Nicole, 28, San Diego, CA. Healthcare Account Manager by day, wedding and event planner by night. Mom to two fur baby’s Lucy and Harvey my wild large and in charge kitties. Concerts, weekends trips, foodies and the outdoors with my hubby.
Our Love Story
Nicole and Paul started their relationship as frenemies when, at a college party, Nicole took it upon herself to rip Paul’s favorite pooka shell necklace off of him and throw it into a bush. She claimed to have been doing him a favor (she might have been right). Despite the pooka disaster early on, they remained friends, though a spark was always there.
A few years after college they were able to reconnect and decided to take a chance on each other and see where the spark would lead. They began what would be a two year long distance relationship before moving in together to an apartment in San Diego.
After living happily together for a year with their two overweight cats, Paul decided to make things official. With the help of his friend Matt and a dog in a tuxedo, he proposed. Nicole said yes.
So, they celebrated their wedding at the place where it all started, in the beautiful redwood forest in the Santa Cruz mountains. Most importantly, they were excited to share this special moment with the people that matter most to them, without whom they may have never found each other in the first place.
Let’s Talk Wedding Planning
Wedding Date, Geographical Location, Venue
10/14/2017, Saratoga, CA (Saratoga Springs)
It was actually the first venue we toured during a week long NorCal trip including spots in Los Gatos & Napa. We knew instantly this was the venue for us. An outdoor ceremony and reception was extremely important to us and the surroundings were reminiscent of our college campus at UC Santa Cruz. The grounds including redwood trees and natural streams.
Guest Count 140, We invited around 180, but knew with the travel required from all parties that number would drop our venue space also only held 160 so it worked out great and the crowd filled the space well while remaining comfortable. I think it depends on your preference big vs. small wedding but if your planning on having a wedding upward of 100 I would recommend adding 10-20 on your count so you can invite people you become close with closer to your date and it should even out with the amount of regrets you receive.
What was your wedding budget?
We were somewhere around 30k, we ended up going about 5k over budget. After all was said and done we could have definitely saved that 5k, but you just don’t know until the day has come and gone. I think if we had a local wedding we could have definitely cut down the cost by using friends and family resources, but with any destination wedding there’s a lot of additional cost you don’t account for and extra fees for the convenience of planning from remote.
How did you prioritize your budget, what factors were most important to you?
Venue, decor and open bar were our top 3 must haves. Our venue included so much natural beauty we kind of got away with not having to do too much decor, although we still budgeted for some vintage rentals and they also included a great package for food and beverage which includes an open bar so it really was a no brainer for us after reviewing what other venues had in comparison. I think its important to see how much the venue includes vs. what you will be required to provide on day of ie. Rentals, Catering, Bar Tenders, etc.
How did you ask your besties to be your bridesmaids?
I made them each a terrarium, with their favorite colors and succulents, a succulent hair pin, framed picture of us, and an opal necklace. Succulents and natural tones were a part of our wedding Inspo and I thought it was a fun way to kind of set the scene for what to expect on the big day.
How was your dress shopping experience?
Dress shopping was completely daunting! I must have visited upwards of 6 boutiques. I made the mistake of brining my entire crew including all the moms and my bridesmaids the first round and it was extremely overwhelming especially if you have an opinionated crowd. I tried on so many different styles just to see what I liked and didn’t. I think it helps narrow down a range of styles, because lets be real every gown is stunning I think its just a matter of keeping within theme and what makes you feel beautiful. I actually ended up saying yes to a dress that my MOH had picked out for me just as we were about to leave the store she pulled one more off the rack and it was perfect. Although I didn’t end up pulling the trigger in that moment because it was the first store I ever tried dresses on in, I kept looking back on the dress and comparing everything else to it. I said yes at the designers shop in San Francisco while visiting my MOH who lives in the city.
What was your overall vision or theme?
As much as I’d like to admit I’d been dreaming of my wedding day since I was a little girl that really wasn’t the case for me. I hadn’t even thought about my wedding day until I started dating Paul. Once we were engaged I went Pinterest crazy and found myself gravitating toward moody and romantic themed decor and environment. I would say for the most part I stayed on theme and occasionally would fall down the rabbit hole of Gatsby themed and art deco and had to reel myself in haha. I wish I could have 10 different weddings lol. I think sticking with colors was the hardest part!
If you had to describe your wedding style in one word what would it be?
How did you find your vendors?
We actually ended up finding most of our vendors off our venues preferred vendors list. We were sure to arrange calls and Skype meetings with each vendor before selecting. Its a great way to break the ice and make sure personalities mesh. We liked the idea of vendors who were familiar with the space as well, especially our photographer. Some vendors had to be through the venue such as catering and DJ due to noise ordinance and venue policy. I would be sure to review this during your venue tour incase there are specific vendors you’ll have to use in the case you may have someone personal in mind for anything.
How did you design your table layout & decor?
The tables at our venue were long picnic style tables, I was really drawn to these before we even visited the venue in person just based off pictures. I knew I wanted long garlands to accent the length and outdoorsy vibe of the space. The tables were really simple and didn’t require much I also didn’t want anything too tall or loud that would take away from the grove of the tress hanging ahead. Sometimes less is more and taking into account all your surroundings.
