Posts in the 'destination wedding' Category

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter’s Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

When this super sweet, laid back wedding from Lauren Lindley Photography fell into my leap, I spent some serious time living vicariously through the subjects of the photographs, with sand between their toes, mountain air surrounding them and pops of color livening up this sweet, family-oriented South Lake Tahoe wedding. The couple, whose sons played part in the ceremony, chose the destination because the bride grew up in the area. Summer and Peter, who planned from their home in Eugene, Ore., hosted 25 guests for a lakeshore wedding celebration complete with a (super colorful!) knot-tying ceremony, buffet-style dinner and a chandelier-adorned arch on the beach (whaaatttt???? YES. This, you guys). Let’s join them, shall we?

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding
Name: Summer & Peter
Occupation: Oncology Nurse
Wedding location: Round Hill Pines, South Lake Tahoe
Wedding Date: 7/3/2014
Budget: $3500
How would you describe your wedding (civil? Traditions? Write your own vows? Etc.): Casual, intimate.

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding
What was your favorite part of your wedding? I loved it all! If I have to choose my favorite part it would be the reveal. Five quiet minutes with my soon to be husband

What did you splurge on? Airbrush makeup!

What did you save on? A reception venue, we had it at the rental house.

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding
Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? I would have hired live music for our ceremony.

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding
What was your biggest challenge in planning? With it being a destination wedding, I had to rely on the Internet, and pictures. I had to have faith that my ideas came across clearly to people I had never met.

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding
What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? Although sometimes you can’t wait for the planning to be over, it is a precious time, and should be enjoyed.

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding? My amazing husband and children; the beautiful scene my mom created for us; the rental house Stonehenge, South Lake Tahoe; our photo booth at the reception; and the knot tying ceremony.

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Top 5 least favorite? Timing: the sun was burning our eyes, and I felt like I was melting! Would have had it 30-45 minutes later. Our wedding venue: Although gorgeous, it was one of their last weddings and I felt like they were “not in to it.” Really I can’t think of anymore dislikes :)

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding


Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? To go traditional, and not do the reveal. Good thing I didn’t listen-Loved that part!

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding
The best? Enjoy every minute, and get your hair and makeup done professionally.

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding

Real Wedding: Summer & Peter's Family-Friendly Destination Tahoe Beach Wedding
Photography: Lauren Lindley Photography

Flowers: A Floral Affair

Caterer: Racheal K’s Home Cookin

Ceremony: Round Hill Pines

Rental House: Stonehenge Tahoe

Decorations: Kathie Giove — My Momma

Hair and Makeup: Rah Hair Studio

Bride’s Dress: Rosebud’s Boutique (Junction City, Ore.)

Real Bride Elizabeth: Insane in the Membrane?

Since my last post, I decided that planning a wedding long distance wasn’t quite enough stress for me. So, I decided to spice things up a bit and add moving across the country and starting a new job, all in less than a month! I think I might be losing it a little.

My fiance and I have debated moving back to North Carolina for the last year. The winters in Minnesota are brutal, and the amount of seasonal depression I suffer from during those nine months out of the year is taxing. I started applying for jobs in the Raleigh/Durham area, and at the end of June received word from one of Duke University’s study abroad programs that they wanted to meet with me.



Goodbye Minneapolis!

Now, working in study abroad is my dream job, for real. I’ve always been a huge supporter of people studying abroad, and to have Duke contact me — well, that’s pretty major. They flew me out for a whirlwind interview, and a couple days later I was offered the position. My fiance had already been contacted by a couple schools for teaching positions, so we were pretty sure he would find something.

I’m not going to lie, I am freaking out a little bit. My new job was very accomodating — originally they wanted to have someone start as soon as possible, but they are letting me wait until after the wedding.


Hello North Carolina!

Now Bryce and I are packing, selling furniture on Craigslist (anyone want an awesome sofa set?) and attempting to finalize details for the wedding. I’m also having to juggle showers, final hair appointments, and seeing people who I won’t see for awhile. We haven’t even really thought about finding housing in N.C., once we add that to the mix I think it will be even crazier!

These next couple weeks are going to fly by, and hopefully we make out the other side alive!

Have you had any major upheavals during your planning process? How did you cope?


