With all that’s happening in the world during the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020, you might be rethinking your wedding plans—specifically the budget—for your big day. The good news is that love always wins, and you can make quite a few strategic choices for your party to help keep wedding costs down in these uncertain times.
To that end, we're highlighting an experience from the beginning of our journey as a small business to help spark your imagination around what's possible in the pandemic age. You may not be able to do a destination wedding or a 300-person bash right now, but you can certainly pull off an elegant, affordable wedding that you'll cherish for years to come.
A Warm Welcome
One of the first styled shoots we ever did back in 2018 still ranks as a favorite first experience. It was billed as "affordable elegance," and we pulled it off in a big way with wedding planner Sandy Johnson of SRJ Events at the helm.
As a newcomer to the industry, our little floral biz was accepted with open arms and warm smiles, and we walked away with new friends and amazing photos from the day. We worked with talented vendors from across the San Francisco East Bay to create a modern wedding experience that has inspired quite a few of our real weddings in the last couple of years.
The Wedding Venue: Oeste Bar and Cafe
Nestled just west of historic Old Oakland, Oeste Bar and Cafe offers the perfect location for the small wedding, engagement party, or anniversary celebration. Seating up to 150 guests and featuring exposed red brick walls and post and beam ceilings, this urban oasis offers a unique atmosphere for the modern wedding. It also helps you curb costs and save time when your venue and caterer are one and the same.
Perfect for the low-key couple with a small to medium guest list, Oeste captures the feel of Oakland while remaining an open canvas for each couple to express their own personal style. Johnson was the wedding planning visionary and coordinator behind this shoot, and she wanted to take the inherent beauty of Oeste’s indoor and outdoor spaces—they have a lovely rooftop deck—and turn it into a rustic-chic fantasy land. She envisioned neutral tones, diverse textural elements, unique floral, and a style that’s both lux and financially attainable.
A Diverse Entourage
In the planning process, Johnson, a first-generation Laotian American, made it a priority to create a collaborative experience that represented the diversity of the city of Oakland. Oeste is owned and run by women of color, and each vendor participant represents their own form of diversity, whether ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, or some intersection thereof. While the wedding industry tends to be heavily female, the world of restaurateurs isn’t, so it was important for Johnson to showcase a women-owned establishment.
All vendors are local to the East Bay, proving that you don’t have to go to San Francisco to find a wide array of amazing talent for your wedding day.
As an added consideration with the COVID-19 pandemic looming, choosing to support small, local businesses like the ones who participated in this shoot helps keep us afloat. Oeste's outdoor space makes them a potential candidate for first-round re-opens in the dining-in world that's been hit so hard.
The Bridal Looks
In addition to showcasing the space, Johnson wanted to use the generous amount of time Oeste provided on the day of the shoot to create multiple bridal looks that would appeal to a variety of couples. To this end, Mercedes Jackson (stylist), Lupe Viayra (makeup), and Melody Anthony (hair) worked together to create 4 distinct looks for model Josephina Jackson. Amazingly, the wedding dresses Mercedes chose were second hand, coming in at a total of $55 for all three looks combined. (!!) Perfect for the bride on a budget, and elegant at any price.
Look 1: Strapless Chic
With her hair loosely tied back into a low bun, Josephina donned a floor-length strapless dress and a jeweled bridal belt. Bright red lips and understated eye makeup finished off this elegant combination.
Look 2: Halter Heaven
A very simple floor-length halter dress with a translucent, flowy skirt marked this look. Jackson’s down-do was embellished with a simple pearl floral crown, and her makeup was just enough to pop on camera.
Look 3: Boho Bride
A long-sleeved lace, high-waisted number cut just above the knee made for a fresh, funky boho feel in the final look of this shoot. A loose high ponytail kept the bride feeling fun while dramatic eyes and lips brought in sultry, smoky undertones.
The groom, Francisco Ortega, brought his own fashion flair to the table, donning a white suit jacket, grey plaid pants, and a colorful boutonniere of succulents and feathers.
We at Succulents for Hire provided the florals, which included a creative combination of natural elements, including succulents, proteas, pampas grass, and even pheasant feathers. In collaboration with Sandy Johnson, we created a dynamic tablescape of centerpieces. Multi-sized and multi-colored bottle vases featured a combination of textures, height, and variety.
The bridal bouquet and wedding ceremony arch were both outsized statement pieces featuring elements that played off of each other nicely as the bride and groom stood beneath the archway. Johnson’s vision included mostly neutral tones, but she let us run wild with the bright pops of color in these featured items.
