Travel blogger and Bridechilla Graduate Monica share all of the details of planning her wedding to husband Kane in Ventura, California at the Olivas Adobe, a beautiful historic Spanish ranch house (hacienda) from the 1800s.
People always say, “it goes by so fast,” but I didn’t really understand that until we got married; it was a beautiful, joyous blur of happiness and love. On the day of the wedding, I kept saying, “my heart feels so full it could burst.” Anyway enough of the mushy stuff, here’s my recap that can, hopefully, help some Chillas through the planning process.
Details of the wedding:
The budget was 10k, but we ended up spending just under. The guest list was short and sweet because we are an international couple (American and Australian), 47 people, not including us. Catering was a taco truck that went wonderfully, but if the wedding was bigger might not have been fast enough, keep this in mind for bigger weddings contemplating food trucks. Alcohol was a self-service bar (aka coolers) that my mom worried about but was well received (and saved us lots of money).Okay now for the things I absolutely LOVED:
1) Switching my dress three months before the wedding:
I originally bought a beautiful silk slip dress that I still love, but realized would be too much work at an outdoor wedding in a dirt courtyard (it would show every bit of sweat, dirt, and wrinkle). After heeing and hawing I bit the bullet and bought a bridesmaid’s skirt (Hampton) and shirt (Becky top) from BHLDN to wear instead because it would allow me more freedom to dance. It was the best decision ever because before I even got a bite of my tacos I dropped salsa all over it (don’t drop a ladle back into ANYTHING on your wedding day) and due to the different layers of the dress and some quick application of a Tide To Go pen (bring one of these!) all of the BRIGHT RED salsa came out without anyone being able to tell. It also looked bomb in dancing photos, and the best bit was…I wasn’t worried about it. I danced my ass off, got the bottom three inches covered in dirt, and didn’t care one bit. I think this is my best bit of advice for weddings, if you’re thinking about a dress you’ll have to baby all night, put it back and pick something you can rock out it and not worry (or do a ceremony and reception dress, I didn’t because that just wasn’t me, but this would solve the problem).
2) Gratuitous use of the Fuck It Bucket:
Things we put in the FIB, parent dances, elaborate wedding dress, large bridal party (just MOH and best man for us), long guest list (under 50 people allowed us to talk to everyone and still enjoy our wedding), garter and bouquet tosses, sit down meal (we met in Guatemala and spent the first 6 months of our relationship in Central America and Mexico, so tacos were the only logical choice), not seeing each other day of (hell we walked in together), and many more.
3) Sticking to our guns and only including things in the wedding that fit with us as a couple and were fun:
One of our good family friends called our wedding a “no bullshit wedding” and I couldn’t be more proud. Many, many people had a lot of opinions about our wedding because it was clear from the beginning that I was not going to do traditions for tradition’s sake, but those very same people LOVED our wedding and told us repeatedly how much fun it was. Basically, stay true to yourselves, and you’ll have a blast.
4) Our wedding venue
Our non-traditional venue was so perfect for the vibe of our wedding that I loved it for the things that would make many people dislike it (dirt floor, outside, difficult lighting) and wouldn’t change a thing (but I will talk about this more in the things to consider section, because parts of the venue did make things harder).
5) Our food:
Even though you’ll likely be so hopped up on adrenaline that your appetite completely disappears get wedding food you love to eat. My husband loves tacos almost as much as he loves me, so we got a taco truck (and saved heaps of money as it was only $450 for 50 people). I also loved that instead of traditional centerpieces I put little-potted succulents in the center of the table with the flag of the table’s name in it (I named our tables after countries we visited on our first trip together) and surrounded that with bowls of chips, guac, and salsa. People raved about the quick access to tasty food (i.e., they didn’t have to wait to start eating because there were snacks on the tables).
6) Our ceremony:
I honestly hadn’t thought that the ceremony would be one of my favorite parts of the wedding, but it was so amazing. My dad’s Unitarian Universalist Reverend married us, and she knocked it out of the park. We met with her twice before the wedding to make sure our ideologies meshed (I was raised Christian but am more of a spiritual Unitarian with a Buddhist bent and my husband was not raised in any church so is very uncomfortable with God talk). I HIGHLY recommend doing this, because it helped her get to know us and she made the ceremony so personal and special because of it. Also, one thing to consider, I was debating between having a friend do it and having the reverend and am really glad we picked the reverend because she’s already comfortable with public speaking and it took stress off my friend who could then just enjoy herself.
7) Writing our own vows:
‘m a writer, so this was a no-brainer for me, but much harder for my husband. He researched vows for two weeks before the wedding and was very worried he wouldn’t compare, but he did an amazing job!!! I was trying really hard not to cry, but hearing his vows did me in. It was so special to keep that little bit secret from each other (also because we didn’t really keep anything else secret lol) and I wouldn’t change a bit. I’m also really happy we get to keep our written vows to look back on.
8) Getting a DJ:
This was another one that I waffled on because of cost, but I’m so glad we spent the money (which in the end wasn’t heaps, because my mom worked with someone who DJs on the side and he did the ceremony and reception for $300). While a Spotify playlist could totally work, dancing was really important to us and having a person reading the room really helps to keep people on the dance floor. Also having a real live person doing music rather than a playlist means you don’t have to worry about it, you can just enjoy. Oh and I really liked sending him a massive playlist (about 100 songs) of songs I love so that I could have a bit of input on the music, but then on the day of give up control and just dance.
