Friday, April 15, 2011

I Do. I Really, Really Do.

This and all professional photography by Brittany Apps @ Apps Photography.
Well, this summer it will be five long (not that long) blissful years of happily ever after. I have a wedding album at home that sits on our entertainment center and when I flip through it with people I get asked some common questions. I thought I would take a small crazyhuge post to answer some for a few special people that I have in mind. For the rest of you who really could care less about silly teeny details, ignore the text and give in to gratuitous pretty wedding photo bliss!

Dress shopping!

We had struck a compromise, because one of Scott's few requests was that my gown be super traditional, and one of my many requests was that the ceremony be outside (I didn't want flash photography wedding photos). So, per his specifications, I was to absolutely wear a veil, and a full skirt. Yes sir. Gone were my dreams of a lacy sheath number, but you know. I didn't have to worry about my figure as much, either, what with the strapped super tight corset I could wear under a full Disney princess get up. I mean, if this was a lifetime dream of his, I felt compelled to grant it. I didn't look half bad in the end, so it turned out to be win-win. Although I couldn't feel the dress at all due to the hoop skirt... and just felt a soft breeze on my legs all day. Had to keep looking down to be sure I was still fully clothed.
So I went and tried on some really stunning gowns at a bridal warehouse (thanks to Men's Wearhouse I totally forgot how to spell that. Advertising, its dumbing me down I tell you). I was with my bridesmaids, and it was a really great time. We tried on different shapes and styles. My favorite details were sweetheart necklines and square pleating. Thanks to a tips book on wedding planning, I did not bring my wallet or checkbook so that I would be forced to sleep on any decisions and not get caught up in the romance of it all, which was easy to do. When I returned home, I scoured the internet, armed with all this new information. I knew my size and the style that I thought looked best on me. I ran across an ebay store that was selling brand new dresses in a variety of different styles, and found this one for $250.

I know.

I read and re-read that item description, the return policy, every bit of fine print for two days. Then I figured: our budget for the dress was much bigger. If for some reason it was all a scam (their return policy was excellent by the way) then we would only be out $250. A good chunk of money, but from a wedding perspective, not a lot. The gamble was worth it. I dove in. And it arrived only a few weeks later, and it was beautiful. I sacrificed in areas- the neckline was more sloped than sweetheart, and it was gathered, not pleated. But the beading really was beautiful. And it was well made. I borrowed my jewelry, and bought my blue shoes at Ross for around ten, fifteen dollars? I bought my veil used on ebay, too. The only splurge were some Victoria Secret details, like a nice bustier. I still can't believe it. I scored so big.

DIY time, baby.

Okay, please forgive the abrupt rewind in pictures here. We are back to the planning stages. I wanted a basement bargain wedding, but I didn't want it to feel like that to our guests. I wanted to work hard in the days leading up to the event, but I did not want to be stressed, running around or coordinating on that day. I wanted to be able to kick back and have fun. I wanted our friends to feel comfortable, relaxed and loved. I have a lot of friends with talents that would have made for a great event staff, but I didn't want them to work, I wanted them to have fun.

I met florists and got multiple quotes, both for exactly what I wanted and the least that they could possibly do- like, just boutonnieres and bouqets. It was too much. The lowest price I could find was to the tune of a thousand dollars. In my opinion, flowers are a must, but they always look pretty, and they only last the one day. After that, you're on a plane to Mexico and all of your friends have gone home.

 I was soooo scared of the idea of doing them myself, but seriously, I could get all the flowers I needed for corsages and the like for only $300 straight from a grower. I used 2G Roses. They were so helpful, so informative and so friendly. I felt like if anything went wrong, they were on my side. So I took the leap and did it. So happy that I did! I borrowed as many vases as I could and cleared out the fridge (we were leaving for over a week anyway) and they arrived in a box with cold packs a couple of days before the wedding. I had some wonderful, dedicated friends come early to help me figure out what the heck I was doing. I bought all the pins, ribbon, wire and all that at a craft store.

