Here at APW, we’ve always liked talking about The Big Scary/Frustrating/Hard Stuff of wedding planning. But this year we’re also trying to bring focus back to the practical parts of wedding planning. The stuff that you can bookmark and use as a cheat for later when you’re tired of researching and just want answers already dammit. So today we’re debuting a new feature, called How We Did It. The idea? It’s sort of like a wordless wedding. Except instead of the feely stuff, How We Did It is all about the practical stuff. Because really, we’ve all looked at hundreds of weddings and said to ourselves, “Sure, it’s beautiful, but how did they pull it off?” And it’s about time someone answered you.
* Ashley, Digital Communication Manager for a national non-profit & David, Program Analyst for a national security firm* Photographer: Chris Zarconi Photography *
One sentence sum up of how we did it: Sophisticated, hyper-local, hyper-personal wedding.
The Info—Photographer: Chris Zarconi Photography / Ceremony Venue: Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC / Reception Venue: Formerly the L’Aiglon Mansion in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC, now a yoga studio by day / Food: Fresh Start Catering / Cake: Whisked / DJ: Marc Augenbraum / Ashley’s Dress: Purchased (used) from Once Wed after my first dress was destroyed by a seamstress (yes, utterly heartbreaking)
Favorite Things About the Wedding: The ceremony. From walking down the aisle to a Kanye West song, to reading vows from our iPhones, to my brother asking us to recite Dr. Suess—I loved the intimacy of our very original ceremony.
Planned Budget: $10,000
Actual Budget: $15,000
Where we allocated the most funds: Dinner and reception location. I don’t have the craft gene, so I wanted to find a reception location that would be beautiful on its own with minimal decorations. My mom and my brother came through and made incredible table and wall decorations that were cohesive with the space, but completely transformed it into a sophisticated, elegant affair. The room, with the addition of natural summer light, did the rest of the work.
Where we allocated the least funds: We took advantage of living in a city—we used Uber (a car-sharing service) instead of a standard limo service, and we caught taxis with our bridal party to take pictures at the Capitol. Many of our wedding gifts took advantage of friends’ skills–for example, our engagement photos were taken by my best friend, a photographer.
What was totally worth it: We had special invitations printed and designed featuring the DC skyline. For us, it was a personal way of introducing people to the city through our eyes.
What was totally not: Cute shoes. Unless you’re wearing a cocktail or tea length dress, no one sees them anyway.
A few things that helped us along the way: Meridian Hill Park is part of the National Park Service, making the fee for these public grounds extremely reasonable ($200). Still, there are also a lot of restrictions to consider when you’re getting married in a public space (no chairs, no rain location, fewer than fifty people allowed, and since the space is totally public, anyone can join your wedding). In the end, it was a lot of fun to have “extra guests” cheer for us after the ceremony.
The money we saved on a wedding location was put to good use by inviting a local group of college students to perform the processional/recessional. It also provided the guests of the park with some lovely afternoon jazz.
I don’t know what the big deal is about wearing a used dress (and I don’t mean “vintage”). In many cases, the dress may have never even been worn! The first time I tried on my dress at store it was $1,000. I went to a used dress store that had it for $800. I finally found it online for $400! If you’re buying online, ask thoughtful questions from the buyer, use a PayPal account to ensure security, and enjoy that your dress will see two love stories.
My best practical advice to my planning-self: Not all cost-conscious weddings have to be DIY. Focus on the elements that will make the day authentically about you and your partner. Give yourself the gift of time, find businesses you want to support, and do things your own way.
Editor’s Note: Talking about costs can be tricky, since we’re all working with different budgets in various locations across the world, and our cultural narrative does its best to shame anyone that tries to talk about numbers that fall outside its norm. (And heck, sometimes even the numbers that fall within it.) So one of our goals of this series is to showcase a diverse range of weddings and budgets, which means we want to see your $2K weddings just as much as your $200K weddings (and obviously everything in between). In short, we want to make APW a safe space to talk about money and weddings where all budgets are honored, since y’all know there isn’t enough of that online.
In the meantime, we are working on making this a regular feature, but right now we don’t have a dedicated form to submit with, so if you want to submit your wedding for a “How We Did It” just go through the regular wedding graduate submission page and answer the same questions that Ashley did. We’ll know what it’s for when we see it!