The Day-of Wedding Coordinator

Our Wedding Planner?


As much as John and I wish we could plan well enough that we wouldn’t need the expense of a wedding coordinator, we know that it’s going to have to happen.

Being new to San Diego, we have no network of friends or married couples to ask who they used, so we took to the usual online search spots: Craigslist and Yelp.

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We researched a few more established coordinators, and the standard day-of package is $500.00.  So with that price in mind, we looked for which coordinator a) we liked and b) offered the most for the money.

We came across a girl named Gia who seemed great — a San Diego local, listed in the gay directory of wedding vendors, pleasant and presentable.  We called to find out she had just moved that week to Oregon.  But Gia did have a recommendation for us, Nichelle O’Brien, of LoveSweetLoveCA.  (Check out her page here:


Nichelle is based in Los Angeles, but was able to meet us at our venue for an introduction.   Cute as a button.  She was great, and John and I both agreed that she’d be able to handle the non-traditional and casual event.  Plus, she comes with an assistant and is available to us for the entire day.  She offered unlimited emails and phone calls leading up to the event for advice, etc.

For $500, John and I gave her the thumbs up.

Day-of Wedding Coordinator: $500


The Catering Decision

So using the resources, John and I narrowed down our search.

We used the daily emails to find the meetups that had the most trucks we wanted to sample.  These were:



Mad Mantis


We also used Google and Yelp to find tacos shops that offered catering. This included:

Puesto in La Jolla


Del Mar Taco Company in North Park

CalbiBBQ was terrific as far as taste and uniqueness coupled with the familiar taco.  We didn’t see too much customization in the menu offerings with catering, so we moved on.

MadMantis didn’t get back to us in time before we made our decision, so I have no opinion on their food or offerings.

Puesto was good but for us, it lacked a ‘wow’ factor.  Their menu was limited and expensive for our needs, so we moved on.

Del Mar Taco Company we found solely on Yelp.  It’s farm-to-plate.  They have no formal site, but the reviews were good and we liked the idea that this was a new business with a new dad at the helm.  It felt right to us.  So we called and spoke to Oscar, the head of Del Mar Taco, who was helpful and kind and willing to work with us.  He offered a huge variety of foods and amenities (like guacamole, beans, rice, chips), a choice of three meats, and even flavored fruit waters.

delmar2 delmar

Oscar immediately sent over a summary of our talk and a quote, around $720.  Amazing!  All you can eat.

We only hoped that his food would taste as good as the reviews and we would have our caterer.

We went to meet Oscar at the Coronado Brewing Company (an awesome place to bring out of towners to show off SD).

He was on the ball, kind, eager and energetic, and thee food was incredible!  Even with the limited choices for that night (steak and chicken), we loved it.  John and I retreated inside for a drink and to talk about it with our visiting guests (and guests tasters) and agreed that Oscar and Del Mar Taco Company would be our choice.

In the next few days, we made some changes to the original quote — we added a 4th meat selection (in this case, fish, meaning we’d offer Carnitas, Chicken, Steak, and Fish tacos), as well as our favorite street food, bacon wrapped hot dogs!  Oscar was open to everything.

We liked all of the choices very much, the foods were all great.  We moved forward with CalbiBBQ.  Mangia Mangia was fantastic tasting and a helpful staff serving impressively flavorful foods, but their prices would unfortunately not fit in with our $10k budget.  CalbiBBQ was very good, but didn’t offer too much customization to the menu, something we really wanted.

The quote came in for under $1000 (but we have some adjustments to make so I don’t have a confirmed total).  We’re happy with it, we have confidence in this new business, it’s farm-to-plate, local, flexible, and affordable.  We’re in!

Caterer:  DONE!


The Decor — the centerpieces

So as we work on finding our caterer, I wanted to sidetrack a bit and talk about the decoration of our reception.  In order to stick to a budget, I’m going to introduce you to our secret weapons.

#1:  Craigslist


Specifically, their ‘Free’ and ‘Garage Sales’ section under ‘For Sale’.

You’ve hopefully got some time, so with Craigslist, it’s about patience and luck and knowing what you’re looking for.  It’s also about setting up an RSS feed to alert you when things you’re looking for are posted.

Although John and I weren’t 100% sure exactly how our decor would look, we knew we liked the go-to decor for weddings…


Of course!  Who doesn’t love mason jars.  There are blogs dedicated to crafting these things.  We knew we’d want to use these in centerpieces, like this…


or this

mason jar table numbers (we love this idea and will probably do it)

Mason jars on Amazon are $10 for 12

which is out of our range for decor.  So off to the garage sales and free sections!

