Women’s life choices have always been saddled with traditions and conventions that don’t necessarily serve us: finite timelines, finite storylines for when, who, and how you love, how you look, what you do, where you go — and our "dream weddings" are just the icing on the cake. That's why Bustle's I Do It Differently (Under $15K) series is focused on brides who are breaking the mold, but not breaking the bank.
"Honeymoon Wedding in Italy"
Scott: I'm originally from Oregon; she's from North Carolina. We met in 2013, in the graduate advertising program at Virginia Commonwealth University, on my second or third day in Richmond.
Katie: I'd lost my keys in a classroom earlier in the day. When I came back, there were no professors around to let me in, so I couldn't get my keys or go home. I went to my friend's house instead, and then Scott ended up coming over, and that's how we met.
Scott: I met a million people that day, but she was the one that stuck out.
Scott: We work together at the same company in Kansas City called Barkley, and we live together, so it was tough to surprise her with anything. I had originally planned to propose over the holidays, but was sent the wrong ring. I ended up proposing while we were on a trip back to my home state of Oregon last June. My plan was to go on this hike, and in front of Stuart Falls, I'll propose to her. So we get out on this trail head, and apparently years of neglect and landslides have wiped out this trail. No one on earth can find Stuart Falls anymore.
We finally gave up, and were walking back, when I heard another, significantly smaller waterfall. And I just kind of figured, a waterfall's a waterfall. And I was like, "Hey, let's stand in front of the waterfall, and let's do some photos." And then I got down on my knee and proposed to her.
Scott: We spent about a month, probably, trying to plan a traditional wedding for our families to attend. It was very difficult for us, 'cause all of my family lives in Medford, Oregon. All of her family lives on the opposite side of the country, and we were smack dab in the middle, in Kansas City.
So we decided, let's just do it here in Kansas City. We started looking at venues. Katie built this spreadsheet, and we were covering all the different things that we wanted to afford, but the reality of student loans was setting in.
After visiting a farmhouse venue that would have cost $11,000 for just the space and photographer, we went out to dinner and had kind of an emotional conversation — like, "Is it important for you to have this wedding, the type of wedding that we're planning?" And deep down, Katie was like, "No."
Katie: I wasn't super attached to having a massive wedding. I'm not the type where I want to do this really romantic, emotional stuff in front of my family. But I come from a really big family, and they put on huge weddings. I felt expected to do that, rather than necessarily wanting that. But I still wanted something that was going to be beautiful and have amazing photos, something different.
Scott: I was kind of like, "What do you want?" And Katie said, "Well, my mom, my grandparents," and I was like, "No, really, what do you want?" And Katie goes, "I've never been to Italy."
And I was like, "That's interesting."
Katie: A wedding's definitely important, but also, the honeymoon, I was really excited about. I've never really been to Europe. So, that would be amazing. And I don't really care about wedding flowers, or where we have it, or anything like that.
Scott: We started researching, and found out that you only had to be in Italy three days or so to get married. And then, everything switched.
Our Biggest Planning Difficulty
Katie: The one thing that I couldn't do on my own was call the town hall in Tivoli that we wanted to get married in, because they don't speak English.
Scott: We needed some feet on the ground in Italy, and we don't know anybody. We finally found our wedding planner, Silvia Todini of Si Weddings in Italy, who was a godsend. She booked our [ceremony], found and booked our photographer, booked Katie's hair appointment, arranged flowers for us, and arranged the driver for us that day.
Katie: Neither of us had been abroad at all. So, we also had to get passports and everything, on top of this. The entire trip was booked through Costco — eight days in Rome, six days in Paris and included flights, hotels, and car transfer from airports to hotels and back.
We bought non-wedding invites. They said, 'If we were doing the wedding in Kansas City, this would have been your invite. Instead, we're going to Italy. So, this is just to say that we love you.'
Katie: We were married at the town hall in Tivoli, which was a 40-minute car ride outside of Rome. It's kind of like if you were to get married in a courthouse in the United States, except that the building has existed since the 1400s. It's a small room, but it looks like you're in the Vatican or something. Certain town halls in Italy perform marriages for free on certain days of the week — we were expecting to pay up to 500 euro but got lucky and didn't have to pay anything.
Scott: All around the walls of the town hall, they had art showing the town's history. Relics, the walls painted with these scenes.
Katie: They actually said that in the ceremony, that the town hall used to be a church, way back when, and that all the artwork around you is part of the story of the history of Tivoli.
Katie: My dress was priced originally at $2,000, but I got it on a sample sale because I was the mannequin/sample size. The dress I ended up getting was actually the first one that I tried on.
Scott: We had a tasting menu at Imago in Rome. It was one of those meals that has, like, seven courses.
