Who Needs Cake When You Could Have Hookahs and an Ice Cream Truck?

Mideast meets Midwest... and they do the wobble

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August, attorney & Ramzi, engineer

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: We honored our history, our heritage, and our home.

Planned budget: $25,000

Actual budget: $36,754

Number of guests: 126

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Where we allocated the most funds:

The most funds were allocated to the reception. This included renting the venue, catering/bartending, DJ, buying our own alcohol, rentals, bartender, centerpieces, vintage rental, and ice cream truck.

Location for the reception was a priority for us. This is why we chose the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego. We wanted the guests to feel like they were in San Diego. This indoor/outdoor venue provided sleek city skyline views as well as gorgeous sparkling bay views.

We chose a catering company, The Abbey Catering, whose chef is also of Arab descent, to create a Middle Eastern menu to satisfy both the Middle Eastern guests and the Midwestern ones.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Flowers—the church has a beautiful stained glass window with midcentury modern lighting and woodwork. I didn’t want to compete with that (or pay for flowers), so we told the church that we would not be bringing in any floral arrangements. The floral arrangement on the altar is from a funeral that happened the day before. The only flowers we bought were my bouquet, the bouquets for the bridesmaids, and corsages and boutonnieres.

We ordered invitations from Wedding Paper Divas; however, there were no matching escort cards or table numbers as part of the suite, so we DIY’d them (which was a lot easier that centerpieces)! We chose to do personalized escort cards, giving a little shoutout to each guest. The guests absolutely adored them. Some greetings were in Arabic, Spanish, and Hawaiian.

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What was totally worth it:

The Sweet Treats Dessert and Ice Cream Truck! Our parents are super traditional when it comes to weddings. My mom asked me probably ten times over the course of the eighteen-month engagement about the wedding cake. She probably sent me thirty Pinterest pins with regard to the same. Ramzi and I don’t even like cake, so we wanted to try something different. An ice cream truck was going to cost just as much, or even less, than a cake. We kept it a secret, and told the DJ during the reception to announce that we had a surprise for everyone. Everyone was so stoked when they saw us on the truck, serving them ice cream. It was also fun to do in lieu of a receiving line.
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What was totally not worth it:

Attempting to make my own centerpieces. Hire a freaking expert, for Pete’s sake! Sure, you could make one centerpiece, but twenty-two? Probably not. I felt so relieved when I finally forked over the cash for someone else to just do the damn centerpieces.

Also, the rehearsal dinner was totally not worth it. We tried to plan it, but it kind of became an afterthought, and I think people were more uncomfortable than if they had just made their own plans. We felt like we needed to do something, since we had family and friends coming from Michigan, New York, and Australia for us. I did a crappy job with food and drinks, it was hard to find parking, and I just felt really bad.

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A few things that helped us along the way:

At the beginning, our parents were the enemy. I felt suffocated that they were imposing their will on us left and right with regard to how things should be for this wedding. But then, something happened. I don’t know if it was time, or what, but we received such an outpouring of love and support from our parents. Whatever we needed or wanted, they were there. And that feeling we had of “This is our wedding” kind of went away, and we were more like, “This is for all of us as a family. Because at the bottom of all this pomp and circumstance, we actually do like and love each other.”

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My best practical advice for my planning self:

My best practical advice is to let it go. Once I started to simply let things go, I felt so much better. Making my own centerpieces? Nope! Dessert table? Nope! Trolleys to and from the ceremony? Nope! Wedding favors? Nope! Just let it go.

This is practical advice for future planning brides: Don’t be afraid of your photographer! If you want a picture with a certain group of people, or your family members want pictures with a certain group of people, tell them!! Our photographers were amazing, but I missed out on some photos because I didn’t tell my photographer that I wanted them.

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Favorite thing about the wedding:

My favorite thing about the wedding was probably watching all our friends and family take communion together. Even my friends who are not religious at all came up to the altar to receive a blessing. It was incredibly beautiful and meaningful to me as a person of faith. All of these people, who know us, know us more deeply now because they participated in this ritual with us.

We reveled in having all of our favorite people in one place at one time to help us celebrate our love. There was plenty of “wobble” and dabke dancing, and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
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Anything else to share:

I grew up in Michigan, but studied abroad in Morocco and India in college, and have always been enamored with global style, culture, and food. Ramzi was born in Lebanon, but is of Palestinian descent, and grew up in Los Angeles. We met on Plentyoffish.com. We share a love for the city of San Diego, as well as travel and ethnic food. The inspiration for the wedding was to showcase our beautiful home of San Diego to mostly out-of-town guests, and also celebrate our love of culture and food.

