When Elizabeth of Stockroom Vintage wrote me last week to share her wedding with me, I shed a few tears while reading her email. In short, all the best laid plans and ideas that had been swirling in Elizabeth's head while planning her dream wedding were completely overturned when she found out her father had terminal cancer. With help from their families, Elizabeth and Will scrambled to plan a new DIY wedding on short notice and tried to focus on only those things that were of utmost importance- celebrating their love with the people they loved! In the end they cut their budget in half and managed to pull together a meaningful, personal day that was filled with so much love. Elizabeth got to have her father walk her down the aisle and dance with her on her wedding day, and that meant more than any expensive flower arrangement or designer vintage gown ever could. I think this is a good example of how important it is to keep things in perspective when planning your big day. You can read more of Elizabeth's story over in this article she penned for HER magazine.
I love that they hired a food truck instead of a caterer, employed the help of their family and friends to help make the day happen, and that Elizabeth was so in love with her photographer that she splurged to have her travel to join them at their new wedding location. In the end, the photos really speak for themselves and captured the love and tenderness of the day. Elizabeth has since turned her love of vintage items into a rental business– you can check out her site and inventory here. I hope this story and the message behind it touches you as much as it did me! xoxo- Jessica
July 16, 2011
San Antonio, Texas
What was your budget? If you are able, give us a rough breakdown of how you spent your budget.
Elizabeth’s gown (David’s Bridal): $499
Accessories: $85 (Shoes (cheap mall find), vintage-inspired enamel bracelet from Macy’s, Target cardigan)
Vintage brooches (worn by bride and given to bridesmaids as gifts): flea market finds from bride’s own collection
Sweater clip and headband from Etsy: $55
Hair and makeup: $195
Will’s J.Crew suit, Johnston & Murphy shoes, shirt and tie: $500
Will’s vintage locket pin (Etsy): $17
Monogrammed cigar cases for groomsmen: $105
DIY invites: $40 (Elizabeth bought 50 authentic library check-out cards from Etsy for $5, filled them out by hand, stamped them with the wedding date and then folded paper sleeves for them. The other $35 went to craft supplies, envelopes and postage.)
Craft supplies, vintage lace tablecloths and misc. décor: $180
Food truck/catering: $670
MoonPie Favors, treat bags and custom stickers: $50
Photography (and airfare for photographer): $1,536
DIY flowers: $115
Chair rental: $70
Alcohol: Free (donated but would've cost about $500. We overestimated how much liquor we needed for our signature cocktails, an old fashioned and a French 75, so my Dad ended up re-shelving six unopened bottles. In all, we only opened one bottle of gin and one bottle of bourbon…so we recouped half of the original cost in the end.)
Homemade desserts: $75
How many guests did you have?
What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?
I wanted the wedding to have soul and a sense history—and to reflect my undying love of vintage. It was important to Will and me not so much that guests were floored by lavish displays or by how much we shelled out for fancy things, but that they came away from the day thinking, “That wedding was so them.” So we infused every corner of that house with our favorite vintage pieces. We used a working typewriter I found while thrifting as our guest book, and we scattered vintage train cases and luggage about. We used tons of pieces from my milk glass collection and an assortment of my vintage vessels, vases and Mason jars. I adorned my cardigan with vintage brooches and a retro sweater clip, and I wore a handmade headband that featured reclaimed bits of vintage jewelry. Can you tell I’m obsessed with vintage?
But a huge part of that “soul” also came from our desire to honor the people we love. Will’s mother Carol passed about a decade ago, and it was important to us that she was a big part of our day and that we remembered her in sweet, joyful ways. We used the vast collection of vintage Nancy Drew novels she gave Will to add interest and height to table displays. We featured pink carnations, her favorite flower, throughout the space. And my favorite: A few weeks before the wedding, I gave Will a vintage Fleur de Lys brooch pin that I found on Etsy. He chose two favorite photos of his mom to place inside, and he wore it on his suit jacket instead of a boutonnière. He carried his mom above his heart all day. That locket is now one of his most prized possessions.
What was the biggest thing you did to save money?
I live with a “make do and mend” mantra, and I didn’t think our wedding should be any different. We used lots of vintage pieces we already owned and loved (many of which are now available to rent here in Nashville through my company, Stockroom Vintage). Plus, when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer—and the doctor bills piled up—I couldn’t even think of splurging. I was concerned with doing all I could to prolong his life, not with the size of my bouquet. So we cut our original budget by more than half and prioritized. At first it was daunting, figuring out how to make it all work for about $4,000. But throughout the whole process, Will kept saying, “When you do things for the right reasons, it always works out.” And that was so true.
