Angela, Social Worker and Education Activist & Tony, Engineer
Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A rockin’ Chicanx pop punk party in downtown Los Angeles.
Planned budget: $20,000
Actual budget: $25,000
Number of guests: 90
LOCATION: Los Angeles, California
Where we allocated the most funds:
Venue, photography, and food and booze. We knew we wanted to have it in LA (which is obviously pricey). It needed to be someplace that had semi-decent parking and allowed us to bring in our own catering and liquor. We also wanted something more “LA” aesthetically, but we knew we did not want a venue that required hiring designers/lighting specialists. The Unique Space had so much furniture that we used to create little vignettes and seating areas inside and outside. It absolutely did not feel like a big empty hall, which we were afraid of! And of course, Linda’s photos speak for themselves.
Where we allocated the least funds:
What we spent in the venue itself we absolutely saved through hiring a taco truck (total to feed ninety people with tacos, sides, and aguas frescas was $2,200!) and hiring Homegirl Café (a great local nonprofit) to bring in coffee and desserts, including a few small cakes for cutting. We brought in our own alcohol from BevMo, used eco-plastic cups and plates, and set up cocktail-style tables to save on rentals for large tables, chairs, and settings. We really wanted people to relax, drink, and dance.
Flowers came to about $160, including a DIY bouquet made from a large $80 arrangement from The Bouqs and a trip to the LA flower market, and decorations were about $300 for balloons, paper lanterns, papel picado, some frames and prints of pictures of us, flower vases from the dollar store, and sparkly fabric that we cut for tablecloths. That doesn’t include any money spent on items we ultimately kept to use again (we spent a few hundred to buy dozens of feet of old incandescent Christmas lights for our new home, and a few hundred went to a handmade quilt that we used as a backdrop and now as our bedspread, and about a hundred on pretty cake plates and a beverage dispenser that we use for entertaining now). We consider that money spent as investments in our home and not consumables “just for the wedding.”
We also designed and decorated everything ourselves—shout out to our bridal party for spending the whole morning and afternoon blowing up balloons, and a big thank you to the gentleman who spent all day sweating and doing some minor electrical engineering to hang hundreds of feet of Christmas lights over the patio.
Finally, we have MAJOR opinions on music, and we couldn’t stand the thought of hiring a DJ and then having to micromanage him or her. So, we asked Angela’s brother to DJ over a rented speaker system and Spotify playlist that we both had the most fun curating over several months. Angela’s brother was actually reading the room and taking requests (with her approval!). The dance floor wasn’t empty for one second.
What was totally worth it:
The food truck, photo booth, cocktail-style seating, and self-curated playlists for the ceremony, dinner, and dancing were very good choices for the vibe we were going for—it felt more like an album release party with our favorite music as the soundtrack! We walked into the ceremony to a string quartet version of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Soul Meets Body,” made our grand entrance to Paramore’s “Looking Up,” and we finished the night with a group mosh pit to Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue”!
What was totally not worth it:
Thinking we knew what we were doing with booze. We should have trusted all the calculators online (including APW’s) and apparently we did NOT know our audience. We ended up only using half of the two kegs of beer we ordered, and we had SO much leftover wine. We completely cleared all the tequila and whiskey from our signature cocktails—they were just SO good. Pro tip: If you’re hosting liquor at the bar, people will drink that first, even over your craft beer keg. Also, we got nervous about having enough hands-on-deck during the party and were overstaffed at the bar (two bartenders and two waitstaff to help with trash; we could have halved that). We probably could have saved a few thousand dollars by being less anxious party hosts.
A few things that helped us along the way:
Our month-of coordinators at Belles & Whiskey were amazing. We got a friendship discount because April used to be Angela’s boss during a summer internship doing nonprofit event planning. Given that Angela had planned events professionally, we felt pretty confident doing the planning and even the weekend-timeline breakdowns and pack lists. What we knew we would appreciate (and SO did) was knowing that April and Taleen would take the reins that weekend and let Angela focus on feeling like a fabulous warrior princess and not a task manager. Seriously, with their badass headsets, they HANDLED IT all evening. Also, Angela’s best friend Brooke made our ceremony backdrop that is now our favorite blanket to curl up with at night.
My best practical advice for my planning self:
We kept saying we didn’t want a DIY wedding because it seemed like so much work, but ultimately that’s what we did, AND we went over budget. Having so many vendors for every little thing meant that tips added up, we overestimated what we needed instead of getting professional advice, and we spent too much on cheap decor items because we had months to buy things “on sale” that we didn’t use or appreciate day-of. Looking back, the only two “traditional” expenses that we significantly cut were flowers (Angela went to the flower market the morning-of for fresh flowers that her friend Brooke arranged all afternoon) and the DJ. So, in the end, we had exactly what we wanted, and we LOVED the casual but rocking party we threw. Still, with over a year to plan and the privilege of having an unexpected financial windfall, it meant we were not as ruthless in our spending as we could have been. Our advice: once you start planning, time is your budget’s enemy. We probably would have made more conservative but appropriate estimates on “needs” versus “wants” if we didn’t have the extra time to anxiously talk ourselves into spending money.
Favorite thing about the wedding:
Sorry, but we must name two things. First, everything about the ceremony, from walking into the ceremony together (we raised some eyebrows and heard some gasps, but then everyone broke out in applause!), writing our own ceremony and vows (so many feels), and having our best friends officiate and make our backdrop. Second, but equally amazing, were the quiet moments together on the roof at golden hour. We had been a couple for twelve years (the wedding was on our twelfth dating anniversary!), and we have been through a lot of life together and separately in that time. Looking into each other’s eyes and taking a mindful breath together was the most intimate moment we’ve ever shared with with each other.
Something Else We’d LIke to Share:
Angela’s dad surprised us with a Mariachi band during cocktail hour! In the era of #MAGA, and especially being in Los Angeles, it felt important to highlight Angela’s Mexican-American/Chicanx heritage. We had papel picado, tacos and pan dulce to eat, and had hidden sugar skulls (calaveras) throughout the theme. But apparently Angela’s dad snuck off to Mariachi Plaza in nearby Boyle Heights that afternoon and got the band to come play that evening! It was amazing to watch her family dance and sing along, and it felt like it was a small way to give a middle finger to the racists who seem to have regained a prominent space in our political system.