Herb Themed Wedding

Our Wedding: July 29, 2011


I know this sounds cliche, but the day I married my husband  was truly one of the best days in my life (thus far).  It combined all of the things that I love: the love of my life, my family, my friends, good music, a beautiful view, tasty food, and an opportunity to throw a great party.

It was important for me to try to keep the event personal, budget friendly, and fun.

The Location: Casa Romantica

Abby, Mike and Elijah on the Casa deck

There was one thing we splurged on and that was the location. I figured if the location in which we married was beautiful and had a great view, there was not much else we needed. We landed on Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente, CA. It was perfect.

Casa Romantica is perched atop a bluff, overlooking the San Clemente Pier. For a cool history lesson on this beautiful historic venue click here. We saved $2,000 because we chose to marry on a Friday instead of a Saturday. The venue still cost a whopping $6,000 just for the space, but I assure you, it was worth it!

Casa Romantica was also chock full of beautiful details such as raised ceilings, peep hole windows, and gorgeous chandeliers. It made for the perfect backdrop for a perfect evening.

Casa chandelierre

 There was also a cool fountain in the middle of the dance floor, which was no longer used as a fountain. I thought it would be beautiful to place tea light candles in the fountain to showcase warm light while people danced the night away.




the view from the wedding_2

We opted to have the ceremony on the patio and the reception in the courtyard. We utilized the interior of the Casa home for dancing, dessert, the photo booth, and hors d’oeuvre’s.


Given that Casa Romantica is so beautiful and has an incredible lush garden surrounding the home, not to mention, I love gardening, I wanted to choose a color scheme that was earthy. I chose creams, browns, and greens. These colors represented the base of everything I created for the event and complimented the venue beautifully. I also wanted to showcase herbs for centerpieces, use herbs for our favors, and use the herbal theme throughout. Candles and warm light were also important to me.

The Welcome Table:

Welcome table

As guests arrived they were met by our welcoming committee: Dan and Emily! I used the cute vintage style nesting herb crates which you can purchase here to house the programs, pencils, and favors. One box was also used for guests to leave cards and another was filled with flowers for decoration.

The Favors:

I was inspired by this picture and thought this would be a perfect addition to our herb-themed wedding…

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Considering I work at a school, and I wanted to save $$, I asked the head of the science department if he could point me in the direction of ordering test tubes, in bulk, for cheap. He had one better! He gave me 150 brand new, in the package, test tubes for free! Score! I did have to purchase the cork stoppers, which I found online for about $6. I purchased a 5 lb bag of dried italian herbs in bulk and filled the test tubes, added the cork stopper, tied off with raffia, added a clear label (I made on Microsoft Word) to the test tube with the following wording and voila, 150 favors for less than $50:

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The Programs:

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I wanted guests to be entertained while they waited for the ceremony to begin. So, on one side of the program, we had details of the event and on the other included either a Mad Libs (which we collected and still have as a keepsake) or a crossword puzzle. You can use a free crossword puzzle generator like this one. I created these using Microsoft Word, printed 2 per page, front/back and printed them on tan card stock and cut in half.

We had personalized pencils with the phrase “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE” made by Oriental Trading. Guests could use these to fill out the Mad Libs or Crossword Puzzle.


Miscellaneous Decor:


My mom and I sewed  fabric squares with green and cream fabric from JoAnn’s . I also used this fabric in a project for the table assignments. We added floating candles in glass jars filled with water and tealight candles all purchased from Walmart along with brown wooden picture frames for the tables that were set out for cocktail hour. We added pictures to the frames from some of our favorite moments together throughout our relationship. If I could go back, I would have added some flowers.




We had bubbles out on the patio.  The phrasing for the tag was my husband’s contribution…(enough said)

Table Assignments:


I wanted to continue the herb theme in the seating assignment board. I created a poster board, wrapped with fabric and added table assignments cards in the theme resembling seed packets (which I created using Microsoft Word) printed on cream card stock, matted on chocolate brown card stock, and I added a cute little brown bow. The bottom of the card reads:


EST. 7.29.11


I attached to each centerpiece an herb stoneware marker, which you can purchase here, representing different types of herbs. These markers associated with the guest’s seating assignment. We propped the board up where guests headed out to the seating area.

