The biggest party we ever threw
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Back in May, Rachel and I got married. We've thrown a bunch of parties, but this was by far the best we've ever done. Soon after Rachel proposed to me we decided we wanted an intimate ceremony. They only way we knew how to do that without offending our very large, very beloved extended families was to get married far away from the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania.
Rachel and I met in Paris when I was in college (sort of, but the whole story is for another post). I saved her when her accommodations fell through during her vacation. She knew through mutual friends that I was living in Paris, and she called me from a pay phone (a pay phone!) where I went and found her (see reenactment below). She spent the week in my apartment, and we ended up dating long-distance for a year. Rachel lived in Paris with me during the summer of 2010 before I moved to Philly to be with her. It occured to us that Paris would be the perfect place to get married.
Paris was both far away and extremely meaningful to us; plus, it was not a bad destination for our guests, should they choose to attend. There were plenty of places to stay and things to do even when wedding-related activites were not scheduled. And it's damn romantic. It seemed the perfect place.
As we started planning, we realized that this whole far-away wedding thing also had the potential to be relatively cheap.
We realized that fewer guests meant we could get married in a public park and not have to pay any money for a wedding venue. We discovered the Square Pauline Roland/Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur (Saint-Gilles is the main name, but Pauline Roland was an early French feminist and socialist, so I want to give her first billing) thanks to some thorough research. The small square is a public rose garden tucked away in the north Marais without any street frontage. A perfect place for an impromptu wedding! Also free.
Then we thought about after dinner. We love food, and we wanted our guests to eat well at the wedding. Then we remembered that we would be in France so anything we fed our guests would be impressive compared to the average American banquet hall. I thought about Page 35, a restaurant I used to eat at often because of its affordable menus. A quick Google search showed that it was still in business, could host a party of 30, and we literally around the corner from the secret garden we chose to get married it. Fucking fate. The price for 30 people to enjoy a 3-course meal with a cocktail, apertif, endless wine, and coffee included was 900 euros ($1012).
Some things that were cheaper about getting married in Paris surprised us. We found an amazing photographer who covered the entire day and our photoshoot the day after for $1650. Vanessa from Garance et Vanessa was phenomenal. I should mention that her photos have been published in le Monde and la Liberation - two of the biggest French newspapers - and she's won a bunch of awards. She's a proper professional photographer and she can photograph your wedding for under $2000. She also has the lovliest accent and all of our guests just adored her. There were definitely a few of them who wanted to go home with her, just saying. She's a genius and a delight, and I can't recommend her enough.
My hair stylist was also surprisingly cheap. I went to the Bar à Chignons at Christophe-Nicolas Biot. A bar à chignons is a salon that only does updos. I made an appointment for a 20 minute updo and paid $45. I felt like a fucking movie star with my big ol' chignon banane (Indeed, the French call French Twists "Banana Buns").
There were things we didn't bother with that saved us money. Since we were getting married in a rose garden, i didn't have flowers. Since we only invited 30 people, we didn't have attendants (so no bridesmaid gifts). I designed and letterpressed the invitations myself. We didn't get a fancy hotel - we rented an airbnb that was big enough to host Rachel's pre-wedding entourage.
Things we splurged on: our croquembouche wedding cake from la Maison du Choux, my Repetto shoes (I mean, they were $250), Rachel's custom made suit from Bindle and Keep, plane tickets on Air France (so FREAKING worth it), and a romantic dinner at the bistro Josephine Chez Dumonet the night before everyone arrived.
I was not expecting to think it was the best day of my life. But it fucking was the best day of my life. Highlights include our dearest friends and family making the trek overseas to be with us, the number of Parisians who gave us free things (Champagne! Desserts! Strands of jasmine flowers!) when we told them we were getting married, and the fire crackers the restaurant put in our croquembouche wedding cake. Another best part: our wedding in Paris with 30 guests cost under $10,000 - flights included.
Check out the full budget below, then check out all Vanessa's photos here.
Air France Flights: $1,790 (we defrayed the cost with Credit Card points) AirBnb Paris for 7 nights: $780 Lizzie’s Dress and shoes: $1,500 Rachel’s Suit and shoes: $1,000 Dinner in Paris: $1,012 Lizzie’s Hair: $45 Photographer: $1,650 Welcome bags: $217 Venue: free Cake: $159 Invitations: $100 (paper, stamps, and letterpress plates)