Planning our Plant-Based Wedding
It took us eight years to get here, but that happened to be just the right amount of time for us to get it together and plan ourselves a wedding. We were engaged for a total of a 18 months and I felt like planning took up every second. How does that happen?! Weddings are crazy guys, I'm not going to hold any punches there. They're crazy and stressful and beautiful and magic, all rolled into one. But man - am I glad it's over! I didn't start going into full on plan-and-panic mode until about 6 months before the big day. Before that, its hard to get other people interested in accomplishing anything. "It's still so far away!" they'd say, as I'd be obsessively reloading my email hoping for a response from a vendor. Here's my biggest advice for you: DON'T wait until the last second - on anything! The more you plan ahead, the more you can relax on the big day. I wasn't even stressed to get married - that was the best part, to me! Marrying my best friend and biggest supporter wasn't the stressful part - it was making sure everyone ELSE was where they needed to be, and that all the people who needed to be paid, got paid - on time. But they did, and it went off without a hitch! Okay, that's not true. Our speakers blew mid-reception and I literally ended up having to go bra-less, unexpectedly, in my wedding dress all day. But would we even remember the day if everything went smoothly? Probably not as well nor with as much fondness for all of the things that did go right. So without getting into too much madness, I'm going to break down how I planned this crazy thing and in a follow-up post we'll go over the event itself. I've broken up my planning into stages by vendor essentially, since that's how I went about planning. Now, we kept our wedding under 10K. How? Being smart + thrifty, whenever we could, and using any and all resources available to us! My Mom, Dad, and Alex's parents each gave us a little money to spend on the wedding, but we mostly paid for it ourselves. Look, getting engaged is the hardest part - the second is finding a venue. So we'll start there!
The venue was the biggest part for us. The first real decision to be made, and the first expensive thing we'd be paying for. We decided on The Riverbed Farm in Anaheim, CA for three main reasons: first, it was close to where we live, about a 15 minute drive from our house. That made it easy for us to get there for set-up, easier for our friends and family who live nearby to attend, and easy to bail at the end of the night! Second, we'd done a cooking event there months before so we were familiar with the venue set-up and employees. Third, the PRICE! I'm all about being transparent, so I'll be honest when I say we rented the space for just $2,000. Cheaper than almost ALL the places we looked at, and way nicer! We were only the 2nd couple to book a wedding here ever, so the price was still pretty low when we did. No guarantees what it is now - it's become a busy spot since we booked, nearly a wedding each weekend in the summer! We loved this space because as a working hydroponics farm, all vegetables and eggs raised on the property from the roaming chickens are donated back to the community. Schools and church crews regularly volunteer time here, as it's a totally non-profit organization. The space was about half-filled with guests and tables and decor and about half-filled with rows of towering, growing vegetables and ladybugs. We loved it! It was the perfect blend of our Maine and California lives. We set up a dance floor on a deck to the left and set up our ceremony and couples table on the deck at the front of the farm, so we could easily see our guests and socialize between snack breaks. All of the decor in the space was provided and arranged by Alex's Mom, Jennifer. We were so lucky to be able to use her design skills to make the farm into our perfect wedding venue!
PICKING A THEME / COLORS:
This is really a preference things, obviously, but there are a few things to consider before you decide. First, consider your location. If you're having a wedding with lots of green and brown - like ours - maybe you pick a more neutral, earth tones-based palette with lots of wood and natural decor. If you're getting hitched by the ocean, maybe you lean into blues, greens, and glass accents instead. Or maybe your favorite color is pink and you've always envisioned your wedding PINK. Then do that! I wanted to pick colors that both played up our outdoorsy theme and accented my skin tone and dress, personally. I have green eyes, so I wanted some green in there somewhere to help them POP in photos. We got married on June 10th, so I envisioned a light, summery color scheme. It was easy then to add cream and blush pink to our colors, and a bit of dusty yellow and maroon for contrast. I also used gold as an accent - no silver at our wedding. It's just not my fave! In the end, we had a gorgeous palette that wound in colors from from our venue and outfits, and looked beautiful in photos. We stayed as natural as possible with the decor. Since our colors were summer-inspired and our tones muted, we accented with a lot of lace + burlap, as well. We bought a few pieces - garland and hanging things, mostly - from Etsy, but the rest was conceived and brought to life by Alex's Mom, Jen. She's an interior designer, and we were so lucky to have her help decorating the space. She completely handled the tablescapes full of fresh fruit, greenery, blue glass jars and wood accents herself - and we loved how it turned out!
