How We Crafted a Lively Ski Lodge Wedding Weekend

Imagine your favorite family vacation mixed with that one Christmas episode of Newhart. Plus s’mores.

Addie, Managing Director of a Fitness Company & Skully, Coastguardsman

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: Imagine your favorite family vacation mixed with that one Christmas episode of Newhart. Plus s’mores.

Planned Budget: $20,000

Actual Budget: $18,825 (including site visit, travel, and mini-honeymoon)

Number of Guests: 39

Where we allocated the most funds:

The venue took up the largest part of our budget. We live in Florida but really wanted a winter wedding, complete with snow. So we chose a small town in Vermont that I vacation in regularly. We found a ski lodge that could house, feed, and host the wedding all on one location. They organized all the rentals, handled the bar, baked the cake, and cooked all the meals. Since it was a destination wedding weekend, we wanted to host our guests as much as possible. We paid for the rehearsal dinner, welcome celebration, wedding reception, and Sunday breakfast. The guests paid for their rooms. We chose a venue that made all the meals in house using local ingredients; we chose menus items that were easily scalable for the rehearsal dinner and non-reception meals to cut down on costs. We planned the whole wedding from a distance, so choosing a venue that covered all the bases was paramount. We couldn’t have asked for a better venue. When a snowstorm cancelled many flights after the wedding, the lodge honored all the discounted room rates for those stuck three extra days. They even let us have access to their kitchen to cook our meals.

Our second largest (and frankly, most important) wedding budget item was our wedding planner Kelly. Hiring a wedding planner seemed like one of those things that only people with large budgets can afford to do. And like a good photographer, they are a large portion of the budget. But choosing to spend our money on a wedding planner instead of a different venue or a photographer was worth its weight in gold. Who cares if you have a world-class photographer if you spend your wedding weekend crying in the closet from the stress? You can’t Photoshop a breakdown out of your pictures. So in the spirit of keeping my sanity, I hired a wedding planner. Kelly was organized, patient, and more creative than me. She took my vaguely formed ideas like “Newhart-like, but using this paper pattern, and a bit like your eighth grade dance, but with cashmere and in the winter” and turned it into a gorgeous nostalgia filled, vintage winter wedding.

Hiring a planner meant that I could fully concentrate on the creative tasks of my choosing, but that our table numbers would also look pretty nice. She organized the rentals with the venue and spent the night before the wedding stringing up twinkle lights from the rafters while I hung out with family and friends. It was DIT, but with people who were contractually obligated to help. I did most of the crafts before we got to Vermont; she put it all together. She was able to take our budget and give us the wedding that we wanted and pay herself out of it. Pro-tip for choosing a wedding planner: choose one who says “look at all this money!” when you tell her your modest budget.

Where we allocated the least funds:

We intentionally divided our wedding budget in to two categories: dollars and cares (or f*cks). Every item had a value of money we wanted to spend and cares we wanted to give. Because, like money, we only had so many cares to give this wedding. It’s impossible to care about everything in your wedding even if it’s important; so we devised a system to parse out how much we cared about something as well as how much money we wanted to throw at it.

The item that got the least amount of money was my bouquet. I handmade it from paper. Now I cared A LOT about how it looked and it took upwards of six months to build. It cost about $25 of actual money but about thirty percent of my wedding cares. The thing we cared the least amount about was the cake. He just wanted it to be white. I just wanted it not to be chocolate. Our caterer made a delicious carrot cake with maple cream cheese frosting and we didn’t have to think about it once.

What was totally worth iT:

Writing the ceremony ourselves. We spent hours and hours crafting a ceremony that was both traditional and reflective of our true selves. We wanted a ceremony to represent who we are now and honor the choices that brought us together. It emphasized that a marriage is a choice (well a series of choices) that two people make every day. I have been married before so it was important that every word we said was something achievable. We had a fairly traditional ceremony order but included readings and phrases that reflect our geeky nature. My vows included a quote from Buffy, our community response was “So say we all,” our introduction as a married couple was Star Wars and Star Trek based. Because our friends are our family too, we asked three friends in different phases of life to give readings that reflect that journey. We both loved being single so we were careful not to use phrasing that emphasized marriage life as an absolute goal. Overall, the ceremony was my favorite part of the whole weekend. Everyone just sobbed through the whole thing, including us.

What was totally not worth it:

Worrying about things we cannot control. We worried about the guest list. Did we invite too many people or too few? Would people think it was an imposition to ask them to fly out to Vermont in the middle of winter? It turned out that some people we thought absolutely would come, did not with no explanation. And some unexpected guests moved heaven and earth to make it there. There’s no way to predict who will come to your wedding, so it’s better to just accept the yes’s with joy and let the no’s roll off your back. The absolute right people were present for our wedding. By the end of the weekend, we were all family.

I worried that my more traditional family wouldn’t get our wedding; that they would think it was too feminist-y, too late ’90s boy band-y, too nontraditional. My dad loved not having to walk me down the aisle. In his words, “You are not a goat. I cannot give you to anybody.” His parents fully support our hyphenated last name. The ring bearers were delighted that they got to toss something down the aisle like the flower girls. No one minded that we got dressed together, walked each other down the aisle to Metallica, gave temporary tattoos as favors, or that we rather obviously avoided the use of man and wife throughout the ceremony. One our favorite parts of dinner was instead of serving ourselves cake, we cut cake and served it to each set of parents.

A few things that helped us along the way:

Carefully budgeting our cares like a money budget. Most wedding budgets and blogs tell you to just not spend money on things you don’t care about or that you have to spend the most money on the things you do. We found that not to be true for us. Something I cared about deeply didn’t cost us much money and some things that I didn’t care about at all were kind of expensive. So we assigned everything a dollar amount and a cares amount. Having the perfect soundtrack for the whole day? Huge cares, little money. So we spent several weeks building the perfect “Getting Ready Jams” playlist. Skully very much cared about his suit, but we ended up buying it at H&M for less than $100. Rentals? Couldn’t care less, but people still need napkins. Sometimes not caring also meant not spending a lot of money. Allowing myself to limit how much I could care about things kept me sane. Also, it totally justified the “throw money at your problems” that inevitably happens during wedding planning. Fun fact: we ran out of cares before we ran out of money.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Weddings are a time capsule. Trying to be timeless is an exercise in failure. We spent a great deal of energy crafting an experience so that when we look back at the photos or video, we think, “Damn, that was fun. Clearly the 2015 me had a great time.” Embrace the nostalgia; don’t fight it. Use vendors who are transparent with their pricing and let you change your mind. Be as laid back as you can. Get dressed together. Watching him put on his finery was one of my favorite parts of the day. While your wedding doesn’t have to have a theme per se, a particular look or feel helps tie things together. We picked a song, a fabric swatch, and the expression “like that one Christmas episode of Newhart” (it was a reminder that things will go wrong and nobody knows it’s Plan B unless you tell them), and based all our decisions off whether it matched any of those three things. Also, if you are planning a wedding in January in Vermont, just buy the travel insurance and accept that you will be snowed in. It will make your life easier.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Skully: Having a private dance after the ceremony when we could think about the huge thing we just did.

Addie: Our impromptu first dance before the ceremony. Having all our favorite people in one place. S’mores.

Something else we’d like to share:

Winter weddings aren’t for everyone. Guests with children may not be able to leave school. No one is on summer vacation. If you are in Vermont there is the very real possibility of a blizzard. But there is something both magical and comforting to be married amongst friends in the snow. It’s like a party inside a cashmere sweater—with champagne.


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