Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Planning From Abroad

Dear ESB,

I think I read somewhere that you’re based in LA, which led me to want to leech off of your extensive knowledge and awesome taste.  I’m currently planning a wedding in LA – while living abroad. My family in the area isn’t likely to be a ton of help (lost jobs, medical emergencies, other weddings to plan). FH and I are paying for this ourselves, in part to avoid his manipulative parents. Unfortunately, planning from the interwebs, I feel like all of the vendors and venues I see are of the marked up variety. FH is convinced we can get food and venue for $5k, and I’ve assured him we’ll be lucky to get it for closer to $10k. This is causing stress, obviously.

The other problem I’m having is that I’m picky, and we both have very modern/city taste (clean lines, bold statements, a certain amount of minimalism). But, wedding resources exist primarily to sell STUFF, so they seem to naturally feature lots of stuff – favors, stir sticks, custom matchbooks, table runners, things stuffed in mason jars, “vintage” this, “rustic” that, “bohemian” whatever. For me this creates a lot of noise and chaos as I try to hone in on what I actually need. So, I guess what I’m asking is:

How do I figure out what I actually need for a medium-sized, modern-ish (maybe Bauhaus inspired without being themey?), budget wedding where there will be little-to-no opportunity for me to do craft projects with my besties? I’ve already gotten the memo on splurging for a good photographer to make everything look better. So far, all I can wrap my head around is venue and dress. From there, I know there needs to be food, copious booze, transportation… Do I have to do favors? When does minimalism just become uninviting and barren?

WHERE THE HELL DO I HOST THIS THING?!?!?! We’re agnostic, so not in a church clearly. Two-thirds of our guests will be flying in from places where they rely on public transit, so I break into hives thinking about forcing them to rent cars and then setting them loose on the LA freeways. We’re looking at restaurants, but the nice ones are expensive, and the cheap ones are hard to find. I don’t want to go toooooooo low key. If I believe wedding blogs, there’s no such thing as a wedding venue that would suit my needs within two hours of LAX. And really, a long drive to their hotel is really what guests need when they’ve just spent five plus hours to get there… Sorry, I have mini panic attacks over this.

Oh, but I totally share your love of air plants and am probs doing a big one as a bouquet.

Can you offer any advice for resources? I’m just feeling overwhelmed and powerless. The distance/time difference/inability to just show up and look at things is magnifying wedding stress.

Exasperated Expat


I hate to say it, but you need a wedding planner.

Unless you are reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally low-key (and you're not, you're picky, which, yay! you should be, it's your wedding) you can't book a venue without seeing it. Without SOMEBODY seeing it. I mean, right?? And what you need depends a whole lot on the venue.

I'm actually sort of getting hives just reading your email.

Do a consult with Lowe House Creative, or put a service requested ad up on 100 Layer Cake. Buy yourself a little help.

And no, you do not have to do fucking favors. Have I not mentioned that recently enough?

Malgosia Bela By Greg Kadel For i-D Magazine, Summer 2012 via dirtyflaws


  1. I had a good experience posting a request for service ad on 100 layer cake after our photographer flaked 6 weeks before the wedding.

  2. A wedding planner is a great idea in this case. But I also wanted to add, try not and get bogged down in the details (coming from a very detailed oriented person). We didn't have favors, or place settings, or bunting, or anything fancy on the tables, etc. We had simple flowers in vases and that was it. We literally let the venue speak for itself, and while it was a nice place, it wasn't fancy by any means. Focus on the fun stuff: the music, the food, the husband. Everything else will fall into place (especially with a wedding planner). We just got married 10 days ago and it was sort of destination (New Orleans) - everything turned out great. It's really just an awesome thing seeing all these people that love you and that you love, all with the person you love most in the world. My advice is to try and focus on that part.

  3. I'm planning a destination wedding and i have to agree with ESB...reading this kind of gave me a panic attack. you def need a planner. once you hire one they will work around your budget and help you find that mythical venue you want in LA for under $10,000...

  4. I'm just a girl living in Venice, CA planning her LA wedding and figured I'd share some of my knowledge.

    I ended up going a different route (outdoor instead of modern), but here's a venue that may work for you: Box Eight Studios - It's a bit more than your FH wanted to pay ($4k for just the site), but a modern venue in LA is hard to come by for much cheaper.

