How We: Planned An Austin Garden Love-Fest

With a sold-out heavy metal concert next door

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.

Planned Budget: $10,000

Actual Budget: $12,000

Number of Guests: 120 out of over 200 invited

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Featured Sponsored Content

Please read our comment policy before you comment.

The APW Store is Here

APW Wedding e-shop

go find all our favorites from around the internet, and our free planning tools

Shop Now
APW Wedding e-shop

Planning a wedding?

We have all the planning tools you need right now.

Budget spreadsheets, checklists, and more...

Get Your Free Planning Tools