Sometimes I am a bit overwhelmed when I get write-ups from couples for a wedding feature. I open the document and it’s PAGES long and I am immediately struck with anxiety over how the hell I am going to fit this into one post.

And then I start to read, and like magic, all the anxiety washes away as I am transformed by a beautiful, unique love story – full of passion, creativity, and some seriously amazing descriptions of love. I don’t care how long these posts become, or how long they might end up taking me to put together – their story must be shared and I am honored to get to retell it.

This is the case with Gabrielle & Marc’s budget-friendly, Peacock themed Maryland wedding. The two met online through and though they both brought a lot to the new relationship, their connection on their first date was electric and their love story quickly unfolded. Naturally their wedding was an absolute labor of love from their entire family and friends. They had a small budget and a tight timeline, so they called in ALL the reinforcements to put together a beautiful, hand-crafted and personalized Peacock themed wedding. Images via You Are Raven Photography.

Gabrielle & Marc’s Budget-Friendly, Family Infused, Peacock Themed Maryland Wedding

family low-budget maryland parks wedding peacock themed


Photographer: You Are Raven | Caterer:  Anne Arundel Community College | Musicians:  Alex Mitchell | Other:  Quiet Waters Park | Submitted: Two Bright Lights

How They Met:

Marc & I met online!

I put my profile online because Heather was suffering from 3rdwheelitis. Of course, I was the oblivious 3rd wheel. Problem was, I wasn’t interested in dating at all! Not that I wasn’t “lonely” but I just didn’t want the hassle of being with someone else. I had been blissfully single for over a year, after being a serial monogamist my whole adult life. It was AWESOME to be able to do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, without having to clear it with anyone. Yes, I had my kids but – sharing custody with their Dad meant I was kid-free every other week. This made it so easy to have a very good/conflict-free life – but then when I lost my running buddy to her romance, I had to do something so –



teal blue peacock themed small budget maryland wedding

I met Marc in about 2 weeks. He had been online for 2 years. (grin). I knew immediately that this was “the one.” The second he touched my arm – I felt a ZING. My first thought was “It’s only been an hour, why is he touching me?” And then immediately after that “Wow – that was a physical reaction if ever there WAS one, hmmmm…”


We talked till the place closed, and set a date for the next day. I cancelled the Match meetings I had previously set up so I could meet up with Marc. Everything clicked – our outlook on life, our physical hobbies (active/physically demanding hobbies, racing with half-marathons, trails runs, and for him triathlons), our eating philosophies (very healthy, abundant foods) – our plans for the future.. etc.


As the months wore on, we introduced each other to our kids (he has 3 I have 2) – and then introduced the kids to each other. Everyone seemed to get along really well! We went on camping trips, trips to the beach, and supported various kids’ sporting events (cheer-leading competitions, soccer state champs, etc, etc.)

budget-friendly peacock themed maryland wedding

love these next few images of friends/family making so many of the wedding details!~


 DIYed bouquets & centerpieces above, and DIYed flower girl headbands below!


small budget maryland parks wedding peacock theme

Click inside for a TON MORE from this awesome, DIY, small-budget Maryland wedding from You Are Raven Photography!

The wedding details:

When we decided to get married – a few things stand out. One – the hunt for the ring was pretty special – two, we didn’t leave ourselves much time to plan the wedding and three, we decided to build a 5 bedroom townhouse so – had to really make a lot of decisions in a HURRY, and on a budget.


On choosing their peacock theme:

Peacocks – because they are a symbol of renewal and we wanted to symbolize the new start we were making together. And peacock colors were a natural extension.

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

Check out that seriously awesome DIY bouquet!

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

The musician was found online – he was great, Alexander Mitchel!


budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

Marc & Gabrielle crated a completely unique & personalized wedding ceremony:

We decided to build the stone Cairn after my sister Alex suggested it. We had been discussing a way to symbolize the unity of our 2 families that would not be “hokey/cheesy” and limited to something that would only be available in real time. Meaning, we didn’t want to get a vase and fill it with different colors of sand because it isn’t our style to display vases of sand in our house.

We like throwing stones/wishes into bodies of water, but – they’re gone then, so, we wanted something with permanence but that would also be uniquely cool in the house. That is where the Rock Cairn came from – and here is a page with all the cool symbolism behind it.

