(editor's note: Nicole and Andrew were the first BookWorlds marriage, Daniel and I will be the second, and the most likely third is a couple named Nicole and Jorge. Coincidence that all three are with a Nicole? I think not.)
The Meet: Andrew and I originally met our freshmen year at Berkeley, in a class about "The Lord of the Rings." We became friends through this love of Tolkien, as well as our uncanny ability to end up living in the same neighborhood. (Our first year we were in adjoining dorms, our second we ended up living within one block of each other near the Ashby BART.) We didn't start dating until our sophomore year.
The Engagement: In our junior year, we decided to study abroad together in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the end of our semester, we took a five week spin around Europe, ending up in Paris on New Year's Eve. That night, in sight of the Eiffel Tower, on the banks of the Seine, at the stroke of midnight, Andrew proposed to me with a ring he had bought earlier that day in Paris, as well as a book ("Bilbo's Song") that I had previously stipulated would be given to me by my betrothed someday. (editor's note: Daniel is still mad at Andrew for ruining all future proposals by making theirs so perfect)
The Planning: We agreed we wouldn't be married until after we graduated, so that left a little time before I was allowed any planning. We started our preparations about 15 months in advance, and Andrew was involved in every step of the way, which made for some interesting disagreements. Like many couples, the biggest concern was the guest list. Andrew had many more friends and family members than I, and he seemed intent to invite them all. In the end, we invited around 100-125 people, with about 75 showing up.
(editor's note: That's my Daniel as Best Man up there)
The Wedding Party: As I mentioned above, Andrew has a lot of friends, so naturally he wanted to include them all in the wedding. We compromised at having five groomsmen and the same number of bridesmaids. I chose Sarah, my best friend from college, as my maid of honor, and two other college friends, Anna and Cynthia as bridesmaids. I really wanted to include my best friend from high school, Val, who is like my little sister, and my cousin Amber, with whom I spent most of my childhood, so that nicely made up the five girls in the wedding party. Unfortunately, with two bridesmaids in SoCal and one in England, it made planning difficult. I managed to get by with Cynthia and Sarah for a long time, but about three months before the wedding, Cynthia and I had a big fight, and she dropped out of the wedding (never travel with friends, it's a bad idea). This was really hard on me, and while we eventually resolved our problems, we didn't get everything worked out in time for her to be in the wedding. We decided to balance our wedding party; we'd have our Best Man, Daniel (Nicole's fiancé) stay at the altar with Andrew on the Big Day, thus leaving four groomsmen to accompany my four bridesmaids. Andrew's cousin Savannah was the flower girl, and my brother Ricky walked me down the aisle. The best wedding party decision we made was to have our friend Sue officiate the wedding. Sue has always been like a mother to us both, and had given us lots of useful advice over the years, and we felt she was the person who knew us the best as a couple.
The Budget: Andrew and I had managed to save about $5,000 for the wedding, and we were convinced we could do our wedding on this budget. Thankfully, we had some help. Andrew's dad paid for the alcohol and the rehearsal dinner (total about $1,000), while my parents paid for and prepared the reception food ($500). A good friend paid about $300 for our flowers, which she arranged herself, including bouquets, and my grandmother chipped in $350 for our amazing Katrina Rozelle cake and made all the table runners herself. Despite this generous support, when all was said and done, Andrew and I ended up putting about $3,000 on our credit card to pay for our wedding, but were able to pay most of that off within a month of the wedding, thanks to wedding cash and stable jobs.
The Venue: It was important to us that we be married in the Berkeley area, since so much of our relationship had formed there. We scouted some sites, and finally found the perfect one: The Redwood Grove at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens. Andrew loves trees, especially redwoods, and the connection with our alma mater sealed the deal for us. For the reception, we went a little farther afield to Oakland, to the Lake Merritt Boathouse, which had enough space, a kitchen, and a lakeside view.
The Cake: The cake deserves a separate post by itself, as Nicole will surely tell you. We had resigned ourselves to a Costco cake, but still wanted to look around a little. One day, we happened upon Katrina Rozelle, and they had time for a free cake tasting. Well, the taste of these cakes was unlike anything I'd ever tasted in wedding cakes, and we were in heaven after a few bites. The prices were out of our budget, but the store worked with us to find something that was within our budget. Mainly by having only two big layers instead of three were we able to pull out a cake that fed 100+ people and was under $400. Since our colors were gold and blue (Go Bears!), we opted for some simple piping and let our elegant cake topper and some rose petals do the rest. We were really happy with the cake, though I had hoped for some fondant.
