How We: Planned a Low-Maintenance Church Wedding

Just remember, the goal is marriage, not the wedding

Rebekah, Property Management Admin & Stephen, Radiology Resident

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: A low-maintenance desert destination full of glitter and love.

Planned Budget: $5,000… no $7,000… oh just keep it under $10,000

Actual Budget: $9,705 (Not including rings, because we would have purchased those regardless)

Number of Guests: 130 Invited, 84 Attended

Where we allocated the most funds

Photography by a leap and bound. I knew years ago that I wanted excellent photography and was willing to pay the price. The next priciest thing was our wedding bands, because we got fingerprint rings from Brent & Jess and Steve’s is platinum, but those costs aren’t factored in to our budget because we would have purchased them whether we had two or two thousand guests.

Where we allocated the least funds

Attire. My dress was forty dollars from craigslist and I asked my two attendants to wear anything they wanted. The groom and his attendants rented matching tuxes because it was easiest. My mom used lace from my great-grandmother’s wedding slip as the edging on my mantilla-style veil and did minor alterations on my dress.

What was totally worth it

Saying no to the aspects that didn’t matter to us—flowers, bouquet and garter toss, programs, and other WIC things that make it on wedding checklists—and saying yes to what mattered to us. We chose a venue that would let us serve the food we wanted (Thai from one of our earliest dates). I spent a lot of time making gift bags filled with Arizona products and fun facts for our out-of-town guests and a guest trivia icebreaker for the reception, and although I didn’t get much feedback about them, I am so glad I did them to show my guests how much they meant.

Because I planned from another state, many of the details had to be out of my hands. I sent my mom inspiration pictures and spoke with her on the phone every week, but in the end the details were whatever she had time to put together. Blessedly, she went above and beyond, absolutely reveling in the joy of her involvement and this outlet for her detail-oriented perfectionism. As we finished decorating before the rehearsal, everything sparkled in an anticipatory way I couldn’t have imagined.

My sister hosted a brunch at her house the morning of the wedding, where most of my side of the family got together to spend a little extra time together. Steve had spent the night at his brother’s after a crowded beer-tasting bachelor party. I remember texting him, “Hey. Wanna get married today?” and his response, “Sounds like fun.” I’d expected to be full of nerves and jitters that morning, but everything had been falling into its place in my meticulous weekend timeline spreadsheet, so I smiled and double-checked my lists before heading over to the church.

Looking back on it now, I can say that I wasn’t calm, but I definitely felt calm. I bounced back and forth from the bridal suite to the reception hall and back to the sanctuary, greeting people, reapplying deodorant, making sure my photographers had details to take pictures of. In retrospect, I wish I had just sat in the bride’s room with my girls and relaxed, especially after hearing that my Matron of Honor’s husband and volunteer videographer had come to a dead stop on the freeway because of a wildfire, and because my mom finished the alterations on my dress just about 10 minutes before our First Look. I wish I’d taken more time to show these ladies how much they meant to me, but they probably knew, because we’d spent that morning watching the sunrise from my parents’ roof, sipping mimosas and passing around donut holes.

What was totally not worth it

Worrying about “representing us as a couple.” I broke down crying one evening worrying that our invitations wouldn’t convey the tone and feeling not only of our wedding, but also of our relationship and that my guests wouldn’t be happy for us if I sent them card stock printed at Kinkos. It’s hard to feel like each choice you make has to be a manifestation of your relationship, and thankfully APW has lots of reminders that a wedding is just a wedding and not actually You as a Party.

A few things that helped us along the way

My sainted mother, who stored my growing collection of wedding items, ran around the state collecting local products for gift bags, put together our table numbers, aisle flowers, lights, lanterns, ribbon wands, and musical flowers, as well as making brownies, altering my dress, and patiently removing and cleaning the lace from my great-grandmother’s wedding slip to create my veil.

The APW archives, spreadsheets, and community, especially Rachel’s post on how “The People Want Options” and Meg’s mantra that “Your Wedding is Not an Imposition.” And a monetary contribution from my in-laws, which removed a lot of stress about the little things that kept adding up, and allowed us to have the ceremony filmed.

My best practical advice for my planning self

It’s hard to feel like you’re planning alone while your fiancé finishes medical school and your family is in another state, but remember that the marriage is the goal, and not the wedding. Do whatever is easiest that you can stand behind. You’re going to plan to go to the Grand Canyon to see the sunrise, but sleep in and watch it from your parent’s roof instead. That’s just as good. Your videographer is going to get stuck in gridlock because of a wildfire and your dress won’t be done until ten minutes before photos, but it will be okay. Be present.

Favorite thing about the wedding

It’s been said before, but Manya said it best, “Cliches are just super truths.” The best part was having almost everyone I love together in one place because they love me. The second best thing was probably walking down the aisle to “Sweet Child of Mine” and seeing nobody but him.

Other Notes

Our cake was actually wheels of cheese! We also chose a hotel for the evening that was within walking distance of the church, which gave us a little decompression and anticipation time together. While it might have been nice to have a rockin’ dance floor, neither of us is much of a dancer and we both appreciated the time to mingle and catch up. We had a receiving line after the ceremony though to make sure we got to see everyone. In lieu of a bouquet, I had a handkerchief embroidered with the initials of the women in my family (and new family) and got a white handkerchief to give to each of them in token. I decided on a whim that I would kiss anyone who clinked their glass instead of kissing my husband, so I ended up smooching my sister and my MOH’s mom! (We’re not big on PDA, but obliged them all once.)


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