Saturday, August 2, 2014

Our Washington Wedding !!

Thinking back on our wedding day, on the 2nd of August, it seems surreal. I have never felt more loved or honored. The presence of so many truly incredible people all in the same place with so much beauty and deliciousness was simply the best. And it was in fact the best day of my life.

I decided to blog about it because I think it's such an awesome story, and hopefully it will spark ideas for others embarking on the epic, Lord of the Rings-esque journey that is planning a wedding. 

Honestly, the planning and details nearly drove us crazy, despite stating repeatedly that this would be a no stress undertaking. HAHAHAHAHAHA....To be fair, it was extra intense because a) we were living in a tent in Joel's mom’s backyard (long story), and b) moving out of the country a few weeks later, which included but is not limited to getting rid of 5/6 of our worldly possessions and driving to San Francisco for visas two weeks before the wedding. But I digress.

The tent we lived in for 2.5 months.
I wanted everything to be perfect, and since people were making such huge sacrifices to come to our wedding, I was afraid of disappointing them! At the height of the intensity, Joel earned major soon-to-be husband points. He said, “All we have guaranteed [them] is that they will witness the love and happiness we feel. That’s all we need to focus on.” Those words echoed in my head, and though things were still hectic, he helped remind me what's important. And truly, amidst all of the fabulous details, the real magic of our wedding (for all of us) was how full of love it was.

A few notes before I get into all the pretty stuff (and I must say I am continually amazed how aesthetically amazeballs everything was): We planned the wedding in basically 7 months. Our wedding photographer is Jamie Johnson. She is fantastic and very reasonably priced.

The first thing to decide is what you value most about your marryin' process. Travel is numero uno for us so our first post-engagement purchase was honeymoon tickets. Our second purchase was premarital counseling sessions through A Heavenly Ceremony in Seattle. The benefits of premarital counseling are well worth the investment. For us, discussing finances was the most useful but we also covered communication, conflict, sustaining passion, and more.

Wedding planning is like dominoes. You need one down to get to the others. The biggest piece is LOCATION.  Probably the best part of wedding planning was getting to go scout locations. It was the perfect excuse for Joel and I to "have to" get out of town. The trips felt like mini-vacations. In addition to seeing many beautiful spots in our beloved Washington, we got to spend entire days together and reconnect.
We stopped to enjoy the magnificent Seattle skyline after a day of wedding prep
Finding the perfect location is a lot like finding the perfect mate. There were loads of options that
were by all accounts very good. But they didn't feel JUST right. We started out with a list of must-have's: outdoors, allows us to bring our own everything (not be forced to use their caterer, bar staff, etc.), ample parking, solid food prep setup (critical because the food would need to be heated), and room for a band & dancing. I wanted to do it somewhere out of town a bit so people would feel like they were going on a little getaway, but that was negotiable. 

A few specific places we looked at: The Grotto at St. Edwards Park in Kenmore, The Cutting Garden in Sequim, Port Townsend in general (gotta book early), and Glen Echo Gardens in Bellingham. I also looked on AirBnb and VRBO at vacation properties, but our wedding was too big (60 people). 

One place we considered was this weird train converted into a restaurant. It's less dismal looking in person :)
Finally it was getting down to the wire. I gave us a time frame to decide and tried not to panic. I spent countlesssss hours on the internet, and when I was almost ready to compromise, I stumbled onto info about weddings in Ocean Shores, Washington. Being from Hawaii, I LOVE the beach. I looked around and found an inn that hosts receptions. I drove down the next day. Joel couldn’t come but trusted me to go for it if it was THE one.

When I arrived at the Judith Ann Inn, I felt at home. The ladies who work there are super friendly and relaxed, and we hit if off right away. All of our requirements were met, and they offered plenty of extras like linens, tables, chairs, dishes and lots more.  In addition to using the deck and lawn, we could rent all of the inn's luxurious but well-priced rooms so quite a few people could sleep there right after the party! The rest of the guests would be able to walk next door to the Ramada, or stay at any number of other hotels or beach houses in town.

Front of The Judith Ann Inn
My decision was finalized when I got to the beach. It was true love. The logs, the sand, the birds…perfection. I stayed for sunset, overjoyed that this was positively, definitely IT!!!! AND the cherry on top is that you have to pay a park event fee of $20 to get married there!

