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    Real Wedding Wednesday ~ How to Have an Incredible Wedding with Tough Family Dynamics & a Small Budget 

    I love this wedding. I love this wedding not only because of the gorgeous pictures, incredible eye candy and adorable groom, but because it proves that you can push through the craziness and wacked family dynamics, and still have the wedding day you want. Plus, I'm a little in love with Erica, the beautiful bride, because she is a toughy, and I have deep respect for women who don't back down from the bullshit. She and Trevor were up against some pretty intense odds, and together they pulled off a lovely wedding.

    Brideys, this is an absolute must read for every single one of you. Fabulous pictures and cool details aside, it's something you should read over and over again whenever you feel like your wedding planning is killing you a little bit each day. I mean, look at these photographs! They are awesome! And when you read about their budget, and their motivation to create a lovely experience for each and every guest, you will be amazed at what they accomplished!

    Every response to my each one of my questions was answered with great thought and honesty. And you know I am a sucker for honesty. In fact, here is my favorite quote from Erica regarding her difficult family situation, "The point I would like to make: I got a lot of flack for not going above and beyond to make my mother in law happy. I just believe that things you do in the beginning of a relationship set a huge precedent of what you will be expected to do in the future...". Right??

    Seriously, if this wedding doesn't put everything into perspective (my favorite word in the whole wide world), then call me... Erica and Trevor, my hat's off to you! 

    1. Bridey, how did you meet your spouse? (The short and sweet version please.)

    I moved to Portland from S. California for a music internship with a small church. Trevor was on the music team at that church and was the first friend that I made up here.

    2. How long were you together before you were engaged?

    Technically we were only together 7 months before we were engaged, but we were hanging out a lot before we defined the relationship.

    3. What was the length of time between the engagement and the wedding? 

    We were engaged for 18 months! We knew that we were going to have to pay for everything ourselves, and it was really important to us to be really good hosts to our friends while not getting into any debt.

    4. Where did your wedding take place?

    Our wedding ceremony was at Mt. Talbert Park in Clackamas, OR, and our reception was held at a private residence in Damascus, OR. The people that owned the property were customers of mine at a coffee shop I worked at and they offered to have the wedding at their house!

    5. If you don't mind my asking, what was your budget, and where did you choose to spend most of it?

    We didn't really set a clear budget. We ended up spending a little over $12k and over $3k of that went to the dinner which was catered by our favorite restaurant. We also wanted to splurge and get a live jazz band which was another $1200. The rest of the money went towards a lot of decorations and accessories. I hate renting stuff, so I spent the 18 months stalking Craigslist and buying everything: lanterns, dishes, antiques, and other accessories.

    6. If you had to rate your wedding planning experience on a scale of one to ten with one being shitty, and ten being awesome, how would you rate it?

    I would say my wedding planning experience was an 8. I LOVED planning and having plenty of time to prepare for everything. It was a huge puzzle for me to balance timing along with a budget. What I didn't like, was dealing with all the family drama. If I could cut out the family part, it would be a 10. 

    7. What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process? Least fave?

    My favorite part of the wedding planning process was wanting something and getting it! hah... We HAD to have a catered dinner and a live jazz band (amongst other things), and it was completely justifiable to us to spend the money because it was our wedding! We just worked really really hard, saved up a lot of money, and were really creative with our resources... There also weren't a lot of people involved in the planning process (only a couple friends), so it felt so good to see the look on everyone's face when they saw all that I accomplished. I especially loved seeing my husband and my mom when they first saw the reception site. They had no idea what I had up my sleeve! 

    My least favorite part, as I mentioned, was dealing with family. Seriously, what a headache? I think that for some families, the wedding is equally about the family as it is about the bride and groom, so the family has a lot of say. That's not how my husband and I work at all, so we pissed off a lot of people. Since we were paying for everything ourselves, we were super picky about who was invited. We take our money seriously and if we didn't know someone (i.e. Aunt Whoever), we didn't invite them. We also took seriously who was in attendance because we wanted all those people to keep us accountable to our vows. We didn't want someone there if we didn't think they were really going to be around us and be involved in our life... As you could imagine, that didn't make a lot of people happy. If it wasn't the guest list, it was something else, and some complaint always got back to us through the grapevine. Some of my in laws didn't like me to begin with, so this wedding was just another thing for them not to like. We even had a family member purposely wear black to our wedding and we had another member show up from out of town uninvited! ...Yeah... But, in the end, we stuck to our guns and we wouldn't change anything about how we dealt with our families.