    A cheaper option is: Eagle Rock Center for the Arts - It's only $1,500 for the site fee. But I wasn't really impressed with the space. I've seen some good photos of weddings in that space though!

    Finally, a really(relatively) cheap wedding planner (and they do catering, etc.) is Event Professionals -

    Good luck! And may I recommend my actual photographer who is AMAZING and relatively inexpensive:

    1. And NO favors! No one likes favors.

    2. A WARNING about Eagle Rock Center for the Arts - they recently built tall walls in one of the two rooms that is were available for use. This is now their permanent art gallery and it significantly diminishes the amount of space you have available to you. I am having my wedding there in the fall and neither I nor any of the many other couples who have contracted the space were notified that this would be done. I only found out the walls were built when I happened to go to the venue for another event. I just hope they don't pull another stunt like this. Also, their contract stipulates that they can cancel your event for whatever reason, without liability, up to 30 days prior to your event. I would not trust them especially if you are from out of state and trying to put this together.

  5. Not to add to the panic, but $5K - $10K can be difficult in LA, depending on your guest list. If you have 40 people, you can pull it off without really sacrificing anything and you might not even need a planner, just some great restaurant recommendations.

    If you're looking at 100 - 200 people, you desperately need a good planner and some serious cuts. I'm not sure you could feed people and still have photography on that budget, and it's hard to skip the meal when so many people are coming from out of town.

    Sorry to be a downer! I just feel so bad for people who are somehow made to believe that it's easy/possible to pull off an under $10K wedding in a major city. In general, when you see those weddings on blogs they a) have access to a free venue like a family yard b) have connections to barter services or lots of talented friends and family members they can count on, or c) had 30 people attending, which isn't always evident in the post. Big parties are expensive!

    1. Ah, just realized that you only need the food + venue for $5K - $10K. That is much more possible!

      Sorry - clearly not reading well enough this morning.

  6. I wish you luck but it's going to be difficult for that budget. You might want to look in Long Beach, which is where we got married two years ago. It even has it's own airport which is awesome and decent public transportation to and from the airport and around the city.

    1. And Long Beach has direct JetBlue service to/from places like NYC, Boston, Chicago, and DC (which I assume are cities included in your guests' transit-reliant places of origin).

    2. I attended a 30th birthday party at a really neat venue a few years back that might work for what you're interested in. Not sure what it costs (the birthday girl was friends with the people who own the house), but I bet it's less expensive than some of the more well-known venues in LA. Great views, too.

  7. If you are determined to go it alone, I would suggest looking into people who rent houses and such for films and photo shoots. You might find someone willing to rent a cool modern house in Silverlake or the hollywood hills this way.

  8. Union Station's Fred Harvey Room will run you $6K, but it is stunning

    This might the most ideal spot in terms of public transportation. Your guests could get hotel rooms in Little Tokyo (downtown) and take the Metro one stop to Union Station. At the end of the night guest can take an extremely short cab ride back to their hotel (the Metro stops running around 11:30PM)

    Or you could have it at the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo. They have a roof top garden and event space and guests could obviously stay at the hotel. I don't know how much this would cost you.

  9. Thanks so much for the advice. I'll take a look at everything, these look like great suggestions. I've calmed down a lot since writing in, and will do my best to stay that way. =)

    Many thanks to all of you and to ESB for being awesome.

  10. planning a wedding in LA is ridiculously expensive (then again that is my only wedding planning experience...) as someone who got married at heritage square museum and had their reception at center for the arts eagle rock, i wouldn't recommend it, but only purely because of your needs. for us, both places were amazingly inexpensive, beautiful and awesome to work with. but they are nowhere near good hotels. it's key to figure out what is most important to you for your celebration. for us it was a fairly big party with unlimited booze and a cigar station. so we chose venues that would work for that within our budget. marvimon is very popular and downtown, although i found the cost to be outrageous. a friend of mine had her wedding at smog shoppe with under 75 people on a friday night which cut down on costs considerably but for her venue was most important. i think union station is a stellar idea. just remember that with some of these places you have to bring in your own rentals, bartenders, food, etc. and for this reason a wedding planner is beyond helpful.