WARNING: You may not want to try this at home. The following sequence of events are not for the faint of heart.
The story begins in April 2015...
Matt and I started looking for our first house together sometime in 2014. We decided to buy a place with a large enough yard to hold the wedding and start our urban farm. When we found our place, we fell in love with the yard immediately. The house sat on one third of an acre with lots of south facing exposure. The location was close enough to trails, parks, grocery stores, and a commuter train line that it allowed me to commute mostly by bike. However, the house had been a rental for many years and was covered in layers of landscaping fabric, weeds, and old landscaping stones heaped up in much of the yard. We knew we would need at least a year in order to get the place ready to even start producing enough food to feed about 70 people.
The summer of 2015 was a back breaking effort. We removed weeds, fabric, and stones. We installed raised beds and did our best to amend the soil, hopefully making it more hospitable for planting. We also kept a close eye on when we could produce enough food to feed that many. The end of August seemed the most reliable from a weather standpoint as well as when tomatoes would just start to ripen. We would also have melons and berries from our garden, along with peaches and cherries from local farms. Our vegetable options included zucchini, beets, collards, onions, garlic, cabbage, potatoes, multiple herb, and possibly some heirloom tomatoes. We had prior experience growing carrots, eggplant, and peppers but not in the quantities necessary to reliably feed 70+ people. I knew that I would have to plan my meal options around my reliable vegetables. Our plan was to have a popcorn appetizer bar, burger bar for the main course, 2-3 salad options, home canned burger toppings, and homemade cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. Our drink options were mint water, honey lavender lemonade, peach basil sangria, and local beer.
In the fall of 2015, I canned over 30 jars of green tomatoes specifically for the wedding to make relish, pickles, ketchup, chutney, and tomato jam and set it aside. By then, we had 21 4x8 raised beds, a small raspberry/ blueberry patch, a couple of bee hives, and a lavender patch. In December, Matt put together a seed starting station out of foam board, grow lights, and grow mats for my Christmas gift. We put the station to good use and immediately started countless tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, ground cherries, squash, herbs, and melons.
We purchased close to 50 bales of hay for seating/tables along with shade sails to protect our guests from the hot August sun. The table tops were constructed out of old hollow core doors placed on the hay bales with additional bales for seating covered with fabric. We had close family friends that were professors at Denver University and outstanding cellists who were able to play for our ceremony. My future mother-in-law was our officiant and we were married on our back patio. Matt’s brother talked to Dry Dock brewery, who donated two kegs for the wedding of amazing local beer and a “jockey box” complete with custom tap handles. Matt’s step-brother lent us close to 20 furniture pads belonging to his company to cover the hay bales. My local family members and friends were amazing as they gathered together and each took one of the meal items I had planned for the wedding and made the salads the week of the wedding (Mediterranean wheat berry salad and Thai collard slaw). My future sister-in-law popped about 80 cups of popcorn in preparation. I learned one thing if nothing else, I would never have been able to pull off this wedding without the help of my family. My girlfriends helped prepare the lavender honey lemonade and peach sangria, along with slicing piles of heirloom tomatoes and onions for the burger toppings.
In the end, the only glitch was a summer squall that blew in the day before the wedding during our set up party. I had to take down the shade sails and rent a party tent, which turned out to be the biggest out-of-pocket expense. However, the tent kept everything dry as we set up the day before and provided amazing lighting for our wedding guests. I hired an incredible coordinator that came the day of the wedding with 4 helpers who assembled the buffet table and staffed the food stations. Our photographer, produced most of the pictures available in this post. The plates and silverware were compostable and we used mason jars for drinking. After all was said and done, we only produced one bag of trash for the whole wedding…and it was mostly filled with baby diapers.
In case I forgot, my wedding dress was purchased on ebay…ironically from somewhere in Denver for about $40. With a couple of alterations and shoes that matched the height of the dress, I think my total clothing budget came to $120 including the shoes. I had my hair done locally but I did my own makeup and nails with the help of my best friend. My husband bought himself a new set of jeans and a vest for the wedding as well as a new set of work shoes he could use afterwards for his contracting business.
In taking stock of everything post-wedding that might continue to be useful, we had close to 50 bales of leftover hay for garden uses, old window panes for covering winter garden beds, and enough leftover wedding food to feed us until December. I had canned crazy amounts of tomatoes and harvested enough garlic, onions, and winter squash to get us through the following winter. Our home is amazing and I am so happy we invested in such a great start to our life. In addition, we had some wonderful donations as wedding gifts to our drip irrigation plan for spring 2017. Did I tell you that I tried to elope? That should be saved for another story.
Below you will find a timeline of events, breakdown of the budget, and menu for the event.
Venue/ceremony/food - $790
ie tent, seating, restrooms, compostable plates, alcohol, groceries, burger buns/cheese
Decorations/flowers - $65
ie garage burlap, flower seed, chalk markers
clothing/rings - $355
lighting/music - $100
Tent - $800
Photographer - $300
Staffing - $390
Stationary - $100
ie save the dates, thank you’s, invites, postage
Total - $2900
air popped popcorn with seasonings ie apple pie, mexican chocolate, cheesy garlic, italian seasoning
peach basil sangria, Dry Dock Beer, honey lavender lemonade, Mint water
mediterranean wheat berry salad, thai collard Slaw, and kale/collard chips
Salazar open range beef burgers, Becca’s black bean zucchini burgers, and Great Harvest rolls with Haystack Mountain Cheese – homemade canned toppings by Becca, heirloom tomatoes and onions for toppings
peach vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cherry zucchini cupcakes with honey buttercream icing
May 2015 – Go time! Start beds and composting stations
June 2015-August 2015 – moved large amounts of earth and started 21 raised beds and front xeriscaped section with lavender, hives established, raspberries and blueberries planted
Fall 2015 – Crap, house needs a new roof and Matt adds eaves to the house; Becca cans a ridiculous amount of pickles, relish, ketchup, and tomato jam
Winter 2015 Matt makes a space age seed starting station, Becca starts and kills many new seedlings – survival of the fittest at its best
Spring 2016 Transplants go in the ground, project permaculture commences with fruit and nut trees planted in suntrap design in rain garden and grape trellis added to house
Summer 2016 Plan goes into overdrive with early food preparation of seasoning mixing, collard drying, harvesting of onions and garlic, cupcake preparation, veggie burger preparation, trial mixing of sangria, lemonade, and salads, assembling of hay bales, doors, compostable serving ware, mason jars, led lights
August Final stretch – family jumps in with food prep and set up the week of the wedding as well as tear down