Well, it’s now been a whole five years since Mr. Strange and I were married. And for almost all of that time, I’ve been grumbling bitterly about our wedding. I won’t bore you with the details but let me just say I wanted a do-over. I mean a second do-over, because the two sides of my family are like oil and water and I needed a chance for my dad to be included, too. Well, it happened, and the ironic thing about weddings is it’s the kind of thing that you really do get better at with practice. Now that we’re at #3 I think it’s safe to say we’ve gotten pretty damn good at this.
It started a week before. Our fifth anniversary was coming up, and we wanted to make it special, though our finances were hardly improved since we did the real deal. On that quiet Saturday at work I got into the planning mood, and just out of curiosity I Googled “cheap wedding venues in Winnipeg.” Literally the FIRST suggestion to come up, on Yahoo Answers, was a place I’d never heard of called Pineridge Hollow just outside of town. It’s a restaurant that also includes a clothing and furniture shop, and gorgeous outdoor surroundings specifically intended for weddings. I looked up the place online and really didn’t need to look any further. We made a reservation at the restaurant for 15 people, and didn’t ask for any set-up. A Facebook event was made and that was about it until the day of the event itself. Let me dissect the rest before I go on to describe the evening.
Invitations: None = 0$. We just created a Facebook event like all the kids are doing these days.
Rings: We’re already married, so we already had them and didn’t need a ring pillow either. Free again! But if this is your first wedding together, here’s where you can get some unique and affordable options.
Decor: Nothing but nature, baby. And centerpieces? Nah. 0$.
Mr. Strange’s clothes: Nothing but what he already owned; nice black pants, a blue button-down from our real wedding, and a nice hat that he wears often. 0$.
Wedding dress: Years ago I saw a beautiful pale pink cocktail dress online going for just $108. Things sell-out often on that site, so I couldn’t afford to put it off. Because I owned this for so long before the big day, had worn it twice already and will definitely wear it again, I’m not counting it as an expense. It couldn’t be more perfect for the occasion, but in the end I just pulled this out of my closet. 0$.
Veil: I didn’t wear one then, and I didn’t wear one now. $0.
Shoes: It takes a mighty special pair of shoes to not leave my feet beaten and bloodied by the end of the day, and when I find them, I stick with them. Who wants to pay for pain? I’m not a masochist. I wore my everyday shoes, even though they’re black and didn’t technically match my pastel dress. 0$
Hair and makeup: I did this myself instead of visiting a salon, and accessorized my hair with a gold hair vine I wore on our wedding day. I bought nothing new. 0$.
Jewelry: You guessed it, I didn’t wear anything new here either. I wore some “diamond” studded fake tapers (I bought them before I actually started stretching, and if I didn’t wear them now I probably never would) and a key necklace my brother made for me many years ago.
DJ: Music wasn’t involved in this particular vow renewal, but if it had been I would have DJ-ed myself with the help of an iPhone. 0$
Photography: Mr. Strange brought his fancy camera along and we all took turns shooting each other with it. More time would have been nice for this, but oh well. 0$
Food and alcohol: We were at a restaurant and all ordered for ourselves. As a gift, my dad covered the two of us on his bill. So with that, 0$
Wedding cake: We could have ordered dessert with our meal, but we were all full. If this had been a bigger event, I would have bought a lot of cupcakes. But as it stands, 0$
Venue: It does get used for “real” weddings frequently, but as far as our small group was concerned this was little more than some people going to dinner. We also didn’t ask for any special set-up, so the venue fee was 0$.
Officiant: As ours was not a legally binding ceremony, we printed our original wedding ceremony, changed a few words, and had it read by a very good friend. 0$
Other: Vow renewals don’t have wedding parties, which means no bridesmaid’s dresses, groomsmen’s suits, and other various things. While real weddings usually have these things, they’re not a necessity. If you’re broke, consider keeping the wedding party to a minimum and letting them wear their own clothes.
