Our Tiny Wedding at the Cottage

On May 21st, Adam and I got married here at our tiny canal cottage. We've lived together in this home for 5+ years, and agreed that it would be the perfect setting for our lil' wedding. We said "I Do" on the front stoop, as our close friend Nell officiated the ceremony.

Handmade dress by Coralie Beatrix via Etsy • Suit by Combatant Gentlemen • Fresh garland by Viva Voce • Photo by Monica Wang

Handmade dress by Coralie Beatrix via Etsy • Suit by Combatant Gentlemen • Fresh garland by Viva Voce • Photo by Monica Wang

We'd been engaged for over 2 years, but kept putting the wedding off for a variety of external reasons. Initially we had planned on getting married in the tiny medieval village of Belcastel in southern France, where I've lived on-and-off for 10 years. I love the Aveyron region-- it's my home away from home. But over time it became clear that it just wasn't quite the right fit. Adam and I really wanted our celebration to be simple, accessible and intimate. We wanted to be able to truly focus on our friends, family and each other without being distracted by unnecessary details. Basically we wanted our wedding to be exactly like our home life: uncluttered by stuff, while overflowing with love. Luckily, it all turned out exactly as we'd hoped and planned.

As straightforward as we kept the event, it was still a DIY home wedding-- meaning it required a lot of work. But we started 6 months in advance, and had generous help from our families, friends and collaborators. We had a pretty tight budget (especially compared to the average cost of a wedding in Los Angeles), and we did not hire a wedding coordinator, nor an event planning company.

My ring-- an heirloom from adam's maternal grandmother • PHOTO BY MONICA WANG

My ring-- an heirloom from adam's maternal grandmother • PHOTO BY MONICA WANG

THE VENUES
CEREMONY - Once we chose our date, we arranged to book the house next door, which is also around 360 square feet. We did this so we could have a 2nd bathroom and backup kitchen, and wouldn't have to bring in any portable equipment. While we wanted our "big day" to remain small, we certainly didn't want our guests and event staff to be uncomfortable within the space. 

RECEPTION - We wanted the reception to be a no fuss situation, so we committed to renting out The Butcher's Daughter in Venice. The owner and designer is a good friend of mine, and the restaurant is one of my clients. Their Abbot Kinney location is less than a mile from our home, and basically looks like a large version of the cottage. (Photos below.)

IN LIEU OF A REHEARSAL DINNER - We decided to skip the rehearsal dinner. It costs so much money to secure a venue and menu, and takes nearly as much coordination as the wedding itself. (Plus we personally cringe at the idea of toasts and prolonged attention.) Instead, we opted for a casual brunch stroll the morning after the wedding, beginning at our cottage and meandering through the canals. This gave us the opportunity to show off the neighborhood to our guests.

INVITATIONS
For the ceremony (held at our cottage), we invited 60 of our closest family members and immediate friends. We invited an additional 60 guests to the reception (held at The Butcher's Daughter), and ended up with about 95 total attendees at the restaurant. We opted for digital invitations. I know digital isn't for everyone, but we LOVED it. About 80% of our guests replied almost immediately, and could simply click on our website upon receipt for additional information. No wasted materials, no time allocated for printing and addressing, no money spent on postage or stationary, and no paper clutter for our guests.

HOME + GARDEN PREP
Since we hosted the ceremony and brunch at our home, we started preparing well in advance. Adam and I both have full-time jobs (he works at a digital advertising agency, and I run a small creative firm from home), so I needed help getting the space ready. I worked with TaskRabbit for such to-dos, and they were completely amazing. Taskers helped me prepare the cottage in ahead of time by painting our new fence and assisting with gardening. Additionally, Rolling Greens helped me select new plants for the interior and exterior, which is something I'd been meaning to do for months anyway. It ended up being a wonderful and effective team that was super easy to coordinate. And there were no budget surprises-- everything was clear-cut, and cost only a fraction of what a traditional wedding/event planning team would have. 