 Wow, my friends are incredible. Kelly immediately got struck by creative lightning and became the ring leader. She was a professional florist for a day, and they turned out beautifully because of her. It was pretty fast (a couple of hours) and we had boutonnieres and corsages (for the groomsmen, parents and grandparents) and four bouqets. I had gotten some vases for the head table to drop them into after the ceremony. Extra decoration! Special mention goes to Kerry, who is somehow not pictured above but was definitely there and a total help.

Okay, a side note on bridal party.

I do think bridal party is important, and I know it brings up a lot of "feelings" for people. I chose my girls (amongst lots of old and dear friends) based on these factors:
  • availability to help with stuff.
  • likelihood to still be around fifty years from now.
  • in order to afford more, and do things like go shopping together, we had to keep the number small.
There are all these crazy rules floating around! Check it out:
  • supposedly you can't have only one-half of a couple in your bridal party
  • if you were in their wedding, they have to be in yours (can you imagine if you're the last to get married? You would have like a million bridesmaids!)
  • you have to include all family around your age group

Although tension runs high surrounding these things, I say- do what you want to do and hope that your true friends will accept your decision, and the no good ones will go quietly. Its one of the very few things in wedding planning that is about you and for you. I have lots of dear friends that I did not stand up for as part of the bridal party, and it bothers me zero. I was happy to be there to see them get hitched, and with less to do! More time to have another glass of wine and catch up with my friends. It's all going to be okay.
Bridal party gifts! We went with personalization as a theme. I wanted to give them something commemorative, but that they might really use. I left the guys gift up to Scott, who got them personalized plaques that read "[your last name here]'s Pub", est. 2006, and their full name over the top. Scott and his guys love beer, he loves Guinness, and Ireland, its a thing.

We got one for us and its still above our stove in the kitchen. I love it.
For the ladies, I found these amazing tote bags, in a combo of canvas and lime green leather, or pleather, I forget. The color matched our theme, and was just nice. The lining is cute and modern, the straps attach with hardware so they move easily and they are well made. Their names are engraved on those little silver metal tabs. My sister still uses hers heavily five years later and I'm so jealous. I should have gotten myself one but they were pricey. All told they cost almost as much as the flowers! But I told you, I cut corners where I needed to, and other things, like girls who put their hearts and souls into helping with the wedding, I didn't. I did go back and try to find them again. No luck.

Rehearsal... food...

I reserved blocks of rooms in hotels at two different price points, but they were across the street from each other so everyone was going to and from the same place. One was really overboard country cuteness, and I knew a lot of the older ladies would really enjoy it. We had our rehearsal lunch there at the Inn in a back room. It was more affordable than a dinner would have been, and it just fit into our day better. We took the evening to do some last minute assembling and errands. Looking back, I might have just done the dinner instead, I don't know. Rehearsal dinners make everything feel like its really heating up! But I liked the way we did it, too. Take it or leave it.

Due to not having a florist, we left the archway bare. I would have done more if we wanted to spend more, but I liked the classic look of it, and really, the beauty of Edna Valley Vineyard was enough. They did everything, from the rehearsal, the beverages, the set up and clean up, to the linens, flatware, etc. They even coordinated details like the archway, the cake delivery and helped our vendors get set up and situated. Tina Hoppe, their event coordinator, is a star. She knows her stuff. Plus they had great wine.

Bridesmaid Dresses

We went shopping for them in the city, together. I knew I wanted them to be champagne, or some kind of workable neutral color. But other than that, I wanted everyone to find something they wanted, in a price point that they felt comfortable with. We went all over the place, and finally, in the eleventh hour, after being told that champagne was, ahem, "so last year", we found four of these simple, beautiful dresses, in different sizes, on a clearance rack for around a hundred bucks. Miracle of all miracles, they each found one that fit. Unbelievable.

Photographer... also known as Your Royal Highness.

