Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy anniversary, little sis!

One year ago today I was elbow deep in frosting, while simultaneously freaking out because we had somehow managed to lose the blow dryer and I was supposed to be at the church in 15 minutes and I had wet hair. Ah, weddings.

I had never been much of a wedding person before my little sister announced she was engaged and asked me to help out with the planning. I hope she doesn't mind that I dove in and took over - she was sweet and relaxed and not terribly interested in the minutiae, so we put together a very simple, family and friend oriented afternoon ceremony, followed by a dessert and champagne reception in his parent's backyard.

Wedding details (feel free to skip over if you are not at all into this sort of thing) - tomorrow I will be back with the cake recipe, which you will love, even if you are not into weddings at all:

Clothes: My sister wore a gorgeously simple cream colored lace sheath dress that Em and I helped her pick out at Macy*s for less than $200 - no alterations, but my mom added a little band of black velvet ribbon under the bustline. I was her only attendant and I wore one of my favorite J. Crew dresses and my mom made a cummerbund in the same silvery grey as the flower girls' skirts (also made by mom). Sis wore barely any jewelery - just a delicate cameo necklace (we have matching ones from when our parents traveled through Italy after they first got married!).


Food: I'll post food details later this week. We used favorite family recipes to make tons and tons (seriously, tons) of cookies, adhering to the basic color scheme of black and white. I also made hundreds of mini cupcakes. We had copious amounts of champagne and sparkling cider. I wish I had another picture of the dessert tables, because this one is low res and it was taken after people had already started stuffing their faces. Tip: We didn't have a professional photographer at the reception and we got gorgeous photos from family and friends, but they don't usually think to take any detail pictures. If you want detail pictures, make sure to ask (kindly) someone specific to take them.


Location: The ceremony was held in a little chapel up the street from the groom's parents' home (the one my sister always wanted to get married in). We all grew up in the same neighborhood, so it was a mere mile from my parents' house, making logistics much easier. The reception was held in the groom's parents' (thankfully large) backyard.

We rented tables and plain white tablecloths from a local rental company. My darling, far too generous friend Kristin helped me pick out flowers (vast amounts of white hydrangeas, with dusty miller and other accents plucked from my mom's yard) and make simple clusters of them in low vases for the tables. (Kris and my other high school girls are awesome, because they showed up the night before the wedding and cheerfully helped arrange and pack flowers for the low, low price of a couple of pizzas - I love you guys!). Between the vases, we spread trails of glossy black river rocks.

Halfway through setting up, the morning of the wedding

The cake: This was a whole category in itself. My sister picked a recipe from Martha Stewart and my mom and I made it the day before the wedding (and iced it the day of). Luckily, this cake was super forgiving and easy to work with, besides being delicious. Recipe coming tomorrow!

My mom and stepdad kindly transported the cake to the reception while we finished up taking pictures at the chapel. Can I just say I am so glad that I wasn't there to witness this moment? I think I would have had a heart attack watching the cake get moved. That sucker was heavy.


Here I am cutting the cake, after the top tier had been whisked away for storage. I have no idea why I look so concerned. I think I was trying to figure out how big to make the slices.


Approximately 125 people attended. I'm always curious about how these things break down, so here's what we spent.

Rentals: $917 (included tables, linens, chairs, coffee cups + saucers, champagne glasses, plates, forks, delivery charge and tax)
Food: $400 (includes ingredients for thousands of home made cookies, plus all the stuff for making the cake, including cake pans)
Drink: $450 (we ordered 70 bottles of decent champagne ($7.50 per bottle) at BevMo. They have great prices and they allow you to return unopened bottles, which was great because we ended up only using 60 bottles)
Flowers, etc: $250 (for bulk hydrangeas, plus buying the vases, the ribbon for the bouquets and the river rocks)
Invitations: $300 (including invitation, inserts, envelopes and postage for 150 invites. We designed our own invitations, shopped around for nice paper, and printed them on our printer - this would have been even cheaper if I had more experience, because I messed up a few times and bought stuff we didn't need)
Dress: $200, plus another $50 for the material for the flower girl skirts, my cummerbund, and the boys' ties, all made by mom. Oh, and $50 for an adorable pair of black Mary Janes that went perfectly with the sweet little wedding dress.

This is one of my favorite photos of them that day, taken candidly right before they walked into the reception. She just looks so quiet and contemplative (and lovely).

There were other random incidentals that came up, so I don't know the real total, just that it clocked in under $5000, including the exorbitant cost of the private chapel ($1200 for just 2 hours of use time, but it was my sis's dream location) and the vintage rings they found for each other at an antique dealer in our hometown.