HOW TO PICK A PHOTGRAPHER:
If you can't tell by this post, I LOVE my wedding photos. I'm happy to show them off because our photographer did SUCH a great job! Her name is Natalie, she runs Like Morning Sun Photography, and she's a recent college graduate who lives here in the OC. I found her through Instagram (the best!) and we chatted through email before meeting in person. I found a LOT of great photographers on Instagram, but I was immediately drawn to Natalie's photography because of her unique use of natural light. Her photos are bright and romantic, and she captures candids beautifully. Also, she was affordable. People pay an INSANE amount of money for wedding photos. And I get it! They're forever, and you want them well done. Plus, it is a lot of work for the photographer - they're often justified and fair in their pricing. But we were having a smaller wedding at smaller venue and we didn't need all the bells and whistles (video, 2+ photographers, ect), and we just couldn't see spending more on the photography than we had on the venue + food combined. Nat gave us a fair rate for her work, and then went ahead and exceeded our expectations over and over again. Her shots came out beautifully, and her energy and presence at the wedding were wonderful. Our family and friends raved about her afterward, and I just hired her to do the new shots here for the site. If you're looking for a phenomenal photographer, she's your girl!
DECIDING ON FOOD + DRINKS:
This was my favorite part - and maybe one of my biggest stressors in the beginning! As someone who LOVES food, I was pretty set on having really great vegan food at our wedding. We even got a little kickback from Alex's family at first about keeping the food vegan - but we quickly reminded them that it was our wedding, and that frankly, they could choose to eat one great vegan meal or skip dinner - not our problem. And honestly, that's how it has to be; You can respect your guests dietary preferences without sacrificing your own!
Luckily, we're blessed with all kinds of great, plant-based food here in Orange County, so I hit up one of my all-time favorite food trucks, Falasophy, for a tasting. They killed it, and we were happy to hire them to feed our 100 guests. They ended up serving two main dishes, a falafel-stuffed pita bahn mi and spicy falafel tacos, and served them right from the truck. They also provided a range of apps for us and our guests, including tabbouleh, dolmas, pita + hummus, which went straight to the tables.
For desserts we had both a wedding cake and a donut bar. Our wedding cake, something I originally thought I'd make myself, was handmade by Meghan from Dr. Raw Organics. She made us a custom marijuana-infused edible 2-layer white cake with strawberry frosting that she decorated beautifully with edible flowers and topped with a matching garland. I am still OBSESSED with it! We let our guests know it was medicated, should they choose to enjoy some, and also set-up a 6-flavor donut bar across the venue for those who'd rather not indulge in cake. The donut bar was something I saw become trendy a few years ago and loved the idea of. We called up the best vegan donut purveyor in the area, The Caffeinated Kitchen in Long Beach, to help us make it happen. We decided on 120 donuts in 6 flavors: matcha, blueberry coconut, strawberry sprinkled, churro, blood orange, and cookies and cream. Alex's mom set up the table decor and it was simply gorgeous - the donut bar was the busiest spot at our wedding for sure!
