House Beautiful

Wedding Planning 2.0: All Roads Lead to La Jolla!

Um, where did we leave off? …oh right. I wanted a small, intimate, laid-back wedding on a remote beach catered by a taco joint. Like this:

Welllllllll – what did Bud used to say? “Honey, wish in one hand & sh*t in the other and see which one comes true first.” BAAAHAHAHAHHAAH #snort

So many of you have asked how planning is going, and if I’m “so overwhelmed” – and the answers are great! and not at all… (though there are a bajillion more decisions and a bajillion more dollars involved than I realized).  I haven’t done a post or an update since this one right after we got engaged, and a LOT of planning has gone down since then. I’m stupid excited about the wedding and it will be SO FAB – but it’s def shaking out a little differently than I’d imagined. Probably all for the better but got funneled (in a decision flow chart sort of way) from said-remote-exotic-beach wedding w/ tacos to a slightly larger affair in La Jolla, California (where I lived when I met good ‘ol Chris Driscoll). WHO KNEW THIS QUOTE WOULD EVER COME TRUE:

HOW WE LANDED IN LA JOLLA

1. Passport or No Passport? Well… as anyone who knows us knows – it’s really all about Gus. Any wedding in Mexico, the Caribbean or anywhere outside the U.S. wouldn’t be somewhere we could bring our right hand man, so that meant we needed to find a venue stateside. #gusgusforpresident just became #gusgusforbestman.

2. San Diego or Charleston? Doing a beach where it’s warm (and in a place where I have enough connections to manage a lot of the planning) gave us an east coast option (Charleston) and a west coast option (San Diego). I lived in San Diego for 4 years and Charleston for 10, so I have a leg up in either place.

The weather on the left coast, however, is just so much more temperate and SO much more predictable. 68-72 and sunny with no humidity and a snowball’s chance in h*ll of rain is basically what you can expect out of San Diego 362 days out of the year. Whereas Charleston is HUMID – swassy, if you will, about 9 months out of the year. And there are also hurricane seasons and higher chances of rain to contend with, which doesn’t give me any warm fuzzies when it comes to an outdoor wedding. Plus, the thought of sweating through my clothes or my hair looking like Whitesnake on my wedding day was not too appealing, so San Diego won out. Not that this wouldn’t have been super hot wedding hair.

Also… you can obviously always make your wedding whatever you want, but when I was researching venues in both places, I just felt like Charleston (one of the most fab cities on the planet) inherently lends itself to a little more fuss & formality – cuz it’s the South. And I just don’t want ANY of that for this particular day. Also, everyone + their mom + their mom’s brother’s uncle’s cousin gets married there. For good reason, because it’s a beautiful, charming place, but give me laid back SoCal crisp air that smells like saltwater or give me death.

3. November or April?  Um.. exsqueeze me who knew venues book out LIKE TWO YEARS IN ADVANCE. It is insanity. I swear that betrothed toddlers the world over lifted their little legs and peed on some dates. For example, as of today (July 17, 2019) this is what the 2020 calendar looks like for one of the venues we considered. Geesh, good luck with your Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmastime nuptials next year folks!  Cuz those are just about all the Saturdays that are left. Forget 2019 – it was booked in 2016. Fer Fox sake.

A good friend of ours who got married last year told us NOT to waste time picking a venue; she said they waited a few months to “just enjoy being engaged” and during that time, a lot of the venues they wanted got nabbed. Between November (only Fridays available, anywhere, but it’s off season and rates on everything are better) and April, Chris felt like November was “too much of a rush” (and on the inside I was like PSSSSHT puh-lease, I have had this planned in my head since birth, give me 10 minutes and I’ll have it together. Wanna see my Pinterest boards???  fjkdl;sjfldjsflkja)… I can write that in this blog because Lord knows he doesn’t read it. And I should probably be thankful for that.

In the end, April won out: so that we could do a Saturday, so we had time to kind of chillax and enjoy being engaged, but in large part so we’d have more time to save more cheddar, because there are few certainties in life: Death, Taxes, and the fact that Weddings are highway robbery.

They just are, and I know everyone who’s ever gotten married knows that, but why was I confused? I’m finding a *few* clever ways to save (ditch the cake! …monobotanical flowers or in season anything… cut the guest listliterally just googled “DIY Milk Glass Votives” 15 minutes ago… and naturally, baking cookies and showing people my boobs….. kidding!!), but ye know.


