Tips for a Non-Traditional & Budget Friendly Wedding ║ Here Comes The Bride!
To follow-up on “Sessy Tips for Low-Budget Weddings” I interviewed newlyweds who recently organized their own low-budget union. They graciously answered my questions, and shared what they learned from planning the wedding that they both wanted.
Alia and Brandon are close friends of mine who tied the knot in February. The most surprising part about their wedding weekend was the sense of calm. Everything had been planned out, and certain tasks had been delegated, so the couple wouldn’t have to stress about doing things as they got closer to declaring their love in front of a hundred people. (An unnerving experience, even if the hundred people include only close family and friends.)
The whole weekend catered to Brandon and Alia’s specific tastes and needs. They are hospitable and generous people, and with their budget this meant they couldn’t have a huge guest list, not if they wanted everyone fed, watered, and comfortably seated.
Their ceremony was unlike anything I’d witnessed. Candles adorned each window as well as the front of the room where the vows took place. Each guest was also handed a candle as they walked into the room.
The couple asked Josh, a close friend of theirs who is an actor, poet, rapper, and an eloquent, charismatic person, to begin the ceremony. Josh poetically introduced the concept that candles would be lit throughout the ceremony, representing the love of family, friends, and the couple. His writing was heavily influenced by the book of John from the bible, which talks a lot about light. My sister and I are both close friends of the couple, and were asked to give readings. She wrote a poem, I read an excerpt from Rumi. The Persian bride introduced Rumi to me, and I read from a poem that she’d told me a long time ago that she loved:
The moment I heard my first love story I began seeking you, not realizing the search was useless. Lovers don’t meet somewhere along the way. They’re in one another’s souls from the beginning.
Next, a priest and friend to the couple took the ceremony into its next phase. He walked around the room, spreading traditional incense. Then Alia and Brandon walked up the aisle together. The priest led the ceremony from there, reciting texts from the Byzantine service that Brandon and Alia picked. Alia is Catholic, Brandon is not, but the Byzantine traditions spoke to them and their values. The couple recited vows which they had written. Candles were gradually lit throughout the ceremony. It was stunning.
The reception, which included tacos, beer and cake, took place on the second floor of the lodge. The couple hired a young band from Denton to play their first paid gig at the reception as well.
I asked the couple about making decisions and wedding planning on a low-budget.
First of all, obviously I know you, but tell me a bit about yourselves. What do each of you do? How did you meet?
ALIA: I am a theatre artist by night and an operations coordinator for a small company in Dallas by day. Brandon and I met when he attended a show I was co-producing. He came for the Saturday night show, we hung out afterwards that night with a group of my friends and then, to my delight, he attended the show again the next night. We shared champagne and a long talk on my friend’s back porch. We shared a meal days later, and many more following that. During one of our first dates, Brandon and I started to make a list of things we wanted to do together—movies to watch, places to visit, meals to cook—and we promised to keep hanging out until there is nothing left to do.
BRANDON: I am a cook at the Omni Hotel and an aspiring chef. I met Alia at a performance of Red Rabbit, White Rabbit (by Nassim Soliemanpour) that she was directing out in Dallas, I was brought there by a mutual friend. I came to the second night of it, and then I returned for the third night. I wasn’t there for White Rabbit, Red Rabbit though, I was there for the beautiful Persian putting the show on.
Aw. So I have to ask. Does your shared love for cooking and food feel like part of the glue of your relationship? Also, is glue just the worst metaphor for what keeps you together, or does that feel right? (You don’t have to answer that second part.)
A: Our shared love for good food and cooking definitely feels like a really important part of our relationship! We both love to make meals for our friends and to throw dinner parties—it’s one of the ways we show our love and appreciation for people.
B: I do think that our love of food is something that holds us together, it’s something that holds us together that we can always return to. I think that it goes deeper into our desire for good hospitality, to treat people well and show people that they’re loved is something that both of us really desire to do.
After all the engagement excitement, some couples who are as young as you two wait a year or so to get married. (Both are in their mid-twenties.) You waited 8 months after your engagement. How did you decide when the wedding should take place?
A: We waited 8 months—which was how much time we thought we would need to plan. Also, we both love winter and knew we wanted to get married sometime in Feb.
B: We chose February because it was an easy time for me to get off because I’m working in the restaurant industry, but also because we didn’t want to wait too long. We knew what we wanted and we didn’t want to stay in this engagement limbo for too long. Neither of us really likes limbo stages. So we wanted to make it final and make it real because we love each other and we wanted that for the rest of our lives.
Before the wedding, I told a friend that you two were getting married in a warehouse, and he was shocked you weren’t having the ceremony in a church! Especially since you’re both from Texas. Which venues did you consider, and how did you ultimately decide?
A: As soon as we started to think about the wedding, we knew we wanted it to be at 100 West—an old Oddfellows lodge that our dear friend, Kyle, has transformed into an artist residence. That place means a lot to us—and we felt there was no other place for us to have the celebration!
B: I think that we chose the building in Corsicana because we have a very close connection to it. We both helped out there, Alia has done some writing and rehearsal work there, I’ve gone down to help out with dinners. We love the space, we love the energy that the space brings, we love what’s going on there—it was really a no-brainer. There weren’t many other options if there were even any. It fit the amount of people we had coming. It ended up being a little cold but that also ended up being part of the memories of our wedding, are the things that made it original, the things that made it different, and the things we didn’t plan on.
