All About Our Minimalist, Interracial Wedding
To get the full effect of our wedding day… Play this in the background! This is the song I walked down the aisle to.
I used to think it was so cheesy when people described their wedding day as the best day ever, but seeing a year of planning come together and being surrounded by our favorite people truly did make it the best day ever. Ever since Caleb proposed last March, I got right into planning, even though I was still in nursing school. Actually, we started planning before he even proposed! In February, we found our venue. Because we were still young and also wanted to pay for the wedding ourselves, we knew we had to prioritize what was important to us so that we weren’t blowing thousands and thousands of dollars.
We ended up choosing the most cost efficient options: our venue was one of the most cost efficient venues for a wedding our size, Caleb’s amazing mom and aunt did our flower arrangements upon ordering from a local wholesale florist, Caleb’s parents handmade many of our decorations pictured below, we did a buffet style dinner, and skipped the wedding favors. All in all, I don’t regret a thing. Everything was so perfect! In this blogpost, I’m walking you through the planning process from the moment he proposed to the very last day and I’ll link product sources as much as I possibly can.
After the proposal, we had to make some big decisions first and foremost. What would our budget be? On what day should we get married? Who would be in the wedding party? How many guests are we having? What kind of food should we have? Will we have alcohol at the wedding? Do we need a wedding planner? Do we need a day-of coordinator? When should I start trying on dresses?
It all felt super overwhelming at first. It was just the beginning of the planning process and those big decisions we would make would set the tone for every decision that came after. So we took it by the horns and in the midst of studying for finals, working our jobs while interviewing for future jobs, and getting ready for graduation, we/I called vendors and made those decisions. I stood my ground on not hiring a wedding planner because 1. That was more money to be spent and 2. I didn’t want to entrust the details of our wedding day in someone else. Can you say perfectionist!?
After getting a sense of prices of venues and catering, we set our budget at $10,000 and learned that it would be extremely difficult to plan a wedding with a budget so small in a culture where weddings are insanely overmarketed and dramatized. I mean, the first couple of quotes that I received from wedding venues (without food or decorations) started at $15,000! And yes, these are Atlanta prices, but still! We didn’t have that kind of money to blow on just 1 day. Did you know the average cost of a wedding is $30,000!? But I’m proud to say that we stayed on budget, even while “splurging” on certain things like buying more flowers or not being able to find a coupon for something at Wal-Mart.
I always envisioned a small wedding, but no one tells you how incredibly difficult it is to create a guest list. You end up inviting the core people in your life, and if you have a big family, that’s almost 100 people already. The thing about us though was that most of my family was in Korea and wouldn’t be able to make it, while Caleb’s extended family is from all over the country but not many were able to make it either. So in terms of family, we ended up only have about 30 people, and the rest were our friends. If you’re struggling with not knowing who to invite from your friend list, just ask yourself, “Will this relationship last beyond our wedding?” If the answer is yes, invite them! If the answer is no, don’t. At then end of the day, these photos will last you your lifetime and your children will be asking about them. You don’t want to say that you forgot who someone was or that you don’t recognize someone, right? We also only gave +1s to those in relationships, but kept that part kind of vague. We just asked that they gave us a heads up and brought only 1 more guest (you’d be surprised).
The most expensive elements were definitely the venue and the food, though they were still the most cost efficient options in the market because our venue didn’t provide any services at all, such as decorating, cleanup, setup/breakdown, and our food was catered by one of our favorite restaurants, Heirloom Market Barbecue and it was buffet style with paper plates and plastic silverware. After spending almost half of our budget on those 2 parts, we knew we had to be really intentional with where the rest of our budget went. Thankfully though, our venue offered their chairs to rent for our small guest list, around 120 people, and that really also helped us keep the guest list small. In hindsight, we wouldn’t have changed a thing about the venue or the food. Ultimately, I wish we would have gotten a caterer who could have done the setup/breakdown for us, the food was just so good that we really didn’t mind. And by we, I mean Caleb’s amazing groomsmen and my bridesmaids who flipped the ceremony room into the reception hall. We got what we paid for and it was exactly what we needed since our wedding wasn’t a formal affair.
The table numbers were from Minted and designed by a California artist named Kelly Schmidt. They were the same design as our invitations! We are so grateful to have partnered with Minted from a previous collaboration and my compensation for a sponsored post was store credit to have our entire stationary costs covered by them. About 6 months before the wedding, we designed our magnetic Save the Dates via Minted. Three months before the wedding, we chose these wedding invitations that were All-in-Ones and sent them! They came with stickers and didn’t need additional envelopes. They were super cost effective and also convenient.
