Leigh, it analyst & Matthew, stay-at-home dad
SUM-UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: A sweet garden wedding meets two nerds in love, resulting in a relaxed Sunday brunch with hints of geekiness.
PLANNED BUDGET: $15,000
ACTUAL BUDGET: $18,000
NUMBER OF GUESTS: 106
LOCATION: Walnut Creek, California
Where we allocated the most funds:
Our photographer and food and drink were just about tied in price. When we sat down and listed our priorities, we both agreed that serving amazing food was really important to us. Our caterer was actually the one who offered us the most reasonable estimate, but what sold us were the delicious food and the fact that they were incredibly responsive to all of our emails. We also agreed that we wanted beautiful photos that would help us relive our big day every time we looked at them, so we took the time to find a photographer who had a knack for getting the perfect candid shots.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Decorations, including flowers. The flowers were done by my some of my aunts as a wedding gift. We chose to keep the rest of the decorations very simple, letting the beautiful venue speak for itself. I purchased glasses from the dollar store and used rose gold spray paint to dress them up a bit. I designed the menu cards and table names, which were all printed by my brother. The signs were dollar store picture frames and foam boards, which I covered in chalkboard paint and wrote on myself. I also did not spend anything on my own hair and makeup, because my cousin did it as a wedding present. We did pay for two of my bridesmaids to get their hair and makeup done.
What was totally worth it:
Our photographer, Vivian Chen, hands down. She made us feel so comfortable in front of the camera, and the resulting photos were exactly what we had hoped for.
Originally, we were going to skip the DJ and just hook Spotify up to some speakers. However, I ran into All Ears DJ’s booth at a wedding fair, and after speaking with them, I was completely convinced that we needed them to DJ our wedding. Our DJ turned out to be a talented singer and guitarist, so we asked him to play for our procession, cocktail hour, and first dance. Our first dance song was particularly special, as we asked him to compose an acoustic version of our song (Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”). He was worth every penny, and we definitely do not regret ditching the Spotify playlist.
I wanted to avoid the super expensive bridesmaid’s dress that never gets worn again after the wedding, so I told my bridal party to find whatever dark purple dress that they loved. They were able to find dresses that met their budgets and reflected their own style, and I didn’t have to pick any of them myself! Since the ladies weren’t going to match, we decided that the guys didn’t have to either. This threw off the people at the tux rental place, but it worked out perfectly. I think the “sort of matching, but not really” vibe looks awesome in our wedding photos!
Our brunch menu was definitely worth it. Food was one of our biggest expenses, but it was actually a lot more affordable than doing dinner, and it was a huge hit with our guests. We had an open bar with two signature cocktails and beer. While some of us definitely had an excellent time day drinking, we still purchased a lot less alcohol than we would have needed for an evening wedding. I loved the idea of a brunch wedding long before I had even met my now-husband, and I’m so glad that he was up for doing it!
What was totally not worth it:
All the DIY projects. I took a calligraphy class hoping to do calligraphy on the envelopes for our wedding invitations. I got maybe ten envelopes in before I essentially gave up. With all of the wedding stress, I had little energy left for doing the signage, and I wound up scribbling them out two nights before the big day. I also had various ideas for DIY centerpieces and other decorations, but I (thankfully) decided that they weren’t worth the time or expense.
A few things that helped us along the way:
A Practical Wedding, of course! Also, I am spreadsheet obsessed, so Excel was my best friend. I used spreadsheets to track invitations, RSVPs, and gifts and thank you cards.
I created a Facebook group for my bridal party. None of them knew each other at first, so it was a great way for them to connect. Plus, it was a great place for me to chat about wedding planning and convey necessary details easily. Most importantly, we had so much help from our family and friends. Because our ceremony started at 10 a.m., we all had to be up super early. Despite that, we had friends hauling things to the venue, and family helping to set up. We couldn’t have pulled this off without them!
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Be practical about how many DIY projects you can pull off. I have a full-time job and a young daughter; I should have known from the beginning that I wouldn’t have time or energy to do them all.
If I could do it all again, I would have made room in the budget for a day-of coordinator. While we had so much help from family and friends, the morning was so hectic that we were late to the venue, and therefore late for photos. The hour or two before the ceremony would have gone much more smoothly if we had a coordinator running that part of the show.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Our ceremony was beautiful. Our officiant had us separately fill out questionnaires about our relationship and how we felt about one another, and we weren’t allowed to see what the other person wrote. Our ceremony wove together so much of what we wrote. She made us laugh and cry, and we really felt like our love was being celebrated in a way that was incredibly genuine and encompassed who we are as individuals and as a couple. I loved our first dance. The acoustic music was perfect, and the best part was when our daughter came up to dance with us.
Because it was our wedding, we were able to let her wander around and be a typical curious two-year-old. I gotta say, she kinda stole the show from us, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. She is such a huge part of our love story, it was only fitting that she share the day and be celebrated with us. I also loved that we got to add little bits of geekiness to our reception. Our table names were some of our beloved fandoms: Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Doctor Who, Batman, etc. Our guest book was 8-bit hearts on a canvas for our guests to sign. The cake toppers were Squirtle, Charmander, and a heart-shaped Pokeball. My husband and I constantly argue about which starter Pokemon is the best (hint: it’s Charmander), and it’s such a big thing with us that it made its way into our vows and onto our cake!
Something else we’d like to share:
One of our favorite parts of having a brunch wedding was the fact that everything wrapped up early (around 4 p.m.). We got to relax, have drinks, and go out to a nice dinner for just the two of us.
A Fun story:
We went out to a really nice restaurant, still in our wedding attire. The restaurant told us that they were bringing us complimentary champagne and an appetizer. When we received our bill, we realized that the entire $200-plus meal was comped by the restaurant! This was definitely an unexpected highlight of the day! Aside from the amazing dinner, starting the day early was really worth it. We aren’t morning people at all, but it was really nice to have the rest of the afternoon and evening to ourselves. I think our guests appreciated being able to leave before the day was over, especially on a Sunday.