Meg, CEO of APW & David, Litigation Attorney
Sum Up Of The Party Vibe: A live-out-loud celebration of life, Jewish-ness, and our chosen family.
Planned Budget: $3,500 (in our dreams), realistically trying to keep it under $5,000 with the understanding we might fail
Actual Budget: Maybe $7,000, including a lot of hotel rooms for loved ones. We never added it up.
Budget Disclaimer: We got heavy industry discounts, and tons of free gifts of time from industry friends. Plus, my own wedding expert time which is also generally not free. This party can’t be re-created for this amount.
Number of Guests: 40
Location: The Ace Hotel & Swim Club, Palm Springs, California
Photographer: Kenzie Kate
There is a part of me that still has complicated feelings about the vow-renewal-esque morning ritual we did in the desert to celebrate ten years of marriage. While my higher self is so damn glad we did it, the part of me that still needs more coaching and therapy still wonders if we were too stagey, or attention grabby, or, or, or. Our guests clearly don’t have any of the same reservations about it. After all, they happily traipsed to the surface of the sun for us at dawn (see: your wedding is not an imposition). But me? My feelings on our morning ritual are not fully resolved.
I have no such reservations about our evening ten year anniversary party. None.
If there was ever a time in our lives to gather our loved ones together for one big happy party: it was this one. And frankly, we should all be leaning into joy, and celebrating the good things in life whenever we can. I’ll happily show up for my loved ones’, well, anything: baby naming, anniversary party, B’nai Mitzvah, quinceañera, vow renewal, graduation party, retirement bash… pretty much whatever you can think of. I am here for any excuse to gather people that you love together, and celebrate. If it’s an opportunity to see people that I rarely get to see? High school friends, college friends, aging family, you name it? I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Life is short. And I feel the same way about this party.
I’m so glad we did it. I’m so glad we went big, and bright and formal (because our family loves formal). I’m so glad we had toasts and tears, and amazing photos. I’m so glad we ended the night jumping in the pool with our clothes on. I’m so grateful for all of it, and I’m so glad my children will have this as a memory, particularly after all of the pain they’ve lived through in the past year.
My advice to anyone pondering this type of party would be: do it. Go all in. We all spend money on things we care about and enjoy less. In my world, I’ve seen more money spent recently on pain. My dad’s headstone cost more than this party. So did his burial plot. So go in on joy.
Where We Allocated The Most Funds:
For a wedding, what we spent would have been pretty damn good. For a party? It was a lot of money. Also, full disclosure: we had a ton of industry discounts. We had a ton of industry friends that donated their time for free. I utilized my own time for free. My best estimate of the value of this party is about $30,000. That’s more than we spent at our wedding with 125 guests. And to be clear: we never considered spending that kind of cash on this party. Our Plan A was to rent an Airbnb and have In-N-Out, and that would have been great too. But any way you cut it, we dropped a lot of cash. More cash, in fact, than we planned to spend. But like the cash we spent on our wedding, now that it’s done, I’m really glad we spent it.
The vast majority of our money went to The Ace. They gave us the event space basically for free: almost nobody voluntarily goes to Palm Springs in August, so it was available. We picked the most affordable catering option (pasta), which also happens to be the best catering I’ve ever had at The Ace, and I’ve had a lot of their catering. I ordered their shrimp pasta on a whim, since I knew some of our guests particularly liked seafood, but wasn’t personally super excited about it. It turned out to be one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth (and spilled all over my dress).
The other large allocation of funds also went to The Ace, in the form of hotel rooms. We paid for rooms for friends that were helping out, as a thank you. We also paid for rooms for our kids’ second family: their childcare provider since birth and her husband and kids. They helped us out with the kids during the event, but beyond that I just wanted them to have the best, as a thank you for all that they’ve done for our kids for the past seven years. I accidentally got them the very best, by booking them one of the nicest rooms in the hotel. They loved it, and I’m happy we did it. (The Ace provides their very best room for couples getting married, and they comped us The Ace Suite… which included an outdoor shower that is now on my gold-standard-for-hotel-rooms list.)
I should note that these financial priorities remain unchanged in the decade since our wedding. At our wedding, we spent the most money on food, along with flights and hotel for loved ones that needed financial support to attend the wedding. Totally unconsciously, we made the same choices a decade later. And when I think about it, that’s roughly where we allocate our extra funds every damn day.
Where We Allocated The Least Funds:
Again, we got a lot of things for this event in trade, or as personal favors. And for what it’s worth: don’t turn people down when they offer you help or favors. This sounds like obvious advice, but I’ve seen a lot of people do it over the years, because they don’t want to impose on people who want to be imposed on. People often want to show their love by helping you. And when they do, you should let them.
That said, leaving discounts aside, we didn’t allocate a ton of funds to our outfits, fly as they were. I have Rent The Runway Unlimited, and I rented my evening dress as part of that. (My morning gown from Elizabeth Dye was on loan.) We rented the kids’ dresses from Rainey’s Closet, for the same price that we would have paid for far less amazing frocks. I will treasure those photos forever. As at our wedding, the biggest ticket item was David’s suit and tux. We got them in trade from Indochino, but I likely still would have ponied up so he could finally own a (custom) tux. Indochino’s prices are great, and my clothes horse husband keeps saying he doesn’t know where he’ll wear the tux again, but the man protests too much. We all know he’ll find plenty of places to wear it. Weddings. Galas. School drop offs. He’ll figure it out.
