Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Motherload of All Wedding Posts

Several months ago I got married.

The end.

If only it was that simple. No, when I was asked that wonderful question "Will you marry me?" and surveyed the potentially treacherous, financially draining, but unique satisfying land known as planning a wedding, I decided I could take matters into my own hands, and make it the most spectacular, affordable affair, the likes of which had never been seen before! Oh how naïve I was, fueled by the daily churn of fabulous wedding photos pouring out from the countless wedding blogs to which I subscribed. But this story has a happy ending, because from my exhaustive do-it-yourself experience, I have gained an assortment of wedding planning knowledge which I will share with you today! Whether you like it or not!

First order of business (and one that can set you back several thousand dollars): a photographer. This probably isn't what comes to mind as the first thing one would need to decide upon when planning a wedding, but let me just say this:




And that thanks specifically goes to Nancy Neil, our wedding photographer. She was, is, and fovever shall be the most awesomist wedding photographer out there. I'll let the photos in this post speak for themselves, but keep in mind I'm only sharing an assortment of the photos she took, and only the ones which have to do with my profound wedding planning insight.

Next order of business: the location. This was a no brainer for us, because my husband's family has a very special, family property in Northern California which would provide a beautiful setting for an outdoor wedding. That is of course, if you think cattle ranches in May are beautiful.

There's lots of golden pasture.

And cattle.

Although I think we made it work.

Once we decided we were going to have the wedding at the ranch, I had to confront the reality that I was now planning a "destination" wedding (we are based in Los Angeles), in addition to the fact that the ranch is 30 minutes outside of the nearest town. Moral of the story: work with good vendors that know what they are doing (i.e. spend the money).

For the rentals (chairs, dance floor, market lights) we used Classic Party Rentals. A local sales representative drove out the ranch, walked the site with us, made suggestions, and took notes on our needs. They are a very large company, so their pricing is competitive and they have everything you could ever need to throw a dinner party (times 160).

The next vendor, our caterers, were also all stars. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (PSRT), based out of San Jose, helped us with all the table rentals, table set up, miscellaneous decorating, food (of course), buffet flow and bartending. Heather and her team showed up, set up, made sure everyone was fed, boozed, and aware of our timing (cake cutting, dessert), packed up our leftovers, and broke down all the tables and trucked off with them the same night. I'm doing a poor job describing how wonderful it was to have a caterer that also acted like an event manager, so that I didn't have to stress about it during the evening. Because let's face it. People want to eat and drink without delay when they attend a wedding, and PSRT made sure that happened. Wes and I even got to sit down and eat! We had to pay a premium since the whole staff traveled from San Jose, so it ended up costing around $100 per person, clearly our biggest expense, but I think it was well worth it.

And the paella was bomb-diggity.

Since Wes wanted pie as the main dessert, and I only wanted a small cake for ceremonial purposes, we went with a local baker to complete the order. We had a variety of fruit pies (strawberry, peach, apple) and a few chocolate mousse pies. I definitely didn’t hear any complaints.

After I had all the basics organized (location, photographer, food, rentals), I spent my time thinking about the DETAILS, and coming up with creative do-it-yourself projects which would add personal touches to the event.

The biggest detail I cared about was the flowers, and I really wanted to handle all the flower arrangements myself. I made several trips to the LA Flower Mart to take notes on flower varieties and pricing, and picked up several bunches to make sample arrangements. If you live near LA, the LA Flower Mart is amazing and I highly recommend a visit. I spent the time to figure out what exact flowers I would need to make our arrangements look spectacular, without breaking the bank.

If you're looking to do arrangements like ours, here's my advice:
-    Pick a focal flower, but use it sparingly. I really loved the elegant look of peonies and the standout presence of dahlias, but these are some of the most expensive flowers at $3-$5 a stem. To keep the costs down we only used 1-2 of these in our table arrangements. We splurged on my bridal bouquet and predominately used peonies and dahlias, but that was because I wanted my bouquet to be extra special (as it should be). I also considered using Pincushions because I loved their color, but they were a little too striking for the elegant, simple look we were going for.
-    Use roses (specifically the Vendela ivory colored varietal) to add elegant substance to your arrangements, but at a more affordable price. These are standard roses, available everywhere, and if you get lucky at the flower mart, you might be able to pick up 2 dozen for $8.00.
-    Fill out the rest of your arrangements with less expensive filler flowers. Stock is about $3-$4 a bunch (8 stems), Button Poms and most other daisies/poms are about $4-$5 a bunch, Green Mist is about $3 a bunch, and Dusty Miller (the fabulous grey/fuzzy white leaves we used as a base) is about $5 a bunch.
-    Finish off your arrangements with a unique flower that is in line with the "spirit" of your wedding. Since our event was outdoors on a ranch, and we wanted to incorporate that natural, rustic element, we chose to add Scabiosa Pods and Bunny Tails to every arrangement (a small bunch is about $5).

