wedding for $2000

Forgive me if I have ever complained about being broke in these posts – because Chad and I received such an overwhelming truckload of wedding gifts from all our friends and family – that really, neither of us have any grounds to whinge for at least a century. Not to mention that I have recently been gifted with my first real Louis Vuitton purse and a brand-new Orla Kiely messenger bag – not even wedding related!

And before I launch into an effusive thank you – I have one unclaimed gift that I want to bring to your attention.

We received a lovely $100 gift certificate to a fancy steak, seafood, and martini restaurant called The Falls in Palm Springs and we have no idea who it is from. Was it you? Please speak up, so I can quickly send you one of our appreciative homemade thank-you cards.

This wedding was my first proper wedding – I don’t count being married over the kitchen counter and being offered a tattooed wedding band as proper – and boy oh boy, these wedding deals are really about sending the newlyweds off in style. We have been extravagantly and fabulously gifted! We thank you all so much for your generosity and good wishes.

Thank you for helping us set a new and very proper house with all your gifts: glass water pitcher; kitchen hand towels; a week’s stay at a Hilton; crystal wine goblets; engraved silver goblets; photography; artwork; marble cheese board; 12 Gourmet place settings; Gourmet sauce ladle, pastry server, serving soup and fork; 12 table settings of Pure (plate, salad plate, rimmed soup bowls, teacups, and saucers); 12 matching Pure soup bowls; home-made paver; Chef’s pan; stock pot; 5-qt sauteuse (all by Caphalon); stainless steel colander; picture frame; surround sound system; cutting board; 12 fancy place mats; 12 linen napkins; 2 tablecloths; towels; salad bowl; salad servers; pepper grinder; porcelain storage containers; Pure serving bowls and platters, large and small; tea and milk servers; framed photograph of Joshua Tree, a dozen glass storage containers; a packable camping table; hand-embroidered pillow cases; leather sofa and matching chair (!!); extraordinary amounts of help planning, buying and sending monogrammed candy from Australia, making flower bouquets, doing everybody’s hair, photographing, setting up, cooking, serving, and moving; over a thousand dollars in gifts cards to Crate and Barrel, Macy’s, and Lowe’s; and too much cash to list here politely, but let’s just say that we have enough to put a down payment on a new house.

Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!

Photograph by Stephanie Fowler of


A few more nice shots from Stephanie Fowler of from the reception on Saturday night.



And more photos taken anonymously with my camera at the lox and bagels spread on Sunday.

And at the dance class (the Lindy Hop!) that Nathen taught later that afternoon.

Boy, that was a fun and hectic weekend.

Chad’s last unmarried moments.


My flower girls: Bella and Dawkins

The flower girl bouquets that Ellen made.

The procession to the marriage tree.

Songbae getting dressed en route.

My mother.

Witnessing the wedding ceremony.

Inge, our officiant.

The wedding toasts.

My father’s blessing.

All photos by Corrina of


I’ve just mailed all the wedding thank you’s, and I’ve promised everybody wedding pics. But it seems strange to post the pics without a narrative, so I am recycling my original wedding ceremony post and adding photos. And in order that everybody get to see them, I’m going to keep this as my top post for the entire week. I’ll continue to post every day – but underneath the wedding posts.~~~

The wedding was the wedding of my dreams. Well, to be honest, I’ve never dreamed of weddings (only of children – three or four), but if I had dreamed of weddings, this would have been it. Nothing could have been a more perfect mix of family, unexpected close calls, laughter, and craziness. I am still recovering from it all.

The actual wedding day, the day of the ceremony, began with a strange kind of lull after a crazy Thursday (A Thursday in which my sister and the baby, my aunt, and I drove three hours to Beverly Hills where Sue got her hair done and we bought Sprinkles cupcakes; and then to Koreatown for wedding reception food shopping before heading home. And the Murdy family drove 2 1/2 hours to Laguna Beach for Sammie’s high school graduation and all the kids, Bella, Dawk, and Doug, went with Joss to Soak City. Our various adventures all intersected for brief crisis at midnight, when I got a call from Chad who was standing outside his own apartment in Laguna, unable to get in: his brother/roommate needed to get into their place for his wedding clothes and my aunt and uncle who were staying at their place had locked them out. Chad and his brother had been banging on the doorway for fifteen minutes without rousing my jet-lagged relatives… I had just arrived at my parents’ time share condo in Palm Springs to drop off Sue, and I ended up having to wake my father to get my aunt’s cell phone number. Luckily she answered immediately and let Chad and his brother into their own apartment. (I had been calling my uncle’s cell phone non-stop for the last twenty minutes – Chad said he could hear it ringing in the living room from outside the apartment) After that, Chad and his brother still had to drive the two hours back to Joshua Tree. I thought that would be the crisis for the day – and expected to be home in an hour, but because of an accident in the Morongo pass we were stuck in stopped traffic on the Morongo mountain pass for over an hour and we got home only minutes before Chad did at 2 am. To top things off, the carpet had been professionally cleaned that morning and so we arrived home to no furniture and damp carpets and had to set up beds before going to sleep. So, Thursday was productive, but exhausting for all of us – and nobody went to bed until the wee hours.)