FURNITURE
We didn't require any rental furniture. We simply put out some of our regular folding patio seating for guests who needed to sit during our brief ceremony. We waited until 10 minutes before our vows to set up the chairs, because the garden and home are too small for those to have been in place the entire time. We said our vows "in the round," with guests on all sides (within the house and outside in the garden). 

The only new piece of furnishing we acquired for the wedding was this garden bar, which was part of the sale I curated with Joss & Main earlier this year. Adam and I used a potting bench as a bar for years, but we liked the more vertical design of this set, as well as its ample storage. It was the perfect spot for the ceremony bartender from TaskRabbit named Ryan, who we adored. 

The garden bar (from joss & Main), styled for the wedding events. i used live plants to decorate most areas, but also mixed in some clippings from the flower market. instead of buying event vases, i used bottles and glasses from the companies whose beverages we were serving: small batch oola liquor, santa monica brew works local beer, plus champagne and a selection of wines. Bartending by TaskRabbit.

The garden bar (from joss & Main), styled for the wedding events. i used live plants to decorate most areas, but also mixed in some clippings from the flower market. instead of buying event vases, i used bottles and glasses from the companies whose beverages we were serving: small batch oola liquor, santa monica brew works local beer, plus champagne and a selection of wines. Bartending by TaskRabbit.

GIFTING
I'm not going to lie-- I completely broke my simplicity rule when it came to the gifting. While we normally prefer to take a "less is more" approach here, I totally admit that gifting carefully selected goods to our guests was important to us. This was a way for us to thank our loved ones, while giving us a chance to introduce them to the items that we love and use daily at the cottage. Plus it was a great way to share information on Venice, along with a sampling of local art and eats.

We gifted to five groups. (Click on a category to see the full gift posts.)
1. Bride Tribe (I didn't have "bridesmaids," but I still wanted to show my girls some love!)
2. Groom's Guys (Adam didn't have "groomsmen," but he still wanted to offer a token of thanks to his close friends.)
3. Hosts (Something extra for the hosts of the bachelorette evening and wedding reception.)
4. Out of Town Guests
5. Reception Attendees (Every party got a little bundle of items, including grow kits from Shop Terrain. The tagline on the planting box reads, "Grow Happiness in Small Spaces"... how perfect is that?!)

MENUS
I'm not much of a foodie, but we had the best time selecting our meals and beverage for the wedding events. The tasting at The Butcher's Daughter was wonderful, despite the fact that I had to pass on all the alcoholic beverages due to the pregnancy. (But Adam left feeling goooood.)

For the ceremony, Gjusta provided light bites, and we used our own small-space friendly CB2 dishes and glassware for the buffet and bar. For the cottage brunch, we had DIY mimosa stations (click here for the full story and images) in the garden, with bubbly from Winc, whose L.A. branch shares a building with Adam's office. TaskRabbit came to the rescue yet again by being our only resource for bartenders, servers, busers, cleaners, and last-minute delivery drivers. 

We translated aspects of the menu into upcycled decor, which helped save us a bit of money. Instead of buying event vases, I used bottles and glassware from the companies whose beverages we were serving to display florals. We chose small batch liquor from OOLA, and local beer from Santa Monica Brew Works. (Bar tip: have a Soda Stream handy! It cuts back on tons of extra bottles.)

DECOR
The two decor elements we hired professionals for were the doorway garland and the photo backdrop. The fresh, natural garland was 26 ft long, and was created and installed by Viva Voce. It looked wild, alive and absolutely gorgeous. It was exactly what we wanted:

The hand-painted photo backdrop, created by Art Design Surface, was also perfect for the setting.  It was a custom 4' x 6' canvas featuring Silver Philodendron, a plant we have inside the house and throughout the garden. (We'll certainly be using this canvas in photos for years to come.)

We didn't have too much decorating to do specifically for the event, as we wanted to keep everything uncomplicated and natural. Other than styling up the bar, we simply did what we do normally, and filled our usual glassware with clippings and market finds. In order to save money, Adam and I opted to make our own arrangements, and we visited the Los Angeles Farmers Market in Downtown LA to get all of our flowers and branches. We spent about $150 at the market-- and that greenery was used for gifting, decorating the cottage, and filling all the vessels at The Butcher's Daughter. (And we still had leftovers!)