We also had a wedding website with The Knot, but only had some people actually RSVP through it. I was actually surprised by this because most of our guests were pretty young and good with technology! In hindsight, I would still have the website just so people can reference it for the registries, because The Knot complied all our registry items onto 1 cohesive page.
After we spent about $5000 on the food and venue, we knew that we had to do some projects instead of resorting to Etsy or other decor services for the convenience. Luckily, Caleb’s parents were the absolute best and such godsends, with their craftiness! Though neither of our parents were paying for the wedding itself, they were such an amazing source of support. My mother-in-love especially saved my life and without her, the wedding truly couldn’t have come together. So Laurie, if you’re reading this, I love and appreciate you so much!
She created the decorations of my dreams that were more than Pinterest worthy, and with her help, we saved so much money. For example, we kept the aisle clean and simple and just tied 1-2 bunches of Italian Ruscus to the last chair with beautiful ribbon from Amazon. For the centerpieces, eucalyptus and candles! So simple and so easy, without sacrificing any of the aesthetic.
One thing that I knew from the beginning of the planning process was that I wanted an arbor at the end of the aisle, whether it be decorated with flowers or greenery. Then as I scrolled on Pinterest, I fell in love with the circular aesthetic.
I found our wedding arbor from Wal-Mart and it was so incredibly easy to put together. We used 1 large burlap sandbag on each side to hold the arbor down just in case the greenery and flowers would make it front-heavy . The greenery we used was Italian Ruscus and Silver Dollar Eucalyptus, all purchased through a local wholesale florist from Macon, Georgia. Other flowers we used were Baby’s Breath, Ranunculus, White Hypericum Berries and White O’Hara Roses. In total, we purchased 10 bundles of eucalyptus, 50 bunches of Italian Ruscus, 10 bundles of seeded Eucalyptus, 7 bundles of Baby’s Breath, 1 bundle of White O’Hara Roses, 2 bundles of White Ranunculus, 2 bundles of White Spray Roses, 2 bundles of White Hypericum Berries, 2 bundles of White Queen Ann’s Lace, 1 bundle of Springeril Fern, and 3 bundles of Dusty Millers. Flowers were another huge chunk of our budget, but they truly made a world of a difference, especially because our theme was clean and simple. The flowers in total cost almost $900. Worth it. And I say that because we didn’t have to spend any more on arrangements and set up. Caleb’s aunt Sandy and Diane, along with his mom, spent all morning making bouquets and boutonnieres and I am so grateful for them. I got quotes for $7000+ for floral arrangements so we definitely saved an insane amount of money there.
The 2 lanterns are by Hearth and Hand and are actually bargain finds by my MIL since they had just became “past-season.” For our welcome sign, she used plexiglass from Lowe’s and printed out the words on a Cricut and simply stickered them into place! The copper hanger was made with PVC pipes that were spray painted in copper paint. The polaroid frame was made from poster board, and my FIL made the giant jenga pieces himself. The wood stump was simply a stump from their backyard, and the beautiful galvanized metal buckets are antique finds.
My in laws also made these amazing cornhole boards themselves! How beautiful are they!? They cut the wood, stained it, and sealed it all after placing the Cricut stickers onto them, and also made the sacks. Have I mentioned how amazing Caleb’s parents are?
Ou 40x32 seating chart was designed by Ettie Kim and printed at an Office Depot, then taped onto a foam board. The easel is my MIL’s own easel. All other decorations including the beautiful ribbons we used for our bouquets, table linens, candles, vow books, etc can be found on my Amazon page!
My mom on the other hand planned the entire Korean Tea Ceremony (Pyebaek) and made all of the food and purchased all of the decorations. In fact, she found a passion for celebrating the Korean culture in the form of Pyebaek and is starting out her own business in the Atlanta, Georgia area! So if you’re interested in having a Pyebaek ceremony on your big day, let me know!
Her sisters from Korea (my aunts/emos) gifted us our traditional Korean wear (hanbok) that were custom made in our hometown, Jeonju, and they will be a part of our lives forever as we rewear them for our future childrens’ celebrations such as their 100-day birthday and their 1st birthday! The ornate garb is reserved for the tea ceremony only, so I’m immensely grateful we were able to make these memories and honor my heritage.
