3/18 Real Wedding: Angela and Jay’s $5000 Laid-Back Family-Powered Semi-Traditional Arizona Fete

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Angela and Jay had their beautiful wedding in January of this year, incorporating meaningful locations, the support of their community, and some Arizona flair. Seriously, how cute are these cactus favors? It goes to show that you don’t need to spend $30,000 to have a beautiful, memorable wedding day…and since their family and friends were involved throughout, they were able to start their married lives feeling truly loved and blessed.

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Names:  Angela and Jay

Occupations: Angela- PhD Candidate, Cultural Anthropology, Jay: Video Game QA Lead, Red5 Studios

Wedding location: Phoenix, AZ (Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and the Science and Heritage Park)

Wedding date: 01-04-14

Wedding budget: Original $3000…..Actual $5000

Approximate guest count: 100

How would you describe your wedding? Laid-back, informal, with traditional aspects

What was your favorite part of your wedding? I loved getting to talk with all of my friends and family during the reception. I just wanted it to last forever.

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What did you splurge on? The reception venue. We met on NYE 4 years ago at a bar owned by my husband’s friend. The venue is RIGHT behind it, so we both wanted to celebrate our marriage there, even though it was pretty expensive for our budget. It didn’t include much. It had a small catering kitchen and tables and chairs we could use. I also spent $444.00 on my wedding gown. I felt guilty for this, since Jay was wearing a suit he already owned. I REALLY wanted a simple white dress, off the rack. But I couldn’t find anything I liked. My mom made me go to a David’s Bridal one day and I found something that wasn’t too shiny and fancy for me. I hoped to sell it…but, then a friend burned a cigarette hole in it, and I spilled my beer on myself. I’m sure someone would still buy it…

What did you save on?  Everything else!! The cake/cupcakes were made by my best friend from high school. I won a few bottles of champagne in an online contest. I cut out all the paper flag decorations with my mom. My brother bought decorations off Craigslist from a woman who had similar colors for her wedding (candles, cake plates, lights, lanterns). I bought all the servingware (bowls, trays, and tongs) at a dollar store. I didn’t want flowers at first, but my mom wasn’t having that. So I found 10 bouquets at Costco for $100. They doubled as bouquets for the bridespeople and table decorations. We gave small cacti as favors (only 50 of them) and my friend purchased them for me at cost ($1 per cactus) from his cousin who runs a nursery. We decided a build your own sandwich bar would be good instead of a caterer. It was very simple. We had sliced cheese, turkey and roast beef with condiments. We bought bolillo rolls from a Mexican bakery which was cheaper than the same rolls at Costco. I made three grain/pasta salads that were very very inexpensive. One was quinoa, one was a pasta salad, and one was Israeli couscous. The biggest saving was the alcohol. My husband’s friends who own the bar gave us free beer and wine! We also received free coffee due to a mixup at the coffee house. That was a nice surprise!

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Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? I would have done two things differently. First I would have managed time better. We were married in a church service and since my husband is not Catholic, we didn’t have the full ceremony. In fact it only took 30 minutes. We had no idea it would be that quick! This meant that our guests had to wait about 2 hours between our ceremony and the reception. Since our reception was only a block from the church, most of our guests just headed to our friends’ bar for food and drinks. We had to set up the wedding while they did this. We decided to set up our own wedding to save money (of course!). Since we were early, the young men we had hired to set up the tables hadn’t gotten started yet. Everyone was stressed out and working hard. They wouldn’t let my husband or I do much, which was nice, but also frustrating.

The second thing I would have done differently is I would have hired a day-of coordinator. I would have just asked an old friend and paid her $50 or something. That way she could have fielded the 10,000 questions everyone had for me that day. The questions freaked me out because I really wasn’t very picky about how everything looked, but of course no one believed that. Most of the questions were related to the decorations.

What was your biggest challenge in planning?  We had a few challenges. The biggest challenge was money. We don’t have a lot and everything really added up.  I was in Washington teaching for the Summer and Fall semesters right before the wedding. So not only did Jay and I not get to see each other, but all of my planning was done through email and phone calls. I didn’t even see the church until the rehearsal dinner. Luckily we were familiar with the reception venue.

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What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself?

1.Our families really care for us. When we needed help purchasing something they always came through and just gave us money. We didn’t abuse this privilege, however.

2. I wouldn’t have bought so much food. Lots of our friends who said they were coming didn’t show, so there were too many sandwiches. Also, we had made sure to tell people that we were only serving light food, and during that 2 hr break between wedding and reception, lots of our guests ate dinner. My mom ended up donating bread to a soup kitchen which was great, but it would have been better for us not to spend the money in the first place.

