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As a professional hairstylist and makeup artist, Scarlett Howell (@bangsandbalance) had seen every kind of wedding: “The early morning weddings, the holiday ones, the small ones, the ones with bridal parties of 15 on both sides and the weddings of obligation,” as she puts it. So when it came time to plan her own nuptials, well, she had a clear vision of all the things she didn’t want.

So, with a budget of $30,000 (modest, considering the national average), Scarlett began to craft her unique vision of a luxe and intimate California destination wedding. Step 1) Hiring the celebrity wedding planner of her dreams. Step 2) Booking a gorgeous vineyard villa to house her 30-person guest list. Step 3) Enjoying a non-traditional and thoroughly gorgeous party—with the folks who matter most. Considering a microwedding? Enjoy this epic Pin-spiration. 

RELATED: This Couple Had a $2,000 Wedding and Good God Was It Gorgeous 

ON HER VISION FOR THE DAY

“I wanted it to feel like a vacation for our friends and family and like a home away from home to our vendors. We definitely wanted something different, not quite traditional. I know it’s what a lot of people say, but we wanted it to really be a reflection of us: Romantic feeling, lush fabrics and florals and saturated jewel tones. We wanted music that we loved and a ceremony that was ours and ours alone.”

ON WHY SHE CHOSE AN INTIMATE WEDDING

“My now-husband Eddie and I know a ton of people—he has a huge family, and we both work in industries where we make real, long-lasting human connections. We said several times that we could never have a wedding back home (in New Orleans) without inviting 500 plus people. We live in northwest Arkansas and have built our lives here for the past five years and would have a similar issue, but on a smaller scale. So we invited our dearest friends only: We had 28 people including us and 31 if you include our amazing planners and photographer.”

ON CHOOSING A VENUE

“Trying to find a venue that could accommodate our group and would allow an event was extremely hard, but we eventually found our venue through Airbnb. Anna, the owner host, was willing to work with us and not charge us an extra event fee, so long as our guest count didn’t exceed 30 people. She also allowed us to use chairs, etc., from the property, which helped create the look that we were wanting at no additional cost. We had our welcome dinner (which my amazing brothers-in-law cooked) and hosted our brunch the morning after the wedding all at the house as well.”

ON HER FAVORITE TOUCHES

“My grandmother's silk scarf was part of the bouquet. Eddie’s socks had kittybaby (our fur baby) on them. Our Champagne flutes were Eddie’s grandmother's. Eddie read part of his favorite book (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) as part of his vows. We toasted to everyone after our kiss to thank them for coming, and I sabered (is that a word?) the top off of a bottle of Champagne to do so!”

ON HER NON-TRADITIONAL CEREMONY

“We had a small legal ceremony in Fayetteville a month before our wedding, but we didn’t exchange rings until our California ceremony—so we consider May 17th our actual wedding anniversary. We had a spiritual ceremony, performed by our friend Brandon who’s a healer and folklorist. The water held herbs and flowers from the vineyard, and the smoke was made from herbs grown or gathered in northwest Arkansas making a bridge between the two areas.”

ON HAVING FRIENDS PITCH IN

“Our friend Brandon Weston officiated our ceremony, and my unofficial bridesmaid, Deryl ‘Dee’ Nunnery did my hair for me. No trial needed! My friends Lee and Al both helped make the amazing welcome dinner for everyone and acted as second hosts making everyone feel welcome. And the rest of our crew helped with anything and everything, from carrying fire pits and lighting fires, going grocery shopping and helping unpack all of the things for all of us and generally keeping me sane throughout the week.”

ON GUEST EXPENSES

“If you stayed at the house, we asked that you pay $350 per person to help balance other costs. It ended up being more cost effective to stay at the house than hotels in the area, as it was a full three nights of celebration. Everyone arrived Wednesday, and we all cleaned up and left Saturday. We did fully stock the house and tried to make sure anyone had anything they could possibly want to eat or drink. It also had a pool, sauna, hot tub and was on vineyard and olive grove grounds. I was unsure if it was OK to ask for guests to pay, but my planner said it’s really common with destination weddings.”

ON WHERE SHE SPLURGED

“The planner was the most expensive part of my wedding, but through him we met our photographer, Christy, and he found all of the other amazing vendors. I also splurged on my dress. My original budget was $2,000, but of course, that was not the plan that the universe had for me! The skirt was Martina Liana, and they custom dyed it, and the top was actually a bridesmaid top from Waters and Waters.”

...AND WHERE SHE SCRIMPED

“We didn’t have a DJ or a dance floor. We had this amazing house and the greatest people, so we didn’t worry too much about that. The wedding ended with most of the guests drinking in a hot tub. I’m pretty sure everyone was A-OK with no live band or anything!”

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