The quiet lull the morning the next day was the result of being sleep-deprived and dazed – you know, the get-worn-out-before-the-party-even-begins kind of tired. The happy consequence was that Chad and I felt we thoroughly deserved sleeping in, after weeks of overbooking ourselves. We lay in bed, facing each other, telling each other things we loved about each other. I won’t tell you what we said, but we said the kinds of things you love to remember later.

Then we sat up, and started practicing our vows. We almost got into a fight. The vows, just the part we were going to say ourselves, were only three sentences long and I felt that we could both memorize them. Chad, on the other hand, felt very strongly that he needed a crib sheet. In the end, he made a very small cheat sheet that fit in his hand, and during the ceremony, I was the one who ended up needing them, because I was crying so hard.

I had wanted to spend some time alone with Bella as well, which we did, but only in a sideways sort of way. We went to town together to get our nails done later that morning: I brought along my Emo (my mother’s youngest sister) and Bella brought Dawkins, so we were not entirely alone. We spent a few moments hugging and whispering to each other a little later – and I think that was enough. As a teenager, Bella really only tolerates small doses of mother/ daughter time. I was glad to see that Bella, in spite of herself, had gotten infected with all the pre-wedding hustle and bustle, because after all, I did let her get fake fingernails (“tips”) with a French manicure (secretary nails, we call them).

Everywhere around the house there were people, family and close friends, involved in some part of the wedding preparations. My friend Ellen was taking care of my flower bouquets and showed up mid-morning with an array of beautiful blooms from Trader Joe’s, white ribbon, and pearl tipped pins. All day long, there was Ellen arranging the flowers in two simple bouquets for Bella and Dawkins and one bigger one for me. I was very touched by how much creative energy she poured into making sure the flowers were appropriate for the occasion – we even hung my dress out so she could hold the practice bouquets in front of them to see how they went together. (Bella saw what I had done, and ran back to her room to get her dress. She hung her dress next to mine, so all day the two dresses hung on display next to each other in my closet.) Ellen played with the bouquets, experimenting with color and shapes – most of the day my bouquet contained 3-4 lilies that filled the whole house with their scent. At the eleventh hour, Ellen pulled all the flowers except for the hot pink ones and my wedding bouquet was dramatic and lovely.

A few hours before the ceremony, I retired into my bedroom to get ready – it felt very ritualistic to be washing myself scrupulously clean and pulling out all my brand-new, unopened wedding make-up, alone and in my bedroom empty of furniture. Then, still in my room, sitting cross-legged in front of my closet mirror in my robe applying make-up, there was suddenly an avalanche of people: my family arriving and phone calls from people on their way – and I was still naked! Not ready, not ready! I had about twenty minutes of panic when I realized that I hadn’t made provisions for the people who were arriving at my house for the convoy up to the ceremony site. See, in my mind’s eye, all the cars had pulled up together in front of my house at 5:30, and we all pulled off together in a courtly procession… In reality, I had my brother on the phone who was stuck in traffic on the 10 freeway, and didn’t think he was going to make the ceremony and nearly thirty family members milling around in my practically empty living room without anywhere to sit down. I finally cloistered myself in my room, cuddled with the groom, and regained my wedding equilibrium.

Chad and I then accepted a beautiful engraved silver goblet from our officiant, Inge Davidson (who also happened to be the mother of one of my closest friends, hence the lovely gift), and decided at the last minute to have my father give us a blessing with a toast from our new goblet at the end of our ceremony.

Next, we began rounding up all our family and guests (minus my brother and his girlfriend) into eight cars. The road to the ceremony site was dirt and we anticipated that it would take about forty minutes for all of us to get there. There was still a small chance that my brother would make it – so I asked our friends, John and Joe, to text my brother the few, but critical directions to the site.

We drove. Slowly. In a stately procession.

