This entry is from our Expert Guest series where wedding and honeymoon professionals share their best tips on creating memories that last a lifetime. In this post, YouTube influencer and motivational speaker, Carrie Grace shares how she adapted to Covid and saved money with a tailgate wedding.

Just like any 2020 wedding couple, Covid-19 forced us to get creative and completely re-plan our big day. This included cutting the guest list which was devastating to us. We wanted as many guests as we could safely allow to attend but, we also knew we didn’t want to spend a ton on a day that would be much simpler than we had originally planned.

With a total cost of $8,500, a tailgate wedding is definitely something to consider. Here’s what you need to know about planning one:

Get creative with the venue

Big, large weddings are out of the question at the moment due to safety and restrictions. And airbnb now limits the number of people using their properties, so anything beyond 16 people requires owned property or finding a venue that works for what your wedding dreams and goals are. Brainstorm venues in your area that may not be in use during the pandemic. A few examples: comedy clubs, baseball ball fields, and concert venues.

Guests faced their cars into a semi-circle to watch the ceremony from a safe distance from one another.

We found a beautiful and very affordable venue called The Victorian in Youngsville, NC. They were super easy to work with and let us have a tailgate wedding, which allowed us to have a higher guest count but also keep everyone safe. Our idea came from asking another venue we were touring if we could have a car parade come wave to us after we got married. The venue owner said it would be no problem, and then we asked would it be possible to just get married out in the parking lot while our friends watched from afar. After they told us yes, we started touring other venues to assess what parking lot would be best for hosting cars and creating a backdrop for beautiful photos. We were able to make the parking lot super pretty by adding an arbor, wedding chairs, and flowers. Instead of paper invitations, we invited our friends via a website we created and asked them to RSVP on there. We were able to fit: the wedding ceremony, toasts, first dance, and cake cutting all into the parking lot easily so that our friends could enjoy the full wedding experience from a safe distance. We then invited relatives and friends who were too far away to join to watch on a zoom call that our DJ managed.

The best part was after the tailgate wedding, we had a smaller dinner with just family and the wedding party which was catered by a food truck. We had everyone spaced and in their own covid families.

The children of the bridal party snapping shots of Carrie’s wedding dress.

Cut photography costs

Give the kids in your wedding party mini cameras. We found some for $20 which didn’t break the bank. This will keep them occupied and create more fun memories for you after you upload their photos too. The kids took amazing photos and felt included in the wedding day as a result.



Skip the expensive cake

We gave all our guests cupcakes instead of cake, which helped us cut down on costs. We worked with Whole Foods to design cupcakes the same color as the bridesmaids’ dresses. They were $7 for 6 cupcakes and people said they were some of the best cupcakes they’ve ever had. You only had to order with 48 hours and the whole process was smooth from start to finish.

Use awesome wedding registries

We decided to use Honeyfund for ours. We are saving up for a honeymoon so it was great to use a registry that converted to cash that we could put towards items we desperately needed, along with saving up for flight and resort costs. This allowed us to save up more and not have unnecessary gifts taking up room in our house.

Borrow jewelry

You can borrow jewelry from a local shop or a friend. A local jewelry shop called Bailey’s Fine Jewelry graciously let me borrow a pair of beautiful earrings for my big day. Ask around to your family and friends or check out a local shop where you live.

Making the best of it

We did our first dance to a song called: Slow Dance in a Parking Lot by Jordan Davis, who surprised us on zoom, which is still so crazy to us! One of the lyrics in the song says, “making the most of whatever we got, even if it’s just a slow dance in a parking lot.” That has been our motto for the pandemic: looking for the bright side and finding the good even when it feels hard. Our encouragement to any other covid bride: is to make the most of whatever circumstance has been handed to you for your wedding. No wedding is going to be perfect, but choose the things that matter most and make those the priority.

Carrie and John with some of their wedding party and guests.


All photo credit: Mackenzie Kern Photography


Carrie Grace is a former teacher turned motivational speaker. She is on a mission to create more compassionate work and school cultures. She has spoken at companies such a Marriott, Target, Jack Daniels, Coca-Cola Consolidated, and many more. She currently lives in Durham, NC with her husband where they blog at The Savvy Simpsons, helping people save money.


Leave a Reply