Oh, our amazing photographer, Brittany. Visit her portfolio here. She came recommended by our best man and his wife, and I went up to her place in Morro Bay and looked at some of her work, and just really liked her. She was also a mid-point price. I didn't want to hire a beginner, because I needed these photos to last a lifetime, in other words, be everything I could ever want. However, there were some photographers who were doing stunning work, but charging way more than we could afford. I wanted a nice camera (two, if possible, and it was). I wanted to keep all the digital images, to use and print as I wished. Crediting her, of course, because who wouldn't want to? She deserves to be swamped with business, at all times. I wanted a lot of candids, and detail shots, and I got that. I didn't know that I wanted her to bring a huge gold reflector thingy, and make everybody look sun-kissed and golden! But I did! I did want that! And she knew that without asking, bless her amazing talented heart. Right after our wedding, she won the Best in SLO Award, and now I'm sure it would be much harder to afford her services. She's brilliant, and deserves to be compensated as such, I am just so glad we discovered that hidden gem when we did.

Details, Details

That apple centerpiece in the photo above looks wrong. Some people stole some apples to munch, which was encouraged, and made for some really fun pictures. My mom brought baby apples from her yard for the place cards, which were laminated so they didn't get stained by apple. Our tables were named after places that were important to us, and I designed little photo/text details to explain why. I tried to sit people according to place, for the most part. It worked out because that usually grouped people who knew each other together. We had big dreams of a homemade guest book. Kerry took photos of arriving guests (which turned out great) and they wrote a little something. Looking back, I would have done a photobook with blanks for people to sign. So much easier. I might make a photobook from it someday, who knows.

Let Them Eat Cake He Said
I replaced what would have been floral centerpieces with apples. I bought the stainless steel cake stands from a wholesale restaurant provider online. My cake person, Christine from Morning Star Creations, completely "got" my whole idea for the cake and executed it flawlessly. She made the smoothest sides without using fondant, which was my whole goal. I actually wanted to have a placeholder cake, and just bring out cut sheet cake to feed the masses, but Scott was squarely against it. In the end, I had this gorgeous, light, delicious cake for about five bucks a slice. Awesome!
We had plenty to go around and even saved the top tier, like Scott had insisted on doing. Proving me completely wrong, it was still delicious a whole year later. My experience with Phil's Catering was similar, although we did not freeze their food and eat it a year later. Now that would just be crazy, right?...............
They had one of the lowest prices per plate (I can't remember well now, maybe $25?) and they served delicious takes on very simple, quintessentially Central Coast fare. Barbequed tri-tip, salad, oversized stuffed pasta shells, bread rolls, that kind of thing. It was to die for. I actually ate.

Wedding Flow

I wanted as much time with my people as possible, but I didn't want to see Scott before the ceremony. I also wanted the wedding to be about guest comfort. I mean, I was gonna have a blast regardless. So we took turns taking photos with our bridal party before the wedding for about an hour. After the ceremony (which was on-site, another must for our guests) people just walked over to the patio and had a cocktail hour, where they mingled and ordered drinks while we took photos. We got back as soon as we could, and had a blast for the rest of the night. We provided all the drinks, but not hard alcohol. We wanted to provide a free bar, but we couldn't afford the high price of cocktails, so it was a compromise, and I couldn't be happier. As it was, Scott still almost fainted signing the check, and the wine was amazing, so it was the right choice.

Things I was so glad I did:

  • A list of candid shots I wanted for the photographer
  • Laughing during the ceremony
  • Eating first and worrying about mingling later
  • Taking the time to find almost all the songs I wanted for the DJ, and arranging them to fit the schedule
  • Doing my own make-up
  • Making up little bags with toys for the kids
Things I wish I did:
  • Get my hair done (what was I thinking? Too much stress)
  • Had sparklers for the night photos
  • Had even more personalized, DIY touches. Just can't have enough, ever
  • Had a photobooth. Those are just fun. I don't know... maybe only if the price was right.
I know, these aren't even. Drives me crazy but I was a little tired, so I moved on. Go on, let it go.

