When most people get engaged, they generally have an idea of where they want to get married. I love Houston and while I always assumed I’d do it there, when I learned that Chris wanted a small wedding (we’re talking like 50 people kind of small), I knew a Houston wedding was out of the question. Between my eight bridesmaids (and their husbands / dates), which took up 16 of my 25 potential slots, and my mom’s list that I was sure would include everyone in Houston from my middle school band teacher to our favorite waiter at Denny’s, a 50-person wedding was simply unrealistic.
Chris was also all about a courthouse wedding too. Quick, easy, and inexpensive (he’s very practical). I wouldn’t say that I’m less practical, but I knew that my wedding vision didn’t quite involve a courthouse either… so I investigated destination wedding locations and fell in love with so many beautiful options (so if you’re thinking about a destination wedding, let me know and I can give you the top places I loved the most!). Destination weddings are still tricky too, though, and I wanted to make sure that all the people I loved could make it to celebrate with us.
At the time, I was working in New York and commuting back to DC every weekend where Chris was based. And between living in different places and also planning a wedding in a separate location (because who needs a wedding planner when you’re super anal about all the details), the process became stressful. I get eczema when I get stressed and I was dealing with some serious thyroid issues at the time too, so we decided to have a simple wedding for two with no guests (not even our parents). I didn’t want anyone to miss our wedding either though, so in true Ashley form I decided to live stream our wedding to all our friends and family so they could watch us get married from wherever they were.
I can’t say that this wedding route really saved us a ton of money; I still very much thought of it as a wedding and planned it as such, and we also hosted a party in Houston afterwards and a BBQ in Maryland. Our friends tell us though that to this day, it was the best wedding they ever attended! So if you want all the details of how I pulled our wedding together, keep reading!
Believe it or not, finding a place to get married was probably one of the most challenging pieces of pulling off our guestless experience. Since we were planning to live stream our wedding, that basically meant that this couldn’t be just a typical wedding – it needed creative touches everywhere. And it needed accessibility to internet and power – things that not all locations can provide. We decided to do it in New York City, because that’s where I was living at the time and it was full of so many cool possibilities.
I love rooftops and terraces, and wanted a place that could combine the two together to serve as our venue for the wedding. New York City has hundreds of rooftop options, so I knew it was literally going to be like finding a needle in the haystack. I narrowed my venue search to three properties: The Gansevoort Hotel (Park Ave), The W Hotel (Lexington Ave), and The Wythe Hotel (Brooklyn). I’ll spare you the details for now (and probably write up a separate post later on what I loved about each property), but the short of it is that I ultimately didn’t go with any of those properties.
Instead, I went with a small boutique hotel, The Broome Hotel, which had just opened that February and only has 14 rooms. This hotel, located in SoHo, has so many cool elements that make it special like its cutout foyer and brick walls mixed with clean, modern elements. We reserved one night in their penthouse suite, which came with the cutest terrace. While it wasn’t the largest terrace I saw, it had so much charm and the staff even replanted all the plants around the terrace three weeks before our wedding and hung string lights to enhance the scenery.
The general manager (Sasha) and her entire staff were so amazing and very accommodating of what we were trying to do, and it was even more special that we got to be their very first wedding given that they had only been open for three months and hadn’t even thought about the possibility of having weddings at their hotel.
As I mentioned above, this simple wedding still very much needed many of the same elements that a regular wedding has that contributes to making the day memorable. Now there were things that I didn’t care much about (like flowers), so I kept costs in check by keeping those things minimal and spent money on the things that mattered most.
The Videographer. You would think that this would’ve been the most challenging vendor to find, but since I didn’t know of anyone else that had previously live streamed their wedding I had no idea of where to start. So, I submitted a project request on Thumbtack.
Within 24 hours, I had received three quotes – one really cheap quote that seemed super sketch, one crazy expensive quote that seemed unreasonable, and one right in the middle. Like Goldilocks, I went with the one in the middle (Intrigue Studios) and it worked out beautifully. Upon further reflection, I probably should’ve been more concerned about this part of the process given that the whole wedding concept hinged on this company, but Nathaniel said he could do it so I just trusted that he would and kept it moving.
