shawna & luke
SUM-UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: A well-heeled summer evening with our closest family and friends.
PLANNED BUDGET: $15,000
ACTUAL BUDGET: $25,000
NUMBER OF GUESTS: 95
LOCATION: San Rafael, California
Where we allocated the most funds:
Food, Drink, Photography, and Venues. We chose a photographer soon after we found our wedding venue, and making those two big choices right away helped us stay true to our vision. We knew we wanted someone we could be completely comfortable with and who was focused on capturing the day as it was, versus trying to make us look like a magazine spread. Turns out Emily is a new friend whom we would have happily invited as a guest, and her photographs are EVERYTHING!
We had three days’ worth of events, so having Shawna’s parents chip in to plan those helped tremendously. They planned and paid for the food for the Mehndi/Henna Party and The Night Before. We VASTLY over ordered beverages for the weekend. Better than the alternative, but we returned what we could to BevMo (contrary to what we’d heard, they wouldn’t take the wine back). We are still drinking wedding wine a year later, which is kind of fun.
If there’s one thing we’ve heard non-stop after the wedding it’s that everyone loved the food. We are so glad the idea of having a cocktail style reception with dinner-weight food worked for everyone. We worked closely with a friend of ours who owns an amazing vegetarian Indian restaurant on a menu that was flavorful without being too spicy for the few we weren’t sure would be open to new things. Everything had to be easy to hold and eat, so he got inventive with form factors. Luckily most of our friends and family are foodies, and the dosa station was a huge hit! We supplemented the veg food with a few meat kebabs, and they blended nicely into the menu. Also, wedding pie FTW. Getting pies locally that were baked the day before was the best decision ever. Our one nod to dietary restrictions was that they made one gluten-free pie, and our friends were so happy. Everything else was luckily easy.
We were lucky to get our wedding and reception venue as an affordable package (it would already have been affordable, but they also mixed up our reservation for Sunday, so we got Saturday at the Sunday rate!) and Shawna’s parents hosted the Mehndi at their house. However, we still had to rent a spot for the Guys’ Night Out/“Man”di (Luke was so proud of that pun we kept it!) and The Night Before. Individually these were all good deals, but adding them together, locations were a big expense.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Decor, Stationery, Flowers, and Location. We intentionally chose a beautiful venue for our wedding, and it didn’t need much decorating, so we kept our touches meaningful and small. We made copies of family photos and bought cheap but nice frames so we could make the house feel like our home for a night. Shawna painted wooden letters and jewel-tone cardstock with gold to provide some tie-in with our loose color scheme. We lucked into the venue deciding to invest in bistro lights, which we had originally planned to rent. Otherwise, we let the home and gardens speak for themselves.
We were going to skip flowers altogether, but at the last minute Shawna’s mom decided she really wanted Shawna to have a bouquet and for the guys in her family to have boutonnières. Shawna described something simple made up of her favorite flowers, and in the end it was a beautiful bouquet. We still took first look and bridal party photos with fans, and the bridesmaids were happy to have fans for the heat of the ceremony! We didn’t use any other decorative flowers (e.g. table centerpieces, aisle decor).
We sent digital save the dates and make a kickass website (Shawna may not have sunk too much time in DIY but spent DAYS on the website and was damn proud of it). Since we had a cocktail-style reception we didn’t need a seating chart or menu, and we skipped programs since we knew the ceremony was going to be short and simple. Shawna stressed on those decisions for a bit, but it’s amazing what chalkboards (for basic directional signage) and little paper flags (for food) can do. The only paper stationery we did use were the invitations themselves, and we kept those simple: a flat invitation, a card describing the times, dates, and purposes of the wedding weekend events, and an RSVP postcard we custom designed to allow people to RSVP for each event. We got the invites from MagnetStreet, since they have coupons and deals all the time and offered three free samples so we could try out colors, styles, and fonts.
What was totally worth it:
GoPro videos of the toasts. This was a gift from a friend. We watch those videos all the time, and they always make me smile (or cry happy tears, let’s be real).
Taking the time to come up with our vision and discuss it. Being ruthless about what was worth spending time and money on and what we didn’t need. Nearly everyone we worked with was a small business or they were on their own so we felt like we had a community of people around us. Working with people we got to know and like meant a lot and wasn’t something we anticipated about the process.
Finding Falkirk was perfection. Friends had been to a wedding there and suggested it. It was the first venue we visited, and I was ready to sign on the spot. Luke made us visit another just to compare, but after that, we couldn’t put our hearts into more of a search. When they mistakenly gave away our Sunday date, we got the Saturday at the Sunday price, which turned out perfectly in the end. Again, the people were so nice and helpful throughout the year plus of planning!
We were engaged for a year and a half, which both gave us time to book things and to relax for a few months before feeling like we had to plan. The timing ended up working out perfectly. I finished grad school, studied for my licensing exam, and waited for the results almost up until the moment of the wedding.
Having a second dress and shoes! I bought an affordable back-up dress ($40 on sale!) and flat shoes I knew I’d wear again just in case.
What was totally not worth it:
Bartender at the wedding. The photo booth (DIY set-up borrowed from a friend). It was fun, but many did not use it, and it would have been one less thing to think about. The biggest disappointment was the hours I spent on the playlist for the DJ who ended up playing mostly his own stuff, though he did pepper in some of our songs (time is healing that disappointment).
A few things that helped us along the way:
Remembering to have a life outside of planning. Yes, most of our evenings were taken up by wedding to-do lists, but we still went out for dinner, went to comedy shows and karaoke nights, watched TV shows, and were ourselves. We had a stressful year with him changing jobs and me wrapping up school so it was key to remember the rest of our lives.