Real Wedding: Courtney and Carli’s Sentimental, Intimate, Barn Loft Nuptials

You guys, ever since one of the brides, then the photographer, made contact with me about featuring this wedding, I was dying for the whole thing to land in my inbox. I knew it was a story full of love, but I didn’t know all the deets nor had I seen any photos yet … but I just knew it was one that would tug at my heart strings. And oh man … You can actually feel the love emanating from the words and pics. The wedding was held at 11 a.m. in the loft of the barn where one of the brides had ridden horses prior to their move to South Africa. Their sweet pup, Kobane, even joined Courtney and Carli — bedecked in a bow tie and all — for the reception. As conservationists, the brides had their wedding bands made from recycled silver and formed to resemble budding twigs. All of the decor was reminiscent of their relationship through the years, or was an actual piece of their history! So sit back, relax and enjoy all the love from this gorgeous Canadian wedding!


Names: Courtney & Carli le Roux

Occupation: Conservationists

Wedding location: Rockwood Park Stables, New Brunswick, Canada

Wedding Date: 24 May 2014

Budget: $2500 CAD (~$2,305 USD)

How would you describe your wedding: A very intimate, quiet and special day full of small touches that are “us”; from the suitcase of letters we’ve sent each other, to books bound in twine that we’ve shared, hand written menu cards and an “our story” board.



What was your favorite part of your wedding? We loved how intimate it was, and how every tiny element held meaning. Exchanging vows was the favourite part, because we wrote them in the same room at midnight the night before we were married, but didn’t get to read each other’s.


What did you splurge on? Our photographer. Photos of the day are absolutely beautiful and we are a bit panicked even at the thought that we nearly didn’t have them.


What did you save on? Food, venue, dresses, decor and rings. We self-catered everything in a brunch-style buffet. Our venue was the hay loft of the barn where one of the brides rides and was loaned to us for free, so long as we cleaned it out and set it up. We managed to find an off-the-rack dress that was not only 50% off, but fit one of us perfectly, and the other was handmade by Courtney’s mother. The décor was all handmade and items that we already owned — from old suitcases and books tied in twine, to an old typewriter and vintage camera with case, and we made our archway out of branches that had been broken in a recent winter ice storm. We used old tables that were already in the barn and covered them with inexpensive linen, and used items and dishes that we already had to decorate them. Our rings were handmade and found on Etsy, and were given to us as a gift by Courtney’s sister, Alishia-Marie.


Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? We are really happy with how everything went together, but we really shouldn’t have spent so much time and energy worrying about the food. We stressed ourselves out about it and on the day, there was no need — we had far more than enough, and everyone who attended would have been fine even if there hadn’t been. The day was about us, not the food, the decorations, the dresses.



What was your biggest challenge in planning? We planned everything in less than two months, and initially we hadn’t intended to use the hay loft and so trying to find a venue in such short notice was a bit stressful, until we were offered the loft. If you can, use a location that doesn’t require much decorating, and something that family or friends own — a nice, big yard, a cottage, a beach — it will save so much time and money.



What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? Whatever happens doesn’t matter — the day is about you as a couple, and nothing else. Anyone at your wedding will understand that. Relax. It isn’t actually as serious as it’s made out to be — the commitment you are making is, but the day itself isn’t. And have fun! The things that go “wrong” make wonderful stories.


What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?

1 – How intimate and personal it was.
2 – That everything in the room had some kind of meaning to us.
3 – That the place we got married at had so much meaning for us.
4 – I had a surprise FaceTime call from one of my closest friends, who was unable to attend because she is living in Korea.
5 – The ceremony itself. We rewrote the template ceremony given to us by our officiant, and it made it so much more special.


Top 5 least favorite? We can honestly say that we have nothing to fill in here, other than we wish certain people had been able to make it.

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? Have favours! Print programs! You need this … You need that …
Basically, people forgetting that the wedding was ours and ours alone, and that we were free to do whatever we pleased.


The best? Just enjoy it, and it’s about you. When we would get stressed out or worked up about something that really didn’t matter on the day, we were reminded of that fact. That all that mattered was us, and that we were happy.


Any other bits of wisdom? We know that so many people say it, but it really is not worth the stress. All that matters is that that paper gets signed – everything else is just for fun.