Katie: I think the restaurant was one of the tallest buildings in that area, at least, so you can look out over all of Rome.
Katie: Silvia had multiple photographers that we could choose from... I saw Monica Ramaccioni from The Italian Wedding's photos and chose her.
Scott: We booked a historic site right next to the town hall, called the Villa d'Este — this amazing, historic villa that's got a ton of fountains in it. We spent the two hours after our wedding ceremony just going around this villa and getting these amazing photos. But just because we'd booked it doesn't mean that they had closed the landmark to other visitors. We were going around, getting our photos taken, while these massive student groups from all different countries also going through the Villa d'Este. When they saw us, they would all start clapping and yelling "Congratulations" in all different languages.
Katie: We didn't bring any. When we looked at the town hall, I saw just the room itself, how even the floors ... the walls, the paintings, everything was just beautiful and historical. So, it didn't really need anything else.
Scott: Our wedding song was played on Silvia's cellphone, but it kept going out because she couldn't get reception very well. She picked it out: Ed Sheeran's "Perfect" with Andrea Bocelli.
It would have been great to have the money to fly everybody out. But the reality is, we don't have that. And you gotta get over that.
Katie: Silvia provided a bouquet.
Katie: We did have a little wedding cake with dinner the night before, at least, but none the day of our wedding. It's harder to organize that and find a restaurant that would actually have a little two-person mini-cake.
Katie: I got mine from Brilliant Earth, 'cause I love that company.
Scott: My ring is titanium steel, and then it has wood in it, encased in the ring. So, the wood represents getting engaged in the forest, like we did, and then on the inside there's this inscription, and it says "La amo." That's Italian for "I love her."
What Was Exactly The Same
Katie: We did the same things, like wearing a white dress, having a bouquet, having a wedding planner, having a photographer. But there was never a moment where I was sitting there, thinking, "Oh, this is just what everyone goes through."
What Was Entirely Different
Scott: It was really like we began the honeymoon with our first few days in Italy, then took a brief interruption to have a wedding, and then went right back to the honeymoon.
Katie: I didn't walk down the aisle by myself to Scott, or walk down with my dad or anything. We walked down together.
Scott: We wanted to make sure that nobody took our getting married in Italy the wrong way, that people didn't feel left out or think we were unhappy with them. So we bought non-wedding invites, as I called them. When you got it, it said, "If we were doing the wedding in Kansas City, this would have been your invite. Instead, we're going to Italy. So, this is just to say that we love you."
Scott: A theme across our entire experience was that people stepped up and sort of filled in these little gaps in the wedding experience that eloping abroad created. When Katie told her friends in Kansas City that she wasn't doing a bachelorette party, they still did an evening where they took her out, put a sash on her, brought her some wine, and they all got their nails done. Our boss ended up throwing us a wedding reception party at our work. Our witnesses in Italy, Uliana and Paolo — Katie's uncle works with their son in the United States — took us out to dinner the night before our wedding, and made speeches at our wedding.
Katie: It was like everyone else who'd already had a wedding, each of them wanted us to experience the thing that they cared the most about at their wedding.
Scott: It would have been great to have the money to fly everybody out, have everybody there, and have the two families, and do it all in front of them. But the reality is, we don't have that. And you gotta get over that.
How Our Guests Reacted
Scott: My parents went down to a courthouse, signed papers, and have been happily married for, like, 37 years. So, when I told them, they were like, "God bless you guys. We love you. If you needed us to fly out to Kansas City, we would have, but we totally understand why you're doing what you're doing."
Katie: I have family in Hawaii, California, Maryland, everywhere. So, the one time they get together is at weddings. When they heard that we got engaged, everyone was expecting a wedding. But my dad's side [was] actually very supportive of it. They were all like, "That's a great idea. I wish I'd done that."
My mom didn't get mad at me, necessarily. You could tell that she wasn't that happy with it [initially]. She wanted to go to my wedding. But she was always still supportive of it, in the end.
How We Reacted
Scott: The day after our wedding, I literally couldn't imagine us doing anything differently than what we did.
Katie: As much as I loved the view at our restaurant, I actually really didn't like the food, and that ended up being 500 euros. So, I would have picked a different restaurant.
Scott: I feel like many people our age are kind of sold on, here's wedding plan package A, and 80 percent of people do wedding package A, right? Find a DJ, find a dress, cut the cake, do a dance, spend a ton of money, make sure it's an open bar, and it all kind of starts to be the same.
I would say, do what you want, and do something that is of significance. And don't do it just because you think that's the box to check. Do the thing that will mean something to you.
Katie: When we sat down and literally just went, "What part of the wedding matters the most to you?" and then focused on that ... that's why I don't regret anything. The things that mattered are what we actually had at our wedding.