    8. Did anything go wrong (that you were aware of) at your wedding? If so, we’d love to hear about it (and maybe even see a picture?). Allow us to learn from you, bridey!

    We had a few mishaps at our wedding... The morning of our wedding, it started to rain. Typical Oregon!! Everything was still beautiful except for the name cards and the kids booklets I made. They had gotten a little wet, just enough to smear the print. Also, the band we hired was great and they were probably the best thing about our wedding. It was just really hard to get a hold of them. I didn't go over the timeline with them till the day of right before I was leaving to go to the ceremony. That was so nerve racking! Another thing, was that we had hid some industrial lights in the trees to light up the yard and for some reason they weren't turning on. It had gotten dark so fast that we couldn't even really figure out why, and a lot of people left earlier than we wanted because of how dark it was. We didn't have the grand exit like we wanted because we were one of the last to leave. All these things were pretty small in compared to what they could have been, and there wasn't anything I could really do about it. Three things wrong out of a million isn't so bad!

    9. What was the biggest challenge you faced from the moment you were engaged to the day you walked down the aisle? 

    The biggest challenge that I face from engagement to the wedding day was my relationship with my mother in law. There were a lot of factors that contributed to our unhealthy relationship: Trevor was the first of 3 boys to get married, I'm super independent, and we think completely differently about how families and weddings should be. The point I would like to make: I got a lot of flack for not going above and beyond to make my mother in law happy. I just believe that things you do in the beginning of a relationship set a huge precedent of what you will be expected to do in the future... The wedding was our day to celebrate with and entertain the people that we chose to be with and invest in. Only we could decide how we best wanted to do that, especially since we were footing the bill. Most importantly, Trevor and I always discussed everything and we were always on the same team. Family dynamics are hard to understand and to adjust to so we always took time to think and pray about every reaction and decision. Once those were made, we stood by them firmly, and we were happy for standing up for decisions we knew were right for us.

    10. What advice do you wish you had before started planning your wedding?

    I think I did a pretty good job researching wedding world since I had so much time. No extra advice really needed!

    11. Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

    If I could have done something differently, I would have hired a videographer. I see a lot of really cool wedding videos that are so precious. I wished I would have just splurged on that. Also, we had a really amazing photographer, and because I wanted more time with her, I gave her permission to just send her assistant photographer to get all the guys' photos. It was a pretty big mistake. She was a little uneasy about it, and I should have honed in on that. I had assumed that the assistant would do the same stuff that the head photographer was going to do, but the guys' shots turned out way differently than the gals, and weren't as fun or creative. I really really wish I could take that back. For a side note, when making your own invitations, make PLENTY of extras. I only made 5 and I definitely could have used more. 

    12. Bridey, please provide the most valuable lesson you learned while planning your wedding.

    The most important lesson I learned while planning my wedding, was frugality. My whole life, I had never been a frugal person and I have always lived paycheck to paycheck. Once I found out that my parents couldn't pay for the wedding I wanted, I knew my lifestyle had to change to get it. We are only 22. $12k is a lot of money, especially for people in their early 20's! But, we were super disciplined and saved over half of everything we made so we could throw a really great party, have a honeymoon, and have some leftover savings.

    Industry Peeps: 

    Ceremony Venue: Mt. Talbert Park, Clackamas, OR
    Reception Venue: Private Residence, Damascus, OR
    All Paper Products (Save the Dates, Invitations, Kid Booklets, etc.): Self!
    Fruit and Veggies (Appetizer): Thompson Farms
    Dinner: Scratch Foods, Lake Oswego, OR
    Beverages: Trader Joes
    Cake: Sweet Cream Bakery, Damascus, OR
    All Kitchenware: Craigslist
    Some Vintage Rentals: Something Borrowed
    Table Rentals: Abacus Event Rentals
    Chair Rentals: Barclay Events
    Linen Rentals: Oregon Dream Wedding
    Stage: Self!
    Dress: Ebay
    Suit: Men's Warehouse
    Everything Else: Craigslist and Self!

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    Reader Comments (43)

    This wedding is stupendous. What a cute couple. I am so happy the bride had the balls to stand up to her future mother in law. And she is right (take it from me) if you do not set the ground rules early it becomes really difficult to change them later on in the game. I wish I had her gumption at that age.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIrina

    Love this wedding! I feel like so many weddings today are cookie cutter, but this one has so much personality! I especially love the bridesmaids dresses and the gingham shirts! Great job!

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

    As one who attended the wedding it was beautiful. Where she thinks she set boundaries she instead was unkind, ungracious and un-Christian. Is it socially acceptable to not send thank you notes. I know at least 6 people who never received one, though its been 5 months.