 
At some point the cost of a wedding with 100 or so people just is what it is, and I actually think it’s tacky to talk about money – BUT – how do you blog about the wedding process and NOT talk about it? It’s such a huge consideration for anyone planning one, and it plays into every single decision. So whatever I can pass along that’s helpful, I will. Everyone else’s wedding blog I read I’m all: “JUST &$^# TELL ME HOW MUCH IT REALLY COSTS SO I KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.”  Who knew a damn chivari chair was $8, a bistro + cushion $12, and a ghost chair $20? …and other mind-numbing insanity. But I HAVE to say this because it’s actually true: I’m obviously trying to be super smart about wedding spending, but I really am completely at peace with the fact they’re just expensive parties to throw. And this one is really important because it is the ONLY time in our entire lives that we’ll get to have all our closest friends & family all in the same place. Yolo, yo.

4. Waterfront Venues? Bueller??  I had this brilliant idea to take a page out of Karrie & Tim’s playbook and rent a big beach house for our families for the week (so chill and so communal), and have the ceremony outside on the beach, and the reception rager on the grounds of the house outside. I found THIS HOUSE – on Windansea Beach in La Jolla (my fave) – which would’ve been so, so, so perfect. Not only a place to save some cheese (cuz you’re killing the place-to-sleep + wedding venue fee birds with one stone), but I also have just wanted it to feel less like a bunch of pomp & circumstance, and more like an intimate REALLY FUN dinner party at our house.

Anyhoosit – I can’t say the owner of that property responded kindly to my request. I eventually resorted to begging, offering a huge refundable damage deposit, to sign in blood that we wouldn’t screw up her house and would put port-a-potties outside, etc etc, but girlfriend was Fort Knox. And I found that to be the case with every property owner: literally no one these days will let you host an event at an AirBNB. If they do, they charge you something like $100 a head just to let people in the door. Otherwise, they all have rules that you can’t even have more than like, 3 guests over beyond the capacity of overnight guests in the house. It’s all nonsense but I guess that deters people from throwing a Jake Ryan-esque train wreck party on their property.

Also, a beach rager like this was out of the question, because no beaches in San Diego allow alcohol, even if you have a permit to post up and throw a shin dig there. Long story (never) short, I was striking out big time.

Outside of AirBNB’s in San Diego or posting up on a beach, I found a handful of really stunning waterfront venues, but many of them (like Scripps Martin Johnson House) were already taken (basically through the end of time). So I narrowed to:

La Valencia – this gorgeous pink hotel perched on top of La Jolla Cove where we could do a ceremony in the sand and reception inside…

La Jolla Shores Hotel – not as schmancy but they’d still let us do a ceremony in the sand outside, and reception here…

…and Darlington House – which is a private, historic Spanish property a few blocks from Windansea in La Jolla.

5. All Inclusive vs. Standalone Venue. Doing a hotel wedding probably appeals to anyone who wants to make the planning process easier on themselves: Hotels have all their packages all dialed in: you don’t have to worry about renting tables / chairs / linens / all that noise, because they have it all there.  But to me, I didn’t hear “easy breezy decision making” – I heard: “You mean I get to choose between a white tablecloth or an ivory tablecloth? EHMAHGAH DOES THAT MEAN I can’t do mismatched vintage floral plates or farm tables?” Whoops.

If you go the hotel route, you also don’t have to agonize over which caterer to hire because you’re already married to using theirs (for better or for worse). You also have to get all your alcohol from their bar which means buying all their booze at retail – e.g. $15 per vodka tonic times all our alcoholic friends = I should register for the fanciest cardboard box to install under the bridge we’ll live in after the wedding. But what *really* pushed me away from the hotel idea was what one very wise planner said about the lack of privacy: “Both of those hotels are beautiful, but you WILL have beach goers and hotel guests in wet bathing suits traipsing into your event, and you won’t be able to do anything about it.”

And what NAILED THE NAIL in the hotel wedding coffin was when I priced everything out – (via the longest nerd alert spreadsheet you’ve ever seen that included every fork, knife & spoon):

  • All-inclusive (cookie cutter) hotel wedding, vs.
  • Private standalone venue where you have to bring ALL our own stuff – tables, chairs, decor… hire your own caterer, BYO-booze, etc.

And you wanna know the kicker?!  THEY CAME OUT TO *LITERALLY* EXACTLY THE SAME PRICE.

Then the decision was easy: we can not only do the entire thing EXACTLY how we want and bring so much more character in, but we also have more of an opportunity to control the pricing during the coming months while we carefully select and compare the vendor quotes on things like lounge vignettes, caterers, etc – versus being locked into one huge all-inclusive cost upfront. And, the ability to bring your own booze is HUGE. Hello – Costco lets you return unopened bottles of wine (and I think BevMo does too), plus we’re lucky enough to have some hookups in the liquor industry.

