Trois Estate Wedding

Chapel Dulcinea: The Free Austin Wedding Venue (and Other Places to Have Your Wedding That Are Cheaper Than One Month of Austin’s Rent)

Forty-Five million dollars. That’s the cost of one month’s rent in Austin, TX.  Just kidding (though it feels like it more and more everyday). That’s actually the estimated cost of the most recent Royal Wedding. Can you imagine what you could do with forty-five million? Here’s a short list to get you thinking:

  1. Have P. Diddy host your company party for the next 45 years (yes, his event fee is $1 million).
  2. You can buy almost 2 super yachts that come with super cars and a parking dock for the cars (The Strand Craft Super Yacht will cost you about $25 million).
  3. Buy (40) 300-year-old Bonsai trees (The most expensive Bonsai tree in the world cost about $1.2 million).
  4. You could buy 35 bottles of the most expensive champagne in the world (Gout de Diamants Champagne, which was sold for $1.2 million).

Okay, so if you have no desire to spend that much money on your wedding or on P.Diddy’s hosting abilities, then this blog post is for you. Unless you are on your way to becoming the next Duke or Duchess in the U.K, your wedding doesn’t need to cost $45 million dollars.  In fact, one of the most expensive bills in your wedding planning, (the venue), doesn’t have to cost you anything.  Below is a list of venues in Austin that are free or at least cheaper than one months’ rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Austin.  With all that money you save, you can hire me!

Trois Estate Wedding

Chapel Dulcinea

Location: 16221 Crystal Hills Drive, Crystal Hill Dr, Austin, TX 78737

Fee: $0

None, absolutely free.  However, there is a $200 no-show deposit required for weddings Monday-Thursday and a $400 no-show free required for Friday –Saturday weddings.  The fee is refunded the day you show up for the wedding but can also be given as a donation.

About:  

In 2005, Chapel Dulcinea became the first Free Wedding Chapel in the world. When Roy and Pennie were married in 1976, they held their rehearsal dinner in an Oklahoma Pizza Hut and it took all the money they had. Their dream of a free wedding chapel is one of the ways they’ve chosen to lend a helping hand to happy couples in love who may be starting out as financially strapped as they were. The venue is located in Southwest Austin and overlooks the beautiful Hill Country.

Reasons you should use this venue:

First of all, did you hear that it was free?  Okay, but seriously the place is gorgeous, it overlooks the hill country and there is a room available to get dressed in prior to the wedding.  The only two downfalls I can see is for one, the fact that it is an outside venue and you are totally dependent on the weather, so with the unpredictable Texas climate, you have to choose your date wisely.  The second issue is that this venue is really only for you if you are planning a small intimate wedding.  There is not much seating available, so if you have more than 25 or so guests, they have to be prepared to stand.  If a quaint wedding in outdoors is in your plans with your nearest and dearest, this might be the spot for you.

Mercury Hall Wedding

Zilker Park Clubhouse

Location:  Zilker Clubhouse Rd, Austin, TX 78746

Fee:  $1350 for ceremony and reception. 

This included includes 12 hours of event time including set up and clean up time. A refundable security deposit of $300 is required. A $20 private party permit is required for amplified music.

About:

Zilker Clubhouse is a beautiful stone clubhouse with a rock patio and spacious concrete terrace. With the views of downtown Austin as your backdrop, and a rustic ranch-style lodge as your indoor space, it’s a beautiful location to host a wedding. The location is designed to host up to 150 guests and there is both indoor and outdoor space.

Reasons you should use this venue:

Reason #1, the venue fee is cheaper than the cost of one month’s rent in most of the city.  But also, if you want a venue that is set up for both indoor and outdoor events and is still in the city overlooking beautiful downtown Austin, this is your spot.  If you can afford a little more than free.99, this should definitely be in your top 3.  One downside of this location is the fact that it does not include a dressing room, but with all the money you save for the venue you could book an Airbnb nearby and that takes care of that. 

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Angel Mountain Events

Location:  178 Pine Tree Loop, Bastrop, TX. 78602

Fee: $1500-$2600

Monday-Thursday are the best days to reserve this venue (or any venue) for the best price. Weddings on those days will run you about $1500.  For weddings held on Friday the rate is $2600 and for Saturdays the event center will run you closer to the price of a really, really nice 2-bedroom apartment ($3000).

About:

From the website: Angel Mountain Event Center has approximately 5500 sq. ft of indoor space, to include a Candlelit Chapel, a separate Reception area for dinner & dancing, dressing areas for your wedding party, a caterer’s kitchen, & a scenic 1500 sq. ft. patio, perfect for your outdoor ceremony.

Reasons you should use this venue:

You get a lot of bang for your buck.  This location has both indoor and outdoor space and is slightly outside of Austin so it gives you a more relaxed and quiet location.  The indoor space offers plenty of room and you have a space for dressing. There is a $250 cleaning fee required and a $250 refundable damage fee that will be collected, but even with those prices, the venue still gives you all that you could ask for at a reasonable price.

Choosing one of these venues is sure to keep you away from totally blowing your wedding budget and hey with all that money saved, maybe you could hire P.Diddy for entertainment after all.  But no, really, just hire me.  Or get some goats.  Or both.

Outdoor Austin Wedding Venues

Lauren Lindley is a destination wedding, event and portrait photographer.  She splits her time between Reno-Tahoe in the summer and Austin, TX and New Orleans, LA in the winter.