Not only did they do an amazing job, but he also created the sweetest video trailer as a bonus for us too. And for less than $500, Nathaniel helped us share our special day with family and friends in California, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, DC, New York, and everywhere in between.
The Photographer. There are so many wedding photographer options in New York that this process was initially a little overwhelming. Since we were in a unique situation where we didn’t require a full 8-hour package, it was a little hard to get photographers on board with our vision. It wasn’t until one of the photographers that I initially reached out to referred me to Laura Pennace Photography that I felt I had found a match.
One of the things I loved most about Laura was that she specializes in elopements and surprise marriage proposals. Capturing intimate moments between just two people was her thing, and I knew she would be able to help us capture the wedding with photos that allow us to continue to relive our special night years later.
She was fast too – since we were already planning to have our Houston party a month after the wedding, I wanted wedding images on the website by the time everyone received their invites. Within 24 hours of our wedding, she supplied us with six teaser images that she had edited for us to use on our RSVP website. Laura shared a bunch of our wedding photos on her site so if you want to see more photos, click here.
The Musicians. With our whole no guest strategy, setting up a playlist for our music seemed like such a complicated process. Questions like “Who will press play and pause when I walk out?” didn’t really provide me with answers I liked, so we decided to hire musicians to play at our wedding. Now this was an area that Chris felt wasn’t quite essential to the process or budget, so the pressure was on to do this at as low of a cost as possible.
Rather than searching for professional musicians, I called The New School (Parsons) and Juilliard to see if I could get student musicians to play at our wedding. I had done something similar when I worked at LSU and needed a harpist for an event I was coordinating and it had worked out beautifully. Juilliard wasn’t available, but two violinists from the Mannes School of Music at the New School were! Since they were students, their rates were significantly cheaper than professional musicians, and they loved getting real playing experience too.
The staff at The New School gave me some excellent guidance on song selections, and the violinists were able to provide pre-ceremony music for our guests as they were signing on to the live stream to know they were in the right place (as well as the ceremony music for us too!).
Including Chris and I, there were a total of nine people on our terrace when we got married: two violinists, two videographers, one photographer, the officiant, and one witness (my cousin Jameilah from New York).
The Fun Stuff
Once the venue, photographer, videographer, and officiant were squared away, all the other details were areas where I could really have some fun with our concept.
My Dress. I knew that a traditional wedding dress wouldn’t suit this ceremony and I’d always had this idea about just simply wearing a designer gown as my wedding gown. I wanted something that was simple and clean lined with a modern silhouette. Luckily, at the time, I was working for Ralph Lauren and a few times a year they would hold sample sales exclusively for its corporate employees with crazy major deals. I found my wedding dress at one of those sample sales for $150 – it was a Ralph Lauren Collection dress that had been cut from the runway collection at the last minute so it’s the only one of that style. My body was a far cry from model dimensions so the alterations costs more than the dress and I made a few tweaks (like lowering the V neck in the front – by a lot!) but I love that my dress is a reminder of the great times I had working at Ralph Lauren. I added a belt that I got from here, borrowed earrings and a bracelet from my coworker Desirre that she wore at her wedding, and topped it all off with the Jimmy Choo ARI pump in yellow (because that was my way of being practical – I could totally wear my yellow pumps again after the wedding).
His Suit. Chris went back and forth over whether to rent a tux but ultimately decided he wanted a suit he could keep and wear again (because, practical). He wanted something fun and the first time he opened a Ted Baker suit and saw the fun, unexpected lining typically included he was sold. We both love gray so he chose a gray suit for the big day, and because he didn’t care about the color of his tie I selected a Ralph Lauren Purple Label fuchsia tie because fuchsia is my favorite color and I felt that every man should own at least one Purple Label tie in his lifetime. His shoes were also by Ralph Lauren too because … work perks.
Save The Dates. A live streamed wedding never happened if no one watched it, so we knew that we needed to give people some notice about the ceremony. A simple typed email seemed too basic but a mailed save the date seemed super confusing, so I had an image created and we sent out a Save-The-eDate via email and text. In my mind, our wedding was kind of an elopement but everyone basically knew about what was happening already, and so many of my friends had already threatened to pop up at the actual wedding. As a tribute to those friends, I ordered this design from BlueGreenBlueDesign on Etsy and tweaked it slightly so it would work for us. The design included the latitude and longitude coordinates for The Broome Hotel, and I said that anyone who could figure out the location using those coordinates was welcome to attend. No one showed up.