Funny story that’s only funny after the fact: David accidentally left his bow tie at home, and didn’t check his outfit items in advance like I told him to. And the whole party was nearly delayed while we tried to track down a bow tie, but for Alyssa’s partner having packed one for literally no reason. Thank you Universe. And Alyssa.
What Was Totally Worth It:
Short answer: everything. Just doing it in the first place. Getting our family, chosen and actual, together. Going big.
Longer answer: Having our friend Jess conceptualize and execute her wild and crazy design ideas. They were all amazing, and I loved the all-white balloon installation she did on the deck. But everyone’s favorite thing was the ‘Till Death banner that she made with our Cricut. It was the motto of the party: it’s why, it’s the goal, all of it. Last year I joked about who was in the #DeadDadClub2019, and a lot of those people showed up to help us out at this party. Jess was one of them. Our amazing DJ Gabby (best friend of APW operations manager Chelsea, and DJ of last years Compact Camp) was another. Hanging the ‘Till Death banner was a nod to all of that. And we’re looking for a place of honor for it in the new office, since it’s a little too giant for my house.
Which brings me to our DJ: DJ Lady Q, otherwise known as Gabby. When I realized we were going to be able to get a full-on event space at The Ace, I wondered out loud what we should do with it. It seemed like a waste of an event space to do nothing but eat in it. And if there is anything I love to do, it’s dance. Dance, always and forever. So we decided to spend funds we hadn’t planned to spend to bring Gabby down for the weekend. That was among our best decisions. After the quiet politeness of dinner where not everyone knew each other, we broke into a full on dance party inside, which prompted a ton of drinking and chatting outside. Most of the time there were only a few of us on the dance floor (among them: me). But it set a vibe, and that vibe was exactly what we wanted.
Also? Our photographer, Kenzie Kate. Kenzie has been hanging out at APW for awhile, and gets most of her clients here (as well she should, she is fucking amazing). I knew we wanted a photographer, but we bopped around a bit on who to hire. Kenzie brought a pure joy, lack of ego, and fly-on-the-wall ability that was a breath of fresh air in the room, and her photos are for-the-ages-amazing.
What Was Totally Not Worth It:
Worrying about what anyone else thought. Period.
Spoiler: people who love you want to come celebrate you. People who don’t are not worth your brain space. I’m so glad I was able to get past that “but what will people think” buzz in my brain and just do the damn thing.
A Few Things That Helped Us Along The Way:
Professional friends. That great planning book I wrote that meant that I had all the logistical info I needed in my head to make this thing happen. (And if you haven’t been running a wedding publication for over a decade, well, luckily, I put it all on the page for you.)
Frankly, David got away with not helping on this project too much, because I had a full team to help me pull this off. There were times that was really annoying, because he didn’t do a spectacular job at the few tasks that I did give him. But overall, it gave me a chance to execute the vision that I had in my head, without a lot of editorial control from him (or anyone else). Jess helped me enormously with that vision, and when Beyonce rolled out the Spirit video a few weeks before with almost exactly the same art direction, I figured we’d nailed the damn thing.
My Best Advice To My Planning Self:
Don’t worry about the details: people getting back to you late, worries about if the dress will fit right, wondering if you bought enough wine. None of that will matter in the end. (And given that you wrote a book on this very topic, you of all people should know that.)
Anything Else We Should Know?
Last minute decisions are always the best decisions. In the final days, I realized that we’d somehow never had a ceremonial giant challah. We didn’t have one at our wedding, and we didn’t have one at the kids Bris’ or Baby Naming. This is probably because as a convert, I didn’t know to think about it, and as someone-raised-male, David had never had to think about it. This occurred to me suddenly in the last week, and luckily Palm Springs has a great Jewish deli (since it overall has a large Jewish population). We ordered the biggest Challah they had. It went with the last minute holographic Mazel Tov napkins that I ordered, that I expect to see us through many more simchas. I’m getting a giant Challah every chance I have now. It’s the best.
Similarly, at the last minute, Dana pointed out that just like I’d used my grandfather’s Marine Corps Saber to cut the cake at our wedding, we could use it to saber a bottle of Champagne for the toasts. Then I realized he had two sabers (and my dad really loved this piece of Marine Corps tradition), so we also ordered a small cake, just to cut it with the other one.
Favorite Thing About The Party:
The toasts. I didn’t let myself fully enjoy the toasts at our wedding. I was worried that they were dragging on, and maybe people were not having a good time. I was so worried about other people (who, spoiler: were having a perfectly lovely time) that I didn’t let myself enjoy them. Because of that, I really let myself soak it in this time. Our dads were not there to give toasts, but so many other people in our lives delivered, in an open mic, free-wheeling toast celebration.
The overwhelming theme of those toasts was chosen family. That we had chosen people to be our family: many years ago, or much more recently. And when we chose people to be our family, we didn’t let go, and were there for the ride. It’s something that I’d never heard people say out loud. Or at least not one after the other, after the other. It was enough to start healing a broken heart. Or two. And both of ours had been broken in the last few years.
Our son listened to all the toasts, and then when we went inside, walked over to Gabby and asked her if he could have the mic, which he used to deliver an impromptu and amazing six year old toast. Afterwards, someone said they weren’t sure if that toast had arrived from the past or the future. But wherever it arrived from, it showed up just perfectly. So I’ll let him have the last word here:
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.
I have known Meg and David my whole life, and they have helped me through my darkest hours.
And I have helped them through theirs.
[Tries unsuccessfully to pull his sister in, who’s lets him know he’s gonna have to get himself out of this.] So clink! And cheers!