Looking for some swoon-worthy DIY wedding inspo? Katie and Ethan’s California wedding is brimming with gorgeous handmade details, from the paper bridesmaid bouquets to the succulent bouts.

This couple tied the knot in front of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, surrounded by their closest family and friends. The bride and groom broke tradition and wrote the vows themselves. The touching vows left many of the guests in (happy) tears. After the ceremony the wedding party took a trolley to the reception venue, San Ysidro Ranch. The reception dinner was held under the trees, which were decorated with thousands of twinkle lights. The reception featured a gorgeous table setting featuring DIY centerpieces by the bride, and best of all, a surprise appearance by an a capella group, arranged by Katie’s dad. 

Thanks to Kaitie Brainerd Photography for capturing every special moment so beautifully.

Katie, 33 & Ethan, 37

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Wedding Date: September 22, 2017

Number of Guests: 28

Wedding Cost: $15,000

Wedding Ceremony Location: Santa Barbara Courthouse, Sunken Gardens

Wedding Reception Location: Cocktail Hour: Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, Main Reception: San Ysidro Ranch

Why did you have an intimate wedding? 

We loved the idea of being able to have a long day that felt like we could talk to everyone for long periods of time without missing a beat!  We also just bought our dream home earlier in the year and didn’t want to go crazy on massive amounts of wedding costs.  We knew that we could make it a really special day with our budget and small group.

What are some the challenges that you faced planning an intimate wedding? 

The only challenge was to tell guests who expected to be invited that we were having a really intimate wedding with immediate family only!  Other than that, it was so fun planning!

Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?

Nope, immediate family, his cousin who married us and his best friend that was there on the trip that we met!

Did you have any ‘issues’ with the small guest list from friends and family? If so, how did you address them?

We simply said, this is what we are doing.  We let them down easy but with a house purchase and a big year, they understood.


What were the highlights of the ceremony? 

We had his best friend play guitar at the ceremony but our favorite part were the vows.  We broke tradition and wrote our own and we received so many compliments and sweet words from the guests on how much they loved them.  Had quite a few in tears!

What were the highlights of the reception? 

The intimacy, the whole ambience, the decor, the unique style of the resort that everyone just loved.  They all got a chance to walk the grounds and it was just so special.  A lot of it was DIY – I made the bridesmaids and flower girls flowers myself out of paper.  I always wanted one large oversized flower for us!  I got my flower made by a local shop.  I also made all of the centerpieces and groomsmen boutonniere’s out of fake succulents.  My husband and I made the wedding favors for the adults together.  Home made olive oil, sealed up the bottles with a kit we bought off Amazon and the labels from an Etsy vendor.  I made the kids favors as well – they had a check list, a disposable camera and gummy worms…also known as their “Love Bugs.”  They had a blast taking a bunch of photos!

What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding? 

It FELT like a long day which was amazing!  I didn’t want it to fly by!  We got to chat with everyone and they all felt so included!  Plus, we felt like we had an incredible wedding without spending so much money!

What advice do you have for couples who are considering an intimate wedding? 

DO IT.  So, so many people told us that they had wished they had done it themselves for financial reasons.  It was absolutely wonderful and I wouldn’t change anything about it for the world!

santa barbara sunken garden


Photographer: Kaitie Brainerd Photography

Tuxedo and Mens Attire: Indochino

Transportation: Santa Barbara Trolley

Invitation Designer: The Seridoodle Paper Co.

Bridesmaid Dresses: Revelry

Ceremony Venue: Santa Barbara Courthouse; Sunken Gardens

Reception Venue: Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort; San Ysidro Ranch

Dress Designer: Blush by Hayley Paige