The ceremony happened at All Souls’ Episcopal Church. This church was a compromise. Ramzi’s family is Greek Orthodox Catholic, and I am Protestant. We chose an Episcopalian church because it’s “Catholic lite.” Most of the rituals are the same, but I could take communion. I had my sister walk me down the aisle and “give me away.” I know, I know… so archaic. But hear me out. Due to some complicated father issues, I actually didn’t have a shortage of men to give me away. I had a surplus! My stepfather, my grandpa, and my uncles would all have been awesome candidates. But I chose my only sister, because it’s been me and her since the beginning. This was a way for me to include her. It was a choice that didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, but more importantly, it made me feel good.

We were gifted a zaffe by my mother. A zaffe is a tradition in Middle Eastern weddings, where two dancers and a drummer dance the bride and groom into the wedding reception. I also had henna done on my hand, as is traditional in both Middle Eastern (and Indian) cultures. I had Ramzi’s name written in Arabic; the tradition goes that if he could not find his name, he would owe me money. As of today, I have been unsuccessful in collecting payment. A bridesmaid let us borrow Moroccan lanterns, which we used all around the space. We also hired a vintage rental company to create a Middle Eastern lounge area, complete with our own hookah!

The Info:

Photography: Anika London Photography | Wedding Location: San Diego, California | Ceremony Venue: All Souls’ Episcopal Church | Reception Venue: Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier | Planner: At Your Side Planning | Catering: The Abbey Catering | Rentals: Lauren Sharon Design and Rentals | Invites: Wedding Paper Divas | Entertainment: Premier Entertainment | Ice Cream Truck: Sweet Treats | Flowers: Barliz Flowers

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  • heyqueen

    I love your reception venue and the church. Beautiful!

  • Her Lindsayship

    All of these pictures are incredible (I think my fave is the one of the newlyweds in the car <333), and what an amazing idea with the ice cream truck!! I just have to say, every time someone posts a How We Did It with a huge gap between planned and actual budget, I have Questions. Was $25k your planned budget before you really got started and you had no idea how much things cost? Or did you end up going way over your carefully thought out budget because of some unforeseen venue restrictions? Obviously not necessarily any of my business, as an internet stranger, and I'm not throwing shade (no budget shaming!) I just think it would be good to get that story. Otherwise it's kind of like reading about weddings everywhere else on the Internet, where they just pretend budget is not a thing anybody has to think about.

    In any case, you guys put together a truly beautiful event, and thank you so much for sharing. Congratulations!

    • Kaitlyn

      I have the same questions! As I think about my own wedding, I think I’d rather we over-budget and then be pleasantly surprised when it comes in under (hopefully haha)

      • idkmybffjill

        I would suggest not only doing this, but adding a line item in your budget for incidentals! We ended up basically sticking to our planned budget, but using all of the “wiggle fund” to go over on venue like… right away. Immediately. Part of that was that I really incorrectly gauged the price of the reception, but it would’ve been nice if after that overage we’d still had some more room to spare!

        • NolaJael

          Yes. My partner insists we have 10-15% overrun column for anything we budget for together (home improvement, vacation plans, second reception). So long as you don’t assume that means you have extra play money, it really decreases the stress when there IS an unexpected expense.

          • idkmybffjill

            Totally. The budget we originally created was less than what we could afford technically anyway, so it wasn’t an enormous stress. And we were able to stick to budget and go under in other areas (if anything the immediate overage helped us really clarify our priorities), but it definitely would’ve made us feel less of a WOOPS.

        • Jess

          This is a really great idea. We had a “target” and a “definitely not over” budget in mind. With additions we definitely were over the “target” but stayed below an amount that made us feel uncomfortable.

    • Jess

      My personal experience has been thus, and I’m sure August and Ramzi’s story is different. There are probably a lot of ways this can change depending on the situation.

      I put together a semi-realistic planned budget, based on lots of APW articles. Then people who were contributing financially wanted Expensive Things, and the budget expanded. (Wine upgrades! More food options! More flowers! More fancy invitations!).

