A Beach Club Wedding in California

On a gelato, confetti, and dancing-filled Friday night

Annie, Dentist & Gabe, figuring it out

Planned budget: $15,000

Actual budget: $17,500

Number of guests: 135


Where we allocated the most funds

The venue was our biggest expense at $3,500. Our clothes, food, and photography were the next-biggest expenses at around $2,000 each.

Where we allocated the least funds

Alcohol, centerpieces, and flowers. We got good beer (and way too much of it!) but the rest was $2.50 Trader Joe’s wine and cheap iced tea flavored vodka. For table decorations, we hoarded jars and bottles for a year, and Gabe, my brother, and I spent days scrubbing off the labels. We paid for the flowers at the Carlsbad flower market and picked pepper tree and garden roses from my mom’s garden and some bushes across the street, but the labor was a generous gift from my brother’s girlfriend.


What was worth it

Can I say everything here? Because really everything. But specifically these four things. The dress. I spent more than I wanted to, but absolutely loved wearing it. Hiring Melissa of Marble Rye as our photographer. She was such a joy to have around, and our family and friends could not stop talking about how pleasant/ competent/ beautiful she was. Hiring a DJ. We were doing so much on our own and having someone else take care of choosing most if the music, bringing the speakers, and DJ throughout the reception was great. Also, he was my classmate and very affordable. Getting a gelato caterer. We couldn’t get behind spending $500 on cake, but ice cream is another story. And it was excellent and our guests loved it! Making our wedding rings. I made them using gold from old school projects, and of course left that job for the week of the wedding. At first, Gabe’s was too big and I had to melt it and start over, but it was totally worth it and we love our rings.

What was not worth it

Buying too much alcohol. Gabe was determined that we would not run out of alcohol, so even after reading the alcohol buying guide on APW (which would have been a perfect amount in hindsight) we got way too much beer and wine. The only drink we actually ran out of was lemonade.

A few things that helped along the way

A few of articles on APW were very helpful (the getting started planning one, timelines, and DIY dyed table runners in particular), but by far the most helpful thing was our friends and family. My brother works for a wedding company and hooked us up with a great deal on renting pretty chairs and goblets. His girlfriend is a wonderful florist who worked tirelessly in the living room of my parent’s house doing all the flowers the two days before the wedding. I had planned on taking off my flower crown after the ceremony but I liked it so much that I wore it all night! One of my college friends offered to be our day-of coordinator and we had no idea how much we needed her until the wedding. My old roommate played the flute for our ceremony because the venue had a no-speakers-outside rule. My friend’s husband showed up with two ladders to set up the lights. Two of my friends baked a couple hundred mini cupcakes. I could go on and on. And the majority of the guests who were still there at the end of the night helped us clean up and move everything out of the venue.


Practical advice for my planning self

Don’t leave so many tasks for the day before. You will not get to sleep until two am and will be exhausted.


Favorite thing about the wedding

I want to say everything. I was so happy afterward that I couldn’t fall asleep until 6 am, and was smiling for weeks thinking about how great it was. It was really the best days of our lives so far. If I had to choose one thing, it was how much my niece loved being a flower girl. Gabe’s favorite thing was that when the reception ended, all the guests who were still there helped us clean up.

Anything Else You Want To Add

I am the first to admit that organization is not one of my natural skills, and we got married during easily the most stressful 6 months of my life. I was scrambling to finish dental school, find patients for my board exam, and take my board exams, which were finished two weeks before the wedding. Planning a wedding was a super fun procrastination tool during all that (although I wasted WAY too much time making decisions that totally didn’t matter and I knew they did not matter). True to form, I found myself drawing the floor plan on a post-it note for my friend who was acting as our coordinator the morning of the wedding.

We went through a few stages of planning, where for a while the wedding was going to be at my parents’ house, but then I thought that would be too much work and got overwhelmed. Then it was going to be at this awesome affordable venue in the Santa Monica Mountains, but that fell through about 2 months before the wedding when we learned the park rangers had also booked a Boy Scout camp that weekend. I freaked out for a minute, and then realized that this meant we would get married in San Clemente after all, and was relieved because that is where all our helpers live. And it was a great place to visit for Gabe’s people coming from Portland and Seattle. We ultimately ended up getting married at a city pool/ event space because we thought it would be less work than a home wedding (in hindsight I don’t know if that was true!). We had already invited way too many people to have a sit down dinner at the new venue, so changed it to a cocktail party reception, which was such a good decision. (Except that it makes it easy to lose your new husband/wife so we didn’t both end up being able to say hi to everyone). We also got married on a Friday which originally was to save money since the new venue was a lot more expensive, but turned out to be amazing because a lot of people stuck around for the whole weekend.


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