Yup, this is the one where we paid for a real photographer.
As I mentioned in my last post, we split our actual legal marriage from the ceremony and reception. We had to cross several state lines in order to get our certificate and D.C. isn’t enough of a “destination” to ask our friends and family to make the trek down there.
Instead, our pals Christie and Rich offered up their beautiful abode to host our reception, which was great, especially since we were paying for everything ourselves (with some help from my parents) and we didn’t have a ton of money to spend on a venue and hors d’oeuvres and stuff.
Pretty much everything about our reception was casual, handmade, and pieced together by yours truly (Lance did undergo an exhaustive search for the perfect wedding scents [Bath & Body Work's Coconut Leaves and Seaside Escape], though. So there’s that…)
First, we made the save-the-date postcards, which is where our cartoon selves first originated:
Then, we sent out the official invitations, which were actually from Wedding Paper Divas, so we didn’t create those. However, I did make envelope seals with this design on them:
Then came time to figure out everything else. As I said, our budget was extremely limited, so I made a point to find “up-and-coming” photographers and a guy who bartended as a sidejob–that sort of thing. Granted, it could all fall apart as a horrible, incohesive and unprofessional disaster, but I just kept my head down and remained outwardly positive (so as to not freak out Lance) while internally I was freaking out. I think I’m still losing hair from fretting over it all…
After getting a few quotes in the thousands of dollars range from local photographers (not unusual, but way beyond our means at the time), we found a young guy who’d started a photography business about a year before with a friend. His website, now defunct (:-/), had some nice stuff, so I rolled the dice. We met up with the guy at a Starbucks (always in a public location, friends!), and agreed to a $600 package. Score!
Our bartender, John, was found on Craigslist. While a wedding bartender is great cover for a serial killer (get somebody a little tipsy, quietly sneak them away to your trunk while everybody else is busy, BAM!), he had solid references and only charged about $200 for the night.
I had the hardest time finding party rental stuff (tables, chairs, tablecloths, runners, a bar, etc.) at reasonable rates in southern New Jersey, where the reception would be held. Finally, I got a positive referral from another party supply rental place for a company called Petrosh’s. Trusting their judgment, I went with Petrosh’s, who also had reasonable rates.
That…was a mistake.
First, I should point out that I made a big error in judgment regarding how much time we’d need to set-up the tables, chairs, etc. That’s my fault. Also, Lance had started a new job not long before our ceremony, so he couldn’t take any time off to prep Christie and Rich’s house, so we had to do everything the morning of.
I requested that Petrosh deliver the supplies the evening before, and then we’d set up early that Saturday morning. When we started unpacking, we realized that Petrosh’s got our order wrong: the tablecloths were 1-2 feet too short for the cocktail tables we’d ordered. The garish metal legs would go completely uncovered. That, and several of the cloths had burn or dirt marks on them. A dozen or so of the plastic chairs we ordered were still filthy from their last engagement, and one was even covered in what could only be dried vomit.
Of course, it’s completely understandable that Lance was upset. But, even to his admission, he started having a panic attack (we were only five hours away from when our guests were supposed to arrive!) and had to get out of the situation–he couldn’t handle the pressure.
I got on the phone with Petrosh’s and, of course, nobody would help me or send new, appropriately-sized linens. Their excuse was that the company they got the linens from wasn’t open on Saturdays. To that, I say, BULLSHIT. You’re a party supply company. When do people hold parties? THE WEEKEND. GET YOUR ASS ON THE PHONE AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.
They didn’t make it happen. (Though they did refund me 20%.) So we had to improvise.
Originally, we thought there wasn’t going to be enough room for us to have sit-down tables. The idea was to have cocktail tables and the place to have a happy hour kinda vibe. When it became obvious our only option was to lower the table heights for seated tables, we had to somehow make it work.
We used runners and centerpieces to hide dirty tablecloths. My parents rushed over from the hotel with as many irons as they could find to help de-wrinkle the linens. Lance’s mom arrived with her beautiful arrangements. It all came together.
From there, everything happened because it had to. Since this was a homegrown effort, we decided to order the food that we loved for the ceremony: Pei Wei, Cheesecake Factory (AGAIN??), our local pizza place, Cracker Barrel for biscuits and apple butter. Of course, none of these places deliver (our pizza place was back in Pennsylvania), so our ever dutiful and wonderful friends and family picked up orders on their way.
My brother, who’d been unable to come to our actual wedding due to school (whatever!) was the “ring-bearer,” and Lance’s BFF (that last “F” is literal; 20 years best friends…so far!) even paid the $5 or whatever to get ordained by the Universalist Reddit Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Given that we didn’t order enough chairs for both a “ceremony” seating and a dinner seating, we had to quickly move all the chairs inside. Super smooth! However, the rest of the evening went fairly swimmingly!
Here’s my mom, telling an embarrassing story about me in her toast:
And then she made everybody cry, including me:
We even designed our own guestbook from scratch, where people could draw their messages in little comic panels:
While not the “fairy tale wedding” everybody assumes they’ll have when they’re a kid, this was exactly who we are: not terribly fancy. We laugh at ourselves, we like food that’s terrible for you, and we regularly misspell the names of common cocktails. That, and having a big fancy wedding was not worth enough to either of us to spend tens of thousands of dollars on; we’d much rather go on vacation instead.
It was an incredible “team effort,” too; it really took the village of our friends and family to pull everything off, from setting up the tables and chairs, to laying out the food, to cleaning up–all in one night. Such selflessness and the sense of community to support us on this day was the best gift we could’ve received.
Though we’ll keep the real gifts.