We Did

Almost exactly one-point-five years ago, I started this blog and discussed our intentions to plan our wedding, and exactly one year ago (and, ironically, on our third anniversary), I wrote about our decision to be indefinitely engaged.

Today, on the fourth anniversary of our first date, I get to write about our wedding.

(So, I did write the introduction and half of this post when the above was true, but then I put off writing the rest, and so technically none of that is true now.)

Sometime in December 2014, Kevin and I finally agreed that A) we needed to get married (for financial reasons, of course), B) we wanted to get married (for love reasons), and C) we wanted to keep it simple.

We went through several iterations of what “simple” meant and finally landed on a three-course wedding format—one that would please our family, friends, and financials.

And, when we discovered that 2015 would include a Super Pi Day, and also that this day fell on a Saturday, we knew we had to get married on that date.

But it was December, and no one knew of our plans but us.

On January 4, 2015, while lunching with some of our friends at Bangkok Square (best Thai in GNV!), we discussed our wedding date and were disappointed to learn that half of the people at the table were busy on Pi Day. Dismayed, we realized that, if we wanted people to attend, we had to get to work right away. Since I don’t believe in save-the-dates, and since paper invitations would have taken too long (oh yeah, and would have been ridiculously expensive), we used Facebook to invite our friends and an email blast to invite our family and non-Facebook-using friends. Imperfect? Maybe, but we didn’t care; it was cost-effective, and it allowed us to easily track who could come.

Part 1: The Ceremony

Having been to many weddings, I knew that the ceremony was not something that everyone would want to attend, no matter how short we made it. Also—and this is just me being weird—it felt arrogant to expect people to come watch me parade around in a pretty dress and say some fancy things. So, while we told our friends about the ceremony, we let them know that it was 100% optional. To our surprise, many of our friends still came, which truly warmed my heart.

Covered pavilion at Bivens Arm looking toward the seating area.

We held the ceremony at Bivens Arm Nature Park, a gorgeous, free park near downtown Gainesville. Originally, I wanted to get married at Cellon Oak Park, which is about 20 minutes north of Gainesville and boasts the largest oak tree in Florida (though when I drove Kevin there in 2014, the park was closed because one of the tree’s largest limbs had fallen, so who knows if it’s still the grand champion), but it’s devoid of seating, which meant we would have had to rent chairs and truck them out to the site. Since we planned to have a very short ceremony, it didn’t seem worth the cost to do this. While I had been to Bivens Arm before, it had been several years since my last visit. When I Googled it and saw that it provided comfortable seating and a pavilion perfect for a ceremony, I knew it was perfect for our event.

While I was content with the decorous natural setting, Kevin and his friend from work, Lina (who graciously volunteered to be our day-of ceremony coordinator), thought the site could use a bit of sprucing. Together, we scoured Michael’s for cheap wedding decor. I found some amazing owl vases (50% off!), which we planned to rest on our newly purchased bar stools (a gift from Kevin’s parents) from our bar, white tulle (buy one, get one 50% off), and blue and white fake flowers (50% off)—just enough decoration to add a personal touch without detracting from the rustic beauty of the park. And, better yet, after the big day, we had so much tulle left over that I returned one of the rolls to Michael’s, and while we did keep the owl vases and some of the fake flowers as decorations in our house, I sold the used tulle and half of the flowers on Craigslist for $20!

As for the colors, my preference would have been seafoam green (my oddly specific favorite color), but since my sister was my only bridesmaid (actually, my matrón of honor), and since she also had to buy a flower-girl dress and a ring-bearer suit, I told her to pick any dress she wanted in any color (except red) and that would be my color. I wanted the dress to be something she would actually wear again (and not something the bride tells you you could actually wear again but then never do), and though she chose a super fancy floor-length gown, I think she goes on enough cruises to reuse that baby at least once on those fancy-schmancy dinner nights.