When it came to deciding on drinks, we kept it cheap and biased. Haha. We don't drink much alcohol (read: any, really) and din't want to spend a ton of money on it at the wedding since we wouldn't be partaking. So we opted to just buy two kegs of beer (Golden Road Hefeweizen and 805 Pale Ale) and then served Whalebird Kombucha on tap, as well. We let our friends know ahead and a few decided to bring small flasks with them for their own party enjoyment. Since we also had an edible cake and we didn't want everyone getting toooo screwy, we kept the rest of our drinks for the evening non-alcoholic. We had wheelbarrows around the venue packed with ice, bottles of water, HonestTea in two flavors, and fresh juices from 1915 Organic - which kept everyone hydrated and happy in the June heat. My rec: have a variety of drinks! Our friends still drank plenty and we ended up moving the after party to a bar later, anyway. Plus, everyone was well hydrated and no one needed to call a cab. It was a win-win!
It's all about the music! From getting you down the aisle to grooving the night away with your guests, you want music that'll keep the party going all night long. I've included an upload of our full playlist below, but I should note that about 1/2 of our music didn't get played because the speakers blew at our wedding...TWICE. We had a big span in the middle with no music - which no-one seemed to notice except me, of course! We did have a DJ, but I can't really blame him for that. He did a great job getting the party going as soon as the speakers were working again!
In case you don't want to dig through the whole playlist, I'll highlight the best parts for you:
While I walked down the aisle and while we exited after the ceremony, my best friend from childhood, Emma, played live violin to the tune of Jeremih's 'Paradise'. Alex walked down the aisle before me to Childish Gambino's 'California'. Our first dance was to 'Breathless' by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
FINDING THE DRESS (+ SHOES!):
It only took me visiting 4 different salons before I found my dress. That may sound like a lot, but I promise it isn't many. I tried on a few dresses as each place and fit like none of them seemed worthy of the big day. Luckily, I kept searching - I knew I wanted a lace, floor-length dress with sleeves - and found mine at a tiny showroom nestled deep in the Hollywood Hills. Kite and Butterfly is a funky space overlooking the Hollywood Sign and literally own by two sisters named Kite and Butterfly, a set of long-haired whimsical twin ladies with an eye for gorgeous, unique dress designs. Their showroom was full of sunlight and I tried on about 3 dresses before this one. I didn't exactly have a "THIS IS MY DRESS" moment; more like I put it on and was like - yeah! I look good! And these sleeves!! Haha. My dress was handmade and unique in that way, but we customized it a bit more by taking out some of the bottom layer of the dress and lowering the neckline an inch. I ended up losing a lot of weight before the wedding because of the sheer amount of stress I was under, and my last fitting ended up being about 8 weeks before my wedding. I should've waited. On the day of my wedding, I tried on my dress and the bra I had bought to wear with it only to realize that my breasts had gotten SO much smaller, the bra didn't fit any more. I was SWIMMING in that top half of the dress. It was annoying, but I ditched the bra wore the dress by itself on the big day. And it worked out just fine!
The shoes were a little harder to find. I hate wearing high heels, and because of the soft ground at our venue I was pretty adamant about wearing flats or something at least under a 3-inches. I wanted to be able to dance the night away, not complain about blisters and sore feet all evening! I looked online a lot without any luck, and one day while driving through Silverlake realized MooShoes was down the street. I stopped in - no expectations - and walked out with my wedding shoes! They were about $80 and have a low, wooden heel. I liked the cut-out accents and that they matched my dress - PLUS were the kind of shoe I could totally wear again.
And since I know you'll ask: Alex's outfit! He put to together himself, mostly. His pants and shirt are from Zara, the suspenders from Express. He owned the bowtie already, and he bought the shoes super last minute (thanks for the rush shipping!) from Insecta Shoes. They make really cool, unisex shoes that we totally love. He found a pattern with some florals in our wedding colors, and they worked out perfectly. Oh! And the flower crown, bouquet, and boutonniere were all custom creations from The Crown Collective here in LA. Carolyn made them to order based on my descriptions and our color scheme an they literally could not have come out more perfectly. They MADE our outfits!
USE YOUR RESOURCES!