Post Announcements + Party Invites. I found WhatchawantDesign on Etsy a while back and always loved how amazing her lettering skills were. So when the time came to design our announcement + party invite, I already knew I wanted her to do them. The thing is, Kelly hand paints details onto these huge chalk like boards and they’re typically used for displays (not as individual invites). For our signs, she shrunk the scaling of her boards down by quite a bit to make it easier for us to photograph them to scale and get them printed, and those signs are now hanging in our dining room. I got really lucky with the fact that she is located in Prairieville, Louisiana, which is right next to Baton Rouge (where I used to live), so with a little bribing, I got one friend to pick the signs up and another friend to photograph the boards using a professional camera. I had them printed via Vista Print, and hand addressed the envelopes myself. I also bought a cute custom address stamp for the backs of the envelopes. All the cards went out the day of our wedding so that they would arrive after the ceremony.
Post Wedding Decor. Chris and I decided that rather than going out to dinner after our wedding, we’d simply order food in and enjoy it on that pretty terrace. Naturally that meant we needed decorations, right?! I didn’t go crazy since it was just us two, but I found the cutest party rental company and spent $50 on renting a table runner, cake stand, and a few ceramic planters / lanterns to help jazz up the place a little. I bought my cake topper off Etsy so we could keep it afterwards, but everything else went back in the box the next morning and our hotel took care of shipping it off for us. I also used that same company to rent stands and décor for our dessert table at our Houston party too!
Wedding Registries. Since Chris and I weren’t inviting people to an actual wedding, we did not initially create wedding registries because we honestly didn’t think people would think about gifts (and we already had a fully stocked kitchen and home and really didn’t need much). Our friends and family, however, wouldn’t take no gift for an answer though so with three days until our wedding I finally created two wedding registries – Crate & Barrel and Zola. In retrospect, I’m actually really happy we had such persistent people in our lives that forced these registries into existence because our wedding registry process is how I first stumbled upon Neat Method (it was a gift option on Newlywish, another wedding registry option I considered)! Our Zola wedding website is still live (crazy!) so here is the link in case you’re looking for some wedding registry inspiration. Warning: it’s quite random.
Party RSVP Collection. We got married on May 17, 2014 and were planning a big party in Houston on June 21, 2014, which only gave us one month from the time our guests received their party invites to the actual event. At the time, I would always get NYC event party invites to RSVP for through this site called Splash That, so I knew it would be perfect for managing my RSVPs for our event. I was able to upload our wedding guest list spreadsheet and send reminder emails, and they could go there to quickly enter their RSVP for the event so we could get a count for food. I also loved the visibility that Splash That’s dashboard gave me into who had opened their emails and other statistics that allowed me to monitor everything with ease. The site also became our unofficial wedding site too, that held information about our registries, where to watch the wedding online if they’d missed it, and how to upload their photos from watching the ceremony.
Wedding Meal. We knew that we’d order dinner afterwards and given that ordering in was a daily ritual for me in New York, I gave this portion of the process very little thought. After the wedding, I tried to call this fancy Italian place a friend had recommended. Three phone calls to the restaurant later (followed by three very long hold periods and subsequent hang ups), I pulled out my phone and ordered Olive Garden via Postmates. I’m not sure how we managed to spend $63 on dinner for two at Olive Garden (I mean, my rentals cost less than the food!) but I’m not a fancy food person in general so it couldn’t have been a more perfect food selection for me. Our hotel was the sweetest too – they plated our Olive Garden meal, heated it up and brought it to us on trays. We had a small cake made from Magnolia Bakery for dessert, and drank tons of wine that we picked up ahead of time.
Weddings have so many details that go into them, and even for our fancy elopement style wedding that same level of planning was still necessary to help make our day so amazing.
Our simple wedding for two was still complete with all the traditional celebrations – I had three bachelorette parties, my coworkers threw me a surprise wedding shower, our post wedding party in Houston had signature cocktails and an open bar, and we honeymooned in Puerto Rico at the W Vieques Island.
Five years later, I still think it was the best night ever.