a noshable wedding: on being broke and fabulous.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. table pieces IlaHiroki_Reception-7 IlaHiroki_Reception-6

  6. 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).
  7. 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.

  8. IlaHiroki_Reception-35

  9. 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.


{ 22 comments… add one }

  • Gastronomer July 14, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Aw…. Thank you so much for sharing your special day with your readers :-) Sounds like your big day was everything and more! Awesome, awesome. Congrats!

  • kat July 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    great day! thanks for sharing this. many many years of happiness to you two!

  • weezermonkey July 14, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I love love!

    Congratulations, and may you have a lifetime of happiness together!

  • DanGarion July 14, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Congrats on the awesome wedding/dinner. I’m so happy for you. It really is great spending your life with your best friend, I love every minute of it.

  • Oishii Eats July 15, 2010 at 1:24 am

    ILA…I have tears! I love weddings like this. So thoughtful. So you! Congratulations you two!

  • Liz July 15, 2010 at 7:23 am

    looks amazing.

    my only qualms about spending $100+ per person was that the food was going to be craptastic catering, yawn-prom-chicken-dinner.

    THIS. looks well worth the money. amazing.

  • Jason Wong July 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    😀 that was great

  • Su-Lin July 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

    What a beautiful wedding! One of the best I’ve seen – congratulations!!!

  • keri July 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    thanks for sharing your day with us! it looked absolutely wonderful. :)

  • Amy B. July 16, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Nice photo! And haha at your dad! Your dad and I have the same wavelength, lolsss.

    Congratulations! :)

  • Exile Kiss July 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Hi ila,

    Omedetou gozaimasu! (^_^)/

    Simply beautiful. And IMHO, everything about your wedding from the favors to the GREAT Invitations look more genuine and inspiring than just about every wedding I’ve ever been to. (^_~)

    And the food! I love Old Vine Cafe also, and just from your pics I can tell it blows away ~90% of the Wedding Banquet food I’ve eaten over the years. :)

    Congrats again! :)

  • ilyana July 18, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Hi Ila! I’ve never had the guts to comment on your beautiful blog but I gathered my strength and decided to post one on this entry because wow I’ve been following your blog for about 1.5 years now so I’m really happy both of you finally got hitched! The photos look amazing and you look stunning! The food made me wish I was there lol. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! <3

  • H.C. July 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    looks like a wonderful time and a delightful meal — and as always, great photos & storytelling! I, too, am glad the party didn’t take place in the Himalayas — Don may have actually bitten your ear off, if only out of hunger! 😉

  • ila July 19, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Cathy, thank you! it was pretty frickin’ awesome, and i never wanted it to end.

    kat, weezermonkey, dan, BJ, Su-Lin, keri, thank you for your kind words. making me all teary!

    Liz, thank yoooou! at 65/pp including the wine, it was well worth it. and not a single chicken florentine/byzantine/whatever in sight!

    Jeni, no, thank you. your wedding series post was a huge inspiration for us. soooo thank you!

    Exile Kiss, arigatoooo! we just *had to* do something different 😛

    ilyana, thank you! your comment made me a tickley inside. WOW, 1.5 years!

    H.C., thank you thank you. I’m kinda glad that he didn’t eat me.

  • Aaron July 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I’m impressed you got a multi-course dinner in for a party of sixty with wine pairings. All this on a budget. I’m quite impressed. Delightful wedding, but even more delightful post. I could sense your enthusiasm and joy in your writing, which certainly helped bring out the experience.

  • eatdrinknbmerry July 20, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    hi ila, i just saw this just now but congratulations on your union. it’s awesome when you get to do what you want and be creative with it. i’m sure you and everyone there that day will remember this more than the $80,000 chinese banquet wedding at Ocean Star in Monterey Park. good luck.

  • ila July 21, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Aaron, our wedding, including rings, papers, dress, suits, food and booze was just under 10K. BOOYAH. we were kinda sad that we couldn’t do open bar, but they gave us so much wine that it wasn’t a problem.

    Dylan, thank you, thank you. We stayed away from Chinese banquet weddings because my Dad said that he’s been to one too many and wanted something different (he often forgot that it was my wedding. thanks for the well wishes!

  • alice July 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    congrats on a fantabulous wedding!!! love your pics! :)

  • ila July 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

    hi alice, thanks for visiting! i LOVE my photographer. suthi is AMAZING!!!

  • Christine D. July 24, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    OMG Ila!!! Congratulations!! Man, so many friends/old classmates getting married! I love how you did yours…another inspiration for me! :) Have fun on your honeymoon!

  • ila July 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    CHRISTINE!!! long time no see. thank you so much for the kind words. you betcha we’ll be having tons of fun at the honeymoon 😛

  • Kelly von Hemert August 11, 2010 at 9:34 am

    First off: thank you for sharing these personal moments, some of the most precious of your life. You are DARLING! A beautiful bride.
    I am checking in after a long vacay from my blog and had just posted on OVC when I clicked over and found your beautiful wedding pictures there!

    Old Vine is so amazing. What an awesome event! I love the hammock pictures best.

    Hope you’re having a wonderful time in Japan!



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