– Originally posted on June 1st, 2014 –
Exactly one year ago today I married my best friend.
Like so many modern Americans, Russell and I actually found each other through internet dating. In 2009, we turned to OkCupid and went on our first date in November. We were immediately inseparable and were planning our wedding color scheme within weeks.
In 2011 I started planning the proposal, and at midnight on New Year’s eve I popped the question. As a special surprise, I reached out to Russell’s favorite artist and asked her if she’d be willing to make us a custom save the date.
When we were first engaged, I was working in event planning at AIDS Walk New York, so I tried to take advantage of my experience to plan and organize our wedding. We gave ourselves 17 months to plan, prepare, and save; and we tried to DIY as many of the elements as possible.
We knew we wanted to have a big wedding with lots of friends and family, but we also wanted it to be a relaxed & informal event. When it came time to choose a venue, we immediately ruled out Brooklyn because, well, because we’re not independently wealthy. As we started thinking about different regions in New York, the Hudson Valley quickly moved to the top of the list. No matter where we chose, most of our guests would have to travel, and we thought that the Hudson Valley would be easy to get to even if it was a short drive from the city.
We found some venues in our budget, piled into a rental car with Doris, and drove upstate. After seeing a few places that looked great online but didn’t measure up to our expectations, we powered on to our last stop. When we got there we just knew. Not five minutes into the tour we were stealing glances at each other and nodding in agreement behind the wedding coordinator’s back. The place was a breathtaking estate with gorgeous sprawling lawns overlooking the Hudson river and the Catskill Mountains beyond. So, that was that. We were gonna get hitched in the great outdoors at the Clermont State Historic Site in Germantown, NY.
With the venue chosen, we asked my good friend Alix Sorrell to design our invitations and programs, and we were on our way.
We started making decisions left and right, buying up string lights and chalkboards, hunting for shoes and rings, and looking into vendors and caterers.
I was already completely addicted to Pinterest, but planning my wedding put me into overdrive. My wedding board quickly grew to over 500 pins, and it became a place I would store all sorts of design ideas and links to cheap supplies and DIY projects. I don’t think I could ever have made our wedding as beautiful as it was without all the inspiration I found on Pinterest.
I also used spreadsheets on google drive, like, A LOT. I made spreadsheets to organize our guest list, budget tracker, supply checklist, to do list, vendor contact info, project lists, etc., etc., etc. If you’re trying to plan and organize your own wedding without a professional planner, spreadsheets are sooo helpful. I would never have been able to keep track of everything without them, and I’m certain we would have doubled our budget if I hadn’t been so anal about it.
Speaking of sticking to a budget, some of the best advice I received came from a book called, A Practical Wedding. “F*ck ‘em if they don’t like chairs.” Those words really helped me to get over my anxiety about things we thought were expected of us but we simply couldn’t afford. We prioritized the things we thought would be important and memorable, and skimped on the things that we didn’t care so much about, like the chairs. Rather than gilded wooden chairs we opted for the white plastic folding variety, and I really don’t think anyone even noticed.
Russell’s Aunt Mimi officiated the wedding, and our wedding party was full of our sisters, their children and our best girlfriends. Even Doris joined in on the fun and walked down the aisle with the flower girls. (this was before Betty joined our family)
We came on the scene to the sound of The Cure’s, “To the Sky”, and had a gorgeous, moving ceremony with the river and mountains right behind us. Our photographer, Jordan of Jordan Jankun Photography did such a beautiful job capturing our wedding along with all the beautiful scenery. All (or most) of the photos in this post were taken by Jordan, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
It was important to us that our wedding party would feel comfortable and confident, so we asked them to choose their own dresses. Our wedding colors were grey with hints of green and white, so we just asked that they choose dresses in a shade of grey with green and white accessories. This way everyone was able to find something flattering that reflected their personality rather than feeling forced into an ill-fitting uniform.
Even my mom wore grey! She was a total rock star throughout the whole process, and spent countless hours wrapping bottles with ribbon, decorating baskets and a wagon for the flower girls, organizing comfort baskets for the bathrooms, transporting truckloads of decorations and beer and mixers, and helping to make sure every last detail was perfect on our big day.