What were the challenges in not having a wedding planner?
A: It was challenging to do all the planning ourselves, but we had A LOT of help along the way. The biggest challenge was carving out the time in between our jobs and various projects to sit down and plan out the nitty, gritty details—to lay out a budget and stick to it! No one was standing there and holding us accountable to a schedule or budget—but, hey it all worked out!
B: We had to contact everyone. We couldn’t sit down once a month or once a week with a wedding planner and her go, “Hey I’m going to set up an appointment with this person, I’m going to call this person, I’m going to talk to this person”—we had to do those things. We had to be in contact with these people, and for me that was anyone on the food end and the rentals and those kinds of things, trying to make sure all things were communicated right. We got what we wanted and we ended up with what we wanted in a party.
What were the upsides?
A: It was clear from the beginning that we wanted our friends and family helping with all the details. So, I made a comprehensive itinerary and assigned jobs to our friends and family. And they went above and beyond. Really, it blew us away!
B: The upside to not having a wedding planner was we also didn’t have anyone telling us what we wanted or what would work, we got to decide that. Me coming from a hospitality background, I had an understanding of the limitations of the space and how to run an event at some level. And Alia is just creative and was able to help us come up with this idea of the wedding that we wanted.
What criteria went into compiling the guest list?
A: It was pretty simple. We wanted to keep it small, which of course was difficult because we kept wanting to add people. But it came down to this: are these people who we keep up with regularly? Do they reach out to us and we to them? If both questions were answered with a yes, then an invite was sent.
B: We had a few simple criteria. One was people we had been in recent and consistent communication with, and people we wanted in our lives for the rest of our lives…Another criteria was I didn’t want anyone at the wedding that I didn’t want to have a 45 minute conversation with. If I didn’t want to talk with them then we really didn’t invite them to the wedding. And also we tried to keep it as close and as tight as possible.
Your wedding ceremony incorporated theater, poetry readings, Catholicism, lots of candles, and some breaking of normal tradition. For example, you two walked down the aisle together. What factors went into planning your ceremony? Research? Family traditions?
A: We decided we wanted this ceremony to be us, rather than a tradition we did not identify with—so we talked together, with our friend Josh, who is a poet, theatre artist and very close to our hearts, and to our dear friend who is a Priest. We came in knowing one thing: we wanted to walk down the aisle together. I did not want to be presented like a piece of property. We are in this together so we wanted to walk into it together. We also knew we wanted the spreading of light through candles to be a big part of it. So with that info, Josh and the Priest crafted what was a marvelous, unique and Holy ceremony that reflected our love for each other.
B: I went into the wedding ceremony probably imagining something a little bit more traditional. I always brought up, “well this is how it usually happens” and then we would ultimately ask the question of why? So in researching the ceremony, we found out through the priest that we used about the Byzantine Orthodox ceremony, which has the bride and the groom enter together, symbolizing that both are entering into this union together, and on their own terms, and so we wanted to use that. Both of us are pretty used to not going directly with our family traditions or what our families would consider “typical”, and so it was—family traditions didn’t play much into it. I don’t know that there was a ton of research, we kind of talked about marriage and what marriage means to us, and we talked to Josh Kumler who wrote the beginning part of our ceremony, and our priest who kind of cultivated out of Byzantine Catholic traditions with additions of what we our ceremony was about—to create the ceremony.
What was the most stressful point in the process? How did you deal with the situation?
A: The most stressful point for me was maintaining the mindset that our wedding ceremony is not about everyone else, but about Brandon and me—and our promise to each other of a lifetime of love. B and I both love to please others—and we love to throw a good party. However, planning the ceremony was a different kind of planning than anything we had done before—Josh and the Priest had to keep reminding us that we were the decision makers—we had to decide what elements best reflected our commitment and love for each other.
B: For me the most stressful part of the planning was being so busy, with us not having a wedding planner. Sometimes I work—the months before the wedding I was extremely busy at work and I couldn’t help out as much as I wanted to. I couldn’t be at meetings, I couldn’t be part of delegating tasks sto our friends, but how I dealt with that is I just tried to do it as much as I could, whenever I was a part of it. I didn’t want Alia to feel like she had to deal with the entire wedding. And I wanted –this was something between the both of us and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of the process and the mundane day-to-day part of planning this event.
What was the most surprising part of the planning and wedding process?
A: How painless it all mostly was. When we began the wedding planning process everyone made it seem like it was going to be the most stressful time in our lives—well, we didn’t buy into that. We wanted it to be a fun and exciting time that involved all the people we love—and that it was.
B: I think the most surprising part of planning the process was how all of our friends desired, almost begged us to be involved in the process. That day would not have gone as smoothly which was probably another big surprising part, was how smoothly the wedding day went. There were no hiccups, there was no big problems, things went so much better than I’ve seen at other weddings. There was no big freakouts or stresses, and I think that’s because we had great people around us who were there to support us and help us make the wedding happen, and who are the same people who are going to be in our lives, that are going to help us—as this marriage goes on, which is a big kind of telling thing. If they’re involved in that then they’re people who are going to be in our lives for a while.
Closing words from Brandon:
One of the things that I learned is it’s always good to know what you want. In our wedding it was very important to us to know what we wanted. And to discern that from what is usually done. So we could have a wedding that was actually like us, that resembled us in some way. And always asking the question “why” was very important to us.