Lovely for Less

Lovely for Less | Host a wonderful wedding in Charleston on a budget (for $7K)? You bet you can
Kaitlyn Swicegood Dingle is one of the most energetic, enthusiastic, and enterprising people you’ll ever meet. A lawyer turned yoga instructor and adjunct law professor, she put all those great vibes toward planning her waterfront wedding to Tommy Dingle last year. (The two met in law school, where he, more the quiet type, warmed up—and then some—to her outgoing ways.)
In the spirit of giving, she is an open book for other brides looking to have a lovely wedding on a small budget. “People don’t believe me when I say you can plan a wedding for less than $10,000,” she says, sharing that her own wedding came in at about $7,000. She outlines in meticulous detail how they celebrated in smart style on what she calls the best day of her life—“the day I married my best friend” —here, but we distilled her post down to some of our favorite money, time, and sanity savers below. Scroll through the gallery for more, read on for tips, and use her vendor list with abandon.
Mind your money. The couple started with a budget. “Then I made a spreadsheet,” says Kaitlyn, “and monitored expenses the whole way. We also set up a separate checking account for the wedding.”
Think outside the box for venues. “[The Exchange Club] sits on the water,” says Kaitlyn, “and offers views of the outside scenery we love so much—even if it’s raining. To rent the club costs $950, and all that money goes to charity.”
Go digital when you can. Save-the-dates were emailed and guests entered RSVPs via a free wedding site.
Shop online and off the rack. Kaitlyn browsed her favorite ready-to-wear brands online and found her dream dress for $150. Add shoes from Nordstrom rack ($70) and she was set.
Splurge when it makes sense. Kaitlyn turned to Emma Katzka for accessories and to the jewelry maker’s studio mate, Emily Kotarski, for a custom veil and for alterations. “It felt so special,” she says, “because they were local and everything was handmade.” Another splurge? Her bouquet, made by Out of the Garden.
Size up your cake. “We didn’t think everyone would eat cake,” says Kaitlyn, “so while we expected 85 guests, our cake was for about half that many. We still had leftovers.” Also? The Dingle’s cake from a local baker cost less than the same cake priced at Publix.
Choose fill-you-up finger foods. Between bags of boiled peanuts and charcuterie farm boards, caprese skewers, seafood bites, and more from their caterer (who did setup, replenishing, and take-down) no one left hungry. The bill: $1,500.
Enlist friends. Their crew: a bestie who manned the bar, cousins who played music during the ceremony, a mom who made wreaths, and a pal who officiated.
Consider your friend’s budgets, too. Kaitlyn invited her girlfriends as guests while her nieces were her bridesmaids.
Get insurance. “Since we didn’t use an insured and licensed bar company,” says Kaitlyn, “we bought $100 of insurance for a million dollars worth of coverage. It’s worth it.”
Venue, tables, chairs: The Exchange Club of Isle of Palms,
Photography: Carrie Elizabeth Gabbert,
Catering: Hamby’s Catering & Events,
Cake: Mirabelle Bakery,
Bridal bouquet: Out of the Garden,
Florals, dream catchers: Joanna King,
Invitations, programs: Dee Ruel,
Bride’s attire: Free People (gown),; Emily Kotarski (alterations),; Emma Katzka (hair crown),
Beauty: Charleston Hair and Makeup (hair),; Becky Blair (makeup),; The iLash Studio (
Linens, rentals: Hughes Party Rentals,
Music: family friends (ceremony); (reception)
Trucker hats:
Officiant: family friend
Rings: Christina Jervey,