Budget breakdown?
$1000 Photogtapher Alicia Robichaud of
$350 Dress for Carli, that needed no alterations
$75 Fabric for Courtney’s dress, hand mande by my mother
$250 Food, self-catered (and delicious!)
$275 Officiant
$100 Marriage License
$100 Hair for both of us
$100 misc DIY decoration supplies, linen, dish and chair rentals, etc.
$250 Wedding shoes, which were riding boots that are still being worn by both of us
$225 for both recycled silver wedding bands, given to us as a wedding gift.
$2500 Total

Congratulations, ladies!

Do you have  a wedding you’d like to submit? Email for details. 

Real Wedding: Bridget and Steve’s Intimate, Beautiful Palm Springs Wedding


Man, you guys, I’ve been seeing so much about Palm Springs lately. I know it’s full of opulence and wealth, but it’s also pretty … pretty. And so many shimmering turquoise pool! Bridget (also Dana’s literary agent!) and Steve tied the knot in a very intimate but very gorgeous ceremony at a Palm Springs rental house surrounded by their closest family, then whisked away for a sweet dinner with everyone. Sit back and take in all this beauty!STEVE + BRIDGET EPFAVS-24

Name (s): Bridget and Steve Matzie

Occupation: Literary Agent and Economic Development Consultant for Usaid

Wedding Location: Palm Springs, CA

Wedding Date: 3/10/2012

Budget: Somewhere around $10,000


How would you describe your wedding: Beautiful, casual and intimate (immediate family only), self-designed ceremony with readings from our favorite pieces of literature and our own vows.

What was your favorite part of your wedding? Exchanging our vows and drinking lots of fancy Champagne afterward.



What did you splurge on? Champagne, dinner, rental houses, limo.


What did you save on? We lived in India for two years before we got married and we saved a lot by getting our rings, my dress and Steve’s suit made there.


Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? Skipped the limo that we hired to take us to and from dinner. When we picked up our rental cars for the weekend Hertz gave us two awesome convertibles and those would have been more fun. We initially hired a small wedding planning firm but found them disorganized and the whole process of working with a planner more stressful than just doing everything ourselves. We ended up canceling the contract with the wedding planner.



What was your biggest challenge in planning? Designing a wedding from so far away — we live in DC.


What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? A fabulous wedding really doesn’t need much. And you can still feel all the wedding love and specialness with only your immediate family there.



What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding? Our vows, the toasts that friends and family sent, which were read at dinner, the Palm Springs weather and setting, the houses we rented and my dress (modeled on a Monique Lhuillier design).


Top 5 least favorite? The limo, that’s really it.


What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? We didn’t receive any bad advice, but we ignored most traditional wedding suggestions in favor of our own style.


The best? To write our own vows.


If you’ve been married for more than a year, what have been some challenges? We were together for 11 years before we were married so the challenges are essentially the same.



Any other bits of wisdom? Make a really strong effort to thank your partner for everything they do that you like and appreciate. Sometimes we can fall into a trap of letting our partner know what we don’t like, and when we’re upset, and we forget to compliment and thank. It feels so good to have even small things acknowledged. Also — compliment your partner in public and in front of family and friends — it makes it even better.


Budget breakdown?

Dress: $350, Made by a tailor while we were living in India

Steve’s suit: $300, made by a tailor while we were living in India, J. Crew tie

Rings: $2,000, made by Genesis Jeweler in India

Photographer: $1,500, Roger & Lyndzee Ellsworth from EPLove

Limo: $600

Honeymoon: $820 for 3 nights in Borrego Springs, Borrego Valley Inn

House rental for ceremony and lodging for most of family: $3,366, VRBO 262201

Cocktail hour catering: $385, Jennifer’s Kitchen and Catering

Private dinner for 13: $1,940, Villa Royale Restaurant 

Decorations: done by my mom

Bidal bouquet: David Madison / Madison Workshop West



Real Bride Elizabeth: Planning a Wedding Long-Distance

When I tell people that I am planning my North Carolina from Minnesota most ask me if I’m crazy. To be fair, before I embarked on this magical adventure, I would have said the same thing. So far, I have had a very good experience planning my wedding remotely (knock on wood). However, I can’t say I would recommend it to everyone. Here are the following things you should have to plan a remote wedding.