For couples seeking to host a wedding that considers not only their bank account but also the environment, choosing succulent-based floral makes a lot of sense. Wedding flowers can range anywhere from hundreds of dollars if you choose a DIY (do it yourself) approach, all the way to upwards of $10k! The Knot reports that the average cost is in the $2500-$3500 range, making your flowers one of the highest ticket items in a wedding budget.
Instead of skimping on flowers, choose ingredients that you don't have to throw away within a week of the party. Nearly all varieties of succulents remain alive and stable for months outside of the soil, so they can be replanted and keep on living. Succulents for Hire offers a bouquet replating service for local couples so that they can keep their wedding flowers in a custom arrangement and watch them grow alongside their marriage.
From Design to Dessert
Every aspect of this shoot was designed to perfection. Johnson chose each vendor with care and intention, putting us all together into a flawless team. Signage and place setting calligraphy by Savannah Cain of Better Together Calligraphy was on point. Cain showcased a variety of her “fonts” on the welcome signage and brought each place setting to life with her custom handiwork. A geode cross-section, which Cain carefully adorned with guests’ names, sat at each setting and doubled as a wedding favor. Choosing elements that do double-duty is a great way to keep the total price tag down for your nuptials. Succulents work well for this purpose too.
Wedding cake design and creation by Negar Nadimi of Ma Petite Maison was simple and elegant, a white buttercream cake with three tiers of fun. Johnson and Sicola carefully placed floral and feathers in a cascade to reference the event’s main design elements. Adam Suguitan of Adam’s Point of View photographed the whole experience, accommodating both inside and outside lighting, changing sun angles throughout the afternoon, and helping keep the day moving forward. His photographic expertise and experience brought the finishing touches to life. Check out another collaboration we did with Adam by clicking here.
Wedding Ideas on a Budget
Since this was a styled shoot, there were lots of details we could leave out, but a lot of potentially expensive items go into planning a wedding. In addition to the suggestions we listed above (including choosing succulents, considering a second-hand dress, finding a venue that serves food, and including elements that do double-duty), we've compiled a list of a few more. Here are some top suggestions to help cut costs without feeling like you're throwing a "cheap wedding."
Keep the Wedding Party Small
Whether you stick to siblings or choose your best friend/closest family member to stand beside you on your big day, keeping your wedding party small helps you save on flower costs. It also keeps your rehearsal dinner costs down when you have fewer bridesmaids and groomsmen to feed.
These days, so much can be communicated through your wedding website. Consider doing online wedding invitations through your website service rather than traditional wedding invitations. They can range in price from free to a couple of dollars per invitation, saving you tons on paper invites and postage. They're also a lot easier to keep track of for your guests.
Strategize Your Timing
The time of day you throw your party will heavily impact the cost of food. If you go with an early ceremony and serve brunch or heavy appetizers instead of a multi-course dinner, you can keep it classy while saving on food.
Consider a Weekday
Weekday weddings are becoming all the rage, whether it's due to finances, venue availability, or a need to reschedule to a second choice because of the virus. There's nothing wrong with choosing a weekday for your wedding reception.
Recruit an Officiant
If you're not religious and don't need a member of the clergy to officiate your wedding, ask a friend or family member who's important to you both. A gesture like that would not only be meaningful to the person you ask, it could be their wedding gift to you. Knowing your officiant well not only enhances the ceremony experience, it saves on wedding expenses too.
Go with Signature Cocktails or Skip the Open Bar
Instead of having guests pay for drinks, keep the selection to something you can afford such as only beer and wine or a couple of select signature cocktails. Signature cocktails/mocktails are a great way to add another personal touch to your big day. Choose special names that reference parts of your personality, or name them after your pets.
Your Day Will Be Special
It might feel daunting to think about your wedding right now, but rest assured, it will be one of the most special days of your life to date, regardless of this pandemic. There are so many creative ways to keep the costs down while throwing a beautiful, tasteful party. If you want more suggestions for how to save on floral, let us know. We're happy to help!
Photography - @AdamsPointofView
Styling/Design/Coordination - @srj_events
Venue - @oeste.bar.cafe
Rentals - @pleasantonrentals
Calligraphy - @bettertogethercalligraphy
Florals - @succulentsforhire
Cake - @mapetitemaisoncakedesign
MUA - @lupedoesmakeup
Stylist - @svpremekvng_cede
Hair - Mel of The DollHouse Salon, San Leandro CA
Models - @luciferslaundry + @josephinajesus