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My Backyard Wedding

wedding ceremony
My dream wedding venue – The Backyard

Just three weeks ago, my husband and I got married during a small, heartfelt ceremony at our very own wedding venue: his parent’s backyard. From the day we decided we wanted to host our ceremony there until the day itself we lived quite a journey. From choosing colors, flowers, dresses, a place to host the reception, writing our vows and finding every single vendor for the smallest things… let’s just say it was a lot of work! You are probably now asking yourself: was it worth it? My answer is: YES!

Not only we saved thousands of dollars compared to most weddings, we also had a unique and personal ceremony + reception, that left everyone is tears – the ceremony almost looked like a funeral at one point, no one could keep it together. I am still receiving messages from all our guests telling us that was the best wedding they’ve ever been.

outdoor wedding
Everyone crying.

Why am I bragging about it? Because I want to help you to experience the same thing! You don’t need to get married at one of those traditional wedding venues, such as a resort. What makes a venue special is what it means to you and your spouse. And that’s why I’m starting this series of posts to share everything about my special day, including all the steps and struggles it took to get us there.

First things first: Who am I?

My name is Luisa de Sousa Cullinan and I live in beautiful, sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. I am originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I grew up and have lived most of my life. How did I end up here? Well, the answer is Stevie Cullinan.

Back in December 2013, when I was still in college, my friends and I decided

future bride and groom
Our first picture together! January, 2014.

to work abroad for three months and the destination chosen was Aspen, CO. While I was there I met Stevie, who was also working at the same resort… the rest is history. We started dating and things got so serious that he decided to follow me down to Rio de Janeiro and live there with me and my roommates for 5 months. After a lot of going back and forth, months apart, sleepless nights and many Visa Form applications we got engaged and set our special date: December 27th, 2016.


Now that you know a little more about my story I hope you tag along to find helpful tips about this long and – sometimes – scary looking process. Trust me, I understand. And talking as someone who never thought much of weddings, I’ll tell you something: that day will be the most special day of your life.

So sit back and enjoy a new post about my journey every Wednesday and Friday!



Bride Wars – Get the Wedding Venue You Really Want


The wedding venue. If you haven’t thought about it, you’re in for a treat. If you have, we’re sorry.


Or maybe we should say “we were sorry”. Why past tense? Because it’s the whole reason we started this company. We are pioneering affordable wedding venues that provide the ultimate in flexibility and style. In other words, not the traditional hotel.


Somewhere along the way weddings became synonymous with hotels. We get how it happened… Guests come in from out of town and need a place to stay. The companies that have places to stay also have the room to build ballrooms (read: conference rooms).


POOF, there it is.


Weddings + Hotels = Charge a couple whatever astronomical amount you want.


If you’ve been to your share of these hotel weddings, then you’ve noticed a few reoccurring items:

  • The chicken was passable, at best.
  • The carpet was not.
  • The band played your parents playlist.


The national average cost of a wedding is $32,000 and the venue cost is approximately half of that amount. That means over $15,000 for rubber chicken and bad hotel carpet that you hope your guests won’t notice.


We thought there was a better way. Find unique, breathtaking properties that make for an ultimate wedding venue and price them at a fraction of the cost of a traditional venue. This lets you use your budget the way YOU want to:

  • Want a selfie booth?
  • Want 2 custom food trucks offering your favorite cuisines?
  • Want 3 different dessert bars?
  • Craft cocktails?
  • Vodka ice luge?
  • Want a DJ and a band? Want 2 DJs?


The majority of our wedding venues have an event fee of $1,000 – $2,000, so you can add all the extras you want and keep the extra $20,000 in the bank. Or go to Tahiti for a month. It’s your money, your choice. Don’t give it to the hotel venue to spend.


Here are just a few of our favorites:

  1. East Austin Estate
  2. Downtown Deluxe
  3. Paradise in the Pedernales

Email Katie: [email protected] if you need some help finding a venue for your wedding.

Top 3 Cheap Wedding Venues in Austin




Congratulations! You’re getting married and Austin is the perfect choice for your venue. Why you might ask?

1. The weather is excellent. Summers are a “tad” hot, but the rest of the year is mild and reliable.
2. The food options are outstanding. Whether it’s restaurants or food trucks, Austin has every cuisine you can think of.
3. There’s a vibrant nightlife.
4. Every type of music and plenty of it.
5. And we have the Top 3 premier and cheap wedding venues in Austin!

Premier and cheap, in Austin, aren’t the words commonly used together when it comes to the perfect wedding venue. But let’s be honest, a cheap wedding venue allows you to save your money or splurge on other things like craft cocktails, a dessert truck, bigger band, brunch or a post-wedding new house!

