Moe & Ken’s Little Wedding That Could

* Moe, Administrative Assistant for a Grant-Making Organization & Ken, Children’s Librarian *

(Check out Moe & Ken’s Las Vegas Elopement here)

We had the wedding that was not possible.

From the beginning it felt like the odds were stacked against us, not because our relationship was shaky, but because life was just not happening the way it should. Last August we went to Las Vegas to celebrate my fortieth birthday, but it was far from a lavish celebration. I was newly employed and Ken was working part time after finishing his Master’s degree. For us, living together without being married wasn’t an option, and we wanted so badly to be together. Yet despite our current situation we began to talk about the future. “There’s never going to be a perfect time to get married, we just want to be together, so why not do it now?” is what Ken said to me while walking under the lights of Fremont Street. There was a lot of discussion while sipping on an icy blue daiquiri from a large plastic football-shaped cup. Less than twenty-four hours later we were married in a Las Vegas chapel. If he had not won money playing poker, we might not be married today. We returned from that trip to announce to family and friends that we got married. We were met with surprise and celebration. For some reason getting married the way we did set everything into motion for us. I don’t know if it changed our motivation to make things happen, but it most definitely motivated our families and friends to help us. A month later we had our first apartment together.

I began to plan what I called The Little Wedding That Could. We were already married, but I wanted a celebration to share with everyone that supported and helped us. I wanted a wedding so that our families could witness us taking vows. Between our parents there were a total of five Las Vegas elopements. (Three belonged to my mom and dad who married each other each time.) All of our parents had eloped in Las Vegas so maybe it was in our genes to elope. Early in the planning I talked to my friend’s mom and asked if we could get married in her backyard. I already had a clear picture of what I wanted things to look like. I was inspired by the colors of a desert sunset. I did some reading looking for scriptures that referenced the desert and found this in Isaiah; I felt like it spoke to where Ken and I were in this new chapter of our lives:

For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the desert.

In order for us to have a wedding, I felt like a miracle would have to take place. Something as unreal as a river in a desert would be needed. When I shared this scripture with my venue host (she’s an ordained minister) she told me, “Because you and Ken have made this commitment to each other, you’re going to see that people will want to honor that commitment and help you. The things that you need for this wedding are going to be provided like a river that flows into a desert. The river that you’re hoping for isn’t made of Things, it will be made of People making the things you need possible.” She could not have been more right.

I was determined that the wedding would be all our own and we would remain true to ourselves. If the tradition didn’t ring true to us or felt forced we ditched it. Basically if we liked it, we found a way to work it into the wedding plan. There were succulent plants everywhere because I liked to grow them at home. We loved good comfort food, so we hired a taco man to grill on the spot. We loved singing karaoke, so we hired a karaoke DJ for the reception. I crafted the boutonnières myself from scrap comic book pages because Ken was a collector.

This same idea translated to our vendors. We essentially hired people we liked. I found my day-of coordinator on APW, and she got my point of view. From our first email exchanges I knew she was APW-friendly. Our pro photographer was a personal friend of Ken’s. Our officiant was our pastor, and when we met with him to discuss the ceremony I told him, “I like you, so does Ken. We like you because you’re quirky and odd. I’m giving you full permission to be your quirky odd self at our wedding.” Looking back I realize now that I was aiming for an authentic experience that wasn’t hindered by expectation or tradition. I just wanted a day to celebrate us and our commitment. I wanted to make sure everyone who was important to us felt invited into this special moment.

I spent almost every weekend going to estate sales to source all the décor for the wedding. It wasn’t because I was trying to create a rustic vintage look, it was out of necessity. Our budget started small and then was forced to become tiny. There were weekends I hit budget-wedding gold, like a hundred mason jars for $10. I collected tons of picture frames that I spray painted gold. I collected wedding pictures of my guests for the frames and they became part of the centerpieces. I found dinner napkins, lace, and tablecloths almost every time we went estate sale shopping, and I didn’t have to rent any linens. My favorite find was a 1960s vintage cake topper for $5. I found it at a church rummage sale and the previous owner was still married! She gave us her well wishes for a happy future with a big hug.