We used beaker vases from cb2 (paired with farmers market clippings) to liven up the blank exterior walls at a minimal cost.

We used beaker vases from cb2 (paired with farmers market clippings) to liven up the blank exterior walls at a minimal cost.

ATTIRE
Adam and I took an informal approach to the wedding overall. We didn't have an aisle walk, and we were present to greet our attendees upon their arrival at our home. We informed our guests via the website that the attire was "Festive Casual"... which basically meant, "Wear Whatever You'd Like." In keeping with the relaxed vibe, we wanted to wear comfortable clothing that upheld the sense of occasion without being too serious or too delicate.

I found my dress almost immediately via Etsy. I thought it would be a tricky hunt, seeing as how I'm 5'11" and pregnant. But it was truly one of the easiest clothing purchases I've ever made. I selected a versatile "octopus" dress from Coralie Beatrix, a family-run, California-based small business. Katie, the designer and maker, was extremely helpful throughout the entire process, and my dress ended up being so perfect that I didn't require one single adjustment, despite my ever-changing preggo body. I selected the Tulip Cut Lace Satin Octopus Wrap Dress in Abalone with off-white lace, and my friends wrapped the sashes into sleeves, and then down around my waist. I paired the dress with a matching off-white lace tube top bandeau for a little extra coverage on my sides and back.

I accessorized with a live succulent ring from We Are the Makers (local via Etsy), and nude wedges. I also had (and wore) a backup pair of handmade flats by Shop Painted Bird (also local makers). While getting ready, I wore the Texas Kimono in Ivory by my friends and neighbors over at Show Me Your Mumu.

Adam chose his suit from Combatant Gentlemen-- the same company that made the ties he gave to his buddies during his bachelor party. We liked the Summit Royal Blue Sharkskin Slim Fit Suit, which he wore without a tie. 

And we obviously planned a little something for #StanleeStubs! Our first rescue beagle-mix has been by my side since he was 2 (he's nearly 10 now). I found a cute navy & coral bowtie collar via this Etsy shop, and Stubs sported it throughout the ceremony. Unfortunately our puppy Sophee wasn't with us for the wedding. She was attending a behavioral training course to help us all best prepare her for life at home with our baby come October. We missed her, but we were worried she would escape out the front gate anyway, so it was also safer for her to be in training.

REGISTRY
We used Honeyfund for our registry. We didn't want to do a registry in the first place, but everyone kept sweetly asking what to get us, and we realized that it was actually kinder to our guests if we provided them with some help, rather than continually insisting that they skip the presents. I've heard some folks say that they find non-traditional registries to be tacky, but I completely disagree. In our case, people would have ended up wasting their hard-earned money on items we can't fit in our home, or they would've gotten us gift cards to help us buy stuff that we just don't need. The Honeyfund was the perfect way for us to start our baby and travel funds-- and since those are the things that are the most important to us, our guests were completely happy to gift accordingly.

BEING FOCUSED AND PRESENT
Adam and I heard many stories about people being so stressed or in such a daze on their wedding day that they ended up forgetting most of it. We didn't want that to happen to us. Once the event started and our guests appeared (and they began arriving extra early, which apparently happens frequently with home weddings), we stopped working and started interacting. We were exhausted, of course, but we remember ever wonderful moment, and wouldn't change a single one.

PERSONAL PHOTOS
Here are some personal images of us with our family and friends. They're not the sort of pictures that I would usually share on my blog, but this occasion and post call for an exception. These photos say more about our life here at the cottage than any decor shots ever will. Adam and I wouldn't be who and where we are without having all these exceptional people in our lives:

Thank you everyone for your kindness and support. We feel it. We are so excited to bring our son into this extraordinary world so that he too can experience such incredible love.

Photos by/© Monica Wang Photography, with contributions by Whitney Leigh Morris and friends.