Sara Violetta, ESL Program Coordinator & Scott, Fire fighter

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Chilling under the supermoon in the desert with our hearts full of love.
Planned Budget: $15,000
Actual Budget: $6,000 (including our guests’ flights)
Number of Guests: 7 people, including us

Where we allocated the most funds:

Housing: We rented a gorgeous mansion on Airbnb for the weekend. Staying in a giant house on a mountainside with our closest family and friends was so chill. We had a sauna, pool, copper bathtub, and multiple rooftop lounges.

Photography: At the last second, we decided to get a photographer, and I’m so glad we did!

Flights: We paid for most our guests’ flights to come to the wedding. We had enough Southwest points to send a few people for free, but it was still one of the more expensive parts of our wedding.

Where we allocated the least funds:

Food: Two of our guests were amazing cooks, so they cooked for everyone the entire weekend. We only had to pay for groceries. It was like having personal chefs.

Venue: We only had to pay $50 to stay in White Sands for an hour after it closed for the evening. We had the entire desert to ourselves for only $50!

Ceremony: My best friend is also my husband’s cousin, so she did our ceremony for us. We had everyone share a poem, story, or freestyle, and then we exchanged our vows. It made the evening especially intimate and sweet.

Wedding dresses: I love affordable and re-wearable wedding outfits. I wore three dresses on my wedding day, and each cost $120 or less. I wear my wedding shoes to work a lot, and I can’t wait to wear my floral wedding dress again. I love wearing things that remind me of my wedding day.

Makeup: I didn’t want to go to a random salon to get makeup done, so I did it all myself. I went to Ulta beforehand and had them teach me what to do.

What was totally worth it:

Having a great photographer. Once we connected with Ellen Ross from The Light and Color Photography, I was so excited. I loved having a photographer who was a real artist. She was amazing to work with. I couldn’t be happier.

What was totally not worth it:

I shouldn’t have styled my hair like I normally do. I have super curly hair, and I’ve mastered the art of getting my curls to look their best, but I should have used more product. After we took pictures in the wind, I ended up having some messy hair.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Craigslist helped us connect with our photographer, and eBay was a great site for finding some unique accessories. You can’t find a gold-dipped rose, a peach ostrich feather jacket, or a vintage fox skin scarf anywhere else.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Don’t bother trying to please everyone else on your wedding day. Do whatever you want, and don’t feel like you have to invite everyone you know.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Getting married in New Mexico. My first job after grad school was working for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as their traveling schoolteacher. Living on a train and teaching circus kids was out of this world, but quitting the job was tough. I had a hard time readjusting to living in one place. One day I just packed up my VW Beetle and decided to drive cross-country. I found myself off the grid in New Mexico, and I just fell in love. We live in Maryland now, but I knew this would be my chance to get back to the “land of enchantment.”

Here’s our wedding timeline:

  • Got dressed and prepped in the mansion.
  • Took photos nearby the mansion on the mountainside.
  • Hopped in the car.
  • Stopped the car on the way to White Sands to take pictures on another mountainside.
  • Drove to White Sands and took pictures in the desert (my friend forgot our vows at the mansion, so they had to drive back to get them, so we were all alone and just took pictures for an hour or so).
  • Once the park rangers kicked everyone out of the park, we sat down in the sand and exchanged vows, read poems, and shared stories under the supermoon all alone in the desert.
  • Drove to Chili’s for dinner, LOL! White Sands was an hour away from the closest town, and we were all starving. So we all piled into Chili’s since it was the first place we could find, and we scarfed down some mediocre food.
  • One week later, we had a fancy-schmancy dinner at the best restaurant in Annapolis, Maryland, to celebrate with our families. We had a private room, which made the night super intimate, and the food was to die for.
  • Two weeks later on Halloween, we had a “HalloWedding” house party at our house for all of our friends. I splurged on all of the decorations, music, and food. I think I spent $1,000 on the entire party. We had a zombie bridal party, two DJs, and had a ridiculous wedding ceremony. It was a fun way to celebrate with our friends.

Our family story:

I had Scott meet Sunny when she was one-and-a-half years old. Sunny was the most adorable kid ever, and Scott fell in love with her right away. He was an amazing father, and it made me realize that he was “the one.” There was nothing I wanted more than a husband who really loved us both. Life is sweet.

Other things I’d like to share:

My mom got married in the ’70s and she had a pretty beige dress with red and pink flowers. I felt like there was something so innocent and timeless about a floral wedding dress. One day my sister sent me a picture of a vintage looking floral dress on ASOS, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Embarrassingly enough, I bought the dress a year before we were even engaged. I knew it was the one before I even knew Scott was the one!

Wedding Warriors TC

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