When the wedding weekend arrived I was ready but our wedding budget had been completely depleted. I think I had $7 to my name the morning of the wedding. It didn’t matter. The day before the wedding a crew of about fifteen people assembled to hang paper lanterns, arrange flowers, make sangria, and encourage me. I had neatly packed boxes of wedding decorations that were labeled so that anyone could easily unpack each box and know where items should go. I felt like a taskmaster assigning jobs to eager helping friends, but things got done! I stood in the middle of a pile of boxes overwhelmed with all the things that had to get done when one of the very observant church-ladies pulled me aside. “Monica, tomorrow will be beautiful. Not because of flowers or decorations but because you are loved and that happiness is going to shine from within you.” Then she and two other ladies said a little silent prayer over me and when they were finished they told me to assign them some more jobs.

After the backyard was set up the day-of coordinator arrived for rehearsal time. I sat down with Allie and talked about all the details that were important for the next day. Then something amazing happened. I gave her “The Binder,” the three-ring binder that contained every last important detail for the day, and I left it in her capable hands. With that simple gesture the elusive, mythical wedding Zen that I had heard so much about had arrived. I didn’t care about my wedding-cake-baking relative that cancelled the day before. I forgot about the shipping mishap that delayed the arrival of my wedding dress for three weeks and gave me hives. I didn’t care that I barely had enough gas in my car to get me to my ceremony. I simply did not care. I was going to celebrate my marriage and nothing was going to stop me.

My wedding day arrived and passed quickly, just like I was told it would. I spent the morning in my hotel room with my makeup-artist niece, my hair stylist, my bridesmaids, and my Chihuahua. They made me laugh, they told me to sit down and stop cleaning things when I got fidgety. I forgot to bring an extra pair of shoes with me for the weekend. I sent a text out to my bridesmaids and within twenty minutes a new pair of flip-flops were delivered to me. I still had hives on my chest the morning of the wedding, so my other bridesmaid called her husband to make a delivery to the hotel. Within the hour I had a rum and coke in my hands. My niece applied some healing aloe that calmed my skin. Then there was more Zen.

Miraculously, all the things that we needed that day fell into place. When my relative couldn’t bake my wedding cake she offered to pay for pie as a replacement. A groomsmen went to pick them up the morning of the wedding. Then when my friend heard about the cake she volunteered the services of her high-school-senior daughter who baked the most delicious two-tier cake as a free gift. Even though I had planned and then delegated all the decorating to the volunteer crew, there were some minor tweaks and adjustments made, and everything came together wonderfully. I still don’t know who those wedding fairies were.

The ceremony was all that I hoped it would be. The officiant created a ceremony that was unique and personalized to us. He included details of how we met and dated. I requested that there be a Congregational Affirmation. Our guests were asked if they would provide us with support and encouragement for our marriage to which they stood and said, “Yes, we will!” or, as others said, “Si se puede!” Our living parents got to witness our vows, and even though he’s no longer with us, my father was present to walk me down the aisle with his wedding photo in a locket attached to my bouquet.

The backyard reception was cloudy and cold which made guests bundle up in coats and sweaters. Even in my voluminous gown I needed a sweater. Once the dancing began I didn’t feel the cold. Instead of a parent dance, we substituted a family dance while Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” played. Everyone, including my mother in her wheelchair, made their way to the dance floor. We took turns singing karaoke. I started things off with Madonna’s “Borderline” and Ken surprised the crowd with his very best Elvis voice singing “In the Ghetto.” Our guests blew us away with their performances of Black Sabbath, Snopp Dogg, and Journey. So yes, you could say it was a diverse crowd.

The Little Wedding That Could came and went. It was over before I knew it. We had enough cash gifts to take a short honeymoon that I didn’t realize I needed so badly. All of my extra energy had been consumed with the wedding, and when it was over it left behind a huge void and the sudden realization that I was incredibly tired. I’m surprised that the WIC has not yet tapped into to the post-wedding market and offered brides cozy personalized cashmere throw blankets to nap on.

