It’s no secret that I love traveling. And I’m lucky enough to have found someone who has embraced this passion with me. So when we were planning our wedding, there was no doubt in my mind that we would have a travel-themed wedding. The ideas flowed so easily and we had so much fun planning it! We also planned our wedding on a very tight budget, but it came out so personal for us and memorable for our guests! So now I’m sharing those ideas with you, not just for a wedding, but for any event that you plan!
1 – Location
So we needed to keep budget in mind, but being a traveler, I wanted a venue that was different. Somewhere our guests had never been before. I also loved the idea of using a historic building. By sheer fate, I stumbled upon Madison Hall online a few times before I finally inquired about it.
An old courthouse in Madison County, New York, the building is on the national register of historic places. It is now owned by the county and run by volunteers as an event venue. I was shocked by how inexpensive the building was to rent for the entire weekend. We were able to rent the building for all day Friday, Saturday, and half of Sunday for only a few hundred dollars. That meant we were able to set up and do the rehearsal on Friday, have the wedding on Saturday, and clean up on Sunday morning. We also had flexibility to decorate however we wanted. It was a dream come true.
2 – Save the Dates
Save the dates don’t have to be complicated or expensive. We ordered postcards through Staples.com. On one side we had a world map (stock image) and I added a heart on our hometown and the date on the bottom. On the backside was the important information along with a collage of us in our many different travels we have taken together. Simple, yet effective!
3 – Invitations
I search for a long time to find invitations that I liked. At a wedding expo, I won a gift card to a local custom invitation company. My husband and I went for a consultation and found out that the invitations would be roughly $1,000!! I could not fathom spending that kind of money on my invitations, so I did some more research and finally came across these “Adventure Starts Here” invitations from Carlson Craft and I quickly ordered them online. People loved them!
4 – Centerpieces
We wanted to do something other than table numbers for our guests, so we decided that each table would be a different state that we had traveled to together. We used our collection of growlers, wine bottles, and other containers that we accumulated throughout our trips to make the centerpieces. Most states focused on a growler (thanks to my husband’s hobby!), while others had a few wine bottles and glasses, and Tennessee had a Jack Daniel’s bottle of course!
We added in any other trinkets that seemed relevant (a bottle of Vermont maple syrup, a souvenir from a Miami Dolphins game) and filled the bottles with fake flowers. In addition, we printed photos of us from the different states and ordered postcard collections on Amazon – vintage & modern – and put the corresponding postcards & photos clipped to wooden dowels to mix in with the flowers.
5 – Decorations
Maps. Maps everywhere!
I bought a large linen tapestry on Amazon that we used as the backdrop of the stage, behind where all of the wedding party stood. The tapestry was a world map printed in watercolor style in the color of the bridesmaid dresses. Such a great find! We also placed canvas prints of maps on tables around the venue.
Do you know those arrow signs that you see when you travel, pointing to cities in all different directions? We made one of those to put near the entrance to the hall to direct people to the coat rack, bathrooms, photo booth, and ceremony. My mom did a great job on those!
Odds & Ends
Another favorite thing to do during my wedding planning was to continuously check out the local home decor and craft stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.) because I always found the best decorations there – bonus for the craft stores that have 50-60% off coupons! I was able to slowly stock up on supplies. A few of my favorite pieces were shadow boxes with the names of major US cities; we used those on each side of the stage.
6 – Guestbook
I wanted an atypical guest book – not just some journal that will be stored on a shelf. Continuing with the travel theme, I found this perfect solid silver globe. I got a pack of colorful markers to go with it, and boom! I had a guest book. Something unique and interesting that now sits on the bookcase in our living room.
7 – Favors
I wanted our wedding favors to be something practical, something our guests could actually use and not throw away or consume and be gone. What better favor to have for a travel themed wedding than luggage tags? We found these great luggage tags that fit perfectly in with our them. We printed name tags to slide into them so the guests could collect them on their way in and find what table to go to. I have to say, since the wedding, I know that those luggage tags have traveled all around the world – Prague, Thailand, Australia, Mexico, Central America, and all over the US. It’s so much fun to have a friend or family member send us a photo of their tag from their travels!
8 – Food
We were lucky enough to have a venue that let us choose whatever food and alcohol we wanted to bring in. Food is a HUGE factor in your wedding budget, so if you are able to bring in your own alcohol, you can actually save thousands of dollars.
That left us with the job of researching caterers. When we went to check out the venue for the first time, several people in the area recommended this local barbecue place – Ray Brothers BBQ. So of course we went there right after for dinner. And oh my goodness, it was amazing! And we loved that it kind of fit in our theme because it was barbecue (a southern specialty) in New York on a cold winter’s day. Perfect.
… and Drinks
Since we live so close to the Finger Lakes wine region, it was important to me that we had local wines from wineries we had actually visited. We made a day out of visiting wineries and we picked up a few cases for the wedding. Another super-friendly budget option – buying by the case and directly from the winery! We were then able to showcase that we had local wines and people loved them! (In case you’re wondering, we used Miles Wine Cellars, Heron Hill Winery, and Owera Vineyards.)
9 – Unity Ceremony
Again, I wanted something unique for our unity ceremony. Everything else was already unconventional, so it didn’t make sense for us to do the typical candle or sand jar. I (again) spent a lot of time researching online, and finally found something that spoke to us: a whiskey aging ceremony. After our visit to Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Tennessee, whiskey had become significant in our travels, just like our visits to wineries and breweries. So I did a little more digging and discovered that my favorite local distillery, Black Button Distilling, offers whiskey-aging kits! So we drove out there one night, had a few drinks and got the kit for our wedding. To this day, it is still the most talked about part of our ceremony. We loved it!
10 – Cake
The cake! So important and another place that we got lucky. Our cake was gifted to us by a dear friend who owns a bakery business on the side. I gave her some photos I found and liked on Pinterest, and she made me a beautiful wedding cake – that was even more delicious that it looked! (The middle layer was apple cinnamon with chunks of apple. YUM!) My favorite part was the middle layer shaped as a piece of luggage with the travel tag “Mr & Mrs” on it!
All in all, we had a blast planning our wedding. The whole journey was so personal and so “us” that we couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out. We were even able to save enough money on the wedding itself that we had one kickass honeymoon! More about that later… If you use any of these ideas, please let me know so I can see that I’ve helped someone else with their special day! Feel free to ask me any questions. If you have any ideas to share, please leave them in the comments!
Wedding thank yous & credit
*All professional photo credit in this post goes to my amazing cousin, Lauren Wojtalewski. If you’re in the central New York area and need photos done, contact her here: www.elizastudios.com. She does AMAZING work (obviously!).
*Our DJ was Skip Clark, not only my husband’s uncle, but also one of the best DJs in the area, by far! We have had several friends and family ask for his contact information since the wedding because he genuinely does a great job.
*Lincklaen House in Cazenovia did a spectacular job with our rehearsal dinner. (Their popovers really are to die for!) The staff at the Hampton Inn & Suites was wonderful to us. And a HUGE thank you to Hair & There who saved me at the last minute and did an incredible job on our hair and make-up!
*I also need to give a shout-out to my mom, who created most of the signs and decorations that were used around the building. She put so much time and effort into helping make our wedding day as perfect as possible!
*Lastly, thank you to ALL of our family and friends who helped us put together such a perfect wedding. We could’t have done it without you and we love you so much!