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Megan & Marlee’s Episcopal Etsy Wedding

 * Megan, Associate at a nonprofit hospital’s foundation by day, choral singer by night/weekend (with the veil) & Marlee, Etsy shop owner, jewelry designer, and vintage curator (with the train) * Photographer: Robyn Tiffany of lilbirdMemories * Soundtrack for reading: “Sweet Darlin’” by She & Him *

One sentence sum up of the wedding vibe: Two brides + amazing friends + Etsy + beautiful Episcopal church + cream puffs = magical.

Guests:

Invited: 450 (Sounds crazy, but our motto was to invite “all the nice people we know.” This number also includes +1s for all of our single invitees, which were many. We knew many of the people we invited wouldn’t be able to come, so we planned for 200.)

Actually Attended: 140

Planned Budget:

$5,000 (Down from $10,000 due to unforeseen family difficulties during our engagement.)

Actual Budget:

$6,200 (The increase was all attributable to fees for using the church that our original contact didn’t know about.)

Where we allocated the most funds: Our venue. The great thing was that since our venue was our church (which is a very progressive place and a wonderful community asset), we felt great about where the money was going.

Where we allocated the least funds: Stationery. We designed our simple invitations in Word as a quarter-page, printed them on creamy cardstock from Michael’s, and hand addressed our envelopes. We took online RSVPs so we didn’t have to send twice as much paper out into the world. We delayed sending out our invites until about a month before the wedding because a) we sent save-the-dates several months back, b) most of our guests were local, and c) the cutest postage stamps were released about a month before our wedding—images of vintage seed packets!

What was totally worth it:

1. The time, research, and heart we poured into creating our ceremony. We pieced together two different services (one blessing service from the diocese of LA and the other from the national Episcopal church), used a few pieces of the traditional marriage service from the Book of Common Prayer, and added another component to create something that was historical and sacred, and completely suited us. We wanted the ceremony to be the focus of our wedding, and it definitely was. We received so much positive feedback! The words that meant the most were from two gay couples in their forties or fifties who were so moved that we had an actual wedding, that it was held in a church, and that we were “doing it right” instead of hiding away. We’ve never been more touched by someone saying they’re proud of us.

2. Having the wedding at night followed by a short reception (our ceremony started at 7:30pm and everything was cleaned up by 10:30pm). We worried that it would feel too short, but it was just right. Bonuses: a) Got to spend all day with our best friends getting ready and not feel rushed. b) Had time to take pictures before the ceremony, and spend more time with our guests afterward. c) We got to go to the hotel at the end of it all and weren’t completely wiped out. Also, homemade cream puffs. Just saying.

3. Scrapping DIY projects that seemed too time consuming or not fun. We relied on the beauty of the church and our flowers for decorations, and decided the only things we really wanted to create ourselves were the programs (which we loved and were totally worth it), and jewelry for ourselves and our bridesmaids. Since Marlee is a jewelry designer and we didn’t already have jewelry we wanted to wear for the wedding, that made sense for us. (And the bridesmaids loved their necklaces, which doubled as gifts.)

The one semi-exception to this was our dress alterations and cleaning. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend money on those things, so Marlee cleaned both our dresses and added sleeves to hers. Since Megan’s wrap dress didn’t need to be altered (best thing ever) and Marlee wasn’t a perfectionist about her dress fit, this was a great solution for us.

4. Everyone says it, but it’s true—photography. Robyn and Marlee went to college together, so we knew her as a friend first. She is a fabulous photographer and an even more fabulous person. She totally understood our vision, and the photos she took captured the feelings of that day so beautifully. Plus, her rates are super reasonable for the heart and soul she puts into her work!

What was totally not: Nothing. If during the course of discussing an idea of something to include or a way of doing something that didn’t feel right, we’d keep editing it until it did (which, coincidentally, led to some of our most awesome decisions). And if it never felt quite right, we left it out. This process worked for us as we can honestly say that looking back, there wasn’t anything we planned that wasn’t worth it. (That’s not to say that one or two of the things we planned didn’t go quite as we thought they would. Case in point: the reception playlist we spent weeks putting together never got turned back on after the toasts. But that didn’t dampen the cheerful, chatty vibe one bit, and now we have an amazing playlist to remind us of what the day felt like.)

A few things that helped us along the way:

1. Amazing and talented friends! Seriously! Hair and makeup (we’ve never felt prettier), catering, photography, ceremony music, and flowers couldn’t have been more beautiful/delicious/exactly what we wanted, and they were all done by our fabulous friendors! They were aided and abetted by a friend from church who helped us unlock doors/steam wedding clothes/generally have a successful wedding, a wonderfully helpful friend from college, and Megan’s incredible little sister. Bonus: aside from being amazing at what they do best, our friendors were super duper helpful in every respect possible. Our hairdresser ended up helping our caterer fill the cream puffs, our florist set up the whole reception hall, one bridesmaid and her boyfriend brought champagne as a surprise (we had planned a coffee bar for budget reasons, which we totally recommend), and some of our wedding elves even cleaned our disaster of an apartment while we were on our honeymoon! We have never felt so loved by our dearest people.

2. Most of our guests live within an hour of where we got married (two people flew in from the East Coast and a handful drove down from the Monterey area), so we didn’t have to worry about coordinating anything regarding where guests would stay, how they would get around, or any of the other things couples have to think about when their friends and family are coming together from all around the world. This was huge in simplifying our planning process.

