camera, right?  Would you trust your 12 year old nephew to document your day beautifully?  Make sure formal group photos get taken (in less than 1 hour) while coordinating all the various groupings? Be sure you have wall-display-worthy photos?  Um…no.  A good wedding photographer KNOWS WEDDINGS.  It’s a high-speed, no second chances kind of shooting that requires creativity, good people skills and technical know-how in order to ensure you have your beautiful moments captured -AND have lovely portraits you’ll proudly want to display in your house and show grandbabies in years to come.  Since this is my speciality -wedding photography- I can attest to the importance of getting the “full package” of quality product+service.  You have to hire someone with the proven skills for the end result you’re looking for -don’t trust an amateur to do a professional’s job, and don’t trust a professional who doesn’t have what it takes to back up the proof of their quality of product+service, no matter how appealing the price tag is.  Fabulous photos -and a pleasant experience- ARE WORTH IT.

Kelly Cameron Photography

Splurge or Save?

It depends on what you’re wanting.  If it’s a simple elopement with no reception, no guests, no cake cutting -just the short ceremony with a few beautiful pictures afterwards, then you can truly keep things very inexpensive.

If you’re wanting the quality of a $50,000 wedding but with 12 instead of 300 guests, you’re still going to be paying a significant amount of money to create the look.  You’ll be saving on the catering and alcohol, the number of rentals/linens, etc, the amount of florals, a smaller cake, number of hours of photography, but you’ll still need professionals to create the look you want and provide those combinations of services+products.  

I recommend saving on:

-catering by sticking with a cake/dessert and champagne toast reception.

-florals by only splurging on personal florals (bouquet, boutonniere, etc.) and keeping display florals to a minimum.

-details by DIYing them yourself and having ALL projects completed 1 month before the wedding so you don’t stress.  (Details: hand painted signage, hand made invitations, decor items, centerpieces non-floral related, gift bags, etc.)

-venue by having your small wedding or elopement on a weekday (Monday-Thursday) or at a non-traditional venue.

Plan to splurge on:

-Personal florals

-Professional hair styling and make up application

-Photography (it’s all you’ve have to preserve your memories and to share with generations to come)

-Decor including styling, set up, rentals, etc.  If you want that $50,000 look, it’s going to cost you.

-A skilled coordinator to take the stress out of the planning process and your day.

The rest is personal choice and preference.  Just remember, big ticket items are that way for a reason.  Just because you want to go smaller, doesn’t mean you’re going to save a ton on it.  Realistic expectations and good planning will help you create the BEST day ever, at the price point you’re comfortable with.  

Kelly Cameron Photography

Venue: The Vineyard at Florence

Florals: Groom’s design company, family and friends of the couple

Catering: Catering With A Twist

Photography: Kelly Cameron Photography

An Intimate Morning Wedding at Rio Cibolo Ranch | Diana+Noah’s Vintage Blush Wedding | San Antonio Photographer Kelly Cameron

Diana found me while seeking assistance creating an intimate wedding with a rustic, elegant feel.  She saw Lisa+Adam’s styled elopement at Rio Cibolo Ranch and simply fell in love with the look!  The wonderful folks at Rio Cibolo Ranch provided breakfast catering and a lovely set up while I assisted in bringing Diana’s vintage blush palette to life through styling, decor, and florals.  Diana poured lots of DIY details into her day -signage, handmade invitations, lace and burlap mason jars- creating lots of lovely touches that added to the overall styling, creating the vintage look.

Join me in celebrating this beautiful couple -and Diana’s excellent taste- as seen in photographs of their vintage blush morning wedding.

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First Look.

Diana’s daughters were a very big part of the wedding.  J’Ana joined them for a quiet moment together before the ceremony while Brooklynn, newly 3, played until the end of the ceremony when she -“Tada!”- made an adorable entrance!


Mason jar mimosas.

“Brooklynn’s Biscuit Bar.”  She got quite a kick out of her very own sign.

First Dance.

We ran off for some family and newlywed photos while the guests enjoyed live music and brunch.

Noah hold the key, Diana holds the lock (on their florals) to each other’s hearts. Together, a perfect match.