      It turns out that some things really did end up being more $ than we expected, too, but on a smaller scale (like a hundred extra for a celebrant, because we went with vendors we really trusted or liked working with rather than a slightly cheaper option).

      For us, we were surprised by some things our people really valued or wanted. We are in a position of not paying for our wedding ourselves, and so when people who were paying were willing to pay more for something they wanted, we let them.

      • Greta

        This was our exact situation! It was not because things cost drastically more than we expected, but because we decided to change the budget as we went due to the strong feelings of family members who were paying for things, and because our vision morphed as we got more into wedding planning.

      • NolaJael

        Yep. Almost everything *I* bought and paid for was near or under budget – because that’s what a budget is and I’m that kind of person. But everyone else? My mom upgraded (and paid for) the cake. My dad upgraded (and paid for) the champagne. My brother-in-law upgraded (and paid for) the house cocktail. It’s a mixed bag – you know they love you and are doing this as a gift (awesome!) but also it moves things away from the simplicity that was the original concept. Not a bad problem to have, of course. :)

      • Her Lindsayship

        That makes a lot of sense. We’re kind of on our own planning-wise, and I guess I take that for granted. I mean, our budget is lower and definitely more rigid because of it, but it’s nice that we’ll have a good deal of control over what our priorities are for that budget!

        • Jess

          Yup! You can totally prioritize and be empowered to say, “Hey, I think this is great, but we need to be conscious of our budget” You have a lot of control over it, and people can respond with, “It’s important enough to me to pay for it myself” or they can say, “I get it, that makes sense.”

          Anybody who says, “You need to spend more money on X, but I’m not willing to help you do that” is wrong!

      • AmandaBee

        “For us, we were surprised by some things our people really valued or wanted.”

        Same here. My grandma cared a lot about our wedding cake, for example. Turns out much of this was because her wedding was super-simple, and the cake kind of symbolized the “party” to her. So while we originally planned on just doing a dessert bar through our caterer, we ended up adding on a cake to make her and some other traditionalists happy. It was money well spent, on our end. Everyone’s family and situation is different, so I think much of that becomes a negotiation between “how much is this money worth” and “how much do other people’s feelings matter to us”.

        • idkmybffjill

          Ooh this! And also… “How much money do we actually have”. We started our budget lower than what we could actually pay for as a couple, and budgeted only for what WE as a couple could pay for. Then family contributed…. so more money existed. This would obviously not apply if there wasn’t more money to be found. If we only had X amount and that was all she wrote, we would’ve probably made different decisions.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Also curious about the budget story here, purely for scientific purposes! At this point, my plan is 1) figure out what we want to do, 2) save money until we can pay for it, and 3) don’t set a date until we know how long saving for everything will take us. Which, it seems, is maybe not the order in which people usually do this.

      • Amy March

        I think it’s actually quite difficult for people to figure out what they want to do and how much it costs. Vendors aren’t great at giving out the info, prices change, and there are dozens of different decisions you can make along the way all of which have different budgetary considerations.

      • jspe

        ah, to be young and in love. ;-) But really – the challenge and labor of figuring out how much it costs to do what we wanted to do meant that if we did that first, we never would have had a wedding. Not because we wanted a wedding we couldn’t afford, but because the devil is in the details. I think you can do some broad strokes estimation and then do what you’re describing, just know that you can’t really plan 3 different weddings. (like, we had two venues we liked. One had more costs included but was a close-by destination, so figuring out those costs would have involved knowing when the wedding would actually be to know how much hotels are at that time of year, or whatever, while pricing out the more DIY option would involve making a decision on how many glasses/plates of each type you needed, or whether the caterer would include it, whether glass or plastic, which changes the cost by an order of magnitude (per glass). but when we were comparison shopping venues I had NO IDEA what all those rentals or disposables cost, and pricing that out before picking a venue would have taken a few hours of calls and research. There’s a point when just setting a date (or deciding on a venue which might make some date decisions for you) and a rough budget gets the ball rolling.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Fair enough! Thanks for your input, you’re right about not being able to plan a wedding multiple times over.

      • Lisa

        We found the APW wedding budget pages really helpful. This one has sample budgets and a spreadsheet:


        They also have a few posts asking people what their budgets and breakdowns were. More than anything, seeing the fantastic range of how much or little people spent helped us realize that we could create whatever budget fit our desires. At that point, we sat down and rated our priorities so we knew that we’d spend more on a photographer but very little on invites, for example. Then we took all of that information and created a really detailed budget. Remember that you can play whack-a-mole with the budget, so if you budget $500 on a dress and you spend $1500, you can move money from another category to cover it. It just means you have to sacrifice in that category or come up with the money later.

