Kelsey & Russell

Today’s wedding is something we don’t get enough of on APW – a religious active duty military wedding (for the win!) So I’m extra indebted to Kelsey. She read APW, she rocked her wedding, and she sent it in (and it is amazing). So without further ado, Kelsey’s amazing brewery wedding, paid for by the couple themselves (go you guys):

When I was planning my July 31 wedding, a girlfriend sent me a link to APW. I fell in love with it immediately, the ideas, the contributors, and the community, and it became a habit to check APW everyday like checking my email. (Although I quickly discovered I couldn’t read it at work, since a lot of stories bring me to tears.) I’m still here, even though my wedding is months past.

My husband and I are both active duty military officers in the US Navy, which is where we met… on a ship, in the middle of the ocean. (You never know where you’re going to meet that someone… or how you’re going to look when you do). For two people assigned to operational tours on Navy ships, dating can be a little unusual, but we both knew the risks involved and took our relationship step by step. And things worked out amazingly well. We learned how to juggle time together with duty, time underway, and I deployed for six months last year to the Middle East (talk about a relationship tester). But we made it through those challenges just fine, and ended up on shore duty together in Washington DC, which is where we live now. He proposed to me last November, 2 weeks after I returned home from deployment, in the shadow of the Washington Monument. It was wonderful, I was crying. We called our parents that night to share the news, and wedding planning began.

We felt really out of place in DC, since we had just moved there, and quickly decided an East Coast wedding was not “us”. Russell’s family is in Orlando, mine is in Seattle, and we didn’t really care to get married in those places, either. We had just moved from San Diego, which is where we met, and dated, and most of our friends still lived, so we decided to have the wedding there. It seems like we chose a destination wedding, but really we picked the place that felt the most like home to us.

Russell and I planned to pay for the wedding ourselves. Our families get by ok, but we were adamantly opposed to placing any financial burden on them. We have great jobs, no kids, and had enough in savings to absorb the cost. (Note: our parents insisted on helping a little. Russell’s Mom and Dad graciously hosted our rehearsal lunch, and my Mom paid for wedding day hair, make-up, and getting our dresses cleaned/pressed). Now, I’m not someone who has been looking at bridal magazines since I was five, and I had NO IDEA how to plan a wedding. I did a lot of research before I started making any decisions. The first thing I did was determine our budget. Russ and I looked at our savings, talked about what we were willing to spend, and came up with a figure of 12K.

I kept that in mind as I did all my shopping (always know your bottom line). I printed out a little percentage cheat sheet I found online and used it for picking vendors (for example, flowers should make up X% of your overall budget) and tried hard to stay within that amount. We did away with anything we didn’t find personally important. We got rid of a lot of stress that way, and were free to use that money to splurge on the things we DID find important. For instance, we only had a maid of honor and best man. Neither of us wanted the whole entourage (and accompanying stress). Our photographer (although very decently priced) cost more than my cheat sheet allowed, but we really wanted great pictures, and I made up the cost in other areas. My dress (from David’s Bridal) only cost $250, much less than the cheat sheet told me I could spend, so in my mind it evened out. In the end, including our plane tickets to San Diego and hotel, we spent 13K.

So planning a wedding from across the country is quite a lot of work! I made things easier on myself by picking a venue that sold us a package deal (think hotels, restaurants). They hosted both the ceremony and reception, catered the whole event, did all the set-up/clean-up, and the cost of the DJ and the cake was included. I was on my own to find a photographer, florist, and any extras. Russ really wanted to get married in July. Of course the summer months are the most expensive wedding-wise, but we saved by getting married during the day and hosting a lunch versus an evening event. Our venue was a brewery/restaurant, which was surrounded by a few acres of landscaped gardens with a koi pond.

Not the traditional church event, but very casual and very us! (At first, I felt a little weird about that. My Christian faith is important to me, and I didn’t want to discount that by having our wedding be so casual. And at a brewery! Is that sacrilegious? But in the end, it was perfect. We made sure to mention God and our faith in the ceremony, and it was fine). From the beginning, we told our families and friends we wanted them to come as they are, and just HAVE FUN. We hosted a lunch buffet and open bar (beer and wine) for 55 people. The food and drinks were fantastic, everything was so laid back, and everybody had a blast.

If I could impart some wisdom to brides-to-be, I would say this: 1. Enjoy your engagement, and remember to count your blessings throughout the whole planning process. 2. Be nice. Vendors are much more helpful and willing to cut you some breaks when you are kind and respectful of the work they are doing for you. 3. Be organized about the whole thing. If you take your planning seriously and shop smart, you’ll cancel out a lot of stress up front. But I don’t think I need to stress that to APW readers! You already get it.

Photographs by: Eric Richards and Ryan Anderson of Izlas Photography

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