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Free Spirited Wedding In Moab,Utah

Caca Santoro Photography

Aleece and Tony’s wedding was original in every sense. From choosing to change their last name to Banjo, a combination of their original last names (Tony Banuelos and Aleece Jones), to holding the ceremony in one of the most beautiful natural places in Utah, their wedding was an expression of their unique personalities and authentic lifestyle.
They met more than 10 years ago at the Art-Dorms of the University of California, Irvine. After the proposal, they went into wedding planning mode immediately. Before saying a word, they each wrote down where they wanted to get married. To their surprise, both said Moab, Utah. So, their free spirits and adventurous personalities took them — along with their 80 closest family and friends — to Moab. A weekend of joyful celebration followed, in one of the countries most beautiful places. You must see every last image of Aleece and Tony’s free spirited wedding in the full gallery here. Captured every so perfectly by Cacá Santoro.

bird cage veil

wedding dress with Moccasins

blue bridesmaid dresses with moccasins

From the Bride:As far as things I would've done differently, up until the last day before the wedding I had wished I had budgeted for either a wedding planner to keep my husband and I on track or a day of coordinator. We were trying to do a complete DIY wedding since we knew other aspects, such as traveling from LA, California to Moab, Utah would be pricey. This made things a little stressful towards the end. There were several "Is this gonna work?" moments.

Looking back on it now, I'm glad we didn't hire a coordinator or a planner. (I might be feeling differently if everything hadn't miraculously worked out perfectly). Self-planning also would not have been possible if my husband and I hadn't both worked together and put the wedding above everything else that was going on. Once all of our family and friends arrived to the lodge that weekend it was non-stop crafting, building, and organizing for "the big day." Their DIY wedding had all the details carefully planned from California, more than 700 miles away. With the help of their devoted friends and family, everything was beautifully ready for the Sunday ceremony at the Arches National Park and the reception at the Hidden Oaks Lodge in Old La Sal.

groomsman looks

wedding program ideas

Moab Utah Wedding

So, far from the beaten path, these two tied the knot. Jordan, Tony’s friend from high school, officiated the ceremony and Colin, a good friend of the couple, learned the banjo just to be able to play during the ceremony in honor of their new last name. He made that moment as special and memorable as only their wedding could be. Mr. and Mrs. Banjo officially started their life together and their wedding was definitely flooded with uniqueness and a bond of love that is full of courage and hope for a long, lasting life journey.

Moab Utah Wedding

playing the banjo

100 Paper Cranes:
An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish, so Aleece and Tony folded one thousand paper cranes and exchanged them in form of colorful necklaces during the vows so their wishes of eternal love would be granted forever.

wedding ceremony with paper cranes

paper crane leigh

desert wedding

Caca Santoro Utah Phtographer

blue wedding nails

Moab Utah Wedding

They used recycled cans and jars for the table centerpieces and constructed a mountain shaped wood frame background from scratch. Aleece's sister and cousin did her hair and Tony's sister did her makeup. Aleece's aunt made the cake and Tony's cousin prepared the cupcakes. The cake topper was brought by Aleece's grandmother from a Day of the Dead festival.
This wedding was the ultimate expression of the collaboration of two families to make this amazingly cute celebration happen in honor of Aleece and Tony's love. I can definitely say that this couple was blessed with some seriously talented DIY people in their families!

One of my favorite memories from the actual wedding morning was sitting and watching while my soon-to-be sister-in-law did my make-up. There was a flurry of activity before me and it was really touching to see everyone coming together to help out in any way possible (my aunt icing the cake, his aunt and uncle unwrapping ALL of the rented dishware, friends hanging up lights and streamers and assembling center-pieces...)

desert wedding

homemade table numbers

indie wedding decor ideas

One small thing I wish I had thought of: reminding guests to NOT change out of their pretty wedding clothes after the ceremony. It was quite cold upon arriving to the reception and since it was conveniently held at the lodge where everyone was staying, guests immediately threw on their sweatpants and hoodies. We still had a couple group photos to get back at the lodge which I don't think they realized. So we have a couple shots of everyone looking like they're ready to tackle Everest but at least it goes with the outdoorsy theme :)

custom wine lables

dessert wedding table

Caca Santoro Photography

Read on to see how much this free spirited wedding cost. Please note that costs change as the years go by, and prices are subject to change. This is just one couple’s breakdown to give you a rough estimate on how much a wedding like this may cost you.

Budget for 85 guests:
We kept a very detailed budget log throughout the process (unfortunately I don't have it with me right now). A few things we splurged on outside of our original plan:
Food/ Catering Total (German themed buffet style from local Moab caterer, Ken Moody): $4000 (about a third of our budget.)
Dress/veil after tax: $1100
Alcohol/mixers: $600 (we actually had a lot of wine left over. We had 5 mini beer kegs, 3 cases of white wine, 2 cases of red, 3 handles of Jim Beam and ginger beer for mixing, and champagne from my hometown Temecula. If I did it again I would cut back on the beer kegs and the red wine since we had about a whole case of red leftover.)
Rentals (tables, chairs, dance floor, glassware): $1600
Transportation to ceremony location: $500
It's amazing how things add up. Our final wedding total was about $14,000. When we first started planning we were picturing a very modest $7000 wedding.
Things we were able to save money on:
No DJ (a carefully arranged playlist and maybe a charismatic family member to MC worked wonderfully)
DIY photobooth My aunt making the cake and his cousin making cupcakes instead of buying a cake (and it's more meaningful!)
renting a smaller dance floor (it makes it look more packed and fun when it's crowded :)
DIY make-up and hair (his sister did my make-up and my sister did my hair)
It's fun being able to reflect on it after everything's over. I have such wonderful memories thinking back on it and any stress I had beforehand completely melted away on the day of the wedding. This sounds weird but I thought once that if I could only remember one day for my entire life up to this point, it would be my wedding day. It had my favourite of everything: people, food, music... It was perfect. If you have any other questions feel free to ask!

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