This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Style section on May 5, 2013.
Jordan Troester popped the question to his girlfriend of two years, Jessica Howard, in Lake Tahoe. After a surprised and joyful “yes,” Howard had a question for him. “When do you want to get married?”
His reply: “Soon.” Her response: “Me too.”
“We thought by having a short engagement, we’d only focus on the details that are the most important,” said Howard, a staff member at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. “We wanted this to be a day to honor our friends, our family and our faith.”
Troester, a 29-year-old athletic trainer, has a brother teaching English in South Korea. He had a school break coming up the last weekend of September, so just like that, the wedding date was set, and the couple set to work.
Howard knew nine weeks wasn’t enough time to order a custom wedding dress, so her parents and girlfriends helped her try on gowns at bridal boutiques, and then she found a similar $150 used gown on eBay. A local tailor made adjustments for $50.
“I felt very personally convicted about how we spent money,” Howard said. “I couldn’t justify spending $4,000 on a dress, even if I had $4,000 to spend.”
Similarly, she didn’t want her five bridesmaids to spend big bucks on their gowns. She found $20 red dresses at Target and bought 10 in various sizes.
Troester instructed his groomsmen to wear black suits and white shirts – which all of them already owned – and one of them picked up half a dozen ties on sale for $4 each.
Howard bought a pair of red shoes she knew she’d wear beyond her wedding day. “Every time I wear them, it reminds me of my wedding, and not many girls can say that about their bridal shoes,” she said.
Invitations went out by e-mail, which saved the couple time, expense and the trouble of gathering mailing addresses. (Though the couple admits that their parents did print out a few and mail them to less e-savvy relatives.)
Flowers for bouquets and centerpieces came from Costco, and Howard’s friends assembled 20 bouquets in two hours. She first wanted red and white roses, but the day she ordered, Costco only had red, so she accepted. Costco also supplied the cheese, crackers and salami for the reception.
Although they wanted to minimize the time spent planning the wedding, Troester and Howard wanted to maximize time spent enjoying it. “With more than 140 people at the wedding, we realized that if we only spent 30 seconds with each person, it would take up more than an hour of the reception,” Howard said.
So instead of a traditional rehearsal dinner, they planned a picnic at a park for all the wedding guests the afternoon before the wedding. The picnic and impromptu sports lasted more than four hours, causing the bride and groom to be late for their own rehearsal – exactly what they were hoping for.
The next morning, Howard and Troester made quiches and muffins for their wedding party at their Palo Alto apartment. Then Troester and the boys headed out to play volleyball, while Howard and the girls went to the Clinique counter at Stanford Shopping Center. Howard had her makeup done there – free with purchase of two Clinique products.
The ceremony and reception took place at Saratoga Springs campground in Santa Clara County, which provided the buffet-style dinner. But instead of a traditional wedding cake, the couple opted for a tower of cupcakes from Safeway, s’mores around a campfire and a potluck of cookies and Rice Krispies treats friends had brought. All of that was on the “Hers” side of the dessert table. Troester, not a fan of sweets, had giant bowls of mixed nuts on “His” side.
While there was still daylight, wedding guests played lawn games, and after the sun went down, the grass turned into “a giant dance party.” Although the couple had to hire a professional disc jockey to comply with Saratoga Springs’ noise ordinances, they gave him a country music playlist they compiled themselves.
“That was one of the more fun parts of planning,” Troester said, recalling how he spent evenings before the wedding suggesting songs. “She’d say, ‘You can’t dance to this!’ and I’d say, ‘Sure you can!’ and give her a live demonstration.”
Troester also picked the song he wanted to dedicate to Howard for their first dance: Easton Corbin’s “Lovin’ You Is Fun.” As the lyrics of the chorus say, “Love don’t have to be a bunch of drama. … It’s all right to keep it light.”
“I used to wonder if anyone really had fun at their own wedding,” Troester said. “But after this, all I could think was, ‘I hope everyone had as much fun as I did.’ “