Once we turned off the paved Yucca Trail, north onto La Contenta Road, the sun began to dip, the air began to cool, and the view just opened up to magnificence. The view was simply spectacular. Chad and I were in the front car with Inge, leading the procession. We startled a hawk, who burst up out of the underbrush to the left of us. Then, a large antlered deer appeared and ran ahead of us momentarily before suddenly veering to the right and disappearing with a leap. All this was magic, not just because neither Chad nor I had ever seen a wild deer in the desert before, but because everything was so right. It was right to be taking the time to bring everybody deep into the national park to an especially beautiful spot for our ceremony.

Then the procession halted.
One of the cars had a flat tire. After a little laughter, some photos, and improvised passenger rearrangement, we temporarily abandoned the car and got started again. Strangely, I didn’t even see it as an inconvenience, my first thought was, “Songbae, you just bought yourself ten more minutes to get here…” We knew at that point that Songbae was actually pretty close and had been receiving the texted directions, but now we were out of cell phone range and it was going to be more tricky.

We got to the final fork in the road and there was a sign pointing in two directions: “Pike’s Lookout” and “Backcountry Trailhead.” We were going to the backcountry trailhead, and it seemed like given the choice, anybody would choose the Lookout as a more likely marriage site – so we paused and brainstormed. Then, Corrina triumphantly pulled out a half sheet of white stickers out of her purse! I used them to make an arrow on the sign – it wasn’t too obvious, but it was the best we could do – considering that there were thirty-odd people waiting us. (Later we learned that our arrow had been improved with a large branch wedged into the side of the sign – and topped with a crunched up McDonald’s bag. Songbae also thought that we left the car, the one with the flat, as a directional hint!)

We finally arrived at the site. Just as the last person was getting out of their car and we were about to start the procession, a huge cloud of dust enveloped us, and another car skid into the cul-de-sac: my brother had arrived. Skid, I tell you. He was barely in control of the car! Amid shouts and hugs, Songbae and Donna joined the procession – Songbae pulling on his dress clothes as he walked.

Everything was perfect.

We arrived at the largest Joshua Tree. We said our vows. I cried. Chad cried. It was perfect. We ended with my father’s blessing and toast, and began passing the silver goblet around. Chad and I hugged and kissed each and every guest. We all cried.

Bella really, really cried – but I don’t think it was just an upset crying, as much as a cathartic emotional release and acceptance. Her face went into her flowers early on and never came back up.

It was a definite CEREMONY. In front of our family and dearest friends, Chad and I pledged our love to each other for life. At that moment, he and I, with Bella, created a new family.

When we had all dried our tears, we began to make our way back to the cars to head over to Ann and Al’s house for dinner. More magic. Between the amazing table decorations, the twinkling white lights, and strings of fluttering silver moons, the backyard had been completely transformed by the Murdy girls (Lisa, Corrina, and Asia!) A feast of Mexican food and pitchers of sangria awaited us. Really, it was beyond anything I had expected for a “rehearsal” dinner.And now I know why marriage is grouped with birth and death, besides Bella’s birth, wedding Chad has been the single most intense, meaningful, and energy-generating thing I have ever done.

More wedding ceremony pictures by Corrina (from can be found in her photobucket account here. More wedding reception pictures by Stephanie Fowler (also from can be seen here.

This is one of the handmade tabletop decorations – made entirely out of recycled materials!


I loved having our wedding and reception in Joshua Tree National Park. With such majestic surroundings, there was no need for any wedding “decor.”

Perfect lighting and gorgeous backdrop for wedding pics. Here’s Chad with his gorgeous sisters and niece.

The Murdy and Lee families officially merged.

After Korean BBQ, we had cake, champagne, and toasts. The cake had suffered a little tiny bit from the heat and all the kids’ fingers – but it was DELICIOUS.

My father and Chad’s childhood friend Nathen gave touching toasts. Nathen recounted when he, Chad, and Nathen’s brother Gabe were stranded on a small ledge for seventeen hours in Maui. They had been hiking through lava tubes when the water began to rise and blocked passage both up and back down the tube. None of them were wearing anything more than than their bathing suits and Tevas and they had no food or water. Basically, they thought they were going to die; at their lowest point, Nathen remembered that Chad had offered to risk swimming out for help through the treacherous turbulent water.

I married a hero!

Except for the second and fourth photos, which were taken by an unknown person with my camera, all these lovely photos were taken by Stephanie Fowler of To see more beautiful wedding reception photos (by Mark Chambers), go here. He has some great ones of the sunset and moonrise that evening.

These photos go with this post and were taken by Wanda.

This is what the tables looked like when I got there. I love fresh flowers.

And my friends drinking in the shade of a boulder. (Notice the gifts to my right? I got some terrific gifts!)

