Hayley, Family Physician & Justin, Writing Professor
sum up of the wedding vibe: A union of theatre lovers with an intimate and interactive ceremony… plus jazz brunch.
Planned Budget: $15,000
Actual Budget: $22,000
Number of Guests: 80
Location: Pasadena Shakespeare Club | Pasadena, California
Where we allocated the most funds:
Food, venue, and photography. Planning a semi-destination wedding in Hayley’s hometown of Pasadena allowed us to keep the numbers smaller so we could prioritize and afford quality. Given the jetlag factor (we were flying from Pennsylvania) and our love of brunch, we decided on a daytime event with French crepes, pastries, and an amazing buffet for a very reasonable price, all delivered by our spectacular chef, Yuri, and his team at Catering of Paris. But this wasn’t the first plan. We had originally booked the wedding at a restaurant, but when this intended venue went out of business (fortunately, for us, early in the planning process) we returned to a place we had been thinking about from the beginning: the historic Shakespeare Club of Pasadena. The Club was truly the perfect place for us: a Shakespeare scholar marrying the daughter of a Shakespearean actor. And it was a great deal for the Los Angeles area, including a long rental with flexible set up time, plus tables and chairs—a big win. We knew we wanted a photographer who could capture the aesthetic and emotion of the day (and who would roll with our unconventional structure). We found Evangeline here on A Practical Wedding and loved her effortless, documentary-style photography.
Where we allocated the least funds:
Decorations, florals, and printed materials. The Shakespeare Club had such fabulous and relevant decor already. With the help of family and friends, Hayley crafted unique centerpieces: stationary boxes and trays representing our favorite plays (e.g., Hamlet, Hamilton) with antique inkwells, feather quills, and custom writing supplies. For flowers, we rented beautiful, economic, and environmentally-friendly silk florals from Something Borrowed Blooms, which could not have been more efficient. Their delightful Kinsley Collection arrived in the mail two days before the wedding, and we sent the box back to them the day afterward. We highly recommend them for destination weddings or couples conflicted (as we were) about the cost of wedding flowers. Finally, we also designed the invitations, place-card “tickets” and wedding “playbill” on Vistaprint, using non-wedding specific templates like business cards and brochures. We were completely happy with all these choices.
What was totally worth it:
Really, almost everything. Moving from a restaurant to the Shakespeare Club required the coordination (from across the country) of a lot more vendors and details, but it also freed us to create the truly unique experience we were hoping for. Enter our wedding coordinator, Renee of Moxie Bright Events, a former theatre performer and experienced wedding-planning professional, to help carry out our vision for the day. Also, we found our freelance bartender, Ruben, at a favorite neighborhood restaurant, and he created an amazing craft cocktail menu for us. We delivered crates of citrus fruit to the venue, BevMo! delivered the alcohol, and Ruben made magic at the bar. Instead of hotel blocks, we booked a large Airbnb for us to enjoy with our out-of-town wedding party. That built in a lot more hang-out time in between events and allowed us to delegate last-minute tasks more easily.
What was totally not worth it:
Not much. Perhaps plastic barware (and maybe even tableware) would have been just fine. Certainly no need for the Heineken, because everyone drank craft cocktails and the espresso beverages from our barista (another splurge, but a sage recommendation from our caterer).
A few things that helped us along the way:
Our own creativity, and that of our friends, family, and vendors, was an essential component. Hayley’s mom, a professional jazz pianist, played Hayley down the aisle, put together a superb band, and created a vocal arrangement for the bridal party to sing in the ceremony. Many other friends and family contributed artistic and organizational talents. We also appreciated having alternative wedding blogs like A Practical Wedding and Bridechilla that helped us feel confident in our choices.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Delegate tasks. Go with your gut. Remember what you are celebrating. Only DIY/craft if you find those activities fun and stress-relieving. Once the day (or weekend) begins, try to let go of everything and let yourself be SO excited to see all those people you love in one place.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Our ceremony! We had always talked about having a wedding “variety show,” where we would collaboratively officiate the ceremony with our wedding party, with everyone contributing in their own way. The result was a 50-minute, multifaceted, interactive performance, following the pre-ceremony coffee and cocktail hour (feeding people first was an excellent choice). Justin’s favorite moment was the processional. Led by the groom, each member of the wedding party entered the hall (with their own significant others, rather than an assigned partner) to the West African music of Amadou and Mariam (“Sundays in Bamako Are the Days for Weddings”), and the guests spontaneously started clapping to the exuberant beat. Justin spent much of his childhood in West Africa, so the rhythms and traditions of that region featured prominently throughout the wedding weekend.
Hayley couldn’t pick one favorite moment. The bride and groom’s early email correspondence was read hilariously by their siblings. Justin performed a scene from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with his groomsmen. There was a writing workshop, a reflection on the history and evolution of marriage (complete with The Princess Bride quotes), a ring-warming ritual, and a bridal serenade of “My Romance.” We finished with vows we had written both together and individually, followed by a group pronouncement that we were “wife and husband.” There was a lot of laughter, and more than a few happy tears. It felt relaxed and exhilarating, all at once.