Amber & Roem’s Shakespeare Garden Wedding

So today’s wedding has a bit of a story that goes with it, about the APW virtual community and real life. When I still worked at an office every Thursday I’d go to the farmers market for lunch to get (amazing) tacos. While the tacos were phenomenal, I mostly really needed a moment to get away from corporate America, and feel like I was around my people for a few minutes—even if I still was wearing my stupid heels. So I slowly got to know the guy who served the tacos, and he’d greet me with a big grin and a, “Hey Meg! The usual?” every Thursday. It was really nice, in a time when not much felt nice. So, fast-forward to December, when I told the taco people I was quitting my job. They asked why, and I sort of stumbled around, mentioning the book and having a blog, as these conversations are always really confusing (“You can make a living blogging? People read those things?”). So I said, “I have a popular wedding blog,” and suddenly my taco guy totally focused, and asked which one. I told him, and his whole face lit up. “Oh my god!” he said, “We pretty much exclusively used APW to plan our wedding! Holy sh*t! My wife loves APW! She’s going to be so excited!” Turns out my taco guy was Roem, and his wife was Amber, and they’re great. My people indeed. So, today I get to introduce you to them, and their blog White Picket Passport (about being middle-class and still traveling), and Amber’s exceptionally wise wedding graduate post.

A friend recently asked me if planning a wedding was really “worth it” in the long run or whether, in hindsight, I’d have preferred elopement.  It’s hard to answer that question once the memory of the tears and stress fade and you are left with the lingering sense of love and support your wedding (hopefully) inspired.  You lose perspective; you are no longer sleep deprived from endless DIY projects and can finally enjoy your pictures without cataloguing every flaw.  So while you may not choose to recreate the painstakingly, handcrafted invitations resembling a music record in a sleeve, you can see the benefit of gathering loved ones for the biggest party you will ever throw.

As an encore bride, I knew I wanted a day that was true to both me and my fiancé, Roem.  I had done the big traditional country club wedding the first time and I wanted something different. Determined to avoid all those guilt laden “expectations” that so often come with wedding planning, I felt empowered to create a day that was exactly what we wanted.  Except it become all too clear that I had no idea what I wanted, and I became overwhelmed with so many decisions.  I had no point of reference for the kind of wedding I envisioned and I had no idea where to turn.  It was then that I fell headlong into the rabbit hole that is wedding planning websites.

Every morning for months I would wake up and face the day with increasing anxiety as I checked my overflowing google reader.  My stomach would clench with anxiety as I saw all those unread wedding blogs and I was convinced the one idea for the perfect centerpiece was buried in there somewhere. My convictions slowly eroded and my bridal calm evaporated.  I began to seriously doubt myself and in defending my ideas to others, I grew increasingly worried that my vision was fatally flawed.  In actuality my husband is the cool, artistic musician while I am the more traditional Type-A bride that insists we have a seating chart because that’s what PEOPLE DO AT WEDDINGS.   I began to worry that our wedding would come off as not eclectic and pretty, but instead just cheap.  I agonized over how much money we were putting into this one day event and I cried that we couldn’t afford to do anything that would seemingly make this process a little easier.

It was then that I discovered APW.  I felt the tension in my body release just a little as I read about Meg’s incredibly beautiful wedding and philosophy towards planning a practical wedding. I read the sassy comments and posts all over this website from insightful, understanding people and was brought to tears.  However experienced I thought I was at the beginning of wedding planning, I was still tirelessly trying to please everyone but myself.  I was challenging the establishment and railing against expectations in all other aspects of my life, but I still was buying into most of what the WIC was telling me.

I would love to tell you this was the turning point.  That I turned off my computer, loosened up and morphed all my projects from DIY to DIT overnight.  The last few weeks before we got married I was still scouring the internet for projects, dissolving into tears when something didn’t work out and playing the martyr with Roem when I felt he wasn’t doing enough to help me.  In spite of this I was able to occasionally take a deep breath, put away my endless projects and enjoy some fleeting moments during our engagement.  I talked about marriage with my mom over a bottle of wine, marveled at Roem’s hidden talent as he sewed all our table runners and went salsa dancing with our families the night before our rehearsal.  Those are the things I look back and remember, not the making of tiny packets of tissue for our ceremony.  They are the moments that now define my wedding planning experience.

One of the best decisions I made in the days leading up to the wedding was to do my own flowers.  People told me I would be way too stressed and busy to take on this task but everyone pitched in to help and it was so much fun.  My mom and future mother in law went to the San Francisco Flower Mart and got armloads of flowers for under a $100.  We brought them all back to the hotel and spent a few hours putting together arrangements and bouquets while spending time together.  I carried my flowers with so much love and pride I thought my heart would burst.

