It’s not even the middle of January, and already, it seems that “wedding season” is beginning. (Did it ever really stop?)
I love weddings. And I’ve been to some pretty fantastic ones. But I have to be honest…my favourite one so far…was mine.
A lot of people know that we dated, got engaged, and married pretty quickly. For those who are new, it was the span of an entire 5 1/2 months. And only 9 WEEKS of it was spent planning the actual wedding. We didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot of fancy ideas. We didn’t even have Pinterest. And yet, our special day was an event that friends still talk about with fondness.
Now that our time is over, and more friends are joining the revelry, they’ve started to ask our secrets. I will gladly divulge them here, through many a picture and story. Because everyone deserves to know that they don’t need $20,000+, or the best food, or the highest-rated photographer (although, we lucked out MAJORLY, as you’re about to see!).
1. I found my wedding dress at Value Village, a good two years before I was even close to getting married.
Did you know that, on average, all wedding dresses at VV cost only $130? Some of them are truly hideous, and unless you’re a skilled seamstress with a fantastic vision in mind of what it COULD be, you should try them on just for a laugh. That’s how I found mine – I was having one of those silly, fun shopping days with my ladies – where I wanted to try everything on without actually buying any of it. You know, that Best Customer of the Day Award.
As we all know, VV can offer some pretty great finds, and I was having a ball as my girlfriends brought me costume after costume. And then, the fateful words left my lips: “Hey, one of you should go find a wedding dress! That would be hilarious!”
Next thing I knew, Michelle brought back this pure white cloud of gloriousness, and I was sure of 3 things: a.) It was not common VV fare, b.) It wasn’t “my type” and c.) it wouldn’t fit anyway.
I was only right about one thing.
It was one of those moments where you could feel the magic falling upon the room. I opened the door…the ladies gasped…I saw myself in the full-length mirror…was in shock for awhile…had complete strangers, including men, coming up to me, saying, “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your life, but honey, you need to buy this dress.”
So, I did. With the wallets of all my ladies combined. (I was totally just gonna do it myself, but they insisted. This was a great foreshadowing of situations to come.)
And then… almost two years went by. That magnificent little dress hovered in the closet like a ghost, wondering if it would ever fulfill its purpose.
And then…one week into the planning of the Big Day, I tried it on again.
It didn’t fit. I would have had a heart attack, except that the dress, in its tightness, prevented my heart from going anywhere.
2. A very skilled seamstress and a little box of Dryel go a long way.
Our wedding colours were red, black and white. When my very-skilled-seamstress friend Jeannette saw that my dream dress no longer fit, 8 weeks before the Big Day, she just laughed and said, “Oh, I’ll fix that.”
But first, we noticed it should be drycleaned. I tried to calculate another $200 into the budget, until Jeannette, once again, saved the day with her wisdom. For $25, I bought a box of something magic called Dryel. You put your items into the Dryel bag, tumble it in the dryer and voila! You’ve just dry-cleaned your own clothes.
As for making my dress fit without making me lose 10 pounds over night…a red panel with a black lace-up was found to be extremely forgiving and super matchy-matchy.
(What are we at now? Dress $130 + Dryel $25 + Alterations $100 = $255. Who do you know that has spent $255 on their wedding dress? ME.)
3. Keep it simple, silly.
We each chose 3 close friends to be a member of the wedding party. There wasn’t really a “best” of anyone. For their Big Day outfits, I told the girls, “Just use whatever little black dress and red high heels you might already happen to have in your closet.” I honestly didn’t care. I like variety, and I think making every girl wear the exact same style of a pre-chosen dress could potentially be asking for trouble.
It couldn’t have gone better if I planned it myself.
Since we found a mother lode of Red Converse at Army & Navy for $14.99 a piece, we told the boys we’d take care of that, as well as their red suspenders and red bow ties. All they would need to come up with is a long-sleeved black button-up shirt and black dress pants. They accomplished this with utmost flair, and our wedding gift to them was taken care of. BOOM.
Now when it came to actually finding bow ties and suspenders, that proved a little more challenging. We only found stores that carried one thing or the other, not both. And even though we liked variety, we kiiiinda wanted the reds to be the same on these particular accessories.
So we prayed a little, made some phone calls, took some chances AND!
Van Halen fans, take note.
Between Le Chateau (I ❤ you 4ever!) and Black & Lee, we managed to find 4 sets of suspenders and 3 bow ties, ALL the same beautiful cherry-red colour. If that doesn’t make you believe in God, I don’t know what will.
