Sep 09, 2011


My Wedding Journey

When I got engaged and embarked on the journey that is the wedding planning, I had no idea (1) how expensive it was going to be, (2) how rigorous and time-consuming the details are, and (3) how much fun it was to do all the research and decision-making with my then fiance.



I was astounded when I first came to realize that even for the reception alone, $50pp was not going to cut it.  In this economy, I cannot imagine how couples are able to manage big weddings without going into debt, unless parents are ready and able to foot the bill.

That was the start of a 9-month online odyssey and soul-searching as to what was really important to me and my now husband.  Fortunately, my husband and I have always shared the same values and attitudes re: fiscal responsibility.  We both wanted a small wedding to minimize the cost; whatever savings we have, we both wanted to reserve for our future.



Must-Haves: There were a few things that we really wanted to have in the wedding:

  • Ceremony: Church, long carpeted aisle, piano and flute music
    • Old and scenic Catholic Church - mid-range and very pro-active and helpful wedding coordinator
  • Reception: Hotel with a good menu, reasonable wedding package, nice ambiance (courtyard, ballroom), where we could also book rooms for our mostly out-of-town guests
    • My husband fell in love with the ambiance, the decor, and the nice smell of olive trees in the courtyard. 
    • We didn't have family/friends locally who can pitch in for a DIY reception; when we investigated, there was a lot of work involved and the cost savings was not that much anyway.
  • Tribute and Thanks: Mom (not well enough to travel/attend), Dad (deceased), My grandmother (helped raise us when my father passed away),  our friends and family who had to travel from near and far
    • Parents' wedding picture as cover for bridal bouquet
    • Wedding Program with the tribute and thanksgiving
  • Photography: Good photographer, reasonable price, easy to deal with
  • Videography: Last-minute decision for loved ones who are not able to attend; good but reasonbly priced
  • Formal Bridal and Bridesmaids' Bouquets: One DIY attempt (with lame results) and I knew I wanted gorgeous and stress-free set of bouquets
  • Hair and Makeup: No DIY here - I need all the help I can get! :-)
    • Lucky to find a hair/makeup stylist who transformed me into a princess for a day!
  • Gifts to parents and attendants: Unique, Lasting, Commemorative of the Wedding, Increases in Value
    • 2011 American Silver Eagle Coin - these are highly collectible, has 2011 (year of our wedding) on it, and it has already almost doubled in price
  • Reception Decor:
    • Manzanita Tree - symbolic of our new beginning and hopefully a resilient marriage (cut manzanitas last for many, many years)
    • Lenox Wedding Dove Cake Topper - in lieu of live doves :-)
    • Lenox Wedding Swans - I've always been a fan of Lenox
    • Waterford Toasting Flutes - Our first Waterford!
  • Dance Lessons and Dancing: But of course!  We both like to dance (well, maybe I more than my husband) and we had taken dance lessons over the years. 
  • Honeymoon:  We both have always wanted to go to Europe
    • My husband took on the planning of the details of our 10-day  trip to Paris and Italy, after I did the initial research.


Nice-to-Haves: There were a few things that we did not fret about too much:

  • Designer Dress: One-time dress for $1-2K? No, thanks ... I just need a dress that will fit me and make me look good.
  • Designer Shoes: No, thanks...I just want comfortable shoes that I can dance in
  • Bridesmaids Dresses:  Simply color-coordinated cocktail dresses of their choice.
  • Church Singer: Nice to have but it would have added $200.
    • Fortunately, a friend of mine agreed to sing at the wedding
    • Best wedding song: The Prayer (sang during the offertory)
  • DJ: Well, I fretted a bit over how much this service cost that for awhile, we were thinking about asking one of our guests/family members to do this for us but that would not have been fair to them. 
    • In the end, our DJ provided a lot of dance-able tunes (on top of our playlist) that got our guests all excited on the dance floor and he also provided the nice lighting that really enhanced the ambiance in the ballroom. 
  • Wedding Favors: Lighted crystal with wedding couple embossed inside
    • Lucky to get these unique and boxed items for dirt-cheap
  • Orchids as wedding flowers:  I love orchids and have been growing a few on and off for a few years.  There's even a fragrant specie that I've always imagined and wished would be decorating my ceremony and reception venues but by the time I realized how ridiculously expensive everything was, the wish about orchids got wiped out rather quickly.
  • DIY stuff:
    • Pillar Candle Centerpieces
    • Church Pew Decor
    • Invitations, RSVPs, Wedding Program, Thank-you Cards



  • Our first official project together, Project Wedding Planning, showed my husband and I how well we complement each other and helped us understand each other's joys, hopes, and fears even better.  Throughout the stressful situations, we helped each other put things in perspective and find humor along the way.
    • When we were trying to get better rates for hotel room reservations, my husband inquired about rates for a "Family Reunion" - which really worked out because the hotel mgr gave us lower rates (than originally quoted when it was a wedding-related reservation) and gave us a free upgrade to a suite. The only problem was, during the phone inquiry, my husband gave them a fake first-name and a sound-alike last-name, so they would not associate our wedding reception reservation with this group room reservation. So he had to do major back-pedalling when he called back to accept the deal and give a very lame explanatopm about his fake first name being a nickname and the last-name being hard-to-pronounce. The hotel mgr was very nice and very graciously went along with it. We ended up sending our out-of-town relatives a hotel-reservation group link that had "Family Reunion" under his fake first-name and sound-alike last-name. So for a long time, it sounded like I was sharing the room with someone else!
  • Our next project, Project Honeymoon, put our organizational skills to the test, as we put together our own itinerary, courtesy of an online website.  My hubby did extensive research, read Rick Steve's books to help us plan, and even learned basic Italian and French phrases to help us prepare. 
  • Our latest project, Project Wedding Recap, consists of :
    • Looking at all ~800 photographs and deciding which ones will be our official wedding photo, which ones belong to specific photobooks, etc.
    • Putting together photobooks for my mom, my mother-in-law, my flower girl, friends' show-and-tell informal copy,  and lastly, our very own official copy (still in-progress).
    • Watching our videos over and over and over again.  We laughed and teared up as we saw:
        • How I struggled to breathe as I took my first few steps down the aisle, as I tried but failed to hold back the tears
        • How choked up he was when he saw me walking down the aisle, and how he miserably tried to hold back his own tears
        • How awkward we looked on our first dance (with my gown basically getting in the way) and how I almost spun out of control on our lame attempt at rendering our own version of "Time of My Life" (from Dirty Dancing fame)
        • How our loved ones, family and friends, gave really touching wedding wishes and tributes - that we didn't get to hear during the event itself.

There were probably about a dozen things (about the ceremony and the reception) that did not  quite go as planned but they were well outnumbered by the things that did go very well.   It's all about perspective, the big picture, what matters most to you.

At the end of the day, it's how each one of us felt about everyone there and about the event itself that mattered.  They all expressed genuine joy and happiness for being part of such a great event and everyone thought everything went so nicely and smoothly.   Our vendors even quipped that ours was "the happiest wedding they've ever witnessed".

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