Nicki and Mike
Mike and I met in our early 40s through an online dating site. When we had our first date he was a traveling musician and I was an organizer for a 1500 member Meetup group with a very busy social life. Our next date wasn’t until 8 months later. Three years after that he was proposing on one knee during a tropical storm in Key West. The two people who were never going to get married suddenly had a wedding to plan.
We knew we wanted our wedding to be a fun celebration. Every vacation we take involves getting on some kind of boat, so we were brainstorming unique ideas for a location and trying to work in being on the water. We’re lucky enough to live near the Naples area of Long Beach (California), so I was somehow able to convince Mike of my crazy idea to get married on a gondola. We wanted it to be small and intimate, so renting out the entire fleet at Gondola Getaways was perfect. Seating in all the gondolas only added up to 62, including us. From there, the wedding reception location was easy. Alfredo’s Beach Club is right next to the gondola landing (it was featured heavily in the final season of Dexter).
I quickly learned to keep it simple. And I was determined to keep it to a logical budget. I bought a dress on sale at Dave’s Bridal for $350 (keep an open mind, take lots of pictures from every angle, and bring a best friend). I designed the invitations and we asked invited guests to RSVP via email. We registered for a few small gifts on Amazon. We hired Peterson Design & Photography, who I found on Craigslist, to take pictures. My big Pinterest indulgence were paper fans I printed out and glued to wooden paint stirrers (He Got Hitched, on one side—She Said Absolutely on the other).
We wanted the reception to feel like a cocktail party. I bought clear glass vases of all shapes and sizes from thrift stores and glass votive holders that I decorated with strips of metallic paper from Michael’s. The flowers came from the flower mart in downtown L.A. and I hired a friend’s neighbor to place them in the vases. Just before getting dressed for the wedding, my two best friends and I made our own bouquets and ribbon-wrapped the stems. I ordered a variety of paper lanterns online and enlisted several friends to string them overhead. The mandatory twinkly lights were supplied by the reception venue. The food was catered by the venue (delicious kabobs and a couple simple salads) and to keep it simple for the bartenders, I created two signature summer cocktails for easy ordering.
The night before the wedding we skipped a rehearsal dinner and invited all guests to a picnic on the bluff in Long Beach so everyone could meet. We did do a walk through at the wedding site with our photographer a few weeks before the wedding and a test gondola ride a few days before (just one boat to talk through the logistics with the head gondolier). My two biggest wishes were that I wanted the ceremony to happen at “golden hour”, just before sunset, and I wanted a “money shot” from above of our gondola going under the first bridge after our vows. My husband had one request: no cake. No one ever eats it. So we ordered little individual dessert cakes from Rossmore Pastries at a fraction of the cost. Every single one got eaten.
So, during a day that broke record temperatures, my dad walked me down the boat dock to Tom Petty’s “Here Comes Your Girl”. Then we all boarded a fleet of gondolas and stopped at a pre-planned spot in one of the canals (kudos to all those gondoliers who held the boats steady). A good friend who is a teacher and a comedy magician officiated. We let him write the ceremony. We heard it for the first time with all our guests. It was perfect and a beautiful surprise. Then we popped the Prosecco and took a tour around the canals. Golden hour was perfect, and Peterson Design & Photography got my money shot!
We took pictures on the sand with family right after the ceremony. Nothing overly formal, just a bunch of shots with family having a good time. Then we celebrated with all our guests. Oh, and my husband serenaded me with a surprise song! We still get comments about how fun our wedding was. There’s nothing about it we would change. Our total budget came in around $7000. For everything.
Getting married at 45 is liberating. You don’t have to care about traditions or expectations or how anything is “supposed” to be. You get to make it unique–about you as a couple–and a celebration instead of a show. I give those words of advice now to friends getting married later in life. And most importantly, I tell them to keep the planning simple…and just be in the moment.
Thank you Peterson Design and Photography for this story and beautiful pictures.