Our seating chart
Our wedding sign
Sweetheart table
My dad, husband, and I got crafty making directional signs and a Mr. and Mrs. Sign for our sweetheart table.
I purchased the materials at Michael’s: including letters, hearts, and plaques. We stained the wood light and dark for contrast and used red acrylic paint on the hearts. We used wood glue to affix the letters to the plaques. Finally, my dad affixed the signs to a wooden stand!
The Centerpieces:
Each spring, our neighbor and his wife host a plant sale on his driveway. They prepare hundreds of seedlings and sell newly sprouted flowers, vegetables, and herbs as a fundraiser for their son’s elementary school. I knew that I needed to consult with them on my herb themed centerpiece idea.  I also knew that they had the greenest thumb in the neighborhood and I love the fact that we could grow our own sustainable centerpieces.  They agreed to help us on this journey and the rest was up to mother nature.  I would check on my seedlings throughout the season to ensure my babies would be ready for planting by the time wedding day hit! Sure enough, we had beautiful parsley, chive, oregano, thyme, basil, and rosemary plants!
We purchased  trifle bowls from Walmart for $9.99/each and created a planting station. My sister-in-law, my mom, and I filled the bottom with stones, added dirt, 4-5 different herb plants,  white rununculas and white snap dragons (purchased from a local florist and added the day of the wedding), some filler, and the herb stoneware markers which you can purchase here.
In addition to our centerpieces, we also needed to have bouquets for the ladies and boutonnieres for the men. We also needed a few extra florals for the dessert table, sweetheart table, and arbor. We worked with Krista Levandofsky’s team of Downtown Flowers OC. I liked the flowers, I didn’t love them. I was pretty specific about certain flowers I didn’t want and they included those very flowers in everything! Not sure where the communication breakdown was? I was also dissapointed that they lost some very expensive glassware that I provided and used fake candles on the arbor. I followed up with an e-mail regarding my concerns and they never responded. Sorry, not getting my business again.
veil flying_2
See that pin on my bouquet? That is an antique Tiffany & Co. pin that was given to my grandmother as a wedding gift from Andrew Mellon, a former United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and United States Secretary of the Treasury and founder of Carnegie Mellon University. Pretty cool eh?
The Dessert:
dessert table

We opted to have mini cupcakes catered by Linda Bertch. Flavors included Lemon, Red Velvet, Pink Lemonade, Godiva Chocolate, & Pineapple Coconut. They were delicious and cute! The total cost for 500 mini cupcakes plus delivery came to $450. I estimated about 4 mini cupcakes per guest at 125 guests.

I purchased the cute cupcake tiers at TJ Maxx Home Goods for approximately $19.99/each and added some personalized napkins for approximately $60 and our florist added some flowers.

napkin 1
Food and Drink Menu:
Our wedding was catered by Iva Lee’s, a San Clemente based restaurant specializing in Southern and Creole Cuisine. Lisa was fantastic and put up with me and my type A bridal demands, er requests. I tried to be overly organized, er specific, and I am sure I drove her nuts with my mile long e-mails. Sorry Lisa!
I also hired Lisa to be the “Day-Of Wedding Coordinator”. That was the best decision I could have EVER made! It was worth the $1,000 investment (not including tip), believe me ladies!
On the day we taste-tested the menu, I was sick. So, I left it up to my husband to select our meal. Poor guy didn’t even have a chance to eat the day of the wedding because I wanted to make sure we greeted guests at their tables.  He still brings it up to this day!  Note to self, if I could go back and do it again, I would have stayed in my chair, devoured that meal like it was going out of style, and I probably would not have ended up in a wheel chair at the end of the night. That’s a story for another day…Anyhoo here was our menu.
I like options, so options there were…

Tray Passed Hors D’Oeuvres

Proscuitto wrapped with Asparagus with Sonoma Goat Cheese

Duck Confit on Cranberry Potato Cake

Jerk Chicken with Mango Chutney

Sesame Crusted Ahi with Ginger soy Glaze on Wonton Chips

Miniature Crab Cakes with Citrus Avocado Relish

Baked Goat Cheese Croistini with Dried Cherry & Apricot Compote

Brie Cheese in Phyllo Cup with Pecans & Cranberry Lemon Curd

Pacific Rim Vegetable Spring Roll with Thai Basil Sauce

 Dinner Menu

Baby Green Salad tossed in a Cherry Pinot Vinaigrette with Sonoma Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

