A Pink Pantsuit and a Shimmery Dress? This $40K California Wedding Is on Fire

With local champagne and a ring warming? YES.

Jess, marketing & Kelly, health professional

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A fun, relaxed, and intimate under the stars and redwoods.

Planned budget: $35,000

Actual budget: $40,000

Number of guests: 65

Where we allocated the most funds:

Food and wine. We chose our venue for many reasons, with their phenomenal food being at the top of the list. The family style meal was amazing: Hog Island Oyster Co. oysters (freshly shucked!) and a local champagne directly following the ceremony; seated fresh pea soup, roasted chicken with polenta and braised greens, a cheese course (since we’ve never met one we didn’t like), and a gorgeous chocolate cake with cardamom caramel. We chose a white wine from a region in Italy where Jess spent a summer and a Pinot Grigio from up the road. The food, its presentation and pacing were fantastic.

Where we allocated the least funds:

We didn’t spend much on decor. We didn’t have to rent tables, linens, chairs, candles, or any of that jazz, since all those things were provided by the hotel as part of the venue fee. We knew whatever the Boonville Hotel had would be gorgeous because we admire their taste and aesthetic. It was part of what made our wedding really easy.

Our flower budget was also really modest because the venue was a garden, so we were surrounded by trees, plants, flowers, and fairy lights.

We also didn’t spend a ton of money on our wedding outfits. Kelly bought a (ever so faintly) pink Stella McCartney suit from Neiman’s and the Jess had her dress made by Julie Ireland, a San Francisco–based dress maker (based loosely on a Jenny Packham gown that was gorgeous but way over budget).

What was totally worth it:

People had a great time in the photo booth! Our friends actually gifted it to us, and we were so glad to have it. Our guests got to take a keepsake from the wedding, and we got an amazing book (that doubled as a guest book) filled with hysterical, fun photos of new and old friends who were having a great time together.

Our photographer was fantastic. Christina Richards was totally on the shot list, very professional, and her pictures were gorgeous.

The DJ really set the tone by figuring out a mash up of “99 Problems” and “Here Comes the Bride” for us to walk down the aisle to, putting together a great cocktail set featuring New Orleans jazz in honor of Jess’s dad who has passed, and playing some great dinner music that really set the atmosphere (plus killer after-dinner music that got almost everyone up and dancing).

Most of all, our wedding planner was phenomenal. Her services were gifted to us by friends as well, and she was amazing. We did a lot of the upfront planning (selecting the venue, getting the few vendors we needed, etc.) but she did a lot of the execution (table mapping, etc.) and all of the coordination. She allowed us and all our guests to have a really magical weekend (we even had guests reaching out to say how great she was).

Also worth it: we hired a sitter for people who’d brought children. We set the expectation up front (via conversations and website) that kids would leave after the cocktail reception so that adults (parents and non-parents alike) could relax. Figuring out how to facilitate that for people, in particular for a destination wedding, was critical, and hiring a sitter was the best solution.

We also really wanted to have a full weekend for our guests. We had a small dinner for family only that our officiants hosted on Thursday. We had a fun party at the Boonville Hotel’s shed on Friday night. It was a relaxed and casual taco night where old friends could reunite and new friends could be made before the big day. We also hosted a brunch on Sunday morning, which was nice to see everyone again and say thank you before everyone the hit the road.

A few things that helped us along the way:

The people at the Boonville Hotel were fantastic. We chose the venue because the food is fantastic, it’s gorgeous, and, and this is important, because the people who run it and the staff are so warm and lovely. They take such good care of weddings, brides, their guests, etc. They made it so easy—we just had to hire photographer, flowers, and DJ. They even arranged for the babysitters and a place for the kids to go to eat dinner, watch movies, and do crafty things. We did a few little extra things like chalkboard signage, but they weren’t necessary, just nice touches (including a quote from the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage).

Anything else to share:

Developing the ceremony was both one of the hardest and one of the most rewarding parts of the entire planning experience. Having a meaningful ceremony was really important to us, but because we’re not part of a religious tradition it was hard to create something that felt authentic and would be actually be meaningful. We spent a long time thinking about the tone, what we wanted to say (our vows), what we wanted our officiants to do (we gave them an outline and their job was to welcome guests, connect all the elements together, and marry us, officially), our readings, and how to engage our guests so that it wasn’t just something they were watching but something in which they participated.

Marriage is hard, and having our friends and family pledge their support and integrating our community into our ceremony was really important. We scoured books and the web, and asked friends, colleagues, and anyone we could find. We found a ring warming tradition that we included: our rings traveled around to all the guests who held them and (hopefully!) infused them with best wishes for our life together as a married couple.


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