Jack & Liz … Went Legit

I have a fantastically offbeat Washington, DC wedding for you today, courtesy of Amie Hauck Photography.  Liz & her husband Jack had an awesome, DIY and budget-friendly wedding in DC and today I get to share a TON of DIY details on how they did it all.  I also hope to get to share some more specifics on her DIY projects in upcoming DIY Wednesday posts!!! So, sit back, relax and be prepared to see one of our most offbeat & DIY-packed wedding features to date!

Jack, Liz, & their offbeat, DIY, budget-friendly Washington, DC wedding

First, let’s meet the lovely couple, from Liz herself:

Jack and I met at work in May of 2008. I moved from the DC area to Raleigh for a summer job while finishing up a last few online courses before graduation.  He worked in the office next to mine and I may or may not have swept him off his feet with mediocre burritos at lunch and waxing poetic about about steel and concrete. (We worked at an engineering company.)

We dated on the sly and by the end of the summer I think we both knew we were in it to win it, so we rented a townhouse and decided to see how things would work. I got a permanent job more related to my degree and we started to put down roots. Things went well and we got engaged in late August 2010.

Jack & Liz begin their wedding theme discussion:

From the earliest discussions about what kind of wedding we were looking to have, it was agreed on that we have been to far too many “typical” weddings.  We wanted something relatively small, something we could afford without debt, and something that resembled a family dinner and a kick ass party.  Also agreed upon from the beginning: no DJ, no buffet, no limos, and no color scheme. I am not knocking these choices, but they just didn’t feel like “us”.

And now Liz gets into the location selection [Washington, DC] and their budget:

For number of reasons, DC became the obvious choice and it was a smart decision because my mom and friends proved to be endlessly helpful with the preparations. Living in Raleigh made it a little harder to plan the wedding, but Google really helped out!

We set a budget that is a small fraction of what the typical wedding in the area costs and set out on the strategy of doing DIY for as much as possible. Budget was a huge obstacle and at times it felt insurmountable, particularly when a well-known DC caterer laughed at me on a phone call and told me that my entire budget is what their basic dinner packages start at.

To anyone that is planning a reasonably priced affair in a city as expensive as my beloved DC, I want to yell and scream to tell them that it IS possible with flexibility and a lot of planning!

…*sigh* a girl after my own heart! I am SO happy to find Liz shares my thoughts/feelings on getting married in Washington, DC. It’s a truly awesome city, and I wish people wouldn’t flee just because of the dollar signs. Like Liz said, it just takes some planning … flexibility … and a whole bunch of awesome, DIY :)


All the signage and design was DIYed by Liz:

I designed all of the printed materials myself and had them printed at a local print shop. I got exactly what I wanted and saved so much money it’s not even funny. I didn’t sleep a lot for a few weeks, but as a designer who is trying to get more into graphic design, I couldn’t settle for something that wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

When all was said and done, I made save-the-dates, invitations with several inserts and a custom map, a big framed table seating list, printed map and directions given out at the ceremony to help people navigate to the reception, the sign for the card box, and thank-you cards. I also designed a monogram and had it made into a rubber stamp along with our address for stamping envelopes.


Click inside to read the rest of this amazing feature ~ including way more on Liz’s offbeat Washington, DC wedding reception location, all of their DIY projects, and continued hints & help on getting married in Washington, DC with a small budget!

Just about every decision made came down to price, but I think it worked out for the best in the end. Here’s how we did it:

We chose to do the ceremony at the George Mason Memorial because it was beautiful, secluded, had accessible parking, and didn’t need any decorations. Oh, and it was $50 for the permit. Yes, fifty.

Liz on her beautiful (and budget-friendly) wedding attire:

A Bride in Flats: The shoes ended up being a huge cost savings, but it wasn’t really planned that way. The typical “bridal” shoes didn’t appeal to me at all and I realized that I couldn’t justify spending money on shoes to only wear them once. I wear a lot of colored flats and found the most adorable teal blue flats from Hot Topic (such a random place for wedding shoes!) for a really good price. I wear them to work and have such good memories when I slip them on!

The DIY & Budget-friendly Veil: I bought some veil netting on etsy and attempted a DIY veil. It wasn’t completely finished when the day rolled around, so my sister-in-law strategically pinned it into my hair when she was styling it. (more on that later) I think I spent about $8 on materials and pre-made ones are far more expensive.

The Dress [with some DIY flare]: I had a miserable experience shopping for a dress and my only requirement is that it had some sort of sleeve and it could go with a birdcage veil. Against much advice, I ended up at the supermarket of bridal shops. That experience was horrid, but I ended up with a strapless dress that I liked and knew I could alter.  I ended up doing the alterations myself (making it fight better at the bust) and my mom and I made the sleeve/wide straps out of some extra material I bought from the shop. I priced out having a professional do it and it would have doubled the cost of the dress. Again, DIY saved the budget!

love Liz’ offbeat bouquet & of course, her birdcage veil!