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

We found the stones for the Carin in a local rock yard, and asked the kids to help us pick the perfect stones for the Cairn. We practices only a few times before the ceremony. Afterwards, we assembled the Cairn in our kitchen and periodically go through the little stones (our family/friends’ wishes for us) – it is really neat!

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

Marc & I picked a wonderful officiant for the ceremony – we found him online and loved that he is a “recovering catholic priest” who has been happily married for over 40 years. He met with us for about 6 weeks and we did various exercises/meditations to build our ceremony together. It was a really unique ceremony as a result – we loved all of it.

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

On their favors:

Match box favors because we met on

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

Awesome low-budget wedding tip alert!!!

The caterers I found by cold-calling the local community college culinary school. I asked if they had any senior students that might be needing some extra credit or on the job training (thinking I might save some $). The team created some FANTASTIC food at a very reasonable cost. The left overs fed us and visiting family for at least a week afterwards!

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

The true “labor of love” wedding:

Your own blog beautifully captured how family and friends could come together to make most everything in the wedding!

From Marc’s daughter who made the cake/cupcakes to the flowers by Alex/Kat, the makeup by Mel, the decorating by Nick/Jean and you guys and friends… so much that we all pulled together ourselves.. it was so awesome.

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

Congratulations Gabrielle & Marc! Thank you so much for sharing all the beautiful details of your handmade, budget-friendly Maryland wedding . A special thanks again to Raven Shutley, You Are Raven Photography & Two Bright Lights for making this feature possible!

budget friendly peackcock themed maryland wedding

And now I leave you with a really beautiful story behind Gabrielle’s engagement ring. She included it in the write-up and I didn’t want to have it stretch the feature out, but I wanted to include it because it’s such a fun story. Enjoy!

“How an engagement ring sets the tone…”

So, we’d been talking about getting married, and the engagement ring for a while – pictures were exchanged showing the styles I like (white gold or platinum, old, or imitation retro-style: art deco, Edwardian, with European or “cushion cut” diamond.) As the details with the house loan started to take shape, we realized we should probably be ready if we needed to get married sooner rather than later. So, we went ring shopping.

First we hit some pawn shops in the local area – we drove through miles and miles of strip malls, using my GPS and Google to find some pretty near shops. There were some interesting things – musical instruments, antique gumball machines, power tools galore – and just about every type of ring you can imagine but, we did not see anything we couldn’t live without.

Then, we realized we were close to a fairly large antique “mall” in Savage Mills that might have antique jewelry. We poked around the tons of booths – some had costume jewelry; some had crazy sculptures of lovers and dragons that might warrant a second look; some booths had antique jewelry, we looked them all over, and even tried on a few styles for good measure. We did find a pretty fantastic deal on an eternity band, w/european cut diamonds (my fav because they are uniquely sparkly) – and platinum – but we weren’t sure if it was a fair price at the time, so we left empty handed and called it a day. Ring shopping was hungry work – so we had a great meal at Rams Head Tavern to finish a lovely day of antiquing. Interesting coincidence, the Rams Head Tavern is literally upstairs from the large antique shopping mall (Savage Mills, MD) & is where we met on our very first date from “” (Friday, January 14, 2011). We met for Happy Hour after work but ended up closing the place down!

The next day, we finalized our loan (which took hours!) With those dollar signs in mind, we began our search again. We looked for another local antique mall I used to frequent near Ft. Meade, but – alas, it had gone out of business. With time running out on our weekend & no engagement ring, Marc decided to swing by a “real” jewelry store because according to the Internet, they had a large supply of Estate Jewelry in stock. This was in Old Town Ellicott City, MD. Funny coincidence, this was the location of our second date (Saturday, January 15, 2011) where we spent quite a long evening getting to know each other better at the Wine Bar, right up the street from the jewelry store.