For the officiant, well, that’s a funny story that involves me and the Internet and being creepy (or really good at the Google, depending on how you look at it), but we ended up finding the fiance of our wedding photographer, who happened to be a notary and who happened to have never officiated a wedding. But, he did have a lovely baritone voice, and I had no problem gambling on his ability to read words from a piece of paper and sign his name nicely. In the end, he did a great job, and now we’re actually friends in real life.

As for the ceremony itself, it was really important to Kevin and me to write it ourselves and make it meaningful to us, even if it did not adhere to customs or the religious beliefs of anyone other than us. We loved what we came up with; it was traditional enough to follow but uniquely us. Lina, who is from India, told us that in traditional Indian weddings, people close to the bride and groom speak during the ceremony to honor the couple. Kevin really latched on to this idea, so we asked his dad and brother and my sister and aunt to prepare a little something. At first, I wasn’t fond of the idea, but I’m glad Kevin insisted on it, because I think it turned out well and made the ceremony even more personal.

Wide shot of the site.

Our beautiful ceremony venue.

I know everyone says this, but the ceremony really did go by in a blur. Though we spent hours writing our wedding ceremony, it took only a few minutes to complete, and it felt like a surreal, out-of-body experience. But it happened and, in under 15 minutes, we were husband and wife.

After the ceremony, we spent a few minutes chatting with our friends and taking family photos before we headed into the woods for a brief photo shoot of just us. The one thing I regret is not budgeting more time here, as we felt very rushed to get photographs in before heading to our next event, but in the end, our photographer (Tyler K. Reed Photography) got plenty of great shots. (I mean, let’s be honest; how many photos does anyone really need of their wedding day? The answer is not that many.)

Part 2: Family Luncheon

Because all of our family came from other cities (and some from other states), we wanted to do something nice and a little fancy for them as a thank-you (which is why this event was called a luncheon and not simply a lunch). We decided to treat our family to a meal at Francesca’s Trattoria, my favorite Italian restaurant in GNV and one of the first restaurants Kevin and I visited for a date.

This turned out to be the single most expensive transaction for the entire wedding, but it was worth it. The food was great and we had the chance to hang out with our families before the chaos of the party began.

Part 3: House Party

Homemade fire pit and wood benches.

While we always knew we wanted to host a party in lieu of the traditional, formal reception, we originally planned to rent a house or venue and throw the party there. In the end, however, we decided that it would be more advantageous to host it at our house. We had never thrown a housewarming party when we purchased the house, and we thought we could make better use of the money we would have needed to rent a place to make some small improvements to our own abode, like building the bar and adding a permanent, homemade fire pit with benches.

When we first started dating, Kevin (though he swore he never wanted to get married) told me that the best wedding he had ever attended was one that was held in a park and included hot dogs and beer. Having been to many weddings myself, I knew that the real recipe for success/fun was not how cute and clever the table centerpieces and party favors could be (and the last thing I wanted to do was throw the same uninspired, “look what I found on Pinterest,” rustic-chic wedding that every other female human is throwing these days); all we really needed was alcohol and food.

So we rented a keg, picked up some handles of liquor and mixers, concocted a red sangria, and made lime-infused water for the DDs. In honor of Pi Day, we ordered 25+ pizzas from Domino’s and 8 freshly made pies from Publix, and we also served some appetizers/finger foods.

We converted most of the rooms in our house into seating areas to give people different areas to roam. We set up dual beer pong tables on the side of the house, and we had a bonfire going (at least for a little bit) in the backyard. We put up minimal decorations but enough to feel festive, and we had a diverse playlist (curated by yours truly) going while Darren Aronofsky’s film Pi played on our TV in the background. (Looking back, I should have played Life of Pi instead, as Pi ended up being an obscure choice.)

For our guest book, we agreed that we did not want a framed photo, painting, or other physical object that we would then feel obligated to tote around with us for the rest of our lives. Instead, I used Google Forms to create a fun survey, the results from which are more fun than signatures and will last until the sun blows up and destroys the Earth (and thus the Internet). We were also then able to email a link to the guest book to everyone subscribed to the Facebook event for those that missed their opportunity to fill it out at the party.