So how is it possible? It’s what Venues & Vows specializes in finding every single day. There is no rule book that says your wedding must take place in a traditional venue such as a hotel ballroom, or worse, a conference room. Nor does it have to be a “wedding hall”. There are beautiful locations that put those options to shame. We scoured Austin, personally visiting each potential property to make certain the grounds are perfect for your wedding day. Let’s look at 3 superstars:

Congress Hideaway – Tucked away on one of Austin’s most famous streets, South Congress, the Congress Hideaway is an exceptionally cool venue that offers overnight accommodations for 23 guests. Hidden in the lush greenery is a main house that sleeps 8 people and private Airstreams that house another 15 guests. Fully loaded Airstreams with bathrooms, air-conditioning and flat screen TVs. See more here.


Sprawling Suburban Austin – Event space for 125-150 guests, a pool, outdoor decks, a smoker, fire pit and bars all at 90% LESS THAN a comparable traditional wedding venue? The answer is YES to all these and more at this Austin location. In other words, affordable and inexpensive wedding venue in Austin do exist and they can be booked here.


East Austin Estate – It is as if this place was built for weddings! This property is a ten-minute drive from downtown Austin and features everything you need for a breathtaking weekend. And for your photos, wait until you see your ceremony with the backdrop of this multi-acre estate. We had the Venues & Vows launch party here and it was jaw dropping. Check out more of the property here.


If you’re searching for the best options for a cheap wedding venue in Austin, you can’t go wrong with these three options. Look at the rest of our Austin inventory here and remember to sign up for updates to get the newest listings sent directly to your inbox.

How to Have a Better Wedding and Save $10k


Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the best, if not the best day of your life.  However, with the rise of wedding costs year after year, it’s become more difficult than ever to have the wedding of your dreams.

According to TheKnot.com, the cost of a wedding has gone through the roof since 2006, with the national average now at $32,641!  Of course, it depends on where you live, but still, that’s a good chunk of change.  Take a look at the breakdown below.

average cost of a wedding venue

Let’s think about that for a second…considering the median household income was around $54,000 according to the Census Bureau, you’re paying over half of a years’ worth of pay in order to celebrate your special occasion.  Now, obviously, nobody wants to go cheap and have paper plates and your Aunt Bonnie as the DJ, so how can you have your cake and eat it too?  Well, let’s take a look at how the costs of the wedding breakdown.  As you can see above, the vast majority of the budget is going to the wedding venue, averaging $14,788!  That’s a lot of money for a room that was most likely used for a Farmers Insurance convention just last week.

Boring traditional wedding venues

Dealing with the “Wedding Tax”

Often called the “wedding tax”, brides and grooms alike often spend more for a venue as soon as they utter the word “wedding”.  According to Which?, a British Consumer research group, venues is where you see the biggest price hike.  When they called a venue for pricing, they received a quote that was a massive £650 more when they said it was for a wedding versus a family party!

Angry Screaming Bride Throwing Veil on White, Copy Space
Angry Screaming Bride Throwing Veil on White, Copy Space

This is really how the concept of Venues & Vows was born.  After going to 6 weddings in one year, I saw this theme play out over and over again.  Mediocre venues with extremely high costs.  I knew there had to be a solution where brides and grooms could have a lavish wedding without breaking the bank.  I also knew that there are a lot of couples out there who don’t want the typical hotel/resort to host their special day. You want something that’s unique to you and breaks away from the mold.  At Venues & Vows, we’ve been able to achieve that.  Here’s just a few examples of some beautiful venues you can choose from…

Large Wedding Venue

California venue

wedding ceremony

As you can see, the venues are beautiful, unique, and offer a wide variety of options.  Whether you’re keeping it small with 30 close friends and family, or doing it up ‘big willie’ style, we have just the venue for you.  But what about the cost?  How much do these places COST???  That’s the best part!  Our venues average cost is around $3,000, saving you over $10,000 on the venue alone!  On top of that, most of our venues can handle rehearsal dinners, morning after brunches, and even the ceremony itself, possibly saving you thousands more.

barn wedding venue

image above via Style Me Pretty

In the end, traditional wedding venues aren’t getting any cheaper.  With costs increasing year over year, it’s about time we break away from the mold and stop being held hostage by hotels and resorts.  Whether your dream venue is on the water, in a mansion, or even a rustic barn, we have something for you.  Head on over to Venues & Vows and have a look around.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

So, what do you think?  Are you ready to break away from the mold and save over $10,000 in the process?  Let me know your thoughts below!



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