Speed and affordability beat out tradition Sunday when a young couple married with family, friends and a crowd of strangers beaming at them.
Most couples scrambling to organize a wedding in less than two weeks might be stressed and frantic.
But not Bree Beagley, 26, and Phil Sundbaum, 31. The Auburn couple – engaged only 37 days before tying the knot – were content to skip months of researching vendors and changing their minds and get right to the good stuff.
It helped that as winners of a contest at the Tacoma Art Museum, their $20,000 affair was fully funded.
But it came with a stipulation – it had to be planned and put together in less than two weeks.
That left no time for bridal showers, bachelor parties, engagement photos or planning a honeymoon. It meant the invitations had to be emailed, the wedding party limited and personal touches like a video montage for the reception pushed to the wayside.
Decisions had to be made quickly, but not all decisions belonged to the couple. Their colors had already been chosen – blush pink, gray and black. Their location had to be in an atrium balcony on the second floor of the museum.
“It’s been such a crazy whirlwind,” Beagley said days before the ceremony. “There’s been a ton of emotions.”
Sundbaum said the process was hectic, but in a good way.
“Instead of being crazy hectic over a year of planning and changing my mind, you’re forced to do it in two weeks and you’re done,” he said.
On Sunday, those who came to the first “Bridal Bash” at the museum got to watch the couple say “I do” from the lobby and then attend the reception.
Their 14-month-old niece and flower girl seemed to be a crowd favorite as she hustled down the aisle; her stuffed puppy was waiting for her at the end.
The backdrop of the ceremony included a view of Mount Rainier and the Tacoma Dome, some of the Pacific Northwest landmarks that inspired the couple’s winning contest entry in the first place.
“It’s our home,” Beagley said while having pictures taken outside after the ceremony. Even then they were rushing to get the photos taken before sunset.
Six couples signed up for the bridal contest Sept. 16, but only three showed up, doubling Beagley and Sundbaum’s chances. They were the only bride- and groom-to-be that came. The other brides brought mom or a friend.
Participants were given a box of materials including wrapping paper, glitter and cardboard cutouts and told to make a backdrop that would be used at their wedding.
Most decorated their backdrops with hearts and the word “love.” Beagley and Sundbaum went for a Northwest theme and included landmarks near to their hearts, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Mount Rainier.
When they were announced as winners, Sundbaum dropped his head in his hand and Beagley’s mouth dropped. They’d been there mostly to have fun.
“I’ve never even won a (lottery) scratch ticket,” Beagley said. “We never expected to win.”
The reality settled in the morning after the contest, when 21 vendors inundated their email inbox with questions about what they envisioned for their Big Day.
Time, it seemed, was of the essence, but neither Beagley nor Sundbaum took time off work. (She’s a digital-advertising accounts manager; he works at a meat warehouse.) They wedged their decisions into stolen moments on the phone and via email with strangers planning one of the happiest days of their lives.
The two met three years ago at BB Magraws, where Beagley was a server and bartender. Some friends had come in to celebrate their own engagement and they’d brought Sundbaum, whose sister-in-law also worked at the Auburn restaurant.
The sister-in-law had tried to set Beagley and Sundbaum up long ago, but their schedules never matched because Sundbaum, a professional freestyle mountain biker, often traveled out of the country.
That night, however, Beagley waited on his table and they chatted a little. He left her his phone number in a ring he’d made out of paper.
She didn’t call.
Sundbaum eventually finagled Beagley’s phone number from his sister-in-law, and they gradually began exchanging text messages.
After their first date, they were inseparable.
It was Aug. 24 at a family reunion in Ocean Shores.
Sundbaum asked Beagley’s dad for her hand in marriage, then conspired with her brother to have a blanket set up on the beach with candles.
He asked her to take a stroll by the water with their dog. She thought it rude when he told her to stop inviting other people on their walk, but soon realized what was happening when they stopped in the candlelight and Sundbaum got choked up.
He pulled out the ring – a real one this time – and got on one knee. She bawled.
They’d barely begun celebrating when a family member mentioned the contest at the Tacoma Art Museum and recommended they go for it.
After all, their plan was to save $5,000 and have a ceremony in their backyard or on her uncle’s property in Olympia. A $20,000 wedding would be an unrivaled gift.
Neither Beagley nor Sundbaum was nervous as the days counted down. They said the rush down the aisle didn’t frighten them – they were positive they wanted to spend their lives together.
“I’m most excited to get to share an event like this – getting married to my best friend – with everybody I know,” Sundbaum said.
One hundred people were invited to watch them exchange vows.
One might expect planning a wedding in two weeks to be stressful, but event planner Kerra Lynch of A Divine Event said it was all about logistics. The vendors were already on board and had donated an allotted amount for their services. Beagley and Sundbaum were given options and pointed to what they wanted.
“I don’t feel like we’ve been that nervous or stressed,” Beagley said. “It’s been pretty set up for us.”
Her family had a harder time accepting the rushed time line. Dad kept muttering they needed to reschedule the date.
“I think Mom and Dad did a little worse,” said Beagley’s mother, Nancy. “You can’t wrap your head around it; it takes a week just to do that.”
The worst issue was the programs, which were sent to the printer without the couple seeing them. When they realized some family members had been left out, they opted to print and pay for their own programs Friday.
Confusion about parking and which drinks would be provided also made for hiccups, but Beagley said that despite the miscommunication, the wedding was a “dream come true.”
They met with the pastor and chose the program (traditional vows and pouring sand into vases to symbolize unity). They selected a maid of honor, best man, ring bearer and flower girl.
They picked up cake slices and took them home so moms could share in the fun (one tier is vanilla cake with raspberry filling for him; two tiers are red velvet cake for her).
The hardest part was choosing the music (their first dance was to Train’s “Marry Me”).
“It’s a sign that they’re really meant for each other,” Lynch said. “They’re so in love and just happy to have this.”
As for the honeymoon, the newlyweds said Sunday that they’ll be taking more than two weeks to plan the trip. With the hyper-focus on the wedding the past weeks, the vacation to “somewhere tropical” is probably six months away, they firstname.lastname@example.org
253-597-8653 Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.