Within a few weeks, we had some wonderful strokes of luck.  The first…

A local church tag sale running for the weekend.  I happened upon this on a walk around town and it was meant to be.   End of the day, they were ready to make a deal.  And what a deal I got!

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Cobwebby, dusty, and dirty mason jars (these pictures are after they soaked in a bit of bleach and hot soapy water AND a dishwasher run before storing in old towels in crates in the basement)… but 84 of them for $5!  Five bucks!  What a great day this was, and it basically committed us to the mason jar idea.

The second was this.


Free 1 QT mason jars, larger than the smaller pint or quart (can’t remember what the others are).  And that’s 18 more right there.

18 + 84…  12 of them are very large and we have 12 tables, so…

12 large ones for centerpieces, and that leaves 90 smaller ones for…you guessed it.

indttex  drinking glasses!  These would serve as glasses for John’s ‘signature drink’, which we agreed would be sangria.  Why?  Because you can use Trader Joe’s cheap red wine for it, and it’s a Spanish venue.

So yea!  We had the luck and patience to grab these things when we could and we’ll continue to look and collect more.  I’d rather have more than less and when we’re done, we’re going to give these away as it is.  So yea!  Mason Jars!

The Caterer

So our next step is the caterer. 

The fact that this is a wedding with a budget under $10,000, we are realistic to know that we don’t have the options of the typical wedding.


John and I thought about how we could do this.  We’d like to put our money towards a photographer


since that is what we’ll truly have the rest of our lives.  The meal is a meal. 


The cake is a cake. 


So we brainstormed and came up with what worked: 


Food Trucks.  Perfect!

John and I love food trucks.  But there were tens of tens to choose from.  We thought harder.  How would we narrow this down?

We went to and signed up for their daily email.  This let us know where each truck would be each day.  So helpful!

We reviewed their Twitter feeds and checked out the Yelps on each place. 

We live in San Diego.  Our venue, the Spanish Village Arts Center, screams Fiesta! 


We wanted to give our guests more than the typical choices.


So the answer?


Street Tacos!  Mexican.  Unique. Flavorful.  Affordable.  Done!

With that decision made, we set out to find our Taco Caterer!



The Final Decision for our Party Rentals

So here’s the update.

I’m sorry to say that Emily from K&J Party Rentals didn’t step up from the Yelp reviews and warnings.  We never did receive a quote (or a response), despite calling her and leaving a voicemail and emailing her (even though she was supposed to emailing me with the address we left her).  So she’s out of the running, and unfortunately, I can’t recommend her — if we couldn’t even get a quote from her the next day, let alone a week, then forget it.

We’ve decided to happily proceed with Patty’s Linen Rentals over San Diego Party Rentals.


Although SD Party Rentals was less expensive and the woman there was sweet and helpful, the fact that they didn’t set up the tables fully was a deciding factor.

Also, Patty’s was familiar with the location already and we had a great feeling that they would be going above and beyond to make sure it all went well.

th1 th

So with that, we are confirmed with Patty’s.  We’ve made some adjustments to the original quote, so although the total is $1240, this will probably adjust a few times.

Expenses so far:




Total:  $4413.00

Left:  $5587.00

Almost halfway through our budget but a big part of the planning is knocked out!

Very glad we found Patty’s Linens Rentals in National City, CA.  Ask for Patricia!

Party Rentals (Part 3)

Our last visit was to K&J Rentals in Point Loma.

This place we visited because of the cheapest prices of all of them.  But it also had the worst of the Yelp reviews, mostly due to lack of communication from the owner, Emily.  However, since Emily answered the phone each time I called (three times), I felt this was worth a second look.  Someone had commented that her business was growing, and this may just be growing pains.  Plus, folks on Yelp are crazy and fully too entitled and lack any understanding, so I don’t pay much attention.


We met Emily at our appointment time and she was there and ready.  It’s a small showroom, but everything was displayed.

K&J offers plastic tables instead of the wooden ones of the other places, which we liked.  They were sturdier and thicker.


However, the plates and silverware were mismatched on the table — like three were one pattern, two were another, etc.  This did at least show us they had variety, but didn’t assure either of us that this isn’t what would show up at our venue.

One thing that was of note was Emily’s surprise that we were two men getting married.  When we walked in, she physically looked out the door and asked if there was anyone else (implying a woman).  I said no, it was just us.  She asked which of us was the groom.  I said that we were both grooms.  She laughed, but it wasn’t comfortable laughter.  It’s as though she didn’t know that gays could now get married, and we were certainly her first couple of customers.

The negatives were that Emily didn’t have a computer to write up a quote.  Even though we had an appointment, there was nothing we could take in writing with us.  The prices are MUCH cheaper, and we were told she’d email a quote so we gave her our email address.  She then asked if we could email her and she’d email one back tomorrow.

