EMMA, ARCHIVIST & SAM, WRITER
sum-up of the wedding vibe: Our wedding was a blissed-out, Texas dance party with beautiful wildflowers, pompoms, a tiny chapel, and a buried bottle of whiskey.
Planned Budget: $13,000
Actual Budget: $15,702 (The value of the wedding is closer to $20,000, factoring in fee negotiations and very generous gifts.)
Number of Guests: 140 guests
Location: Tiny T Ranch, Garfield, Texas
photographer: Diana Ascarrunz
Where we allocated the most funds:
Venue, photography, food, and booze. These were about equal parts of our budget. The venue, as you can see by the pictures, was a once-in-a-lifetime find and was worth every (relatively inexpensive!) penny. The photography made the entire day come to life all over again. We chose the best Mexican place in town to give us a taco bar and they earned many new fans with their short rib tacos. After much agonizing about not having enough alcohol, we bought way too much booze (but the party continues–we’re still drinking it!).
Where we allocated the least funds:
We skipped flowers altogether because I’m crafty and wanted a big project. In lieu of a flower bouquet, I collected jewelry from loved ones and a friend made me a beautiful bejeweled bouquet. It felt special to have jewelry from my departed family members with me while walking down the aisle. We made pompom bouquets and boutonnieres for the wedding party. In the end, the wildflowers growing on the ranch were positively glowing, the yarn crafts were so fun, and we didn’t need anything else! All other decor was found at Austin Creative Reuse, a craft supply thrift store, which saved us big time on things like table labels, vases, yarn, and knick knacks.
I inherited my engagement ring from the original kick-ass redhead in my family, my great-grandma, and our wedding bands were found at a craft fair and Etsy for less than $100 for both. My mother paid for hair and makeup for me and our bridesmaids, which was a very fun part of the day and a load off our budget. My parents also sprung for a colorful, hibiscus-covered bus, and Sam’s relatives sponsored the rehearsal barbecue food and reception tent! Our cakes were gifted by our lovely friend Ashley from our favorite neighborhood bakery, Upper Crust.
What was totally worth it:
Our big ticket items, photography, venue, and day-of-coordinator, as well as time spent on our DIY playlist. We rented the venue from Thursday until Sunday for our Saturday wedding, so we had time for my crew to install and take down all the decorations, had a barbecue rehearsal dinner with my dad’s band playing, had some down time to take in the natural beauty of the ranch, and had a place for our out-of-town wedding party to stay. We chose the venue in part because the ranch owner, Spike, was so warm, enthusiastic, and flexible, and this ended up being a fantastic reason to go with our venue. With someone as awesome as her to help and encourage us, things went smoothly. She also officiates weddings and is just super knowledgeable about what makes weddings work. This is one thing I highly recommend: go with your gut about who you want to pay and focus on people who join in your excitement!
Similarly, we picked our day-of-coordinator, Jane from Austin Busy Brides, because she was so down-to-earth and fun to be around. She was a superhero. She praised my spreadsheets when I needed a pep up. She kept the bar line moving. She hid our wedding certificate in our suitcase so we didn’t lose it. My friends have all raved about her! We chose Diana, our amazing photographer, because she did work for a feminist meet-up group I attend, #BOSSBABESATX, and I loved her work. Our photos are so exuberant and sweet, and we made a great friend out of it! Operation: Hire Feminist Vendors! was a great success.
Although it was free, DIYing the playlists was time-consuming. The many nights we spent crafting the perfect playlist were so, so worth it. The two days spent mulling over just which Stevie Wonder song we’d choose made for a dance party everyone is still talking about! Watching my uncle dance to “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division with my grandma is a highlight of my life.
What was totally not worth it:
I channeled a lot of my pre-wedding anxiety into craft projects and ended up overdoing it. The tassels and pompoms were amazing but we ran out of places to put them! I also agonized over our wedding jackets, which were cute, but not worth the hassle for a Texas May wedding. In the end, I could’ve used a couple more hours of therapy and a couple less hours gluing “TIL DEATH” to the back of denim jackets. I also fretted endlessly about gaining weight, fitting into my dress, and being a fat bride. It was tortured and not worth it. We had a year and a half engagement and I refused to give in to diet culture, and this meant going up a dress size and ring size. I was lucky enough to have a Modcloth brick-and-mortar store in Austin, so I ditched traditional bridal salons and spent my time and money at a place where I felt like a queen—and I wish I had made every decision this mindfully.
Once you’re engaged, many wedding companies and vendors can profit off you not feeling good enough about yourself, and I only saw this clearly at the end. I worship every picture of my double chin and my poofy dress! People tell you, “your partner loves you just the way you are!” and hell yeah! So do I! It helped that I tried on my dress a few times with friends, who were so encouraging and loving. Reflected in their eyes, I saw a beautiful woman doing things exactly her way. That was such a gift! Some other tips that helped me along the way were to look at beautiful pictures of other plus sized brides on APW and elsewhere, to have a wedding mantra (“feel the love”), and to listen to lots of Lizzo (whom I quoted in my vows: “if we’re shining everybody’s gonna shine!”).
A few things that helped us along the way:
Saying “yes” when people offered to help. My greatest example of this is letting my coworker Gabe take over the final stages of decor. He is the most creative person I know and he has a ton of fun experience decorating quinceañeras! In the end, he elevated what I had in my head to something beyond my imagination. He worked for hours setting up the pavilion with our help and with some MVPs from the wedding party. We also let friends pitch in picking up fast food for in-between meals, working the grill at the rehearsal, opening a bar early for our pre-wedding skeeball cocktail hour, working on our playlists for the ceremony and rehearsal, driving golf carts full of chairs, and even officiating our wedding (shout out to my amazing brother and hero, TJ)! We couldn’t have done it without my parents, who helped financially and who listened to my endless chatter about the big day and pretended my crazy ideas would be great (they were!). We also decided to go to pre-marital counseling and I would recommend this to everyone. We talked through hard stuff but left with a stronger bond than ever.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Breathe and remember it will all work out. I stressed about rogue wedding party members, pompoms, tents, shapewear, liquor, and weight gain. There were moments that I thought Sam and I had lost our minds and no one would understand our day except for us. In the end, I should’ve ditched those worries to focus on the excitement of my friends and family coming from far away!
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Having quality time with our wedding party. Our venue really made it possible to wake up and drink coffee with everyone, take pictures with longhorns, and share a post-wedding night cap. We did an old Southern tradition of burying a bottle of whiskey a month before the wedding and digging it up before the ceremony, for good luck with weather. We shared that moment (and the whiskey!) with our closest friends and family. After ten days of rain, we didn’t get a drop during our wedding. It’s hard to pick one thing, but in the end, those moments with our wedding party made me feel calm, supported, and ready to put those rings on.
A while before the wedding, my aunt reached out to remind me that my dad had written a song for me when I was little to play at my wedding, and wouldn’t I like for him to play it. I told her and my dad that it felt too personal to play at an event that big. Guess what? He played it anyway and it brought the house down. Your wedding isn’t just about you and your partner. My best advice is to let people share their love with you their way, because this openness will truly surprise you.