Senior Pictures

Reasons You Should Have Senior Pictures Taken

It’s finally the time of year when the sun begins to poke its head out again and we have the types of days that lure you out to the city parks.  In addition to the sun creeping out, the retail store shelves have suddenly become lined with stuffed animals bearing a cap and gown and space for signatures and “Oh the Places You’ll Go” books out front.  Not only does this time of year signal the beginning of spring, it’s also a signal that many people are completing an educational milestone. Its graduation season.  Though people graduate throughout the year, May and June tend to be the biggest months for celebrating these accomplishments, with one of the biggest being high school graduations.

High school graduations have come with their own traditions since just about forever.  Some are ancient and over the top, but a few are worth continuing: one of which is senior pictures. Having senior pictures taken is a good idea for several reasons and most of them are extremely unselfish or vain.  So, before you think about skipping out on them, read ahead for a few reasons that you shouldn’t.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 1: The Family

Your family and close friends like having solid proof that all the love and support they have provided to the graduate over the years has actually matriculated into a finished product and a more well-developed person.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even 2nd cousins have watched you grow up and it’s nice to have comparison photos throughout the years.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 2: For Practical Reasons

If you are a proper person or just someone who likes people to receive gifts for their accomplishments, you will likely send out invitations to the graduation ceremony. A nice addition to any graduation invitation is a picture of who is exactly graduating.  Many of your guests may not have seen you in some years, so including a picture will help them put a name to a now-grown-up face. If you slip and miss sending out the photos with the invitations, they can also be saved and sent with the thank you notes.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 3: To Share and Exchange with Friends

I know you may have heard this before, but it is very likely that you (or the graduate) will never see some of these high school friends again. Everyone grows up and moves to different places and chooses different paths in life, so having the ability to exchange photos makes sure they have something to show when they are telling stories about how much of a blast you guys had in physics class. 

Senior Pictures

Reason # 4: To Capture Who You Are at This Moment

As mentioned in reason number 3, you may end up going down many different roads as you progress into adulthood.  Your habits, interest and friends may change, so senior photos are a good opportunity for you to capture exactly who you are in this moment.  Has playing basketball defined your high school years?  Maybe the debate team or spanish club?  No matter what your interests are at this moment, try to capture them in your photos.  Meet your photographer at an empty basketball court and use that as a setting or bring props that have special meaning to you. Make your photo shoot representative of you.

Senior Pictures

Reason # 5: To Celebrate Your Accomplishment!

I would say the most important reason to get those senior photos done, is that it gives you the opportunity to celebrate your own accomplishment!  Finishing high school is a big deal.  We have all been there and know how crazy those 4 (or maybe 5!) years can be, but you have done it and done it well.  That deserves a celebration.  That deserves photos that you can look back on and smile or share with the future graduates that come after you.

Senior Pictures

“No One Danced at the Wedding!”

Tips on Choosing Your Wedding DJ and Music Lineup So You Reception is the Dance Party That It Should Be.

Stevie Wonder, Maroon Five, Journey, JT or Michael Jackson—no matter whose songs you decide to play at your wedding reception, we can all agree that music is important.  Yea, we know your family and friends are partly there to see you tie the knot, but let’s face it 90% of their reason for hitting that RSVP button, was to party like a rockstar with you and your new spouse. And who can resist a good dance party?? Of course, the key here is to make sure that you and your DJ are on the same page and that they are playing music that keeps everyone dancing. Hopefully this post will give you some tips to help you do that and make sure that you’re not left exclaiming, “No One Danced at the Wedding!”

True Story…. I have worked at many a wedding reception where no one danced– that’s right you heard me, not even the ring bearer or flower girls could be bothered to venture out to the dance floor. The DJ was doing his best to be the “Hype Man/Upbeat Emcee” but unfortunately the list of songs given to him by the bride and groom consisted of 92% Backstreet Boys songs on repeat, and 8% cupid shuffle.  The bridesmaids were even embarrassed.  Don’t let this happen to you. Should you play songs that you love at your wedding? Sure.  But if you want to party with your friends and family and not just have them watch you party, make sure you look at some of the tips in this post.

No One Danced at the Wedding

Choose your DJ wisely

Once you have made the decision to go the DJ route, start looking right away, the good DJ’s book quickly.  Get recommendations from family and friends who have planned weddings before, or better yet, ask your photographer. You want to go with a DJ who has played weddings and not just the guy or gal who plays every Friday night at the downtown club. There is a difference between acceptable music for a night out and what’s acceptable for a formal event where your grandmother and colleagues will attend. My favorite Lake Tahoe DJs?  Ryan Palmer and Dylan Thomas over at Lake Tahoe DJ and David Berkman with Ascent DJ Productions, no question. My least favorite DJs? I’m not shy about sharing that list also, but you have to already be my client to get it.

No One Danced at the Wedding

 

Everyone may not love Brittney as much as you do.

I know this statement may break your heart, and I’m sorry, but just because Brittney Spears singlehandedly produced the sound track of your adolescence and you have “so many fun memories attached to her songs,” does not mean half of your wedding songs should be dedicated to her.  Yea sure, throw in a song or two so that you and your middle school best friends will be enticed to tear it up on the dance floor and relive those 6th grade dance nights, but let’s leave it at that.  Make sure you request a variety of music that will get all your guests to the dance floor.  Also make sure that your songs include not only different genres, but also that they span all decades.  Granny and Great-Uncle Charlie want to dance too and not to the Spice Girls.

No One Danced at the Wedding

Watch out for “Marathon Songs”

Make sure your DJ knows not only what to play, but how long to play certain songs.  No one wants to get caught on the dancefloor dancing to a song they love and trying to stay until its finished, only to find out that the DJ is seriously playing the entire 14-minute extended version of the song. This is especially sound advice for any DJ playing a line dance song. Everyone loves their favorite song, but seriously a 14-minute song is a workout that most of your guests did not sign up for.

