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.

Camp La Junta Wedding

Camp La Junta Wedding | Hunt, TX | Halie + Price

I think that almost everyone has incredibly fond memories of their time at summer camp. My best memories come not from when I was an actual camper, but from when I spent years as a camp counselor at Camp Mystic for Girls. Nestled among the cypress,  live oak, and pecan trees in the hill country of Texas, Mystic is located in camp haven along the banks of the Guadalupe River. It’s flanked by a number of other camps, some co-ed, some not.  It’s a veritable summer camp-land, with dozens of camps lining the river.

Mystic is a magical place where you eat fried chicken every Sunday and the cabins have names like Wiggle Inn and Chatter Box.  The girls remain with their initial cabin members for the duration of their camp lives. Since I was a counselor there for six years, I watched my campers grow into women and I still, to this day, keep track of many of them.  Particularly those in my first cabin ever and those who year after year, signed up to take diving with me as an activity, as Halie did.  Today, many of those young campers that I knew as 7 year olds are now getting engaged, married and starting families of their own. I feel incredibly lucky to have not only had the opportunity to be part of such rich and lifelong tradition, but then to have watched, helped create and been a part of such long lasting relationships between these women who are doing incredible things with their lives.  I couldn’t be more proud and it’s the highest honor to be asked to be their wedding photographer!

Halie’s relation to summer camps lie not just with Camp Mystic, however. Her family is tied to the nearby Camp La Junta, which for 80 years has been encouraging the growth of self-confident and independent young men through their camp traditions.  It’s a beautiful property and it provided an incredible backdrop for her wedding. Price also grew up in the area and although he and Halie went to the same high school, they didn’t reconnect until their post college years. As such, Camp La Junta was the perfect location for all their families, friends and loved ones to watch them wed.

The camp sits adjacent to Bridget’s Basket, an incredible market, bakery and farm in the area. Ingram, Hunt and Kerrville are getting kind of hip y’all!  The Market stocks artisanal items from local, regional and small US producers and carries anything you might need for a wine country weekend picnic. It offered an incredible reception venue space for a wedding! Everyone was able to dine on the lawn, dance under the string lights and watch the sunset in the warm Texas night.  It was the perfect location to close out Halie and Price’s Camp La Junta wedding!

I love the Texas hill country more than I can put into words. In addition to holding a very special place in my heart because of my summer camp ties, I just find it to be breathtakingly beautiful. The pace of life is a bit slower, not only because you can’t drive too fast because of the deer: the beer is colder, the trees seem to be extra shady, and the people have that special Texas friendliness that I love so much. I get to return in November for another summer camp wedding at Vista Camps and I am counting down the days.  Can I just lock down that Kerrville wedding photographer market and only do summer camp weddings? Because that sounds like a dream come true.

Halie and Price, I love you to the banks of the Guadalupe River and back. I can’t wait to watch your family grow!

Wedding Venue: Camp La Junta | Reception Venue: Bridget’s Basket | Florist: Showers of Flowers | Bakery: The Market at Bridget’s Basket | Catering: Rudy’s BBQ | DJ: Patrick Sifuentes | Bride’s Attire: Amsale | Grooms Attire: Marc Jacobs | Wedding Party Attire: Etsy and Marc Jacobs | Hair: Michelle Rios | Make-up: Collin Korenek

Camp La Junta WeddingCamp La Junta WeddingCamp La Junta Wedding

Landing Resort Wedding

Landing Resort Wedding | Lake Tahoe, CA | Rosa + Justin

One of the best parts of my job is that family’s so often keep me in the family: hiring me for their events again and again. In some cases, it’s for growing families – engagements, then weddings, then for family portraits as they grow in size.  In other cases, I’m hired for one wedding, and then another wedding, and then another, all within the same family.  It’s amazing because the guests even start to remember me!

Justin’s sister Julie and her now husband Michael originally hired me to photograph their engagement and wedding and then Justin and Rosa followed suit for both their engagement and wedding. 

Rosa and Justin had an incredible Landing Resort wedding on a beautiful holiday summer weekend. Their reception was held in the pavilion tent instead of the ballroom and it offered tons of space for an epic dance party and a super fun photo booth.  Almost a year later, Rosa and Justin have added a small new addition to their family and I couldn’t be happier for them and all their family members who I have come to know and love.

Landing Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort Wedding 

Venue and Catering: The Landing Resort and Spa | Bakery: Above & Beyond Cakes | Florist: Safeway | Bride’s Attire: Enchanted Gowns | Bridal Party Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Warehouse | DJ: High Sierra Sounds | Hair and Make-up: Gypsy Dawn Beauty Bar | Videographer: Stand Up Films | Second Photographer: Chris Arson

“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

Landing Resort Winter Wedding

Landing Resort Winter Wedding | Michelle + Rich

Michelle and Rich originally intended to elope, and then it turned into a small wedding, and then it turned into a bigger wedding. The Landing Resort and Spa offered the perfect location: a gorgeous rooftop deck, in house catering, and incredibly comfortable resort style hotel rooms that allow for pets, which was a must since they’ve rescued quite a few dogs over the past year.

Since Michelle and Rich both work at media school that offers courses in film, photography, theater and other visual arts, most of their close friends are all photographers and videographers.  As such, it was important to them to find someone that was relaxed, laid back, and wouldn’t be concerned with other folks taking photos.  Among my loud charm and wit, I am certainly relaxed. Oh, and I can help you find a DJ the night before you wedding.

I’m incredibly thankful that Rich and Michelle found me. I had such an amazing time with their friends and family and I now count them, as well as a few of their friends, among my friends. 

Also, that first look face.  Amiright?

Venue: The Landing Resort and Spa | DJ: Gabe Gavilanes | Florist: Thran’s | Bakery: Icing on the Cupcake | Bride’s Attire: Pronovias from Miosa Bride | Groom’s Attire: R. Douglas Clothier custom suit designed by David Garibaldi

Landing Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter WeddingLanding Resort Winter 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

Aspen Grove Wedding

Aspen Grove Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Kelsey + Nick

Nick and Kelsey met in college at UNR and now reside in Las Vegas, NV.  They were excited to wed in Lake Tahoe and their venue is one of my absolute favorites in the area – it always has amazing light, regardless of the time of day and although it’s right in the heart of Incline Village, NV, you feel tucked away into your own private space.  Their Aspen Grove wedding was an absolute blast from start to finish.

Nick and Kelsey’s friends and family were right up my alley: whiskey drinking, dance floor maniacs that spent the whole day laughing.  Their dance floor was epic from the get go: both Kelsey and Nick were crowdsurfing at one point and the end of the night culminated with pants being torn off a groomsmen.

 Related note: shout out to Kelsey for being part of a really amazing non-profit that I considered as my recipient for this year.  She’s on the board of S.A.F.E. House, a comprehensive anti-domestic violence organization that offers free 1) shelter, 2) advocacy and counseling services, 3) community education to end domestic violence. The organization serves primarily women and children in Southern Nevada, but also serves men who are victims of domestic violence, as well folks from outside Nevada.  If you aren’t aware, I pick a different non-profit beneficiary every year to give a percentage of my sales to and I always choose one that is directly connected to my clients. 

Venue: Aspen Grove | Catering: Aspen Grove | Florist: Moana Nursery | Bride’s Attire: Celebration’s Bridal | Groom Attire: Brooks Brothers | DJ: Lake Tahoe DJ | Second Photographer: Annie Robillard 

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