The bouquets and bouttonieres were completed DIYed by Liz & her family:

I did the bouquets and boutonnieres about 2 hours before we walked down the aisle.  We used some spider mums from Harris Teeter (the only flower I specifically wanted since it’s my favorite), and some hosta leaves for the bouquets. I used peacock feathers and sedum with ribbon around the bottom for the guys’ boutonnieres. It was a little stressful, but we just had to go with it since we committed to DIY and a florist really wasn’t an option at that point!


Their wedding ceremony was also completely crafted by the couple as well. A DIY wedding ceremony, I love it!

We also went DIY on the ceremony. Jack and I wrote the ceremony and vows to more represent us as a couple. The ceremony was secular, but still went with the traditional flow of what people tend to expect.

One different thing we did was a “ring warming” where we passed the rings around to each guest and asked them to say a prayer or wish or blessing while holding the rings before passing it on. It was a good way to get the guests involved and it is really nice to know that each person at our wedding held our rings and them good vibes.  They were attached to an Office Space DVD since one of the first conversations Jack and I had was sparked by the red Swingline stapler I had on my desk. I’m sure a few people didn’t “get it” but it’s a really sweet memory for us.

The ceremony was officiated by the husband of Jack’s sister. He is a clergy member and is one of the most eloquent speakers we know. He didn’t charge us a fee so that was nice for the budget, but it was so much more important for us to be married by someone that we know and love.

love the peacock feather fascinators for the bridesmaids!

*Nerd Chic Alert* ~ Office Space DVD as an alternative to a ring pillow. HAH! I am in love.



Liz shares how they found the PERFECT offbeat & budget friendly reception Venue in Washington, DC:

The first thing we actually booked was our reception venue – the ARTiculate gallery, a non-profit organization attached to a charter school for the arts. I think the school and gallery are now closed, but it was an amazing deal in an amazing neighborhood just 4 blocks from the White House.

I couldn’t find a space that fit our budget that was also in the city. We almost moved the shindig to a gallery in Virginia, but then I found this place. It turned out to be within walking distance of hotels (easy for guests), and it had ample free street parking. They were amazing in their flexibility by allowing my choice of vendors, they had a decent in-house sound system, they had big rectangular tables for the using, and every penny of my rental fee went to support an art program for the students of the charter school. It was the only place we toured and I feel really lucky to have snagged it.

Jack & Liz’s Mix Taps doubled as seating cards & the favors! They customized each mix to their guests musical tastes … see how personal you can get with a small wedding?

More about the mix tape wedding favors from Liz:

Music wise, we ditched the DJ and went with an ipod – which obviously saved a ton of money. We made three playlists (dinner, drinks and dancing) and downloaded them onto two ipods just in case we needed a backup. Jack worked on that for weeks and it was really nice to have complete control over the music played. Since we had the playlists, we decided to make a mixed CD for each guest as a wedding favor. Jack made a base mix and for guests whose musical tastes we knew, he added in a few songs we thought they would like. I designed a CD jacket with sappy liner notes, some mixed-tape art, and a track list. They stood up on the tables and doubled as place-cards. Only one was left on the table at the end of the night, and that was by a nephew who is too young to keep up with that stuff. We have gotten tons of great feedback from the favors and I know some people are still listening to them. It was great to be able to share the music that we love with people.

More on Liz’s DIY Wedding Decorations ~ including the budget-friendly sheet music paper garland!!

The rest of the decor was really simple. Hello – it’s an art gallery! I ended up going with paper garland because I love the look of it. When I started planning it, I realized that is was really inexpensive! I bought a couple of different size circle punches with coupons, a 25 cent Jacques Cousteau book and about $1 worth of vintage sheet music at thrift store, and pilfered my sewing box for thread.  I also thought it would be fitting to use because Jack and I were both band geeks when we were younger and we are both totally obsessed with music now! Our actual first date was a concert.

^ LOVE this!! Hopefully I can convince Liz to share more instructions on the sheet music garland!


No traditional wedding cake for this couple. Jack & Liz used their love [and history] with carrot cake to save more money:

We didn’t have a typical wedding cake – which saved hundreds in the end. Jack and I had a slice of carrot cake from Harris Teeter on one of our first dates and that has become a tradition for every anniversary, birthday, or other significant event in our lives (the night we got engaged!). We thought it would be really awesome to have that at our wedding, but we found out that they don’t offer that cake flavor in traditional wedding cake form. So, we ended up buying 5 small cakes and displaying 3 on matching (already owned) pedestals on the cake table. The baker at the Gainesville VA Harris Teeter did us a solid and put a small second tier on one of the cakes to make it more “wedding-like” in appearance. That tier was chocolate but she matched the frosting to the carrot cake. Before doing the cake cutting, we explained how significant this particular non-weddingy cake was to us and we wanted to share our private tradition with our guests.