No One Danced at the Wedding

Line Dances: Be very, very careful

Speaking of line dances, you should seriously consider whether you even want to include them.  Yes, we know they get people to the dance floor, but this is one of those things that is so terribly overused, that it is has almost become the worst kind of cliché. While researching for this post, I found that many couples have even asked their DJ’s to not include line dance songs at all. Whatever you decide, do not, I repeat, DO NOT by any means allow a DJ to play the Cupid Shuffle more than one time at your reception (If you allow it at all).  This song has been so overplayed by DJ’s at weddings and nightclubs that most wedding industry vendors (including myself!) Would literally rather pull our ears off slowly than hear it one more time. We can imagine that many wedding guests feel the same way.  Just. Don’t. Do. It.

wedding guests dancing

Hopefully these tips help you choose your wedding DJ wisely and keep the dance party going well into the wee hours of your reception.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Hundreds of years ago even Shakespeare understood the gravity of choosing or carrying a family name.  Romeo struggled with the choice of giving his up and being with his forever love or hanging on to it and losing her altogether.  Lucky for us, deciding what to do with your last name after marriage doesn’t have such grave consequences.  It can however, be a tough decision for a couple to make. Names can hold cultural significance or help identify you as a proud member of a prominent family in your community.  Long ago, there were hard traditional rules to the last name situation, but times have changed and now couples are choosing different routes altogether.  So, if you and your partner are in this phase of merging your lives and trying to figure out what to do with the last names, just know that you don’t have to settle for tradition.  Here are few ways couples are deciding to merge their last names.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

The Traditional Way

I know I started this by talking about non-traditional routes, but I thought it would be good to start with this one to lay the foundation.  I think we all know the traditional way to handle your last name after marriage is having one partner take the last name of the other. In the past, it was the woman who would take her husband’s last name, however in essence it is just one partner deciding to replace their last name with the other partner’s. Doing this requires a lot more work than some of the other options including filing for a new birth certificate and social security card, changing your name on your driver’s license and passport, and of course paying the fees associated with those changes. There are other issues you may run into as well, if you go this route. For example, is if it is the husband who wants to take the last name of the wife or if you are a same-sex couple, things get a little trickier.  In some states those two situations don’t allow couples to go through the standard marriage name change procedures.  Instead you would need to file for a legal name change that requires petitioning the court and putting out a public notice which could cost you a few hundred bucks.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Keep Your Given Name

I mean, it’s yours after all.  You have likely walked around with that name your whole life, it is nice and worn in and comfortable.  It is who you are.  That can be reason enough to keep your name, but there are a host of other reasons people decide to do this.  The most common are for practical and professional reasons.  Practically speaking its low-maintenance.  You don’t have to make any changes or pay any fees.  You just continue with your regular life after the wedding.  Other people keep it for professional reasons.  You might own a business and it carries your name, there’s no need to change that when you keep your surname.  Or you have built a professional image around your name and its your personal brand.  Changing it could be a marketing disaster.  There are also familial or cultural reasons.  A good friend of mine comes from a large Korean family who is very involved in their community.  They have a unique last name, so when she introduces herself, people know who her family is and value what they have done in the community.  When she got married, she wanted to stay connected with that culture of community support her family was known for, so she kept her family name.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Add Punctuation/Hyphenate

This is probably the second most common way that couples choose to merge their last names.  They just add a hyphen.  Think “Jane Doe-Smith, or John Adams-Brown.” Rumor has it that even Jay Z has hyphenated his and Beyoncé’s surname to become Shawn Knowles-Carter since she doesn’t have any brothers and they wanted to carry the family name on. This is an easy way to have the best of both worlds.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Create a New Name Altogether

Not only has this idea gained popularity in the last decade, but it just sounds awesome.  Some couples have decided to ditch their given names altogether and come up with their own. They are using names they made up as kids or choosing to merge their two surnames (Dawson and Hobbs become Dobbs or Hawson), or simply choosing something that references mutual hobbies or passions, like my clients Sara and Will did: their new last name references one of their favorite Doctor Who episodes.  Of course, this would likely require a legal name change and a few dollars in fees, but what I’ve heard from couples who have done this is that is prevents the need to choose one name over the other or to make your names extra long with hyphens.

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Hopefully, this post gives you a solid list of options when deciding what to do with your surname after the wedding is over.  And just as Shakespeare wrote many, many moons ago and much more eloquently than I can, no matter what you decide to do, a name doesn’t change who you are you’ll still be that perfectly sweet smelling rose no matter how you decide to sign.

 

To Hyphenate or Not? What to do with Your Surname After the Wedding

Sibling Maid of Honor

The Starting Lineup: How to Choose Your Wedding Party

You’re gliding down the aisle in that beautiful white dress or dapper suit that you picked out 8 months ago with the help of your amazing best friend. You’re being led arm in arm by the most important person in your life until today, walking past a standing crowd of your closest neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and the people you love the most, staring at the partner who stole your heart. Then, standing across from your partner, there they are: the people who have held your hand through tears, held your hair after a night of too much fun (no such thing!), encouraged you, traveled with you, given you advice and always told you how great you are, even when you weren’t feeling it yourself. They are the first people who shouted for joy when you told them you were engaged.  But, who are they?

One of the most difficult decisions that you make once you start planning your wedding is choosing who will stand by your side on one of the most important days of your life. Just like an NCAA coach during March Madness, you can only play so many at a time.  How do you decide who makes the cut and who doesn’t?  If you are planning a very large wedding and have room for 15 people on each side (side note: please don’t do this and if you do, don’t hire me), this choice may not be too difficult to make, however if you can only accommodate 4 or 5 people, choosing will be a big deal. To complicate matters further, there’s absolutely no reason why your wedding party has to be all one gender. Fuck gender norms! It’s your wedding – pick the people who matter most to you!