Here are some more pics of the little gem of a venue we booked… What I love is that it’s not huge, has TONS of character, and literally will feel like we had a handful of our friends & fam over for dinner in our backyard. DO YOU EVEN KNOW THE MAGIC I CAN WORK ON THIS PLACE????????

5. Tacos? TACOS?? – The first question I asked Darlington House was if I could have The Taco Stand (best fish taco in San Diego!) cater the wedding. They politely re-directed me to a list of 20 or so “approved caterers” for the venue. That right there kicked me from my pipe dream $20 a head for a casual taco bar to closer to about 5x that for a sit-down dinner… But I get it, and there’s something I’ve always loved about a sit-down dinner as a guest at someone else’s wedding. It seems like it slows down time a bit, which is great, because it lets you hang with the people at your table and get off your feet (aka 4″ heels) for an hour or so… As opposed to mingling in circles for hours, standing in a buffet line, etc. The other shocker about buffets is this: THEY ARE NOT A HUGE COST SAVINGS, if at all.  The caterers actually have to supply more food than usually gets eaten. I priced out plated dinner vs. buffet vs. stations and found the price difference to be pretty negligible. I also clung to my taco dreams till the bitter end – and even had a few caterers price out farm to table Mexican fare – which came out the same as Surf & Turf.  So, surf & turf it is.  OH BUT DON’T WORRY! Because these are still getting passed during cocktail hour. Tuna tartare mini tacos + spicy margs. DREAMS DO COME TRUE, PEOPLE.

6. Beach Ceremony dreams, however, don’t always come true. We could have totally done a beach ceremony + a Darlington House reception, because they’re only a few blocks apart. But there ended up being so many reasons why that just wasn’t the best idea.

  • First, all the schlepping. There’s also a pretty steep staircase down to Windansea, and lots of big rocks & tide pools, which makes it not only tricky for the rental folks to drag chairs up & down, but for old folks to drag themselves down.

  • Beyond that, we would’ve had to double up on chair rentals – cuz it’s not like the rental folks would wait for everyone to leave the ceremony, then schlepp the chairs back up said stairs, run over to Darlington & set those up… They could, but as one wedding planner cautioned me: “It’s inelegant.” HA. It’s also just a fuss, but if we’re not moving ceremony chairs –> dinner chairs, then renting double the chairs = a cool extra $1200. No spanks.
  • Windansea Beach is STUNNING – but the waves are huge and therefore loud – so loud that you can’t hear much.  And there’s also really no way for a sound fella or gal to get electrical down there.
  • Probably most importantly, it’s just the timing and the flow. Changing venues would’ve cost us precious time and made for a more disjointed evening, which we didn’t want. We also would’ve needed to hire transportation to move everyone from one location to the next (despite their relative short distance apart). We just want people to come in and be able to relax. So, I resolved to take some pics down on the beach and do the whole da*n thing at Darlington.

So, that’s wassup and it’s gonna be pretty rad. The venue is super intimate and works best with about 120 guests, so that’s kind of where we landed – which for SURE pains us, because even though we thought we wanted to do something smaller, it’s REALLY HARD to sit down and write out a guest list, hard to tell people that we’re not having any kiddos at the wedding (the most eloquent I’ve seen it on an invite is: “Kindly, this is an adults-only affair“), and it’s even harder to wrap our heads around the fact that we won’t be able to include everyone we love, and everyone who’s had a place in our lives at one point or another.

I also have a different perspective now as a wedding guest – it’s not even the cost side of things, it’s like – dayyyyyuuuummm, this is the MOST important day of your life, and you guys had to sit down and agonize over who to include in it, and you sent US an invitation. Not that I haven’t before, but I will now feel so extra honored and humbled to be invited to anyone’s wedding. And so not offended when I’m not, because I know it’s just not always personal – you never know what kind of budget or criteria someone is dealing with.

That’s enough outta me today, but I have SO MANY OTHER THINGS to kick around another time. These posts will probably be more of a stream of consciousness for me and hopefully a help to anyone else planning a wedding (‘spesh in San Diego). But if you made it this far without a bathroom break or a nap, then I commend you, my friend. Other stuff I would love to dig into another time is:

  1. Where is the “fab rehearsal dinner outfit roundup” post? Oh right, it doesn’t exist. Don’t worry – I’ll make one.
  2. Where are all the non-depressing / fabulous Mother of the Bride dresses?  This is partially a PSA for Jayne.
  3. Wedding Websites: why Zola is so bad ass, and why I don’t have early onset arthritis, thanks to free recipient addressing at Minted.
  4. Wedding hashtags – why they sound stoop and trivial but actually aren’t, and how to come up with a good one.
  5. Catering: what to serve, how many options to give people, and why I got the whip cracked on me for wanting to give options at all (and why she was totally right).
  6. Things you need to BUST A MOVE on as soon as you have a date set.
  7. Rentals – renting aka lighting $$ on fire vs. schlepping things there myself.
  8. WARNING: THERE IS NO VANITY SIZING IN WEDDING DRESSES. I REPEAT: TAKE YOUR REGULAR DRESS SIZE AND DOUBLE IT, AND THAT’S PROBABLY YOUR WEDDING DRESS SIZE. DO NOT BE ALARMED. YOU DID NOT GAIN 50 LBS OVERNIGHT. Just think of wedding dress sizing being in sanskrit.
  9. Wedding Dress Shopping – tips and tricks to save, fab designers, etc. I hit the best ones in Chicago, Denver, LA and Indy.
  10. Where is the objective “review” of all things people register for?  e.g. I should already know, but I need someone to tell me things like which great quality towels we should register for. Not that the tattered beach towels with holes we have aren’t cutting the mustard. I’ll also do a few sample registries (like the one I did for Rent the Runway a few years back). Cuz those are fun. 
  11. Bridesmaid Dresses – how to do something super unique.
  12. Planners – what questions to ask and how to vet them, what they take off your plate that I promise you DO NOT want to do, the ones I met with in SoCal and loved (I was sad I couldn’t hire all of them, though I do love the one we did for month-of, Lisa Friesen), and how to make the decision when it’s a dead lock.
  13. Photography (and videography): The ONLY TANGIBLE THING YOU TAKE WITH YOU. We hired Anni Graham and I am so thrilled I can’t take it. Will also list all the videographers whose style I think is killer.
  14. DECOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is how she’s shaking out so far… and imma tell you all about it one of these next times.

Chris and I are heading to SD this weekend (for legit 36 hours, with Gus in tow) and are BLOWING thru catering tastings and (for me), hair & makeup trials, so I’ll have that to yap about next time too.

xoxo!

 

We’re Engaged! OMG LET’S PLAN.

Oh my GYASH. Remember back in 2016 when I was fiddling around on Bumble in traffic on the 405 (standstill traffic Mom – standstill), swiped right on someone I thought was probably an ad – (the kind where they throw J.Crew models in the mix to keep you swiping) – only to discover he was actually a real-live person? A person I immediately sassed, to the tune of: “Oh sweet, you work for Arthrex? You better be glad I switched to Interior Design cuz I’d run you out of the O.R.” –> (operating room… I used to work for his competitor). Hook line & sinker, people! Maybe not, but everyone who’s ever done online dating knows that every time someone’s intro to you is: “Hey, how’s your day?” – a kitten dies. So I guess it got his attention. Anyhow – I soon came to realize this clown lived 16 hours away, but we had such a fun ping-pong-pen-pal-ship over the course of the next week that we decided to meet in person.

(And I figured there was about a 30% shot he could be a serial killer who might chop me up & put me in a freezer), but thankfully, I had one Dan Mulligan do some unsolicited 007 recon, aka Mully called all his med device cronies in Colorado to get the skinny on Chris (he passed with flying colors). So that clinched it – we finally met.

I think doing long distance in general is hard enough, but starting that way seemed like the most impractical thing ever… but in a way, it helped us get to know one another the old school way, like it was 1994 (on the phone).  We carried on flights back and forth every few weeks and split time between San Diego & Crested Butte for about a year and a half, until I left my Technicolor SoCal flip-flop-and-bathing-suit life and relocated to the fairytale mountain wonderland of Crested Butte, which is cuter (and snowier) than any town in any Hallmark Christmas Movie you’ve ever seen.  And then another year and a half later, on top of a mountain in Telluride, we got engaged.

He (Chris) also turned out to have the kindest soul of anyone I know and is the most laid back, down-to-earth and fun guy ever – who shares my lunacy and affinity for Gus (to a heart-exploding degree… and if you saw him with kids, your uterus might explode). He is endlessly supportive, has a rock-solid moral compass, loves his family and friends with the fire of 1,000 suns, has an effervescent curiosity about the world and an eagerness to get to know everyone, and such an appreciation for nature… he also has a complete inability to sit still on vacation (next time we’re on a beach I’m seriously going to drug him)… but also, such a quiet humility (and serious lack of vanity), which I have always loved. He always apologizes first (I STILL CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. HE LITERALLY JUST DID IT 5 MINUTES AGO.) and he takes the things to heart that you say, then actually does / implements them. I’m not even kidding. But I mean, we can’t have it all, because he also thinks wet towels dry best wadded up in a ball on the floor and will never remember to put the glass lid back on the canister of Q-tips in the bathroom, but I’ll pick my battles.  The man is an endangered species. He is as good as they come.

