My entire life I have been dreaming of getting married and having children. At age five, I drew pictures of my future children, and got my first girlfriend at age 6 and began planning our wedding. This deep love and desire for children is one of the major inspirations for starting Serenity Kids.
Things didn’t work out with my 6-year old girlfriend, but fortunately, I met Serenity! A year ago, I asked her to marry me, and she said yes! We didn’t think we’d have time to have a wedding in the midst of all the craziness of starting our business, but I decided to take it on anyway, and we had our dream wedding last November 11th (11/11). One year to the day of our engagement.
I have an extensive (and underutilized) theatre background, so this was my chance to really put on a show. As passionate Paleoistas, we wanted to have really great Paleo food and drinks. But as entrepreneurs who’ve just launched a company, we had to do it on a VERY tight budget. So here is the story of our non-traditional Paleo low-budget wedding and how we did it!
The ceremony took place in the middle of the woods, in a clearing a short hike up a dirt trail. We set up 200 chairs in a spiral formation so that when we walked down the aisle, we passed by every single guest. The action took place in the center of the spiral, like theatre in the round. The officiant was a close friend of ours who runs a church in Florida that is an eclectic mix of spiritual traditions, and he wore a long druid-like robe.
Since my name is Joseph, I have always wanted a Coat of Many Colors, like Abraham gave the prophet Joseph in the bible. Since my mom made my sister a wedding dress, she agreed to make this coat for me. It turned out to be a lot harder than a wedding dress, so we enlisted a friend who’s a professional costume designer. It turned out SUPER gorgeous! Serenity’s favorite color is teal, so she found a teal dress designed as a replica of one worn by Kate Middleton. We asked all our guests to wear white, making for an awesome aerial photo of the spiral.
We wrote vows that spelled out what a healthy marriage means to us (see them all at the bottom of this post), and we read each one to the other asking if they agree. In addition to rings, we exchanged ornately beaded bracelets hand-made by indigenous women in Brazil. As we exited, we stopped by each guest to receive a one-word blessing. And it ended with a bagpiper, who led everyone one in a slow procession out of the woods and to the reception.
The reception took place in a large warehouse that was converted to be a show venue (think burning man rave). We decorated it with a teal and copper theme, incorporating peacock feathers wherever possible. Our friends performed a skit I wrote, acting out important moments from our courtship, which ended in me singing the hip-hop/R&B song I wrote and sang to Serenity acapella as part of my proposal, but now with fully produced background instrumentals. I was a total rock star!
Then we had karaoke, and our friends and family sang to us! Many memorable numbers of all genres (and family members performing that we never expected to!) All while enjoying delicious Paleo appetizers and drinks. As we exited, our guests threw lavender, and we drove away in a 1957 Chevy convertible!
See more pictures here.
We considered making everyone eat our baby food, ;) but instead we served amazing Paleo appetizers made by a local foods catering company. The menu included: Pesto Rubbed Chicken Skewers with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Whole Roasted Natural Turkey Breast with Dijon Shallot Sauce, Smoked Brisket Tacos, Cauliflower & Celeriac Root Mash Bar, Crisp Romaine Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette, and plenty of Pasture-Raised Uncured Bacon donated by Roam Sticks which also supplies our baby food . YUM!
The cake and sweets were provided by Austin-based company Guiltless Goodies, which specialize in treats made from seed flower and natural sweeteners. We made a Paleo donut bar so people could deck-out their chocolate or cinnamon maple donut. The cake was decorated buy our friend at Bake Austin, who created a Paleo marzipan! And our cake was topped with Iron Man and Wonder Woman action figures, because, ya know, we're super heroes.
For drinks, we offered Mock-Tails made with carbonated water, lime, lemon, and bitters. And Dry Farms Wine donated 24 bottles of their delicious Champaign, specially tested to be sulfite free and very low in sugar.
Our guests got a new understanding of what is possible with Paleo!
In the end, we spent just under $8000 for a wedding of 200+ people. Here are a few tips and tricks we learned for pulling off an extravaganza on a tight budget.