It hasn’t arrived even though her offices are closed, and I’ll let you know if it does.  We weren’t impressed that she didn’t seem prepared for us with a computer and a quote.  But the prices were lower enough per item (significantly) that we knew we’d be much more equipped to stay within our budget and perhaps put more towards our photographer and caterer, big expenses and our next ones to tackle.

So now we had to make a decision — who would we choose for our party rentals of our $10K Gay Wedding?

Party Rentals (Part 2)

Our second visit was to Patty’s Linens Rentals in National City.


We also didn’t have an appointment (same thing, phone call said just come in).  We were immediately greeted by Patty’s daughter, also named Patty (Patricia).   Since we already had a list now from San Diego Party Rentals, this could have gone faster, but it didn’t.  This isn’t a complaint.  Patricia set up an entire table for us so we could go through tablecloth lengths; she brought out EVERY color of napkin and cloth they offered and we did side by side comparisons.  This was so helpful!


Also, this company had just finished a wedding in the Spanish Village Arts Center, and Patricia showed us about 50 pictures she took of the event as they had set it up.  She offered us assurances that there was plenty of space for the tables and ideas of where things could go.

She even stayed with us half hour after they closed on this Saturday (1pm).  She never even tried to rush us.

The quote for this same list was closer to $1400, but it would include the set up of each table completely.  They do not offer price matching, though, so that price was firm.

Trying to be as budget conscious as we could, we knew we’d have to consider each carefully to make sure we stayed under $10,000.  We certainly also considered how great our time was with Patricia and how comfortable she made us feel.

One more place to check out.

The ‘Party Rentals’ – customer service is king!

So our venue, the Spanish Village Arts Center, would require us to bring in every little thing that we needed.   This caused a huge amount of brainstorming as we thought about things as small as drink stirrers and trash bags (and trash cans!)

We looked for affordable party rental companies with decent reviews and chose three.

Our first stop: San Diego Party Rentals


We visited this place, down in Chula Vista, without an appointment (I had called but was told no appointment was necessary).  What they didn’t mention was that their showroom was being renovated, so there was very little ready to be shown.  Each request required the employee to go in the backroom and bring out an item.   We weren’t in a rush (estimate an hour per quote) so it was fine, but it could have been easier.

For 100 people, including:

Chairs: Resin, padded white

Tables: 12 60″ round tables, half moon table for the grooms

Table Cloths: 13 Table Cloths

Napkins: 100

Silverware: 100 Dinner fork, dinner knife, dinner spoon, dessert fork

Dishes: 100 Dinner plates, dessert plates, salad plates,

Glasses: 100 Water, 60 Wine, 60 beer

13 Salt and Pepper shakers

Delivery, Set up, After hours pick up and break down

This quote came to $1237.00.

The woman who helped us was very nice, very patient, and typed out a quote for us as we watched.  They even price match + 5%, so it may benefit you to get multiple quotes first before going there.  However, their set up only included the set up of chairs and tables, not the dishes and settings; that would be left to our (to be found) coordinator.

Who’s next?

Location Found!

A priority for us, especially living in a new city, was to find a place that we had an emotional attachment to, something that was important to us.

balboa_park_aerial_rendering_south_01_27_11_lgBalboa Park is that place.

We live on the border. It’s where we walk. It’s where we enjoy ourselves. It has awesome museums that are free on Tuesdays.



Our two favorite spots in Balboa Park, that we frequent often and show off to visiting friends, is the Rose Garden and the Spanish Village Arts Center.




A place we loved, beautiful, perfect for photos and acoustics.  We called Parks and Rec for the park, went to their nearby office, filled out a form, ran a credit card, and for $273, the Rose Garden was ours for a ceremony!

What about the reception?  Not included on the Balboa Park Website is the Spanish Village Arts Center.  It’s the most colorful place we’ve seen here — it was made for a fiesta.



Balboa-Park-Colorful-Engagement-ShootThis is not us, but there are cute spots for photos!

We loved it!  We always had.  How happy we were to find out that it was available for weddings!  We called, we met, we toured, and we signed.  $2900 for 7 hours, we get to bring in absolutely everything.  We pick the food, the tables, the music, the bar…  we wouldn’t be forced into anything.  Just how we wanted it.

Locations for ceremony and reception — DONE!

Expenses so far:



Total:  $3173.00

Left:  $6827.00

Whew!  A third of our budget gone, but on two big ticket items that we love!

What’s next?  Music? Food? What we’ll wear?  Yup, all of it.  Stay tuned!

Colin and John