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.
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.
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
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.
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)
- 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 😀
- Lunch venue: Francesca’s Trattoria, $351
- 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
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!!