Monthly Archives: October 2012

Where The Hell Have We Been?

Who knew that October was going to be a crazy busy chaotic month of madness? We sure didn’t. Julia was without a show to do, and our calendar held one wedding dress and one mother-of-the-bride dress (same wedding!) and I had two day-of-coordination gigs (one in Michigan, one in Chicago), plus my usual 45-hour/week nannying job. This seemed completely reasonable when I looked at the calendar in September.

It still seemed possible when we added two wedding dress alterations. And two more day-of-coordination spots in November (which yes, require work in October, because it’s really far more than just a day-of service.) October was even achievable when we booked two more alterations for bridesmaids. And when we added a corset (which is really cool – it’s for a man to do an impression of Cher, and the design is based on her costume from the Turn Back Time video – can’t wait to tell you about it… someday) that we donated as an auction prize to About Face Theatre’s annual fundraiser. As well as when Julia got a show, because that was just four nights a week, leaving her daytimes free.

But then, a fantastic and terrible thing happened. Julia got offered a job stage managing a month-long run of Route 66’s A Twist of Water. In New York City. Starting October 28th. With rehearsals the week prior in Chicago. And then? Then doable, booming-business awesomeness started to look a little bit impossible.

And I honestly don’t think I’m lying if I tell you that we will probably spend MORE time with each other while she’s in NYC than in the entire month of October, because I am going to visit, and I’m not going to work at all for five whole days while I’m there. For real, I am turning the auto-responder on my email and everything.

So, if you’ve missed this blog having any actual posts, or you’re still bummed that I cancelled my birthday party to sew things (true story), or you haven’t seen me around the twitters lately… I hope you understand that it’s just been impossible to do anything but work for the last month and a half. The next few weeks aren’t looking good either, but I tell you what – I am free on Thanksgiving (Day only, I have a wedding the day after), so if you are interested in hanging with a sleep-deprived crazy person who has no intention of getting out of her pajamas all day, you know where to find me.

And Just Like That, She is Gone.

Yesterday, we got up while it was still dark, lugged two giant suitcases, one carry-on, and a messenger bag to my car, and headed for the airport. The sun was just coming up, and it was gorgeous and we realized that Julia had never seen the sunrise over Lake Michigan in the entire ten years she’s lived here! What an awesome image of the city to keep with her while she’s in New York this month. (If you’re there, you should go see A Twist of Water at 59E59.) And then I realized that the last time I’d been heading south on the drive early enough to catch a sunrise was… when I took a show to New York seven years ago. How appropriate.

So we both soaked in the glorious purple-orange-blue morning sky. Perfection.

Liz and James’ University of Chicago Wedding – Bond Chapel and Ida Noyes Hall – Chicago, IL

Liz and James, Chicago. Photo by Emilia Jane Photography.

Liz and James found me through A Practical Wedding, and like most couples who find me that way, they were:
1) Super in love with each other
2) Really nice and awesome people
3) Focused on the most important thing (the MARRIAGE), while still caring about the details of the wedding…
4) …But totally ready to hand all those details off to me so they could focus on the occasion and enjoy the day.

In short, my favorite kind of clients.

You guys, you would be hard-pressed to find a couple more adorable with each other than Liz and James. They are both just the nicest people, and so clearly head-over-heels in love with each other. They met at the University of Chicago, and decided to have their wedding on the gorgeous campus. (Honestly, I don’t know why you wouldn’t take advantage of the beautiful, historic architecture if you had the chance. Which I guess is why I keep getting clients who are having their weddings on this campus. But I digress.)

One of the things that struck me most about this wedding was how open everyone was – Liz, James, their parents, families, and friends – with their feelings. I could see on each person’s face just how much they all care for one another and were so happy to celebrate this marriage and their families joining together. From Liz’s walk down the aisle to a teary father-of-the-bride giving a toast at the reception, there were many tears of joy (some mine) shed over the course of the day. I think this is the epitome of what a wedding should be – an unadulterated outpouring of love from everyone present celebrating the creation of this new family.

It was a beautiful day, and beyond all the emotions, Liz and James put a lot of work into a carefully curated aesthetic for their wedding, so I have to point out some of my favorite details!

