zoe & sam
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A joyful, egalitarian, laid-back, fun midday celebration with lots of dancing!
Planned budget: $32,000
Actual budget: $40,000
Number of guests: 110
LOCATION: Berkeley, California
Where we allocated the most funds:
Food was one of our top priorities. We’re both big foodies, and we love to cook, drink, and entertain. We wanted our wedding to feel like a gussied-up version of the parties we throw at home—lively, laid-back, nothing fussy or overly formal. We chose a full-service caterer, so they also handled rentals, floor plans, bartending, and setup/breakdown/cleanup. That made our lives much easier!
Manali Anne Photography was probably our favorite vendor. Not only does she take stunning photos, but she’s super-responsive, flexible, transparent with her prices, and really bubbly and fun to be around. She even gave us (multiple) rides in her car, including a ride to the venue on the morning of the wedding! We ended up blowing our photography budget and buying two albums from her, just to give her more of our business.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Sam wore a suit he already owned. Zoe made her own veil and bought her dress on sale (then spent almost as much again getting it altered!). She also did her own hair, and her sister did her makeup. We had generous help from family and friends. Our parents, siblings, and friends helped us gather and transport items so we didn’t need to rent a van. Zoe’s parents designed and printed the seating chart and welcome signs. A friend who works at a brewery hooked us up with beer and cider kegs at no cost to us. Another friend gave us paper fans leftover from her wedding to use as party favors. (They were a big hit in the California summer sun!)
What was totally worth it:
We spent a lot of time and money getting the reception lunch right. From the beginning, we insisted on a meal that was not only genuinely delicious, but could accommodate as many of our guests’ food restrictions as possible. The staff at Carrie Dove Catering helped us plan a fresh, seasonal menu (hello, gazpacho shots!) that had multiple food options for almost every guest. We had folks who are pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, allium-free, and lactose-intolerant, and they were all able to just serve themselves from the buffet.
Getting partial wedding planning services was totally worth it. Jessica Franklin from Dreams on a Dime was a lifesaver! She helped us find vendors, reviewed every contract, and gave advice on things we never would have thought of (like buying versus renting flower vases). As our day-of coordinator, she was so efficient and fit in so smoothly with our crowd that a lot of people assumed she was a fellow guest.
We’re both involved in the local social dance scene, and many of our friends are dancers. Even though it was a daytime wedding, we really wanted our guests to dance their faces off. On our RSVP form, we asked people to “Tell us one song that’s guaranteed to get you on the dance floor,” then gave the resulting playlist to the DJ. He ended up playing nothing but songs from the list, and our guests were so happy. We had nearly three hours of music and there were people dancing the whole time—on a Sunday afternoon!
What was totally NOT worth it:
The first wedding planner we hired ghosted us—she just stopped responding to phone calls, texts, or emails. We never found out what happened and couldn’t get our deposit back. Lesson learned: make sure all your vendor contracts have a cancellation clause!
We arranged a round-trip shuttle for our guests between the venue and downtown Berkeley. The shuttle going to the venue in the morning ran late, and hardly anyone used it—they mostly took cabs or carpooled. If we had to do it over again, we’d just book the shuttle for the return trip to downtown.
We ended up WAY over-ordering both wine and cake. We’re happily storing (and drinking) the extra wine, but we had to scramble to get through an entire leftover half-sheet cake!