(Money Tally: $255 dress + $60/4 pairs of shoes + $70/4 suspenders & 3 bow ties + $50 special Van Halen tie = $435.)
4. Do it outdoors.
If you have a willing friend with a big backyard, you can forget about paying to rent a church or a hall or a courthouse etc. What about the weather, though, am I right? Well, again, I prayed my butt off, and I got NOT ONLY the sunniest, warmest day in Northern BC in late September BUT I got the sunniest, warmest WEEK leading up to the Big Day in Northern BC in late September. The very next day, it rained buckets. I’m telling you, prayer gets shit done.
**We did have a big white tent on stand-by, just in case.
5. You’d be surprised at what $200 at a flower shop can get you.
Plus 3 small bouquets and 7 boutonnieres. We set our budget, stuck to it, got the simplest arrangements, and had an amazingly accomodating florist. (Shout-out to Larkspur Floral Design & Gift Baskets in Smithers, BC!)
6. Make it a Facebook event.
I know, it’s SO not classy or pretty, but doing our invitations this way accomplished so many things: a.) time-crunch proof RSVP, b.) a list of names you can always easily access, c.) update-able to all guests if any information changes, d.) paper-free. That being said, sometimes, getting some people to actually RSVP on time is like pulling teeth. Therefore, I’m going to add an e.) with one click of a button, you can private message ALL of your guests with a gentle reminder to RSVP…and then again a couple weeks later with an even gentler reminder to RSVP….
7. Catering shmatering.
One of the BIGGEST costs for a wedding is the FOOD. Can I suggest a potluck? Once you have your easily-accessible guest list on Facebook, NOW you can message them about what they can bring to the table! (Once they’ve finally made up their mind and RSVP’d, of course.) If anyone in the wedding party has an deathly allergy *coughcoughMyGroomcoughcough*, make this specifically known so that it won’t get tossed into the food by accident. Or, your guests can make that dish and put a VERY CLEAR sign next to it that details any potential allergens.
Having a potluck was so fun for us! Friends got so creative with all different kinds of appies and main dishes, with some different ethnic tastes thrown in!
Turns out that my super-skilled-seamstress friend Jeannette is also a super-skilled-wedding-cake-maker. She threw this in as a GIFT.
On that note…
8. Know the Power of the Nifty-Gifty.
Delegating and gifting is a magical combination. If you ask someone to provide a service for you, ie: that gorgeous wedding cake, tell them that this can be their gift to you and they don’t need to bring anything else. (It really only works if a FRIEND is providing the service, haha.) Because of our adopted family and actual family’s generosity, we didn’t have to pay for the majority of renting the hall, the cake, the wine, the table centrepieces (double duty of our main photographer…man, do I know some talented people or what?) or the food. You don’t want your day to be remembered by how expensive it looked, but by how much love was poured into it. And man, we had buckets.
9. Take the Plunge…and Hire a Decorator.
Doing this made us a little nervous financially, but in the end, it was SO worth it. I can’t stress this enough. For $725, we received a GORGEOUS hall for the night AND we didn’t have to clean any of it up afterwards. Between the decorator, a few volunteers from our guests and a small donation to a 4-H club, the Round Lake Hall was returned to its normal state, and we didn’t have to worry about a thing. After all the fun we had, we were exhausted, and cleaning was the last thing we wanted to do. It’ll be the last thing you want to do too.
10. Take another, littler plunge and hire a professional make-up/hair artist as well.
I didn’t really feel that this could actually be important but when I got to the end of my Big Day and I realized that my hair was still in place and my make-up was still on, I knew I’d made the right decision.
Mine and the girls’ make-up was done by my former youth pastor’s wife Kim. She’s gone to Hollywood and given make-overs to celebrities, yet she chooses to grace Smithers with her beautiful presence. She’s kind of a big deal.
And then Allison, another church friend, made a house-call with a baby to do our hair. We didn’t really know what we wanted, but we tried to describe it verbally, and she took it and ran with it like a champ.
**Believe it or not, your wedding day is kind of like being in a play or a movie. Not in the sense that you’re performing for everyone there, but there is a definite element of “costume”, “design,” “lighting,” “photography” and “make-up.” Having artists there who do this sort of thing for a living are invaluable. Your wedding photos will have a huge difference too. Hence, why I also decided to get the false eyelashes for myself and the girls. Now you can actually see our eyes, hurray! (And by purchasing the make-overs/hair-do’s for them, my wedding gift to them was also done, double hurray!)