First, they really like good food. And you know how I feel about that. City Provisions served a buffet of delectable Mediterranean and comfort foods, which I think I was not alone in loving.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about one of my favorite florists, Lynn at Pollen Floral Design. Liz collected a LOT of milk glass vases for the centerpieces, and until I arrived on the big day, I assumed it would be a kind of standard one-large-vase-per-table centerpiece kind of thing. NO. I should have known to expect more from this bunch. I mean, just look:

I just love the way Lynn uses less-traditional flowers to make bold arrangements, and I love the unexpected twist of such an eclectic assortment of different size and shape vases. Just gorgeous.

I’d like to end by saying how awesome it was to work with a couple that truly shared the work of planning a wedding – James was one of the most organized people I’ve met, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to work with a couple who both played equal parts in the planning process. It makes me so happy when I see egalitarian relationships in action – yay!

Congratulations Liz and James!

Ceremony Venue: Bond Chapel, University of Chicago
Officiant: Ellen McManus, Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago
Reception Venue: Ida Noyes Hall, University of Chicago
Photographer: Emilia Jane Photography
Catering: City Provisions
Cupcakes: Hearts and Flour Bakery at Misericordia
Florist: Pollen Floral Design
DJ: Style Matters
Transportation: Metropolitan Limousine
Equipment Rentals: Windy City Sound and Lighting 

All photos were taken by Emilia Jane Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Real Wedding Budget: Washington, DC | 75 Guests | $18,800

This is part of our ongoing series, Real Wedding Budgets, bringing you actual numbers from actual couples, along with an idea of what you can get for your money. See more Real Wedding Budgets here.
Want to make this series run longer? Submit your real wedding budget (anonymously) here.

Before you read, a note on vendors: We don’t provide vendor information because you never know what kind of discounts they may have given, or if their prices have changed since this wedding. And also because if the couple didn’t love them, we don’t want to be putting a bad review out there. That’s what Yelp and Wedding Wire are for.

However, there is one exception – photography. Because we want you to get a good idea of what the couple was able to do with their budget, we include photos when possible, and credit the photographers. So word of advice – if you like these photos, please do go check out the photographer’s website (linked at the end of the post), and then ask for their current ratesDo not expect that you will necessarily get the same package and pricing you see here.

$18,800: 75 Guests on a Saturday Evening in Washington, DC in the Summer

The Numbers

Venue(s) $ 5,500
Photography/Video (including albums, prints, etc.) $ 1,750
Food/Beverage (catering, alcohol, and cake) $ 6,075
Floral/Decor $ 1,203
Entertainment (Band, DJ, Ceremony Musicians) $ 15
Attire (including shoes, jewelry, etc.) $ 1,200
Rings $ 1,068
Marriage License $ 55
Officiant $ 0
Wedding Planner/Day-of-Coordinator $ 0
Invitations, Save-the-Dates, Programs $ 165
Rentals $ 0
Hair & Makeup $ 350
Transportation $ 200
Rehearsal Dinner $ 250
Gifts & Favors $ 800
Other $ 150
TOTAL $ 18,781

What They Got For the Money

Ceremony & Reception Venue ($5,500)
The couple rented a mansion which had first been turned into a Girl Scout camp and then into a county park, just outside the Beltway. They had the space for three days; it included guest rooms and bunk houses. (Note from the bride: this was excellent as their families had never met and it forced them to get to know each other quickly!) It was a natural oasis in the middle of a metropolitan area with a nice outdoor ceremony spot and a fire pit for s’mores.

Photography ($1,600)
The couple cut a deal with someone just starting out, and ended up having a terrible experience. The second shooter turned out to be her husband, who lacked photography experience, and she lost about half of the wedding photo files. In addition, she was not very professional. The bride notes: “You get what you pay for! Don’t skimp on wedding vendors!” (Note: Due to their experience with the photographer, the couple does not wish to share her name or work because they don’t want to promote or slander her. Photos in this post are from the couple’s personal collection.)

Videography ($150)
They purchased a Flip camera and a family member filmed the ceremony.