What I loved most about our party, though, was how generous people were. We had asked our guests to not bring gifts (since we were not throwing a traditional, costly reception); we just wanted people to come have fun with us. Though several of our friends still contributed to our honeymoon fund, others brought us homemade gifts, like a giant jug of cherry-infused kombucha, a pitcher of white sangria, and fried chicken. Kevin’s aunts took it upon themselves to purchase all of our paper decorations and even lit up our driveway with luminaries. These were unexpected surprises and made us feel very loved.

The downside of the party was that only a few people took photos, so I don’t have much to show for it. But the experience was a blast and exactly what we had hoped it would be. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and most of the food and beer disappeared. I’d call that a success.

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The Rundown

Here’s a breakdown of everything we spent money on and our grand total for our wedding. While we missed our $1,000 goal, I’m satisfied with what we spent. In the end, we both agree that it was exactly what we wanted: our friends and family hanging out, having some drinks, and being merry. In truth, I can’t imagine the evening being anything else other than what is was: perfect for us.

  • Marriage license: Alachua County, $94
  • Invitations/guest book: Facebook/Google Forms, free
  • Music: Various playlists curated by us using Google Play All Access, free (though we did pay $30 for a Bluetooth player to have music at the ceremony, and we pay a monthly subscription fee of $8 for Google Play)
  • Ceremony:
    • Venue: Bivens Arm Nature Park, free
    • Photography: Tyler K. Reed Photography, $188
    • Notary: Kody Latham, free
    • Planner: Lina Khan, free
    • Decorations (tulle, owl vases, flowers): Michael’s, $60 – $20 resale on Craigslist – $7 returned tulle = $33 net
    • Bouquets and boutonnieres: Alix Mathia, free
    • Flower girl basket: Amazon, $10
    • Flower girl flowers: Random person’s hibiscus bush on my way to the ceremony, free 😀
  • Attire:
    • Kevin’s suit: Already owned, free
    • Wedding dress: David’s Bridal, $212
    • Shoes: Amazon, free (generously gifted by my mom)
    • Jewelery: Amazon, $35
    • Hair & Makeup: Did my own, free
  • Lunch venue: Francesca’s Trattoria, $351
  • Reception:
    • Venue: Our house, free
    • Snacks and accessories: Sam’s Club/Dollar Store, $160
    • Liquor, wine, and keg: Sam’s Club/Publix, $180 (and we had extra beer, which we delivered to local friends the next day, and tons of extra liquor, which we will just keep for future use :D)
    • Dinner: Domino’s Pizza, $190 (and we had extra, which we donated to a few friends but mostly to our little brother, Tim, who is in college and lives off of pizza)
    • Dessert: Publix pies, $57
    • Decorations, plates/cups, favors: Oriental Trading, free (generously gifted by Kevin’s parents and aunts)
    • Serving dishes: TJMaxx/Goodwill, $50

Total: $1,615

How We Saved Money

Obviously, our style of wedding isn’t for everyone, and I know a lot of brides spend years dreaming up their perfect day, no expense spared. But here are the major ways that we saved money, and maybe future brides will find just one or two of these (rather than all of them) helpful in planning their own weddings.

  • We held the party at our house (instead of renting a venue).
  • We served pizza and pie (instead of serving an elaborate, multi-course meal).
  • We used electronic resources for our invitations and guest book (instead of using paper, stamps, knick-knacks, etc.).
  • We made our own playlist and used our own sound system (instead of booking a DJ).
  • We scoured the Internet for a talented but flexible photographer and then booked her only for the amount of time (and photos) we really needed (instead of booking an all-day, thousands-of-photos affair).
  • We used a notary to marry us (instead of using an officiant). (By Florida law, notaries cannot charge more than $30 for marriage ceremonies, though many do them for free.)
  • We used minimal decorations and fake flowers that we arranged ourselves (instead of buying real flowers and maximum decorations).
  • We used paper flowers for the bouquets/boutonnieres (which we still have and will have forever), and we stole a few petals from a random bush for the flower girl basket (instead of paying for real flower arrangements that die in a few days).
  • We used what we already had (when appropriate) for our attire, hair, and makeup (instead of renting tuxes or having a professional stylist slather my face and hair with products).
  • We uses paper plates and cups, and we raided Goodwill for serving dishes and then filled in the gaps with inexpensive items from TJMaxx (instead of buying high-end dishes that no one would notice).

