Laura, corporate communications & max, food truck owner
sum-up of the wedding vibe: A joyful, dreamy, DIY celebration of love, community, and Alaska in the mountains of Douglas Island.
Planned Budget: $15,000
Actual Budget: $19,000
Number of Guests: 130
Location: Eaglecrest Lodge, Juneau, Alaska
photographer: Sydney Akagi Photography
Where we allocated the most funds:
Our food ($4,000-ish), which could have been done for less, but we wanted to go with unique options that reflected our love of food and our Alaskan location. Not necessarily the most funds, but way more than originally planned ($1,700 vs. uh, $0) went towards transportation for all our guests to and from the venue, since our venue was actually a ski resort located on top of a mountain with nothing nearby and no cellphone service or Wifi for cabs or rideshare services!
Where we allocated the least funds:
Our venue was surprisingly cheap: $1,000 for the full day rental, plus set up the day before and a few hours of cleanup the day after. Our DJ was a friend who is a professional DJ and gifted us his services. Our wedding rings were a gift from Max’s grandmother, who is a jeweler. All the desserts were given as gifts from various baking enthusiasts in our lives, while the cutting cake was a gift from Laura’s bonus mom (her best friend’s mother), Holly, who also donated her HBIC skills as Day-of-Coordinator (more on Holly soon). Our full paper suite was gorgeous but cheap as hell thanks to a 60% off sale at Vistaprint. Doing our own flowers through FiftyFlowers and Costco saved us a ton of money compared to what we would have spent on a florist for the same thing. That said, we still ended up spending around $2,000 on flowers.
What was totally worth it:
Making an insanely detailed plan and schedule, and following and executing our vision. From the hanging greenery hoop installations, to doing our own flowers, to refusing to use the hideous (but free! BUT SO UGLY!) chairs provided by the venue, to having bridesmen and letting the bridesmaids choose their own white dresses, to not having colors or a theme, to having a “tattoo station” and only serving locally brewed beverages, to having our dog as the ring bearer, every piece of our wedding was thoughtfully considered as not just its own individual piece, but as part of an entire vision. This made things stressful at times (like, crying three times in one trip to Home Depot for table number supplies stressful), but ultimately worth it when the whole thing came together and looked and felt amazing—exactly how we’d pictured it but even a hundred times better—to both us and our guests. We were so thrilled to hear so many people say that our wedding was SO US, and beautiful, and most of all, so much fun. Also, sending our newly-married-in-secret friends (basically the best looking guys at the party anyways) off with our photographer for a quick little photoshoot of their own. Those photos turned out absolutely stunning.
What was totally not worth it:
Worrying about the weather. We live in a rainforest, and it’s much more likely to be raining than sunny on any given day, even in the middle of summertime. I obsessed over the weather for months, especially because our rain plan was “hope it doesn’t rain”—because the backup space wasn’t big enough to hold all of our guests, and I hated the idea of holding the ceremony and reception in the same place. While it ended up being an overcast, 68 degree day—literally the most perfect weather we could have asked for—it would have been fine if it ended up raining, too and we would have just figured it out.
A few things that helped us along the way:
Doing it together. We were both intimately involved in every part of our wedding planning process—which is good, because I probably would have lost my shit completely without Max’s help. Plus, having someone else to make choices with really helped with my decision fatigue. Having an insanely organized plan for executing our vision. There were spreadsheets (well, one spreadsheet with seventeen tabs). There were binders. There were pages of written out instructions for how everything was to be assembled and set up. And every one of those things meant that I wasn’t the sole keeper of The Wedding Knowledge, which meant that I was able to relax on the day of and didn’t have to be in charge of everything at every moment.
Which brings me to our day-of-coordinator, Holly. Holly is my best friend’s mama, a totally fabulous, assertive, commanding woman who is an absolute presence. She graciously accepted when I asked if she would help run the show, and we couldn’t have done any of the planning or execution without her skills, little bit of tough love, and endless kindness and good humor. The rest of our family and friends. We had probably thirty people show up for set up the day before the wedding—some were family, some were in the bridal party, some were just random friends who were willing to help out. Our crew was amazing and we could not have pulled it all off or made it look so good without them. They were an amazing support team, and we’ll be eternally grateful to them forever and ever.
Remembering our values:
The wedding planning process and the wedding industry itself can be misogynistic in a lot of really ugly ways—some that we expected, some that we never saw coming. By leaning hard on our values and deciding what was important to us individually and as a couple, we were able to create a wedding that was a feminist space. We totally rejected everything about the WIC that felt icky or uncomfortable or sexist or that we looked at and thought, “Just, WHY?” For us, that meant finding a female officiant (Max’s hilarious and wonderful aunt Gina); writing the entire ceremony ourselves without creepy gendered language; choosing to have our closest people non-determined by gender in our respective parties; having both parents walk us down the aisle; not changing our last names; and a myriad of other things. Ultimately, we wanted a wedding that reflected our values, and we found a lot of freedom in doing away with things that felt pointless, or didn’t feel feminist, equal, or like “us”.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Take a deep breath. It will all work out in the end. And no, you are NOT over-prepared, over-organized, planning this too soon, or being too uptight. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re crazy for planning all of this out so carefully—all of your planning will make the wedding a huge success! Also, there are gonna be a few key things that you’re going to feel like you need to save money on, even though you know the more expensive option is better. Go with your gut and spend the extra money if you have it, because the cheapo option is going to end up being a letdown.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
The flowers, the tiny, special moments with loved ones, getting a drink, just the two of us, after our first look but before the group photos, the speeches (every single one was amazing), and finally, taking a brief moment together after the ceremony—taking a few minutes to catch our breath, eat a snack, and laugh together was so magical.
Weddings can be hard. Being engaged is an incredibly joyful time, but it is also a time of change and upheaval and turmoil in both of your lives, no matter how excited you are. Recognizing that everything about getting married is not always so wonderful (emotions! stress! managing other people’s emotions and stress! cultural expectations! pressure! managing your own unexpected and internalized cultural expectations and pressure! being a project manager for a project that is fraught with so many feelings for so many people! huge life changes! did I mention stress!) was huge for us, because there is such an expectation that this is the happiest time ever and the best day of your life, when in reality it can be incredibly overwhelming, even painful.
You will certainly feel all the feels, and all of that is okay and totally normal. The best thing we did during our entire wedding planning process was planning not just for a wedding, but for a marriage—working on conflict resolution, communication, and strengthening our relationship through premarital counseling. We were constantly checking in with each other and on our relationship, and I’m so thankful that we did, because it there were so many growing pains and emotional pinch points throughout the process—both with us and with others in our lives.
(Also, make sure that the groomsmen’s belts actually fit them before the wedding day, if you plan on giving them as a gift. This is especially true if you live in a small town in Alaska with limited options for buying anything on a short timeline, especially brown belts in the respective correct sizes. Ask us how we know…)