Here we’re walking over to the reception site.

Wanda made me that turquoise necklace.

My very first tortoise scat.

And that’s me having bagels and lox the next morning – you can see part of Caryn’s body brewing fresh coffee in front of the campstove.

Perfect party.

I’ve snuck off to the coffee shop to post a bit.
I’m in Joshua Tree attempting to be a landlord and getting heaps of errands done. It’s easier to get things done here, because there just aren’t as many choices; if I need a new timed watering system, there’s one hardware shop; I drop stuff off at the same thrift store each time; and, when I go to the post office, everybody knows my name (and my box number).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not waxing nostalgic for this old hi-des, in fact, last night when we pulled into town, my stomach started to get twisted into knots – like part of my brain was afraid I was moving back here…

But I don’t want to post about the panic-inducing effects of coming back to Joshua Tree, I want to post an overdue piece on my bridal shower/bachelorette party.


As one of my friends said, my wedding shower was the best she had ever attended – and I have to agree, it was the best I’ve ever attended as well.

I have never understood the point of making wedding veils with toilet paper or to try to catch women sitting with their legs crossed to win their clothespins. So when Caryn and Betsy approached me with idea of a shower, I asked for a shower with no games. Caryn objected. Caryn, the local Boggle champion, insisted on her party organizer’s right to have a few games and promised to keep toilet paper and clothes pins out of it.

We agreed that a campout would be fun (would allow everybody to drink without concern), picked a date (the only free weekend before the wedding would have to do), and then I promptly forgot about the whole thing.


As the shower day approached I gradually became aware of the enormous list of things that had been taken care of by somebody else: somebody had taken care of camp reservations, invitations, firewood, food, ice chests, water, breakfast, and coffee.

When it was suddenly the day of the bridal shower, I stood alone in my bedroom and racked my brain. Was there something I was supposed to bring? Nothing? Anything? I am so incredibly hard-wired never to show up at somebody’s house empty-handed that it was bizarre to get ready to go to a party with no other obligation than to get myself there. Finally, I threw my sleeping bag and pillow into my car and drove off.


When I showed up at Indian Cove campground, I was ridiculously touched.
There were tablecloths and flowers on the tables! Iced beer, chips and salsa, and cheese and crackers! Piles of presents! Slightly buzzed friends sitting in the shade with big happy grins!

And games!

Heh, heh. I have to chuckle even remembering the games, because Caryn took “normal” party games and stretched them to hilarious lengths. The first game involved finding things in our purse… things as typical as a comb or mirror, to things like condoms and compasses. And the game went far beyond the usual twelve or so items; Caryn had thirty or forty things on her list, which made the winner really feel like she deserved the vibrating soap she eventually won. (How great is that? There were enough vibrating soaps for everyone.)


And Caryn created a word scramble with a Jeannie theme. Scrambles like:

(Watch out – these word scrambles will mess with you; can you find Art Center? or Janet Cardiff?)

And the party just got better and better (perhaps at the same rate of alcohol consumption). We ate a gorgeous potluck meal while everybody reminisced about their first impressions of meeting me.

We strolled down to the reception site at group campsites # 3 and 4 – and I got to walk through the whole reception night with feedback. It was such a relief to share the wedding plans, so I wasn’t the only one carrying them around in my head.

We ambled over to the ampitheater imagining the reception evening. The sun was getting low, the light was beautiful, and I started to really sink into the realization that I was getting MARRIED in two weeks. Things had been so hectic and scattered in my life that it had been easy to ignore that fact. I was safe with bunch of women who cared about me – I could feel a little freaked about the wedding because I was getting lots of reassurance and hugs.


It seemed entirely appropriate that we saw some cool things on our walk – like tortoise scat (the size of my thumb and looks like a dirt plug) and tarantula hawks (over-sized black beetles with brilliantly orange wings).


And this party (in honor of me!) just got more and more fun. When we got back to the campsite, turned out that Caryn had brought a bottle of Tequila and a plastic grocery bag full of shot glasses. That is a one good girl scout. (But what would be the name of that badge?)

Around a campfire, heated by the fire and alcohol, I listened to marriage advice from some of my dearest friends: walk together, have lots of sex, play nice…

We told funny stories and laughed and laughed.


When we started to fade, we stumbled over to our sleeping bags, and slept under millions of stars. Did I wake to any regrets?

How could I? There was fresh black coffee, bagels, cream cheese and lox for breakfast.

Nothing could have been more perfect.

My shower was simply the most heartfelt, generous gift I have ever received.

Thank you dear, sweet friends!

P.S. Pics of the shower to follow…

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