How We Made a Greenhouse Beautiful for Our Unplugged Wedding


66 guests and a budget of $23,000

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Melissa & Alex

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A romantic greenhouse wedding that truly reflected us.

Planned budget: $18,000

Actual budget: $23,000

Number of guests: 66

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Where we allocated the most funds:

Catering: We spent nearly half our budget on catering (including rentals)—and it was completely worth it because our caterers, Caroline Hummer and Guillermo Perez of Fogcutter, went above and beyond for us. We wanted to treat our guests to a really beautiful meal, and we had a lot of different palates to please, so we put a lot of thought into making the whole experience enjoyable (and delicious!) for our guests.

Photography: We spent a big chunk on photography, knowing that we were going to forego videography, with no regrets. We love the way that Helena and Laurent approach weddings and life in general, and from seeing their work, we felt that we could trust them completely to capture the emotion of our day. We love their perspective, and we’re still blown away by how beautifully they captured our wedding day.

Florals: I thought we’d spend the least on florals—after deciding on the greenhouse, we thought, how much more greenery do we need?—but we ended up spending a lot, mostly because of last minute additions like the floral arch (which we’re so glad we added).

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Decor: We used things from our home to decorate the space. The side table, rugs, candleholders, picture frames, trays are all things from home. Our friends were like, “We recognize this from your apartment!” which I thought was so funny. The things I did buy for the wedding were found at thrift stores, Ikea, Target (I stalked the clearance aisles for months), and weirdly, H&M. The style and design of the wedding lived in my brain for over a year, and I’m really proud of how it all turned out. We wanted it to feel romantic and a little moody, and reflective of our style and vibe.

Hotel and Transportation: We live twenty minutes away from our venue, so we slept at home the night before the wedding and drove ourselves to the wedding the next day. I got ready at our apartment, and Alex went to a friend’s apartment to get ready. We contemplated staying at a hotel the night of the wedding, and worried that it wouldn’t feel “romantic” enough if we didn’t, but it was honestly perfect. We love our home together, and at the end of night, it was the only place we wanted to be.

Wine and Beer: Alex’s friend co-owns a local wine bar, so he got wines for us at wholesale prices and gifted us a variety of beers to serve at the wedding. He also provided galvanized tubs for us, so we saved on that, too.

Entertainment: We didn’t have a professional DJ and we didn’t rent a sound system. Alex made the perfect playlist, set up his own speakers and laptop, and we asked a friend to help us DJ (push play and stop when appropriate). We spent the money on a bowling after party instead, and treated our guests to bowling, beers, and the world’s best churros.

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What was totally worth it:

Having an unplugged ceremony: No cameras (besides Helena’s and Laurent’s), cell phones, or iPads. Asking our guests to “unplug” was totally worth it. It was really nice to walk down the aisle without cameras and phones pointed at us, and to look out at the room during the ceremony and see faces, not phones.

Asking a friend to officiate was our best idea: It meant so much to us to have a friend we both love marry us. We collaborated with her on the ceremony script, and she made sure that we did what felt right for us. We decided not to do a reading or poem (all of our favorites felt too out of context, or only we would understand their significance), so instead, our officiant asked our friends to write something about us. During the ceremony, she had our best friend read what each person wrote, and it was so touching. We loved it.

Making our parents happy: One of the most common pieces of advice you get when you’re planning a wedding is to do what you want because it’s your wedding. I agree, but I also think there’s value in making the people you love happy. Your own happiness is often derived from the happiness of the people you love (to a healthy extent, hopefully), and this is true when it comes to weddings. We made compromises (just a few; we’re lucky that our parents were largely supportive of what we wanted) and incorporated things that we knew our parents wanted—like a rehearsal dinner and the water blessing ceremony. It was so worth it because our parents loved our wedding, and even months later, they love reminiscing about it, which makes us so happy.

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What was totally not worth it:

We don’t have any major regrets, but I do wish I had prioritized my energy better in the last two to three weeks before the wedding. Instead of finishing my vows, I was doing things like making marble placeholders out of oven-bake clay. (Why did I do that?) My best woman was over at my apartment printing name cards until midnight the night before the wedding, and I was up until 2 a.m. finishing my vows. All because I poorly planned the last fifteen or so remaining days and thought we really needed hand-dyed shibori napkins.

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A few things that helped us along the way:

Having talented and generous friends: Our friends contributed to the ceremony script, helped set up the day before, welcomed and took Instax photos of our guests, played DJ, and so much more. One of our best friends sang Cat Power’s version of “Sea of Love” while I walked down the aisle, and it meant everything to me.