    I attended the wedding and I know that Erica took great pains to do things her way. The music was great and the food excellent. . Turning an out of town aunt away was petty and hateful and not a good way to start a loving family relationship. A kind spirit will go a long way in life. Although this blog may be enlightening for wedding planning, I find it disgraceful that Erica uses it to bash her mother-in-law who is trying to establish a good relationship with her. No thank note here either.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWedding guest

    Sending Thank You cards, while considered good manners, is not a requirement, just like giving the couple a wedding gift is not a requirement. Not sending Thank You cards does not make someone (or a couple) 'un-Christian.' We sent our Thank You cards at the 7 month mark because our lives got very busy after the wedding; it doesn't mean we were unappreciative. Judge not lest ye be judged.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMindy @ BudgetFairyTale

    Whoever the wedding guest is who is speaking up, it would be better to just talk to me about whether or not you think I was unkind. If you want to talk about being Christian, confrontation is a huge part of Biblical teaching.

    By the way, etiquette states that we have at least a year to send out thank you notes.

    If you have a problem with me, you can be honest and confront me.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica (The Bride)

    I also think it's bold that Erica is speaking up about the subject that most people keep quiet about.

    Plus, if any of you actually know Erica and Trevor, you know how crazy their lives have been since their wedding and I think it's quite petty to attack her on a blog. All she said was that she didn't make her mother in law happy. That doesn't say anything negative about her and certainly isn't bashing... It's their wedding and they paid for it, so why would they be forced to invite or let anyone comes who just decides to show up? AND, if you do know her, you'll know how much she was there for her mother in law when Trevor's dad died in October, so obviously she isn't rude or "unChristian."

    I also agree that etiquette says you get 1 year to send out invites.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFriend of the Bride

    Why would people even bother showing up to a wedding just so they can get a thank you card? It's not about being thanked.

    If I were a guest at a catered dinner with live jazz music, I would be the one to send the thank you card! Sounds like they went out of their way to be hospitable to the guests THEY invited.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarry

    To the nay sayers: Why is it unChristian, unkind, and rude for her to do things her way, especially if the groom was on board?

    Obviously by the pictures, he adores her and it seems rude, unkind, and unChristian of you not to support him and do the same. "A kind spirit goes a long way"... Practice what you preach!

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen

    Thank you to everybody for your comments.

    Based on my interview with Erica, the gorgeous pictures and some of the statements regarding the actual day, it seems as though the wedding was a great success. Anybody who has the opportunity to take in the snapshot provided can see that Erica and Trevor are a fantastic team, and worked hard to make their wedding day about the two of them.

    Why don't we take a step back for a minute? This is not about "thank you" notes, or bashing mother-in-laws, it's about respect. And it's important for us to respect Erica and Trevor's choice to have the courage to fully embrace their wedding day as their own. They made the choice to spend quite a bit of money to take care of each and every guest, and although it may be difficult and uncomfortable, the line had to be drawn somewhere. And for Erica and Trevor? It was the difference between having the wedding they wanted or invite more guests out of obligation.

    I am all about honesty (as you probably know), so I think it's time to be honest with each other and discuss this offline and deal with it head on...


    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBitchless Bride

    As a bride who wasn't as bold as Erica, I congratulate her for taking a stand and sticking by what she and her husband wanted! I wish I had been able to do that, instead I was ran all over by my mother in law! I have been married for 4 months and have yet to be able to get thank you notes out, seeing as how we just went thru the holidays! Why would you as a guest be sitting around waiting for a thank you card, then berate the bride for it!? Don't you remember what those first few months were like post wedding? I think the wedding looks gorgeous, and this couple is obviously in love and they are team mates! I also think those of you who attended this wedding and are judging her so harshly are the ones who are hateful and unchristian! This was, after all, their wedding not yors!

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPattie

    I was wondering how many guests were invited. I have been a friend of the Abel's since Trevor was a preschooler. I think the mother-in-law is one of my most precious friends and she is very involved in a close and loving family. I was disappointed to not be invited, but for not inviting Aunts and Uncles is what concerns me. Again, how many guests were invited? From the pictures there were at least 10 in the wedding party, indicating a substantial amt of guests. I'm disappointed and hope the rift can be amended. I only wish the best for Trevor and his happiness. Feelings were indeed hurt and some can never be repaired.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterA close family friend

    Is this real life? The number of guests at anyone's party is the concern of the person (or couple) throwing the party. And in my opinion, if your feelings can "never be mended" because you weren't invited to a wedding THAT YOU WEREN'T PAYING FOR, then your friendship must not be that strong.

