Alyssa, Director of Marketing & Tom, VP of Business Development
sum-up of the wedding vibe: A joyful day at the beach and geek-chic party with our loved ones.
Where we allocated the most funds:
Convenience for our guests was our priority, so it was essential that we selected an all-in-one venue. As soon as we walked into the gorgeous lobby of the Monterey Tides Hotel with panoramic views of Monterey Bay, we knew that we had found the location for our wedding. I had always wanted to get married with my feet in the sand, so it was perfect that we could have a beach ceremony, outdoor cocktail hour, and ballroom reception in one place. The hotel took care of the catering, and we splurged on an open bar for the entire night, so our all-inclusive venue attributed to half our budget. We also covered the travel costs for our officiant, day-of coordinator, and VIPs to ensure that the only thing they focused on was having a wonderful time.
Where we allocated the least funds:
We are fortunate enough to have crazy-talented friends and family. The only professional florals we paid for were the bridal bouquet, boutonnieres, and arch spray. All of my bridesmaids had floral design experience—they bought most of the flowers from Costco and Sam’s Club and constructed all the bridal party bouquets and centerpieces. One bridesmaid is a former makeup artist and did all our makeup. Another is an event planner and DIY’d our photo booth area with props from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Pokemon, and more. My brother is a professional graphic designer and created our geek-themed seating chart, menus, table numbers, and other signage. Their help was a huge weight off our shoulders, and everything looked amazing.
What was totally worth it:
Hiring a day-of coordinator kept my anxiety—albeit naturally high and especially on that day—from reaching stratospheric levels. I’ve worked with Christina Oh since we joined the marketing team of a tech startup, and since then, she’s founded her own event planning company, Whoa Events. I already knew that she was the absolute best at creating stellar experiences that everyone would remember, and I’m honored that our wedding was one of them.
What was totally not worth it:
After spending way too much time on Pinterest, we originally fell in love with using LEGO mini-figures for custom escort cards. We researched where to purchase figures from our favorite fandoms, but after tallying everything up, it was clear we would have spent hundreds of dollars that we didn’t need to. Instead, we printed the seating chart my brother designed via Vistaprint, which was adorable and much easier to transport.
A few things that helped us along the way:
It helps that I’m in marketing and already run a really tight ship when it comes to organization, scheduling, budgets, and communication, but APW’s books and blog took my skills to the next level. I know that I’m preaching to the choir here, but this community is the best resource in the industry, hands down. That said, one wild card I didn’t expect that loosened us up and helped us enjoy the planning process was dance lessons. Our instructor Brandee was an absolute delight to work with and her enthusiasm was contagious. In just a few sessions, she taught us a choreographed ballroom routine to Lana del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” (we’re huge fans of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby). We blew everyone away with our moves, thanks to Brandee.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
There’s an incessant urge to personalize everything to make your special day original, but at the end of the day, a wedding is a wedding is a wedding. Invest in the things that truly matter to you, but don’t kill yourself trying to make everything unique. We bought gifts and favors in bulk, and I blatantly took the idea of our beach ball send-off from APW. It was the cutest ever!
Favorite thing about the wedding:
After we made our grand entrance and sat down at our sweetheart table, it was touching to take it all in and see everyone we loved surrounding us. After all the stress of planning, everything had paid off and we could finally enjoy the moment.
It may be a taboo topic, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the legal and financial benefits of marriage. Tom works in finance and gets sappy over topics of life insurance and long-term care, so it was important to both of us that we reflect our mutual interests in a prenuptial agreement (which was a separate cost not listed in our budget). Prenups aren’t about anticipating your marriage’s downfall—they’re about preserving the best versions of yourselves and promising to treat one another with dignity and respect no matter what the future holds. In a way, our prenup was the most romantic gift we could give each other.