So. I have all sorts of thoughtful posts in queue and in my head, but it’s been waaaayyyyy too long since we’ve had a wedding graduate, no? So I thought we’d kick it back off with Katie and the epic Ugandan (you heard that right) dance party wedding. And I didn’t even feel a little bit bribed that she promised to take me to a Ugandan dance party (you should have seen the disapointment on David’s face when I told him they lived across the country from us). I am, as I’ve mentioned, pretty serious about my dancing. So, I like when a wedding does it up right. And with that, I give you Katie:
My husband and I approached our wedding planning with a commitment to collaboration and a pretty clear vision of what we wanted (which we established by asking ourselves “How/where would we want to spend our wedding day?”). We knew we wanted the wedding to be intimate, the dinner to be delicious, and the party to be off-the-hook, and we prioritized accordingly. Most importantly, we wanted it to be “us”, and I think we achieved that with a special blend of DIY projects, venue choices, and cultural flavors. And I think it’s also important to note that, right off the bat, we disposed of all the things that didn’t matter to us. For us, this included: a large wedding party & audience, extensive & coordinated décor, a first dance, and anything that didn’t fit in our budget.
1. What we DIY’ed. We DIY’ed only what we thought we could handle. For us, that meant save-the-dates (how we gocco’ed), out-of-town bags, bouquets, ceremony programs, & favors (mix CD).
The flower arranging went particularly well. I didn’t want to spend a thousand bucks on bouquets for me, my sister and my sister-in-law, and since I’d worked at several florists, I felt fairly confident I could pull it off. So I spoke to the flower lady at my local farmer’s market, who was super excited and encouraging, and I placed an order for 2 buckets of flowers to be picked up the morning of our wedding ($90). I had no idea what flowers I was getting (whatever pickings looked good that week), but she assured me there would be Dahlias (hands down the most beautiful flower ever, imho). And, let me tell you, I had a lovely morning, sitting on my kitchen floor, arranging flowers, while my friends sat around me drinking mimosas (made with pink Andre). It was very zen, very meditative.
• What we didn’t DIY: Invitations (why bother, when there are so many amazing and talented designers on Etsy? We went with EvaPaul and couldn’t have been happier), Hair/Makeup (I wear my hair in a bun every freaking day and have extremely limited makeup skills – shout out to Chelsea at OhMyDeer for the purty hair flowers), Boutonnieres/Corsages (husband picked up some simple flowers from his favorite local florist to bestow upon his Best Man and our family members).
2. Venue Choices. Our venue choices really brought to life the vision we had for our wedding.
Wedding Ceremony & Dinner Venue: The Tabard Inn, an historic inn and restaurant located in the heart of Dupont Circle. Great location, ridiculously charming and funky venue. Our ceremony was held on the patio (envision English courtyard, lush greenery, brick, wrought iron chairs, etc). We didn’t spend a dime decorating that space
And when the ceremony finished, we all went upstairs for cocktail hour and dinner. Tabard’s food is amazing. I’m a vegetarian, my husband loves steak, and we had several vegan friends in attendance. Everyone raved about the food. That was important to us, and, yes, it cost a pretty penny. But so very worth it. The size of the venue definitely reinforced our desire to keep it intimate (only about 60 people) for the wedding and dinner, but we invited about 60 additional people to our party.
Off-the-hook Party Venue: Eighteenth Street Lounge. Here’s the story with this place: it’s where my husband and I met (he, the DJ, and me, the curious new girl in town who was looking for cool music spots in DC; friendship blossomed; you know the rest), and where he still DJs on a weekly basis. On top of that, it’s a beautiful space – again, no need for decorations. We had our own bar, our own DJ’s, vintage couches to lounge on, and plenty of room to dance. Plus, it was 2 blocks from our wedding/dinner venue in Dupont – no limousine rides necessary from point A to point B – and it was completely metro accessible so no drinking/driving B.S. We had cupcakes (sugar to energize people and keep them dancing), and last, but certainly not least, we had Ugandan dancers, which brings me to…
Cultural Flavor. Yes, UGANDAN DANCERS. My husband is Ugandan, and they happen to have this freaking awesome tradition of having dancers and drummers come perform at weddings. We didn’t tell our wedding partiers about the dancers. It. Was. Incredible. We danced til the wee hours of the morning on pure adrenaline and joy (which surprised me, as I only got around 4 hours of sleep the night before and woke up brutally groggy after making the poor decision to take Nyquil at 4am).
I am also including music in this category, because music played a life-sized role in our wedding. My husband and I carefully selected all the music played that day. For us, music sets the tone for life. Music is always playing in our house. And music is what cultivated the beginnings of our relationship. Our friend Forrest strummed some beautiful Spanish guitar songs before the ceremony. We walked down the aisle to Amadou & Mariam’s “La Fête au Village” (which tends to make me cry, it is hauntingly beautiful), and we walked victoriously back down the aisle to Donovan Carless’s version of “Be Thankful for What You Got”. And I’ll just say that the tunes lined up for cocktail hour, dinner and the party were vetted rather thoroughly to create the desired mood and ambience. It helped that all our friends are DJ’s, so even the music we didn’t select was on point.
So, there you have it. We really put our dollars into what we thought would give us the greatest bang for our buck: the venues. And it absolutely paid off.
Some advice, if you are inclined to take someone else’s wedding advice (because, really, these things are so personal):
• Pick a good photographer. All the effort we put into creating a kickass wedding day was captured perfectly by our photographer – all the emotion and the little moments (many of which we missed). Our photographer, Allison Shelley, is a photojournalist, and her photos really painted an accurate picture of not only what the day looked like but also what it felt like. Plus, she’s cool as hell. Another note: we tapped our videographer friend to capture the wedding and party on video, and somehow the video from our wedding was lost. The reason I didn’t have a meltdown about that was because I knew I had a whole host of amazing photos from Allison that we would treasure for years to come.
- Stay focused on the things that are important to you, and don’t sweat the small stuff, like temporarily pissing off a few people along the way.
- Involving your friends and family can be good (to whatever extent your sanity allows).
- Soak up the wedding planning fun. I never had a manicure, pedicure, massage or a facial in my 26 years on this earth (I know, the horror!). And it was really fun to pamper myself in the month and weeks before the wedding.
- Know your limits. If there are things that consistently stress you out, maybe you should reevaluate if you really need it.
Closing notes: I have to say that, as cool as all of the aforementioned stuff is, our friends and family are truly and completely awesome, and their presence and continued support made our wedding more special than I could’ve ever imagined. The love and happiness was palpable. I think that’s as good as you could hope for – it is only one day, after all.
Photos by Allison Shelley, except flower arranging, which is by the bride’s lovely friend Ann