So how do you go about it? Hopefully, the tips below can help you narrow the playing field and decide who to bench and who gets to be on the court.

The Five People You Should Consider for Your Wedding Party

 

Bridal Party Photo

#1:  The Family Member (Your Point Guard)

Okay, so this is a no brainer.  They were your first friend, first frenemy, and probably your closest confidant. They may have pulled your hair, roughed you up, stole your toys, or borrowed your clothes more often than you would’ve liked, but they are always the first to be by your side when you need a friend. It’s only logical to have them by your side as you say your forever vows.  There’s no reason that your sister or brother shouldn’t be standing by your side.

*Tip:  No sibling in your court? Why not make your grandparent or any other family member that you adore the person of honor?

Maid of Honor Speech

#2: The Current Best Friend (The Shooting Guard)

The one who you call when you need to vent about your boss, your current fiancé, and everything in between.  This is your person: the one you take trips with and share secrets that even your family or your romantic partner doesn’t know. They know you better than most, if not all people, because you simply can’t recreate intimacy with this much history.  They will bring your entire wedding guest list to tears with their speech. You consider them to be your human vault and you trust them with your life.  If you are lucky enough to have a platonic life partner like this as your best friend in your life, lucky you!  If your sibling did not make the starting point guard, this friend is it. You can trust them to both score and not drop the ball, leading your team to make your wedding perfect for you. 

*Tip:  If your current best friend is not the most responsible, consider having two people of honor to balance out responsibilities.  There are no hard-fast rules that say you can’t. It’s your wedding after all.

Best friends

#3: Your College/High School Best Friend (The Power Forward)

We are all constantly growing, changing and becoming who we are.  It’s an evolutionary process. You are likely not the same person you were 10 months ago, let alone 10 years ago. Just as some college ball players decide to leave their team and join another, or just move up into the pro leagues the people you started playing with, may not be the same people who are currently in your life.  However, this does not mean you no longer love them, or they didn’t play a significant role in who you have become. The “Power Forward” can play under the hoop or out in the wings or corner of the court.  They are also expected to get rebounds.  For this reason, consider adding them to your court. They may have seen you through some of the most difficult times in your life, caught you when you fell and put you back up.  They knew you before you were as shiny and clean as you are now.  They can most accurately attest to the hard work you have put in to become who you are, because they knew who you were.

*Tip: If you were the member of a fraternity, sorority or other organization, this might be the category for those crazy friends you spent the most awesome spring break vacations with.

LGBTQ Wedding Party

#4: Co-workers Who Became Friends (The Small Forward)

I know that these people could likely fit into a category above, but I thought I would separate them to confirm that it is okay to invite people you work with even if you hate your job. The small forward is the smaller of the two forwards on the team.  Though small, they still must be good enough to play on the inside.  This is not just anyone you work with: this is the person you met on your first day in the break room and you both immediately felt like you were long-lost siblings. The one you vent all your work frustrations with and who knows the inside work language and what the acronyms that you constantly spit out mean.  You don’t have to take time to explain why the report due yesterday was a total waste of time and energy like you would have to explain to your friends or family outside of the organization.  You’ve extended your relationship beyond the break room to happy hours after work and traveled together to your other co-worker’s awesome birthday boat party. Since work is a big part of your life, so are they.  Go ahead and put them on the team.

*Tip:  Don’t forget those former co-workers who could also fit into this role– especially if you changed jobs but were able to maintain a friendship with them.

Wedding Party

#5: Your Fiancé’s Family Member (The Center)

This may be a purely political choice.  However, one of the center’s primary jobs is playing defense and keeping the opposing team out of the paint.  I know your fiancé’s family may not be the opposing team, but if you have a mother in law that you don’t quite see eye to eye with, your fiancé’s sibling may be the best defensive player you have.  Providing communication with both sides of the family and the ability to smooth things out quickly if things get sticky during planning or the actual ceremony is priceless. Not only that, but not only are they great for playing the center, but the fact that you both love your future partner dearly makes them a great asset to your team.  Bonus points if you are already great friends with them.

*Tip:  If they have never met any of your friends prior to being invited to become a wedding party member, consider hosting a few informal happy hours, or gatherings at the beginning of your wedding planning to help them get acquainted with everyone and feel comfortable being a part of your team.

Hopefully these tips help you choose the players who will make sure your wedding day is a win.  Ultimately, you should choose the people who you absolutely couldn’t imagine not seeing at the end of that aisle as you walk to meet your forever love.

Bridal Party

Resources for Black Brides

African American Wedding Traditions

I cannot let this month end without paying homage to the rich history of African American culture and specifically, all the amazing African American wedding traditions.  February, though much too short, is Black History month. It also happens to be the month of love. So, it made sense that I finish this month off with a post that celebrates “Black Love” or more specifically the ways in which that love is celebrated during weddings.

These Black wedding traditions are both fun and have deep historical significance. Some are just for kicks and some trigger moments of honest inner reflection.  By integrating these traditions into our ceremonies, we create more memorable wedding experiences which knit together the hearts of those in our community and bring us back to the ties that bind, the feeling of family and of home that are sometimes drowned in a sea of majority culture.  Here is a quick list of some of the most popular.

African American wedding traditions

Jumping the Broom

Probably one of the most recognizable traditions in black weddings is the tradition of “jumping the broom.” In pre-slave trade Africa jumping the broom represented the symbolic sweeping away of all past problems.  During the era of slavery African Americans were forbidden to marry and often couldn’t live together, so jumping over a broom at the end of a wedding ceremony was one of the only ways for them to publicly declare their union. 

