Bohemian Handmade Wedding – and on a Budget! Gemma + Steve

Today’s lovely wedding was truly a labor of love – and lots of handmade details! Gemma + Steve did everything themselves for their wedding or with the help of family + friends. This wedding is a perfect example that you can have a gorgeous wedding even on a budget! Every part of the wedding was a reflection of them as a couple: their favorite colors, favorite foods (and that it was locally sourced and organic), style (a bit bohemian + a bit artsy) and lots of live music! Thanks so much to our amazing sponsor, Justin Lee Photography for sharing this wedding with us and big congrats to Gemma + Steve!

bride and groom signs

bridal headpiece

bridal portrait

From Gemma, “We are both creative people that love making things so having hand-made details were really important to us. We built and painted all the signage, hand-cut and stained wooden tags for the table seating. We cut hundreds of tissue paper Mexican flags, and constructed a cupcake tower from scratch. We hand made hundreds of ceramic pottery bowls, planted with miniature succulent gardens for the tables that were taken home at the end of the evening as party favors. We joked that all the art projects we had done previously were just practice for our wedding – the biggest art project of our lives! Our family and friends also contributed their skills, from hand-sewn details to delicious baked goods for the dessert table. It was definitely a labor of love!

bridesmaids in mint

red bouquet

ceremony schedule on wood

lace trim wedding invitations

What song did you walk down the aisle to? My mom and dad walked me down the aisle to a beautiful acoustic guitar version of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” by musician Jojo Hahn. This was also the song for our first dance – a personalized rendition by our blues singer Susanna Kurner, which she began with a ukulele … so not everyone caught on that it was the same song! The bridal party walked down to an acoustic “All You Need is Love” and the exit song was a joyous “Here Comes the Sun.” We are big Beatles fans!

bride and groom ceremony

bride and groom portrait

bride and groom portrait

bride and groom portrait

bride and groom portrait

bridal party

green escort cards

cake topper

izze soda wedding

Love that their food was from the yummy Miho Gastrotruck!

food truck wedding

dessert bar

wedding reception

bride and groom exit in car

Most memorable moment of your wedding day?
Our ceremony! It was the heart and soul of the entire event. We identified early on that the ceremony was important to us – really it was why we were there – to stand up in front of our family and friends and declare our love for one another. We had heard that it was often an aspect of the wedding that couples over-looked and ended up doing at the last minute because there is so much else to think about. So we planned ours early, took our time researching and writing a personal, unique ceremony, executed by one of our dear friends, and started writing drafts of our vows months before. The words were beautiful and sincere and Steve serenaded me with the guitar as part of his vows – bringing most of the guests to tears. And the lighting was beautiful! We stood under the shade of a gorgeous tree and there was a gentle breeze – it was overwhelming and emotional but so calm and natural and peaceful at the same time.

Any advice for those planning now?
Start early! We did not procrastinate at all and made it a goal to have everything completely finished a week before, and stuck to it. It was so satisfying to not be panicking as the wedding approached- to relax on the beach the days leading up to the big day! It made a difference on the day-of- we were calm and collected and it really showed.

Don’t be scared to dive in head first and tackle things yourself. Identify and recognize the talents of your family and friends and put them to good use. It makes it that more special! More than likely they will love to help and have their hand in your special day. Make it about what YOU want, not what you think your guests may want- it’s all about you!! Also, prioritize what is important to you. We wanted amazing photography so nailed down an excellent photographer (Justin Lee) right away… but other things weren’t so important or we felt were just as beautiful handmade. Working with a limited budget can be a challenge but an exciting challenge!

photography: Justin Lee Photography // venue: Leo Carrillo Ranch, Carlsbad, CA // floral design: table arrangements DIY by bride, bouquets + boutonnieres by Isari Flower Studio // wedding dress: J Crew // hairpieces: DIY (bride’s headpiece by friend Jennifer Mulligan, bridesmaids’ flowers hand sewn by mother of the bride) // shoes: Franco Sarto // bridesmaid dresses: J Crew // hair + makeup: hair by friend James Mendoza from Fabrika Monet, makeup by friend Ashley Burruss // groom suit: Jos A. Bank // invitations+ paper goods: DIY (designed/ handmade by bride & groom), graphic design by friend of bride/groom Kara Leen) // catering: Miho Gastrotruck // cake: DIY dessert table (mother of the bride, friends of bride/groom), cupcake tower handmade by bride+groom // music: Jojo Hahn (ceremony), Mariachi Mexicano (cocktail reception), Susanna Kurner & Danny Green (reception) // day of wedding coordinator: Janai Bashore

