This bride turned a shelter at Copperhead Island into her dream reception venue on a $20,000 budget

This bride turned a shelter at Copperhead Island into her dream reception venue on a $20,000 budget
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Andrew and Leah Honeycutt met on OkCupid in 2015, and, after three years of dating, were married in an intimate setting at McDowell Nature Preserve’s Copperhead Island on May 19, 2018.

“We had kind of an untraditional wedding,” Leah said. “We didn’t do the ‘big DJ and dancing reception’ thing. We just had a really nice sit-down dinner, and that was about it.”


The two were married in a clearing at Copperhead Island just a few hundred feet from the shelter that would serve as the reception site.

“I’ve always wanted an outdoor wedding,” Leah explained. “I just really like being surrounded by nature.”

The decision to choose Copperhead Island was not a natural one and didn’t come easily. Leah said that, after seeing several other outdoor venues, she felt “totally defeated” the first time she saw the area and needed a few weeks to fully realize its potential.

“To put it frankly, it’s a state park. It’s lovely for camping and hiking and that kind of thing, but it doesn’t scream ‘wedding venue.'”

‘before’ photos courtesy Leah Honeycutt

Nevertheless, the couple settled on the Island due to budget; other venue prices were high, and even the affordable ones would need plenty of décor to make them look wedding-worthy.

“I really did love it in the end,” she said. “Right before the first look photos, I was walking past the reception area and I about cried just looking at it. It was incredible.”


Originally, the Honeycutts aimed to keep costs in the $10,000 range, but that number was ultimately doubled, with the wedding costing $20,000 in the end. The most valuable purchase was a month-of coordinator while the most unexpected purchase was speakers to make up for the lack of infrastructure for background music.

Here’s how the costs, which Leah calls her Budget Buckets, broke down:


Number of guests: 60

Stationery: $350

The couple used Minted for custom stamps, save-the-dates and invitations.

Venue: $640

This includes the $588 Friday-Monday rental of the Island, plus a $52 alcohol permit.

Transportation: $175

A golf cart was rented to shuttle guests the quarter-mile from the parking lot to the ceremony site.

Coordinator: $1,200

“I joked that day that Jennifer (of J. Leigh Events) was the best money we spent. I was so happy to have her,” Leah said about her month-of coordinator, who was responsible for vendor logistics and coordination after Leah’s planning was complete and decisions were finalized.

Photography and videography: $3,400

Attire: $1,500

This includes items like Andrew’s suit alterations, ties for the groomsmen, the flower girl’s dress and Leah’s wedding dress, which she purchased from Kite and Butterfly, a company she found on Etsy.

When reflecting on her dress, Leah said that while it was a bit more than she wanted to spend ($1,100), Kite and Butterfly was the first to get the bohemian look she had been trying to find right. The company makes each dress according to a bride’s measurements, meaning that there, theoretically, should be no alterations to be made, and ships it out.

“That I was nervous about, to be honest, but it turned out perfectly.”

Décor: $7,500 

This includes elements like drapery, furniture rental, florals, signage, activities and games and the ceremony backdrop and arbor structure.

“I worked with Party Reflections, which played the biggest part in the transformation,” Leah said. “I knew that a lot of what was there just needed to be covered up, so drapery was a natural way to go.”

Together, they settled on drapery riddled with string lights and plants to cover the beams, fluorescent lighting and park signage.

Food and alcohol: $5,500

While Leah did admit that other couples likely could have created a less expensive menu, she also said that the meal was important to her since there was no typical reception.

The two bought their own alcohol for about $600 and offered beer and wine.

With the help of Roots Catering, she and Andrew created a Latin-themed menu for their 3-course sit-down dinner:

  • Hors d’Oeuvres: Chicken Empananaditas, Ceviche, Mini Vegetarian Tostada
  • Dinner: Southwest Salad, House-fried Tortilla Chips with Fresh Salsa and Guacamole, Chimichurri Roja Steak or Mayan Polenta (chicken tacos with cheese for children)
  • Dessert: Strawberry Rhubarb and Mexican Chocolate hand pies (“We didn’t want a traditional wedding cake, and my husband hates dessert,” Leah said.)


Bride’s Hair: Nichole Smith at Orange Olive
Catering: Roots Catering
Ceremony Musician: John Tice
Drapery and Furniture Rental: Party Reflections
Florist: Bookout Blooms
Golf Cart Rental: Paradise Golf Cars, Inc.
Lawn Games Rental: Rustic Charm Event Co.
Makeup: Drea Leonetti (friend of the bride)
Officiant: Jake Shearer (brother of the bride)
Month-Of Coordinator: J. Leigh Events
Photography: Ashley Steffens Photography
Signage: Chrissy’s Custom Creations
Videography: Laura Tice
Wedding Dress: Kite and Butterfly
Wedding Dress Alterations: RCB Fashion

All photos by Ashley Steffens Photography

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