I’ll stop gushing, but oh wait!  Could we all please do a slow clap for his ring game?

For someone who never cared much about rings, I love, LOVE this thing. It has mixed metals (the little prongs that hold the oval are platinum so they’re more discreet, and the band is gold) and every person who sees it asks if it’s vintage, which gives me a tickle in my shorts.

MOVING ALONG…  the thing about getting engaged at the ripe age of 38 is that I have a very clear vision of what I want, and all the nitty gritty details of the thing do not stress me out – which I think they do a lot of brides – so I’m fortunate in that way.  Not sure if that’s a product of my job and being used to putting a million details (and spreadsheets) together, or if it’s thanks to all 897,464 weddings I’ve physically attended or been a bridesmaid in. I’ve for sure been able to take note of all the amazing things my friends have done…  Let’s roll through them, shall we?

 

CUES I’M TAKING:

 

1. Destination Weddings are the BEST. Because you get to stretch the festivities out for a long long weekend, because everyone who’s there has time to hang and get to know one another, and because being in a beautiful place far from home puts everyone in vaycay mode renders them super relaxed. Chris & I are so on board with this.  Anyone who brings any stress to that week is getting tossed into the ocean… omg I’m kidding!!! (Sort of…)  Karrie & Tim did a destination wedding in Anna Maria Island, Florida and it was one of THE most fun weddings I’ve ever been to… if you’ve never seen their wedding video, do yourself a favor and take 10 minutes to watch it:

Last year, our friends Kait & John got hitched in Harbour Island (Bahamas), which was a crystal-blue-water-magical backdrop for their nuptials and such a fun getaway. PS how fun is this girl? Most chillaxed bride with the most killer taste, ever.

Our other friends Caitlin & Tom got married in Mendocino (Northern Cali) last Fall, which was also one of our favorites: the venue was so stunning and laid-back, and we got to spend so much time with the oh-so-warm & gracious bride (and really everyone at that wedding was so awesome)… I mean, look at this happy little tart! I DIE over her photos, by the insanely talented Anni Graham.

Getting to that Mendocino wedding made the whole weekend an adventure – which is another thing I love about destination weddings – it’s the journey to them!  We did a meandering drive from San Fran up the coast with an old friend of Chris’, stopped into a few little tasting rooms and tucked away beaches on the coast on the way up & back. It was heaven.

2. Smaller, Intimate Weddings. This is great in theory and tough to do.  Guest-listing, so I have heard (and am already starting to experience) is maybe the most difficult and stressful part of the planning process. How on earth do you do it? There are so many people we love who have been close to us during different parts of our lives… and if you invite so-and-so, then you have to also invite so-and-so… and before you know it, you have a list of 500 people and you’re going to be in debt for 500 years to throw a 5-hour party. And the thing is, every huge wedding I’ve been to has felt (to me) kind of impersonal, because I knew the bride and groom didn’t even have time to say hello to everyone, let alone have quality time with their nearest & dearest. Or eat. Which just made me feel overwhelmed for them… like it was a party for everyone else, but not for them. I once heard someone say there’s nothing more depressing than seeing brides and grooms shaking hands with people they’ve never met before at their weddings, and I wholeheartedly agree…. But to each his own.

Money isn’t fun to talk about, but the ugly truth is that the guest list is the #1 factor in your budget – for each person you invite, it’s not only the food & booze dollar amount per head, but every additional person is also an additional place setting, more decor, more chairs, more tables, more allthethings.  Chris and I are at this juncture in our life, too, where everything is happening at once: we’re also shopping for a house, probably going to start a fam sooner than later before my eggs go up in flames, I just opened a storefront, blah blah blah. So, nuts! Do we spend our down payment money on a 5-hour party and then start saving all over again? (…I say yes!) Just kidding, I say sort of …e.g. let’s find a way to be smart and do both. The wedding thing you only get to do it once, and it is LITERALLY the only time everyone you both love will be in the same place at the same time.

As a note, the average American wedding these days costs just under $35,000. The average Southern California wedding (what’s up, La Jolla!) is closer to $50,000…. Or, 50 “wedding dollars” as my friend Kendra calls them to take the sting out. I think a lot of the ones we’ve been to the last few years go up from there. Catering & alcohol accounts for probably about 40% of your budget, so guest count is a huge factor. I got a few good bits of advice recently from friends that I think are worth noting:

  • One friend said they had about 120 guests, which was a good number, but that 60-75 would’ve been ideal. Then followed with: “If you ever have to ask yourself, ‘ehhhh, should we invite so-and-so?’ – then the answer is no.”
  • Plus ones are given if the couple is either engaged or living together.
  • Another friend reminded me that life will inevitably have ups & downs, and marriage will be hard, so to only invite the people closest to you who will stand up for and support your marriage during those tough times.
  • Another friend said, “if you’re on the fence about anyone on your guest list, ask yourself if it’s worth it to you to cut them a check for $500 to attend your wedding.” Sounds brutal, and I’m pretty sure I choked on whatever I was chewing when I heard that, because while that is jarring, it’s not inaccurate.

