This Floral Wedding Dress Is Everything

Showers bring wedding dress flowers

Melissa, Pediatric Physician  & Baris, Orthopedic Physician

sum-up of the wedding vibe: Our goal was to plan a dressed up house party where we happened to slip in a feminist marriage ceremony!

Planned Budget: $12,000
Actual Budget: $14,000
Number of Guests: 50
Location: Spotswood Lodge, Gordonsville, Virginia
photographer: Hunter and Sarah Photography

Where we allocated the most funds:

The venue. Baris and I knew we wanted a laid-back celebration without a lot of fuss. When we pictured the day, we saw lots of lawn games and board games without most of the traditional structure of a wedding reception. We found Spotswood Lodge early in our venue search and it seemed perfect. The house and grounds are actually a vacation rental, but when we talked with the company that owns the property, they agreed to let us have our wedding there. Our families stayed at the Lodge for the entire weekend, and my friends all got ready there the morning of the wedding. Emmie Woody, the events director, was a godsend. She organized the venue, rentals, catering, photographers, and officiant into one comprehensive contract for us. One single signature and most of the big ticket items were checked off! The beautiful property and convenience were definitely worth every penny, especially for two busy doctors on a budget. (Quick note: renting the house all weekend was a separate expense from the venue fee, which I didn’t include in the budget because my family covered it.)

Where we allocated the least funds:

The cake. I’m not a professional by any means, but I do bake for fun and love decorating cakes—my best friend and I made a cake of the DC National Mall during college. Practically the same day I got engaged, she and I started planning how we would make the cake. We had a dedicated Pinterest board, and I tried out lots of different recipes before settling on a pistachio cake that would pay homage to Baris’s Turkish background. Plus, I used this project this as a good excuse to watch plenty of baking television as “research” to help me keep my first tiered cake upright. I did splurge on some new fancy cake pans and spatula, but even with those plus the ingredients, I think it all came out to around $80. I was definitely stressed about making my own cake the week of the wedding, and made sure to have a backup plan (from the grocery store…), but we pulled it off! The cake looked and tasted amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but it was 100% worthwhile to me. And now I can make the same cake every year for our anniversary.

What was totally worth it:

My dress. To save money, I had initially looked at off-the-rack department store dresses. My college friends came to visit, though, and talked me into a day of celebrating with Champagne and trying on princess dresses. I’m definitely not a ball gown type of girl, but was obsessed with this Paula Varsalona dress from the moment I saw it at Sealed With A Kiss. The sample fit like it was made for me, and I loved the non-traditional flower design and geometric folds. I knew this dress would stand out against the verdant Virginia spring and the simple green and white floral arrangements we had planned.

I also had a pocket square made for Baris. It may not scream “bridal”, but it was the perfect dress for me and completely worth the splurge.

What was totally not worth it:

Worrying about the weather. We had planned on having lots of lawn games, in addition to an outdoor ceremony, dinner, and dance floor… And then the forecast called for a downpour all weekend. To be honest, I was really bummed as we talked about our rain plan and how to bring the party inside. But I have an amazing group of friends who showed up early (with 50 boxes of Target string lights!) with a million ideas to make it an awesome party, even if it wasn’t what I’d planned. Everyone got cute umbrella pictures, I didn’t overheat in all my layers of tulle, and having dinner in a candlelit tent surrounded by rain and all of the people I love in one place was one of the most moving moments of my life. Plans are really more of just guidelines, right?

A few things that helped us along the way:

Baris and I were engaged for 16 months, which allowed us to budget and take our time with DIY projects. We’ve got a ton of student loans, so a big priority for us was not to take on any debt (we succeeded). We weren’t afraid to DIY everything we could to make this budget-friendly, but the key was to have lots of help—see below! We also decided to have a buffet dinner to cut costs, and went with a minimalist-chic aesthetic for the rentals. Another big way we saved money was by only having two hours of photography. Hunter and Sarah were there for half an hour of getting ready, the half hour ceremony, and one hour of portraits and first dance. We have lots of phone and photobooth pictures from the rest of the night, so I don’t feel like we missed out.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Ask. For. Help. Once I opened up about needing extra hands, I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and advice from my own social network. My mom, MIL, SIL, and brother arranged all the flowers. And I can’t say enough about my amazing friends: Laura taught me about bouquets, Erin decorated the cake, Katie was my DJ, Kate did my makeup, Molly did my hair, Mary set up all the table decorations, and Brendan hung all of the extra lights. The wedding wouldn’t have been possible without their help.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

My favorite moment was when Baris and I managed to slip away from the party and get a minute alone on the front porch to catch our breath. Sitting there together, listening to the rain behind us and our friends and family partying inside, was a peaceful and perfect vignette that pulled together the entire day.

Anything else:

It was really important for me to have a feminist ceremony that didn’t allude to “giving me away.” I talked a lot with our officiant about the wording, and we made sure to include language that painted us as equals and partners. He pronounced us Dr. and Dr., not Mr. and Mrs., and I didn’t do a bouquet toss because the aesthetics of marriage as a woman’s primary goal always made me uncomfortable. We also cut out huge chunks of traditional wedding planning. No paper invites, no programs, no menus, no seating chart, no place cards… I wanted as much distance from the frenzied commercial wedding industry as I could get. Less is more—you don’t have to do something just because it’s the next step on a checklist!


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