How We: Planned A Whimsical Austin Wedding

Art Deco glam meets Irish folk fun

Brynn, Grant Writer & Bryan, Nurse

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: It was a melting pot of Art Deco glam, “Midsummer Night’s Dream” whimsy, Irish folk fun, with a dash of ikebana minimalist flair.

Planned Budget: $25,000

Actual Budget: $30,000 (including the honeymoon)

Number of Guests: 70

Where we allocated the most funds

Food and photography. Since the vast majority of our guests had to travel to attend this wedding (from as far away as Brazil!) our top priority was making sure that people felt really well taken care of, and had a blast. Since my husband and I are big fans of fresh, creative food, we wanted to share that with our guests. We also wanted to make sure that the day was well documented.

Where we allocated the least funds


What was totally worth it

Photography, and working with the church to craft a ceremony that was really our own. Neither my husband nor I are very religious, but both of our families are. So, in keeping with the theme of making sure our guests were comfortable (and by extension, minimizing family gossip), we opted to have the ceremony in a church. The tough thing about it was that I am an architecture geek and wanted a space that reflected our old-world tastes, but in Texas, it’s really hard to find a church like that which doesn’t have a giant Jesus hanging over the altar in a macabre fashion. Central Christian was the absolute perfect place for us because it was a genuine Art Deco treasure, but it didn’t have any figural artwork in it. We ran into a couple of minor speed bumps because the church staff was very protective of the historic building, as well as their own religious ideals, but we took the time to talk to the pastor and wedding coordinator about our interests, and were able to find some pretty great common ground. Some things that we really worried they’d shoot down, like having a hand fasting, turned out to be no problem at all!

What was totally not worth it

We definitely wasted money by getting way too much alcohol—although everyone enjoyed the choices and the fact that it was an open bar for seven and a half hours—there was a ton of stuff left over that we either gave away to the event staff, or just returned to the liquor store (for no refund). Also, even though the food was beautiful and delicious, we didn’t feel that we got what we paid for, which was four different “action stations” around the room serving small plate entrees throughout the night. We specifically chose this setup as opposed to a more formal (or stuffy) seated dinner or buffet, because we had attended a wedding with this more cocktail style setup and it was a lot of fun.

The party kept moving all night, nobody was tied to one seat, and we were able to mingle with a lot more people than we had at other weddings we’d attended. This movement was important to us because this wedding not only served as a big family reunion for a lot of people who hadn’t seen each other in years, but also an opportunity for our families to meet each other for the first time. What we got instead of the action stations was a single buffet line up against one wall, with no lighting or heating elements. Despite receiving several compliments on the food, we also overheard some of our guests telling their kids to hurry up and eat before the food got cold. As a result, there was a fair bit of food that got thrown out or given away to event staff at the end of the night. When a third of your budget is the food, the last thing you want to see is it going to waste.

A few things that helped us along the way

APW was definitely a big help, as well as our photographer who mailed us the APW book with some chocolates as a “thank you” after we signed the contract with her. I also read a lot of posts on OffBeat Bride throughout the process. Besides reading material, I would say we had some pretty incredible vendors who went out of their way to support us, and deliver the wedding of our dreams. This includes Elissa R, our photographer, as well as our florist, Kathy Reynolds of K&A Artistic Events. We literally cannot say enough good things about these two phenomenal women. Elissa and I went to high school together, and I’d followed her blog for a couple of years before asking her to shoot our wedding. So I was very familiar with her work, as well as her rave Yelp reviews. Despite this, she still managed to surprise me with her relentless enthusiasm, patience, and talent.

