Ciarra & Christopher
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Deliberately pared down and perfectly us.
Planned budget: $5,000
Actual budget: $10,000
Number of guests: 70
Where we allocated the most funds:
From the beginning of the wedding planning process, I knew preserving the memories from the event would be the most important to me. For this reason, I budgeted quite a bit for a videographer. I already knew of the company, as the founder was a classmate of mine in art school. All of the staff at 822 Weddings are such a talented bunch that putting up most of our hard-earned funds for their services was totally worth it.
Close behind were food and the photo booth service.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Décor. My beau and I are artists and care about aesthetics, but we also work in the nonprofit world, which means we had a very lean budget. For that reason we decided the settings should be so visually appealing that all we would need was candles and flowers for the day of. Mission accomplished! Any other décor was borrowed from our apartment, with the exception of a few candlesticks and small glass containers purchased at our favorite thrift store, Boomerangs.
What was totally worth it:
Going through the heartache of losing a venue. We originally secured a date at a local arts nonprofit, but they closed their doors permanently a few months after we had confirmed our date. Initially, it was devastating and sent me into a panic; however, it ultimately freed us up to make other venue choices that worked better for us.
Also, the agony of making my invitations by hand was worth it in the end. I got this idea in my head that they would feature a piece of art on wood veneer with the information printed on vellum and laid on top. The only problem was that I would need to silkscreen said artwork, and I didn’t know how. So, with the advice of a friend, I taught myself how to silkscreen, design an invitation suite, use Photoshop, and print on vellum. Three weeks, several trips to the stationery store, and a lot of sweat and tears later, I had the invitations that I wanted.
What was totally not worth it:
Worrying about what one is “supposed” to do, or things one “has” to do for their wedding. For the most part, we stayed away from convention, but it was hard not to worry about what well-meaning friends and family advised us to do.
A few things that helped us along the way:
- APW. Like, seriously. Through APW, I was exposed to lots of nontraditional versions of weddings, given lots of advice, and guided through confusing wedding etiquette. APW provided loads of templates, tutorials, and examples that helped me shape my loosey-goosey ideas into a real wedding plan.
- An online DIY wedding planning course. At an alternative wedding expo, I met the woman who runs the program and decided I needed some guidance.
- Talented volunteers. The flowers, photography, ceremony site, day-of coordination, and cutting cake were all donated by my talented friends. Each of them volunteered their respective talents when they learned we were planning our wedding.
- Staying true to ourselves. I know this sounds trite, but talking about what was important to us before we started planning helped. I constantly referred back to our initial wedding conversations when I felt pressure from the outside world to do things differently from how I wanted. I also identified a friend who had planned and executed her own DIY wedding (and also knows me very well) to vent to, bounce ideas off of, and lean on for support. She helped remind me what was important when things seemed tough.
- Not gonna lie: financial support from our families. We originally hoped to pay for everything ourselves, but as the guest list evolved, so did our funding strategy.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Believe people when they say you’ll need help, and believe people when they say they want to help. I’m an only child, kind of bossy, and pretty independent. I was convinced that I could do this all by myself and it would be perfect and all anyone else would need to do would be to show up. I. Was. Wrong.
After some extensive scouring of APW’s “How We Did It” pieces and a few weeks into my online course, I realized I’m not an expert at everything and I don’t need to be. It took a bit of introspection and swallowing of pride, but I began to let people in. I’m so glad I did. Once I let go of how things were executed and who was executing them, I was less stressed, and the creativity of the people around me made something more beautiful than I could have created on my own.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE WEDDING:
Am I allowed to answer “EVERYTHING!”? No? Okay. Truly, my favorite thing was that the wedding ceremony took place exactly where my beau had suggested long before he proposed. When we first met (and he was trying to woo me) he suggested we get married in an apple orchard. I thought that sounded like a line (it was) and totally unrealistic (although gorgeous). Four years later, it came to fruition.
Anything else TO SHARE:
We really stuck to our vision of making this wedding all about us, and I believed it paid off. We decided that elements that would last beyond the one day were worth putting time, energy, and money toward, and everything else was superfluous. We chose to forego an engagement party, engagement shoot, groomsmen and bridesmaids, rehearsal dinner, etc.
The things we did spend time, money, and energy on were the personal touches—from having my cousin perform the ceremony, to enlisting friends to decorate, document, and coordinate, everything felt immensely genuine. We decided to incorporate our own “union” tradition. We chose to untie the knot demonstrating our partnership as one built on figuring out life’s problems together. That concept resonated with us more strongly than us tying the knot to symbolize us being bound together by marriage.
We are lucky in that we had the support of our friends and family, no religious or cultural restrictions, and a bevy of talent at our disposal. If you can, we recommend throwing caution to the wind and making the day your own. You probably won’t have time to worry about all of the little details on the day of, and your guests won’t notice what is or isn’t executed perfectly, so don’t worry about them in the planning process either. Who cares if all of the bridesmaids have their toenails painted the same color, or if the caterers ran out of the house dressing? All that will last after the wedding are the photos, the feelings from the day, and your marriage.