Today many African American couples decide to make this tradition a part of their wedding. It is very popular to have a beautiful broom handcrafted to use during the wedding, and then keeping it afterwards to display in their new home together.

African American wedding traditions

Sorority and Fraternity Strolls

Black couples who are members of a Black Greek organization are familiar with the Greek “stroll.” Greek organizations have historically and continue to be a medium to create bonds and social involvement in the black community. Members of these organizations take pride in being a part of such an effort and often decide to include their Sorority Sisters or Fraternity Brothers in their wedding ceremonies.  The most popular way to do this is for members of the organizations to participate in their particular “stroll.”

African American Wedding Traditions

The Stroll has evolved from the African tradition of “Stepping.” Though stepping can be traced back to African tribal dance, the more modern versions began in the early African American slave communities.  The slaves used “stepping” along with “call and response” chants and songs as a means of communicating important information.  Around the late 1960’s historically black sororities and fraternities embraced stepping and strolling. 

Black couples usually include this rich tradition during the wedding reception where sorority sisters or fraternity brothers dance in a synchronized way or “stroll” in a circular pattern around the room.

Though its origins are in the Black community, stepping has spread to Latino, Asian and multicultural fraternities and sororities as well.

Resources for Black Brides

The Electric Slide/Cha Cha Slide/ Cupid Shuffle, etc.

Okay, we talked about the historical stroll, now let’s jump into a tradition that is all fun.  If you have ever been to a single black barbeque, family reunion or heck even sometimes a funeral, then you have been prompted to get up to dance along to one of these line dances.

Soul line dancing in the black community essentially has a similar history to the Greek strolls, but to be honest, we just kind of love it.  Don’t ask me how we learn these so fast, there must be a specific gene that is passed on or likely we grew up watching our elders do it.  Either way these dances make their way into most black family events.  It’s a great way to get everyone on the dance floor and having a good time. Yes, I know African Americans are not the only ones who do line dances, however I’ve never been to a Black event where one of these songs was not played and people of all ages did not get their fancy feet to the dance floor. If you want some incredibly fun memories be sure to throw those into the DJ’s mix.

Resources for Black Brides

A Way to Celebrate our Uniqueness

Ceremonies of all kinds are a way to bring communities back together.  They are a way to celebrate our shared history, struggles, and triumphs.  Adding traditions into those ceremonies remind us of our past and unite us in all the things we have in common. These traditions give us a break from trying to blend in– and allow us to celebrate what makes our specific communities unique and valuable.  Oh, and some of them are just plain fun. When planning your ceremony take a minute to think about what makes your family unique and special and try to include those elements into your wedding.  Keep them going for the next generation so that in years to come they can share in that pride and pass it on. Do it for the future.  Do it for the culture.

Resources for Black Brides

Big thanks to my writer, the amazing Tashara Mitchell of Austin, TX, who has been working hard to help me craft posts that are inclusive and diverse.  It’s important to me to make sure that everyone is represented in my work and she’s the badass who is helping.  If you need marketing and ghost writing services, I can’t recommend her enough.

Why You Should Throw a “Big Easy” Mardi Gras Wedding

You don’t have to be religious or from the south to love a great Mardi Gras party. I mean who doesn’t love a full day of binge eating your favorite foods or a night of drunken revelry that comes with free colorful costume jewelry (aka Mardi Gras beads)! We know there are literally thousands of ways to plan your wedding, but a Mardi Gras wedding should absolutely be in the running. So, when you do decide, make sure I’m there to catch what will inevitably be fantastic photo memories! However, if you need to be convinced further, just keep reading.

New Orleans Flag

Reason 1: Have Any Venue You Want with a Tuesday Wedding

Weddings are expensive, especially if you are eyeballing a Saturday wedding.  Most popular venues are booked for Saturdays a year out. This means two things: 1. Saturdays are extremely popular, and it may be difficult to get the date you want and 2. This high demand equals high prices.  Weekday dates are much lower in price because of the lower demand (think anywhere from 10-25% lower), and you can have your pick of dates and venue.

I know what you may be thinking, “who will want to take off during the week to come to my wedding?”  For some perspective, 1.5 million Americans called in sick the day after the Super Bowl, so have no fear, we know how to plan for recovery and sacrifice for a good party. You can also look at it another way and realize that though having a Tuesday wedding may keep some people away, your wedding guest will be made up of the people who truly love you and won’t let anything stop them from celebrating with you.

Wedding Guests

Reason 2: Shrove Tuesday and Pancakes

Great Food, Masks, Parades, and King Cake.  Mardi Gras traditions simply cannot be beat. There is so much history and culture tied into the holiday that you have your pick of customs to implement into your wedding. First, it starts with the name Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.” In Christian culture Mardi Gras is celebrated the day before “Ash Wednesday.” Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season, which is a time of penitence and fasting. So historically, Fat Tuesday was also known as “Pancake Tuesday” because celebrants would try to use up all their butter, sugar and dairy prior to lent by making and pigging out on pancakes.  Over time it has evolved into a day of celebration and total debauchery. Your last chance to get in all the fun before the 40 days of sacrifice that lent requires. Sounds like the perfect time for a wedding celebration to me.  But the tradition itself is the eating of the pancakes.  If you are considering a unique twist on your reception dinner, maybe throw in a pancake bar complete with ready made pancakes and all the toppings you could imagine.  Sort of a “do-it-yourself” IHOP. 