By using a venue that wasn’t normally designed for weddings, we got a much lower price. This also gave us enormous flexibility with timing, as they let us into the venue much earlier than usual, and helped a lot with clean up. Thank you Indra's Awarehouse!
I enlisted my crafty friends and family to make fancy-looking items using Pinterest as a guide. Tablecloths were made from white bed sheets and spray paint, garland from fishing line and sparkly stickers, flower vases from painted mason jars, and then we made creative use of Christmas lights and peacock feathers (cheap and gorgeous). Amazon was much cheaper than craft stores for purchasing all these supplies.
It was AMAZING how many of my friends and family wanted to help. In the end, I had a team of 30+ people doing one job or another. I had a lot of people each do a little so everyone could still enjoy the wedding. I wrote a detailed outline of everything that needed to happen so I didn’t have to think about it during the event. I assigned leaders to different teams including Food, Ushering, Technology, and Stage Management and gave them complete autonomy during the event. And we used a Whatsapp thread to communicate about all wedding-essentials starting the week before.
Use Friends with Skills
I had friends volunteer to: bake the cake, decorate the cake, make decorations, do Serenity’s makeup, arrange the flowers, design my coat, and operate lights/sound. Three different friends with trucks hauled needed materials, and my engineer father designed the spiral formation with AutoCAD!
We used Evite for all invitations, saving us enormous cost and effort, and making it super easy to add and subtract RSVPs.
Negotiate with Caterer
The food was the single largest expense. We opted to have an afternoon wedding and just do appetizers so that cut down on the cost. I was able to negotiate down the caterer’s initial cost estimate BY HALF! In the end, I told them what my max budget was and asked them to find a way to meet it. I talked them into just delivering the food rather than staffing the event, and had friends and family help maintain the buffet. And we bought all our own plates, cups, napkins, and cutlery from Costco. Pro-tip, send your mom to shop for all this and she might just volunteer to pay for it! ;) Caterers ALWAYS make way too much food so we told them we had 25 fewer people than had RSVPed, and we still had TONS of leftovers.
We provided only non-alcoholic drinks and invited to guests to BYOB. People who like to drink brought a lot, so there ended up being plenty of alcohol.
Four different small businesses were willing to give us donations or major discounts because we promised to promote them to our guests. Guiltless Goodies came through with the cake flower and donuts, Bake Austin donated the cake decorating, Ranger Cattle loaned us their off-road vehicle for transporting people who had trouble walking to and from the ceremony, Roam Sticks donated pasture raised uncured bacon, and Dry Farms Wine gave us 24 bottles of Paleo Champaign! We created a spot on the serving tables to advertise their services and gave them shout-outs from the stage.
We had a rehearsal dinner with both of our families the night before, and a wedding after-party that included dinner the night of the wedding, and for both of these we asked people to pay their own tab. We reserved banquet rooms at restaurants that didn’t have any order minimums and agreed to do separate checks. Nobody had any problem with this.
These were the only people I paid, and I used friends or friends of friends, who gave me a special deal and excellent service. They all went above and beyond, so I tipped them before the event was over, leading to even better service! Utilizing people you already know increases accountability and decreases the price.
Clothes and Rings
Getting my coat homemade eliminated the need for a tux (and now I can wear it forever). Serenity found a replica of a really nice celebrity dress rather than using a traditional wedding dress. My ring belonged to my Grandfather who passed three years ago, and we ordered Serenity’s ring off Amazon for just $60.
Everyone said it was one of the most touching weddings they’ve ever been to because it was so US. Personalizing it really allowed everyone to feel our love and excitement deeply, and also have a really great time!
Thank you to everyone who was there and feel free to reach out if you're planning a wedding and want any tips!
Do you promise to:
-love me with levity, joy, and celebration
-have fun and play every day
-keep the passion ignited
-set boundaries with firm patience
-ask for what you want
-have compassion for my challenges
-share your feelings with me and listen openly to mine
-stand for my highest good
-remind me who I really am when I have forgotten
-use our love & relationship to make the world a better place
-be willing to receive support from others
-change & grow, and give me the freedom to change and grow
-use our relationship as a Foundation to achieve the fullest expression of yourself
-Praise god with me
See more pictures here.