Jen, poet & Patrick, artist/designer
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: An unpretentious but tasteful wedding that defied the expectations of our guests.
Planned budget: $15,000
Actual budget: $22,000
NUMBER OF GUESTS: 100
Where we allocated the most funds:
We wanted to spend most of our budget on our photographers and caterers, because we tried to focus on planning an experience for our guests. Capturing that experience in the form of photography, to us, was a form of commissioning art. The venues where we held our service and celebration came in as the third and fourth largest expenses, and we were happy to spend that money on organizations that use it to provide safe and special spaces for a range of members of the Oakland community.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Event décor—we felt that “decorating” the cathedral would detract from the beauty of the space on its own, and we chose the Oakland Aviation Museum because it is a fantastic space as-is. We used premade table decorations, including paper airplanes, and relied on bouquets from the wedding party to embellish the head table. Our wedding invitations were also paper airplanes that Patrick designed, which guests folded up in order to read the details of our day. Instead of a guestbook, Patrick designed a poster that we asked our guests to sign, and a sign that read “co-pilots,” which we hung in front of our seats. Because Jen loves flower arranging, she made bouquets for herself and her bridesmaids, and because we realized at some point we were actually planning a Top Gun themed wedding, Patrick asked his dad to assemble the gold F-14 to top our cake. His dad added a veil to the co-pilot’s head just for Jen.
What was totally worth it:
What brought us the most joy was having our friends and family see the world the way we do for a day. We spent more time than money on the aspects of the day that were in our primary control, and more money than time on aspects of the day that were beyond our control (like the food and photography), relying on artists we trust and love. Venga Paella cooked the food onsite, which offered a performative aspect to the meal. Helena and Laurent captured moments of the day that we still remember, and many we did not see until several weeks afterward. To see our day from their perspective was worth every penny.
What was totally not worth it:
The wedding website. We used Appy Couple, which is great: The platform is easy to personalize, manage, and use. However, many guests thought the save-the-date was a gimmick—Patrick designed it to resemble an airline ticket, and even included a QR code that linked directly to the site. Many guests ended up calling our parents, beginning games of telephone that eventually led us to link them to our Appy Couple page, which they agreed was beautiful and useful in the end. If the people you’re inviting are, by and large, not tech-savvy, then the app might not be the best way to deliver critical information.
A few things that helped us along the way:
Once we booked our venues, we realized we were adhering to many wedding conventions that, ideologically, we disagree with. Giving ourselves permission to plan our wedding around these conventions really helped us make design decisions that we were happy with in the end, and gave us the space to let our parents step in when and where they wanted. Jen’s mom, for example, planned the tea ceremony, but passed the traditions and knowledge onto Jen, while her dad took professional dance lessons to learn the foxtrot so they could dance to a song Jen’s grandmother used to sing (“Yellow Bird”). Patrick’s mom picked out the dresses for our flower girls and even made a girls’ day out of it. Recognizing that the planning labor involved was an opportunity to deepen family bonds helped us see that we spent our time in the year leading up to the wedding in many meaningful ways, and enabled our friends and family to find moments of meaning, too. Although we still do not agree with certain wedding principles, we realize that these “requisite” elements enabled the moments we found special—that are now mere memories—to occur at all.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
What we realized at our wedding is that there is a potential for surprises to happen, and things that may “disrupt” the imposed order you had in mind. There is value in seeing that these are opportunities for your friends and family to insert themselves and deepen the meaning of your day. Our parents secretly collaborated on a slideshow of our baby pictures, and it means so much to us to imagine the friendship that bloomed in that time. The slideshow ended up filling the space between the first and second dinner courses, which took Venga Paella slightly longer to prepare than anticipated. Toward the end of the evening, when “All the Single Ladies” came on (in the playlist that Patrick made), his brother came up to us and asked if there would be a bouquet toss, so Jen demanded that all the ladies get on the floor. Jen’s mom’s maid of honor (from her 1983 wedding!) caught the bouquet, to her own surprise and everyone’s delight.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
We are not “theme people,” but once we booked our venue, we had so much fun embracing all things airplane-related. Jen’s mom’s friend Freya called upon her skills as a retired flight attendant to introduce our wedding party; Patrick’s mom’s best friend, Suzanne, surprised us with a beautiful illustration of a bride and groom flying away with a “just married” sign that we used to adorn our cake table. And now, whenever we see airplanes in the sky, or head to the airport, we’re reminded of our wedding day.
Anything else TO SHARE:
Making as much of the day happen as we did, according to our own idea of what a wedding is, and composing the elements of our day to our own making, felt insane in the moment. It was the source of a lot of concern and stress, but ultimately, looking back on it, we would not have changed a single thing. We transformed our beautiful bridal suite into a working artists’ studio and worked out of it until the morning of the wedding. And when the work stopped, our only concern was about embracing the moment. We promised each other that this was what the day would be about.