How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love-Fest


With a sold-out heavy metal concert next door

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

Lacey, Software Developer & Donald, Nursing Student

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: It was a humid day full of wine, tears, tacos, love, and just as much heavy metal as we could handle—getting married has never been so rock and roll.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

Planned Budget: $10,000

Actual Budget: $12,000

Number of Guests: 120 out of over 200 invited

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the most funds

Our budget broke out into an even split between food, photography, and the venue, each of which cost about $2,000. It was hugely important to us to have terrific food, and our caterers from Austin-staple Maudie’s more than delivered with fajitas, rice and beans, and guacamole. Our guests ate their tacos in the gorgeous gardens of an Austin historic building, the German Free School owned by the German-Texan Heritage Society. This venue was run by the sweetest people and provided a location walking distance to downtown hotels—meaning that our guests could drink and walk back to their rooms, or easily catch a cab, and although the gardens weren’t in bloom because of a freak ice storm the month before, the greenery and natural setting provided a lush backdrop to our ceremony and meant that we didn’t have to worry much about decorating—the location was already beautiful!

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

Excellent photography with photographers we trusted and who made us comfortable was also a must-have for us. After Donald rejected the websites of almost every photographer in the city, we met with Bill and Mary of Prima Luce Studio. We clicked with them immediately; they are warm, friendly, completely “got” the relaxed-yet-elegant vibe we were going for, and their portfolio spoke for itself. They were more than willing to work with us on budget, and if we could, we’d get married again just to have them shoot another wedding for us. All our guests complimented them on their ability to be everywhere at all times without being obtrusive. Their photos are a perfect representation of how it felt to be at our wedding.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

Where we allocated the least funds

We spent only $300 on cake because (ironically) it was vital to us that our cake taste delicious. To that end, we immediately nixed the idea of having a multi-tiered wedding cake, as those are usually frozen for several days before they are decorated. Instead, we got a mix of cakes in red velvet, strawberry-lemon, mocha almond, Italian cream, and carrot from two of our favorite bakeries. One cake was even vegan! We had friends pick them up the day of and borrowed cake stands from our moms to display them. The most important piece of the cake table was our cake topper: a gold plane. The plane is a replica (made by Donald’s dad) of one flown by Donald’s grandfather and was made for his grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. Since his grandfather passed away several years ago, we loved being able to include him in the festivities by representing him on the cake table. People are still, four months later, talking about how delicious our cakes were.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

What was totally worth it

Our favorite out-of-town weddings have been events where the bride and groom went out of their way to make themselves available to their guests for the whole weekend, and we really tried to model that. Even though we were busy and stressed, we had a welcome dinner at a counter service cafe on Thursday, when some of our families arrived; a rehearsal dinner on Friday; the wedding (of course) on Saturday, and a goodbye breakfast at our favorite taco stand on Sunday. Not everyone made it to every event, but that meant we got to spend more one-on-one time with our out-of-town guests. It meant I was up until midnight ironing tablecloths, but so what? An hour before, I’d been drinking with my dad from Oklahoma, my best friend from Alabama, and Donald’s college buddies from New York. The whole weekend felt like a family/friend reunion of everyone who we love, and we were so grateful to be able to make extra time for them. The actual wedding day went by so fast and we’ve both remarked since then on how we felt like we didn’t feel like there was enough time for everyone we wanted to talk to, so making that extra time throughout the weekend helped make up for the speed and intensity of the wedding day itself.

What was totally not worth it

Worrying about the heavy metal band next door.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

Let me back up: We got married in downtown Austin next to The Mohawk, a punk club. Usually, their acts don’t go onstage until nine at night, so we thought we would be safe to have the ceremony and most of the dance party reception before they got rolling. On our wedding day, however, The Mohawk played host to a heavy metal festival that started at six! Donald and I were both hyperventilating a bit when we found this out, but after some friendly communication between us and their management, they were silent as church mice for our ceremony, and kept their pre-show music pretty quiet until nearly 8:00. Then, they totally rocked out. Our dance party reception was replaced with a reception more focused on mingling and chatting over the mosh pit next door, and everyone just laughed at how “Austin” it was that there was a sold-out show right next to our wedding. It made my terror that our grandmothers would be shocked and appalled seem very silly.