She also set up another table for us to take photos with wearing our Hanbok. The artwork in the back with the pastel flowers was a gift from her nephew in Korea, and everything else she purchased from Hobby Lobby! She is so talented and again, I am so grateful to have these memories from our big day.
I began wedding dress shopping in May. Actually, it’s a funny story! I was in DC visiting one of my best friends and bridesmaids, Esther, and we decided it would be fun to try on some wedding dresses. At the moment, I had planned on simply just having a tiny wedding with just our families and wearing a white dress from Lulu’s. But the second dress I tried on was the dress I chose: the Belmont gown by Sarah Seven. As plans changed and we planned on a bigger wedding than I’d originally imagined, I went dress shopping with my mom, aunt, SIL, and MIL at Kelly’s Closet in Decatur, Georgia. I tried on several Sarah Seven gowns but the Belmont was the one for me! The silk crepe is just simply amazing and incredibly flattering. My veil is Rue de Seine.
My shoes were Vince Camuto! I was between the plain nude ones and the clear, and even asked you guys to help me choose. I’m glad I went with the transparent because they’re so unique and modern.
The planning process was mostly stressful in the beginning and closer to the big day. About 2 months from D-Day, was where allllllll the detailed planning came in. This began the process of flower arrangements, decorations, hair + makeup trials, alterations, jewelry, etc.
I wanted to make sure my bridesmaids felt beautiful on the day of the wedding, and you guys know I love nude pink. It just looks amazing on everyone and it is such a delicate color. I gifted them these silk robes, simple earrings, and personalized makeup bags. My robe and earrings were both from Etsy, and I kept my everyday solitaire necklace on for the big day.
Hair was done by Taylor Niele Hair and makeup was by the amazing Monica Eung! You guys know I’m very Type A about my hair + makeup, and you can imagine how anal I was about it for my actual wedding. That’s why I did trials beforehand for both hair and makeup and I highly recommend it. Because I have monolids, I knew that I wanted a fellow Asian woman to do my makeup. She did such a phenomenal job. I’ve gotten my makeup done before, even by other women with monolids, but Monica really knocked it out of the park. She made me feel so confident and beautiful. I went for a soft glam look with airbrush foundation (a splurge) and I honestly did not want to take my makeup off that night.
Something I actually haven’t shared on Instagram yet is Caleb’s gift to me on the morning of the wedding… We had decided to not get each other gifts, but he had something special up his sleeve. After we read each others’ letters, my photographer brought me a wrapped gift from him. Turns out, he had been writing me letters from our long distance days. I couldn’t even get past the first 2 because I was crying so hard, and I had just gotten my makeup done!! So I’m still working my way through it… But to be honest, Caleb has to make me read the letters or else I wouldn’t read them because I cry at every. single. one. This was such a special moment for me, and much better than any piece of jewelry or object he could have given me. I love you, Caleb. You love me so well.
Okay okay wipe the tears and let’s get to the guys… How dapper do they look!? Their entire outfits are from The Black Tux and they all wore a tux that’s actually no longer available, while Caleb wore a long tie and the groomsmen wore bowties. The cool thing about The Black Tux is that if all the groomsmen rent their tuxes, the groom gets his suit for free! I especially loved Adam’s Hand of the King pin that tied our #GameofJones theme together.
Caleb’s groomsman and long time friend, Cody, was our wedding officiant and it was one of the most intimate moments of our lives. I am so grateful for friendships like these.
Okay now ladiesssss! My stunning bridesmaids wore light grey gowns from Lulu’s and they all went bra-less and did petals or tape! It was such a stunning grey shade and looked great on each and every body type. Lulu’s is an amazing place for affordable bridesmaids dresses. Because most of my girl flew in from DC, LA, MD, TX, I wanted them to save as much $ as they could, so Lulu’s really came in clutch and I paid for them to get pampered and get their hair done. Aren’t they stunning?
Our schedule for the day looked a little like this.
My amazing DJ and friend, Haer, created this spreadsheet and it was honestly the best thing for this Type A bride. And none of this could have come together without my Big, Emily, who not only figured out the logistics with me, but made sure every single part of our day went as planned and scheduled. If there’s anything that I recommend that you do have, is a day-of coordinator. If you don’t have any aunts, close family friends, or an amazing Big sister, splurge on a day-of-coordinator. That is the point of contact for all your vendors (caterer, bartender, cake, florist, etc) and you need someone to do this for you because you will not be available on wedding day. And you don’t want to be dealing with everything on your wedding day. So Emily, thank you. You are a real life angel and your love knows no bounds.
