Natalie, Writer and marketing specialist & Taylor, Urban Planner and National Guard Infantryman
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A food- and drinks-first Hawaii bash with all the things we love about parties, and none of things we don’t.
Planned Budget: $20,000
Actual Budget: $23,000
Number of Guests: 85
Where we allocated the most funds:
Venue and Food. I had a different venue in mind, with sweeping Hawaiian fish pond views and a gorgeous mountain backdrop—it’s still my ideal look, but at the Hale Koa Estate, which is also a beach rental house, we could have our whole wedding party and team there for a day before for setup (not to mention host the rehearsal dinner there as well). It was much pricier than option one, though, so I was close to vetoing it, when my parents—who were absolutely smitten with the estate—called me and said it would be my wedding present. In the end, I am so glad we went with it! We needed every second setting up all our DIY elements, and having my friends there before, for the Napolitano pizza truck and local pies rehearsal dinner, and after, for buzzed pool swimming, was priceless.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Attire and rings. I always wanted something different but not “too much” and I wanted to spend as little as possible on my attire (more funds for food!). As a kid, I was always obsessed with Star Wars clothing, and how it looks more epic and dramatic than movie-costume kitschy. Ideally I’d go with that, a toned-down version with inspiration from myth and space opera epics. The budget/easy way to do that? I immediately fell in love with the idea of a cape (thanks, Solange!) because it was such an easy addition of a statement piece, and gave me more freedom to search for a budget dress. It ended up being much harder finding one I liked than I thought—I wasn’t spending $1,000 on a cape, and we even debated trying to sew one myself or hire a local seamstress (still not cheap, even for a simple piece like that). In the end, I turned to eBay, where the seller was incredibly customizable-friendly, even dying my cape to match the champagne of my dress. My dress, by the way, I bought on a whim from ASOS when it was on sale. I love trains, and the elegant, understated drama of the cowl back, plus the deep plunge neckline would be flattering for a smaller-in-the-bust gal like me. It did happen to be one size smaller than I’d have liked (and it shows in some of the photos, unfortunately!), but for $170, I figured I’d probably find something else better later on, and wouldn’t be out that much cash. In the end, though, the cowl back and train ended up winning my heart, especially how they looked with the dipped-back lace cape, which we altered a little to attach to my dress just-so.
What was totally worth it:
The string quartet, ulp. We always wanted to walk down the aisle to Adagio in D Minor from the score to the Danny Lohner sci-fi, Sunshine. It’s haunting, moody, visceral—so beautiful and really represents something we bonded over from minute one: science fiction films! It was always a huge part of our vision, and something we were really looking forward to, so making that moment shine with live music would have been a dream come true. I just couldn’t justify spending a month’s rent on something as bougie and fleeting as a string quartet (just for the ceremony!), though, and one night when bemoaning about it to my beautiful sister, she threw up her hands and said she’d get it for me if I was willing to sacrifice my wedding present for it! WAS I EVER. It was an unreal addition to the ceremony—such an elegant and ethereal way to bring our—er, admittedly, nerdy—detail to life.
The food stations. I am HUGELY into food (who isn’t, though?) and drinks, so we knew we wanted it to be a big part of the wedding. Food stations were definitely more money and work to set up (the caterers I worked with seemed a little stumped at the time, as if it was not that common for them), but were a huge hit on the day of. We had mini poke bowls and fun, Pacific Fusion Cuisine–style small bites that really facilitated talking and mingling—but enough of it for everyone to get full three times over. We also saved some money with little tweaks, like ditching dish rental and sourcing on-sale eco-friendly disposable plates (especially key if everyone’s eating ten small plates—that adds up to a lot of plates, and renting them at 50 cents a dish gets pricey). My dad, who is a chef by trade, whipped up an unreal, luxe salad station with roasted beets, macadamia nuts, local cheeses, jicama—the works!—so we kept our caterer focused on statement dishes we couldn’t do ourselves, things requiring chefs, prep, and on-site cooking. A food-industry friend of mine also scored us a whole roast pig for our wedding—another big dream of mine, which was starting to look like it wouldn’t happen because whole pigs are really pricey when ordered through caterers (read: three to four times as much). We got our caterers to supply a carving chef, while we set up a little DIY station with toppings, breads and buns for guests to fix themselves—way more affordable!
What was totally not worth it:
What comes to mind here is actually what was not worth saving the bucks, rather than spending. At first we weren’t hiring a bartender and went with just beer and wine—wine on tables and beer kegs from local breweries (we tested a ton in the year leading up to it!) in a homemade rustic beer tap I saw all over Pinterest. Taylor was all about building the tap—until I found one PREMADE on Craigslist! At $175, it was a deal, as the hardware you’d need to put it together would already cost more than that. Sold. The only issue? Somehow, at the wedding, two of our kegs were so foamed up that people didn’t end up finishing them and abandoned the beer station :(. Luckily, at..