Thyme Crusted New York Strip with Roasted Shallot au Jus

Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Sun Dried Cherry & Orange Sauce

 Three Cheese Ravioli with Homemade Tomato Sauce

South Carolina Cheesy Grits

 Grilled Vegetable Platter

Broccoli & Cauliflower Potatoes Au Gratin

Asiago Parmesan Bread

Rosemary Sage Bread

Fig and Honey Bread


Bar Menu:

We also had a full bar, beer, wine and two specialty cocktails:

Coming up Roses

(Bacardi Razz, Rose Simple Syrup, Lime Juice & Champagne with Dancing Rose Petals and Cranberries)


(Ketel One, Muddled Mint & Lime with Simple Syrup & Soda)

The total cost for the food, beverage, and rentals for 125 guests came to $11,183 including tip. Not bad in my opinion, plus it included after dinner coffee and don’t forget that FULL Bar (and bride in a wheel chair-Remember, a story for another day)

The Bridesmaid Dresses:


I wanted for my girls  to select dresses within the color scheme that they wanted to wear. I will not disclose the cost of these dresses but let’s just say they ranged in price from over $400 to under $50. Two opted for a champagne color and two opted for chocolate brown. All in all, they looked beautiful and (I think) they were happy that they could choose what they wanted to wear.

The Bride and Groom:


I purchased my wedding dress at Ferndale’s Bridal the same store where my mom purchased her wedding dress in 1967. The shop moved physical locations, but it was the same bridal shop. Pretty cool eh? My dress, veil, shoes, and jewelry came to $953.19.

The best part is that I purchased the Maggie Sottero RD 1044 gown and when I finally picked it up, I hated it! Not gonna lie, I cried on the way home. Unbeknownst to me, like the little mice in Cinderella, my mom stayed up literally ALL night implementing her magic seamstress skills to re-invent the dress to what it is today. It takes a lot of cajones to tear someone’s just purchased wedding gown apart without letting the bride know, and that is exactly what she did. I remember driving to their house after work the next day to see my gown. I walked upstairs and there it was, hanging from a hook in the middle of her closet like a beautiful white rose. It was stunning, perfect, and a better version of the original. Look out Maggie Sottero! I cried tears of joy.

Seriously, my mom rocks.

My husband rented his outfit from Friar Tux. He did not shed any tears…

As a gift to his groomsmen, he purchased everyone a pair of black Vans. The guys wore these the day of the wedding instead of dress shoes. I hate dress shoes. If I could go back, I probably would have opted for a nice dress shoe instead…


Walking with my dad long dress shot

IMG_0163  up-close just married

The Invitation and Wedding Website:


We found these beautiful DIY invites for $36 at Michael’s. You heard me right, $36 for 100 invites. What a steal.  They fit perfectly with our herbal theme as they had pressed herbs and flower petals on the card jackets. They came with a super ugly yellow  bow and we threw those out immediately! We opted to Dr. them up instead by punching holes in the jacket and tying them shut with satin sage green, brown, and cream ribbon. My dad used his fancy schmancy calligraphy skills and addressed all of the envelopes with a  brown calligraphy ink pen.

Rather than have guests RSVP by mail, we opted to use a wedding website instead. This not only saved us money  on postage but allowed us to monitor guest RSVP’s for all of our wedding related events (which included 5 in total!). We used www.wedshare.com. This site was AWESOME. We were able to manage our wedding site, pictures, music, RSVP’s, our wedding registry info including a built in Honeyfund-like feature connected to PayPal, seating charts, addresses, mass e-mails etc. It was very user friendly too. Yes, there are a ton of for free sites out there, but this site took care of all of our specific needs. My mom purchased it as a christmas gift for us about a year before the wedding. It is a phenomenal gift to give to newly engaged couples!

A fun fact, because I am strange: I found the King and Queen stamps to use when we mailed out our wedding invites. We mailed them out the same day Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge were married (April 29, 2011). That’s fun right?