1.Amazingly supportive in-laws

I am getting married in my fiancé’s hometown, and luckily, his immediate family lives there. Since Bryce and I got engaged in Greensboro over Christmas and didn’t know when we would be back next, Bryce’s aunt Connie, who he lived with growing up, sprang into action and pretty much called everyone she knew that had some sort of wedding affiliation — from cakes to rehearsal dinner to make-up. When we visited Greensboro a few weeks ago, she took me to the farmer’s market to scope out flowers, to the BBQ place we are having cater our reception, and to restaurant possibilities for the rehearsal dinner. If she hadn’t been willing to help as much as she has, there is no way this process would be going as smoothly.


Future in-laws!

2. Connections

I got really lucky with this one. Since I’m a Broke-Ass Bride, it’s a given that my budget is tight. Luckily, one of Bryce’s good friends got married last year, and she gave me a list of all her vendors. Her DJ happened to be a family friend, and gave us an amazing discount. Since I had already seen the DJ in action at Bryce’s friend’s wedding, I felt comfortable booking him for ours. We also used the same photographer, who was graciously very willing to work with our budget. I was relieved to get a very high-quality photographer, as that was my Number One priority for the wedding. The fact that he went to high school with Bryce probably didn’t hurt.

3. The ability to let it go

One thing that I have learned about myself during this whole shebang is that I am really good at making quick decisions. When I was in Greensboro over Christmas, there wasn’t a lot of time to tour venues, especially since a lot of them were closed for the holidays. And, being a Broke-Ass, thus not able to fly back and forth every weekend, I had to decide fast. I’ve also had to prioritize what parts of the wedding I need to have a hand in and what I can pass off to others. There are definitely certain personality types that this would NOT work for, so I recommend knowing if this is something you’re capable of doing before deciding to plan a wedding remotely.



Sorry, I couldn’t resist


So, just so you know, planning your wedding long-distance isn’t impossible. Make sure you have a great support system and realistic expectations, and you’ll be golden.

Are you planning a wedding from afar? What troubles are you running into?

Partner Love: Let Bliss Honeymoons Tell You How Destinations Weddings Can Save You Big Bucks

Hey-yo! We’re letting our fantastic partners over at Bliss Honeymoons take the stage once again to present their killer tips on how to have a faboosh destination wedding without completely emptying your wallet (and checking account, savings account, etc…). Destination weddings often seem overwhelming because of the distance and the dollar signs, but surprisingly, you can score an amazing wedding for a fraction of the price it would have cost back home. Take it away, Bliss:

Exotic locations like Caribbean Islands, Hawaii, and the Capes of New England may sound expensive, but when pitted against a hometown wedding with a bloated guest list you’ll find they can save you a bundle.

Aside from saving you time and hassle, here are the 4 ways a destination wedding can save you big bucks:

Destination weddings have smaller guest lists and smaller invoices

This is simple math. How many friends of friends of friends will be willing to travel to attend your wedding? While a hometown wedding naturally lends itself to a more inflated guest list, a destination wedding is a great way to keep your guest list intimate and focused on close friends and family. If you host a hometown wedding and reception you have to find room in your budget for dozens of acquaintances that you may not include in a destination wedding guest list. This saves money on everything from the venue to the food and drink to the chair and linen rentals and guest favors.

Destination weddings give you get the best of both worlds

You get an exotic honeymoon in an amazing location bundled with the memories of a traditional ceremony-but you don’t pay for both. For just a little more  than you would spend on an exotic honeymoon trip anyways, you can include your wedding at the destination. This aspect of a destination wedding saves you the hassle of planning a wedding and a honeymoon as well as saving time by combining the two.

Destination wedding packages save big bucks

Most resorts offer special all-inclusive destination wedding packages that not only include your stay and amenities but also cover the cost of the wedding ceremony, cake, and photographs. Unlike a hometown wedding where you pay for each vendor separately as well as the venue, a destination-wedding package saves you money by bundling all your wedding day and honeymoon services into one competitive price.

Destination wedding planners take the strain off your finances

A dedicated destination wedding travel planner is the best way to squeeze the most out of your budget. Often, because of all their professional connections, tools and tricks they can save couples the cost of their fee and then some. Destination and honeymoon specialists have close relationships with the resorts, visit them in person frequently throughout the year, and have access to special pricing not available to the public. Destination wedding planners have tools and tricks to whisk you to your far away locale with insider knowledge of flight itineraries and unpublished airfare deals.