Venue & Catering: Rio Cibolo Ranch

Florals, Coordinating, Styling, Photography: Kelly Cameron, ElopeTexas.com


Kelly Cameron is a boutique wedding and portrait photographer based in Austin, TX.  With a studio in Georgetown, TX, she happily travels Central Texas to serve her brides and clients in San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Galveston and is never shy to hop on a plane for destination weddings.  Interested in booking her?  Click on the “Contact” button at the top of the page or email her directly at kelly@kellycameron.net

Becky+Dan’s Blue & Gold Elopement at Chapel Dulcinea | Austin Photographer Kelly Cameron

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Becky and Dan wed in an intimate destination wedding at the stunning Chapel Dulcinea.  The day couldn’t have been more beautiful -January in Texas proved absolutely fabulous and their morning wedding was perfect!  Surrounded by close family, they were wed by Dan’s long-time pastor and the ceremony was followed by a continental style brunch with toasts and cake cutting.

Becky and the ladies head to get dressed in the bridal room.

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As Becky walked down the path on her father’s arm, classical guitar played in the background.

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A tradition at Chapel Dulcinea is for the newlyweds to ring the bell after their first kiss.  Such a fun top off to a wonderful celebration!

The reception pavilion was gorgeously decorated and laid out with a fabulous hot beverage bar and breakfast nibbles by Dessert Divas.

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Tea, Cocoa, Hot Cider or Coffee?  So many delicious choices and yummy toppings!

Time for toasts!  The fathers pop the bubbly.

Signing the marriage certificate.

A beautiful celebration for a fabulous couple!  Congratulations, Becky+Dan!  It was such a delight joining you and your families on such a wondrous day!

Venue: Chapel Dulcinea

Bride’s Hair+Make Up: Tara Cooper

Catering/Beverage/Cake/Reception Decor: Dessert Divas

Florals/Coordinating/Photography:  Kelly Cameron, via Elope, Texas

Eloping at Austin’s Hotel Saint Cecilia | Joanna+Kirk | Elopement Photographer Kelly Cameron

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It’s a  classic story of “city girl meets country boy.”  Joanna lives in a loft downtown in Fort Worth, Kirk lives on a 100+ acre property an hour outside the city.  High heels, cocktail parties and social events melding with a quiet, simple lifestyle.  She wanted a big wedding, he wanted to run off to Vegas -so they came up with a compromise (the key to a lasting relationship, if you ask me.)  They decided to elope with just their parents present and, in a few weeks, have a small reception with their closest loved ones.

Joanna found Hotel Saint Cecilia -known as the Rock and Roll hotel in Austin, the live music capital of the US- as their elopement/honeymoon spot.  With record players in each room and a vinyl collection that rivals any connoisseur’s, mini-bar and in-room goodies that are the most eclectic and finest from around the world, the general tone is understated opulence and chillaxitude.  Yes, chillaxitude is a word.  Created in Austin.  At Hotel Saint Cecilia.

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Walking around the grounds, you feel your creative side emerging, being nurtured.  After a few minutes, you feel as if your soul has found its new retreat.  Pretty soon, you never want to leave.

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The bride’s room.

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The incomparable Tara Cooper, hair and make up artist to some of the greatest performers and citizens in Austin, uses her magic touch on Joanna in prep for the ceremony.

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A vinyl of Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson played as the bride sipped on wine while she got ready.

Kirk opened his wedding day gift from Joanna.

I know, I went a little nuts on the detail shots -but there was SO much to love!  Her bouquet, created by the floral department of Central Market- was utterly perfect.  Simple, sweet, understated, elegant and the perfect pop of color.  Attached to her bouquet was a framed photo of Joanna’s father who passed away.  Holding his likeness close to her during such a landmark day -such a beautiful way to honor and celebrate her daddy.  My father passed away before I married and I know how very important it is to feel that family member’s presence at your wedding.

Kirk’s boutonniere was amazing.  A single rose popped into a shotgun shell, tied with twine.

Kirk’s expression was priceless as he saw his bride approaching.

We took family photos with the couple, then Joanna+Kirk prepped for their newlywed portraits around the hotel grounds.

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An *adorable* sign Joanna made for their elopement.  Absolutely love, love, love it!

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A swank group of musicians let us pop into their private pool party at the hotel to grab a few shots of one of the coolest signs in Austin.  Everybody needs soul.

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They joined their families for dinner at Perla, just down the street on S. Congress Ave. and stayed in their amazing suite at Hotel Saint Cecilia.  Joanna, as you and Kirk join together and you leave the city life for the country, I wish you both THE GREATEST joy as you embark on your finest adventure as individuals and as a team -becoming man and wife.  Three cheers for your love!  Hip, hip hooray!