To wrap up this post, Kevin and I would like to extend a very humble thank-you to everyone who helped make our day special. We couldn’t have done it without the love and support of our family and friends, and we are very grateful to all of you. Thank you!!

Pantry Moth-strosity

It’s Tuesday, 8:08 AM. I open Gmail on my computer, and a new chat from Kevin pops up: “CARLY! I found a MOTH in my teabag!”

Instantly, my heart sinks.

Sometime around January 2013, when we lived in our little apartment in Tampa, we started noticing a moth here and a moth there. I thought, “How cute. Baby moths! The best kind of bugs to have! They are going to eat all the other bugs that we don’t want around!” We assumed that a few little friendly companions had moved in, and we felt led to do nothing about it.

And then the moths started having babies, and the babies had babies, and soon we were sharing our apartment with a civilization of moths.

We searched the Target “Home” aisle for a solution. I had heard of mothballs, but I wasn’t really sure what they were. Based on the information I read on the side of the mothball products, I realized this wasn’t the answer to our problem. I asked my mom, but she had never heard of a problem like ours.

Then I asked Kevin’s mom.

“Oh! You have pantry moths! They feed off your grains!”

Suddenly, the veil was lifted, and I realized that what I had thought were beautiful, winged cohabitants were actually disgusting, tiny pests. We didn’t have a few little friends; we had an infestation!

Yes, pantry moths—the most putrid thing that can happen to your food-storage area. They crawl through infinitesimal openings in your food bags and feed off your food. They can get in your house a number of ways, but many times they enter via something you purchased at the store, which is an even more despicable thought. Then, they lay eggs either in your food or in your food’s container. Our pantry moths seemed to especially favor the tiny space on the bottom of tin cans where the lid meets the side. Next—worst of all—comes the cocoon/worm phase. The blog No Ordinary Homestead describes the pantry-moth life cycle best:

“You may first notice the little brownish moths that flit around your kitchen. They will lay somewhere between 60 and 300 eggs which will hatch 2-14 days later. The mommy moth […] will usually lay these close to a food source. Then, once they hatch, they don’t have very far to travel before they start to feast. The larvae/worms look a bit like small caterpillars are a whitish-yellowish color with little black heads and about 2/3-inch (1 cm) long. They will burrow into anything and everything they can find, continuing to eat for 2 – 41 weeks, depending on the temperatures. […] And once they are finally full and have left behind their tell-tale webs, they will find [sic] crawl off somewhere looking for a cozy place to nest and spin a cocoon. This will often be crevices in your kitchen you don’t normally see or maybe even where the ceiling meets the wall. […] We promptly killed them and hoped not to find anymore. But there were more…there always are.”

But why me!? I had never heard of nor experienced this problem in any other place I had lived. And it’s not like I was suddenly very bad at closing my open food containers. I felt violated, like my apartment and the moths had teamed up to torment me in my own dwelling. I hypothesized that the moths were attracted to Tampa’s warmer climate; it seemed to be the only major difference between Tampa and the other Florida cities where I had lived.

The Pantry Pest Trap: Our best friend against our worst enemies.

After hearing the verdict from Kevin’s mom, we headed back to our apartment, fearing what we knew we had to do next. We searched every grain-type food we had—quinoa, cereal, rice, bread—and found moths, eggs, cocoons, and worms in all of it. We promptly threw away everything grain-related, wasting a lot of food and money in the process. Kevin’s mom—who, I learned, has a lot of experience with pantry moths—bought us several Pantry Pest Traps, which we installed immediately. The traps tricked several moths into killing themselves, but we still saw moths fluttering around. We brushed it off, thinking it would just take time for them to die off or find their next family to haunt.

