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Michelle and Andrew’s Santa Cruz Celebration

Where your wedding was held: We wed on a huge enclosed lawn at a public park in Ben Lomond, California. We knew we wanted to have our ceremony and reception at the same place, and the Highlands House and Park in Ben Lomond was perfect because it was affordable, and we could start outside and move inside as the notoriously chilly Santa Cruz evening came upon us.We advertised the wedding as a wedding weekend, hoping that since it was being held on Memorial Day weekend, our family and friends could make a mini-vacation out of it. After the wedding, those who were staying in town met up on Pacific Ave. in downtown Santa Cruz, where we began a post-wedding pub crawl (and made it to last call!). The next day, we all relaxed on the beach playing more games and visiting. It could not have been more fun or more perfect.

What made your wedding creative: Leading up to the wedding, we would often get a kick out of relatives who would tell us how much they were looking forward to this “interesting” and “different” wedding. I suppose what they were referring to is the fact that we didn’t go with traditional simply for the sake of being traditional.
We asked our two best friends to officiate the ceremony together because we wanted it to be personal and we so admire their marriage. We opted to see each other before the wedding (gasp!) and take our portraits then so we would not lose time with our friends and family after the ceremony. Rather than have our guests sit and patiently small talk while waiting for us to finish taking photos and make a grand entrance, we joined them on the lawn to play games, snack and visit before dinner. And we let our small wedding party wear what they were comfortable with. My sisters both chose dresses that were completely their own individual styles, and Andrew’s buddies brought khaki pants and a white shirt with coordinating ties.

When it came to “traditions,” we defied wedding website advice and just let things happen naturally without a schedule (how it probably used to be not too long ago!). As dinner wound down, my dad spontaneously made a beautiful toast. We had our first dance because we moved inside the house and Sarah McLachlan’s “Push” was playing. And there was no cake cutting since the cupcakes were devoured immediately after we moved the party inside.As for the details, my artistic medium of choice is paper, with wood coming in a close second. We designed our invitations, welcome fans (programs), drink tags and all of the instructions signs, which were placed in photo frames I already owned. Armed with scissors, decorative punches, cardstock and scrapbook paper, stamps, ribbon, double-stick tape, and a very compliant home laser printer, we cut, folded, and taped until our fingers were sore.One of the aspects that took me the longest but was completely worth it was scanning in about 100 old family photos and using a web program to turn them into vintage polaroid-style images, which we hung on a line in the entrance to the house. Those were the source of much laughter and reminiscing throughout the evening.What made your wedding thrifty: I am the queen of recycling and reusing! I did not want to spend money on things that felt wasteful or bad for the environment, so I made an effort to use things I already had around the house or could borrow from someone else (lots of baskets, serving platters, photo frames, mason jars), and when I had to buy things, I tried to only buy things I could reuse or sell after the wedding. And I scoured the thrift stores and the flea market before I would pay full price for anything!

From the get-go, I tried to steer clear of any business that had the word wedding in its name. We cut back on vendors big time, only using our rental company for things we couldn’t buy practically (silverware, glassware, market umbrellas). Our tables and chairs were provided by the venue, and I bought bulk fabric at $2 a yard to cut into tablecloths. We ordered most of our food from a nearby BBQ restaurant, then made what we knew we could – a green salad, corn muffins, lemonade and iced tea, snack foods that didn’t need to be prepped (like grapes and strawberries, cheese and crackers, and Goldfish crackers!). My kid sister made cupcakes in lieu of a wedding cake. Dinner was served family-style, and all of the serving dishes came from a local dollar store. And instead of hiring help from a company, we posted to the UC Santa Cruz job board and got four amazing college kids who worked their tails off prepping the food when it arrived and making sure everyone was fed and happy.My aunts made my dress from fabric bought at a discount fabric store in San Jose. Andrew’s jacket came from one store on clearance and his pants from another. I made his tie out of excess dress fabric, a sewing project that only took about two hours. Our photographers, Jenny Lin and her team, are art students who graduated from the high school where we teach. We opted to play music from an iPod instead of hire a DJ. All of the flowers for the wedding were bought at Trader Joe’s for less than $100, and my sisters and I made the bouquets in less than an hour the day before. All included (even rings!), the wedding cost us just under $6,000.What made your wedding sane: First and foremost, knowing that we were not spending a lot of money that we didn’t have kept us really sane. We had been together nine years to the day on our wedding day, and one thing that kept us from getting married earlier was the feeling that weddings were a waste of money. At the end of our wedding weekend, we both agreed that it was totally worth it, but I’m not sure we would have felt the same if it had left us with debt.

The second factor in staying sane was getting help and being flexible. My sisters, parents, grandparents, and aunts were a huge help in the weeks leading up to the wedding. They were willing to take ideas in my head and turn them into tangible things, which was great.

On the day of, we had two major crises. The first was traffic and miscommunication that led to our set-up team arriving late. Instead of freaking out (too much, anyway), we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. I ran around the venue in my dress setting up chairs, arranging tables, and unpacking stuff. The second crisis was leaving both my iPod and computer at my grandmother’s house 45 minutes away (Hint: put your system and your backup system in separate boxes). We ended up using one of our groomsmen’s iPod for the ceremony and my cousin’s iPod for the dancing afterward. Since it wasn’t our playlist, she volunteered to be our unofficial DJ for the evening and it worked out just fine.The last thing is almost a Team Practical cliché, but it is so true. We decided at the very beginning which of those wedding things were important to us (a meaningful ceremony, having fun, good food, feeling comfortable), then we cut back on all the rest. At every stage of the process, we asked ourselves, “Is this necessary?” I think that practice, not only in wedding planning but in marriage, helps to keep you sane, or should I say, practical.

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