Our wedding day was a beautiful tribute to the love my husband and I have for each other and those close to us.  The Quaker ceremony and handwritten vows were a big departure for both of our families but I was overwhelmed at their love and acceptance.  It was exactly right for us and it didn’t matter that the chair decorations were missing or my cheese display signs were slightly off kilter.  As I walked down the aisle to the strains of a Spanish classical guitar, all I could see was Roem.  We had a close friend conduct the ceremony with both of our fathers leading the ring exchange and Roem’s brother presenting the Quaker Marriage Certificate.  Though the period of silence became a little awkward and our guests shivered a bit in the cold San Francisco summer, it was perfect.

After the ceremony, Roem performed the Ben Folds song entitled “The Luckiest” and I felt awed at this amazing man that was now my husband.  He had listened to all of my anxieties and fears, comforted me when I was overwhelmed and steadfastly stood by my side.   He weighed in on the important things and let the little things go as he supported me in bringing our shared vision to fruition.  As I signed the wedding certificate he designed, I knew he had contributed in the best way he knew how and it was totally and completely enough.

For our reception we couldn’t afford any of the venues we looked at in San Francisco.  I cried for days mourning the wedding we would never have before coming up with the idea to have the reception at a friend’s bar.  Two days before the wedding when our friend sold that bar, Roem and I banded together.  We didn’t have a contract so he negotiated with the new owner and our whole family pitched in to clean the entire bar the morning of our wedding.

At our reception we entered through the dance floor and did a salsa dance to our favorite band.  The slideshow we toiled over for weeks wouldn’t play, but really the best part of that project was sitting with both our moms and reminiscing over pictures.  The photobooth Roem and my dad built was a hit and they both glowed with accomplishment.  Every table was set with the antique plates and books my mom and I had thrifted, candles I wrapped in washi tape and the flower centerpieces we arranged in spray painted vases made to look like milk glass.  Each place setting was an airmail envelope I tea dyed with a menu inside made to look like a western union telegram.  I baked our cupcakes in three different flavors and adorned them with toothpick flags from every country we had visited together.  The cake we cut had my parents’ cake topper on it that I crafted with music paper to fit into our theme.

Our friends and family raved about the cheap Vietnamese food we had brought in from our favorite restaurant and identified with dish descriptions made to look like boarding passes.  The food pictures Roem had taken during our recent Southeast Asia trip were displayed on the walls and favors were multicolored baskets filled with spices brought from Cambodia.  Our guests kept the party going late into the night with an iPod dance list Roem created with our friends on google shared docs.

The whole wedding was a labor of love and everyone was involved.  My parents spent countless hours working with us on all the wedding details.  My sister was the best matron of honor I could have imagined and was there every step of the way.  His best man and brother gave a beautifully written and touching toast.

Unequivocally, the one thing that made this wedding worth it was getting to spend the time with our families creating it together.  It was reflective of both our personalities and our love for our friends and families.  In these times of economic distress and uncertainty, I feel no regret about the money we invested in that day because we did it on our terms and it paid dividends.  Sometimes you just need to have a wedding.

Photos By: Slava Basovich Wedding Photography in the Bay Area

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  • You’re totally right about how sometimes you just need a wedding! I was always pretty anti- wedding… right up until I got engaged and my now husband… was divorced and probably even more against weddings than I. But with just a little social pressure… we decided to throw a wedding after all. It was super stressful at times. It cost way more than expected. And I wouldn’t take it back for anything in this world. It was not just what we needed but what the family needed. After 2 years of tragedies and health issues in the family… we needed some family event that people were happy to attend (as in not a funeral or the hospital). So we made the wedding truly about family with a super exclusive guest list (as in family and very close friends only) and basically dedicated the entire budget to making the day fun. It turned out great and it was worth every penny to see everyone so happy. Congrats to you both!

    • And this is a super shallow comment… but I REALLY love your veil!!

    • Debra

      I really needed to read this right now. I’m agonizing through the whole “is it worth it to spend the money” question. Like you, most of the money we’d be spending would be on very unique features that would make the day fun for everyone, but I’ve always been the anti-bride and my fiance has done this before so I’m questioning the need for a “wedding” at all. But as he says, we’re making memories here. And as Amber says in her post, this is the biggest party we’ll ever throw.

    • Thank you!! That was exactly how I felt and I couldn’t agree more. It was something I didn’t fully realize until I was surrounded by all my favorite people on the actual wedding day.

      My amazing friend Courtney made the veil and it was the one detail I gave completely up. Best decision ever.

