Getting married sounds like a fabulous idea when you’re young and don’t know the meaning of money yet.
But when your parents are retired and you’ve been living on your own for more than a decade, it’s suddenly not as easy to have that dream wedding.
That meant we had to decide what was the most important to us, what our friends could do for us, and what we could ditch without mourning it. (Luckily we know a lot of photographers!)
But having to pare it down to the absolute minimum forced us to focus on meaning, and it left us with an incredible day.
If we’d had more money, we might’ve decided on an indoor wedding, because you never can be sure whether it will rain.
Instead, we got married in the Rose Garden in Schenectady’s Central Park, where we first met.
And sure enough, it did rain. Which is why we have pictures of Sandy’s best man literally hiding in a bush to hold an umbrella over our heads as we posed for pictures.
We desperately wanted our reception at the Stockade Inn, one of the places I relied on during my campaign to get Sandy to fall in love with me AND my city. (She grew up in rural Washington County. Moving to a city was not her idea of a great idea until I persuaded her that Schenectady was worth it.)
She loved the Stockade Inn’s restored historic building (and the food). But their wedding packages called for far more guests than we could afford. We asked if they would let us do a private party instead — which costs much less. They agreed, if we were willing to get married on a Friday.
Pro tip: getting married on a Friday night is exactly the same as a Saturday night, only cheaper.
We also spent weeks designing our own invitations, because when you’ve only got $5,000 to spend, you’ve gotta do a lot of the work yourself.
Sandy designed invitation after invitation, but none of them really seemed to be meaningful. So I kept rejecting every beautiful design she came up with until finally, in desperation, she typed in “meaningful funny happy” into Google Images. I said, “Hey, is that Calvin & Hobbes?”
Yes, Google had found our image. We used the last Calvin & Hobbes cartoon, where they look outside to see fresh snow covering the world. It all looks so bright and new. They jump on a sled and go off together, shouting, “Let’s go exploring!”
It was the perfect metaphor for getting married, we decided.
We never would’ve ended up with that if we’d gone to a pro — if only because it would be a copyright violation to sell us anything with the images on it.
We happily dove into designing our ceremony next. We couldn’t afford musicians either, so Sandy rewrote a song for two of her talented friends to sing to me, describing why she proposed to me.
That’s something money can’t buy.
Sandy had her heart set on fancy centerpieces, but it never got near the top of the “must-have” list. So instead she made sugar flowers (she’s a cake artist) and created edible centerpieces. Our guests loved it and we have hilarious pictures of them eating the flowers.
We also tried to set up a babysitter for the many children invited (seven children, mostly age 4), but that fell through. So, instead, we covered a refrigerator box with white paper and filled it with balloons.
We couldn’t have bought a better babysitter. The kids drew pictures, tossed the balloons everywhere and then climbed inside to turn the box into a house. At one point it went careening across the dance floor, with several children giggling madly inside.
The children were so enraptured that their parents came up to us and asked us how we had come up with such perfect entertainment.
“We were too broke to do anything else,” didn’t seem like a good answer, but it’s the truth.
There were a few things we splurged on — our hairstyles, the DJ and the reception, including butlered hors d’oeuvres and an open bar.
My parents paid for Claude Sawyer, an amazing DJ who understood our vibe so well that he was able to keep our very diverse age-4-to-80 set dancing all night.
He and the extraordinary people at the Stockade Inn secretly helped our wedding party set up a skit to start the speeches. Later he handed over two microphones so that Sandy and a friend could sing.
It was incredible. And it was inexpensive — and frankly, that’s what made it so good.