This chart is actually super helpful… especially with the: “When was the last time you spoke?” and “Would you want to spend 15 minutes alone with this person on your wedding day?”

But while budget is obviously a consideration, I’m at peace with and far less concerned with the money part, and WAY more concerned with the vibe of the tribe that’s there.

3. Weddings That Have a Great Flow. And behind every great flow, there is for sure a great planner. Personally, I think having a planner is e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l. Your wedding is a HUGE investment – and so short lived – and so to me, hiring a day-of or month-of planner is the best way to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch, and that you ACTUALLY get to enjoy it. It’s not unlike hiring a designer when you are building or renovating a house: why on EARTH would you spend all that money and not have someone quarterbacking the thing to make sure you’re making sound decisions on things that have so much permanence and allocating your budget properly?

Chris & I both love a wedding with a good flow – where guests aren’t confused about where to go or what to do, and where there’s always a glass of champagne or something to nosh at the ready. Where the bride and groom don’t have to worry about anything that day except having a great time. ALL OF THAT is because there’s a coordinator on site who’s orchestrating every single minute of the party and handling it à la Olivia Pope, or J.Lo. I can do a ton of the legwork – the budget, the vendor coordination, the styling – that stuff’s easy because it’s so much of what I do every day… but at some point, I don’t know what I don’t know about the nuances of weddings, and I need someone to pull it together and take the reigns so I can hang with my peeps and not have to like, take calls from the caterer who has a flat tire, which would make my brain melt.

4. Weddings That Don’t Feel Disjointed. IMO, if the venue has too many components or far-reaching seating areas or cigar bars or what have you, it just ends up too compartmentalized and people dissipate. Like a middle school dance. I love it when everyone is kind of hanging together.

5. Weddings That Have a Killer Band or DJ. This makes or breaks the party, and is a HUGE priority for both me & Chris. I remember one invitation we got last year had a line on the RSVP card that asked: “Tell us the song that’ll make you get up and dance?” – which I loved. PS: the answer is Footloose. Always. Turn that song on and I am a wind-up toy on crack who just lost her mind.

6. Weddings That Feed You at Crappy Hour. God bless things like hot dog stands, taco trucks, passed slices of pizza, etc. Especially if people have been on the dance floor all night, they’re usually starving by the time the party is over. If I could have Pizza King Royal Feasts brought in and passed at the reception, I would be happy as a clam. Or pigs in blankets.

7. Weddings with Amazing Speeches. Pass the tissues. Listening to the speeches might be my favorite and most memorable part of weddings. I’m gonna get roasted so hard, and it’s gonna be SO FUN.

PS: I kind of want to hand out vintage hankies for that very reason.

 

THE VIBE

 

Every person or vendor I’ve talked to about this wedding so far has asked what the vision is. The best I can muster is: France + Mexico had a baby on the beach. Like, in the blue lagoon. Give me fish tacos on mismatched antique dishes, tons of string lights, melting taper candles in ornate vintage brass candelabras and a laid-back but intimate, elegant feel to all of it. Like this:

{ Ceremony }

Give me all the tattered, laid back beachy business in the form of lanterns, simple arbors, white gauzy things blowing in the breeze and waves in the background. Cuz what else do you need.

{ Gussie }

We quickly nixed a Caribbean or a Mexico wedding, which would’ve been amazing but it’s a deal breaker not to have our best buddy in tow.

{ The Bridesmaids }

Yep, I still wanna do them. Lots of people feel like they’re silly when you’re in your 30’s, but I say bring on the besties, all clad in coordinating gear. I want to do anything but the normal bridesmaid-looking dresses: gunning for mismatched, embellished, rad dresses in the watered-down, cerulean palette. As laid back as I want this shin-dig to be, I do want the feeling of it juxtaposed with some pretty dresses.

Brideside is a good option: they’re more like an aggregate site for all the bridesmaid dresses out there, vs just shopping them from one designer e.g. Jenny Yoo, but to me it still feels a bit more uniform than I want… visiting there in Chicago in 2 weeks so I’ll let you know how it shakes out.  Rent the Runway is also an option I love, and they have a ton of options in the blush category, but sadly very little in the blue/green family.

