Melissa & Jason know all the tricks for hosting an elegant Phoenix bash on a budget

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Photos by Christine Johnson Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Melissa, Electrical Project Engineer

Her offbeat partner: Jason, Writer

Date and location of wedding: Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Phoenix, AZ — September 9, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:

Our wedding planning began with establishing the most bare bones budget we could come up with. We took into consideration that our family was spread out across the country, and consisted of retirees and parents with small children. We wanted it to be a beautiful, affordable, intimate, drama-free wedding.

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We limited the guests (including ourselves) to a party of less than 40. That meant leaving out friends who were important to either myself or Jason. I went to Seattle for my 40th birthday, and I took six of my most intimate (and married) friends to a fondue dinner. It was there that I told them that they could not bring their spouses to the wedding because I had to make the hard choice: do you get to bring your spouse, or do I get to have as many of my closest friends there as possible? It was not an easy choice.

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Ways that we conserved:

  • We had our wedding at a venue in a less expensive city (Phoenix, AZ) and close to relatives with whom we could conserve and eliminate their accommodation/travel costs, freeing up money to use for the wedding
  • Our rings cost about $3,000 — we used our grandmothers' wedding ring stones to craft my engagement ring and eternity wedding band then chose a band for Jason that he loved within our budget
  • We requested only two hours of the professional photographer’s time and 500 photos, for a cool $1,200 instead of the typical $4,000+ cost for the day. She came for the bridal morning prep, ceremony, and family photos, and stayed to take some candid shots after the ceremony

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  • A huge storm ruined our original venue the night before the wedding, so we got upgraded for free (and graciously) by the venue giving us the intimate garden venue of our dreams
  • We did not use any decorations for the ceremony except Jason's grandma's heirloom silver candle holder (that was gifted to us) on a table to represent loved ones who could not be there
  • We took all of the basic options that came with the wedding package and didn’t embellish. We had the florist put some extra flowers on the cake as decoration
  • We requested money for a couple's massage and a hot air balloon ride from our guests, using HoneyfundThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them
  • We had a morning wedding on a weekday, which cut costs in half
  • We did not send any invitations, but rather sent save-the-dates and invitations via the free website Paperless Post
  • I borrowed everything except my dress and shoes from my sisters
  • We created a music playlist using Spotify and streamed it from my iPod during the reception
  • We asked Jason's nephew to play the piano for a couple songs during the ceremony, and operate the iPod for the Bridal Party and Bridal Entrance during the ceremony
  • We did not give the guests favors, but my sister did provide fans that they could keep at the ceremony from the bridal shower that was held at her house.

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Tell us about the ceremony:

Our vows read:

"Jason/Melissa, do you come before this gathering of friends and family to proclaim your love and devotion for Melissa/Jason? Do you promise to affirm her/him, respect her/him, and care for her/him during times of joy and hardship? Do you commit yourself to share your feelings of happiness and sadness? Do you pledge to remain faithful to her/him? Do you promise to “Ride or Die” with him?"

Jason was REALLY into Sons of Anarchy at the time, and we both come from conservative families. So we got a snicker on that one!

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We had a candle to honor those who could not be with us (living and passed). We also had a ring warming ceremony and the Jewish "breaking of the glass" ceremony. Only, we forgot about the glass, and had our wedding planner run and find a small light bulb on the morning of the wedding.

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Our biggest challenge:

When Jason's daughter suggested some budget DIY ideas for our wedding, I started crying because I felt like I was compromising. I waited 40 years to get to this point in my life, and I didn’t want to sacrifice a thing. However, it was the classic case of wanting a steak dinner on a hot dog budget.

Turns out, getting creative was good for my soul, it was good for our relationship, and it was a great way to allow others in our family to show their love and support. We managed to pay cash, saving over $10,000 in less than six months through bringing our lunches to work, working extra hours, and not doing things we liked to do normally (out to dinner, movies, haircuts, waxing, new clothes, going to coffee, etc.). It was well worth it to emerge from the other side of that beautiful day with ZERO wedding bills!