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  1. Oh my gosh, GORGEOUS wedding! You could really feel the personalization in every handmade detail — and love the bride’s soft look! Love love love it all.

  2. The paper flowers around the sweets are darling!

  3. Just beautiful!’s not too early to be planning my 10th anniversary wedding 6 years in advance right?
    Totally stealing that car, and the paper flower accents!


  4. This is such a beautiful wedding. You can tell how much love they put into this wedding by creating so much of it on their own. I really love how they focused in on the ceremony. All the weddings I’ve been too in the past the ceremony has been the quickest part with the emphasis on the reception. It’s refreshing that they choose to go another route with it.

  5. mother of the bride on:

    One of the happiest days of my life! Every detail was perfect! It was truly magical from beginning to end!

  6. “…the talents of your family and friends and put them to good use. It makes it that more special!”

    Such great wedding advice!!

  7. What a beautiful day it was and I’m so happy I was able to be a part of it. Justin Lee Photography is the best!! Such attention to detail and so creative/original. I love how he uses natural light to capture stunning shots.

    The food was delicious and music was perfectly paired for the event. All of the vendors were so great to work with and I highly recommend them.

    Gemma and Steve were so organized and detailed (mainly Gemma haha) leading up to the wedding, so I was very happy to see how laid back they were the day of. They were finally able to enjoy all of their hard work and celebrate! They helped each other every step of the way with all of the various projects and complimented each other perfectly.

    Gemma and Steve are absolutely meant for each other and I’m so happy I was a witness on their wedding day!

  8. Thanks for sharing this great wedding! Just starting to plan my own now, and wondering… whenever it’s a “budget” wedding, what kind of $$$ figures are we looking at here? Being such a great fan of this site is both a blessing and a curse because I’ve been exposed to the most beautiful and creative idea for the big day, but I want to be more realistic on my expectations.

  9. I’d like to know what the budget was too. Please tell us? Beautiful wedding!

  10. Love love love! her hairpeice is amazing

  11. Pictures turned out amazing G!!! This definitely was the coolest wedding ever! I’m so happy for you and Steve! LOVE YOU!

  12. I <3 the wedding! Fantastic photography, I love the vintage vibe photos, and also the two piece combos for the guys- just vest and pants. They really lend a dressed up but cool vibe leaving out the jacket.

    Just gave us the idea for the next blog post!

    Also- GORGEOUS bride, loving her hair and necklaces!

  13. Okay, this entire wedding party is drop dead gorgeous! And what great advice from the lovely bride, I will definitely be keeping her words in mind!

  14. Thanks Steve for sharing your beautiful wedding day with me
    You both make a stunning couple and you both look so much in love!
    All the very best to the two of you
    Take care of each other

  15. Gorgeous wedding! Great location! Gemma and Steve you guys did an amazing job putting that touches of your personalities in the whole day! Congrats to both of you!
    No peacock pictures? :(

  16. The ceramony is really the most important part and I love that they put so much thought into theirs. She looks stunning as do her bridesmaids. The venue looks very unique and being from Carlsbad I have never even heard of it. It is nice to know you can make your wedding day unique to you and your man without spending a bunch of money. The photography is amazing!

  17. Love her dress. Amazing photos, great work!

  18. Love, love, love… The pictures and mood are amazing!

  19. Beautiful shots. And I love the DIY head piece

  20. These photos are beautiful! the couple look great

  21. Thank youvery much for sharing wedding i loved the pics…….

  22. Simply amazing! I love this bohemian look and feel. Such a gorgeous bride, too!

    The French Bouquet

  23. i love the bride’s look. her headpiece and gorgeous hair and flowy dress; so pretty :) and the fact that they focused on the ceremony is refreshing. that is what it’s all about after all.