Venue: Hotel Saint Cecilia

Make Up: Tara Cooper

Florals: Central Market

Dress and headband: David’s Bridal

Teal, Magenta and Cream Rustic Chic Elopement | Kid-Friendly Wedding | Texas Elopement Photographer Kelly Cameron

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It was an intimate and lively celebration this Thursday.   With the sound of live bluegrass music in the air, surrounded by a mini-wonderland of rustic, vintage and kid-friendly charm, Lisa and Adam wed at Rio Cibolo Ranch, along side their 3 year old daughter, Layla, and 10 month old son, Judah.

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Lisa contacted me several months ago about designing, coordinating and shooting her elopement.  She found Bethany+Brandon’s backyard elopement and loved the details and intimacy of the celebration.  She selected her colors -teal, magenta and grey- and I designed the rest, creating a kid-friendly environment that spoke to her heart.

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Lisa wanted to surprise Adam with live Bluegrass music (his favorite) and I found The Siekers, a wonderful husband-wife duo from the Austin area.  They brought the perfect touch to the celebration!  I highly recommend live music, even for a small event.  It truly makes all the difference, and I would recommend Rolf and Beate Sieker in a heartbeat.

I created a picnic area just for Miss Layla, complete with a coloring set up and room for her to enjoy the edible delights.

Instead of fresh flowers for her, I create a floral ribbon wand.  It was a smash hit!

Teal mini-mason jars filled with goodies.

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The dessert table featuring a cutting-sized cake, petit fours and custom cookies from Paige’s Bakehouse.  I absolutely loved each creation -though the adorable owl cookies were my favorite!

Cake toppers are so fun to make!  The “Love” pendant cake topper I created with thread, scrapbooking paper, cardstock, rubber stamps and thin dowel rods.  So easy to customize and such fun to make for any occasion!

A tea sandwich/picnic theme for the nibbles included scalloped edge bread for PB&Js, homemade chicken salad sandwiches and a delightful fruit spread.

Adam and little Judah getting into place for the main event!

As Lisa and Layla made their way to the altar, The Siekers played “Something” by The Beatles.  So, so perfect.

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don’t need no other lover
Something in her style that shows me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

You’re asking me, will my love grow?
I don’t know, I don’t know
You stick around now it may show
I don’t know, I don’t know

Something in the way she knows
And all I have to do is think of her
Something in the things she shows me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

Scott Cole of Short and Sweet Weddings based in Round Rock officiated, creating a meaningful and intimate ceremony with Lisa and Adam.

Layla is ready to get down to business.

The pinwheels on the tea sandwiches were fun for all ages!  A neat treat I found at Hobby Lobby.

Playing with textures and hues, I kept Lisa’s bouquet romantic with a proper dose of off-white and hints of her colors, teal and magenta. She added a very special bee brooch that belonged to her grandmother and it was the perfect finishing touch!

Her cuteness was AMAZING!  I adored getting to celebrate with this lovely family!

I believe she shared a couple cake pops, but she claimed the rest.  Big fan, big fan.

THE CUTEST baby wedding outfit I’ve seen yet.  That little driver’s cap -simple adorable!

She never wanted to leave her special area -which is the biggest compliment I could receive.

Dancing to the fine bluegrass tunes.

Lisa chose an almond cake with buttercream frosting -perfectly beautiful AND delicious!

Citrus ice water -this was Layla’s favorite station, making sure everyone stayed hydrated.  The spout is quite entertaining, even if you’re not 3 :)

An Autumn Night.

Lisa and Adam had their first dance to a lovely country tune.

Petit fours are individual sized cakes beautifully decorated.  They are fabulous -not just because of their aesthetic appeal, but because they are so moist and yummy scrummy!  Paige’s Bakehouse has a plethora of flavors and can even do custom combinations.  They’re amazing..

If you’re planning a small wedding or elopement, a 6″ cake is perfect, especially if you have a dessert table.  It’s excellent for your cake cutting and you can take it back home and freeze it just like a traditional wedding cake.

Congratulations, Lisa and Adam!  You have such a beautiful and precious little family and it was beyond a delight getting to create this celebration with you!  May this new chapter in your lives be rich with adventure, joy, precious moments and too many wonderful memories to keep track of!  Blessings upon blessings to you!

Design/Catering/Coordinating/Florals/Photography: Kelly Cameron

Assistants: Aubrey Stopa, Brandon Blake

Venue: Rio Cibolo Ranch

Cake/Cake Pops/Cookies/Petit Fours: Paige’s Bakehouse

Live Music: The Siekers

Officiant: Scott Cole of Short and Sweet Weddings

Free Tools For Planning Your Elopement | Free Ebook Love

Planning your wedding -no matter the size, if it’s your first, or you’ve done it before- is no picnic.