Michelle has make-up, I do not. Helloooo, lighting difference!
(Money Tally: $435 + $200 flowers + $735 decorator + $400 make-up/hair= $1,770)
11. Have a few photographers, who are just starting out.
You’ll get different points of view of your Big Day from each one, and if you’ve seen their pictures already and you like them, who cares if they’re “new”? It’ll cut your costs way down from choosing someone who has been established for a long time, with a company name. We had 3 photographers, all friends, 2 who made their photos a “gifty”, one who was 8 months pregnant and also made our centrepieces as a “gifty.” We got her a hefty Starbucks card. (Now, 16 months later, she’s one of the most requested photographers in Smithers – and we were her first wedding! I hope she’s charging a lot more now; she deserves it.)
12. Make a photo-guestbook!
$30, Shoppers Drug Mart, boom you’re done. Now you have a photo album with everyone’s lovely comments and it’ll last forever.
(Money Tally: $1,250.)
13. Be KIND to yourself.
It’s a Big Day. Even if it’s the funnest thing to ever happen to you (which for me, it was), there’s going to be adrenaline and rush and hugging/talking/shaking hands with everyone who came to see you.
EAT SOMETHING. THROUGHOUT THE DAY.
TAKE THESE DAMN THINGS OFF.
AND PUT THESE DAMN THINGS ON.
Drink water frequently, take deep breaths, don’t be hungover. It’s that simple.
14. Get married and make merry!
15. Realize that you are just getting started.
Sure, we only paid roughly $2,000. Sure, we had a lot of things handed to us and got our socks blessed off. That doesn’t mean that every day since then has been easy or inexpensive. Sometimes I look at these pictures and don’t recognize myself in them anymore. But I always go back to this day when I forget who I am or why I’m here. Love, and the Journey; that’s it. “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” A Wedding Day is important, but a Marriage is even more important. You might have been King and Queen for the day, but if you don’t have real love in your hearts and lives, it means nothing.
So prepare for your day, save your money, call your friends. Or forget everything I just listed and elope. I don’t care. Just make sure that when you say “I do,” you say “I do” to all of it. Cause there’s gonna be a lot of it. And this glorious day…
…will turn into this quiet moment.
And all of it…the highs and lows, shocking twists and throat-gulping turns, the turbulent sea at rest after a storm…all of it will be good, good, good. Just let your heart keep beating Love…the Journey…Love…the Journey…Love…the Journey.
** MAJORLY NECESSARY UPDATE**
I cannot believe I forgot about this.
16. “Do you have the wing?”
The way our wedding rings came to be is one of my favourite parts of this story.
As I have mentioned before, Steve was once-upon-a-time engaged to someone that we tenderly call Voldemort.
After she left him 6 weeks before their wedding for his groomsman, AND after a 4 month spiel that resembled a train wreck, Steve found himself with a pair of her rings that he just didn’t want to deal with quite yet. He packed them up in their little boxes, intending to pawn them eventually.
A year and a half later, he showed them to me. They were beautiful, thought up from his brain with the help of Spence Diamonds. In other words, they had not been cheap.
Looking at them, I felt sad for him, but hopeful for us. If we pawned them, perhaps they would bring in enough money for us to purchase our own. We both agreed that it was time for this chapter to be closed, to start a new one.
And then, believe it or not, my mom came up with this brilliant idea: we knew a really cool jeweler in Smithers who was gaining experience and reputation by the day. What if he could melt them down and make brand new rings out of them?
After a few email exchanges, one in-person computer design sesh, and one weekend, Gaelen Van Gorkom gave us these:
And that was just his first time melting down an already existing ring and making a new one. Now, he does it regularly, and he’s pretty spectacular. (Also, his original designs are out of the world amazing.) And because we already had the materials, he only charged us for the labour, even going so far as to throw an extra diamond in my ring for free when the design called for an extra.
Steve and I love our rings. We feel naked without them, actually. I think we would love them on a normal basis, but knowing their Phoenix-Rising-From-The-Ashes origin story makes them even more treasured.
Thank you, Handmade Engagement Rings – thank you, Gaelen. And hey, THANK YOU, VOLDEMORT. Without you and your hurty ways, we would not be lovin’ this journey we’re on today.