Today’s couple, Dalena and JJ, not only stuck to a budget for their wedding, they also planned the bulk of their wedding while they were out of the country. I love how they decorated their outdoor venue to fit their vision for their Buddhist ceremony. And how fun is their cake topper? A custom cake topper is a great way to add a special detail to your big day! Enjoy this summer outdoor wedding! xoxo, Jessica
Dalena + JJ
August 7, 2016
Montague, MA | Montague Retreat Center
What was your budget?
- Our total budget was $13,900.
- Photography: $3,500
- Dress (including veil & accessories): $1,300
- Bavarian dancing dress: $180
- Hair/Makeup: $650
- Indian Buffet (4 vegan dishes, 2 kinds of rice, naan bread, vegetable fritters): $1,000
- Compostable plates and silverware: $150
- Beer, wine, Mojitos, and champagne: $400
- Bartender: $150
- Cake (delivered all the way from Ohio by a friend!): $200
- Favors: $300
- Calligraphy: DIY
- Venue: $3,500
- Flowers: $100
- Other decor: $190
- Music: $600
- Rentals: $1,200
- Custom cake toppers: $100
- Wooden Buddha: $380
How many guests did you have?
We had 100 guests.
What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?
Our wedding was all about the personal details! My husband and I wanted to have a Buddhist ceremony, but since there is no such thing as a “traditional” Buddhist wedding (since historically, Buddhist monks were not involved in weddings), we came up with our own ceremony and ritual elements to incorporate.
We asked my husband’s friend from college (who is an ordained Buddhist monk) to officiate our wedding, and he did a wonderful job welcoming everyone and leading the ceremony. We had a friend and a cousin light sage before the ceremony began, and walk in opposite directions around the perimeter to close the sacred space around us. We then had both of our sets of parents come up, in turn, to participate in the ritual coming together of our two families.
First, our mothers came up and broke bread together, and then fed us the bread. We placed what was left of the bread on the table of offerings to the Buddha. Then, our fathers came up and drank wine together, and shared with us the wine. (JJ’s friend who poured the wine ended up pouring quite a generous amount, which JJ then had to quickly down before the ceremony! It probably helped calm his nerves. 😉 These rituals were a fun way to involve a number of members of our wedding party, as well as our parents, in the ceremony itself. We then had our brothers come up and perform short poetry readings, then we each crowned each other with flower and leaf crowns. After that, the monk performed a recitation of The Heart Sutra (an important Buddhist sutra) in Korean, playing a wooden “fish” that is used to keep time, while we all turned to face the wooden Buddha. We read each other our own vows, which included a vow to support each other in our mutual search for enlightenment across multiple incarnations (as opposed to the oft-quoted “’til death do us part”). A
And as a final ritual moment, we broke a wine glass together, as a way of honoring my husband’s Jewish culture and heritage. Then we processed back down the hill for cocktails under the willow tree, while Duo Eamon (a local performance duo) played the guitar and violin. We were incredibly pleased with how the ceremony played out, and it felt completely personal and appropriate to what we wanted to celebrate and honor in our union.
Did you do any DIY projects or create any handmade items for your weddings?
Absolutely! We were actually out of the country until a mere 2 weeks before our wedding day, and so those last two weeks were a lot of frantic running around trying to get together last-minute details. Because we splurged a lot on both venue and photography, we needed to keep all other expenses to as much of a minimum as possible, so I hand-wrote the signs for the seating chart, bar menu, and the guest book, and we scavenged around town for little detail elements, also making use of some leftover decorations already stored at the venue. We also collaborated with the wedding that was happening the day before ours, and they let us re-use some of their own handmade elements—paper hearts leading the way up to the ceremony space, and wildflower table arrangements grown by the bride. This was a huge help to us, and a way to help cut the other wedding party’s expenses by chipping in.
What was the biggest thing you did to save money?
Even though our venue was a big chunk of our budget, it was much less expensive than if we’d gone for an all-things-included place. For a fantastic location, what we paid was quite the bargain, and the barn, patio, and forested surroundings were so beautiful that they ended up requiring very little decoration.
We also saved big time by opting for a buffet-style meal that our friends at Spice Root, a local Indian restaurant, put together for us. We served it on organic compostable plates that we ordered from Amazon. It’s a huge challenge to feed so many guests without breaking the bank, but we got a number of compliments on our food, which may not have been multiple plated courses on fancy plates, but was delicious and environmentally friendly.
Another place I saved was on my dress. Rather than getting a brand new designer gown, I went to Blue Sky Bridal in Seattle while I was home visiting my mom, and got what turned out to be a never-worn dress on consignment for a fraction of its original price.
What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?
Let friends help. Have lots of friends around. Friends saved my life on my wedding day! I’ve heard some horror stories about bridesmaid spats or disagreements, but my team was on point helping out with everything. I’m terrible at asking for assistance and try to do everything myself, so to have people constantly coming up and saying, “What can I do to help? How about I go hang these up? Where would you like them?” helped me be as stress-free as I could have hoped to be.
What was your biggest splurge?
Photography, but it was worth it! I knew it would be as soon as I saw Dani Fine’s portfolio. It was clear to me that the location and details can be completely gorgeous on their own, but you still need an expert photographer to capture the magic. I’m so pleased with our photos, one of which is already framed and on display in our house. I was particularly happy that Dani went out into the field to capture our entire wedding party and guests facing the Buddha during the chanting of the Heart Sutra. That was a magical moment for me, and I think a number of other photographers would have hesitated to take that shot, but Dani went for it.
What was your favorite detail?
So hard to choose! But I think I’ll go with our wedding yurt: an unexpected bonus of our venue. I loved that we had a romantic little hut of our own to camp out in on our wedding night, while our immediate family had a place to sleep indoors at the venue, while many friends chose to camp out in the woods as well. That made the next morning fun (if busy!) to wake up to everyone who was still there, pack up all our leftover items, and close the festivities with a group brunch at a local food spot.
I also loved the way our altar for the Buddha turned out, with organic vegetables from our friend’s farm as offerings. And the flower and leaf crowns that my husband and I exchanged during our ceremony. This was something he was especially excited about doing and I wasn’t totally convinced we needed it at first, but crowning each other and wearing our crowns out of the ceremony as husband and wife was really touching and memorable.
What is the most memorable moment of your day?
Facing the Buddha during the monk’s chanting after JJ and I made our vows.
I also treasure many side conversations I had with friends and family during brief moments of quiet throughout the day, especially during the bonfire we had that evening where guests roasted marshmallows and ate s’mores when they were tired of dancing.
Photography: Dani Fine Photography • Venue: Montague Retreat Center • Favors: Seed Paper Sweets + The Thailand Warehouse • Catering: Spice Root • Bakery: Patty Cake Bakery • Rentals: Northampton Rental • Ceremony Musicians: Duo Eamon • Hair/Makeup: Glow Bridal • Bridesmaid Gifts: Aubrey Elizabeth Apothecary • Custom Cake Toppers: DealEasyNet • Wedding Gown Designer: Pronovias • Bridal Shop: Blue Sky Bridal in Seattle • Tailoring: Mr. Hamdi’s • Jewelry: Jeanne Danjou Jewelry • Shoes: Adrianna Papell • Undergarments: Invisibra
Editor’s note: During this time of quarantine and social distancing, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Learn more here.