Our $20K Bohemian Vintage Fantasia Queer Wedding

When your wedding theme is DECADENCE

matthew, artist & tarot reader & peter, photographer

sum-up of the wedding vibe: A brilliant day of love and light that seemed to tell many stories of friends and family and the land somehow in a single day.

Planned Budget: $15,000
Actual Budget: $20,000
Number of Guests: 95
Location: John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, California
photographer: From SF With Love

Where we allocated the most funds:

We wanted the day to feel bountiful with beautiful organic, locally sourced foods, wines, flowers, and cocktails and a lot of our budget definitely went to libations despite being able to do trade for some of it. We also had a very specific aesthetic and spent a lot of time and energy creating it, not to mention all the magic our friends brought to the table. Because all these resources pulled together for one event, we felt that we wanted the affair very well-documented and in an artful way. We decided that having a professional photographer we dug was a priority! We had done an event with Laurie, our photographer, before and knew how beautifully she crafts her images—they always seem to be stories rather than just snapshots.

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The cost of  cake was a bit of a shock. But we liked a lot of the symbolism about wedding cakes and there were quite a few family traditions in regard to it (like making the top layer fruit cake and preserving it for the one year anniversary), so we decided to splurge a little. Matthew was attached to the local bakery that made many of his family’s desserts for rites of passage over the years, so we ordered our cake from them.

Where we allocated the least funds:

We got really crafty and resourceful when it came to our decor and our apparel. We thrifted for china, glassware, and lace table cloths instead of renting. We painted and printed our own save the dates, invitations, programs, and menus. We dyed our table linens out of drop cloths instead of paying top dollar for natural fabric linen rentals. We embroidered Matthew’s jacket , and with the help of friends embellished and altered our hats and blouses. Almost all of our apparel was bought at friend’s vintage stores or second-hand. Our venues held lots of sentimental value and also happened to be cost effective as the ceremony was held at a National Park site and the reception was held at Matthew’s old family parish. Having two locations close by, but one without much parking, did mean, however, that we needed to provide some sort of transportation for guests. We were afraid this would eat up what we saved, but as it was a weekday and daytime the rates for buses were better and The Mexican Bus was not only fun and charming but was pretty affordable.

What was totally worth it:

Pretty much everything! We loved where we were married, who was there with us, the adornments we wore, the food and drink we reveled in, all of the presentation and artful touches that embellished the day. There were moments putting it together when costs were adding up, and we almost didn’t choose to have homemade textiles or more paper lanterns or extra desserts. But we were creating our dream Victorian-fairy-Gatsby-witchy decadent affair, and we’re glad we stayed true to our vision. And we are so thrilled we can enter back into those glimmering memories through Laurie’s photographs.

What was totally not worth it:

Cutting costs when it came to servers and cleaning crew. It meant that guests and our family ended up having to jump in and we spent the whole of the next day cleaning up from the reception. It would have been nicer—obviously—to be luxurious and social the day following our wedding. We also in hindsight wish we had been a little more flexible with our guest list. In order to cut some costs, we tried to keep our guest list below 100. Now a year later we wished we had gone five guests over and not omitted some of our “maybe” list.

A few things that helped us along the way:

We are lucky enough to have a very talented and caring community that wanted to show up for us the day of. Having artists, musicians, chefs, and stylists in our crew meant that some of the incredible details of the day were gifts and labors of love. Some of the businesses that we work with were also willing to provide some of their amazing services for trade. I think that our attitude and taste were a bit of saving grace as well. We both aren’t into perfection, we’re more wabi-sabi when it comes to aesthetics and even coordination. There is something beautiful and loving in a scramble and an awkward moment.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Communicate! The more your ideas are shared and conveyed to those helping you or with different vendors, the smoother everything will go. We made some almost-fatal errors by not making sure our expectations didn’t exist only in our heads. Also really grasp the concept that once the wedding begins you can not manage the event and be at the center of it at the same time. It’s worth paying the money for more help in conducting the affair so that you and your loved ones can enjoy it in greater ease. Don’t write the vows the morning of! It’s too important to leave to the last minute and was stressful for us .

Favorite thing about the wedding:

There are a lot of favorites. It’s hard to choose. We loved how our vision played out organically, mingling with those of friends and family. PLAY feels like the right word to sum up what we most loved throughout the day. People from throughout our lives showed up to play with us, showing their love through being joyous and mirthful. And the greatest honor of all was the feeling that nature itself took an interest in our union—pulling out all the stops as the clouds and mist parted the moment we kissed at our ceremony—turning a rather cold damp day into one that was warm and blissful for our reception. There was a lot of synchronicity and serendipity throughout the day making us aware of how precious these sacred moments were. As words and memories kept seemingly coming full circle and falling into place we kept feeling aware of the unity of it all. The idea of how it is all one song.

Anything else:

Our wedding we not only found to be beautiful and fun, but in also immensely healing for us both on multiple levels. We both had experiences in our lives where not everyone was thrilled that we were gay. And it took some time before we felt truly accepted. And when moving towards our dreams over the past couple of years there has been some resistance too at times. To stand in front of our entire families and communities and feel such blessing and genuine love and well-wishing really felt as if it patched some old wounds. It was a transformative experience that really made a difference in the way we want to love each other and those around us.


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