Using a destination wedding planner ensures you will spend your far away wedding day enjoying the details, not managing them.

What’s your idea of a dream destination wedding?

{Ask Liz} Two Weddings Enter, Only One Leaves

Got a question for Liz? Go to the contact page and tell us what’s up!

Break it Down, figure it out.

Dear Liz,
My fiance and I are planning a wedding 2 years out so we have time to save and I can finish with my graduate degree.  However, when we got engaged, I never dreamed of how expensive everything would be.  I have had little to no emotional or financial support from my family and although we have time to save to pay for the wedding of our dreams ourselves, I’m at the point that I feel like it would be for everyone else–instead of us.

I would like a barn wedding with a big group of people (we’ve cut the guest list down to 200), but I’m considering changing the plans completely and doing a destination wedding in Mexico instead. Do you think I would regret it?  What type of hidden costs are associated with a destination wedding?

Donde  o Donde?
Dear Donde,
The only person who can determine if you’re going to regret having a destination wedding in Mexico is you. It is pretty much on the other end of the spectrum from what you say that you want,  but here’s the thing: You have a lot of time to figure out exactly what each one is going to look like in terms of cost. The choice doesn’t have to be made right now. The Destination wedding ostensibly has less moving pieces, so start there. How much per person? How much are your guests going to have to pay to get down there, including their hotel stay? Are they going to have to pay a resort fee to use the facilities? Make the resort break it down for you in one document, including any taxes or service charges. What are you paying out the door? I know, it’s a lot of questions, but, again, you have time.
The barn wedding. This is going to sound funny, but is there a barn in particular that you had in mind? The first step is to find one, and then find out what you have to bring in. If it’s everything – tables, chairs, silverware, dishes, then find out how much that’s going to be. And, we’re talking basics, none of that silk ruffled tablecloth type of thing. Basics. You can always upgrade later. For instance, in Los Angeles, best case scenario is that a table of ten, fully set with linens, plates, etc, is going to to cost about $40, each. You will have 20 of those. I just posted what I call “The Olive Garden Rule” on my blog, which will give you a perspective on catering costs. And there’s flowers and a photographer and a DJ, all the stuff that normally goes with weddings. Don’t get freaked out while you’re finding all this info out. Just find it out, and decide. You really do have time.
Dear Liz,
I’ve been reading that  your guests bringing gifts to the wedding is a bad idea. The gifts could be stolen, cards could get separated from their boxes. I’m also worried because we live almost an hour away, and what if the gifts won’t fit in the car?We have over 100 guests.
Is there a polite way to ask them to send the gifts to our house, rather than bring them to the wedding? Or not bring anything at all? We don’t even need anything, and I don’t want anyone to feel guilty if they can’t afford to bring something.
Gifts Be Gone

Worst case scenario?

Dear Gone,

Guests are going to end up bringing gifts anyway. There is no way to deter everyone, even if you put it in 14-pt bold print at the bottom of your invitation. You can try that, though, along with putting it on your wedding website, if you have them, and generally spreading the word.

Even if you don’t register, some will bring cards with checks in them. If you do register, then the larger items can be shipped to you. But either way, folks are going to bring stuff.

Don’t worry about it too much, seriously. Designate a family member to hold onto the check cards. If there do end up being too many gifts for the car, ask a family or wedding party member who lives near you to take them, and you’ll pick them up later.

Are you stuck trying to decide between two venues? How did you figure out how to go “giftless?” Share below!

See you at the end of the aisle,


{Real Bride: Carrie} Location, Location: Debates on What State

I’ve got this dream wedding location in my head, and I’m hoping it’s not imaginary.

You see, we have a really small budget.  But we still really like to party.  We’re not opposed to DIY.  And we want to spend as much time with our friends and family as possible.

So, our A+, #1, ideal wedding venue would be some kind of camp, B&B, or conference center that we could take over for a whole weekend and have everyone stay in the same place!  Someplace that included a beautiful outdoor ceremony site, a kitchen we could use to self-cater, someplace for people to eat, drink, and dance, and cabins or a lodge that everyone could stumble off to after partying all night.

Courtesy of Whitney Martin Photography

I know, we dream big.  But I can’t help hoping that if the amazing Sara and Matt of 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding (a HUGE inpsiration to me!) can do it, than so can we!  So that’s the goal right now.