Catering ($6000)
The couple served lemonade and popcorn (in red-and-white-striped bags) before the ceremony. The reception dinner was a BBQ buffet with pulled pork, chicken, brisket, potato salad, cornbread, etc. They purchased beer from Costco and wine from Trader Joe’s. For dessert, ice cream sandwiches were served from a cart.

Cake ($75)
They weren’t initially planning a cake, but ended up purchasing a sheet cake from their local grocery store, which they note was “delightfully tacky.”

Flowers ($787)
The couple ordered flowers in a bulk delivery from Costco and arranged them in jars they found and decorated with lace, yarn, and hot glue ($471). They hired a florist for their bouquets ($316), though the bride notes in retrospect she wishes she’d done those herself as well.

Decor ($416)
This is the cost of supplies for signage (bar, menu, ceremony, guestbook, etc.), table runners and numbers, banners, garlands, ceremony signs (“Here comes the bride!” for the flower girl; “laughter” and “applause” for their niece and nephew), rehearsal dinner name tags, and fairy lights.

Entertainment ($15)
A friend of the couple played the saxophone for their ceremony, and as a gift to them hired his own guitar accompanist. The duo played music before and during the ceremony. They gave him a bottle of Irish Whiskey as a thank you gift.

For the reception, the couple borrowed a sound system from a theatre company the groom worked with and purchased a cord to connect a laptop to it. They also purchased some lawn games, which turned out to be more popular than dancing, but haven’t included those in the budget since they still get used.

Attire ($1,200)
The bride wore a simple dress from David’s Bridal, turquoise kitten heels found online, and turquoise jewelry from Etsy. She made her own veil. The groom bought a suit from J. Crew, as well as a handful of ties from Etsy to select from.

Rings ($1,068)
The groom wears a simple gold band. The bride wears a white gold band with three small white diamonds and four small blue diamonds.

Marriage License ($0)

Officiant ($0)
A friend of the couple, who is also a Broadway actor, served as their officiant. The chose him since he had officiated before and knew both the bride and the groom before they started dating. They gave him a nice bottle of scotch as a thank you gift. The couple wrote the ceremony.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator ($0)
The couple did not have a wedding planner, though the bride wishes she’d hired a day-of-coordinator.

Invitations ($165)
The couple found a design on Vistaprint that were good quality for the cost. Invitations were not a high priority for the couple, so although the design wasn’t exactly their aesthetic, they went for it anyway.

Hair and Makeup ($350)
The shampoo girl from the bride’s usual salon came to the venue and styled her hair as well as her maid-of-honor’s hair. A friend of the bride’s did her makeup.

Transportation ($200)
They rented a larger vehicle for transporting things to and from the venue.

Gifts ($800)
The couple bought art, tote bags, and jewelry for the wedding party. They got everyone soda cap pins (as in the movie Up) in lieu of boutonnieres and corsages.

Favors ($0)
The couple wasn’t planning favors, but a co-worker of the bride found out the venue was a former Girl Scout camp and purchased enough Thin Mints for each guest to take a box home.

Rehearsal Dinner ($250)
Pizza party for approximately 45 people, including families, the wedding party, and other guests who were staying at the venue.


What was your biggest financial splurge? Why did you choose it? Was it worth it?

The venue was a huge splurge, and TOTALLY worth it.
A) Our families really got to know each other.
B) Once we arrived at the venue on Friday we didn’t have to go anywhere until Sunday.
C) Anyone who’d had too much to drink could just pull up a bunk.

Was there anything you regret spending your money on or anything you wish you’d spent less on?

I wish we’d spent more on the photographer. I was of the “You only need one gorgeous photo” school and didn’t think it was that important. It was. We have plenty of gorgeous photos, but no non-blurry photos of mom and I walking down the aisle. Gah.

What was the best thing you spent your money on?

Besides the venue, the lemonade and popcorn for pre-ceremony. It really set the tone for the day. Casual! Fun! Slightly Circus/Carnival-y!

Anything else you’d like to say?

We were total nerds and created a wedding mission statement at the beginning. We talked about what we wanted out of the day and wrote it down. This guided all our choices after that and really helped clarify what was/wasn’t worth spending money on. Highly recommend.

All photos are from the bride and groom’s personal collection and are reposted here with permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.