        A lot of people use spreadsheets for their budget. We use YNAB (which has been discussed on APW before). It allows me to see exactly how much I have to work with and set goals for categories that I don’t have funds for yet, so that I don’t overspend but can still list them and fill them in as I save.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Thank you!

        • YNAB is incredible! For your whole life, not just wedding budgets.

    • AmandaBee

      My wedding was a “budget” wedding and we watched it but still went over by a bit. Ultimately, it came down to a few things:
      1. Things that we were gonna skip that our families cared about and wanted to help pay for (ex: wedding cake).
      2. Things we originally planned to DIY or do very cheaply, but ultimately decided to go with a slightly pricier option because we felt it was worth it. Much of this was in the form of last-minute expenses that we just decided to go for because we had the money…but not the time.
      3. Costs we underestimated. Like I kinda underestimated the costs of hair/makeup and officiants, but again decided to pony up because we could afford it and DIY wasn’t a great option for us.

      For each of those we could have controlled the costs by cutting things out or going with a cheaper/DIY option. But because we had the money and valued the stuff we decided to spend a bit more. Our original budget was also pretty conservative because we didn’t necessarily expect our families to contribute, so when they did contribute it freed us up to splurge on some things we didn’t originally plan to. But we did try to be thoughtful about it (except maybe at the very end when throw-money-at-it became our problem-solving mantra).

    • Eenie

      We went “over” by quite a bit because we decided that it was easier to pay more than spend more time looking at venues. We could afford the new price, just would have preferred something less expensive.

    • APlus

      Like a lot of people, we made a budget based on what we thought was a reasonable amount to spend, with information gleaned from basic research and APW, as well as knowing what our parents were giving us. We had the money to pay more, but our budget was based more on what we felt like we wanted to spend. We went a bit over because we ended up going with a more expensive venue because we loved it and it was way easier.

    • August Salameh

      Hi! August here.

      This $25K budget came from minimal research. We looked at how much people usually spend in San Diego, and went from there. It was DEFINITELY before we knew how much things actually costs.

      We went over budget because certain things meant a lot to us. For example. Location was really important, so we ended up spending more on that than most people would. As a result, we cut down on decor, but it wasn’t enough too make up for the difference. Additionally, photography and videography were really important. Yes, we could definitely spend less, but we didn’t want to.

      Here is what we spent:

      For us, location was super important. We spent $23,105 on our reception. The $23K included $4,610 for the space, $11,412 for catering, tables, dinnerware, linens, and bartending, $466 for an ice cream truck, $995 for the DJ, $931 for bringing in our own alcohol, $900 for a wedding planner, $750 for centerpieces, and $800 for vintage rentals.

      We also wanted really good photography and videography. We spent $2,929.50 on our photographer and $1,925 on our videographer. We had a family friend volunteer to do our engagement photos for free, so we subtracted that cost from the photography package.

      We spent $550 on invitations from Minted, and we made our own escort cards, table numbers and wedding programs and had them printed at Staples for $175. We spent another $100 bucks on Thank you cards from Zazzle.

      We spent $400 on both of our wedding bands.

      I spent about $683 on my hair, make-up, waxing, lashes, nails and henna.

      We spent $834 on gifts for our bridal party. The seven groomsmen got a photo drawn of them, and I got my five girls punjammies and a gift card.

      We sent $931 on a two day Palm Springs honeymoon.

      We spent $505 on the rehearsal. We rented out our condo club house and bought Pakistani food.

      We spent $540 on the ceremony at my church.

      My dress was $1,608 and alterations were $525.00. My veil was $275. I bought it at a quinceanera shop.

      The hubby’s tux was $150

  • NolaJael

    Both the husband and wife are positively glowing! What a marvelous and fun looking wedding. Thanks for sharing.

  • AmandaBee

    This is so beautiful and looks really fun! Your venue looks perfect and everyone looks so happy. Congrats!

    • Jess

      I was thinking to myself, “This looks like a wedding I would love to be invited to!” It just looks FUN.