Now that you've read everything you NEVER wanted to know about flowers, I have to admit that all my research and planning went down the pooper. There was no possible way to buy flowers at the LA Flower Mart on Thursday, truck them up to Merced, and arrange them myself in time for our Saturday wedding (and trust me, I really wanted to make this happen. I even researched renting a refrigerated truck.)

Luckily, I found a fabulous floral designer in Merced and was able to pass along my specifics to her. Natalie at Natalie Galasso Designs did a wonderful job for a fair price, and the flowers turned out better than I could of imagined. Natalie even offered to rent me specific vases from her huge collection for the event, but in the spirit of a psycho bride-to-be, I purchased our own vases from Anthropologie (green, crackled pots for $12 apiece) and Blue Ball Mason Jars from Ebay. And if you want even more specifics, we spent approximately $1600 having 2 bouquets, 18 main table arrangements, and 20+ small miscellaneous arrangements made.

Is anybody still reading this? Damn, I've got a lot of crap to say about planning our wedding.

In an effort to save time and space, I'll only give brief descriptions for the following do-it-yourself projects we did to make our wedding special:
-    My sister and I constructed wedding programs fans, using the same font with which I designed our wedding invitations (Feel Script).

-    Our good friend Chris constructed "W" and "J" candle rafts and floating stars from a piece of housing insulation we bought from Lowes. Cylinder candle holders were purchased from Dollar Tree (for only a dollar each!)

-    Bark framed chalkboards constructed by yours truly. Bark is from, picture frames from Dollar Tree, 11x17 chalkboards purchased from chalkingitup on Etsy.

-    Empty shotgun shells filled with quick dry cement and used as placecards.

-    Burlap purchased from and cut into table runners.

-    Custom designed "I went to Jocelyn and Wes's wedding and all I got was this loozy koozie!" guest gift koozies ordered from

-    And lastly, the paper lantern chandelier.

Backstory: I had originally wanted to construct tumbleweed chandeliers for the event, because they would've been SO AWESOME, and my dutiful, loving husband even picked up some tumbleweeds on his way back from his bachelor party in Lake Mead. Unfortunately, my dutiful, loving husband did not believe said tumbleweeds should be stored in his sacred garage up until the wedding. They were weeds and should be kept outside. NOT in his sacred garage. Well wouldn't you know it, but our gardeners also thought said tumbleweeds were in fact weeds, and proceeded to destroy and trash them when they found them lying in the side yard. This is why you did NOT see any awesome tumbleweed chandeliers at our wedding. I am still recovering.

Instead, I came up with a new plan: let's construct a paper lantern chandelier! I bought the paper lanterns from Luna Bazaar and Wes handled the rest. There were lots of light sockets, and electrical tape, and rope, and possible electrocution, but I think it turned out marvelously.

To wrap this "Motherload of All Wedding Posts" up, I'll end by noting a few things I would change next time (aka never, because I'm never planning a wedding again; aka Wes you're stuck with me forever and ever, Amen.)

-    Hair and makeup: I did my own with the help of my best friend, and I think it turned out great. But I would make a point to schedule actual appointments next time, as a way to force myself to relax the morning of.
-    Table numbers/names: Wes wanted to include aviation in the table numbers/names (since flying is his "thing"), so we decided to gather up all the model airplanes we could find at home and at the ranch, and use the models as the table names (e.g. Citation II, Cessna 150, etc.) This worked fine, but the models themselves were inconsistent (different sizes), so it was a little confusing. I'm sure no one cared, but next time I'd try to be a little more organized about it.
-    Seating assignments: DO NOT WAIT TO DECIDE THIS THE DAY OF YOUR WEDDING. I don't know how I ended up writing 160+ names and table assignments the day of our wedding, but I did and I'm sorry for it.

And there we have it. Everything I have to say about my experience of planning a wedding. Hopefully you're not banging your head against your desk in boredom!

The End.

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