Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How We Kept our Wedding Small, Thrifty, and Really Special (with some bonus FAQ's)

Russ and I have been married for 10 years this April, so I wrote a few posts on love and marriage.  Click here for the story on how we met... or don't if you're not into those types of things :)

Russ and I are both super practical people.  On top of that, we neither of us worry about convention too much, and we both tend to do things the way we want to even if it's not the way things are usually done.  Russ is thrifty.  I prefer to be unassuming.  And that's why we did our wedding the way we did...   small, thrifty, classy (I hope!) lovely, and faith-filled, but not tradition-bound

Though we had lived near each other for over three years (one of those, dating), I had moved back home and we were "long distance" from then until our wedding.  Russ was living in Ohio, working in West Virginia.  I was living with my parents and working in New York.  We got engaged one August weekend that I was down visiting him.  It was time to start planning...

I planned the wedding.  It was just practical, since we were getting married in my home town, and Russ was four hours away.  And it wasn't really important to either of us to have Russ involved in every detail.  He was involved in big things, like choosing the readings for the Mass, and... well, I can't think of anything else.  I planned it, and passed the info on to him :)   (He wasn't sitting around doing nothing -- Russ planned our honeymoon and found the place that would be our first apartment after the wedding!)

Our wedding was small.  It was very small.  It was a difficult decision but we decided to limit the reception guest list to our immediate family, grandparents, and two or three good friends each. The number of people at our reception dinner was under 25.  We invited about 40 people to the wedding Mass itself (it was a Friday evening) and then all 40 were also invited to a brunch at my parent's home the next morning.  So, the guest list was small... and the wedding party was small.  I had a maid of honor and Russ had a best man.  That was it.  And it was perfect. 

It was inexpensive.  We planned to pay for the wedding and reception ourselves and we weren't going to go into debt or blow through savings just to get married and have a party.  Our wedding would have to be something we could pay for out of pocket.  I don't remember the spec's, but it definitely came in under $3000 - and that included everything from the airplane ticket for our priest (who we knew from WV) to the gas in the rental car to get to the airport for our honeymoon.  One way we kept our expenditures small was by keeping the wedding small.   Obviously. 

Also, we did a lot of work ourselves and asked good friends to lend their talents.  The fact that so many of our friends and family contributed to our wedding made it infinitely  more special to both of us.  

I made our invitations and Mass "programs."  (there were only about 45 each, after all...)

My good friends who lived next door to us nearly our whole lives helped out also.  One of the neighbors worked at a florist - I bought the flowers, and she made my bouquet, three corsages, three boutonnieres, and two centerpieces for us as a gift.  

Similarly, her seamstress mother made my dress with a pattern and material that I bought on sale (of course!) as a gift. 

My mom and I made my veil.

I did my own makeup (just the same way I did my makeup every other day), another good friend did my hair, and I didn't have my nails done... though I'm pretty sure I used a nail brush on them that day :)  

One of Russ' good friends took pictures for us, and another of his friends played the organ for the Mass.  Not only did we save money, but we had a wedding that was strewn with generous gifts of time and talent from our family and friends.  And we loved that.

We were married in one of the most beautiful churches in Buffalo, St. Louis Roman Catholic Church on Main St.  (or maybe the official address is Edward St.??)  

It has the longest aisle of all the churches in the city, but I didn't walk down it.  It seemed a little ostentatious and quite frankly, ridiculous, to walk over a hundred feet to 40 people waiting for me in the first five pews.  So my mom and dad walked me out of the sacristy to give me away to Russ.  I think (hope!) we tried to focus the Mass on the Sacrament of Matrimony and less on pomp and circumstance.  

Like I said, it's a beautiful church so we didn't do any decorating... in the least.  We were married five days after Easter, so there were plenty of lovely flowers all over the altar - granted there was no color scheme and they were all wrapped in metallic foil wrappers, but somehow we managed not to care!<3!<3!   We saved on decorating! 

Russ bought a suit, tie, and shoes at a department store (probably J. C. Penney, but I don't remember for sure :) ) and he still wears it often.  I on the other hand, haven't had the opportunity to re-use my dress ;)  

Our reception was simple (but hopefully classy, and not dumpy??)  It was at a restaurant at the Lake Erie Basin Marina.  The room we were in overlooked the water!  There were just 25 of us - we all sat at one table for dinner.  There were no seating cards, or table numbers, or charts, or anything.  It was sit where you like and move when you want to :)  It was a buffet.  I don't even remember what was on the menu except one salad that had dried cranberries, goat cheese, and candied pecans.  I think I had several helpings of that salad!  There was no bar, but my dad worked for a liquor wholesale company at the time, and one of my parents' gifts to us was a couple cases of red and white Blackstone wine.  (get it?!?)  We also had a champagne toast.  My parents also generously paid for a four piece "band" (for lack of a better word) because there was no way I was going to have a DJ at my wedding.  (If the band couldn't have made it, I'd have just brought my CD player and a whole lot of Sinatra and Sam Cooke!)  Anyway, the band -- they were musicians I'd known my whole life since my dad had played in a dance band with them for years.  They felt more like guests than "the band."   We had an impromptu "first dance" so that everyone else could get out on the dance floor.  (I do regret a little that I don't remember what song it was...) 

There was no tossing of garters, bouquets, rice, or confetti, but there was a lot of "talent" happening, as over the half the guests sat in with the band - whether singing or on an instrument... because that's just the type of crowd it was :)  

that's my dad on the clarinet and my great aunt singing :)
One of my sisters made the cake as a gift.  It was taaaaaasty!  (And we did save the top to eat a year later.  We went with tradition and convention on that one...)  