The moral of the story is that no matter what happens, if you end up married at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

A few things that helped us along the way

Donald had to remind me several times over the course of planning that people love to be asked to help out with weddings. His go-to phrase with me became, “How would you feel if so-and-so asked you to pick up their wedding cake?” Short answer: thrilled! This really helped me ask for help when I needed it and accept help that was offered.

The end result was that so many of the people we love had a hand in our wedding. One of my best friends played our favorite songs for our ceremony (even learning “God Only Knows,” which is apparently a beast to play), and another good friend acted as our officiant. The officiant’s fiancé made Donald’s ring, and even more friends picked up cakes on their way to the ceremony. Yet another friend did my makeup, and my cousin did all the women’s hair. My father-in-law painted seed packet art to point people toward the entrance, and my mom hand-wrote our seed packet escort cards. Our friends and family went out of their way to make our rehearsal dinner and wedding so special, and it’s really true that it wouldn’t have been the same without their help. I could go on and on, but the end result was that our wedding felt like a mini barn raising. We were surrounded by the tangible things our friends and family had done to show their love for us, and that was the greatest gift we could have received.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

My best practical advice for my planning self

Read the essay “The People Want Options” as many times as it takes to really sink in. I’d spent the months leading up to the wedding worrying that we weren’t doing enough to make our guests happy and comfortable. Should we have a prayer even though we are not religious? Shouldn’t we have diet soda? Are people going to be able to find the bathrooms? What if they can’t find parking? All of that anxiety disappeared on the day. Your guests are adults: if they have dietary restrictions, they will let you know. If they can’t find the bathroom, they’ll ask someone. If they disagree with your Tibetan singing bowl, Harry Potter, Carl Sagan, totally secular ceremony, they will probably keep it to themselves.

Try to remember that people want to help you. They are offering their assistance because it’s really, really cool to be part of one of the most important days in someone’s life. If they offer to lend you something, make something for you, pick something up, or help you host a craft night, trust that they are offering honestly. Let the people you love participate in this day. Weddings aren’t just for the bride and groom. They’re also for everyone who loves them.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding

Favorite thing about the wedding

We crafted our ceremony and vows very carefully, and the ceremony wound up being my favorite part. As soon as the music started, all my anxieties about whether everything would go according to plan evaporated. My dad and stepdad walked me down the aisle together, our best friends did readings, we said our vows, and our friends and families watched from the tables where soon they’d be eating fajitas. We wound up standing on the “wrong” sides because the garden was on a slight incline, but that meant I could see my mom through the whole ceremony—a blessing and a curse since she was sobbing and I was trying not to cry! Donald and I were both beaming at each other, and I kept stealing glances at my family and my friends. When Donald said his vows to me, I saw his best man nod and smile at me from behind him, and felt the full importance of what we were doing. From the kiss and recessional on, we were married and full of joy, and it made the rest of the reception so much more than a party.

How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love Fest | A Practical Wedding


The Info:

Photographer: Bill and Mary of Prima Luce Studio | Location: Austin, TX | Venue: German Free School | Lacey’s Dress: Maggie Sottero (discontinued) | Lacey’s Shoes: Bouquets | Lacey’s Engagement Ring: Brilliant Earth (wedding band purchased locally) | Donald’s Suit: Calvin Klein | Donald’s Wedding Ring: Lisa Sokolowski | Bridesmaids and groomsmen provided their own dresses and suits.

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  • vegankitchendiaries

    Oh man… SOOOO much to say about how lovely this all is! Love! Love! Love!

    1) Thanks for getting a vegan cake because I’m guessing at least one of your guests was vegan and was SUPER thankful. I wouldn’t expect vegan wedding guests are ever EXPECTING a dessert to be provided but when this happens it’s like, ‘HOLY SHIT SOMEONE WAS THINKING ABOUT ME!’ and it’s pretty awesome. This happened at a wedding I went to a few years back (I travelled to Scotland for it) and it blew me away! I heard it was the tastiest cake of the night. At another wedding, I was given a bag of vegan-friendly candy during the cocktail hour – such a small gesture but it meant an awful lot to me.

