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The offbeat bride: Natalie, Prevention Coordinator (non-profit)

Her offbeat partner: Ry, Bookseller

Date and location of wedding: ArtSpace 111, a local art gallery in Fort Worth, Texas — October 23, 2009

What made our wedding offbeat: Ry and I had been together almost nine years when we got married. We were each other's first and only boyfriend/girlfriend, which meant I was a fairly young bride at 22. Our wedding was held at a private art gallery, and we spent less than $3,500 on everything. We didn't have a rehearsal because we kept our ceremony simple and we chose not to have a wedding party (yep, no bridesmaids or groomsmen here!). It was also standing only, which saved money on chairs, set an informal vibe, and encouraged everyone to gather around us. We wrote the ceremony ourselves, start to finish. We walked ourselves down the aisle (so we weren't being “given away”).

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BuxtonWedding_ (206 of 504)We felt like most of the traditions didn't work for us, so we opted out of tossing a bouquet/garter, officially cutting cake and having speeches/toasts. We don't dance, so we didn't have any dancing! Instead everyone just chatted, ate, laughed, had drinks, took photos, and just generally partied.

BuxtonWedding_ (17 of 504)While our wedding wasn't totally green, we made efforts to eliminate anything that felt wasteful, and tried to go handmade or local whenever possible. Our friend was the photographer, which makes the pictures even more special because they are mostly of our friends and family just enjoying each others' company. We didn't use any flowers, but instead we hand-made candy centerpieces (that the guests literally ate up!).

We DIYed everything possible, because it was generally fun and cheaper. We had a set of cards on each table with trivia questions about us as individuals and as a couple. We used an iPod playlist of hand-picked songs for the music. A family member (who owns a fabulous catering company) provided us with a Mexican feast of quesadillas, enchiladas, dips, veggies, and fruits. We washed it down with white sangria, a variety of Mexican beers, a Tequila Sunrise cocktail, and punch.

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BuxtonWedding_ (266 of 504)Our wedding was smaller than average (around 60 guests). We wanted the guests to mingle so we didn't do assigned seating, instead we just used scattered cocktail tables inside and outside the gallery. There was a fire pit for roasting marshmallows and making s'mores in the garden.

Overall, we spent approximately $27,000 less on our wedding than the average for our city, but we had an amazing wedding that was so full of love, fun, food, and laughter.

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BuxtonWedding_ (126 of 504)Tell us about the ceremony: To start our ceremony, Ry and I walked out together from the gallery into the Sculpture Garden where everyone had gathered. Our ceremony was entirely written by us and was non-religious. We used elements of traditional vows blended with our own words. All told, it probably lasted about ten minutes. It was very casual, and we really just wanted to get to the partying and celebrating! We used a secular officiant we found online (and who was awesome and cheap!). Deviating from the traditional ceremony arrangement was one of the best decisions we made!

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BuxtonWedding_ (61 of 504)Our biggest challenge: I challenged myself continually through the planning process. My instinct was to do what felt right for us, even though it went against what was traditional.

We made hard decisions, like choosing not to invite children and not selecting bridesmaids, even though we knew they might not be popular choices. In the end, our guests had a fabulous time and so did we, so that's all that matters.

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BuxtonWedding_ (211 of 504)My favorite moment: The most meaningful moment of our wedding was the few minutes right after the ceremony. Everyone was standing around us, and right after Ry and I kissed, we turned around to start celebrating with everyone. In the next few minutes, we managed to hug and talk to each person at our ceremony. It was amazing!

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BuxtonWedding_ (166 of 504)My funniest moment: Our ceremony was very informal but very emotional. During his vows, Ry was pretty choked up and I heard my Dad (jokingly) say, “Get it together, Ry!” or something to that effect. I responded by turning to my dad, mid-ceremony, and announcing, “He just really likes me a lot, OKAY?!” which got quite a few laughs and helped Ry pull it together for the rest of his vows.

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BuxtonWedding_ (45 of 504)My advice for offbeat brides: We didn't start planning our wedding with the mindset that it would be offbeat. We just planned what felt right and what we wanted. Don't worry too much about pleasing your guests by providing what they expect from a wedding. Challenge their ideas of what a wedding can be.

BuxtonWedding_ (57 of 504)Several male guests commented after our wedding that they didn't know weddings could be so awesome. If some tradition doesn't make sense to you and your partner, nix it! If you find another tradition that fits, embrace it! Think outside of the box. And take a honeymoon! We went to New York City. Oh, and don't forget to mail those thank-you cards! It's the right thing to do.