Use who and what you have! Your friends and family are going to be so happy and excited for you - and they'll want to be involved! Give them small jobs here and there to relieve your own stress, and if you have a wedding party (we didn't - oops!) then DELEGATE! You can save a lot of time and money by reaching out to your inner circle before jumping online to try and search through thousand of reviews from people you don't know. Alex's mom ended up decorating nearly our entire wedding and my Dad was totally in charge of arranging the keg arrival and set-up. That doesn't speak to the tons of friends we had helping us arrange pick-ups, set-up, and break-down. It was less for us to worry about, and our parents and friends were glad to help. If you have those people, use them! Then thank them profusely and give them all the hugs for getting you there. We all need a support system, and you'll be far less stressed if you tap into yours early.
Stay tuned for PART 2: Our Plant-Based Wedding!
DIY 2-Ingredient Christmas Ornaments!
When I was a little girl, my Mom was all about doing simple, kid-friendly DIY projects like this. She introduced me to the 2-ingredient ornament project, and we've been doing it for years. The recipe is pretty standard, and you probably made these way back in elementary school, yourself. But now you're an adult, and you get to totally wow a kid of your own (or just one you like) by being the coolest and knowing how to make your own fancy Christmas Ornaments. I love this craft because its quick to throw together, easily rolled out and cut, and it makes the house smell amazing! You have enough other things to do over the holidays- keep the extra projects fun & simple.
I enlisted the help of my adorably pregnant friend, Maggie, to help me. She's got the perfect round belly for balancing the mixing bowl, so I pretty much made her do all the work (kidding!). But in reality, she's slowly prepping the house for the arrival of that sweet little bundle and pre-proofing the Christmas tree is just one less thing she'll have to do later. These ornaments won't break very easily and are edible, though I wouldn't recommend it.
(Anyone ever heard of the cinnamon challenge? 'Nuff said.)
I found a pack of single alphabet letters at Target for $1, and we punched little holes in the tops to attach to different stars. They were perfect for personalizing ornaments. Or, use the letters in succession to spell something out. We liked "XMAS", "PEACE", and "JOY", because there were no double letters, but get creative with it.
After the letters, we paid $2 for string, also at Target, and spent about $8 on the cinnamon and applesauce at the grocery store. A grand total of $11 to complete the project from start to finish.
And I would highly recommend buying the cheap store brand version of the cinnamon and applesauce; no need for organic here, there'll be no consumption and certainly no need to spend extra!
1 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cups ground cinnamon
cookie cutters or free-handing tools
a toothpick or chopstick
string or ribbon, for hanging
decorative letters (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, fork together the cinnamon and applesauce until completely combined, forming a cookie-dough like texture. If the dough is too sticky, add a little extra cinnamon. You could also do this in a mixer, but it wasn't hard work mixing it by hand. I made the pregnant lady do it, remember? ;)
Once the batter is mixed, form it into a ball, sprinkle a clean, flat surface like a counter or cutting board with cinnamon, and roll the dough out. Roll until dough is about 1/4 thick, then use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. We used a 3-inch star cookie cutter and a gingerbread man cookie cutter. Once shapes have been cut, use the toothpick or chopstick to poke a small hole completely through at some place on the ornament. We mostly made holes at the top of the ornaments, but on some of the stars we made holes in the middle. This is where the string will go.
Once all the dough has been cut, lay the shapes onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. We got about 15 or 16 ornaments from a single batch.
Bake ornaments at 200 degrees for 1.5-2 hours, until ornaments have hardened completely, or leave the cookie sheet in a warm, dry place and let them dry out over the next few days.
Once the ornaments have hardened, they're finished! Loop some string through the holes, add decorative letters if you're doing so, and hang 'em on the tree. They make the house smell amazing and they're the perfect, easy DIY to include the kids in. They'll last until next year if you pack them away, but its so easy- why not just make more next year? Enjoy!
A Thanksgiving DIY: Clove-Spiked Apples