    My husband and I also planned our own wedding, paid for the majority of it, and had to make tough decisions regarding our guest list. My cousin just got married and had to do the same. They drew names out of a hat. Yes, some aunts and uncles weren't invited. Close friends and co-workers weren't invited. It sucks. It's NOT fun for the couple to have to make these difficult decisions so don't make it any tougher.

    If you're so butthurt about not being invited, perhaps you would like to throw a party in honor of the couple? Or talk to them like an adult instead of hiding behind an anonymous internet comment.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMindy @ BudgetFairyTale

    No, there were NOT a substantial amount of guests. The wedding was very small. They had every right to not invite an aunt whom the groom even barely knows. Trevor & Erica wanted to have people there whom they knew and loved and whom loved them. There is no fault in that. If you have hurt feelings that you weren't invited to the son of a friend's wedding, you need to let it go and move on. If those feelings can't be repaired, that's your burden to bear.
    Erica hasn't even been given a chance by her MIL. She has spread terrible lies about her and people whom she's never met have been soured by these untruths. Erica is a wonderful person! She is madly in love with Trevor and is one of the sweetest people I know. She is a strong individual who doesn't like to lay down and be used as a doormat, and that's her only crime.
    Trevor & Erica's wedding was THEIR DAY not yours, not her MIL's, not ANYBODY else's. At the end of the day, they were starting their marriage their way on their terms.
    And, yes, Erica was her MIL's "right hand man" after the death of Trevor's dad. She planned everything about the memorial herself and contacted everyone herself. And she was happy to do it. If that makes her un-Christian and an awful person, so be it.
    Bravo, Erica!!

    Groom here...

    To say I'm shocked by most of these responses would be an understatement. Erica has simply stated that her and my mom think differently, which is a fact, and that she didn't go above and beyond to make her happy on a day that was obviously ours. I'm not sure how that could be construed as bashing.

    There is nothing disgraceful about sharing our experience with other couples who might be going through the same thing, in fact, it may help them. Families disagree. That's normal, contrary to popular belief, and everyone is going to pick sides based on what they know. It would seem to me that those who are speaking up don't know Erica, our relationship, or the true nature of the situation in the first place. I must say that my wife is the most beautiful and Godly woman I know, and I am so proud of how she has handled herself.

    The guest count doesn't matter. Erica and I sat down and made a system for who would be invited and we made only 3 exceptions to the ground rules we set for ourselves. Our celebration wasn't for everyone. And yes, there were many family members and friends of our families who were not invited. That wasn't part of some spiteful scheme. That was because in the 3 years Erica and I have been together, those people weren't involved in our lives, and didn't try to do so. It was about our true community surrounding us on the biggest day of our lives. Erica had only 2 members of her family members present and they were gracious and understanding. Being invited to anyone's wedding is a privilege, not a right.

    On an unrelated note, I have to congratulate the one who compared acting "un-Christian" to the etiquette of writing thank-you notes. I'm still cracking up about that stretch. And isn't that something we do together? Don't single her out... I'm pretty sure no one ever sent her a thank you card for planning a certain event for our family not to long ago.

    If you have a problem with any decisions we have made, come talk to me in person instead of hiding behind the anonymity of a website. Problems are solved through honest discussion out in the open, not gossip amongst family.

    Lastly, please respect the BB blog and keep the personal arguments personal.

    February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor (the groom)

    I cant believe the amount of online bashing in this post by 'friends and loved ones'! surely the couple could have just eloped without you lot there but decided that they wanted their friends and family around them on the special day. Shame on you for reacting like this on a public blog; and congratz to the lovely couple who come across as an awesome team. I hope all this negativity doesnt dampen your post wedding bubble.

    February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCC

    One of the most important comments here was mentioned by the groom: "being invited to anyone's wedding is a privilege, not a right".

    A bride and groom should always have the final say on what they want on their wedding day and nobody should expect to be invited to a wedding based on their family connection or having known the groom's mother for however many years, for example. You are honoured and privileged to be witnessing two people expressing their love and committing to each other for life. It's a hugely intimate moment shared with a crowd which should be made up of people who, on that day, in that moment, feel nothing but love for the couple. Not people who subsequently spout venom anonymously via somebody else's blog.

    P.S. The photographs are BEAUTIFUL

    February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

    I knew writing about our wedding journey was not going to be easy and was not going to be all "ooo's" and "awww's". (Although our photos ARE completely gorgeous!)... But that is why I wanted to say something. This has nothing to do about personal things that went on between my mother in law and me. This is just about exactly what my husband said: FAMILIES DON'T ALWAYS GET ALONG.