My best advice to my practical planning self: Trust your instincts to stop planning or talking about the wedding together if it stops being fun. Keeping the planning process enjoyable helped the whole fifteen months of being engaged go much, much better.

Other cool stuff we should know about: We were surrounded by enormous amounts of love the entire day. We got married at our church where Megan has been a choir member for the past six years, and we were so blessed to have the choir sing for our ceremony! On top of the beautiful music, our friendors made everything even more gorgeous than we imagined! It was so gratifying to see everything come together, and to be able to trust all the people we were working with completely.

Having a wedding website was super helpful. We took RSVPs that way, and we were able to give a lot of details on the website (location, parking instructions, etc.) so we didn’t have to over-complicate our invitations. There was a link to our Wanderable honeymoon registry, and we even included a page with information about the status of Prop 8 and why we wanted to have a wedding even though we can’t make it legal yet, since some of our guests had expressed (rightful) confusion over the whole legal situation. We got great feedback from people who hadn’t heard of wedding websites before and were impressed with how easy it made their experience. The website we used (WeddingWire) also had planning tools, which we appreciated. The budget and guest tools were particularly helpful in tracking numbers, allowing us to keep everything organized and consolidated.

We (and our guests) loved our honeymoon registry! Since we were paying for the wedding ourselves on the budget of two recent college grads, we didn’t have the funds to take a vacation. Since we knew we didn’t want to postpone our honeymoon, we took advantage of air miles accumulated from our Southwest credit card and the fact that we live in an absolutely gorgeous state to plan a reasonably priced honeymoon that our friends and family could help us take. This inadvertently made our honeymoon even more meaningful because it was all made possible by our loved ones, many of whom had shared with us fond memories they had of some of the places we planned to visit during our trip.

APW’s various same-gender wedding posts, along with inspiration from A Bicycle Built for Two, helped us tremendously in normalizing the image of two brides in our heads, but we still felt some confusion over what to do about things that for many straight couples might not be much of a consideration. From choosing what to wear (the same dress? different dresses? how do we know they’ll look good together? should we have veils? yes? no? AAAAAH) to re-envisioning the bridal party, we sometimes felt a little bit like we were starting the wedding process from scratch, without much of a blueprint.

Our wedding actually turned out looking pretty traditional, with a few twists. We ended up with four bridesmaids total (no designated maid of honor—all together they are a dream team!) who all stood on one side (a decision made for practical reasons because of the set-up of the church, and also because all four girls are our best friends and splitting them up would have felt weird), plus a group of four “bridesgirls” comprised of Marlee’s little sister, cousin, and two of their friends. The bridesgirls entered before the bridesmaids and played very functional roles: one of them brought in our rings, one held the oil we used for the anointing portion of our ceremony, and two of them carried in a beautiful garland our florist created to lay on the steps where we stood for the ceremony. The bridesmaids and Megan’s sister passed out programs before the service began, which was wonderful for our guests who were glad to see a familiar face before the wedding (between the five of them, they knew everyone on our guest list). Changing the traditional ringbearer/flower girl/usher roles to suit us and our bridal party was one of the best decisions we made.

Despite a lot of family missing for various reasons (inability to travel, declines due to religious objections, abusive parent not invited, overwhelming struggles with anxiety and depression…), our wedding felt whole. Our guests were exactly the people who were meant to be there, and we were completely overwhelmed by the love, support, and warmth they brought to our wedding.

We join the ranks of APWers who don’t feel different after their weddings. We knew we were going to spend our lives together the day we realized we were in a relationship (long story), and getting engaged and subsequently married hasn’t changed that. We absolutely loved our wedding and it was so special to share it with our loved ones, but we haven’t experienced even the slightest emotional shift (aside from absolutely loving finally getting to wear our wedding rings). Maybe that will change when we get to make it legal. (Hurry up Supreme Court!)

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Megan: Spending the whole wonderful day with some of our favorite people in the world, and the ceremony music—exquisite beyond belief, sung by dear friends, and perfect for us. Oh, and my gorgeous, gorgeous wife.

Marlee: Everything Megan said, plus the romance and beauty of our day! I loved wearing jasmine blossoms in my hair. Originally it was going to be baby’s breath, but the jasmine was blooming right outside the window of our “getting ready room,” so our hairdresser sent a bridesgirl down to cut some. I’ve been drinking jasmine tea just about every day since. I loved that all of our tight, careful planning allowed our day to look and feel so soft and loose! Perfect dichotomy.

The Info—Photographer: Robyn Tiffany of lilbirdMemories / Location: Los Angeles, California / Venue: St. James’ Episcopal Church / Megan’s Dress and Bridesmaids’ Dresses: CoralieBeatrix via Etsy (Helpful hint: wrap dresses are awesome if you’re not excited about fittings or having to stay/attain a certain size for a date months into the future!) /Marlee’s Dress: Etsy; she added the tulle sleeves / Shoes, Various Petticoats, Makeup, Etc.: Both vintage and handmade from Etsy, including both of Marlee’s shops / Hair: Coif it Up by Monika Beal / Bridesgirls’ Dresses: Marlee’s closet /Best Cream Puffs Ever, Coffee Bar, Beautiful Fruit Platters: Kate’s Catering (We were her first wedding!)  / Flowers:Kathy G’s Anything But Ordinary

Editor’s Note: Megan & Marlee’s submission was received before yesterday’s DOMA and Prop 8 rulings.

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