    2) Tiara! I feel like people have been moving away from tiaras at weddings so it’s nice to see someone rocking one so awesomely. Like, when ELSE are you going to be able to get away with this except on your wedding day. It’s precious as hell and I love it! Gingers rock the most awesome hair-dos… congratulations on nailing it.

    3) I’ve got such a soft-spot for friend-fueled backyard weddings. :) Your pics are what it’s all about. So is your story, right down to avoiding the last minute ‘metal crisis’!

    4) What’s in the mortar and pestle? Is that the Tibetan singing bowl? Details plz? :)

    • River

      THANK YOU for mentioned her bangin’ red hair/tiara combo. I loved it too! I’m really leaning towards fulfilling my little girl love of tiaras on my wedding day, and it was heart-warming to see how lovely Lacey looked in hers!!

      • Lacey Williams

        DO THE TIARA! A veil just didn’t work with my dress, and I was thinking of, like, a fascinator or something, and then I found this tiara for $10 at Charming Charlie. And when else am I going to be able to wear a freaking tiara?

        • River

          $10? No way! You win. All the ones I like on etsy are around $100, but now I’m gonna keep looking. I’m probably doing a tiara/veil combo, and then taking the veil off. Also, way to rock that Maggie Sottero dress – my dress is also MS!

          On a non-sartorial note, I am mega impressed by the whole next door to a heavy metal show aspect. The way you guys handled that is super cool. :-)

          • vegankitchendiaries

            River, if you’re tiara hunting you might want to look at the Chinese sites too (Milly Bridal, Light in the Box, JJ House etc). My dress and earrings I got online from China and they were AWESOME. My $3 garter too, but it looked a pretty tacky (thank god it goes under the dress). It’s worth mentioning that my original veil came from a Chinese site for $15 and it was so cheap looking it was actually totally unwearable and I had to rebuy a more expensive one locally. It’s a gamble, but not a costly one. And the shipping is usually very fast and very cheap (or free).

    • scw

      there is a small chance we are going to have vegan ice cream for our two vegan friends at our wedding. hiring this particular ice cream company means spending over $1,000 for ice cream (there would be dairy ice cream, too, and they’d be traveling) and I’m not sure that’s in our budget (lol), but I know they’d be just as excited as you and that means I’m pushing for it a little more than I would be normally!

      (and yes, that’s the tibetan singing bowl!)

      • vegankitchendiaries

        Like I said, I don’t think most vegans would expect it so if it means blowing your budget it’s probably not worth it. Keep in mind, if you’ve got a place near you (or your wedding) that sells Coconut Bliss (there are lots of brands of vegan ice cream, Coconut Bliss is just the best, in my opinion) you could just try to hand over a pint or two of that to your ice cream peeps and get them to sort it. (If that works with your wedding plan/venue.)
        Also, are you guys doing ice cream in lieu of cake? Because… YES.

        • Lauren from NH

          Oh I now know how to make bridal showers not suck. Get me high on ice cream and I will cooperate!

        • scw

          we thought about doing ice cream in lieu of cake! the ice cream vendor we were going to get (little baby’s ice cream) has regular and vegan options and is one of our favorite spots in our city. right now, we’re planning on doing cake and a cookie table, and maybe the ice cream too if we end up with a surplus.

    • Lacey Williams

      Thank you so much! The mortar and pestle is the singing bowl, and it was really cool. We had a moment of silence in lieu of a prayer, and the singing bowl broke the silence and brought everyone back to the moment.

      My mom and several friends are vegan, and with so many kick-ass Austin vegan bakeries, it seemed insane not to have a vegan option. Cake is, like, WHY people go to weddings, so I wanted everyone to eat cake, damnit!

      • vegankitchendiaries

        Word UP! We are considering (an eventual) vegan honeymoon to Austin. It’s the new Portland, donchaknow? x

        • Lacey Williams

          Hilariously, two months after the wedding, we moved to Portland! And they truly are sister cities :)

          • vegankitchendiaries

            I’m dying of jealousy at that! (Come visit Vancouver, BC sometime, tho! We’re tonnes of fun and not too far!)