As you could see, we changed a LOT. First into our American wedding attire, then in to our hanbok to greet guests, then into our ceremonial garb, then back into the American attire. We also danced so much and took soooo many photos. Needless to say, we didn’t get to eat any of our food, even though we told ourselves we would make it a point to! We even had plates prepared for us at the King table!
We actually ended up ordering pizza (Papa Johns) before and after the wedding and had a bite of our delicious (and beautiful) cake made by Rachel of Deliciowhso. The top layer was espresso, and the bottom was lavender earl grey, which we chose for our anniversary cake that’s currently in our freezer. We again channeled our love for Game of Thrones and chose a Khaleesi/Khal Drogo cake topper. We stuck with 2 tiers because of our smaller guest list, and we didn’t want to have a ton of cake left over. If you’re looking to please your guests but also save $$ on desserts, skip the fancy macarons and get donuts made by a local bakery!!! We did ~150 donuts for only $120 and we did 3 different flavors: sour cream, maple glaze, and chocolate glaze. Funny story: only about 50 donuts made it to the actual dessert table. The day after the wedding, my aunt noticed that her car smelled really sweet like desserts. Turns out, my dad had loaded the rest of the donuts in the trunk of her car while we were unpacking the rest of the things while setting up and completely forgot about them! Good news is that my uncle had a tennis match and was able to pass out donuts as a post-tournament snack. (facepalm)
The only splurge of the cake table was the actual cake stand, and the 4 tier donut stand, but I feel like they were totally worth it and made the dessert table look as good as it did. The other cake stands for our donuts were Goodwill finds and/or the Target dollar section!
While the room was being flipped from the ceremony to the reception, we didn’t do any hors d’oeuvres, but did open up the bar so that guests could drink while playing games in the courtyard. We went with 2 signature cocktails and beer as it was more cost effective and unique than beer + wine. Everyone seemed to love the cocktails we made with our bartender and Caleb’s favorite beer, I know I sure did ;) The frame was on sale at Target by Project 62. I know that some people print out individual drink/food menus for each guest, but that felt like a waste of paper to me, kind of like the wedding programs, so I made a print-out on Microsoft Word and framed it. So easy but looks professional, huh?
Again, we went with a buffet for dinner by Heirloom Market Barbecue, one of our favorite restaurants in Atlanta. They serve barbecue with a Korean twist - can you name a palate more representative of me and Caleb? We had Miso-Glazed Brisket, Spicy Korean Pork, and Roasted Turkey with Sweet Korean Sweet Potatoes, Kimchi Slaw, and their amazing Mac and Cheese with Korean Pepper Flakes. For non alcoholic drinks, we had them cater their delicious Jasmine Sweet Tea. We had guests all night rave about how delicious the food is, so we don’t feel bad at all that we went with barbecue instead of a fancy plated dinner.
But the star of the show was our nephew, Jack, who discovered his left leg and was stomping it all night long. Be still my heart!!!
And last but not least, for our gift table, I purchased a simple glass + gold shadow box for our cards, and a simple photo frame (on my Amazon page) rather than a guestbook for guests to sign their names and for us to keep with us forever! It comes with a glass cover so that we can keep it protected. I purchased blank cards from Target on a whim.
After we danced the night away, we had a bubble exit that turned out way better than I expected! At first I was bummed because my venue didn’t allow exits with fire of any kind (sparklers, candles, lighted lanterns), so I was between bubbles, lavender and rice. I found an amazing deal on Amazon and we went with it! Everyone loved it and the photos came out beautiful.
If you’ve made it this far… Thank you for reading! I hope you loved the little details of how we planned our dream wedding on a non-standard budget. A ton of you guys asked what we would have done differently money wise if we were to redo the entire thing. I would have definitely spent less on the veil/jewelry/shoes, because those things truly did not matter. Though the flowers/greenery took a chunk out of our budget, it was all so necessary and made the world of a difference especially with our minimalist theme. Otherwise, I think we did a great job saving as much as we could, especially with the help from both sides of our family.
All in all, it was truly the best day and we had so much fun. Caleb and I are so thankful for all of your support and love, my community! Now here’s to an even better life with my husband by my side.