Video Killed the Radio Star

We weren't going to do it. It seemed like a lot of money, we didn't have a video camera, it slipped through the cracks. And then... two angels, old family friends Dick and Patty Thomas, descended from the heavens and said, "Oh no, allow us." They proceeded to not only have Dick film the whole thing, edit it, and give us multiple copies on DVD that we I watch obsessively, but Patty stepped in and helped with anything that needed doing. They are the sweetest people and we were so, so, blessed to have them there. 


An absolute must-have. Now, I have seen this go both ways at a wedding. Too few (cue crickets, chirping) and too many (cue drunk Uncle Lou deciding that after six beautiful hilarious speeches, his should be the last. No one has the heart to tell him no and he goes on for twenty minutes). So I limited it to parents and bridal party only, and they were a mix of thrilled and terrified at the prospect. My father opened with a really warm, wonderful thank you to everyone for coming, and his love and congratulations to us, the rest of the parents happily declined to make a speech and that was fine. Then each of the bridal party got up, in walking order, and delivered the six most phenomenal speeches ever. They were both witty and sweet, thoughtful and hilarious. Punch lines were paused for, the audience laughed and awwed in perfect harmony with each speaker. I got them all on video and I love to watch them again and again. Kelly wins for most memorable, with metaphors to fit each of our different life perspectives, me from an artistic take, and Scott from a programming take. People still tell me how much they enjoyed it.

So Glad You Came

I forgot to talk about invitations, so I will awkwardly stick them here, next to their photo cameo. How awesome is that golden sunset lighting by the way? Oh and I am commonly asked, so up front I will just say, that black and white is of Scott and I using the same napkin to wipe cake off our faces. Buuuuut I digress.

So, I shopped around online for the simplest wedding invites. They cost us something ridiculously cheap, and I had them done twice! Even after reading it over a thousand times, I managed to get the date wrong. It was late, I was tired, okay? But they sweetly offered to send just the invites again at cost and since I bought them so far in advance, there was no stressing for time. I printed off some stuff on cardstock using a clip art artsy apple outline, and a map to the winery off the internet. No easy task as it turns out, due to a printer ink issue, but it turned out okay. I also got save the date magnets online, too, but just put the date on them, including the rest of the info on a card included inside. That way they could stay on fridges everywhere (aka your fridge and mine) forever and be referring either to our wedding coming up, or that awesome day long long ago. Fun times. Odd Thomas Wedding Trivia: Scott actually has two rings. His first one was too loose for awhile, so first we tried sizing balls (ouch, don't do it) and then bought him another basic shiny band online (I had it engraved so as to soften the blow of buying a cheap replacement). Soon enough, that became too small on him, we knocked off the sizing balls on the original and he is back to that one. I wish I could have two, just for fun.

One more of my favorite things: we took huge, group, family photos. They are on every mantel, everywhere. It didn't take a lot of time out for us, either. The photographer arranged everyone and then they called us over once they were ready. I can't explain how wonderful it is to have those, especially when some near and dear to us have passed away.


We had a money dance, and while I was a little bit hesitant about the hand-over-your-cash rudeness factor, it was actually really fun! I definitely recommend not having a convenient money purse, and waiting until later when your guests have had a fair share to drink so that they can get creative. Some of my favorite photos were from the money dance.

And listen, people. We spent all that money and time and energy- I danced like it was my job.