The Dress: In a lot of ways, the dress was the easiest part of the wedding process. When my mother remarried, I went dress shopping with her and saw a picture of my ideal dress. I stole the picture from the store and had it saved for a couple of years before I even met Andrew. Thus, when it was time to get married, I knew exactly what I wanted. I was especially pleased that the dress seemed to fit my relationship with Andrew: romantic and somewhat fantastical. Of course, finding the dress was the actual hard part. It had basically been discontinued except in some very expensive boutiques, and I gave up hope of finding it for a while. I half-heartedly tried on some other dresses and browsed around, but nothing really struck me in the same way. Finally, one day I gave EBay a try, and sure enough, there was my dress! In my size! For only $350! I was a little apprehensive about ordering a dress without actually being able to try it on first, but it all turned out fine. Other than being too long, it fit me perfectly and I practically cried every time I tried it on. I had to pay some extra money to have it cleaned, pressed, and most importantly, hemmed and bustled, but the extra $150 for this was completely worth it.
The Ceremony: I feel like our ceremony was a very personal one. Since neither of us are religious, we knew we didn't want any references to God in our wedding (this was another reason we wanted a friend to marry us instead of a clergyman). We had musically inclined friends playing a song from "The Lord of the Rings" as I walked down the aisle. I had really wanted to include my mother and grandmother in my wedding, since I'm very close to both, and the best way was to have them assemble my bouquet for me when I reached the altar. Our officiant had prepared some very personal words that really described our relationship well. We wrote our own vows, which were a big cause for stress, believe me, but totally worth it. We also had our guests swear a community vow to help us in our marriage, which I think was a nice way to include our friends and families in our wedding and it made the wedding seem more than just about me and Andrew.
The Reception: We had a lag time between the ceremony and reception, because we needed the time to get over to Oakland to set up the reception venue, and we wanted to give our guests time to rest or eat lunch before the dinner. A handful of faithful friends and the entire wedding party plus their significant others all joined us in transforming the Boathouse into a blue and gold dance hall. My step-dad and aunt got right into the kitchen to prepare the evenings meal, fettuccini alfredo with salad and bread, while others decorated the tables, arranged chairs, and set out drinks and appetizers. I really liked that our food table was internationally themed, providing open-faced sandwiches from Denmark, French cheese, and even some Turkish delight that I had picked up that summer when I was traveling the Middle East. We had so much food and alcohol we ended up donating some to a homeless shelter after the wedding (well, not the alcohol, I think friends took that home!). Our evening began with a swing dance lesson for our guests, provided as a wedding gift from some dancing friends, while everyone else drank and munched on snacks until dinner. After dinner came dancing (to music coordinated by a friend), cake, and the usual garter/bouquet toss.
The Honeymoon: We weren't sure we were going to be able to have a honeymoon, since our budget was so tight, but at the last minute we caved and decided, "What the heck!?" and booked some tickets to Mexico on our credit card. I think a honeymoon was really important for us, because a lot of our relationship had involved travel (and we were getting ready to leave for Peace Corps). Thankfully, we signed up for a honeymoon registry and received over $2,000 for our trip from guests. We also received another $2,500 in cash at the wedding, so we ended up being able to afford it all. We chose Mexico because we had recently traveled to the western part of Mexico (on disastrous trip with ex-bridesmaid) and really wanted to see the Caribbean part. We didn't book a tour or even hotels. We took everything day by day and visited beaches and ruins, swam with whale sharks, and drank at least one pina colada a day. It was a prefect honeymoon, and really set the pace for the first four years of our marriage, which we've spent country-hopping around the world.
The Regrets: My biggest regret was not having a professional photographer. We had decided that this would be too expensive, and an amateur photographer friend had offered to do our wedding for free, so we jumped on the chance. The only problem was, this was her first wedding, so she didn't know how to set up shots like a professional would, and of course, she was also a guest, so she didn't get everything we wanted because she was also having fun and hanging out with friends. In addition, we had hired some friends of a friend to come and serve food and clean up, but they never showed up. This left the burden on my family and friends, which made for a very long and stressful night.
The Best Parts: I'm really happy that our friends were so involved in our wedding. Not only did it save us money, but it felt more personal to have them helping out every step of the way. Now, when I look back on photos, I don't just think, "Wow, those flowers were beautiful," I think, "Laura did an amazing job on the flowers." And as much as it pained me at the time, I'm happy Andrew was so interested in the wedding. It made the wedding really feel like it was ours, not just my childhood fantasy. In this way, our wedding really represented us as a couple, which is exactly what a wedding should do.