9) Non-traditional venues are more work:
We went non-traditional because I have a strong irrational hatred of ballrooms and couldn’t see getting married anywhere inside, but it did end up being a lot more work than an all-inclusive. We had an amazing group of family and friends to help us pull it off (seriously we didn’t lift a finger the day of because I had heaps of spreadsheets to hand off to them to answer questions for me) but if you don’t have a big group of people you can really count on I’d suggest either a) an all-inclusive or b) a wedding planner/coordinator.
10) Wedding planners/coordinators:
I planned our whole wedding weekend by myself in 4 months while in grad school, so I’m not entirely sold on the need for a wedding planner, but I can see the value if you have the money (we didn’t) and don’t like spreadsheets (I you Google Spreadsheets). As for the wedding coordinator I can definitely see the value in this one, but as we didn’t have the budget for it and I have amazing friends one of my very best friends (who is a mechanical engineer and very detail oriented) did our day of coordinating. She did a knock out job and even organized a surprise send-off for us (I had been planning to stay and help pick up), but not everyone has someone like this, and I would have died without her. She was the single most important person in pulling off the wedding and allowing us to enjoy it, so either have an awesome friend who you trust with everything or pay someone, just don’t do it yourselves otherwise I could see stress ruining the day.
Our venue didn’t have great lighting, which I didn’t realize until after we’d signed the contract. Luckily, my dad is a general contractor and built our whole lighting set up from scratch. If he hadn’t been able to do this we’d be out at least another $3,000 to rent lighting and our budget would be beyond blown. Also, if you’re doing a self-service bar designated at least one person to periodically re-fill drink jugs and open wine bottles, somehow people seem not to be able to do this themselves.And last but not least, extra stuff that not every wedding needs, but that made ours wonderful:
12) Renting a giant guest house on the ocean for young out of towners (and my husband and I) for the whole wedding weekend:
This did take up like $2,400 of our budget, but it was so worth it to have a wedding base camp where everyone could hang out to enjoy the beach during the wedding weekend. It came with kayaks, surfboards, and paddleboards and one of my favorite memories is taking a quick paddle with my FH (now husband) and best man before our rehearsal dinner, which we then turned up to in our swimsuits because we went for longer than we thought. It was a great moment, taking tequila shots in swimsuits on the deck with all our friends and family dressed up (ish we’re still casual people) for the rehearsal dinner.
13) Having a wedding weekend:
Traditional weddings are about 6 hours long, and if you think about it that’s 6 hours to catch up with all your nearest and dearest and if your wedding is an average size wedding (say 100 people) that’s like 3.6 minutes per person, aka NOT ENOUGH. I loved having the whole weekend to chat with all my people that traveled so far (from Alaska, Australia, Massachusetts, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, and Ohio) to celebrate with us. Even with our little 50 person wedding if I only had the wedding day it wouldn’t have been enough time will all my people.One last tip for those of you who have stuck with me until now (I know it’s long, go you for reading!): all the things you worried about for months leading up to the day will vanish into thin air on your wedding day. I worried incessantly about the dress, my hair, my make up (was it enough, was it too much, and round and round), etc. and when it came to the day of I didn’t give two craps. The wind messed up my hair within two seconds of getting to the venue, I spilled salsa all over my dress, and my flower crown broke on the dance floor (my friend fixed it with bobby pins, and it lasted the rest of the night) but none of them mattered and couldn’t begin to touch the happiness and love that I felt that night marrying my best friend surrounded by all the people that I love so dearly!
Monica and Kane’s Rockstar Vendors
Photographer – Stephanie KlotzVenue – The Olivas Adobe Historical Park Rentals – Ventura RentalsFlowers – Skyline FlowersHair and Make Up – Christina Lee Food – Tacos Arandas and Casa de Soria (for chips, salsa, and guac)Cake – Nothing Bundt Cakes
I’m Monica, a backpacker originally from the United States who got bit by the travel bug at age 15 and 35 countries later, is still affected.
My story starts out like so many other travel bloggers out there, I graduated from university, hopped on a plane for a 3 month European adventure that would be my first taste of the backpacker lifestyle and thought that would be it. I thought I would finish my gap year between undergraduate school and graduate school with my taste for the world satisfied, that craving dealt with, but I was wrong. Three months in Europe turned into six months in Guatemala, then a month and a half traveling the rest of Central America, and now I find myself in Australia with a work and holiday visa. So much for the go to graduate school, get a career, and settle down plan.
I have been blogging since 2013, with my first blog being a little account of my study abroad experience in Mendoza, Argentina. Since then I have kept track of my travels on a simple WordPress blog, A Post Bac in Wanderlust, but after following a few of the many travel blogs out there I decided I had something to add to the noise that is the travel blogging world, thus this site was born. My aim with this site is to write the posts that I wish I had been able to read about a few of the many topics you’ll come across while traveling and to inspire the next intrepid traveler to take the plunge into this wild world. Enjoy and happy traveling!