With that in mind, the first thing we had to do was decide which state to get married in!

Option #1: Ohio. :-( See, Zach and I are both from Ohio and so our families naturally assumed we’d be getting married there.  However, while we both agree that Ohio was a great place to grow up, we’ve since broken away and don’t intend to live there long-term again in the future.  Honestly, it’s just kind of (REALLY) boring.  However, most of Zach’s friends and extended family still live in Ohio.  AND wedding stuff is significantly cheaper there.


Option #2: California!  Although we’ve been working summer jobs in Ohio this year, the weeks are quickly ticking by and our planned move to San Diego, California is getting closer!  We both love San Diego, the sun, the waves, the perfect temperature, the proximity to Mexico!  This is where we can finally see ourselves “settling down” (which, for us, may only mean staying somewhere longer than a year, who knows) and where we’d like to get married.  It will be so much easier to plan a wedding close to where we are living.  Plus, I have a lot of friends and family scattered around the country.  When I sketched out my side of the guest list for our wedding, I realized that more than half of my people will have to get on a plane, whether the wedding is in Ohio or not!  Do I really want to make those poor people pay for a plane ticket and take time off to go to Ohio?  Heck no!  The downside to this, however, is that a lot of Zach’s extended family may not be able to afford to come to California.  The brutal-but-true upside to that downside: it would definitely help keep our numbers in check since his family is HUGE.

California, here we come!

Option #3: The Arizona back-up plan.  Before we left on our long Latin American odyssey trip, Zach and I were living in northern Arizona.  See, his parents bought a house out there that they are planning to move to when they retire.  But, they haven’t retired yet!  So we got to live there for a year and house-sit for them!  During that year, we really grew to love the area.  The house is within an hour of the Grand Canyon, Sedona’s red rocks, mountain climbing, swimming holes, and tons of other awesome stuff!  Plus, the house is pretty big and we could definitely clear a section of the yard for the ceremony.  The problem here would be that we’d still be long-distance planning, we’d have to rent all the tables and chairs, and people would have to stay in hotels that are at least 15 minutes away from the house.  But it’s a good backup plan because we know it won’t book up and it’s still an awesome vacation spot.

Arizona: a retiree's paradise

What do you think, people?  We’re clearly leaning towards having the wedding in California, and hoping to find a great venue there.  If you were in our situation, what state would you choose?

{Real Wedding} Christen & Leigh’s Hawaiian Beach Karaoke Bonanza

Is it just me or is it fffffreeeeezing? It’s been a nice 12 degrees F here for the last few days. I think it’s ’round about time to heat things up and cruise down to the lush tropics of Hawaii. Leigh and I tied the knot, took the plunge, straight-up got wedinated there on July 2, which was also the three-year anniversary of our first date. We were joined by fifty of our nearest and dearest for a week of carousing, splish-splashing and general good-time-havin’. So throw another log on the fire, pour some schnapps into your hot chocolate and warm up with our wicked-cool bash.

Name: Christen and Leigh
Occupation: Copy editing guru/ AP Style whiz/Wedding Superhero in training. He’s a chef.
Wedding location: The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Kohala Coast, Hawaii
Wedding Date:July 2, 2011
Budget: ~ $20,000

How would you describe your wedding? We had one mission: Have a blast and don’t stress.

Accomplished? HELL YES.

My family lives in the states, mostly in Wyoming, where we live, and in Massachusetts. His is in Australia. Our first goal was to find some middle ground, so we (oh, sooo painfully) chose Hawaii. After contacting oodles of (seriously, like 15) hotels, we decided the Mauna Lani was the best fit for us price, location and turtle-wise.

From there, it was all about customization. We got in contact with the hotel-recommended officiant, obtained his basic civil ceremony and gave it a very us-style makeover. We wrote our own vows, included a wine box ceremony — complete with wording alluding to our TARDIS-esque wine box. We had an impromptu thumb-war and rock-scissors-paper. Our ceremony was concluded with a pinkie swear preceding our kiss, which was followed by a high-five.

Since budget (and being able to enjoy our vacation) were such high priorities, we did all of it on the cheap. Aside from the wedding package, hotel, airfare, food, cupcakes, Photographers of Awesome, my aesthetics and bar, we didn’t pay over $100 for any single item, including my dress. I had a brooch bouquet made out of baubles my mother had given me and other trinkets gifted by friends, family and co-workers. Leigh’s mum made the bunting and found the gel beads for the centerpieces. Leigh’s Gir figurine played the starring role on the top tier of our cupcakes.

