Brenda, PE teacher and grad student & Donovan, network specialist
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: Respectful and happy mix of traditional and modern cultures.
Planned budget: $7,000
Actual budget: $9,800
Number of guests: 120
Where we allocated the most funds:
We spent most of our funds at the venue—buying hotel rooms for the wedding party, the officiant, photographer, and ourselves. We also spent a good chunk of change on the catering and cake. We wanted to make sure that everyone was comfortable and provided for.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Decorating. The most expensive decoration we had to purchase was the garlands, roughly $125 a piece. The rose petals were bought at the grocery stores for $12.99 and spread all around. Otherwise, the Pendleton blankets and chairs were items we already had. The rest, like the tulle and the long pieces of fabric, came from Goodwill at the price of $10 total. The ceremonial items for the altar were also items we already owned. Mother Nature took care of the rest!
My dress was incredibly inexpensive as I spent less than $200 to buy and make alterations. My moccasins were a gift and the jewelry were family heirlooms that I wore in honor of my grandmother.
What was totally worth it:
The makeup artist! I could not believe the amazing job he did with everyone! We do not wear makeup on a regular basis so it was a relief to see that he knew how to make us look great for such an amazing day.
A few things that helped us along the way:
A wedding coordinator was definitely needed as my family had never gone through a wedding of this fashion before. We were mixing traditional Navajo elements with a contemporary wedding, and we needed someone to guide us through the logistics of how it should look. She took care of things like helping us choose a cake, a makeup artist, and a florist and negotiating with the venue to ensure our needs were met. In a traditional Navajo wedding, there is no talk of any of that, as most weddings are performed at the homestead with everyone pitching in. In this case, we needed guidance, and she did a great job!
Our hardworking and caring family was instrumental in getting our wedding set up. The venue would only make sure it was clean and free of weeds. The rest was up to us. My family then took it upon themselves the day before the wedding to show up and set up late into the night to make sure we didn’t worry about it on the wedding day itself. They also provided the appetizers during our social hour and picked up our wedding cake in Flagstaff, Arizona, which was fifty minutes south of Cameron. We also had a trusted family member with lots of knowledge of Navajo tradition officiate the wedding. Then there were all the little details like the game we played, and someone to coordinate the packing and unpacking of everything we brought to the venue—chairs, decorations, tables, etc. The wedding would not have gone as smoothly without their help. Anything is possible with family!
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Invite more people than what you have planned for. I wish I had sent out more invitations than I originally did. I invited exactly sixty people in my circle of family and friends and thought they would all come, and they didn’t, which meant there were some empty seats I could have filled with others. Lesson learned: invite more people than you planned for; it’ll work out in the end. Also, ENJOY IT! I was so consumed with making sure others were having a good time that I forgot that I was supposed to have a good time too. In hindsight, the wedding was beautiful, but I didn’t realize it till the end.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
The wedding vows. We wrote our own and I felt that meant more to me than anything. We looked each other in the eyes and nothing mattered. To hear my husband tell me how he felt was an incredible feeling! Also, right before we cut our wedding cake my nephew-in-law and my son sang a traditional Navajo blessingway song. As the song progressed, my family and friends joined in and it was soon a chorus of young and old singing to bless our marriage in a good way. I was overwhelmed with love and happiness that I started to cry. It was then I felt so proud to have the culture that I do and to share it with my husband from that day forth.
Some people asked us why we didn’t have a true Navajo wedding, and the truth was I had already been married in that way. In Navajo tradition, you cannot marry twice out of the Navajo wedding basket so we had to get creative. I love my heritage but also respect the laws of it, and I wanted to marry in a way that was respectful but also reflected both our faith and culture. The wedding could be described as a mix of both Navajo tradition and Native American Church (NAC) practices in a contemporary format. With permission from my mother and aunts, we took what we could from our culture such as the washing of the hands and the exchanging of the dowry and incorporated prayer and blessings done with NAC paraphernalia (hawk feathers and burning of cedar) and then added the contemporary elements like my dad walking me down the aisle and the exchanging of the rings. The result was a wedding that had such deep meaning for both of us.