3.I also learned that dancing is not as important to other people as it is to me. I spend what seemed like weeks and weeks creating our playlist. It was nuts. I went from slower dancing at the beginning to all out party music at the end when everyone would have been drunk. Well, The only dances that happened were our first dance and the father/daughter dance. Everyone else just used the wedding as a way to catch up with old friends and family, which was lovely, but not what I had envisioned. I wish I’d not cared about the music so much.

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What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding? 

1. Seeing friends and family that I hadn’t seen for years. I have lived in CA and WA for the last 4 years, so I’m out of touch with a lot of my Phoenix peeps. My husband is the same way. It was nice to have everyone together.

2. The cake and decorations! I really loved what I did. Yes it was simple, but it reflected us. We aren’t flashy people. I was really proud about the money I saved.

3. The help we received from friends and family. They worked so hard and the night of the reception I felt really very guilty for it. I saw my mom running around putting lunch meat on platters and making a veggie tray. My bridespeople and other friends all helped immensely with various food and decorations. It made me feel awful at the time, but everyone says it wasn’t a problem and that they had a good time. Also, it made me feel very loved.

4. Wine and beer! Not only was it free, but it helped both me and my fiance loosen up a bit.

5. Getting to celebrate our commitment to each other in front of all our friends and family. Although Jay and I have been committed to our relationship for a while, it felt good to share that with everyone else. Everyone was really happy for us, and that felt great!

Top 5 least favorite?

1. I didn’t like the music at the wedding ceremony, but it wasn’t a big deal. It was just boring church music that didn’t really fit the wedding.

2. My fiance was nervous and I didn’t know how to cheer him up. He didn’t smile once during the service and his hand was sweaty when I met him at the altar. I felt like I was failing him by not creating a happy wedding. He finally loosened up at the reception after we cut the cake….. about 3 hrs in…

3. I don’t have a picture of my parents walking me down the aisle.

4. Friends and Family who said they were coming that did not show up.

6. We only paid for a 3 hour reception. I wanted it to last at least 2 hours longer into the evening. We did all move over to the bar, but my fiance and I didn’t stay as late as our guests. I guess that was probably a good thing!

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What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? I didn’t have any bad advice, just a LOT of judgement from others. When you tell people that you are getting married, suddenly everyone has an opinion on things. (tablecloths, flowers, food, “You HAVE to have the Chicken Dance!”, etc.) That was a little annoying at first, then a lot annoying. Also, I really thought that our relationship would somehow grow deeper at a profound level after getting married. It didn’t. I still feel the same love for him that I felt before the wedding. Although there are times when I think “Wow, that was a whole fiasco, wasn’t it? Getting married in a church when neither of us are religious, having a fancy white dress, registering for gifts, etc. I can’t believe he loves me SO much that he would do it all and not complain once.”

The best? A few friends told me “Do what you want and try not to listen to other people.” and “This is about a marriage, not about a wedding.”

Any other bits of wisdom? Just have fun on your wedding day! Soak it all in and try to remember everything. Smile and say thank you as much as possible. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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Budget breakdown?

Venue (4 hour rental, includes a $500 refundable deposit): $1645.00

Security (We had to hire an off-duty cop for the venue.): $120

Marriage License: $107.00

City Fees (sound permit, alcohol permit): $38.00

Food,cups/napkins (Costco, regular supermarket, Mexican Bakery): $423.00

Sparkbooth (only 5-6 guests used this…I could have skipped it.): $55.00

Stereo speaker rental (we borrowed a few from friends too): $80.00

Vistaprint invitations w/postage(we emailed most people but sent out 60): $61.50

Photography (elizabethbatesphotography.com): $500.00

Decorations: flowers ( Costco ) Tablecloths ( TableclothsFactory ): $406.87

Dress (David’s Bridal): $444.99

Shoes/Veil (DSW Outlet and Claire’s Workshop ): $52.30

Church marriage prep: $350.00

Hair (The Root Salon)$65.00

Bouquet (made by a friend who does this as a small side business): $100.00

Rings (I used my grandmother’s but it needed a few prong repairs. I traded in some gold to help pay for that. We bought a stainless steel one onAmazon for Jay for the ceremony. He got a tattoo of his ring because he doesn’t like jewelry): $210.00

Hotel room for wedding night ( Sheraton Phoenix Downtown ): $112.00

Total: $4770.66

Free items: Cake/cupcakes, alcohol, tables/chairs were included with rental, extra help setting up was a gift from BIL’s girlfriend, Church fees were paid by my parents (because they wanted the church wedding), Coffee (there was a mix-up at the coffeeshop, so we got it for free!), and FIL paid for the rehearsal dinner.

Mellzah
Melissa Leff makes fun happen! When she's not wrangling pixels, grammar, or people, she's making stuff and blogging about her misadventures. Catch up with her at her blog, Mellzah.com, and on Twitter!