Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Real Wedding: Sarah + Chris

I'm so glad Sarah shared her wedding with me. The relaxed, authentic, fun celebration makes me breathe deep, happy breaths all the way to my belly. (And I'm a sucker for non-white, practical wedding dresses!)

Without further ado, here's Sarah to share how she and Chris brought it all together....


So we got married on May 29, 2010!

Chris and I had been dating for over seven years, and had been through a variety of trials and tribulations (initial parental disapproval, a truck accident, study abroad, cancer, long-distance grad school)… so once we finally got through all that, we decided to move in together, and soon after that, decided to get married. I keep telling folks that it seemed more like a formality, since we’ve been through a lot, and had already lived together and bought a house together, so maybe that’s where we were coming from with not wanting something terribly traditional. I love that there are so many different wedding websites and blogs to glean inspiration and ideas from, and they were a HUGE help in planning a wedding from scratch.

We co-opted Sara and Matt’s idea of a postcard invite with essential details, guiding folks toward a website for more information and to RSVP. We decided to go the Vistaprint route, and opted for the 100% recycled postcard option, which was more expensive, but we felt it was a good decision. Plus, it was still cheaper than regular invitations. (A word of caution—count the number of invitations you will need—i.e. a family of five will only need one invite! We forgot about this and ordered enough invites for each guest, and didn’t realize that was too many until we sat down to address them. Live and learn!) Chris drew the whimsical invite, and arranged the drawings and words around in Photoshop. We got a lot of compliments on our invites, and most folks knew Chris drew them the instant they saw them.

Our venue, a really nice local community center, effectively limited our guest list to 100 guests, or more ideally, 80 (since 80 would fit in one room). We had to make some cuts, but I think most people understood. We generally used the “the venue will only allow 80 people!” logic, and that seemed to work. We got a discount on the venue because we’re residents, and because it’s a nonprofit, it was very inexpensive. They had staff there during the entire event if we needed anything and were very helpful.

We did an online RSVP form through Google Docs, and it worked like a charm. Nearly 80 percent of our guests filled out the online RSVP form. For those that didn’t RSVP online, we simply followed up with a phone call asking if they were planning on coming. (Most of the people who didn’t RSVP were family who we knew were coming anyhow.) The RSVPs populated a spreadsheet, and we were able to keep track of who was coming and who wasn’t.

We got amazing catering through a local Indian restaurant that provided tandoori chicken, chana masala (a chickpea dish), dal saag (a spinach lentil dish), naan (bread), basmati rice pilaf, and raita (a yogurt-type chutney) for under $10 per person. We got SO many compliments on the food, and while I was a little worried about everyone liking Indian food, the vast majority of folks were licking their plates clean. Plus, we had leftovers which were delicious. The restaurant delivered and set everything up; it was just a self-serve buffet.

One of Chris’s coworkers made our wedding cake. She makes cakes for fun, and she offered to make our cake for the cost of materials. (I should say that she had to miss our wedding last minute because her grandfather fell ill, and she flew out to visit him. She dropped off the cake at another coworkers’ house on her way to the airport, which is just absolutely jawdropping to me.) The cake was designed after our invitations and was a hit. We built an erector set crane to put on top, and I made the papier-mâché heart. The cake itself was amazing—a brownie-like chocolate cake. We also bought two sheetcakes from Costco which we really didn’t need in the end, but they were very good as well. (Side note—we forgot the Costco cakes! My aunts were gracious enough to run to Costco after the ceremony was over to get them.)

We had two kegs of beer (one was Resurrection, a local beer from Baltimore that was a wedding gift from a friend who has an owner’s stake in the brewpub, the other was Yuengling) and cases of a cheap but delicious California chardonnay. I asked my siblings if they had any friends who wanted to earn some cash working the bar, and we got a recent college graduate who was super friendly and did a fantastic job.

I bought my dress from Target. I was in the process of making one when I came across a dark purple Grecian-looking maxi dress that I really liked, so I got that instead. It cost about $30. The dress came with a small rope belt, but I didn’t like it so much, so I made the cream sash which worked well. C got his vest and pants and shirt from JCPenney’s for under $100, and he’ll be wearing it again to the three other weddings we have this summer.

Our officiant was a friend who got ordained online (which is legal in the state of Maryland). We had a meeting over Chinese food where she edited our vows, we edited her officiating, and that was that. She’s a good friend of ours, and my husband officiated her wedding in June. She worked out perfectly, as we’ve all known each other for a while now. The ceremony was about 10 minutes long, very short, but long enough for us to express what we wanted to tell each other. No aisle, no wedding parties, we just said our vows in the middle of everyone on the patio out back. It was amazing—I thought our vows were great; they were funny, they were honest, and we told each other we wanted to live like this forever. It didn’t come across to me as particularly… touching? But my sisters all came up at the end of the ceremony, with tears in their eyes, telling us how beautiful the whole thing was.

One thing I did was make the ring pillow. My late great-grandmother used to embroider handkerchiefs, and we have a whole box of them. I took one and made a ring pillow out of it. My mom’s family all loved the idea, and it’s been declared a requirement for all weddings from here-on-out.

We had a mishmash of centerpieces that all worked well. We had picked up vases from an outlet (8 for $1!), added a simple brown paper bag and ribbon decoration and and filled them up with Hershey’s kisses. Chris’s mom also had a bunch of battery-operated candles, so we put them in little plates with jelly beans. For table numbers, we printed the number out very large, and had Transformers hold them; Chris collects Transformers, and we just used the ones we already had.

We had dancing, but most of my friends don’t like dancing. Everyone ended up just chatting outside, which worked perfectly, because we could all talk to people without feeling like we had to do the receiving line. (We did make the table rounds earlier in the evening, but this was more relaxed). We also had Mario Kart going all evening long:

Another idea stolen from Sara and Matt was the “everybody as photographers” idea. We set up a pro-Flickr account and spread the login information. Chris works in video production, and photography is so very close to that. Many of his coworkers and friends already have high-end digital SLRs, and even if we had hired a photographer, they would have been there with their equipment anyhow. We ended up with over 1000 photos, and many truly fantastic ones are in there. Another coworker who DJs on the side did our sound.

All in all, we were very excited at how everything went. We got a lot of comments on how gorgeous the ceremony was, how very “us” everything was, which was nice because we didn’t spend a lot of money or even thought on how to personalize everything—it ended up personalized on its own because we and our friends did so much.

I know it’s not all about money, but since this is 2000 Dollar Wedding, I’ll throw this out there. We estimated we spent about $4000 total. We didn’t keep a tally or anything, but we were able to pay for everything out of pocket. It would have cost a LOT more if we had to spend more on the cake and the sound and the photography, etc, etc, etc, so I have to say we got by with a LOT of help from our friends and fam.

And now we’re married! Hooray!

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Catherine said...

Sounds amazing! And I love the transformers on the table idea... I'll have to remember that one!

Anonymous said...

"And now we're married! Hooray!"

That's the point, isn't it?

Your wedding graduate post made me happy. (And I hope you DO get to live like this forever, Savage Garden-style!)

Sara said...

It's great to have a very "you" ceremony, and all the better for having such wonderful friends and family around to be helpful!

I hope it was a wonderful day for you.

Sarah said...

Thanks all! :D It really was a great day, and I know I focused a lot on the STUFF because I thought that might be helpful for folks who are in the throes of planning, rather than the fluffier stuff which comes on its own anyhow :)

Unknown said...

Congratulations! I also love that you wrapped it up by stating "Now we're married!"

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