There are very few things that I regret or would do differently on my wedding day. There was nothing I could do about the sudden cloudy cold weather that made my guests bundle up. The best memories of that day don’t include the carefully sourced bargain décor or the wedding dress that arrived late and was eight inches too long. The moments that will live forever in my mind are the first look of my husband in his suit that made me cry. I will cherish the words spoken by my best friend of thirty years who is terrified of public speaking but somehow managed to set that aside for a gracefully composed toast. I may not ever know all the effort and behind-the-scenes action that took place to bring everything together. The Little Wedding That Could was made possible by all the loving people in our lives. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

The Info—Photography: Collected from wedding guests / Day of Coordinator: Allie of Pop the Champagne (APW Sponsor) / Venue: A friend’s backyard / Moe’s Dress: Custom made from a design by Aria Bridal / Moe’s Birdcage Veil: Vintage Box 1947 via Etsy / Moe’s Shoes: Vince Camuto / Moe’s Cardigan: Forever 21 Plus / Moe’s Bronze Goddess Necklace: Posh Little K / Moe’s Purse: Vintage, from her mother’s closet / Bouquets and Corsages: Margaret Rose Floral Design / Catering: I Taco Man / Pie: Polly’s Pies

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  • This was a beautiful write up of what sounds like an amazing day. It looks fabulous, and thanks for sharing. I’ve started to get nervous, so it’s nice to have the reminder from wedding graduates that things do work out. Congratulations!

  • June

    This made me tear up out of happiness! What a beautiful wedding and a beautiful story. Congratulations to you both!!!

  • Kristen

    Seriously my favorite Wedding Graduate post of all time.

  • Lovely, absolutely lovely.


  • Stella*

    Oh my goodness! I just LOVE this wedding, so beautiful and full of love! (and I especially love the leopard print bridal sweater – why didn’t I think of that?)

  • Shiri

    Beautiful beautiful beautiful: you guys, the pictures, and the story. Congrats, Moe!

  • Congrats, Moe! I’ve been excited to read this since you first linked to you Flickr here. Your wedding was beautiful, and your words are even lovelier!

  • MK

    What a lovely, moving story. Thank you for sharing with us!

  • SarahT

    I love this!! You and your husband look so happy, and the wedding looks so beautiful!! I don’t know if the dress you’re wearing was the one that arrived late and was 8 inches long, but it is gorgeous!! The verse you list is one of my very favorites, and seems so true for you-a true river of love and friends. And may I just say I love the way the decor looks-the tables, the lights, the lanterns. It looks amazing and like you didn’t have a budget care in the world! So happy for you both!!!

    • moe

      Yes it was way too long! Even now as it hangs in my closet I want to take scissors to it and slash it shorter!

  • I cannot tell you guys how happy I was to be a part of this wedding. From my first conversation with Moe I knew we would get along like peas and carrots (pretty sure we talked about dive bars and shanking unruly relatives). Her wedding was truly beautiful and you could feel the outpouring of love and support from every angle. Oh and Ken did the BEST Elvis karaoke EEVVAAR.

    • moe

      My husband can SING!!!

      Thank you Allie! Could not have done it without you!

      Thank you to the APW community (who helped me find Allie) and reassured me to listen to my gut during the planning of this wedding. I just KNEW that I did not want a traditional WIC type event and when I discovered APW it was just confirming what I knew already in my heart.

      I learned so much here and have been so moved by reading your experiences. By far, this is the coolest corner of the Internet. :D

  • scw

    for some reason this made me WEEP- in a good way! from having $7 to your name the day of the wedding, to the hives, to the backyard celebration of family, I see my future wedding going a lot like yours. after reading your post, I couldn’t be more excited for any of it (yes, hives included!).

    two questions, as a budget-minded bride. did you have your honeymoon planned before the wedding, or did you just decide to do something last minute? we aren’t really even in the planning stages of the wedding yet but we know that money is going to be a concern so we’re hesitant to plan a honeymoon directly after the wedding. yet quite a few people have told us it is really necessary to get away together, in any capacity.

    second- and this is a common question but I like to ask everyone I can- was having the day of coordinator worth it? if we do that, we’ll definitely have to nix some other things… but anything in the name of zen!

    thanks for sharing with us.