After the location was set, it was time for invitations. I made online Save the Date’s on Paperless Post to make it easy (people can fill in their addresses, which you can export into an Excel doc. Super helpful!). Shopping around for invitations with mah girls, we were discussing options and LIGHTBULB! Who says you have to do paper invites? How about a message in a bottle?  I wrote a poem about the wedding and put it inside with some shells and seaglass, and at the bottom put our wedding website info where people could get details, so as not to muddle up the novelty.

I have no regrets about this, as it was totes adorbs and a really fun way to get people's expectations sufficiently high. But oh my gad it was quite the project. The bottles, the printing, gluing, and oh don’t get me started on the mailing. Boxes, ungodly amounts of tape…the last ones didn’t go out until crazy close to the wedding. But I sent out emails with the info…which some people paid attention to…ha ha. Moral of the wedding story: You do what you can. Moral of the invitation: it’s the first real slice of wedding they get, so why not be creative? (But sanity comes first!)

My location search wasn't entirely over, because an important part of my wedding vision was to spend the couple of days before the wedding with our crew of BFF’s, eating, drinking, catching up, laughing, and preparing. I naively imagined this time would be very relaxing, which it was not exactly, but having all of us together (including friends from NY & Japan!) is a memory I'll cherish forever. Plus, you know, we couldn't have done it prepared without them!

The helpers :)
For our bridal party, we rented this BALLER place called Gibson House. Complete with soda fountain, a THEATER, and a number of other strange and magical rooms. It’s like a 10 year old decided built it, “I want a room that’s Christmas all the time!” They have it.

It looks normal on the outside...
SO COOL! Guests came over on Wedding Eve and watched When Harry Met Sally :)
Complete with mostly-functional boats!
The day before the wedding, the guys (and Jessica, resident groomswoman) went to the beach to prepare for the ceremony. They saw a sign that two OTHER weddings were going to be on the beach the same day as ours! Luckily they were at different times. BUT this news actually spurred ingenuity. The crew picked a spot further back on the beach, and arranged the rocks and logs into a circle (more on that later). We had as private an area as one could hope for, and when they eagerly unveiled it to me I nearly cried.

We did a very basic rehearsal with the bridal party (also called herding cats) and hoped for the best!

Brandon, the officiant, giving me lip as per usual
The Gibson house actually ended up being a great spot for getting ready photos. I got to wear my mama’s pearl earrings, my grandma’s necklace (which she gave to me…awww), and my bouquet had lace from Patti’s wedding dress. Joelie wore a pin that was his grandpa’s, who loved to collect and sell jewelry.

The soda fountain was a perfect backdrop
The ladder in the Captain's Room was another great spot for pics
To break up the posing into bearable chunks, we decided to do photos with our respective bridesmaids/groomsmen beforehand, but Joel and I didn't see each other before the wedding (he felt strongly about this, and in hindsight I'm really glad we did it that way).

The guys + Jess got ready at the inn, and needless to say had a very good time. 

The ceremony was quite unconventional. See, although Joel and I appear to be your normal everyday people, we are in fact hippies. I wanted the guests to be able to interact and be PART of the wedding. After all, we wouldn’t be here, together, without them. So I wanted everyone to be standing around us in a circle. 

My aunt Audrey lead an activity she often does in her co-op trainings. It's more of a show vs. tell thing, but basically everyone shakes each other’s hands, creating a circle. So she led that activity, which we thought would only take a few minutes, but people ending up chatting, so we were standing in our little gendered circles trying to hide form each other ha ha.

Eventually the “procession” began. Craig, the guitarist in Bonobros, played the guitar softly. The guys went first and the ladies hid me from Joel. I walked down the aisle last, and though I thought I would be nervous, I wasn’t. I was simply elated and SO honored that everyone was there for this moment! Joel looked so handsome too!

Brandon, always zany with an especially adventurous shirt and tie combo, was a grand officiant. He gave a heartfelt speech, and then it was time for our vows. Or so we thought! We got our first surprise! All the members of the bridal party stepped forward one at a time to appreciate Joel or me for something. It was SO sweet and thoughtful! We truly have the greatest friends.
"Wait what? ... AWWWWW."
We exchanged vows, which was teary and lovely and funny. 

Then when the ceremony was over, our homies made an awning for us to run through! The perfect finale to the most magical experience of my life.

