Our Intimate $15K Jewish Wedding Was a Reflection of Our LGBTQ and Feminist Values

And so, so full of joy

KATE, MARKETING MANAGER FOR APW & kARYNE, news editor for Scribd

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Our wedding was sophisticated, but not stuffy, very (very) intimate, and completely full of joy.

Planned budget: $10,000
Actual budget: $15,000 (including gifted favors and dinner)
Number of guests: 12
LOCATION: Albion, California

Where we allocated the most funds:

Venue, photographer, florals. We wanted a venue we could also stay at, and we were lucky to have found the Albion Schoolhouse via Airbnb. It’s a stunning property, and it was just perfect for us and our twelve guests. Unfortunately it has since been sold and is being used as a private property.

Where we allocated the least funds:

Kate’s dear family friend Alex is a private chef and caterer, and he graciously gifted the food and cooked the appetizers and dinner for everyone. Our photographer Cristal also charged us a half-day rate of four hours since we weren’t having a large wedding and didn’t need coverage past dinner. We had a cake made for something to cut, but also had everyone bring their favorite baked goods. We had tons of our families’ favorite desserts to fill the table. Our dear friends gifted us special home-brewed beer with labels that Kate designed, which we gave as favors to everyone, along with custom matching pint glasses that Kate’s dad and his wife gifted. Also, Kate found her dress on super clearance on Bluefly for $250, which was amazing!

What was totally worth it:

Flowers and venue and photography. Hands down. Especially the flowers and photography. Both our florist, Kimberly, and our photographer, Cristal, were just incredible to work with. We worked to find vendors who were either in the LGBTQ community or allies, and ones who were female or minority owned. Instagram was a huge resource, actually, since we were planning a wedding outside of the Bay Area. Lots of hashtag deep-diving resulted in some wonderful vendors! I loved working with Megan of Water & Well to do the lettering for our place cards and smash bags. She hadn’t worked with marble tile before and was totally great about figuring out what worked best, and they just came out beautiful. All of our guests have said how much they love having them on their desks or at home as a reminder of the wedding (bonus favors!).

What was totally not worth it:

The rentals situation ended up being a total pain. The venue had a table that could seat twelve, but they had strict rules around its use. So we rented a table that would seat all of us and checked with the rental company REPEATEDLY about its size; we were assured it would seat everyone comfortably. When it arrived, it was very clear that barely eight of us would fit. We made the executive decision to just use the venue’s table and be very careful with it. We used the rented table for the desserts! Also, videography just wasn’t in the budget (something we still regret), so we set up a GoPro in the chuppah to record the ceremony. We’d tried it out the day before and morning of, and after A LOT of fiddling around finally had it working perfectly. And, of course, it completely did not work the way it had during the practice runs. It was so windy during the ceremony, all you can really hear is the wind and the wood creaking. Fun times.

A few things that helped us along the way:

We’d both been married before, and as they say, hindsight is 20/20, so it definitely helped us to know what was and wasn’t really needed. However, my first wedding was pre-Pinterest and Instagram. I definitely had to keep myself in check from going overboard. In choosing to do a wedding with just our immediate family (since we both have pretty big families), we were really able to have the “nicer version” of options since we were buying or renting for so few people. While I know that doesn’t work for everyone, it allowed us to not have to make too many cuts on things that we really wanted.

Along with choosing some colors we both liked, we used the word “Yeah!” as a recurring theme on our favors and cake topper. It’s something we always say and text to each other, and it just felt like the perfect celebratory element.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

As hard as it was (and still is) to hear how disappointed family and friends were and are that we had such a small wedding, we had to stick to what we knew was best for us. OF COURSE we wish we would’ve had the budget to have a wedding with well over two hundred folks and a full-blown Jewish reception, but it wasn’t in the cards (or budget) for us. If you’re in a position where you can’t invite everyone, just keep your chin up. Another piece of advice: Find vendors that make you feel calm and comfortable. This is KEY. Especially your photographer. If you’re not immediately clicking with a vendor, keep looking.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Our first look was just everything I could’ve hoped for. I loved having such an intimate moment among the hustle and bustle of getting ready and starting the ceremony. It also just took all the anxiety out of the day. I loved just getting to see Karyne. I’ll forever have the memories of walking through a secret garden to where she was standing.

The ceremony was just beautiful. Our rabbi was my mentor for my conversion to Judaism, so we had grown very close to her. She worked with us to create a ceremony with language that fit us as a couple. She had wonderful LGBTQ-friendly Jewish texts to reference and sang the most beautiful song during the ceremony. We also had a Yichud (Jewish tradition of “alone time” for the couple after the ceremony), which just gave us a moment alone to breathe and take it all in and just rejoice together.

I planned a surprise video performance for Karyne from her a cappella group. Karyne proposed to me during one of their concerts, so The Loosies were definitely an important part of our lives. The Loosies have all performed at each others’ weddings, but since ours was so far away, having them come was just out of the question. I asked if they could record one of our favorite songs and they went above and beyond and recorded the most awesome music video for me to play for Karyne. I’d tricked Karyne into thinking we needed a slide show of us (which did end up being SO fun for our family to see) so that we would need to have a TV set up in the reception area. And as soon as the slideshow was over, I played the music video and had Karyne and our guests all in tears. It was the best!

You can check it out here (also note they filmed this while on a retreat, hence the bathing suits):

Other things I’d like to share:

Especially if you are doing things not close to your home or don’t have a coordinator (even for a tiny wedding!!), have a clear day-of timeline. My previous career as a wedding hair and makeup artist taught me how a really good day-of timeline makes a world of a difference. I also made an elaborate spreadsheet (I LOVE SPREADSHEETS, everyone at APW will tell you that) listing everything we needed to bring with us and then had labeled bins to sort things into. It made it so easy when someone was looking for something—they didn’t need to be asking me every moment. They could just look at the sheet, find the corresponding bin, and be on their way! It’s always easier said than done, but this really should be MOSTLY fun. If you aren’t having fun, or you feel like it’s taken a path that you’re not feeling is true to you, then stop and take a step back.

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