The morning after the wedding, my family was very generous with their time (and treasure ;) ) in preparing a lovely brunch for all the guests who had been at the wedding.  It was so delightful to be with everyone in my family's home, to converse and share with the wedding guests, to be casual and celebratory at the same time, to sip mimosas :)

And that was it. 

If anyone was unhappy with our small and simple wedding decisions, they didn't say so.  (Except, I do recall Russ' best friend and best man encouraging me to walk down the aisle so that Russ would have the experience of seeing his bride that way, but I just couldn't do it...)   We made our decisions to suit our budget and our personal preferences, while at the same time, trying to offer courtesy and honor to the guests who were with us as well as those who weren't guests.  (I admit, sometimes it was tricky.)  

Looking back, there is nothing that I would change.  Our wedding was a little different, but it was so "us."  I think it was the best start to our life together as the married Russ and Theresa.  Since the small and simple wedding was so reflective of who we were (and still are), it felt like our married life flowed very naturally from that "beginning."  

How about you?  Did you do anything at your wedding that was "different" that you loved and wouldn't change?  

*   *   *   *   *   *

FAQ'a about our wedding 
(some of them are actual questions people have asked... some are things I imagine people have asked me :)  )

Why did you get married on April Fool's Day?  We were married on Friday, April 1, 2005.  No joke.  We chose that day because it was the first available day after Easter that year.  In general, the Church does not permit weddings (or baptisms) during Lent, so as soon as Lent was over, we got hitched :)

Did you really wear a watch at your wedding?  Yes I did.  I wear a watch every day, so it never occurred to me that that might be weird when I put it on that morning.  I didn't even think twice about it until a friend mentioned it after the Mass.  Like I said, the wedding was really just us being us and us not trying to be not us...  hm.

Did your maid of honor really wear a black dress?  Yes.  My made of honor was one of my lovely sisters.  I told her she could wear anything she wanted and she chose (fabulously, I might add) to wear the dress that our mom wore for her own stateside wedding reception!  (She and my dad had their own unconventional wedding in Paris <3 )

Do you have any regrets at all about the wedding or reception?  I do.  My grandfather died 13 months after our wedding and month before his first great grandchild was born.  I wish that I had danced with him more at the reception and that I had a photo of him and me (and maybe Russ) from the wedding.  He and his wife were a really special part of our dating story, as they lived only 2 hours from Steubenville and we visited them often.  He was an avid Star Trek fan and he never had to twist Russ' arm to "watch an episode" with him :)  My grandfather was retired military, a retired police office, and a retired instructor from the Ohio Police Officers Training Academy --  When I first brought Russ to their house, my Grandpa ran Russ' Texas license plates and had some of his law enforcement contacts do a background check on this guy hanging out with his granddaughter.  Russ checked out, and he and my grandfather had a lovely friendship for the next two years!  After his cancer diagnosis that fall, my grandpa was give less than a year to live, so he was one of the first people we told when we were expecting again (this would have been Aaron - after we had had one miscarriage).  Equally special, we spent our first anniversary with him and his wife (my mom was there also) and shared our saved wedding cake-top with them!  That was the last time I saw him.  

Here's a picture of Russ, my grandfather, and me about 5 months before he died.  We are standing next to his Star Trek ornament Christmas tree <3  

Weather in Buffalo is pretty unpredictable in April.  Was the weather good for your wedding?  Our wedding day was cool-ish, warm-ish and sunny.  

The next morning, the morning of the brunch, Russ and I woke up to a strange grating sound outside our hotel window.  It was a snow plow!  It snowed that day and the next, and some of our guests were actually stranded on the Interstate while trying to get home on the 2nd.  (Incidentally, that was the April 2nd that John Paul II died.  We were so pre-occupied with wedding and honeymoon stuff, I don't think we heard about it until we returned from our trip.)

Where did you go on your honeymoon?  We went to Hawaii.  That was a budget affair too.  Like I said, we don't do debt.  Russ had frequent flier miles that got us to the islands and back for free!  Just so you don't think I'm a total stick in the mud, I biked down a volcano there.  I stood at the top, looked into the crater, then got on a bike and zoomed down :)  My sons think that's pretty awesome stuff.  

Is there anything you wish was different about your honeymoon?  Yes, but that's another post for another time :)  

Anything else you're dying to know??  I can't even believe I've written this much.  This post is over <3  


  1. That was so lovely to read. If I could change everything about my wedding, I would… except for the marrying my husband part! And the priest who married us! I was the only daughter of recently divorced parents, so, you know. My mom planned my wedding and my dad argued with her about paying for it. We made a few specific requests about the Mass and about not having a bar at the reception (because we didn't want any drunken brawls), and then she planned everything else. I think there were 200 people there. I didn't know a lot of them. It is not what I want for my children. Your wedding sounds so much more what I'd like for them and what I will encourage them to consider.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Charlotte. <3 I'm not against big weddings, but I do wish that every bride and groom could avoid pressure from family so that they're wedding could be what best suits them. But it sounds like you and your husband made some sacrifices out of respect for your parents, and there's lots of value and virtue in that.

  2. Love reading this and so happy to read that you can do classy and thrifty, which is how your's sounds. it so disturbs me this massive amount of debt couples go into (our wedding cost less than $3000)
    Giggled about your g'father checking Russ out via law buddies.
    So beautiful that your wedding reflected "you":) xxx

  3. Wow! I am super excited for the day and want to celebrate it with huge fun all around. I really loved your pictures and want to make my wedding as special as yours. Can you suggest any affordable Chicago Wedding Venues?


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