We had one friend last year who had her bridesmaids all in mismatched white outfits – some were flowy dresses, others were gorgeous silk pants and angora sweaters – and it was super laid back and chic in Northern Cali in the Fall. I LOVED that. I wouldn’t even rule out doing the bridesmaids in mismatched ivory get-ups either.

{ The Dress }

Ya’ll know I let it all hang out and will tell you anything, but this one I gotta kinda keep under wraps. Generally speaking, the dress has never been my biggest priority. I don’t wanna feel like I wore a potato sack – I mean, you HAVE to feel fab – but I also can’t justify spending some insane amount of money… (though, you can always resell it and recoup some of funds). Now that I’ve been trying on a few, however, I will say one thing: BERTA. Signed, F*DGE. Co-Signed, What’s a Budget?  Bahahajahjhahah – kidding, kidding.

{ The Flowers }

I KIND of don’t care about flowers either. That’s one expense I can shave down, I think. Plus who’s really looking at flowers when you have a roaring ocean in the background and swaying palm trees everywhere? Lots of folks have suggested I get a gaggle of stems at the Farmer’s Market, or at least to choose in-season flowers to save some dough.

Our good friend Kait – who got married in Harbour Island last year – had almost entirely flowerless decor (except for her boutquet) and I literally didn’t even notice because the wedding was so beautiful: she used primarily things from the local landscape. GENIUS.

That said… if I did a few flowers, I’d love some peonies (totally out of season – so I’m already not taking my own advice) or king proteas. The bouquet below is bananas.

{ The Reception }

If I could pitch a big tent (ooooh a clear one!) on the beach, or just do it on the beach in general, I would be in heaven.

Except you can’t do glass or alcohol on any San Diego beaches (that’s right folks – La Jolla it is!)… And what I REALLY wanted to do – for the sake of intimacy and the sake of saving *literally* tens of thousands of dollars – was to have the reception outdoors on the grounds of (whatever beach house our families are staying in that week). I found this one and it’s perfect (complete with private beach access), but the lady won’t allow events. Nor will any homeowner or property owner, anywhere… despite my incessant attempts to offer a larger refundable damage deposit and promise to rent port-a-potties:

C’est la vie. So to that end, there are a few venues either on or across the street from the beach will do the trick. PS: Know what all of the below have in common? STRING LIGHTS. Magical and magically available at Wal-Mart.

{ The Tabletop }

I’ve had so many people tell me not to fuss over the tables, and I won’t (too much) BUT the decor is kind of my jam, cuz it’s my job. Plus, you gotta rent plates & napkins anyway – why not rent cool ones for the same cost? Give me all the mismatched vintage china, milk glass candlesticks and mixed metal glassware.

I totally love Hostess Haven out of San Diego – I doodled up a few schemes from their offering:

A good friend of ours who did a mountain wedding last year actually BOUGHT a ton of her decor – because you can buy it for almost the same price that you can rent it – and in the end, you can sell it to recoup some of the costs. So it’s a lot of legwork and probably a total PITA, but I may go that route for a few things…

*COUGH* I may have already nabbed a dozen or so mismatched vintage napkins with crochet trim on eBay.

{ Food & Drink }

My other half is a whiskey connoisseur, so maybe a bourbon bar for him? This one is from Calder Clark Designs (hey girl heeeeeey!)

Otherwise, I’ll say it: as much as I love food, I don’t really care about the food. It’s just that it’s so fleeting!  I mean, I’m not trying to feed people spray-can cheese on Ritz crackers, but I could care less about doing a bazillion dollar 4-course meal. BRING. ON. THE. TACO. BAR.  Or at least Mini Margs & Mini Tacos passed at cocktail hour – BE STILL MY HEART.

Truth be told, I’d DIE if my favorite taco joint could cater the whole she-bang (laid back and would save a bundle), but I’m quickly finding that almost all reception venues require you to either use their food & booze, or pick from a certain list of approved caterers. Also, Chris is a little bit of a traditionalist and thinks we have to feed people more than tacos… and I’m all, “IF ANYONE DOESN’T LOVE TACOS THEY’RE NOT INVITED!!!” Haaaaa j/k – but seriously – who doesn’t love tacos?  So either way, looks like I’m getting channeled into the $chmancier food category.

{ Dessert }

I so do not care about the cake. Does anyone even eat the wedding cake?? I can’t remember the last time I’ve even seen the bride & groom cut the cake. So unless Cru Cafe wants to ship me in an Orange Sherbet Cake, this is a corner I can cut via a little round cake from the grocery store with some flowers slapped on top:

Or since I’m gunning for farm-to-table Mexican fare for dinner (I haven’t given up), maybe we do churros for dessert? Or these little malasadas in coffee.