How involved was your fiancé in the planning process?
Paul was actually super involved and I loved it! Sometimes I had to talk him into my ideas haha, but for the most part we were on the same page. Things he didn’t really care too much to be involved in were the florals, but I didn’t mind it because it kind of felt like my own project, and a fun challenge to prove to him I could stay within budget. I also had a girl crush on my florist she was incredible! My favorite part though was road trips, we’d spend compiling our wedding playlist and having sing alongs. Seating chart was definitely the hardest, I suggest lots of wine and a night in, give yourselves a week or so to complete this sometimes you have to step away and come back to it and rearrange.
Did you use a wedding planner?
I was actually our planner! Paul and I own a Photo Booth company and have recently expanded into full service planning alongside. I had worked in events prior to this so I had a general idea where to start, but that didn’t make it any less stressful or time consuming. It was amazing, emotional, and exhausting, but all worth it in the end and took a team of help in the background.
Did you have a Day-of Coordinator present on the day of your wedding?
Luckily our venue included a day of coordinator which was crucial! Do not put the weight of this responsibility on bridal party, family or friends, its a very demanding, and all day task they will not have any down time to enjoy your day. If your venue does not include a day of coordinator look to close co-workers or family friends, someone who knows you and your partner well enough to understand your vision and wont be tied up in pictures and other demands throughout the day. Even if you intend on planning your wedding, day of coordinating is a MUST. Its always helpful to bounce ideas off a planner as well for minimal planning even if you don’t necessarily need someone for full service.
Did you guys do a “First Look”, or did your fiancé see you for the first time walking down to aisle?
We did do a first look, and were very happy with the decision. These were some of our favorite pictures from the day. Your photographer is able to catch you at your freshest and gives you and your partner some intimate time before the craziness of the day begins once ceremony kicks off the day flies by. We had our photograpgher for 8hrs and it was the perfect amount of time. They were able to catch shots as we finished getting ready, and conclude with a pre planned sparkler exit that still left us with an 1.5hr to party photog free and visit with guest. I definitely understand wanting that big awe moment as you come down the aisle and thats really just up to the bride, but I’d say if you are looking for a fun way to break the pre jitters and possibly create a look different from the environment of your venue consider a first look offsite.
What would you recommend as “must have pictures” for future brides?
Create a shot list! And be sure to review with your partner at least a week before wedding day. Paul and I did this separately in that I had started to put together a Pinterest board of shots I liked, and Paul filled out family list form from our photograpgher while we were getting ready for our rehearsal dinner. Neither of which was reviewed by the other. Needless to say we both had shots we wished we’d had and probably could have if we’d communicated about it leading up to the big day and stressed these details to our photograpgher. Shots we wish we had are more fun group shots with bridal party and groomsmen. As well as a big family shot with both bride and grooms families. While we have many shots we are happy with, I missed an opportunity to get a solo shot with my mother in law, and my step mother. I would be sure to carve out time to think up what pictures are important to you and create a plan because once the day starts if your team behind you isn’t informed they’ll be left to wing it and may miss details that are important to you.
Did you have a videographer?
We ended up buying a GoPro, and let me tell you it is not the same! I have very few clips and most are of friends dancing, not much material of bride and groom or family. It still kills me! I think of ways we could use a videographer in the future everyday lol. Not kidding. If its in the budget DO IT!
Escort Cards or Seating chart?
Seating chart, our vibe was very chill and outdoor setting, it fit better and less work. BUT escort cards are also great and a fun a way to play match maker with your single friends!
What song did you choose for your first dance?
Very special to us, and actually was a part of Paul’s proposal. Every couple has a song, stick to what is special to you, not what is relevant on the radio or will be forgotten in a few months time.
Buffet or sit down meal?
Buffet, and food was great also included with our venue. We had the opportunity to attend a tasting weekend prior to wedding day before picking out menu which was awesome. Menu included tri tip, chicken, vegetarian pasta, assortment of salads and grilled veggies. BBQ style. Lots of compliments from guest which is great since often times wedding food can be blah weird banquet gross food. We were first to go through buffet line and we both took a few bites and were back to visiting guest and carrying on with the time line. I don’t think many people have much of an appetite on their wedding day but be sure to eat before you hit the booze. My saving grace was some lar bars my bridesmaid packed before ceremony.
Live music or DJ?
DJ, they have more of a variety of songs available even though I’m a sucker for a live band. Had it been in budget we may have had both, band to start and then kick things up with DJ. DJ is very important though as they MC the entire event and keep things on track. Your DJ will be one of your most important vendors to make sure things run smoothly and everyone including guest know what to do and where to be and what to expect throughout the night.
Cake or Desserts?
Cake and donuts! After all is said and done do not waste money on a cake unless you are thinking traditional and planning on a cake cutting. Paul and I ended up being the only people who even ate the cake and it died in our fridge while we were on our honeymoon. The donuts were a hit however and much more modern and fun. I’d opt for a dessert bar if your not to hung up on the cake.
Did you provide transportation for your guest or valet parking?