Within days of making our decision to move the wedding, calls from our guest list of friends and family trickled in. My brother Lucius and his wife Keri agreed to host the ceremony and reception (and to clear all of the furniture out of the first floor of their home!). Will’s uncles on his mother’s side wanted to make footing the bill easier, so they helped pay for the food truck. My mother is an amazing cook and seamstress, so she baked all of the treats for the dessert table and helped me craft everything from vintage fabric bunting to handmade paper garlands. My dad and stepmom donated all of the booze for the bar from their liquor store. Our friend John officiated the ceremony and gifted us with some awesome vintage serving pieces we used at the bar. My niece Sequoia and sister Naomi, my maid and matron of honor, flew in from Oregon with some gorgeous paper lanterns and handcrafted paper flowers. And Will paid for his wedding garb with savings bonds given to him by his grandparents on his father’s side—he’d been saving them to buy something special since his grandparents passed when he was at the of age of 6! There was just this groundswell of love and support around us. In the end, our wedding felt like a community effort, and that made it even more meaningful to all of us.
What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?
Well, you know I’m going to say, “Go vintage!” Weddings tend to be a time of such excess. And that’s OK, ladies—it’s like the biggest party you’ll ever throw! But it doesn’t mean you have to create a lot of waste or spend tons of money on items you’ll have no idea what to do with when the ceremony is over. That’s why I launched Stockroom Vintage. I wanted to make it easy for brides to nail the vintage look—or rustic, farmhouse, industrial or what have you—without logging tons of hours in the thrift store or busting their budgets.
Also, remember that stress does freaky things to your body. I had to have my dress altered—three times! Once the dress arrived, I put it in my closet and left it there. When my mom asked me to try it on a few days before the wedding, she zipped it up and that sweetheart bodice fell right to the floor. Those last-minute alterations were stressors I didn’t need. And the last thing you want to worry about on your wedding day is whether your strapless dress will end up around your ankles as you’re saying your vows.
What was your biggest splurge?
We decided to fly our photographer, Stef Atkinson, in from Nashville. Sure, a plane ticket isn’t the biggest splurge ever, but our budget was tight. It was never a question in my mind though. From the first time I stumbled upon Stef’s site and found out that she shared my love for film photographs (she shot our wedding with a Holga camera and Instax for instant prints in addition to digital), I was hooked. When our plans changed, I couldn’t give her up. I knew I’d miss her terribly.
Really, her task was enormous. She knew that her shots might be the last family photos we’d have with my dad—and they were. Can you imagine that pressure? But she captured the mood of the day so perfectly. And she’s so dang talented! Since the wedding, I’ve contracted her to photograph Stockroom Vintage’s styled shoots, to design my website and create my logo. I’m so incredibly loyal to her because her talent and creativity always blows me away.
What was your favorite detail?
Definitely the food. A week before the wedding, my mom pulled my vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook off my kitchen shelf and handpicked some delicious vintage-inspired dessert recipes. The day before the wedding, she and her friend John (who also doubled as our wedding officiant!) baked all day in my brother’s kitchen. My mom crafted dozens of the most gorgeous miniature treats—rum balls, coconut tarts and lots of cake balls. When I saw the dessert table, I wanted to squeal. It was better than I ever imagined—and let me tell you, those rum balls were potent and they disappeared quickly.
I also adored our caterer. With the wedding taking place at my brother’s home in Texas, I didn’t want to crowd the kitchen with a catering staff. And I didn’t want to force our guests to endure a sit-down dinner outside in the sweltering Texas heat. A food truck was the perfect solution. I found Wheelie Gourmet online and fell in love with its retro paint job. I would’ve booked them on that alone! Then I started emailing with Rachel Hajji, the owner, and she was just the sweetest. Her father had undergone treatment for cancer as well, so she understood when I emailed her and was like, “I don’t have time to the taste the food, but I trust you. What time can you pull into the driveway?” We surprised our guests with the food truck, and it was a total hit. We had Mediterranean sandwiches, sweet potato fries and the most refreshing Moroccan mint iced tea.
What is the most memorable moment of your day?
There were so many moments. Any doubts I had about getting married in a house rather than a big venue melted away when Will and I stood at the “altar” (a.k.a. the living room fireplace) and all of our guests were within arm’s reach. I could see the looks on their faces—their tears and laughter. There was so much love in that room, and just this sense of gratitude and appreciation that we could all be there together. Oh, and when Will and I saw each other for the first time. I felt like twirling in circles to show off my dress, and I couldn’t get over how GQ he looked. That embarrasses him, but hey, he’s a hottie! When he sang “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds to me during our first dance, I melted. I’m so very smitten.
And then, of course, the time with my Dad. He passed away less than a week after our wedding, so that day is still so close to me—so much so that I still never know if I’ll laugh or cry when talking about it. But there were so many little moments that meant so much: The look on my Dad’s face when he saw me for the first time in my gown. Dancing with him to an Elton John song as we both tried our best not to cry and failed miserably. And the moment when he and I were alone in the kitchen before walking down the aisle. He chose that seersucker suit and bow tie—like he had this vision of how he wanted to look for me on that day—and for a moment I felt like I did when I was little, looking at him and thinking, “That’s my Dad. He’s so handsome.”
Photography: Stef Atkinson | All vintage décor: Stockroom Vintage | Food truck: Wheelie Gourmet | Wholesale flowers: San Antonio Flower Co. | Other vintage and handmade elements from Etsy: Flower Garden Headband: Be Something New | Mother of Pearl Sweater Clip: Gemmaz Gemz | Fleur de Lys Locket: Karen Elmquist Vintage