Of course, we did all the work ourselves, so I don't really know how to come up with a cost for that. I loved planning this wedding, but it convinced me that wedding planners more than earn their money. This took major planning, thinking ahead, researching, dozens of my nerdy organizational spreadsheets, plus a scale drawing of the backyard layout in AutoCad. We had three families (ours, the grooms, and D's) and innumerable friends helping out, which was amazing, and fun, and more than a little crazy. Everything was simple and a true labor of love. No one seemed to mind not having plated service or a wedding band. We forgot to toss the bouquet. No one cared. After we saw off the happy couple (they camped out on the beach for their honeymoon), lots of people stayed to help clean up a bit and someone ran out and ordered massive amounts of In'n'Out burgers and fries and we all sprawled around and finished off more champagne. Then D drove me home and I slept for the next 24 hours straight.


P.S. I did not have to walk down the aisle with wet hair. My brother, terrified by my incipient temper tantrum, ran next door and borrowed a blow dryer from the neighbors.


  1. I'm in awe! This is a fabulous list/make-up of your sisters wedding! It was quite the affair and so beautiful. I'm quite impressed with the frugality and the creativity. The cake. is. amazing! :)

  2. love the van photo!very nice. Beautiful wedding.

  3. I am SO impressed. This wedding looks like absolute perfection. And the fact that you did it all yourselves on such an incredible budget is just the icing on the cake (no pun intended!)

  4. You are an incredible big sister. I love it all. This was the first time I've seen a picture of the cake, and it is sooo sweet! I have always been inspired by your handiwork. xoxo

  5. i'm still in awe of all the work you did and how beautifully everything turned out. not to mention, this post must be ridiculously helpful for those who are planning a wedding!

  6. what a sweet and beautiful celebration you guys put together- i always admire weddings where the family does a lot of things on their own, it's so refreshing!

  7. Planning any events especially weddings can be crazy but it looks like you had it all under control. You did a beautiful job! I love the personal touch to a very special day! I would have been out of my mind I love sweets and champagne. What a great sister you are to wear many hats for the day. Are you sure you don't want to move to the Chicago area? I am craving one of your cookies, cupcakes anything!!! MMMM...
    I can't wait to see the recipes.

  8. What a STUNNING dress. I am really impressed. The whole wedding looks gorgeous. Happy 1 year to your sister! :)

  9. congrat to your sis. it's great to have a big sis like you.

  10. everyting looks looovely! i can't wait for the cake recipe. ;-)

  11. ok, first of all you and your sis are GORGEOUS! I want both of your dresses! Such a sweet post...makes me miss my little sister...xxoo

  12. perfection, so beautiful. i'm hiring you as a wedding planner ;)

  13. I am so very impressed by this beautiful, cassy, homemade wedding. I wish more had this feel!

  14. I am in tears, what a fine and fabulous family.
    Each of you are amazing. I of course think your Mom rubbed off in so many positive ways!
    That cake is amazing!

  15. So simple but really beautiful. You did a lovely job.

  16. How magical!! What a wonderful, beautiful wedding -- made all the more special with the contributions from friends and family.

  17. What a very sweet wedding! Love her dress, the bouquet, the van! and of course the cake!!

  18. holy mackeral i love reading your blog. i feel like i am spending time with a good friend. thanks for taking the time to share good things with your faceless, sometimes nameless readers. kathi

  19. please tell me, are those oreo's filled in that glass thing? omg, oreos are the best invention.
    I am in awe of your sheer genius.

  20. I just discovered your blog :) I love everything about your sister's wedding and her dress is beautiful! I can't wait till my little sister gets married :)

  21. this is awesome. im in the midst of trying to plan my own wedding now, and am making every effort to not waste money and do things ourselves.

    can i ask what you did for music during the reception? im trying to figure out this whole "be your own dj" thing. any advice is appreciated!

    - emily

  22. Great post! Your cake looked amazing.

  23. I LOVE that your step-dad is wearing an apron with his name on it! I absolutely love your blog and am currently reading through all your posts. Such a beautiful and well-lived life is inspiring!

  24. Any chance you would be willing to share those spreadsheets you used for the cookies? I'm looking to do something like that for my wedding for the long period of time in between my ceremony and reception. I will admit I'm not the best when it comes to excel, so I would really appreciate it if you would share.

  25. @ Courtney - I need to sit down and figure out a good way to make the spreadsheets available to people. Thanks for the reminder! I'll try to work on it this week.

  26. This is all just so awesome. Well done!


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