I found our florist on Etsy after my husband-to-be and I had a heart-to-heart about the logistics of having a pretty demanding day job, planning a wedding, and really really wanting to be able to make a whole bunch of crafty stuff myself. The reality was that no matter how morally opposed I was to spending a ton of money on flowers that weren’t going to last more than a day or two—we needed some kind of flower arrangements, and I didn’t have the capacity to make them all myself. My relationship with Kathy started out as just hiring her to do the boutonnières, but with a little bit of nudging from my hubby-to-be, I eventually relinquished control of all of the flowers—which was the BEST decision I could have made. Not only did we actually SAVE money by hiring her, but it cut down immensely on the amount of stress we had to deal with. Another great thing about Kathy’s work is that none of it goes to waste—since she works with primarily RealTouch or dried materials, everything is reusable, and a lot of her containers and props are upcycled from thrift store finds! Believe it or not, the grand total that we spent on flowers was under $1,400, and all of the girls got to keep their bouquets as mementos from the big day.

My best practical advice for my planning self

Delegate, delegate, DELEGATE.

Favorite thing about the wedding

We had a BLAST dancing for at least six hours of our seven and a half hour reception. A lot of people scoffed when they first heard how long it would be, and didn’t think people would stick around for the whole thing. But we put a lot of thought and effort into crafting a party that every single person was able to enjoy. My dearest husband put a lot of time into planning the music with our awesome DJ, Sean Alan. Bryan wanted to make sure that every generation “had their time to shine” on the dance floor, so the music transitioned from ’20s Jazz during the cocktail hour, to big band classics, to Beatles, other early rock and Mowtown, through some limited disco selections, ’80s, ’90s and more modern favorites. Even though I was a little worried that I’d be out cold by 9:30 or 10, when we ended the night with a GirlTalk song, I was so wound up that I almost bolted out into the torrential downpour outside (still in my wedding dress and shoeless) to continue the party a couple of blocks over on Sixth Street! Neither of us wanted the fun to end, and several people approached us later to tell us that it was the most fun they had ever had at a wedding. My brother-in-law actually said that if, in five years, we wanted to get remarried—to each other—he would totally show up. Comments like that made everything worth it.

Other Notes

We had a long engagement, almost eighteen months. Taking the time to carefully think and plan and craft an event that was not only a reflection of us but also was something that all of our friends and family could enjoy was totally worth the long wait to walk down the aisle. Don’t let anyone rush you and pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do, because the last thing you want is a whole bunch of wedding photos featuring frowning newlyweds. At the same time, though, don’t burn any bridges! Bear in mind that a wedding isn’t just for the couple—it’s a communal event—and being able to share your joy with all of your loved ones is really what matters most.


Featured Sponsored Content

  • scw

    beautiful wedding and post! two questions 1) what is being poured in your mouth in that photo, and is there a story behind that? and 2) why would you return alcohol for no refund!?

    • The Groom

      Thanks for the kind words! To answer your first question: It’s cava from a porron. Porrons are a traditional Spanish/Catalonian wine pitcher/flask. Brynn spent some time in Spain, and one of our favorite restaurants in Boston, Toro (@ToroRestaurant), is an amazing Spanish tapas place. They have them there, and we always enjoy ordering them and sharing them with our guests (as well as the diners at tables near us). We wanted to share that experience with our guests. Also, it was nice to be able to run to a table, lift a porron on high, and take a quick couple gulps of cava before returning to the dance floor :)
      In answer to your second question: Brynn’s referring to the beer kegs only. Two of them were 90% or more full! We needed to get the kegs back or incur further charges, and we were leaving for our honeymoon almost immediately. I don’t think that there’s any way to get money back for unused keg beer, unfortunately. Anything in a can or a bottle, including plenty of great Irish whiskey, was given to the catering team and bartenders to hopefully have a party of their own! We may have kept some small amount if we had the wedding closer to home, but we weren’t about to deal with the hassle or expense of shipping anything; we were just really happy and chomping at the bit to get the honeymoon going!

      • Spanish-Loving, Boston-Based

        LOVE the porron! And Toro! Next time try Belly’s Txakoli fest, complete with porron. Good times!