The Photo Booth/Guestbook:


I searched high and low for an affordable DIY version of a photo booth. I wanted it to be user friendly, provide photo strips like a traditional photo booth, print two copies (so guests could take one home and glue the other in our guestbook) and FUN! I was super excited to find this gem in my  search,the David Cline Photo Booth App.

David was great, he worked with me and I was able to obtain the files to download this application on our Macbook.  I followed the directions to a tee. I purchased the special little Epson Printermate Printer on Amazon, cut the 4″ by 6″ photo paper into strips,  dowloaded the application, and set it up so it printed 2 copies.  Voila, we had ourselves a pretty schnazzy photobooth.

My photographer cousin Nick set-up a black screen, we propped up the computer on boxes covered in fabric, and guests used the Macbook camera to take the pictures. The cool part about the app is it prompts you, so you know when the camera is about to take the pic. We had fun props for guests and station to add the picture to our guestbook and envelopes so guests could take their copy home.

photo booth Yuko pics 2

photo booth guest book

Our Officiant:


I knew the only person I would want to marry us is my big brother Mike. He is well-spoken, a poet, an amazing writer  and just an overall great guy. He was kind enough to oblige and we made our way to the court house so he could become an ordained minister for a day! My nephew Elijah did a pretty kick-butt job as a ring bearer too!


The Rings:


My husband and I both had our rings made by James Kanan. My engagement ring was a combo of two rings I liked that my husband made into one with the help of our designer. The center stone was purchased but the surrounding stones are from a ring of his mom’s. I also made a ring for my husband which included diamonds from my mom. My wedding band was my mom’s. My dad gave it to her on their wedding day August 26, 1967. I had James polish it and redo the inscription inside to include our wedding date.

Overnight Guest Welcome Bags:



Considering we had quite a few out-of town guests, I wanted to make sure they received a cute and practical welcome bag in their hotel room when they arrived. It took some coordination with our hotels, but it eventually worked out. The contents of the bag included: Martinelli’s Cider, water, gum, aspirin, hand sanitizer, snorestop (my husband used to work for the company), local taxi contact info, sunscreen, tissues, an In-N-Out sticker (it’s a CA thing), chapstick, a San Clemente postcard, and a map with dircetions to all of our events and suggestions for places to visit around town, created by the creative WedInsteadIMG_1746




I knew that I had to have my dad perform at my ceremony! He is such talented guitarist and he has a beautiful voice. He did a wonderful job and brought a tear to everyone’s eyes. Thank you dad. That was a dream I’ve had, ever since I was a little girl!

In addition to my dad, we hired a string quartet. The best part? They were VERY affordable as they were students from our school orchestra. Not a bad idea! They did such a great job and played some great songs including Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley, All I Want is You by U2, and All You Need is Love by the Beatles. Check out your local high school and see if they do events! I also hired our school Video Production crew to film our wedding. The cost for videography and the string quartet came to $500. They were going to do it for free!

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Be Budget Savvy, Think Green, and Honeymoon!

Last but not least… a final piece to the wedding puzzle was utilizing your resources and recycling! We could not have enjoyed our wedding if it were not for the generous contributions of our family and friends. A big shout out to Nick, my cousin for his photography skills and his wife Nadine the best Asst. Photographer, my cousin Kasey for her hair dresser skills, my friend Alexis for her make-up artistry skills, my neighbor for his green thumb, my brother for officiating,  my brother’s friend Eric for his DJ skills, my students for their musical and artistic talents, my mother and father in law for their generous monetary contributions and for allowing me to marry their son,  and my parents who undoubtedly helped in so many ways from being a storage unit, to a craft zone, a last minute errand runner, and seamstress, a musician, a generous monetary contributor, and therapist office. You allowed me to express my creative desires, you never called me a bridezilla, you made me laugh through it all and I will be forever grateful.

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In our effort to be budget savvy and think green, we recycled almost 10,000 bottles and cans during our engagement. Since I work at a school, I let the staff know and some of the teachers set-up receycling centers in thier classroom and students would donate to our honeymoon fund! They were so excited as I kept them updated on how much money was rasised each month! We used this money to help pay for our honeymoon to Playa Del Carmen. We also used rewards points from our credit card to purchase our plane tickets and we had a honeymoon fund. These budget savvy tips will help you plan the best part…the honeymoon witout going broke! I am happy to report that we began our marital bliss debt free!