  • Oh my god, this could so be my journey. I was exactly the same, overwhelmed with all the pretty wedding blogs with their beatuiful details and gorgeous dresses and and and… then I found APW and felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. My husband and I were actually reminiscing last night about that time when I first found APW and spent hours reading through every single post in the archives, forwarding them on to him saying “this is exactly how *I* feel too”. I just felt so relieved that maybe our wedding wouldn’t look cheap and homemade, but instead would be handcrafted and personal and not so bad after all.

    Two other things:

    1. “encore bride” – is there a more elegant, perfect description than this? Love it.

    2. He sang THE LUCKIEST??? When my husband and I were first going out and I wasn’t sure if he liked me as much as I liked him, or where things would go, and it was all kind of new so I didn’t want to seem pushy and just ask, one night he played me this song and casually said, “oh, you know, this song is how I feel about you”. I was blown away. It has such a special place in my heart – I would cry like a baby if a groom sang that at a wedding. You totally *are* the luckiest. Beautiful.

  • Kudos to you for owning your look – stunning!

    I completely agree about the way the projects can really tear at you, and I have just started to recognize when I go into martyr mode (have to cut that out asap.) When something I have planned doesn’t seem to go right, it feels like I am a failure at life instead of at one little craft project.


  • I am in awe of this wedding…i love that he sang and performed a Ben Folds Five song to unbelievably sweet!
    I love that you made it about both your families…what a wonderful idea!
    Congrats to you both!

  • Sarah

    I love the location in the Shakespeare Garden – beautiful!

  • I’m so glad you look back at the wedding and continue to feel happy about the fact that you had the wedding. I’m not there yet. I frequently wish we had eloped. We didn’t get to spend that wonderfully bonding time with our families. It was more like putting out the fires of our mothers’ insecurities over who got what duty for the day or got to carry the guestbook home.

    I love that you have found a way to love the wedding. I also love all the travel related details. This was our theme as well. Yeah!

  • Amy

    It’s amazing how hard we can be on ourselves. With all the details you felt you had to “give up”, you did SO much to make your day special! I can’t even imagine all of the work you guys took on. My wedding is in 2 months and I would not even attempt to put together anything like this for fear of a meltdown. I’m just throwing all my people in a bar and stuffing them with food and drinks! Well done you two! It looks like it was such an incredible day.
    Also, I love that you did your ipod playlist via google docs. Fantastic idea. If you ever feel like sharing that doc, I’m sure many of us ipod-wedding-users would love to see it.
    And, also, I have found so many wonderful blogs via APW and it sounds like yours will be the next. Can’t wait to read it!

    • I highly recommend using a Dropbox and inviting your friends to add their favorite MP3’s. The list was an amazing collaborative effort, but then I had to go and gather all of the songs, which took some time.

      If all the songs are already there, you can just put in your playlist what you like!

      Obviously, the best part of this idea is that everyone will be on the dance-floor to their own tracks. And as you can see from the pics, this was important to me. :)

      • Other Katelyn

        Best idea ever. Thanks!

  • Jennifer

    Aw, so beautiful and *happy*! I love the mention of the slide show not working, but that being okay since you’d already gotten to reminisce over photos with your mothers. Some things do end up being about the process more than the result.

    (But the part that really resonated with me? “Determined to avoid all those guilt laden “expectations” that so often come with wedding planning, I felt empowered to create a day that was exactly what we wanted. Except it become all too clear that I had no idea what I wanted, and I became overwhelmed with so many decisions. ” If you swap out wedding day for life in general, that probably sums up a good decade of my life. And then just when I thought I had a handle on things, along came wedding planning. Mmmhmm.)

  • What a wonderful post, a lovely meeting of worlds, and a beautiful beautiful wedding!!

  • I love this story. I felt the same way about finding APW. It was so easy to get wrapped up in the elaborate and styled weddings on SMP, etc, and APW is such a breath of fresh air.

    PS, I LOVE that you did a salsa for your first dance. That’s just plain amazing!

  • “Sometimes you just need to have a wedding.” Indeed.
    This is a wonderful post, and it serves as an example that no matter how stressful the planning gets, the celebration can be worth it.
    Congratulations to you both!

    • Ms Ditz

      I think this is going to be my new mantra:
      “Sometimes you just need to have a wedding.” SO MUCH AWESOME
      Kind of like love itself, it often doesn’t make much sense and can’t be explained why. But, sometimes, you just…do.

  • What a delightful post! I could comment on everything but I know APW folks will do that throughout the day. So I’ll actually comment on Meg’s intro: The phrase “my people” is one of my favorite, ever. I use it often and wholeheartedly, even if just to describe someone I once played soccer with or held a part-time job with because it’s easier than saying, “one of those people who just gets you and is on the same page and you can pick up where you left off and blah blah blah.” Love it!