    I was so frustrated when I was engaged because I could never find anyone to just be honest about family disputes, or it would be brought up annomymously. I'm here on the BB to say:

    Hey Brideys, My in laws do not like me, and they wanted something completely different then we wanted for our wedding day. We stuck to our guns. We stuck to our guns so hard core that some of them still feel resentment toward me 6 months later (and more to come, I'm sure), regardless of what has happened between now and then. I'm here to tell you, that it was ABSOLUTELY WORTH EVERY BIT OF IT... You choose your own family. You choose your own community, and you have every right to do so. For certain people, nothing you do can make them happy or make you good enough; but I am good enough, and I am not afraid to say it. This marriage was destined!

    We knew this was going to be hard, and did consider elopement a few times. But the major factor was that we weren't going to let the 12 family members that were invited take away from the 80+ amazing friends we had there to support us. It was those 80+ friends to be there for us during hard times to pray with us, make us meals, help us clean our house, and to love on us, and we are so happy that we could give back to them by providing a wonderful party. Our wedding was a success. I can see on the guests faces as they danced and played games, and laughed with us.

    Only you and your fiance/husband know what's right for you. You guys have to be in this together, because obviously, attacks will come. Your teamwork will be the difference between laughing at them, or yelling at each other over them. You are not alone brideys!

    February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica (the bride)

    I read this post and some of the comments this morning and was thinking about it while I was in the shower - I do all my best thinking there.

    This post brings up opposing feelings for me. On one hand, I applaud the bride & groom for creating their own wedding and financing it themselves, especially at their age. They should be commended for pulling off an event without putting themselves in debt and keeping it in line with what they wanted.

    I think the guests leaving rude comments are absolutely shameful and are making themselves look bad. I wasn't invited to one of my favorite extended relative's budget wedding. My feelings were hurt, but I would NEVER mention it to the couple, much less take it to a public forum. What do you expect at this point? Should they have another wedding for you? Or take a public lashing? If you're this rude on the internet, I kind of see the couple's point in NOT inviting you. Having to play the christian card just shows how poor your agreement is. Truly, you people have some growing up to do.

    That said, I think the bride & groom are treading an unnecessarily ungracious line here. Banning an uninvited relative that traveled to the event? I'm sure that created a scene and a lot of ill will which will be a source of enmity for years to come. There is a point where you just have to shut up and smile and let the day happen.

    I fully get the idea of not rewarding bad behavior, but I also think weddings are rarely just about the bride & groom. They are about family, and ritual, and many families hold them sacred. There's a difference between breaking tradition and creating a rift in your family. I am willing to bet there was a way to keep your wedding "your own" without alienating and pissing everyone off.

    Perhaps it's hard to see at the age of 22, but these in-laws are now part of your family, and will continue to be for the life of your marriage. Is being a haughtily independent bride worth the animosity you've now created? There may come a time when you need these people for support. Friends are all good and well, but I can tell you the friends you have at 22 are not going to be the friends you have at 32 or 42. While these people may never be your cup of tea, I think in time you'll see that choosing to burn bridges from beginning was maybe a poor idea.

    I also think it was unkind to throw your photographer under the bus and complain about the groom prep images when you knowingly hired a 1 photographer, 1 assistant team. Assistants aren't photographers. Second shooters are rarely as qualified as main photographers. It's clear from your budget and how you said you spent your money that you didn't invest very much in photography. From the blown out whites in all the images, the overdone toning, and the fact that all the bloggable night shots are black and white (a calling card for poor lighting skills), I'm guessing you chose someone newer to the industry. And that is totally fine. But don't bitch about the groom shots when YOU are the one who made her send her assistant to shoot it.

    Also, I am sick of brides and grooms throwing weddings specifically to look like rustic/hipster blog candy, to the detriment of the guests' enjoyment. That's not gracious entertaining. You can only use the "wedding is just about US" argument if you elope.

    February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMockstarPhotog


    I don't know you and I don't know your family. I am not here to judge anyone. I just wanted to congratulate you and your husband on your marriage. Regardless, of the comments your wedding looked beautiful.

    While I admittedly don't know all the details of the wedding, I will say it's funny how the views of a wedding have changed. Once upon a time it was about celebrating a union and to offer a new couple help in setting up their home and life together. Now it seems like, people would rather make it about being owed a night of pricey food, entertainment, and an open bar because they brought a gift.

    Regardless, of the outcome I wish you and the groom, a lifetime of happiness together. I wish you luck mending the relationships with hurt or disgruntled family members.

    February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

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