Wedding Dinner

Reason 3: Masks, Not Just for Halloween

Besides the food, Mardi Gras is known for its beautiful masks. Early on in New Orleans Mardi Gras history, revelers wore masks keep their identities secret, to avoid being bound by societies norms and be free to participate in not-totally-acceptable ways. This also gave them the opportunity to mingle with whoever they wanted. Consider implementing this into your Mardi Gras wedding.  Add a bundle of creative masks to your photo booth station and let your guests get as wild and creative as they want.

Mardi Gras Indians

Reason 4: King Cake. Need I Say More?

I absolutely could not write a piece about a Mardi Gras wedding without mentioning the King Cake. The traditional New Orleans King Cake is decorated with purple, green, and gold sugar icing. They can be plain or filled with cream cheese or nuts. A plastic baby is placed inside the cake and the tradition states that whoever gets the piece with the baby must throw the next party.  Consider a twist on this tradition for your wedding.  Instead of throwing the bouquet or the garter, offer the single ladies or men at your reception a piece of King Cake and the one who gets the baby, gets the bouquet or the garter instead and is next in line for a wedding.

Wedding Second Line

Reason 5: The “Second Line” Parade

Finally, we cannot forget the parade.  Okay this last one may not be a strictly Mardi Gras tradition, but it certainly has its roots in New Orleans. It’s called the “second line”. The “second line” is a tradition for brass band parades. It’s made up of those who follow the band as they parade in the street, just to enjoy the music, and traditionally twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air. This “dance” is called “second lining.”  Many New Orleans couples have been led to the reception or out of it via second line. Yall, can you imagine being led into your reception by a brass band, twirling a parasol, with your wedding guests behind you, ready to party New Orleans Mardi Gras style?  I mean, does it get any fancier than that??

Wedding Second Line

Are You Convinced Yet?

I hope this little history of Mardi Gras traditions and how you can integrate them into your wedding inspired you to go full “Krewe.” Once you have, contact me and I’ll be ready with photo booth, camera and beads in hand.

Mardi Gras beads

Wedding favors

Football, Fly Fishing, or Film: How to Incorporate Your Favorite Hobbies into Your Wedding Festivities

So, you met your life partner at the local theater’s all-day Star Wars marathon and ever since then you two have been inseparable.  You two can be found at every indie movie midnight showing and every film trivia night at all the bars in town.  We get it, you love film, or maybe it’s not film, but football, or ballroom dancing, either way, it’s an integral part of who you are as a couple and you want to share that somehow throughout your wedding festivities. The question is how do you go about it without feeling like a giant cheeseball?  Below are a few fun and classy ways to incorporate your favorite hobbies into your wedding festivities.

Wine Country Engagement

Shoot Your Engagement Photos “On Location”

Your engagement photos are a perfect place to demonstrate your love for your hobbies as a couple.  This can start with location. It requires a little thinking outside of the box, but If you spend your Wednesday nights competing in your local bowling league, why not use that bowling alley for your shoot location.  Okay, so maybe that one is a bit cheesy, but it could also be a location shoot on a golf course, a museum, or a trail you love to hike, or a destination location that you love.  Can’t live without wine? Let’s go to Napa!  I love activities as a shared day taking photos – it’s an easy way to share your interests with the people you love, and the photos turn out amazing.

Alternative Engagement Session Ideas

Integrate Props that Display your Hobby into your Wedding

If you’d rather not shoot your engagement photos at a bowling alley, or if the perfect location is inaccessible, there are always ways to integrate things you love into your wedding decor.  Who says your wedding has to have burlap or the color of the year as it’s centerpiece (oh yeah, the knot does).  F that!  Want an off the wall wedding theme?  How about dinosaurs?  WHY NOT.  Two good clients of mine met and bonded over their love of Magic and so their wedding centerpieces were quick to learn table games that their friends and family could play at their reception during the Magic Tournament they also held.  You do you.   

Magic the Gathering WeddingDinosaur Themed Wedding

 

Wedding Party Gifts

Like most couples your bridesmaids and groomsmen will likely have some things in common with you.  After all, these are your closest friends and family members. If you share a common hobby or interest, consider gifting them with something that corresponds with that hobby.  Hand built barbeque pits were the perfect groomsman gifts for my friend who grills with the men in his family once a week. I also thought about my cousin who was part of a book club and bought her bridesmaids a bottle of their favorite wine with a book attached. The great thing about these types of gifts is that it helps support a hobby that you and your friends can enjoy together.

Wedding Party Gift Ideas

Wedding at the Museum (Venue Location)

Much like the idea of taking your engagement photos at a place that you as a couple frequent, this idea involves location.  This recommendation however, takes that one a step further and instead of just a location for photo shoots, why not choose your actual wedding venue based on your hobbies?  If you spend a lot of time checking out museums, consider renting out a museum in your city for your wedding day or maybe you are both teachers and met at a school, see if it is available for events. 

Designer Wedding Cakes

Last, but certainly not least, if you don’t want your whole wedding focused on your hobbies, designing a cake that reflects your interests adds just a small touch of who you are into your big day without it completely stealing the show.  Pastry artists and bakeries have advanced in their cake making skills at a rapid pace and you can have a cake designed that looks exactly like R2D2, the Dallas Cowboys football stadium, or a giant scarf with knitting needles and tastes equally delicious.  Don’t want to go overboard?  Just add a custom cake topper that represents the two of you!  It’s a bit more subtle than the other ideas, but it still makes a statement about who you are as a couple and the bonus is that it looks great in your wedding photos!

Wedding Cake Toppers

There are a multitude of ways that you can incorporate your hobbies into your wedding festivities, these are just a few.  The important thing is to make sure that you make this day about you and use it as an opportunity to share the things you love as a couple with the people you love.