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BuxtonWedding_ (56 of 504)What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Weddings don't have to be stressful. As a bride, you CAN and SHOULD enjoy your wedding! I heard so many things beforehand about how our wedding would be, all of which turned out to be so, so false. BuxtonWedding_ (71 of 504)“You won't even be able to stop and eat your food, you will be so busy!” Uh, I totally noshed down on quesadillas and enjoyed all of our food! “You won't even get a piece of your own cake!” I had more cupcakes than I care to remember. “You won't be able to talk to everyone at your wedding and really visit with them, just forget about it.” Our entire focus of the reception (besides eating, obviously) was to connect with each and every guest at our wedding. Our wedding day, even with all the DIY and being totally hands-on with all the set-up, was one of the least stressful and most blissful days of my life. I didn't have any “bridezilla” moments or freakouts, even though everyone told me I would!

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Comments on Natalie and Ry’s casual art gallery budget wedding

  1. This sounds like my dream wedding! Perfectly sweet and relaxed ^^ And I just love the picture of the two of you hugging with all the guests in the background, so sweet!

  2. This is just the perfect wedding! This is what I want. Thanks for the inspiration. : )
    And congratulations.

  3. I have seriously been having some issues about what to do for center pieces…and I was already planning on having a candy buffet. Thank Zeus I saw this post or it would have never dawned on me to make the candy the center pieces! I say THANK YOU and I slap my forehead! 🙂

    • I’ll give the credit to Ry for that one- we were totally stumped on centerpieces too! Flowers were just way too pricey for us.
      I bought all the candy molds, sticks, and melts at Michaels (using 50% off coupons every time!) and whipped them up the week of the wedding.

    • I’m having an October wedding so I’m hoping to do pumpkins for centerpieces. Grab some friends to help carve them a day or two before (not in Halloween designs, maybe just cut some circles/stars into them), buy a bunch of swizzly sticks and light-reflecting beads from the craft store to stick coming out of them and surround them with tea lights, with maybe a battery operated one inside. I’m not a flower person. Anyway, I’m not getting married until 2012, so I figure I get this year to practice that to see how difficult/time consuming it is.

    • Also, I have to know, where did you get the little orange flowers with the lights in them? They’re so pretty, I love them!

  4. Just curious, but is the cost of the friend’s catering included in that $3500 total? 🙂

  5. I see in one of the photos someone writing beside a Polaroid? Was that for your guestbook? I’d love to know more about it!

    • Yes it was, and boy, I should have included that as a challenge!
      We already had 2 polaroid cameras so we just needed to purchase film, which at the time was impossible to find! I think we ended up finding it on amazon, but it was definitely more expensive than we anticipated (about $1 per photo).
      Feel free to e-mail me if you want more details- [email protected]

  6. I really like how steadfast you were to your design for the day – eliminating the traditions which didn’t work for you both. Your wedding is a testament to the beauty of keeping it genuine and small so you can really visit with everyone at the reception.

  7. I love the CDs – those owls are so cute! 🙂
    And: wow. So little spent on such an awesome, personalized wedding! Amazing!

  8. Hey, I’m getting married in Dallas, and looking for a secular officiant. Would yours be willing to reach out to me?


  9. What a beautiful wedding! I’m getting married in Fort Worth (and we’re doing the reception at Artspace!) in October, and I’d love to talk to you about your experience organizing things there!

    Congratulations on your wedding, and it’s so nice to see such a fun, upbeat and gorgeous event!

  10. Congrats on being so true to yourselves throughout your wedding. Lovely!

    As a former Dallas-dweller I should not be surprised, but holy wow – I couldn’t believe the average wedding cost there! And I bet it’s higher in many other cities. Where did you find that info? I’d be curious to know how my city stacks up 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing your wedding! It sounds very similar to the event my fiance and I are planning for September – we are not having a wedding party, our reception will be at a local art gallery, we are trying to keep things low-key and just honestly fun. And I’m so glad you said you got to enjoy your food – you’re the first bride I’ve heard say that!

    Speaking of food, did you have it catered, or did you bring together all those Mexican fixins yourself?

    • Congratulations!
      We did have it catered by a family member who owns a catering company, but it could be done without professionals if you are ambitious!

  12. I really love those googley-eyed owls!! Where were they/how were they displayed? They remind me of an adorable school bulletin board in a way!

    • The owls were actually leftover from our wedding shower! My friend made them as decoration on her apartment door for the shower and they were so cute we had to use them again! We put them on the inside of the door to the gallery, which is where the guests exited from. We love them so much that now they are hung up in our dining room!

  13. The giant bowl of guacamole alone makes this a wonderful wedding! But I am totally stealing the centrepiece idea!

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