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My favorite moment:

My father, who has Parkinson's, was able to walk me down the aisle. The most meaningful moment was when Jason saw him coming with me down the aisle to the song "The Wedding Song (There is Love)" by Paul Stookey. It was overwhelmingly beautiful and as a 40-year-old bride, I was anxious to make sure that this moment occurred in my lifetime.

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When Jason lit the memorial candle, he swears he felt a rush of wind and energy and we both know that means both of my grandpas (who both died in 2014) and his grandma and father, and all those who couldn't be with us, were definitely there in spirit.

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Vendors

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  1. I love the simplicity in this wedding! I've learned through wedding planning that what we consider compromising is actually life's way of letting us know we don't need "stuff" for happiness. The bride looks radiant, and her groom is so handsome. They made the wedding, everything else is just extra.

    13 agree
  2. A lot of Jewish weddings have used blubs (well it is glass), so don't feel bad 🙂

    I love the 1st photo (the facial expression!).

    Your father looks great!! What a handsome man! I know a couple people with Parkinson's. The lengths they have come with medication, other treatments, and other research is amazing

    6 agree
  3. I feel like, regardless of how much you spend, if the groom is in a well-fitted suit/outfit, the entire day can look like a million bucks. And this groom's suit is AWESOME.

    3 agree
  4. This wedding was perfect because it celebrated your love! Way to go! You both look fantastic!!!! You can feel the love with these great pictures! Congrats –from one Phoenix-bride to another 🙂

    2 agree
  5. A beautiful wedding and fantastic information about the budget. It is so tough to make those budget decisions when thinking of the 'Traditional' western wedding. It's always great to see how others figure it out and produce an event that is perfect for them – within budget.

    4 agree
  6. I think they did a beautiful job with this wedding. It really is picture perfect in many ways and has a lot of special elements. I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but I really would not consider this "bare bones" at all. There were obviously some adjustments made to accommodate a budget, but let's be real, there are still far less expensive ways to throw what is essentially a party (albiet a very special one). I just don't want people reading this to think THIS example is the absolute bare minimum of funds required to throw what would still be considered a wedding. Work with what you've got and the rest will fall into place. Rant over, congrats to the bride and groom!

    13 agree
  7. While I may not change the minds of those who have decided to hate on one of the most special days of our lives, I will add a point of clarification that may help add perspective… Firstly, thank you for the love and awesomeness! As the article says, we were allowed to have 40 at the venue we could afford. My true friends and family know how important it is for us to live a debt-free life, and beginning a marriage having accomplished this HUGE goal was something everyone (including the hundreds of friends we could not invite) wanted to see. Immediate family members who are married all brought their spouses and children. Children, even if they are very little, count as one "seat". We also invited a couple friends of our parents, couples, so that they would have someone to talk to at the wedding. And after all of the immediate family and spouses and bridal party, there was only room for Jason and I to invite about 3 or so of our own friends. The article said it was a hard choice. It was more than hard – it took a lot of bravery on my part and a lot of love and understanding on my friends/spouses part. Jason gave me his "friend count" so I could have 6 of "my girls" there. And the spouses loved me enough to let us have that day together. Believe me, I could have invited 1,000's of people. Do you know how many FB friends I have? LOL. Keep it light, people. This article was for your edification to give you ideas of how to think outside of the box. My true friends know how much I love them and wish I could have had everyone there. So in the final analysis – my friends who were/were not invited love me, the spouses who were/were not invited to the wedding love me (although they WERE invited to stay on the premises during the event), and all the other hundreds of people all around the country/world who were not ANY less important – but weren't able to be invited, still love me. And those who don't or won't, will never love me. So it's ok that they weren't there (remember… "drama-free") We were true to US… Me and my New Husband… To what WE needed. Not what everyone else needs and thinks… THAT'S OFFBEAT 🙂 We had a beautiful, meaningful, intimate wedding of my dreams. And I wanted to share my ideas with you so you like, you may have that too.

    20 agree
  8. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing. Congrats on the last-minute venue upgrade, what an unexpected and gorgeous surprise!

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