Bride Groom dancing

7 Ways to Hold a Charitable Wedding

Let’s all be honest here: weddings cost a lot of money for all parties involved.  The spending spree usually starts with the hefty purchase of the engagement ring, and continues beyond the honeymoon.  For some people the excessive consumerism required to plan a wedding is something they could do without.  Planning the “Wedding of the Year” doesn’t mean you have to be the biggest spender of the year. Of course, we all know there are some big cost involved, but many couples are now working to make their wedding less about consuming and more about charity. If you are looking for opportunities to use your special day to help improve the lives of those in your community, consider some of the ideas below as ways to hold a charitable wedding.

marraige proposal

Consider Making Your Bachelor or Bachelorette Party a Volunteer Event.  

Think about some of your favorite hobbies.  In what ways can you and your bridal party use those interests or skills to serve others?  Are you a huge animal lover or often get called “the dog whisperer”? The local animal shelters are always in need of volunteers to come out and help walk or spend time with lonely pups. Or maybe you have always wanted to help at your local food pantry, they usually need small volunteer groups to help organize their donations.  Take your bridal party out for a few hours of community service and maybe continue the party with drinks later that night.  It’s the perfect opportunity to blend helping your community with spending time with your favorite guys or gals.

Wine glasses at a table

Host a Food Drive During Your Engagement Party or Bridal Shower.

If you are already anticipating a massive influx of wedding gifts, why not dedicate your bridal shower or engagement party gifts to charity.  Instead of having guest bring you a gift personally, maybe ask that they bring in a bag of canned goods or other non-perishable food items.  You can also ask friends who may not have time to attend the entire shower to just drop by, say hello and drop off donations as well.  Guests might be relieved to not have to choose the perfect gift to bring and have an even better time focusing on the actual event.

Bride and Groom

Use Amazon Smile When Making Wedding Purchases.

AmazonSmile is a great way to make sure that all your spending does some good too. AmazonSmile allows you to choose a charity and they in turn will donate a percentage of what you spend to your chosen organization.  To go a step further, if you have an amazon wedding registry you can ask your guest to use your charity when shopping for your wedding gifts to ensure that even more donations make it their way.

bridal party laughing

Have Your Bridesmaids or Groomsmen Donate their Unwanted Wedding Attire to an “Operation Prom” Organization.

Okay, they don’t have to tell you upfront that they thought your choice of dress was hideous or that they can’t think of when they would ever wear it again, but making this an option for your special ladies or gentleman can help ease the uncomfortable thoughts they may have about the best way to get rid of that dress without you finding out. Give them the out they are so desperately seeking and let it go to some lucky teenage girl or boy who might not otherwise be able to afford a formal gown. There are several organizations out there that provide gently used evening attire to teenagers who are not able to afford a prom dress or tux on their own. A few to look into are “Project G.L.A.M,”   “Operation Prom” and “Becca’s Closet.” You can either have your wedding party bring clothes to change into after the reception and leave it in an available closet or box, or arrange for drop off after the wedding.  Either way, you make some gal or guy’s prom dreams come true.

Guests with food

Donate Leftover Wedding Food and Goodies to a Local Homeless Shelter or Food Pantry

Along with wedding attire, there is usually tons of leftover, unwanted food and wedding trinkets that family and friends of the bride and groom are practically begging guests to take as they walk out the door.  Even with all the pleading, much of it gets left behind and unfortunately thrown away. A great way to prevent this from happening and help your family and friend “clean-up crew,” is to plan to donate all the leftover food to people who really need it.  Local shelters and food pantries generally welcome all the help with extra food they can get.  Just designate someone (or a few people) in advance to be the delivery guys and feel good knowing you saved a piece of a landfill and you helped feed your community at the same time.

No gifts please

In Lieu of Wedding Gifts, ask Guests for Donations

In a day and time when many couples already live together pre-marriage, the same old wedding registry gifts of housewares are just not needed anymore.  If you have already outfitted your home the way you want, and have all you need, why not forego the registry altogether and have guests donate to a specific non-profit cause?  There are a couple of ways to do this, but first choose a charity that is important to you as a couple.  Then you can either have guests donate on their own, or use a website that allows you to create a “charity registry.” It’s a bit more like a “GoFundMe” than a Macy’s registry, but it gives you the opportunity to share the story of why you as a couple want to support this particular charity. You then share the link with guests, so they can donate. 

Resources for black brides

Use Vendors Who Give Back

If you have been planning your celebration for even a short amount of time, you know that not all vendors are created equal.  There are lots of reasons couples choose the vendors they want to work with, but a great way to help you decide is to find out if they are giving back. Many vendors are socially conscious and not only want to build their business, but they also want to build their communities.  I give 10% of my profits each year to a non-profit that I choose based on it’s connections to my clients.  This year, my beneficiary is the Girls and Boys Club of Lake Tahoe.  You can read more about my current and former recipients here Consider using a network of vendors like “Black Sheep Bride,” which I am a founding member of, to find charitable, like-minded wedding and event vendors, who you know are using some of your money for good works; after all, it may take a little bit of the sting out of the costs! 

LGBTQ Wedding Experience

Interviews: The Texas LGBTQ Wedding Experience

June 26th, 2015 was a day that changed the lives of many people in the United States. It was one of those days, that ingrained into many people, the memory of exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. For a few of my friends in Texas, waiting on the state to make same-sex marriage legal was beginning to feel like a hopeless dream but that Friday changed it all. On June 26, 2015, The Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage in all States and tears of joy, excitement, and hope were shed all around. Once they heard the news, couples could finally begin making those long-awaited ceremony plans. From where to find wedding photographers who shared a vision for their wedding (like…ahem, Lauren Lindley), to which traditional wedding aspects they should include. One of my oldest family friends was one of those couples who began planning. So, in honor of the recently celebrated Pride Parade in Austin, TX, I asked her and her close friend to share their Texas LGBTQ wedding experience. I believe these stories will help all couples find some joy, hope, advice and encouragement from reading.

