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!