Plus the adorable cake toppers:

The cake toppers were also a funny little Christmas gift from a friend. She came all the way out from Colorado right before making a life-changing move to another state, so we decided to thank her publicly by putting her gift on the cake.

Loving the sheet music garland!! Liz also shares more on their DIY table runners, linens, and vintage place settings:

So, the vintage china worked out to be a huge cost saver too! I had seen this done on a few wedding featured online, but I didn’t think it was something I would do until I started pricing things. Rental china is far more expensive!  I scoured the many awesome thrift shops in Raleigh for months, and my mom popped in a few places in Virginia when she could. We eventually came up with enough settings (dinner, bread, cake plates, cups & saucers) for 60 people. It looked great on the tables and we got a lot of compliments, so it was totally worth all of the hunting, washing, hauling, and more washing. I have set aside service for 8 to keep so down the road I can pull out the china that we actually at off of at our wedding. I am in the process of selling the rest and I’m planning on donating the few plain/non-vintage filler pieces.

We didn’t rent linens or serving utensils, but instead bought them! I’m the proud owner of 60 dinner napkins, a dozen silver-grey rectangular tablecloths, and the 24 serving spoons/tongs that were used to serve the food from the platters. I again found that it was much cheaper to buy than rent. We entertain a lot so we’re keeping everything but the tablecloths – they’re just too big! This was a HUGE cost savings. The linens came from Smarty Had a Party and the rest from Amazon.com.

I made the table runners to save costs, but to also get exactly what I wanted. I wasn’t digging all of the organza or shiny fabrics that seem to be the only things available as proper table runners. I hit the fabric store and got some really reasonably priced natural cotton fabric (with a coupon!) and whipped them up.  They are now in the sewing pile and will probably go on to live another life as pillow covers or shopping bags down the road.

A girl after my own ambition as well… a true DIY Photobooth!

We did a DIY photobooth. It all started with the photo-strip we did for the website, and we kept talking about how awesome it would be to have a way to recreate that for the reception. Rental costs were out of our budget so we made our own! Jack built and painted the frame and I sewed the curtains (sheets from Target!). We used my DSLR tethered to a laptop and a push-button remote.  We intended to have the photos print out automatically, but it didn’t work out logistically at the last minute. We printed out the strips later and stuck them in the thank-you cards. We had some hats and props and I think the whole thing was a hit! I think our costs for that came in at less than 1/10th of rental costs.


Liz’s final thoughts:

In the end, we had our perfect wedding on a tiny budget (for DC!) and were able to add a ton of personal touches. The wedding was “us” in so many ways and I am really glad we didn’t do things just because other people do them at their weddings.

Thank you SO much Liz & Jack for sharing all of your awesome, DIY wedding details with us. I am ALWAYS thrilled to find a couple that bucked tradition, and found a way to have an alternative wedding, on a budget, in Washington, DC. A special thanks to Amie Hauck Photography as well ~ for sharing her beautiful images with us! Check out Liz’s glowing review of Amie below!


Liz’ review of Amie Hauck Photography: I came across Amie Hauck on Craigslist. I liked that she was a college student in a photography program at the time. I went to art school (interior design) and took on any freelance design work I could while still a student, so it seemed important to pass that on. I liked her style and I liked her fresh perspective compared to the seemingly posed photos from a list that I have seen from some other photographers that fit my budget. I contacted her describing what I wanted from my wedding and she seemed really excited about our offbeat decisions. I booked through a series of emails without even meeting her and didn’t look back. She was a total professional and got great shots but didn’t impose on guests or move people around for awkwardly posed photos. Heck, she even kept her composure when some tourists requested that they be in the wedding party photos! We got the pictures on discs a few days after we got back from the honeymoon and they were perfect. I really could not be happier with the work and I’m so glad we worked with her!



  1. Though I think I’m contractually required to not like the idea of not having a DJ at the wedding (ha, such bias), I have to say the mix tape as a favor idea is awesome. Great work and congratulations to both of you!

  2. hope this idea passes on to many more. great job by amie hauck photography and the wedding planners (bride & groom):-)

    1. Hi Fabienne – Andy & I made a playlist in itunes and then just burned a bunch of CDs … we didn’t proof them or use a professional service – just took some time to burn each CD. Anyone else can feel free to chime in on what they did!

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