This dessert table I have always loved. It looks like it’s in my Nanny’s backyard and that’s probably why.

That’s where we are so far! The budgeting is hard, the guest list is hard, blah blah blah… but we HAVE to make it all fun, right??  I told Chris we should sit down together and figure out what we’re comfortable spending and what’s most important to us, slap a number on that budget and then just pull the triggers so we don’t have to fuss for the next 11 months, cuz that’s not worth it. To recap:

Best Advice I’ve Gotten (So Far) on Weddings:

  1. “For every hour you spend planning the wedding, spend another hour working on the relationship. So many people get caught up with the right dress, the perfect centerpiece, that they forget it’s only a party at the end of the day.” –Read this somewhere… I repeated this to Chris and he was like, “yeah babe for sure – we’ll be doing plenty of hours of hiking this Summer.” Bahahahhaha.
  2. “Stretch the event out as long as possible.  It will go so fast for you and even 4 days won’t be enough time with everyone.  So host a destination, days-long event, so you can have one-on-one time with different people as they trickle into town.” –Caitlin Johnson
  3. “Splurge on the photographer.” –Roni Haskell // “Photography is the only thing you take with you.” –Caitlin Whiteside – I am SO ON BOARD with this.
  4. “Hire a videographer!!!” –Everyone.  And sadly, everyone I know who hasn’t done videography has had major remorse afterward; everyone who has says they still love watching theirs – or watch it every anniversary and reminisce. The other amazing point someone made was that: as the bride & groom, you’re so busy that day / behind the scenes getting ready etc that you actually miss seeing so much that goes on. But videography gives you that and lets you not only relive the day, but have a window to everything you didn’t see.
  5. Hire a planner. –Everyone
  6. Have your bouquet professionally done, but use Farmers Market flowers or in-season flowers or local greenery for your bridesmaids, tabletop, and any other florals you need.  –Kait McGrath + Melissa Pevic + Michaela Fraser. You can even have a little shin-dig with your bridesmaids and put bouquets and arrangements together. You can also repurpose your bridesmaids’ bouquets as centerpieces.
  7. “Don’t worry about making anyone else happy. Be weird and do whatever the hell makes the two of you happy.” –Mia Martino Howe (Love this one!)
  8. “Use your gut and don’t do a single ‘should’ ” –Laura Hammer-Hill
  9. “The entire wedding will take cues from the bride and her demeanor. So if she’s freaking and stressed, everyone else will feel that. And if she’s super relaxed and happy, everyone else will feel that, too, and follow suit.” –I don’t even remember where I heard or read this, but I think it’s one of the most profound pieces of wedding advice I’ve ever heard. 
  10. “We planned our wedding around what was convenient for our parents, but it was not what we wanted. If we had it to do all over again, we would’ve done things completely differently, and done the whole thing somewhere else.”
  11. “No one eats cake.” –Kait McGrath
  12. “Take a half a Xanax while you’re getting ready.” –JoJo Hodges (this one made me snort)
  13. “Do a first look.” –Everyone I know who has done one.  It’s the bit of advice I keep getting: that when you walk into your ceremony, seeing everyone you love in one eyeshot will trigger major waterworks and be overwhelming in and of itself; that that alone is enough to take in, but add to that seeing your almost husband or wife for the first time that day, and it would be overload. So because both of those moments are so special, everyone seems to advocate breaking them up into two. The first look is also one of the only times that day you’ll (almost) be alone and have an intimate moment between the two of you.
  14. “I wish we’d had gone smaller crowd, less formal, just close friends and family on a beach.” –Dawn.  Note: this one is the most resounding theme I hear, time & time again. Every person I’ve talked to says they wished they could’ve had a more intimate, smaller wedding.
  15. “I don’t remember the food at all–it may have been sandwiches (hot and cold) cheese balls and crackers, and veggies and fruit trays. I really don’t remember. All I remember is dancing. Lots of dancing.” –Missy Phillips Cooper
  16. “Carefully curate your playlist.” –Melissa Hobley.  “Start your music must-haves playlist now. Write every song down as you hear or think of it so you can prioritize later because you’ll have hundreds you’ll want to dance to.” –Amy Kitchen
  17. “Regardless of the details you decide on, more important things are happening here – like learning how to communicate better, set limits, make joint decisions, compromise, listen to one another, etc. Use this as an opportunity to learn how to work together as a team day-in and day-out.” –Amy Kitchen

You deserve a trophy or at least some orange slices if you made it thru this post without a nap or a pee break.  Thank you guys for all of your wonderful well-wishes and gracious help so far!!!!!! We are stoked. And semi-stressful as this stuff can be (*violins*), I have never loved me some Chris Driscoll more than I do now.

xoxoxo,