Some of my friends went on adventure honeymoons. I get that. If you are all excitement, curiosity and go, go, go... you do that. Scott wanted to go to a surf camp. But after all that craziness, I was wiped. Looking back, I probably would go back and take a few days to recover before we left, but I planned the honeymoon for recovery. I have friends that went to the same resort we did, and went ziplining, and all that. I wanted a spoil-yourself, lay-around, bask-in-the-sun-of-a-whole-week-with-nothing-planned type of vacation. Mission accomplished. Welcome to the Dreams Resort in Puerto Vallarta.
I wanted to go to Hawaii, but we couldn't afford to really do what we wanted there, we would have dropped all the cash on the flight, not to mention places to stay. We were working within my parent's budget, and we wanted it to go as far as possible. This place was all-inclusive, and it was recommended by my friend Kristine who got me with one thing: jacuzzi on the balcony. Cha-ching! Sold!
So, I laid in the endless pool and read novels all day, we slept in every morning, laying around our air-conditioned room in our gigantic bed. We went out to our favorite restaurant every night at the other end of the resort, the Seaside Grill, an open air seafood place. We ordered course after course and drink after drink of whatever we wanted, as we watched the sun set, and the stars come out. I will tell you the funny story of the big shiny black beetle that snuck in through our vent another time. Poor Scott. But since we went, at least two other couples that I know have gone and loved it as much as we did. Ten year anniversary, here we come!
1. Jacuzzi, check. 2. Hot husband, check. 3. Champagne, check.
My entire to-do list, done within the first hour!
So that is the story of our wedding, which ended up around $15,000 (not including the honeymoon, which I think was around three). We had a grand ol' time, and we hope you did, too! If you weren't there, now you not only feel like you were a guest, but that you were one of the long suffering friends that had to endure months of listening to me debate the benefits of parking and seating arrangements! Isn't that great? Thank you for indulging me in my bit of nostalgia. I sure do love my husband, and will never forget the honor of standing up next to him in front of family and friends. Although we have passionately agreed that it was a one time thing.


  1. Sweet Mary! Your story is so you; so sweet, cute, funny and fun! Thanks for sharing...I feel I know you just a tad bit better, & love you all the more. :)

  2. I really really enjoyed this post. Just prepare yourself for the day that I get engaged...I'm gonna pick your brain like crazy whether you like it or not :)
    I will never get over how incredibly beautiful you looked that day!

  3. Agree about the rehearsal dinner. My favorite things about weddings is pretty much everything leading up to it, starting with the night before rehearsal. Then you get through the ceremony and then FUUUUUN.

  4. First of all, I like the new set up of the blog...title banner thingy and all. Very cute.

    This makes me want to go to your wedding again. I feel like I was kinda nervous about my speech, and kinda freaking out that you were getting married a lot of the time... I still had a blast obviosuly, but it would be so fun to go now! And now I want all my friends to get married so I can just go to a bunch of awesome parties like this. :)

    P.S. You're kind, witty and stuff. :) You made me laugh. Am I that witty? I hope so.

  5. I am so impressed that you are finding time for this blog. It is inspirational.

    I'm pretty sure I wasn't invited to your wedding. I guess Scott didn't know we were destined to become BFFs via Facebook. ;)

    But anyway, it is all beautiful. I had no idea Scott was so traditional with the dress and the cake and all. You did look gorgeous, so it was definitely a win! If I had to do it all over again, I don't think I would have gone to a stuffy boutique for my gown. I think they charge extra for the attitude. I am jealous of your $250 find! We did quite a bit ourselves (including the invitations), and while there are many things I would have changed, my bridesmaids would remain the same. And I didn't follow the rules!

    Thanks for sharing, I am happy to know more about you. I'd love to see some of your art sometime!

  6. You are so cute! I really enjoyed reading this, thanks for sharing. I LOVE the apple theme, very clever. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
    Jeryd and I got married in his backyard with just our family. One day I will have a real wedding...maybe I should hire you to plan it?

  7. Thanks Jeri! You're so sweet. Amy- Ya, weddings are so fun. Free dinner and dancing? What could be bad about that? Emily- oh wow I so can't wait. Really, can't. Di- Thanks!!! You should see me, I blog while I'm feeding the boy breakfast, while we are watching NCIS, when he's napping... I'm addicted. When I get my hands on a nice camera it'll be really excessive. Talk about myself all the time? Sure! lol. I love that we became besties over fb. We are two like-minded femmes that don't care about the rules, no wonder we get along! You gave me this great idea of doing a post about my art, and why I'm not doing it for a living. Good one! Kelly- oh if only I could get my hands on a vow renewal for you! You guys must be chalk FULL of keepsakes and talk about photo displays waiting to happen! Anytime, girl. Say the word. <3

  8. Mary, I just got back from my destination wedding and enjoyed reading your post so much! Maybe I'll do one of my own. Your blog is so fun to read, thanks for sharing.