Stressful, overwhelming, expensive- Ugh.  Just those three words make you want to throw your hands up in the air and call the courthouse.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  

In fact, it can actually be a wonderful experience!  But you need the tools, resources and good people to help you along the way.

Let’s get you started on the right track –>

Here is a nifty little free e-book I’ve made to help get you educated and ready to put your little wedding duckies in a row.


Free tools for planning your elopement  -how fabulous!


The pricing and packages page now has more info and is super easy to walk through to see what options fit your needs best.

Have questions?  Want to start the conversation?  I would absolutely love to be of help! 

If you email me below, I’ll get back with you ASAP.  I’ll send you a few short questions to clarify your needs, we’ll schedule a time to visit over the phone and you’ll find yourself much more at ease as you begin planning.  No mysteries, no pressure, just good old fashion help.

Designing and Planning Your Elopement | Teal, Cream & Magenta Rustic Wedding

Every wedding is unique as a snowflake.  Even the quick ones in Vegas.

The reason being, each couple is completely different, bringing their special style, unique life experiences, tastes and desires to the table.  As trends are changing and eloping is becoming a popular option -due to time restrictions, budget or simply wanting to remove the stress from planning a huge soiree- there are endless options to creating your perfect elopement.  (Which, I know, can be overwhelming.)

Lisa emailed me recently and we started planning her Fall 2013 elopement.  As we’ve been communicating -and I’ve been receiving emails from other elopement brides who feel completely lost- I’ve decided to share Lisa’s planning process in order to help answer your questions and get you inspired!

Here’s what WE do when you hire me to style, coordinate, furnish and photograph your wedding, Dear.

Step 1:  Pick a Style or Style Combination

Classic, Rustic, Whimsical, Retro, Vintage, Modern.  Now choose a few examples, such as “My Fair Lady” meets John Wayne, or “Mad Men” meets a Fiesta Party.  Or FanBoy meets Barbie.  Heck, it’s whatever you two are and whatever you two want.

For Lisa, she had seen Bethany+Brandon’s backyard wedding I styled and shot and loved the elegance and detail.  Priorities: excellent pictures, lots of detail, non-traditional.  She also has two small children that will be attending, so I needed to factor that in for the location and design.  As we talked through her colors and the general feel, we nixed the original location she had in mind and I found the perfect option…

Step 2:  Pick a Location

At this point, if you don’t already have a location, this is when the squirrels in my head start running at lightning speed on their little wheels.

There are lots of factors in choosing your location.  Ease, environment, amenities (such as a room for you to get ready in) are all things to consider.  For Lisa, we needed to consider the kids, she needed a place to get ready, we needed a large, open outdoor area (preferably with gardens and trees) for the design and it needed to be economical.  I called one of my favorite San Antonio venues, Rio Cibolo Ranch, and they just started offering ceremony-only packages that fit our budget PERFECTLY.  It has everything on our list!

Step 3:  Wedding Design/Style

Lisa wanted elegant, lots of cream tones, using peacock colors as inspiration, but not going overboard.  Based on her original inspiration from Bethany+Brandon’s design, I created a mood board for her as well as started a Pinterest Board to help our visions align.


Whimsical, romantic, rustic and relaxed.

Step 4: Get Everybody/thing Else

The next part includes securing the officiant, live music (shhhh, it’s a surprise!), deciding on the treats and beverages that will be served and finalizing the design elements.

I try to keep everything as cost effective as possible, hand making many items, and am always on the lookout for design elements and details while I’m running around town or browsing online.

A Tip on Time:

The length of time you need for photography depends on what you want captured.  If you have no decor and just need the ceremony and some portraits done, one hour will do the job.  Adding in design elements and want to capture getting ready shots?  Two hours, for sure.  Want to go on the town, take portraits multiple places and go out to dinner or are you planning on having a small reception with a handful of family and friends?  Three or Four hours will have to you set and happy.

Getting great photos -particularly creative portraits and detail shots- take longer than you think, so make sure we talk about your expectations and the design of your day before deciding on how much photography coverage you need.

Your Next Step:

If you need a helping hand in designing your wedding or simply need it photographed beautifully, contact me and we’ll get the conversation started.

Congratulations, Dear, and may your heart be filled with peace, not worry.  We’ve got your elopement covered, now it’s time for you to just revel in your love!



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