Flowers: this was literally the only true expense in our entire event. They came from the grocery store, and I tied them with gold ribbon from the dollar store. total cost: $22.
That’s it! Sunday morning we got up and went to the Pancake House for brunch, and while we ate Mr. Strange Googled on his phone (he’s such a rude fuck) for an open florist nearby. None were open, so, we headed to the grocery store. I had a small pink and white bouquet in mind, but grocery stores are not usually known for their wide flower selection. What they did have, I think since it was Pride day and it’s huge here, were half-dozen bouquets of rainbow-colored roses for $20. At the dollar store next door I bought two little spools of gold ribbon. When we got home I slightly shortened the stems and wrapped them tightly in the ribbon. DIY florist-ing, bitches!
If you’re curious how this is done and/or want to make some for yourself (of course you do), you start with white roses. Split the bottom of the stem into as many pieces as you want colors, and put each piece into a separate vessel of water, each with a different color of food coloring. As the roses drink up the water, they’ll soak up the color too, and 24 hours and some unicorn farts later, you’ve got yourself the coolest damn roses ever and a whole new way to honor Pride.
So anyway, I did my own hair in a very simple earthy style with just loose curls and a couple pieces on the sides pulled back with my hair vine pinned across the back, and did my own makeup with a little more care than usual. Mike got dressed too and we drove to the venue where we met up with my dad and the rest of our guests.
Pineridge Hollow is such a charming little place that I was a little bit sad I hadn’t known about it years ago. It was perfect, exactly what I’d always wanted. Simple, pretty, rustic, full of character, and with a huge outdoor element. Someone else was having a full-on wedding reception in a large tent behind the main building, but it was somewhat tucked away and none of us were in each others way – the area we were in had nobody in it but us. On the lawn and among the scenery we were able to spot no less than 7 wedding arches where a ceremony could be held, including stone steps, beautiful benches and chairs, and a small artificial pond with a little waterfall and a bridge crossing over it into a small space enclosed by… what would you call that? It was like a room made of branches with a couple lanterns hanging from the ceiling. It was the perfect size for our little group, and made it feel wonderfully intimate, so that’s the spot we chose. Theresa, who was my maid of honor at our wedding, read our original though slightly edited ceremony. It was meaningful but it was pleasantly short, just under 10 minutes or so. When it was over we high-fived. It was great.
We all goofed off with the camera for a bit, and at 6pm we headed in for dinner. We were lead upstairs to a minimalist room with hardwood floors, exposed rafters in the high ceilings, and huge windows. The food was gorgeous and delicious, and it felt amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were close to us, knowing they were there to help us celebrate our anniversary. It meant the world to me. My only complaint was that the food was painfully slow to arrive. It took an entire hour and a half. WTF! oh well, if that was our only complaint I guess the whole thing worked out pretty damn well.
If I didn’t have such a difficult family situation, which pushed us into eloping, I can honestly say this is exactly what I would have been looking for the first time around. The guest list would have been bigger, we would have sent out proper invitations, and we would have been the ones in the big tent pumping awesome self-DJ-ed tunes. But essentially this was perfect. It was so simple and relaxed we could just focus on how it felt to enjoy each others company. My dad finally got to see us take our vows. It was awesome. I would totally do it again.
Now of course I realize that the chances of anyone recreating this down to the last cent are slim to none, but I hope there are still some ideas in here that you may find helpful. The most important thing about planning a wedding is to prioritize. Think about what really matters to you, focus on that and don’t sweat the rest. Your wedding is over so damn fast, but hopefully your marriage lasts forever.
*Goddamn, that Asterisk makes this look like a shady sales deal. I promise it’s nothing sinister. I just need to mention that if yours is a legal ceremony, there will be some fees involved with that. Then probably rings, and maybe your dad won’t buy you dinner. Plus our guests paid for their own food. Really though, when you consider the cost of the average wedding, this amount is quite negligible.