1/25 Real Wedding: Christen & Leigh’s Hawaiian Beach Karaoke Bonanza

We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. By clicking on the links and making a purchase, you're helping to support the site so we can keep bringing you badass ideas.

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 Dogfunk.com; 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

Christen Moynihan is the Editorial Manager/ Accounts Goddess/ Unicorn Wrangler for The Broke-Ass Bride. Lover of swimming, tattoos, elephants, bourbon and Champagne. Culinary crusader, adventure advocate, kitty cuddler. Nomad, extroverted-introvert and geek fo lyfe. High-fives are her currency. Affiliate links, like the ones in this post, help make her real money so she can keep rocking life, broke-ass style. Play along on Twitter (BrokeAssChris10), Pinterest (brokeasschris10) and Instagram (brokeasschris10). If you're curious about the world of affiliate marketing, check her out at Bourbon & Sparkle