Our Impromptu Seattle Elopement at Kubota Garden

Easy-going and light-hearted with a touch of traditional elegance

Valerie + Aaron
One sentence sum up of the wedding vibe: Easy-going and light-hearted with a touch of traditional elegance.
Planned Budget: Around $30,000 for the original wedding, which was canceled due to COVID-19
Actual Budget: $2,000 for our elopement
Number of Guests: 3
Location: Kubota Garden, Seattle, Washington
Photographer: Mary Kalhor

Where we allocated the most funds: We allocated the most funds to our photographer, Mary Kalhor. We originally planned to work with her for our wedding, which we canceled due to COVID-19. When we decided to elope, we asked her if she could photograph that instead. We are so glad we worked with Mary because now we have photos and memories to share with our loved ones who couldn’t be there.

Where we allocated the least funds: We got married at a public park on a beautiful and sunny day, so fortunately nature was our venue and there was no need for decorating. Our ceremony was brief and we didn’t hold a reception. Our good friend officiated our wedding for free and our witnesses treated us to all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ after!

We also styled each other’s hair for the wedding. Aaron did a blow out on Valerie’s hair after watching a youtube tutorial and Valerie french braided Aaron’s hair.

What was totally worth it: The freedom and ease of eloping!

A few things that helped us along the way: Our ragtag network of friends made it really easy for us to find an officiant and witnesses. They all immediately agreed to help us out for our wedding. Our good friend is an ordained officiant and our two witnesses (a couple) already live in one household. Another one of Valerie’s friends works for the City’s parks department, and he helped us find a nice quiet spot in the garden to hold our ceremony. It also helped that our photographer, Mary, was extremely adaptable to the changes in our wedding plans.

My best practical advice for my planning self: Do what you want and not what you think you have to do.

Favorite thing about the wedding: The garden where we eloped is very special. We got married at Kubota Garden, a 20-acre Japanese garden in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. The garden was started in 1927 by a Japanese master landscaper Fujitaro Kubota and is a designated historic landmark. This garden has a rich history and is a reminder of the importance of preserving physical and cultural spaces created by immigrants and people of color.

Anything else: Valerie wanted to celebrate her Vietnamese-American heritage. She wore a bespoke áo dài and khăn đóng customized for her wedding, and it was designed and made locally. The áo dài is a traditional dress of Vietnam, worn by all genders. The khăn đóng, which is a turban or head scarf, can be worn for formal occasions.


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