      • Jules

        Waitwait, was that a croquembouche I saw too?? (French SO…)

        • The Bride

          Indeed, it is! We ended up having 3 towers of creampuffs (aka croquembouche-s?) — one tower per filling flavor. La Pastisserie in Austin made them — and they weren’t even on the menu! We were delighted that they were willing to try something new just because we asked. Fun fact: When we went in for the tasting, the chocolate filled ones were so good, I couldn’t help but “wag my tail” (do a happy dance in my chair) every time I took a bite. When we went up to the counter to report to the shop girl that were beyond pleased with their work, she asked what they were, since they weren’t on the menu and she’d never seen them before. We encouraged her to have one, since there were plenty of extra, and she took one bite, had a bit of a food-gasm, and then said “OMG, I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT YOUR WEDDING.” Bear in mind: the croquembouche-instead-of-wedding-cake plan was the only thing she knew about the wedding, hahaha.

          • KH_Tas

            I like fondant, but I think I’m the only one ever. And wedding cakes are often so bizarrely expensive

            You look like a rockstar in your outfit!!

          • The Bride

            Thank you!!

  • vegankitchendiaries

    God in Heaven, ARE YOUR FLOWERS REAL LIFE!?!?

    • The Groom

      “… Kathy’s work is … primarily RealTouch or dried materials, everything is reusable, and a lot of her containers and props are upcycled from thrift store finds.”
      So: yes and no!

    • Emily

      I love how the article saves the tidbit about how flowers were where they allocated the least funds, AFTER the amazing photos of them!

    • The Bride

      Haha yes, they are! Isn’t it amazing what she did?? I was completely blown away when I walked into the reception hall. Of course, this socks-utterly-knocked-off feeling was compounded by the fact that I got to have something pretty and unique, without being wasteful. I could not possibly recommend Kathy at K&A Artistic Events any higher. She is amazing and talented and delightful in ways beyond words.

  • AnonInAustin

    Would you be willing to share which caterer you used? As a fellow Austinite planning a wedding, I’d love to know for reference. Thanks!

    • The Groom

      The food and the catering team were absolutely amazing. The chefs put up with me flying down for a total of 3 tastings to get everything *just right*. I think that the lack of staffing at each of the “action stations” may have been, at least partially, our own fault for not communicating *very directly* what “action station” meant to us. Many of our guests stopped us, both during and after the reception, to specifically sing the praises of the food as well as the staff. Overall, we were quite happy with the catering. Perhaps the lack of dedicated staffing at the stations and food waste (and the throwing away of all of the leftover creampuffs from our three croquembouche) were the only thing that we wished had been done differently. I’d hate to say anything even minimally negative about any of our fantastic vendors. I would just advise that, unlike us perhaps, a couple clearly communicates their desires about how every detail is handled and has it, in writing, in the contract- even how leftovers are dealt with or what “action station” means.

    • V

      Another Austin catering recommendation, cause I know it’s a crazy field out there – we used Royal Fig in 2012 and they were awesome. Very upfront about pricing, very willing to let us do whatever crazy stuff we came up with (7 course, family style meal that they had to cook outside in July because of our venue’s rules), delicious, and professional. They also do some wedding coordination free of charge (aka Kristen is the timeline keeper and the bitch to people who aren’t doing their job, so that you don’t have to be). There will always be hitches with caterers, even awesome ones, but they rolled with a lot of punches. Worth looking in to at least.

      On the leftover thing, that’s fairly common with Austin caterers. I get the impression that the legal situation for caterers is such that they feel that giving away leftovers is forbidden/very dangerous liability wise. Most of the caterers we looked in to refused to offer any leftovers (except the wedding cake).

  • sara g

    Love this! We’re in a similar boat, in that we are having around 70 guests and about 90% are coming from out of state/country, so we really want people to feel taken care of. This means we are going over our original budget by a fair amount, but I think it will be worth it.

  • NicoleT

    You both look so happy and gorgeous! I love all the photos of the wedding, especially you in the car (now I want a rockstar shot). And, as random as this is, I’m very happy to see the size of your bridal party. I have a bridal party of 14 with 50-70 guests and I was worried about it looking disproportionate. But your photos put me at ease! Congratulations :)

  • olive

    girlfriend, that dress is to die for!!

    • The Bride

      Thanks! It’s a Vera Wang that I got at a bridal outlet store in Boston. The modern-minimalism-meets-flapper-fabulousness was a combination I just couldn’t resist!