Our laptop acted as DJ. We had no flowers.

But we did have an open bar.

What was your favorite part of your wedding? In general, seeing 50 of our friends and family, many of whom were meeting each other for the first time and many of whom we were meeting for the first time, tearing it up on the dance floor, playing drinking games and lounging about together throughout the week.

Personally, our  pinkie swear. It’s a very significant thing for us, something we do to resolve fights or make a promise (especially when we want to get out of awkward social situations), so to include it in such a momentous event was like the most baller buttercream icing on top of the greatest cupcake in the world.

We were also amazingly overwhelmed by people’s generosity. Be it chipping in with decorating, planning fun activities, helping out financially or just being there, we were and still are beyond fortunate to have such giving, caring people in our lives.

What did you splurge on? The hotel and wedding package definitely took the biggest bite out of our wallet, but it was completely worth it. We got a room upgrade at no cost and they ended up comping us one night. The service was unbelievable and the wedding ladies, Pinkie and Lauren, definitely know what they’re doing. Even though it was a bit spendy, we were well taken care of and didn’t really have to do anything once we showed up. It was also our first vacation together ever and the first for us in years individually. We really wanted to make it count and it certainly did.

What did you save on? Everything else. I camped out on airfare websites to find cheap tickets. We bought things from independent artists who threw some things in for free. Even our photographers, kind of. We found Kat and Justin of Persimmon Images on BAB about a year before the wedding when they ran a promotion. We got some money knocked off the top and were able to pay them down over time, so it wasn’t a huge hit all at once. They also shot four days’ worth of activities, so even with their flight, hotel and overall pricing, it broke down to be relatively inexpensive. We were really blown away by the end product, and super excited about gaining some seriously awesome friends out of it.

And my dress. Ohhh, my dress. I was kind of dragged to David’s Bridal (Shock! Gasp!) and tried on a few different dresses. I’d walked by one on the clearance rack and asked if I could try it on. The saleslady was a bit trepidatious because it was a whole whopping size bigger than what I’d been trying on, but I stood my ground. I put it on, grabbed some straps, slung ‘em over my shoulder and declared right then and there I’d be taking it. My cousin was shocked and sure I hadn’t tried enough on. I, however, was satisfied (it wasn’t love, yet. More like first-date butterflies) and knew with a little alteration, it would soon be everrrrlaaassstttiiingggg loooove (whoop … forgive me. I really shouldn’t sing in front of an audience).

Leigh’s mum helped track down a turquoise petticoat, I found the turquoise buttons and a seamstress in town whose prices were perfect, and since she makes wedding dresses, she knew what she was doing. A few inches off the bottom, petticoat sewn in, straps added, nip here, tuck there and my little clearance-rack beauty was mine … all mine.

Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? It was all pretty awesome, and nothing huge was amiss. However, I probably would have taken my stubborn-ass hair under better consideration and chosen a style that would have not taken 3.5 hours, effectively swallowing the time allotted for shots with my homies. Mara did the best she could with my pigheaded hair and pigheaded self. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and she offered up the best compromise (hint, keeping the braid, nixing the curls). I still looked rockin’ and my pics are still amazeballz. Besides, I suck at posing and would have looked uber awkward anyway. However, timeline? A MUST. Plz. I didn’t. But I hate that I didn’t. Could have ended up with even MOAR AWESOME.

What was your biggest challenge in planning? Money and emotion. We had a really tough few months about a year into it, when my mother passed away and, separately, our financial situation plummeted. But I dug my heels in, using planning as a way to pull myself out of the grief hole. And the lack of money made us focus on the truly important stuff, thus doing away with extraneous BS. We stripped away the MUST BUY ALL THE THINGS attitude and focused on the nitty gritty. It helped to really zero in on the whole reason behind the planning. And made our bank account not give us the silent treatment.

What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself? That I freaking LOVE to plan shit. Seriously. Who knew? My organizational skillz leave a lot to be desired, but it’s something I’m working on. Oh, and that compromise thing. It’s kind of important. And I learned how to say “no” nicely but effectively. I learned that people will always surprise you, and for the vast majority of those surprises, it will be amazeballzfantasticlikewhoa.