We did not, but a shuttle to and from family and wedding party hotel is never a bad idea.
Top 3 most memorable moments of your wedding day
The rush after ceremony, cry laughing during our first dance because we never ended up going to the dance classes my mom got us and we were terrible lol, and toasts.
One thing that made your wedding unique or something special and personal you added to your day that stands out from other weddings.
We did our first look at a school carnival on a whim and it actually ended up being one of the funnest parts of the day and really highlighted our playful side as a couple.
Total months planning?
We enjoyed the engagement for about the first two months and then went into full planning mode. We were engaged for 1.5 years. There were busy months in the beginning like picking venue etc. and then down months where we could relax and take a breather in the middle, 3 months out is about where things start to really pick up, and 1 month out is crunch time.
What was one thing that you had difficulties with during your planning and how did you overcome it? & What was one of the easier things for you to plan?
We hit a curve ball when we were put in a spot where we had to pick a new DJ one month out from wedding day. You can imagine the stress level with such a key vendor after having booked over a year in advance, but knew panicking wouldn’t help and leaned on Paul in moments where I wanted to break down and powered through interviewed some new DJs and ended up finding the perfect guy and he totally killed it. Blessing in disguise!
Easier thing to plan definitely venue, we both had a pretty good idea what we wanted and the area. It ended up being a really fun vacay touring venues and narrowing down while wine tasting.
One thing you wish you knew when you were planning your wedding?
You know those little kits you get at your shower, but don’t ever think to actually use or pack. Well, bring it, or make one of your bridesmaids hold it or stick it somewhere at venue. My dress took a beating and I wish someone had touched me up more throughout the day as the night progressed, I noticed in pictures my hair began to fall and a friend accidentally split red wine down my dress.
Anything you would have done different?
We made smores boxes as favors along with candles. Choose one! I don’t think that many people ended up making smores and the candles were such a great take away gift hand crafted by one of my bridesmaids. Don’t think you need to do it all or entertain guest with a bunch of add ons, like smore making and we paid for games like corn hole and life size jenga which no one used. Everyone wants to drink and dance. Keep it simple!
One thing that helped you stay stress free throughout your planning and on your wedding day?
Leaning on Paul and learning to delegate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, weddings are so exciting for not only you, but your family and friends too, give them a task it will make them feel special and happy to have helped in some way big or small.
Did you go on a honeymoon? If so, where to? Did you go right after the wedding or wait?
Yes, we got married on Saturday and left that Monday. We went to Argentina it was epic and totally picked at random while on a dinner date when we realized time was whizzing by and we needed to decide if we were leaving straight away or would hold off and plan after wedding. We winged it and it all worked out beautifully one of the best trips and Im so happy we went right after while riding that wave of newlywed bliss!
Favorite pics from Bariloche, Argentina “ The Gate” of Patagonia. We had the best time sitting at the top of this mountain in a little cafe enjoying the view and sipping our new favorite beer Patagonia Weiss.
Last but not least if you could give ONE piece of advice to a bride-to-be planning her wedding what would it be??
Do not skimp on vendors, take the time to really vet out and interview the best fit for you and weigh out which vendors mean more to you than others and budget that way best you can. And of course videographer if you can swing it, such a different perspective from pictures and captures all the little details you put so much time and energy into.Also think about your resources, close friends or family or people you know of that can help with florals, decor, desserts, things like that.
Nicole & Paul’s Happily Ever After
Post Argentina, we settled back into reality, used the holidays to reset and focus on all the things we were looking forward to putting our energy back into leading into the New Year, this included some re-decorating of our apartment and home improvements, while also expanding on our current Photo Booth company into a full service planning side of the biz. Paul also took on a new role in web design one of his passions, and Nicole has taken on more responsibility with Indybooth/Indyheart. While the two are busy work bees by day, they still find time to enjoy date night at least once a week everything from bowling to comedy shows. Date night is the best part of our week, even if we take it easy and play a board game at home. Gotta keep that magic alive. The two have an upcoming weekend trip to Portland, where the two actually said I love you for the first time on their first vacation together over 4 years ago. They haven’t been back since, and are excited to explore the city now as husband and wife.
Venue & Catering: Saratoga Springs // Hotel: Hotel De Anza San Jose // Wedding Dress: Venice by Sarah Seven // Hair & Makeup: April Joy Victorino @ A-List Makeup // Wedding Shoes: Badgley Mischka // Photography: Encarnacion Photography // Florals: Bethany Wuerch @ Bonjour Bloom // Cake: Cest Si Bon Bakery San Jose // Donuts: Psycho Donuts Campbell // Wedding Planner: Indyheart Events // Grooms Suit: Topman // Photo booth: IndyBooth // Invitations, Table Numbers & Other Printed Materials: Minted // Decor: Indyheart Events & Seventh Heaven Vintage Rentals // Grooms Wedding Ring: Nested Yellow // Brides Engagement Ring: Brilliance // Brides Wedding Band: Marrow // Wedding Website: Nicole & Paul // Wedding Favors: A Birds Moon
Keep scrolling for more pictures of Nicole’s beautiful Northern California outdoor wedding.
Much love to this beautiful couple!