PERHAPS UNSURPRISINGLY, I completely failed to diet in the run-up to my July 18 wedding. As a result, I learned what it is to wear Spanx on a 95-degree afternoon: a feeling that must roughly equate to an hours-long hug from an anaconda in the Amazon jungle.
I figure: (a) I'm a food critic; (b) Karl knows what he signed up for; and (c) fuck the pressure to look like a princess at your wedding. Besides, our 125-ish guests on Sauvie Island expected to eat and drink well. Challenge accepted.
We set about planning this day with an idea to buck convention, do it all for under $9,000, celebrate Portland's awesome culinary scene, get everyone super-drunk, and have more fun than Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn at a bar mitzvah. (Full disclosure: Lots of our wedding vendors know what I do. Most didn't cut me any breaks; I've noted where I did get discounts or benefits.)
Rehearsal dinners confuse me. I don't get why you'd spend hundreds of dollars on a very small gathering at the Cheesecake Factory. Instead, we invited everyone to the Knock Back (2315 NE Alberta) the night before the wedding. Going with a bar is perfect: It's relaxed and everyone can order what they want. The Knock Back is one of my favorite bars, and they let us reserve the patio, kept finger food and the city's best popcorn flowing, and made a punch inspired by my favorite summer cocktail, the Negroni, for $5 a glass. For serious nosh, we sent people to nearby Pok Pok Noi and Bollywood Theater. Total cost to us? A little more than $100 for 35 people.
The Sweet Stuff
Did I mention it was hot as balls? I hooked up with Fruitbox at the Portland Mercado (7238 SE Foster), because Mexican popsicles are a superior product. For $1.15 each, we got 110 creamy mango, coconut, lime, arroz con leche, and other great locally made flavors. We put them out on dry ice before the ceremony; each one was devoured.
Also, I never eat wedding cake because cake is (generally) a D-list dessert. And have you seen the fucking prices for a vanilla buttercream layer cake?! We landed on pies. With a bit of help from my mom, my good friend Melissa Adelman of Rosette Baked Goods (rosettebakedgoods.com) made a stunning array of mini hand and slab pies in flavors like banana chocolate cream, raspberry balsamic, lemon meringue, and apple caramel bourbon. They went so fast I barely got one. Suck it, cupcakes. (This was Adelman's wedding present to us; please contact her for pricing.)
Only the beer stayed local, due to budget control. I swung by The Commons Brewery (630 SE Belmont) and got a small keg ($70) of Urban Farmhouse Ale, which serves 40-ish pints. Karl adores Fort George's 1811 Lager, available at distributor Maletis Brewing (7000 N Cutter Circle). Pro-tip: New Seasons offers a 20 percent case discount, which adds up to big savings if you also buy bottles that are on sale. Wine and beer total: about $1,200—and we have more wine in our basement than I know what to do with. We also spent $450 on discount liquor at All Star Liquors just south of the Oregon border. Lots of leftovers there too, not that I'm complaining. For non-alcoholic bevs, we hit up Cash & Carry (731 SE Stephens), which is way cooler than Costco and has flats of Mexican Coke for about $22.
This was a duhs-ville decision: food carts. Why mess with steamer trays when we have mobile cuisine that can be served up hot off the grill? Nong's Khao Man Gai (khaomangai.com) was our immediate top option: For $12 a head, we got the classic chicken, rice, and gingery-delicious sauce, with chicken wings and veggies.
We also tapped FishBox. They've got a permanent gig at the SE 42nd and Belmont pod and a mobile truck. I'm addicted to their salmon salad: a generous pile of fresh, wild-caught, perfectly seasoned fish on a bed of greens with goodies like pickled green tomatoes that make it really sing. And those ahi poke tacos—daaaaaaamn. Owner Dustin Olson asked for $750 plus gratuity.
We camped overnight at our spot, so come midnight, a munchie infusion was necessary. I've made my love for the floppy slices at Atlas Pizza (3570 SE Division) known, and they returned the favor, making up seven pizzas and a ton o' knots for $185 (a 20 percent discount). Coop's Cookies (coopscookies.com), that wizard of late-night cookie delivery services, brought out 30 big-ass delectable cookies to finish it all off for $130.
Local Non-Food Shoutouts
After a futile internet search for non-tacky gifts for my ladies, I landed on BOET jewelry (at Six/Seven, 811 E Burnside, Ste. 111), which makes off-beat pieces that incorporate tactile elements like horsehair and crochet with brass and gold. Designer Emily Bixler worked with me to make four pretty little necklaces at $60 a pop for my bridesmaids.
Finally, it turns out the MVPs of our wedding may have been Rojo and Smokey, the therapy llamas of nonprofit Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas (rojothellama.com). The super-friendly ruminants arrived dressed as a bride and groom and posed for photos with everyone. It cut down on a mob at the food carts, made for really good Facebook posts, and got awkward aunts conversing with coworkers we had 10 years ago. At $300 for 1.5 hours, it beat the hell out of more "mustache in a photobooth" wedding pics.