We went inside and immediately became immersed in fantastical sites of “sparklies” galore!!! The rings ranged from the simple and elegant to the ornate and gaudy – but they all had one thing in common, they were EXPENSIVE. We asked about the estate pieces, and it didn’t take long for me to “fall in love” with a gorgeous estate piece simply set in platinum – the stone was so breathtaking, it didn’t require much ornamentation. This beauty sported a riDONKulous price tag but looked so LOVELY with the curved/matching wedding band on my finger that I admit, I was star struck. Then – I tried on a more modern piece – completely different than the styles we had been searching for, and again, “fell in LOVE.” It was a designer-original piece that had won awards in an international competition – but, in the jeweler’s words, was “a steal” at a price tag we’ve seen on a good-quality used car! It truly looked perfect on my finger and also worked with the curved band that “matched” the first estate ring. Literally trembling from both excitement and sticker shock, Marc and I talked it over, thanked the jeweler for his time, turned our practical selves around and promptly left the store to “think about it.”

Well, Old Town Ellicott City has a few antique stores so we walked on hoping to catch a few before they closed (in the next 10 minutes). The first one “let” us in (their sign was flipped to CLOSED already) but we didn’t see anything worth asking after – so we left.

The next store was TINY in comparison to the other antique “malls” we had perused. There was only one proprietor who was talking to the customers in a loud and animated voice. Gaylord – as he introduced himself, was quite the character! I had noticed a ring, white gold or platinum, with a diamond, (exactly my style) in the case next to the register. I didn’t say anything, because I was still star struck and feeling just a little sad about engagement rings based on our experience at the “real” jewelry store. Well, I don’t know why because we hadn’t said a word in the store, but as we were leaving Gaylord brought the ring to our attention.

“Did you happen to see this LOVE-ly engagement ring?”

I sort of smiled, because yes, I had seen it – but after the other fantastical “bling” I wasn’t thinking I would like it.

He talked it up some more… I am spelling this phonetically so you can hear his voice…

“It is 18K WHYTE gold, with a DYE-A-mond… and the owner has it prYced riDICulously LOW…

So we went back together to look at the ring.

I tried it on and it fit perfectly. It was a bit dirty though, and the diamond seemed too “perfect” to be real. In my mind, my face was a “poker face” because I didn’t want to seem interested, or dis-interested. I asked him how he could be sure the stone was real.

Gaylord handed us a jeweler’s loop to inspect the ring while he called the owner to verify if the stone was real – lo and behold, Sam, the jeweler down the street at the “real” jewelry store, had appraised the ring! It was 18K, and a real diamond!

I wondered to myself that it seemed like a VERY low price in comparison, so, I couldn’t imagine Sam had told the antique dealer what he might ask for it in HIS store otherwise, it seemed that he should have put a price 2-3 times higher!

Meanwhile, we both took turns looking through the loop while twisting and turning every which way, trying to get the best lighting in a dimly lit, packed-to-the-gills, antique store. The stone seemed perfect – very few blemishes.. seemed too good to be true.

Even though we had a level of comfort that the ring was authentic.. we still put it back because it was late, Gaylord had said he had to leave early to check on a friend in hospice care – and we didn’t want to hold him up. I figured if it was “meant to be” the ring would still be there the next day…

Gaylord wouldn’t let us leave. He knocked off $20.00 to entice us to buy it – we didn’t even ask for the “best price.”

We left. We literally walked out the door.

Gaylord called us back in, hurriedly cleaned the ring in a special homemade solution … He said he wasn’t sure why he was so sure we should have the ring because – again, the store is not HIS. He kept rattling off reasons why we should have it and knocking off a few more dollars… so, we bought it!! Gaylord was so excited, he let me pick my own antique ring box from a drawer full of unique/nifty boxes, put a sachet of homemade potpourri in the bag with an admonishment to incorporate it into our wedding and then threw in another antique ring box – just “because.”

He also said that every year when he gets the annual mailer from a club he has been involved with for years addressed to “Gabrielle” instead of “Gaylord” – that he would think of us with happiness instead of being annoyed that the organization STILL hasn’t gotten his name right after all these years.

In that moment – It felt like FATE was guiding us… it felt right.

It is a lovely ring that I will cherish. It didn’t cost a fortune, and it represents a commitment to our future, one where we make important decisions together – and do everything we can to make sure we have everything we need – with enough left over for most of the things we want.

I remember something in Marc’s Match profile about how he likes to work hard, and play hard. That is definitely something I love about him, and certainly what we do together! We don’t make rash decisions, we think things through, and we invest in things that matter. What an adventure we’ve had so far – we are so excited about taking this next step and creating a lifetime of priceless memories, together!



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