Also, if people have enough notice and you truly want something bad enough, it can and likely will happen. We knew we were taking a gamble by having a destination wedding, but we gave everyone a two years’ heads-up and tried to provide a plethora of cost-effective options.

What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?

I’m gonna just throw out that getting married and who I’m marrying are a given, so  …
1. My lil sale dress with the blue petticoat and buttons. What? Yes. (Srsly, I have a lurve affair with it.)
2. Partying like it was 1999 with some of the coolest peeps ever.

3. Impromptu karaoke. It tends to happen with us (he proposed on karaoke night).
4. Pinkie swear
5. Seeing El Padrito bawl like a 5-year-old. YOU GUYS. So rare. So awesome.

Top 5 least favorite?
5. My painfully asshole-ish hair, even though it came out looking awesome.
4. Severe lack of time for photos. I really should have checked Liz’s timeline bettah.
3. The veil-in-face, can’t-hear-groom Hawaiian trade winds. Good timing, fellas.
2. Not winning the thumb-war or rock-paper-scissors.
1. It ending. That really was the crappiest bit.

What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? “It’s your day. You call the shots and people need to give you what you want because you’re the bride.” Yikes. No. Also, “It’s the most important/special/amazing/wonderful day of your life!!!!” Really? So, I could just die now? Granted, it was rad, and it was kind of cool to be fawned on all day, but the reason behind the wedding is the marriage. It’s everything that happens after the party. It’s a pre-Oscar party. If the Oscars don’t happen, then what’s the point? Amirite?

The best? “Take a minute, or five, with your [partner]. Soak it in.” YES. We did. Even when Kat and Justin were tailing us, we still had moments for the two of us. Y’all, so worth it. Make time for one another … and then keep doing it throughout the marriage.

Any other bits of wisdom? Cliche, I know, but when it all comes down to it, there’s one important thing about getting married: That you get married. The wedding is the means to an end. The end is the marriage. I mean, yes have that amazing party you have always (or maybe not) wanted. Try to get the dress of your dreams. Obsess over detail. Or don’t. Just get married and smile until your face falls off.

Logistically, because we booked both our venue and our photographers at least a year out, we got to nail down prices before they went up, and because we were able to pay them down over time, it saved us quite a bit of money. If you find a venue/photographer/whatever you love and know in your heart of hearts is the best option for you, try attempting this approach. With each the Mauna Lani and Persimmon Images, we saved at least $1000.

Budget breakdown?
Dress: $211 (David’s Bridal; Buttons: $11 LiD Designs Supplies on Etsy; Petticoat: Gift, eBay)
His outfit (total): $96 (Shorts: $26 Volcom on; Shirt: $39 Express for Men; Shoes: $24 Converse; Suspenders: $7 eBay)
Veil: $0 (Made by his mum)
Bouquet:  $0 (Assembled by his mum, brooches gifted)
Groomsmen Gifts (pocketwatches): $32 each x 5 = $160 from Amazon

Brideside Gifts: $40 x 2 = $80 (Garter flasks by You-Nique Garters and Flasks), $32 (Curious George flask) $30 (Pearls by Shari) = $142
Bunting: $0 (Made by his mum)
Hair and Makeup: $225 (Lilikoi Hair Studio)
Airfare: $1000 roundtrip for both of us
Wedding Bands: $25 + $28 = $52 (Kathryn Reichart on Etsy)
Custom Turquoise Pearl Necklaces: $52.20 (North Atlantic Art Studios on Etsy; she gave me the earrings as a gift)
Red Sox garter:  $33 (Garters by Kristi on Etsy)
Hotel: $1800
Photographers: Persimmon Images $2600 – $350 BAB discount + $2625 (travel expenses)

Venue and wedding services breakdown:
A la cart wedding package (includes both ceremony and reception locations): $1911
Reception tables, chairs, linens, set up and breakdown: $156
Appetizers: $2746
Cupcakes: $325
Enhancement Rentals (tiki torches, Chinese lanterns, lounge set): $1877
Unlimited open bar: $2956

Grand total: $18492.20

The Broke-Ass Bride is always looking for rad-tastic Broke-Ass weddings to feature. Interested? You can submit via Two Bright Lights or by emailing us directly!

-xoxo, Christen