  • Lauren

    gosh, what a gorgeous wedding and similarly gorgeous things to say about the day. congrats! i love that the ceremony was your favorite part– my eyes are welling up a little bit over here!

    • Lacey Williams

      Thank you! My eyes are welling up just revisiting the whole day. It was awesome.

  • YayAustin

    Another Austin bride here and I must say, your flowers are beautiful! Did you do them yourself or use a local florist? I’d love to hear which one!

    • Lacey Williams

      Donna Foster at Central Market! She totally worked with my budget and just blew me away. I was thrilled with the flowers.

  • Jules

    Love the part about the plane! I’m so glad you included a picture of it. I love the idea of multiple cake flavors, too! (And “only” spending $300.)

    AND, I would have been thrilled to pick up a cake on the big day for a friend. Very good insight. People love to pitch in.

    • Lacey Williams

      4 of the cakes were only, like, $40-50 each, but the vegan cake was more. It was worth it, though. That vegan carrot cake was the BOMB and the non-vegans didn’t even know it wasn’t “real” cream cheese!

      • Shannonandonandon

        I’d love to know more about the strawberry lemon cake; is it lemon cake with strawberries in it, strawberry filling, strawberry cake with lemon filling? Maybe I’ll just make all the options anyway :)

        • Lacey Williams

          It was a vanilla cake with lemon filling and strawberries on top (strawberries were basically delicious decor).

  • LifeSheWrote

    This looks like a gorgeous, special day.

    I’m super intrigued by this:
    “If they disagree with your Tibetan singing bowl, Harry Potter, Carl Sagan, totally secular ceremony, they will probably keep it to themselves.”

    I’m pretty sure I wholly agree with all of that … and I’m particularly curious about how you incorporated Harry Potter into your ceremony?

    • Lacey Williams

      Sure! We had a memory table with photos of our relatives who have passed on, with a framed printout of the passage at the end of Deathly Hallows when Harry has the resurrection stone and is going to turn himself in to Voldemort. (Something about, “and they were his strength, and his reason for putting one foot in front of the other…”). We also had a reading during the ceremony, also from Deathly Hallows, from the scene with Bill and Fleur’s wedding. It was maybe a little meta to have a reading about a wedding during the wedding, but I liked the passage and the feeling, and it’s a little funny (“Ginevra’s dress is far too low-cut!”).

      • LifeSheWrote

        Love it! So cool. Well done, ya’ll!

      • JDrives

        I was also wondering about this! As a fellow HP nerd I just think this is flat-out awesome :)

  • sara g

    I feel like we are kind of wedding twins! Our budget started at 10k, and will be around 12k when all is said and done. 10k of that is photographer, venue, and food. And no fancy wedding cake here either… Whole Foods all the way.

    Your bouquet is SO PRETTY. Did you guys make it?

    Congrats on a lovely wedding and best wishes in your new marriage <3

    • Lacey Williams

      No, a local fancy-ish grocery store did the flowers, and they did such a great job!

  • macaroni

    Such a beautiful wedding! I mean, the photo of y’all’s kiss during the ceremony and this last one clearly communicate that you love each other dearly. Congratulations!!

    And omg YES to accepting help from family and friends! We’re getting married in a little over 2 months (wheeeeeee!!), and initially I struggled with some of the (extremely generous) offers from friends and family. I mean, our wedding venue is the home of close family friends, my cousin made our invitations, etc. My fiance’s aunt wanted to make welcome bags for everyone (she’s a big time couponer and gets crazy deals on stuff), and initially I wasn’t comfortable because it’s a big gift – she’s making these AMAZING bags. But my wise future hubs pointed out that she LOVES doing stuff like this – she wants to feel involved and like she’s helping, and it’s as much a gift to her to have her participate and be involved as it is to us. That really helped me feel more comfortable with accepting big gifts/offers to help/just family being amazing.

  • Caitlin_DD

    Lovely! The second picture was the one that opened the floodgates.

  • http://www.hundredsofmoments.com Hundreds of Moments

    What a cute wedding! Love the little wodden airplane cake topper!! <3

  • Yilina Li

    The last photo is like a paiting, it is so sweet and happiness. I also have saw many happiness photo in http://www.persunshop.de/blog