    • moe

      We got a 2-day honeymoon that was paid for by the cash gifts we received AT the wedding. My husband wanted to pay rent with it (boring!) but we went wine tasting for two days instead. I booked the room on Groupon the morning after the wedding.

      I ended up sleeping most of the time, I was so tired.

      • scw

        thanks for answering!

    • Brenda

      I’d say even if you don’t have your honeymoon immediately after, at least make sure the day after the wedding (or the next day, if you’re doing the whole wedding-weekend-day-after-brunch thing) is just a “you” day. Our wedding was a month ago and our honeymoon is in a month. I had lots of family visiting and I spent the time after the wedding doing tourist stuff with them. It was fun but definitely exhausting. We kept the day after the wedding just for us and it was definitely a good idea to just relax together and not worry about anything.

    • moe

      yes, the DOC was needed and worth it!! If you’re in So Cal you can ask Allie about her services, she really is awesome.

      Because my backyard wedding was a DIY event, there really needed to be a point person to tell the cateres where to set up, to make sure cake was served, candles were lit, the dj was doing his job, and coordinating the ceremony.It’s a lot to ask of a friend.

      • dawn

        Hi – I just got married myself — for me:
        1) Yes, take a little time for yourselves. I recommend planning the basics ahead of time, even if you don’t plan the details or make any reservations. For instance: Plan to visit with traveling guests the day after the wedding but commit to a honeymoon day the day after that. For me, staying elsewhere was crucial because I would not have been able to relax surrounded by decor that needed to be organized and gifts that needed to be opened.
        2) I did not have a DOC, and it was totally fine. I considered it, and if I had been getting married in a location where such a thing would have been feasible, I may have hired one.
        It would have been great not to have to deal with the timeline myself and not to have to explain the same things over and over to everyone (despite my information sheets and charts), but if you are organized enough to plan your wedding, have plenty of eager helpers, and –this is crucial!– are relaxed enough to let go of the execution, it is very doable to do a DIY/ DIT wedding without a DOC.

    • KC

      Honeymoon “staycation” with phones and email off?

      I guess, for us, the post-wedding days were a bit like having the flu. We did not want to go anywhere or sight-see or, really, do very much beyond cuddling and sleeping and… er… whatnot. And then more sleeping. But: introvert, having just interacted with gobs and gobs of people all the time for weeks on end = wiped out. So location was not actually relevant, really, except regarding food and travel time and exactly how guilty one felt about taking a nap in the afternoon instead of Going And Doing Something Memorable To Take Advantage Of The Location.

      If this sounds like you, or if, after some energy has been drained from you, this sounds like you, then I’d go for hiding out at home for at least a few days and planning a more involved, enjoying-it-would-require-energy trip for later (a specific “later” if this makes you feel better, like “six months” or something).

      (obviously, this would not work so well if you have housemates or similar. But if you can indeed hide from the world and order in food and not feel guilty about all the things you’re “missing”, then… seriously, go for it. :-) )

      • moe

        Honestly, I wish I could tell everyone to take at least one day to themselves after the wedding. I would also suggest maybe postponing leaving for a long trip until a day later, I could not imagine traveling the day after a big wedding like the day I had. I was exhausted.

        We drove about 2 hours from home, no not we, my husband did. I fell asleep. I was really thankful that I got some time away from home. Going home would have meant cleaning, unwrapping gifts and organizing. (I know how I roll)

      • MDBethann

        I second the idea of not going directly on your honeymoon after the wedding. We, fortunately, due to cruise schedules, did not. And I say fortunately because I (and several of my relatives) came down with a very nasty stomach bug the night after my wedding (an adorable baby cousin kindly shared it with a bunch of us). I weakly joked to my husband that we got to the “sickness” part of our vows sooner than expected. I was so weak I was able to convince him of the reasonableness of carrying me into our house when we finally made it back to Maryland from Pennsylvania. I also ended up with a double ear infection at the tail end of our cruise (very painful flight home) so I apparently get sick anywhere, but I know it just isn’t me.

