Our $20K Queer, Disco-Tinged Party… and Wedding

Plus one kick-ass statement of intent

colleen, attorney and college professor & sam, Senior Director of Content at Spotify

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A chill, queer, disco-tinged party with good music that also happened to be a wedding.

Planned budget: $15,000
Actual budget: $20,000
Number of guests: 110
LOCATION: Brooklyn, New York

Where we allocated the most funds:

Our photographer is a friend and generously offered us a discount, but the photos were was still our single biggest outlay of cash.

Where we allocated the least funds:

We did Paperless Post for invitations and save the dates. Colleen is normally sort of a card maven and has a whole box of cards at home (organized by theme) for various card-giving occasions. But when it came to the wedding neither of us had the energy to research paper invitations or the desire to spend much money on them. We had wedding decision fatigue!

What was totally worth it:

Hiring people from our community. Our DJ, photographer, day-of coordinator, hairstylist, makeup artist, and the designer for Colleen’s rings were all friends, or friends of friends. All of them also did this work professionally, so we knew we could totally rely on them to do an amazing job. It was a relief that we didn’t have to research who to hire (wedding decision fatigue was a really strong theme for us), and it felt awesome to pay our friends instead of strangers. Plus, some of them were able to offer us discounts, which was so generous and helpful.

What was totally not worth it:

Colleen ordered her gold dress online eighteen months before the wedding because she got excited about finding it on super sale. It turned out to be too big and needed a lot of expensive alterations; the tailoring ended up being way more than the cost of the dress itself. And because she bought it so early, it wasn’t really her style anymore by the time the wedding rolled around. She much preferred the $90 short caped dress she ordered two weeks before the wedding. Lessons learned: don’t buy too early, and a sale doesn’t always mean a good value.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Our families were generous within their means, but we pretty much paid for the wedding ourselves. Additionally, we both come from families with a tradition of small, city hall weddings. This meant that we were free to totally self-define our event without family pressure to have it look or be a certain way. Sometimes this freedom felt overwhelming, but mostly we felt really lucky. We got to take everything we liked about weddings and nothing else.

Reading APW! It was one of the few wedding sites and magazines we actually bothered with during planning, because it didn’t feel like part of the high-pressure, heteronormative wedding industrial complex. It was a really helpful resource for stuff like developing language for the ceremony, figuring out how much liquor to buy, and examples of down-to-earth weddings. Also, eating BEFORE the wedding! We ordered sushi delivery for two and ate before the ceremony. This was a genius move because neither of us had a chance to eat the food we served at the reception. Our day-of coordinator even set food aside for us, but we were too busy to have any. We each had the one bite of cupcake during a photo op, and that was it besides the sushi.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Don’t stress out too much about making the wedding the perfect representation of who you are as a couple. None of your guests are really going to notice or remember the small details of your wedding. (Okay, maybe the ones who are planning their own weddings will notice, but they will forget as soon as their weddings are over!) Honestly, the day goes by so fast that you will probably struggle to remember the details afterward yourselves!

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Sam: Grabbing a drink just the two of us at The Cobra Club before the ceremony started. The bartenders were wearing tuxedo t-shirts in our honor. It was so cute! I loved sharing that moment together before the day got wild.
Colleen: Spontaneous moments with our family and friends scattered throughout the day stand out for me. It was bittersweet having all these great people in one place, because I felt like I didn’t get to have quality time with anyone.

Something else We’d Like To SHare:

We wrote the a lot of our ceremony together, with input from our officiant Dave, and we each wrote our own vows privately. Writing the ceremony together was the hardest and the most rewarding part of planning the wedding. We put a lot of thought and effort into it. It ended up being an incredible opportunity to practice compromise and to grow closer as a couple.

Writing our ceremony also helped us solidify our shared values. It was a forum to talk about us, our future, and the way we see the world. After all the back and forth, we decided to include the following statement of intent:

Colleen and Sam are not entering into a new, better life together today, but rather are celebrating the union they create every day through the giving and receiving of their love and the ways in which they continue to entwine their lives. As they celebrate their connection with each other, they also seek to affirm their interconnectedness with you, their community. Colleen and Sam’s love does not exist in a vacuum. They hope you join them in continuing to grow together in solidarity, mutual support, and loving-kindness.

Sam and Colleen seek to marry on their own terms, in a way that connects with their shared values. Both of them care deeply about living their shared lives in a way that advances peace and social justice. They have spent a lot of time reflecting on what marriage means to them and what their choice to have a wedding represents to others. There are aspects of marriage that they have struggled with.

Although marriage has undoubtedly changed over the past several generations, the potential for the institution to be a tool of oppression and exclusion remains. Marriage law has traditionally been a way for society to codify hierarchies based on gender, race, nationality, and ability. Even as marriage rights have been expanded to include same-sex couples, in privileging marriage and providing access to resources like healthcare, welfare, and immigration solely through this kind of partnership, we have excused our society from its responsibility to provide necessary care and rights to everyone.

When society privileges romantic marriage between two people as the most important kind of relationship, we devalue the many varieties of beautiful, real relationships and families that exist.

Ultimately, working through what marriage meant to them strengthened Sam and Colleen’s relationship. It was an opportunity to reflect on the union they have built, their dreams for the future, and ground themselves in the present moment. It was also an opportunity to learn that it was safe to disagree or even fight without fear that the relationship would fall apart. They found that they could trust each other to stay and to respond with love.

Sam and Colleen will continue to define what marriage means to them for as long as they are together. These are some of the values that their marriage represents to them today:

This wedding is one expression of the many varieties of love, none of which are greater or lesser in value than any other.

In order to practice building an ideal society in the world they will start by building an ideal mini-society in their own relationship.

In publicly affirming their intention to grow together in love and reveal themselves fully to each other without fear, they practice doing the same with the world around them.

This wedding is not a rejection of individual freedom, but an intention to grow in dignity, each following along the paths that are her own to follow, becoming all that each is capable of becoming, while giving the other supporting love.
Through this wedding Colleen and Sam are celebrating the love they share with each other, but also the love they share with their community. Their marriage is not not sanctified by a church or a state, but by the love that surrounds them today and by the people who have supported them both along the way.

An important part of weddings is the ritual of allowing community to gather and participate in the happiness of members of that community. In the struggle toward justice and freedom, there are not as many victories as we would like. There is disappointment and grief and heartache. On their wedding day, Sam and Colleen are celebrating a win. It’s a win that in this moment, we are all here together in this room feeling love and solidarity. Letting in each other’s love, and allowing friends and family to love us, to celebrate, to unite, is a victory.


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