Much like the grooms maids, the flower girls chose their own dresses, these in a pretty shade of mint green.
The day before the wedding we got to Clermont just after Columbia Tent Rental finished setting up our big white tent and laying our dance floor. The rest of the setup was up to us. With our wedding party and some family and friends, we spent the rest of the day setting up tables and chairs, hanging strings of lights and paper lanterns, setting tables with white cloths and grey paper runners, topping them with candles and rolled napkins, organizing the bar, decorating the buffet and cake table, finding homes for chalkboard menus, and pinning escort cards to the cork board.
We didn’t even think to take this into consideration when planning our date, but the 17-year East Coast cicada was out during the time of our wedding. They weren’t really a nuisance, but they were definitely present and added a natural “hum” to the soundtrack of our day. All the kids at the wedding had so much fun with them!
The morning of the wedding we went to the farmers market in Kingston, NY with our maids of honor to pick out flowers. We’d been in touch with a vendor called The River Garden beforehand to ask what they thought would be in season, and to let them know we’d probably clean them out. We chose a selection of purple phlox, green wheat and barley, and purple chive flowers. Along with some amazing and generous volunteers, we arranged the flowers in antique glass bottles and recycled wine bottles, many of which were used as table markers, with white house number stickers on them. Everything was so beautiful, and we couldn’t believe how affordable they were. They even had pre-arranged bouquets of yellow columbine and purple sweet pea that we just wrapped in floral tape and ribbon for our girls to carry down the aisle.
The DIY didn’t stop at the decor either. I also made my own slow baked apple butter using Hudson Valley apples to give to our guests as a thank you for making the trip.
We chose the 1st of June as our date thinking that the weather would be mild and pleasant, but instead it ended up being over 90 degrees that day, so after our ceremony we both changed into shorts to be more comfortable throughout the day.
We really wanted people to feel relaxed and have fun, so booze was something we didn’t want to skimp on. Some of our family told us to cut corners by not serving alcohol, or just serving wine and beer, but we weren’t budging. The one thing we did do to save money was buy our own alcohol and have the caterer provide bartenders. We also chose to offer only vodka and bourbon rather than a full bar, along with two signature cocktails served in drink dispensers, wines from the finger lakes region, and a selection of beers.
Food is kind of a big deal to us, as you can probably imagine since I write a blog on the subject. We weighed several options when we started thinking about what we’d want to serve, but we knew that we didn’t want the same old “fish or chicken” wedding food. At first we were thinking about going for a Southern picnic menu, with cold fried chicken and sweet tea, but ultimately we decided on barbecue. Our budget sort of pushed us in this direction because whole hog barbecue is usually a cheaper option, but what we ended up with was much more than just a pig roast. We found an amazing family run restaurant called Hickory BBQ Smokehouse a short drive from our venue, and after one meal there we were ready to sign the contract.
When choosing a wedding cake, we wanted to keep it simple. We went for an elegant (and delicious) 4-tiered swiss dot patterned cake with classic white Swiss meringue buttercream. The cake itself was vanilla cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate cake with vanilla mousse. Then, to gussy up the dessert table and offer some variety, we served some pies (homemade by our caterers mother!) and a selection of cookies.
Russell chose most of the music for the day with our DJ, Russell’s good friend Cody, but he let me help choose “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers as our first dance.
Words cannot express, and photos cannot do justice to, what a beautiful, perfect, wonderful day our wedding was. We’re so glad that we were able to share it with so many of our friends and family.
Thank you everyone who helped make our wedding day the most beautiful and special day of our lives. Friends and family alike joined in to help make sure every last detail was perfect. Big thank yous go out to our DJs Cody and Catonia, to Zach for helping us get all our supplies upstate, and to Aunt Mimi for officiating. Extra big thank yous go out to our wedding party; Sonja, Beth, Jenn, Sharon, Nicole, & Alison; for helping us SO MUCH and putting up with my endless emails. The biggest thank you of all though, goes to my mom.
Thank you so much mom! Without your help we never could have had the perfect beautiful day that we did.