        I know 2 different couples who both dealt with illnesses on their honeymoon or on the way to their honeymoon – either colds or ear infections they picked up at the wedding or on the plane. I suspect that some of it may be due to the crash following the pre-wedding/wedding adrenaline rush. Now that everything is done, your body literally crashes.

        I am a firm advocate in waiting a week or more between the wedding and the honeymoon (your employer might thank you too).

  • Moe!!!!!! Beautiful. Every aspect is simply beautiful.

  • Emily

    Those peach lips!! Beautiful, all of it. Congratulations!

  • Emerald

    This is such a beautiful post! My eyes are brimming with tears. So much love in this wedding!!!

  • Addie

    I just want to throw confetti at this wedding and give it a hug.

    Also, I may or may not have had a budget induced freak out last week and this wedding is EXACTLY what I needed to put my perspective glasses back on straight.

  • dawn

    Lovely wedding! I had paper lanterns too :-)

  • Dee

    I love every single thing about your wedding! Your dress, your veil, the setting, the decor, the people …..everything.

    And thank you so much for the estate sale idea!

    • moe

      Estate sales are so underestimated, especially if you’re looking for vintage items. I was on the hunt for cake stands and found them for a few bucks a piece over the course of planning.

      RENTING cakestands was about $20 each!

  • Jen

    Gosh it is so dusty in here…that’s the only reason I’m tearing up, co-workers, I swear!

    Seriously, thank you so much for sharing this lovely day with us. I am moved by the love you and your husband share, and the outpouring of love and support from your community when you really needed it.

  • Omg, my heart grew three sizes as I was reading this post!!!

    And then I got to your SWEATER and I damn near fainted.

    • moe

      *whisper* I had matching shoes on too.

  • meg

    Well. I started tearing up all over the place at the piece from Isaiah (which I love), and then it went on from there.

    I mean, not to be all sappy, but this is what APW is about for me.

  • Glen

    Yay! Someone else who did desert sunset colors! Looks lovely!

  • 39bride

    Oh my goodness! This is lovely, and it brought me to tears, as I had a very similar experience of people telling me it would come together because of the public commitment we had made. And they were right–on an itsy-bitsy personal budget along with massive gifts of time, money/items and energy from family and friends (and we wouldn’t have had a honeymoon if not for an astonishing gift from my now-husband’s boss). And just like Moe, once I handed off the notebook to my day-of-coordinator friend (not a pro, but she should be), it all fell into place and we had a wonderful time.

    I believe marriage is about much more than just the married/marrying couple; it’s about the community, and our community came together to truly celebrate our marriage, just like Moe’s did.

    Moe, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful wedding, and beautifully expressing that sense of community that I’m sure so many of us have experienced.

  • Kaybee

    It’s so awesome how everyone came together to make your day beautiful. And your parents married each other three times in Vegas??!! That sounds like the plot to a romantic novel. All the best in your marriage!

  • sandyliz

    This was so beautiful, so perfect, so lovely!
    And so exactly what I needed to read, 6 weeks before our wedding.

  • Anjali

    this made me so happy. especially the part about people making your river in the desert, not things. so glad you two were able to celebrate with the people important to you, and that everything worked out!

  • Delta

    Hi guys, what a stunning wedding. I have a practical question: is it OK to hang up paper lanterns or pompoms and other decorations the day before the wedding? I know it can get dewy at night, but not sure if this will have an effect on paper decorations? Seems a bit stressful to do it on the morning of… any advice? Cheers!

    • Moe

      The backyard was already strung with lights, the lanterens were added the day before, mostly for visual impact. (We could have done just fine without them.) This location was only a mile or two inland from the ocean and even though the evening got very cold and moist (no rainfall) they held up beautifully without any issues.

    • Sharon Gorbacz

      From experience, the paper lanterns totally disintegrate after a few hours in the rain, dew should be OK.

  • I really enjoyed the bit with the observant (and wise) church ladies! It sounds like you had a wonderful, love-filled wedding, and the incorporation of the Isaiah passage was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing about your experience, and may your marriage continue to be blessed!