But it was just the start! First we all celebrated! Our moms jumped up and down and said something to the effect of, "they're legal!!!" While guests went to the Inn to for drinks and snackin', we took photos with family, the bridal party, and as a MARRIED COUPLE.

My dad's side, the Absher's
Mom's side, the Malan's
My gorgeous mommy!
Joelie's mama, sis & papa
The zoo crew. (we don't call ourselves that, but it's appropriate)

As we were finishing our photos, we noticed a man watching us. Afterwards he came up and told us that he saw the whole wedding and it was a beautiful thing to witness, and wished us the best of luck. :)
Now it's time for the PARTY

When we arrived at the inn, we all sort of milled around talking and slowly made our way to the lawn. Everything was decorated beautifully, which so many wonderful people helped with. I am still in awe of how everyone stepped up with their unique skill set which was perfect for what needed to be done.

Recognize something? 
Yes the rest of our invitations were used for decorations!
Every table was different

There were gorgeous flowers everywhere. Joel and Patti (Joel’s AMAZING mom) planted many of the flowers. What we couldn’t grow, Patti got from a flower wholesaler. Patti used to be a florist and made outrageously beautiful bouquets and boutonnieres. Patti, Ginney (Patti’s soul sister), and Joel made amazing crab enchiladas and veggie lasagna. Joel’s sister Alicia is gluten-free and vegan, so she made an incredible allergy-free mushroom stroganoff.

People ate and we began the speeches! We laughed hysterically, teared up, and had to kiss every time someone clinked a glass J

Next it was time for OUR FIRST DANCE! Joel and I had a little surprise here of our own. We had a friend help us by playing Seal’s “Kissed by a Rose”. Anyone who knows either of us well would rightly be confused by this, as we are not that sentimental. But we danced in all seriousness. 

About a minute in, the song cut out and we heard the loveliest of lyrics- “Gonna have myself a real good time....I feel Ali-i-i-iiiive" Yes that's right my friends, it was "Don’t Stop Me Now” by who else but QUEEN. I don’t think it’s possible not to dance to this song and we ROCKED OUT.

People joined in to the rocking, then a bit later WE GOT ANOTHER SURPRISE, arranged by my always-fun mother. She organized a FLASH MOB!!!! It was incredible!!!!!! The video is hilarious because my friend Maura is not super sure about the moves and is directly in front. Oh Mau Mau.

After a wee bit more dancing, we had Joel’s dad & uncle’s band The Bonobros bring da noise AND da funk with their classic rock. Our friend Karl did a cameo with them. As per usual, their music was enjoyed by all.

Tunin up
They played as nightfall came and people boogied down on the deck.

Our moms are THE COOLEST

I wanted the food to be left out, so people ate more and had dessert at their leisure. Someone had to go out and get more wine. Little note to future wedding havers: buy twice as much booze as you think you need. People. Get. Buckwild. Young, old, conservative, lush- people were getting down with the dranks. I’m glad someone went and got more because I was unaware of the supply, probably because of the drinks I was having!
There was plenty of this left at the end
We had told people to prepare a talent, and my one regret of the wedding is that we didn’t really get to that. Time just sort of went by, and people left little by little, and chatted all over the property. I prepared a song for Joel with my mom on guitar so we performed that later. Joel and Kit did some Monty Python, and Katie and Richard performed “Shoop,” (my karaoke jam). AND there were delicious sweet treats and love mixes for guests to take home as party favors. So all's well that ends well :)

Before we knew it, it was over. Just like that. It got late and we didn’t want to be too noisy because of the other hotels nearby. Joel and I scavenged leftover cheese on the charcuterie platter, opened presents, sat in the hot tub, and had a special bottle of bubbly we saved.

We were woken up the next morning by our haggard friends who thought they were supposed to come over at the break of dawn (is this a prank?). It was mildly irritating at the time, but who can be mad at such a fan-freaking-tastic group of people? I ate leftover stroganoff in a bathrobe on the floor and moaned for coffee for awhile, and then we started the clean-up. Much later, simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated, we journeyed back to Seattle. The next day we flew to Hawaii, and three weeks later moved to France. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

To the many, many people who contributed (some of whom I probably don't even know about), I'll never be able to put into words how grateful I am but let me just that my heart has been filled with a warmth that I don't believe will ever go away. Thank you so much. And if anyone who is planning a wedding has questions, feel free to ask. Cheers!