Olga, tax attorney & Andrew, public interest attorney
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Gorgeous venue, delicious food, plentiful booze, and the best people we know.
Planned budget: None—we wanted to make sure the important things were great and to forget the rest.
Actual budget: ~$23,000
Number of guests: 85
Where we allocated the most funds:
Food and booze. We love food, especially brunch food, and we wanted the meal to be worth starting a wedding at 10:00 a.m. Chef Ben McPherson at Prohibition created a brunch menu that included his award-winning brisket on a homemade biscuit with poached eggs, shrimp and grits, and a fall fruit salad with a cardamom yogurt dressing. We also really wanted people to dance despite it being the middle of the day, so plentiful excellent booze was key: Our guests were greeted with a make-your-own mimosa bar. We love Bloody Marys at brunch, and Mezcal anytime, so we dreamed up a smoky Bloody Mary that the folks at Prohibition turned into a spicy reality. Add in an open bar at cocktail hour, and people were ready to hit the dance floor at 1:00 p.m.!
We also planned an intimate dinner for our immediate family in the evening. We rented a private room at Pax Americana, our favorite restaurant in Houston, and worked with their event staff to create a menu filled with delicious seasonal dishes. After the whirlwind of the rehearsal on Friday night and the wedding on Saturday morning, it was wonderful to carve out a few calm, unrushed hours to enjoy some fantastic food and wine with the people closest to us.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Flowers: I don’t really like cut flowers, and the venue didn’t need any. My mom made my flower crown and bouquet from baby’s breath she bought at a local grocery store.
Cake: It seemed fitting that for a brunch wedding, we choose cake doughnuts instead of a full-blown wedding cake. We went with a Houston classic, Shipley Do-Nuts, which delivered fresh, yummy doughnuts directly to our venue. I think they were all gone within a few minutes!
DJ: Music was incredibly important to us. We were worried that any DJ we hired would go off-script (e.g., introduce Olga as “Mrs. ___” or encourage people to “dance now”). We were planning to just hit play on our MacBook and hope for the best, so we spent hours perfecting the playlist for each part of the wedding (which turned out to be the most fun part of the entire planning process). Then, the weekend before the wedding, we heard a grad student DJing an event at Rice University, and he was just killing it. So we asked if he would want to come play at a wedding the next Saturday. And he said yes! We sent him our playlist, and for about $100, an astrophysics PhD DJed our wedding!
What was totally worth it:
Secretly eloping! Our wedding was in November, but we snuck off and got married at the courthouse in June (on my birthday, so we’ll never forget our anniversary).
We skipped having an officiant at the wedding and instead asked three dear friends to read passages from the Obergefell v. Hodges opinion, a John Muir essay, and Nichole Krauss’s novel The History of Love. We wrote short-and-sweet vows, exchanged rings, kissed, and then it was time for brisket!
What was totally not worth it:
Micromanaging the tasks we had delegated to others (ahem, my mom). She knocked it out of the park.
A few things that helped us along the way:
Our parents’ generosity, which allowed us to splurge on our respective wedding clothes and have a really fun DIY rehearsal dinner (they covered both).
And a master spreadsheet! My sister sent me a template, and I ended up with one monster sheet with every person’s address, RSVP status, table number, and gift. It took all the stress out of managing the guest list. “Hide column” was my best friend.
Finally, each other. Putting a wedding together is a serious undertaking. Andrew is a philosopher at heart, while I need to make decisions and move on. In the end, each decision was carefully considered and made jointly. We relied on each other to keep our priorities clear and our minds sane.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Think about what really matters to you and your partner. There are a lot of things that seem to be part of a wedding by default, but that didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense to us. And so with each decision we asked, “Will this help our guests have a ridiculously awesome time, or is it just what people have come to expect?” If it didn’t seem important, we cut it. If it did, we made sure to do it in a way we both thought was awesome.
We were lucky to cover most of the costs ourselves, so we decided what to include without worrying about hurt feelings or offending tradition. On the flip side, where our parents were generous enough to chip in, we made sure to get their input, but they were pretty hands-off.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Our friends and family came to Texas ready to party. Houston was a destination for almost everyone, so there was an air of escapism to the weekend. On Saturday, there was about a five-hour break between the brunch wedding and the after-party, during which we took our portraits with our photographer, Ash Carr, and had dinner with our families. During the break, seven of our friends wandered into town and got tattoos. Andrew’s best friend got “PARTY TIME” tattooed across his toes. And it was party time.
Anything else TO SHARE:
Photographs are important. And the value of finding a photographer who understands you and your partner and the vibe of your wedding really can’t be understated. Ash Carr is not only unbelievably talented, but a trooper to boot. She covered the rehearsal Friday night, started shooting again at about 6:30 Saturday morning, and continued until the end of the after-party at about 1:00 in the morning. In that time, she somehow befriended all of our friends and relatives—almost everyone remembers having a deep conversation with Ash at some point—while capturing every important moment. Our pictures are gorgeous and priceless.