LGBTQ Wedding Experience

Sheeanna & Rachael
Wedding Date: August 12th, 2015
Wedding Venue: Southeast Metropolitan Primitive Trail

How long have you been married? 2 years (10 years together)

Tell me how you met. We met through mutual friends. Talked on MySpace and then danced all night at the bar on ladies’ night a couple times. On one of the nights a friend asked Rachael to come home with me because I was too shy. One night turned into 10 years, and we were inseparable. We have only been apart from each other a handful of times since then.

Was there an official proposal? If so, who Proposed?  No. We always talked about being together forever. It was just something we knew mutually, but never thought would be legalized.

Did you decide to get married pre-supreme court decision or post?  Post.

Did that ruling affect your decision? Absolutely. Previously we had accepted the fact that we may never be able to marry legally, which was upsetting because we only wanted to have rights. A piece of paper would never split us up if we could not have done it legally, but it could prevent us from having rights if one of us were injured or ill, our property and our livelihoods, everything we built and shared together.

Did you both want to have a wedding?  If not, why not? We both wanted to marry each other always. But we differed on our opinions on the type of wedding. I (Sheeanna) wanted a big wedding, Rachael wanted a smaller wedding and does not enjoy being the center of attention. She felt it was something we should share between us and not everyone we knew. We compromised on the entire process and both had different things we wanted.

How long did you wait between the proposal and the wedding? We did not have an official proposal, we always just knew we would if it were legal. We married a few months after the supreme court ruling to pass same sex marriage.

Were your families accepting of a wedding? If not, what were some of their concerns? Yes and no. My (Sheeanna) mother and father were supportive and love Rachael. Though my father’s family were not all present in my life for ten years after I came out, my mother’s side has always been very accepting and present in our relationship. Rachael’s family has always been supportive and loving and accepted me immediately.

Did you decide on a big or small wedding?  Why? We had a very small elopement only including our sisters, our dog, and our mutual best friend. We got married on a primitive trail that we hiked often with our pup. We felt it was some of our best times and where we really found ourselves. We wanted it to be private, short, and sweet. Especially since it was one of the hottest days of the year. We married on the day of our existing anniversary of when we got together.

LGBTQ Wedding Experience 

Did you bring the standard traditions into your wedding (Ex: Father/Daughter Dance, throwing of the bouquet, etc.)? For the most part we did not. At first, the concept of being “wives” was an odd one to us. We merely wanted our rights as a married couple. We were always somewhat hesitant on the concept as there are so many in this world who are not accepting and ugly about it. We did get specific outfits to wear that all had the same general color scheme and our pup wore a tie made from some of my extra dress fabric. I (Sheeanna) made rose bouquets and boutonnieres, made of pages from Rachael’s favorite book series. We did not write our own vows and instead coordinated with our officiant on some basic vows that fit us well. We celebrated afterwards with a potluck at our favorite local greenbelt with all our family and friends who could be present.

Did you have any vendors or did you completely do it on your own? Why? We did all of it on our own. We wanted something simple and carefree, less stress.

Were your wedding vendors familiar with same-sex weddings?  (Did they have any experience in one?) Our wedding officiant was well known for marrying same sex couples.

Would you like to share the names of any vendors you would recommend? Give a brief review of their service? Spike Gillespie was wonderful. We had a meeting with her in person about a month before to go over different options for vows and she sent us some examples. She composed our ceremony for us based on what we wanted, hiked out a ¼ mile to our favorite trail spot and endured the 100-degree weather. We would absolutely recommend her to anyone we know.

Tell me about your wedding day.  How did you feel after it was over? Relieved. While we kept it small, it was still chaotic and a lot to work on. We had a beautiful time and were so grateful for all the people who came to celebrate with us. I don’t think it really felt real until we received our marriage certificate and then I (Sheeanna) cried for a while in relief and joy. We finally had the rights we wanted for so long, to the person we have loved for many years, and more to come.

What tips would you give other same-sex couples preparing to plan their wedding in Texas? Do what feels right for YOU! Often weddings end up turning into what your family or friends want, and none of that matters in the end. Your wedding day is about you as a couple and the love you share for each other. Whether you have a huge wedding, or a small elopement, it should be about what makes you happy. Your wedding is to celebrate the love you have for each other, not everyone else.

Sheeana and Rachael’s story of how they met was so cute, I could barely hold it together while writing this, but it is filled with so much love and friendship that you can’t help but hold onto hope for a love like this. Here are a few things that a took away from it.

1. MySpace did some things right.

This story proves that spending hours on end decorating your “about me” page was not a complete waste of time. I mean, just take a look at this story! But on a more serious note, online dating is totally a thing now. I know that’s hard to believe if you are over a certain age, but social media has changed the landscape for finding love. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. True love could be waiting on your besties friends’ list.

2. Add your own special touches to your wedding day.

Seriously, who else was extremely impressed by the idea of making boutonnieres, from pages of your love’s favorite book series? Not only is that truly genius, that but those little touches make for fantastic photos.

3. Make sure your wedding is about you.

When planning a wedding, it’s easy to get caught up into doing the things that would make your family and friends happy. Just don’t forget that this wedding is yours and about you and your love. Pick the vendors you want, and involve those who make you feel comfortable. Choose your own location and make the choice of big or small wedding on your own. The people who truly love you will support you.

LGBTQ Wedding Experience