  24. The bride looked beautiful. The couple really looks creative! Everything is so detailed and unique. The photography is spectacular! Love the group photos and all of the ceramony shots. They all have a fun artsy feel to them which reflects the couples creativity.

  25. This is one of my favorite weddings I’ve ever seen on here…and I’ve seen ’em all! Beautiful photography & intimate details…love!

  26. As Best Woman from the wedding, I have to say this was a great day and I couldn’t be happier for little brother and his wife. All the handmade details truly reflect the fun and love that was flowing on the wedding day.

  27. Beautiful wedding! Can you tell me where you got your wedding bands? I really like them! Thanks!

  28. @Erin- thank you! steve’s band is from a local jeweler in encinitas, ca- shakarian jewelry- & mine is my mom’s wedding band :)

  29. Love this! Everything is gorgeous! One question, is the bride’s dress the “Taryn” from J Crew? If not, which one is it? It is stunning!

  30. @Alison-yep, it is the taryn gown!!

  31. The hand-made items make your wedding so unique. Your personality and style could not have been better expressed. The final grade on the biggest art project of your lives? A++ Nicely done!

  32. So happy for you both! Loved the intention to stay locally sourced and organic and actually stole Carla/Jeff’s wedding favor. I now have a beautiful succulent on my nightstand, thanks!

  33. Such a beautiful wedding! Your pictures are gorgeous and we are so excited for you!

  34. Such a beautiful wedding! I adore the headpiece…Gemma does your friend make and sell headpieces?

  35. @Lucie- yes, my friend jennifer is a talented jewelry maker! her email is:

  36. Jim Brown,Father of the groom. on:

    Y’know, It was a wonderful personal wedding. Could it be any different with TWO such artistic people tying the knot? The exchange of vows and Steve’s love song was my most favorite moment.

  37. Bill & Barbara Kitchens on:

    Hi Guys…….

    So very sorry we missed the “Big Day!” it really looked fantastic. The father of the groom looked in shock!

    We were also very happy to see the signs reading: Bride & Groom (Bill was confused for a minuite).

    Are you guys sure Gemma doesn’t have a nice sister for older guys!

    We wish you all the happyness your mom & dad enjoy. Hopefully you will visit us in NM for another honeymoon

  38. An absolutely Beautiful wedding from beggining to ens, and an absolute pleasure to be a part of it in the Hair department…
    Gorgeous couple…
    james mendoza
    Fabrika Monet – The Art Of Hair, A Salon
    http://www.fabrikamonet .com

  39. I feel honored to have been a part of this beautiful celebration! you were the most calm and peaceful bride and groom to be, even before the yoga session! love you two

  40. Gemma- love your wedding!! I’ve nailed down a food truck for my own wedding next June- any advice on how to make it run smoothly (i.e. getting 250 guests fed efficiently directly out of the truck)? Thanks so much in advance!
    steph (

  41. What a cute couple skillfully captured in stunning photographs!

  42. Gemma – how did you get your taryn gown to look so great up top? I just received mine and it completely flattens me out and the fabric is very crumpled. Assuming steaming will take care of the look, but what about the issues with the bust area? You look stunning!!!!

  43. @jenn- i had my dress taken in at the top which definitely made it more flattering. and a padded bra helps :)

    @stephanie- sorry, just saw your post! we had the food truck do a buffet table. we had a lot less people than it sounds like you’re having but definitely helps with the flow.

  44. Gemma- What a beautiful wedding and I just love all the details! I didn’t see the long necklace was from? Can you please share? xoxo

  45. @Jaymie- hi! it was an antique victorian necklace (gold chain w/ agate seal) that was my grandmother’s.

  46. I love this necklace, where can I get it?

  47. Gemma! The headpiece is fantastic. I’m getting married September 1st and that piece is exactly the type I wanted for my wedding. Do you know how I could get one like it? Would your friend Jennifer Mulligan be willing to make another?

  48. Dreamy wedding and great advice from the bride x


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