Both of our parents didn’t have weddings – they went to the courthouse, signed the papers, Dad went back to work, and Mom wore a rented wedding dress for the photo.
So, naturally, when we told them that the average wedding cost about 20,000 dollars, they nearly fell off their chairs. A wedding reception would be nice, but they would much rather have us save that money for something like a nice honeymoon or a house. We didn’t want to spend much anyway, so we were initially thinking of a Vegas elopement, which is the popular way to go at Don’s office (grad students and researchers are, by definition, broke).
“Boooooooooooooooooring!” was my Dad’s initial response. “Everybody does Vegas. You should do something crazy!”
“Like a destination wedding?” I asked, swaying palm fronds and blue seas in mind.
“Yea, you should do it on top of the Himalayas or something.”
… Clearly, my father would have failed as a wedding planner.
But all jokes aside, we were set on hosting the party of our lives – that means good food, good booze, good music – without breaking our bank.
We’ve only encountered catered wedding fare where the food fell anywhere from mediocre to bad – and we knew about the huge price to account for the effort that went to making it look pretty and wedding-y. Plus, witnessing my friends morph into bridezillas over chiavari chairs and linen colors taught me to fear of the Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC). So, a restaurant wedding it is. Simple and easy.
We decided that we just wanted a chill dinner reception instead of a real full-on wedding (we both can’t dance for shit), and focused on restaurants that had private dining options. And believe me, there are a lot options in the LA/OC area – delicious French, or a casual Spanish tapas place, even grandiose Chinese banquet halls, we all looked at them. But with a lot of trial and error and cellphone minutes, we were able to find the one. Once we found the place, the ball was on their court. All we had to do was details.
SO… Few things that we learned while planning our wedding dinner:
- Shave down your guest list. A LOT. Not a lot of restaurants can fit both of your clans and friends. We ended up only inviting our immediate family and friends; with our guest list under 60, our wedding felt more like an intimate get together than a meet-and-greet.
- Do your research. Lots of it. I started with a list of 15 prospective restaurants in the area, ranging from haute casual burger joints to the standard issue Chinese banquet hall. 15 went to 7 (cost issues), then to 3 (food allergies), to 1 in no time.
- Be prepared to make a lot of phone calls so that you can ask a million questions like cost, maximum capacity, menu options, and allergy/dietary options, and get answers on the spot. Restaurant people are so busy that they often don’t answer their email, so calling during off-hours (2-4) is best.
- Be prepared to be rejected. Especially if you have a small budget. Most places never called back/emailed back after I told them that we wanted to stick to under 10 thousand for food and drinks. I was butt hurt at first, but mosey’d on. You don’t have time to be butt hurt when you’re a bride!
- Your printer and your hot glue gun is your best friend. A restaurant is NOT your wedding planner, and when you’re broke, you have to DIY a lot of things. Stuff don’t magically appear out of smoke, you know. So we made our centerpieces, favors, menus, invites and the photobooth (and we used our sofa cover as a backdrop).
- Ask for help, accept any help, and be very thankful for it. Our wedding only happened because we are surrounded by these loving, awesome people:
Mai, my baby sister designed our invites and our welcome poster.
Our friend Kirby (Kirby Yau Photography) let us borrow his photobooth set up so that we can take silly pictures to remember the night (more on that later)
My friend Natalie (A Good Affair) offered free day-of-coordinating, just to make sure that I won’t have a last minute freakout.
My girlfriends managed to set up the place in the 30 minutes we had before guests started to arrive, then they made sure that my I didn’t lose my bouquet while I got tipsy, AND take photos of every guest with the Instax.
And did I even mention the free wedding photography package that I won over at Broke Ass Bride and Picotte Photography? I can not believe how generous my talented photographer is to this day.
I can pull that a-wedding-is-a-community-event kinda shpeel here, but I won’t. These people didn’t have to help but chose to do so, and I can’t thank them more. It’s because of these people that we were able to have the effin’ party of our lives. LOVE.
- Take a chill pill. We couldn’t sleep at all the night before (notice bag under bride’s eyes), jittered throughout the day, and were nervous wrecks until we had a sip of prosecco. Then everything kinda took off and it was all cool.
You probably know by now that we had our wedding dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Old Vine Café.
I guess I could say that my heart was set on this place from the get-go, but I saw that the max occupancy was 38 on the website and ‘sort of’ gave up. A few weeks into our engagement, I emailed the owners and found out that during the summer Old Vine Cafe could seat up to 60 people in the outdoor patio with some extra rentals. So. We threw them back into my trusty wedding planning Excel sheet (yes, an Excel sheet. shutup.) and planned accordingly. They fit right in the bill, they could accommodate egg/dairy allergies, and then of course the beautiful beautiful location… We couldn’t say no.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Mark and Brandon, the owners, are so nice and relaxed, and most importantly, super helpful. They knew that cost was an issue, so they’d guide us through our planning process – along the way we chucked out passed appetizers and swapped toast champagnes for cava (because one, we’d spoil our awesome dinner, and two, no one will be able to tell the difference), and they took care of all the rentals for us.
Having a Sunday wedding helped too … Because some of the retail businesses were closed, we pretty much had that whole wing to ourselves!
And the food. Oh the food. We went with the Original Tasting Menu, and people still tell us that we had the most delicious wedding ever. Mission accomplished.
First Course: Sautéed Sea Scallop on a nest of Crispy Fried Yucca finished with Tarragon Chardonnay Sauce, Paired with a 2006 Frogmore Creek Chardonnay, Tasmania (!!!).
Second Course: Handmade Fettuccini Pomodoro garnished with Aged Pecorino Romano Cheese, Paired with a 2005 Tre Serre Barbera, Piedmonte Italy.
Third Course: Four Ounces of All Natural Filet Mignon & Crispy Fried Onions with Bleu Des Basque Demi Cream Sauce, Paired with a 2008 Maipe Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina.
Last Course: Grandma’s Cheesecake, Wild Berry Puree Paired with a NV Ferreira Ruby Port.
SO GOOD. So good, in fact, that my Dad wandered into the kitchen and asked Mark for more cheesecake (which they graciously obliged to). Oh, Daddy.
The dinner was wine paired. Which means a lot of this:
Oh, and the photobooth.
We ended up with a lot of lovingly silly pictures.
And we had lots of toasts.
Lots of emotional toasts, lots of funny ones. Raio, the egg-less one, told everyone about how Don and I almost drowned in the bathtub on numerous occasions. Then my childhood friend called Dad “a badass of a father” in his speech, so of course he had to take that and run with it in his speech.
AND we had a wedding crasher. My wedding is now complete.
*His name is Codi, and his owner was picking up dinner at the Native Foods next door.
In closing… Well, I can’t really close this. We still have a honeymoon to go to, and then we’ll have to go back to creating more “parties of our lives,” followed by more rocking-our-socks-offs. It’ll be fun, it’ll be stressful, we’ll probably still be broke for a while, and I’m sure we will be rollercoasting through many ups and downs. But I think it’s possible, in fact, it’s going to be a cake walk, only because I’m doing it with my bestest friend.