A moth month later, we moved back to Gainesville. “Free at last!” I thought. No longer would pantry moths infest my house and dreams. I would finally feel comfortable in my living space.

After the move, I traveled back to Tampa to tackle the task of cleaning our old apartment—alone. I spent three evenings (eight hours total) cleaning that apartment (and got most of my deposit back!!), but every day I returned, I found more moths. I sprayed so much bug-killer into the pantry that I’m afraid for whomever puts their food into it next. And yet every day, I found another worm, cocoon, or moth flittering around inside it. I even found a few moths flapping around the bedroom closets. Eventually, they were all dead, their bodies dragged from my pantry by a mix of chemicals, paper towels, and pre-menstrual feminine rage. I won.

Or so I thought.

Dead moths = happy Carly.

We were excited for the fresh start in our new pantry in Gainesville. We set up a moth trap immediately, and we also invested in some fly tape to hang in the pantry doorway, just to catch any moth or fly that might outwit the moth trap. We sprayed every shelf of the pantry with white vinegar and sprinkled bay leaves everywhere. (Kevin had read that these were other ways to keep unwanted moths out of our pantry.) As if that weren’t enough, we invested in airtight storage containers from IKEA to house multi-use, boxed items like cereal, crackers, quinoa, and pancake mix.

As we put away food into our new pantry, something on the bottom of a can caught my eye—a moth nest! I couldn’t believe it. Those little buggers had caught a free ride on our non-grain food, determined to torment us for all eternity. Distressed, we began checking everything—every inch, inside and out, of every can, box, bag, packet, jar, etc. They were in the oatmeal packets, the popcorn packets, the tomato soup cans, the macaroni and cheese boxes, the folds of the cookie packaging, the inside of the cereal boxes—the list goes on. We threw away any opened, perishable food item that had a moth in/on it, and washed the outsides of unopened cans, jars, and bottles with vinegar. By the end of this second attack, we had thrown away almost all of our food.

After that night, I never saw a cocoon or a worm again. Our moth and fly traps caught the occasional moth that had slipped through the cracks of our hunt (which is a scary thought, but I let it go), and we could finally sleep (and eat!) peacefully, though it took a while to stop analyzing every corner of my food and containers each time I used them.

Moth trap in our new pantry.

When we moved into our current house, we followed the same new-pantry-prep procedure, minus the bay leaves (it’s just kind of messy).

This past Sunday, over our weekly pancake breakfast, Kevin opened a brand-new, sealed bottle of agave nectar. He flipped open the top and gasped: there, inside the cap, were two moth cocoons. Naturally, I freaked out, leaving my uneaten pancakes on the table (and at the mercy of Peanut and Dobby) to rush to the pantry and frantically search all of the syrup and ketchup caps.

Luckily, I found nothing; apparently we had purchased the agave nectar just before leaving Tampa, so it was completely plausible that these moths were leftovers from the original infestation.

And then Tuesday, 8:08 AM comes. Sitting at work, I feel myself begin to panic. Kevin had taken a teabag with him to work and discovered a dead cocoon, and there were nine hours between me and getting home to tear through our tea supply.

Later that evening, when we were both home (because I was not going to do it alone), we pulled down all of our tea, which we keep in a cabinet in the kitchen rather than the pantry. We had the same arrangement in our Tampa and Gainesville apartments too, which explains why a moth might have escaped the Great Pantry Purge of 2013: we never checked the tea supply! Luckily, we found no moths. Perhaps it was a fluke or Kevin’s failing eyes that caused the uproar. Regardless, we did toss the box of tea from which Kevin grabbed the questionable bag.

I feel fairly certain that we have escaped the infestation for now, though we do find the occasional dead moth in our current trap.

But we may never stop looking over our shoulders or straining to hear for a light fluttering of wings flapping in the pantry….