Hiring a day-of coordinator: It’s so helpful (and necessary) to be able to hand everything over to somebody on the day of the wedding, whether it’s a professional planner or a really nice and organized friend or family member. Our day-of coordinator, Lorraine Lee of Harvesting Love Events, started working with us about six weeks before the wedding, and it was helpful to have somebody oversee all of the small but significant details.

APW: I credit my sanity during the wedding planning process to APW and APW’s readers whose comments were wise and reassuring (thank you!!!). Yes, the general rule of the Internet is Don’t Read The Comments, but I learned that doesn’t apply here. I looked to the comments for stories, advice, ideas, and affirmations.

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My best practical advice for my planning self:

Do what feels right for you as a couple. Skip the “traditions” that aren’t meaningful to you and don’t look back. You will not miss them at all! We didn’t cut a cake or have a first dance (and so many other things that couples traditionally do), and we do not regret it at all.

Hire vendors who you like as people (and obviously, who are good at their jobs). It’s wild how much time you end up spending with your vendors, especially your photographers (who you will probably spend more time with on your wedding day than some of your guests!). So, it’s really important that you feel comfortable and like hanging out with them. If you hire a hair and makeup artist for you and your wedding party, s/he will be a big part of your morning. I spent so much time with my hair and makeup artist Lynn Yee (doing a trial, engagement session, etc.) that we ended up becoming good friends and still hang out regularly! I love that she’s in my getting ready photos. Same with my custom wedding dress designer, Tashina Hunter, who worked closely with me on my dress and who I grew to love so dearly. Choosing vendors who we liked personally (and who we completely trusted!) made the experience and memory of our wedding extra special.

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Favorite thing about the wedding:

We loved all the little moments we had alone together throughout the wedding day, but we loved our ceremony most of all. The ceremony felt so magical. We were floating, and everything felt perfect. I don’t know if it was obvious from our guests’ point of view, but Alex’s eyes were welling up as he said his vows to me, and I wanted to stop everything and hug him, but I was also trying so hard not to ugly-cry. It was intense and emotional and so beautiful. We’ll never forget it. We also really loved seeing all of our best people, from different parts of our life, in one room together.

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The Info:

Photography: Helena + Laurent | Wedding Location: Pacifica, CA | Wedding Venue: Shelldance Orchid Gardens | Melissa’s Custom Wedding Dress: Miss Tashina | Melissa’s Hairpiece: Olivia the Wolf | Melissa’s Earrings: WWAKE | Melissa’s Engagement Ring: Michelle Oh | Melissa’s Wedding Band: N+A NY | Alex’s Suit: Theory | Alex’s Wedding Band: Fiat Lux | Catering: Fogcutter | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Day-of Coordination: Harvesting Love Events | Hair and Makeup: Lynn Yee Makeup | Florals: Ampersand

 

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  • rg223

    Gorgeous wedding! Can I ask about the ceremony with the water that’s pictured? We did a blessing with water at a Burmese monastery after our wedding and I’m wondering if it’s a similar tradition.

  • Essssss

    I love everything about this! So beautiful! Where is that pretty water colored bridesmaid’s dress from??

    • Melissa Phatharanavik

      Hi! Thanks so much for the kinds words! The water color dress is Rachel Roy from Macy’s. I picked it up two years ago, so it’s sadly not available anymore. :(

  • Rebekah

    Grandma Laughing is the best photo! I love it!

  • BR

    We got married at Shelldance a few years ago and I love seeing how other couples use the space. Such a magical spot and it looks like you had a wonderful day. Congrats!

    • Melissa Phatharanavik

      Thanks for your sweet comment, BR! I love seeing how other couples used the space too, and it was really helpful for me when I was planning. Shelldance is such a special place!

  • nosio

    I am swooning at all these photos. Congrats!

  • mui

    congratulations!!! =)

  • Jane

    You did the strings of carnations thing! And it looks so great and elegant!

  • Sarah Porter

    Seriously the coolest wedding. I’d get married again (to the same guy, of course!), just to have that greenhouse wedding AND have Helena and Laurent photograph our wedding. Also, I’d invite your adorable family.

  • Jess Chen

    Beautiful wedding! Using Fogcutter as well. Can you tell me more about these… Churros???

    • Melissa Phatharanavik

      Hi Jess! VERY happy to tell you more about these churros, haha. Fogcutter didn’t cater the after-party which we had at Sea Bowl in Pacifica (just down Highway 1 from our venue). Their churros aren’t artisanal or anything (I’m pretty sure they’re frozen churros), but they’re cream-filled and fried to perfection.