Our $16K Gay Garden Party In Northern California

Church ladies and bejeweled queer lads

Sean, Yogi & Cameron, Recruiting Coordinator

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: From church ladies in their Sunday best to bejeweled gender queer lads, our wedding was a gathering of the best adopted and biological family two boys can hope for.

Planned budget: $15,000
Actual budget: $16,500
Number of guests: 58
LOCATION: San Rafael, California

Where we allocated the most funds:

The food! By far, this was the most spendy element of our wedding—nearly half the budget. However we felt food was one of the most memorable parts of the evening (besides the marriage part!) that brought the event together. Our caterer was also one of the sweetest people we ever met and even got on the dance floor to dance with us.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Decor! We selected a venue that was already gorgeous with a vintage garden party vibe and nine acres of gardens. Add to that Sean’s thrifty eye for Craigslist finds and a little (okay, a lot) of DIY magic. Cameron’s grandmother generously gifted the table flower arrangements. All other florals and greenery were either foraged from our backyard or bought the day before the wedding at Trader Joe’s. Friends and family also contributed their talents through decorating day of, singing as we walked down the aisle, or doing the graphic design for our menus and table numbers.

What was totally worth it:

Every single bit of it! There can be a great deal of stress involved in doing all the planning and coordination of vendors on your own without a wedding planner. It’s practically a full-time job to vet, select, and communicate with vendors, even ones as incredible as the ones we worked with. Carefully choosing who we worked with and wanted as part of our special day made all the difference, as we folded them into our extended family.

What was totally not worth it:

Not asking for more help during the planning process. We really could have utilized our family and friends more to prevent decision-making fatigue as we started planning our big day. Also not getting enough sleep in the days before the wedding was, in retrospect, totally not worth it.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Our photographer Vivian Chen was definitely the best investment we made! She not only brought stillness, joy, and professionalism to our day, but she also helped keep the whole day running smoothly and on time. Choose experienced vendors who you feel will bring calm and a sense of humor to the beautiful chaos of your wedding day. They will play a bigger part than you can imagine! We never could have imagined just how incredibly helpful Viv was at every step of the way the day of.

Also, early in the planning process, we recommend getting clear on which parts of the traditional wedding we wanted to keep and what ones we would do away with. Once we got clear on what elements were important to us, planning the day really fell into place. Out of the elements that were important to us, we were then able to pinpoint how we wanted people to feel and what experience we wanted to offer our guests. It was really a conversation of how to make the day align with and reflect our values and how we like to interface with our loved ones and our larger community.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

As a former elementary school teacher, Sean is a confident DIY-er and artist, so it was easy for him to get lost in the world of Pinterest, DIY tutorials, idea pages, magazines, and blog posts. It was pretty overwhelming. Sean recommends starting to pull all the ideas you love as early as possible in your wedding planning. Come back to your ideas every few weeks and then edit them down to the ideas you radiate most with as you move along your timeline and as your budget and resources become clearer. Don’t be tempted to add more ideas or keep researching more and more. Believe in your initial vision and see it through!

Favorite thing about the wedding:

The vibes! Our vision for our wedding was for it to be a joyous community celebration that stitched together all of our most beloved folks from around the world into one tribe. We wanted people feeling relaxed, ready to engage and feeling the gooey loving vibes for not just us, but for life. By inviting ALL of the guests to the rehearsal dinner the night before (a taco truck dinner in Cameron’s aunt’s backyard) it helped break down barriers between folks so that on the day of, everyone really felt like a cohesive unit there to support and join in a big wave of love.

Other things we’d like to share:

Sean had always dreamed of a huge wedding with loads of people from every corner of life, but in the end—and in looking at the budget—it was worth it to have a small, intimate gathering where we could spend quality time with each and every guest. We drew a lot of inspiration from APW, and we’re thankful for the other couples who have blazed the trail by sharing their stories.


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