  • LJ

    Love the unplugged sign so much. Definitely doing that. I would be SO ANGRY if all I got after paying thousands of dollars for photos was people with phones blocking their faces….. what a good way to communicate that without having to scream “put your fcking phone away!” halfway through the ceremony ;)

    • NolaJael

      We added this pic to our website when asking for a phone-free ceremony and ended with “We want to remember your faces, not your phones!”

      • LJ

        yes yes yes yes yes! :) my true sentiments about phones at weddings is passive-aggressive, so I am trying to find a polite but not cutesy way of saying “if I wanted shitty instagram photos of my wedding I wouldn’t’ve spent $2k on 4 hours of pro photography”….. that drives the message home without being the jerk I’m tempted to be. Awesome!!

        • idkmybffjill

          +1 for a sign, and if possible a gentle reminder from the officiant! “If you’d kindly put all cellphones away”…Some people are bad at reading :)

          • LJ

            hahaha I worked as a park ranger for awhile. I no longer value signs. People just ignore them and they look ugly. :P such a good point.

          • idkmybffjill

            We have signs cause I do hand lettering but they are legit ONLY there for the pretty part. Straight up our Welcome sign says, “Welcome. This Is A Wedding.” because I straight up COULD NOT with cutesy phrases.

          • LJ

            Signs as design can be wonderful – signs whose only purpose is function (park signs) are only like 30% as useful as the people who install them want them to be :P

          • idkmybffjill


          • idkmybffjill

            OH and. I find a verbal reminder to be less irritating than a sign for some reason. A sign feels kind of intense to me, like I as a guest am being reprimanded before I’ve even done anything (I’m not much of a photo taker). But a reminder is like being at the theatre. It’s just part of the show! Turn off your phones, unwrap any candy now haha.

          • LJ

            Totally, I’m sure both are necessary anyways haha.

    • JC

      The officiant at my sister’s wedding prompted the whole wedding party and bride and groom to turn to the audience at the very beginning so that everyone could take photos. Then everyone put the phones down. I really liked the compromise and it was so easy to work into the ceremony.

    • Amy March

      And yet one of the featured pictures on this article includes a man using a cellphone and one taking a photo with an iPad, and it still looks great!

      • LJ

        It’s a great photo despite it, not because of it.

  • Brynna

    I love this – looks super fun and beautiful, especially the ice cream truck! Gorgeous dress, too! Where is it from?

    • August Salameh

      The dress is Wtoo Julienne in rose!! It was the first dress I tried on!

  • NC

    2 things
    First, the way he looks at you…….beautiful!!
    Second, love the picture of the men holding hands.

  • Rose

    I love all the pictures, but wow the portraits in profile! The dress, and the veil, they’re just stunning together. I really love the train, especially.

  • Gina

    This is gorgeous, looks very true to who you are as a couple, and can I just say I LOVE your refreshing honesty in this post! Screw centerpieces, families can be overbearing, but yay ice cream!

  • H

    Can I just say that your mom is a smokeshow and I love her dress? Gorgeous wedding!

    • August Salameh

      Thanks so much! You’d never know she was 49 during the wedding!

    • Laura

      I came here to say this. She’s a stunner!

  • Kelli

    Beautiful wedding! Also, this is a piece of advice I have given to ALL of my friends since I got married two years ago (it is especially true if you, like me, decide not to have attendants): “This is practical advice for future planning brides: Don’t be afraid of your photographer! If you want a picture with a certain group of people, or your family members want pictures with a certain group of people, tell them!! Our photographers were amazing, but I missed out on some photos because I didn’t tell my photographer that I wanted them.” YES.

  • Cellistec

    Aw, this wedding looks so beautiful and so joyful! Not to mention fun. I love the personal details and blending of traditions–the combinations seem so natural.

  • burnsjane

    Wedding Hannover are the best wedding organizer. you’ll discover spectacular designs, motivating gathering thoughts, master arranging exhortation, and the dreamiest special first nights organizer .Congrats!

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  • Lisa

    Not sure if the bride is coming back for more comments since I’m so many days late, but I wanted to ask about the scar on your back. Is it from scoliosis correction? My youngest sister has a similar one, and it made me smile to see another strong, beautiful woman who has maybe gone through the same thing she did rocking a gorgeous open-backed dress.

  • Austyntatious

    I want to name my (future) daughter August so this post makes me unreasonably happy. :) lovely wedding. looks like so much fun!!

  • LS

    All I see is pure joy and love! The ice cream truck was an awesome idea!