    • Noemi

      I love saying “my people”! I feel like there are many different parts of my life with very different people contained within– my fellow math/stat majors are “my people,” my fellow Hungarians/Hungarian-Americans are “my people,” my newbie quilting group are “my people!” I love being able to feel part of a group, and I am also glad to feel that all the members of Team Practical are also “my people.” Word!

  • If I had written a wedding grad post, this would have been it. Your description of the evolution of your planning, anxiety, overwhelmed by decisions, and finding APW was exactly my experience.

    Your wedding looked so fun, and I LOVE your dress!

  • Cassandra

    I think this is one of the loveliest weddings I’ve ever seen, fullstop. So much pretty! It’s your dress that caught my eye in the first pictures – it is *gorgeous*! I’ve been looking for something similar.

    I also just love that Roem and Meg discovered the APW connection over tacos. Yum.

  • This had me in tears. It was beautiful and SO THE REMINDER I NEEDED! Our wedding is now 30 days away and I finally feel like I can stop freaking out and start enjoying the celebration and – most importantly – our MARRIAGE.

    Also! I, too, am an encore bride and I adore the phrase. It’s beautiful and wonderful and I would absolutely wear that with pride. And encore simply means you saved the best for last <3

  • ML

    beautiful. beautiful bride, beautiful husband, beautiful wedding, beautiful wisdom beautiful words.

    but seriously – CAN WE TALK about the photo with roem kicking up and you looking back at the camera? because MAN. pure joy!

    • Aine

      Oh YES. I love this picture- all the pictures, really. (I may show them to our photographer in lieu of a “shots” list).

  • Kathryn

    Gasp! The luckiest!? I love that song (and Ben!). I can’t get through that song without tearing up on any given day. What an amazing addition to the wedding.
    I also loved your Quaker Marriage Certificate. It is really beautiful. For the record, your wedding looks very eclectic and pretty all around. Congratulations!

  • Class of 1980

    Wow, your wedding was beautiful in so many ways, I wouldn’t know where to begin. From the dress, to the location, to all the personal touches, I see beauty and loving faces.

  • I have got to stop reading these comments at work because I can’t stop blinking back tears. Your beautiful comments are making my morning and I am reminded again how much support I get from this community. Thank you for taking the time to read our story and for sharing your own.

    I found my dress at a bridal shop and it was the first one I put on. It was twice what I could afford but before I gave up, I called every bridal shop in California. I found it in LA and bought the sample at half price sight unseen. My amazing friend drove it up to Northern California for me and it was perfect. It’s Floresta from Pronovias. One of my best friends made the veil and I put the hairpiece together with lace from my mom’s veil. It’s weird how thing work out, so don’t despair baby brides!

  • Over the past few months that my SO and I have been talking about getting married, I’ve been like, “Eh, I don’t want a wedding. Let’s just elope.” But…. we got engaged LAST NIGHT!!!! In between the “Holy cow, we’re engaged,” and the “I can’t believe we are actually doing this,” I said, “I think I might want a church wedding after all.” So I COMPLETELY understand where you are coming from, not knowing at ALL what you want. Yes, reading APW helps tone down the wedding madness, but there’s just SO many options!!

    • ML

      holy next day congratulations!

      • Thanks so much!

        • Congratulations Stephanie! My advice is bask in the glow of the engagement and enter wedding planning slowly. Of course, that’s the hardest thing in the world to do but I’m sure it would have helped me avoid some crying jags and hasty decisions. :)

  • What an amazing wedding! Your story sounds an awful lot like mine – I vacillated between feeling calm and feeling stressed, feeling like we were spending way too much or not enough at all., etc. More than anything, though, I agree with this – “Sometimes you just need to have a wedding.”

  • LC

    I think this is my favorite grad post so far – and not just because I would love to have all those same elements at my SF wedding. “As I signed the wedding certificate he designed, I knew he had contributed in the best way he knew how and it was totally and completely enough.” Perfect.

    Also, slideshows NEVER freaking play when you need them to. It’s a law of physics.

  • Oh the serenade. I love a serenade. You two look so radiant and in love.

  • Your wedding clearly had lots of heart! It rings through in your words & your photos. Congratulations~

  • m

    Love the wedding and the taco guy story!

  • Kristen

    You and I have a lot in common. I’m always certain that if I just keep searching the web, I’ll find the exact inspiration I need. Or the perfect shoes for the wedding….

    Thank you for sharing. As always, yes, I noticed things like the fact that your dress is beautiful but that it looks like a hellofa lot of fun. Like the transcendental kind.


  • Alexandra

    Awww, so awesome! Love the tacos/APW story, and *LOVE* the whole Amber/Roem wedding story. Happy grin.
    And now I want to go to the farmer’s market some Thursday for tacos! :P