James & Pam's "Punk Rock, With Tacos" DIY Backyard Bash in California

James & Pam's "Punk Rock, With Tacos" DIY Backyard Bash in California

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Taryn Williford
Jul 27, 2016
(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

Bride & Groom: Pam & James
Wedding Date: August 8, 2015
Venue: Our friend Andy's backyard in Santa Ana, California
Number of guests: 50

This fun-loving New York couple sure know how to throw a party. With the help of their family and friends (who came together quite literally from coast to coast), they planned, gardened, lit and crafted the intimate and laid-back backyard wedding of their dreams.

(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

The event was a throwback to when James and Pam first met, as two SoCal photographers who frequented the same art gallery groups. The founder of the photography co-op that brought them together not only opened up his backyard to host the 50-person bash, he even served as the officiant.

Pam and James decided to do the entire wedding their way, with DIY details that playfully nodded to their shared passion. Vintage cameras lined the walkways and tabletops, and film canisters served as escort cards to guide guests to their tables. "We named all the tables after photographers we admired," Pam said.

James and Pam shared some more of their favorite things about their wedding day with us. Check out what they had to say below, then scroll through the beautiful gallery captured by Nicole Caldwell.

(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

How did you meet?
From James: We met through an art gallery in California. I had started a critique group for the more serious photographers and Pam was one of the ones that came out. We were friends for over a year before we started dating, and found out we were great at bouncing ideas off each other.

How would you describe your wedding style?
DIY punk rock meets photo geek, and some tacos.

(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

What was totally "you" about your wedding?
From Pam: We chose to have an intimate wedding and spent our money on things that mattered most. We organized everything about the day ourselves, with our family and some incredible friends helping us to plant flowers and set tables right up until the morning of the wedding. In some ways, this was a much harder choice, but it was more "us" by doing it this way.

From James: We hired a DJ that played nothing but vinyl. All good rock 'n roll, ranging from 70s and 80s punk to 50s music, and a sprinkling of David Bowie and Iggy Pop in between. Also the tacos. The cake topper too. As Pam said, we did a very good job of making it really "our" day. We did it for us.

Biggest challenge:
From Pam: Coordinating a wedding in California, when we lived in New York and had a very small budget.

From James: The whole thing was a challenge! Probably the biggest test of us as a couple to date—even more so than moving cross country. We literally did everything. Gardening, flowers, table tops, the lights, the ceremony, invites. We did it all. It was so much work!

(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

Proudest DIY:
From Pam: James was very specific about the lighting and wanted to be sure that the lighting helped to create the mood for the day, so he did all of the lighting himself. He even measured the distance between each bulb to ensure it was perfect.

From James: Silly thing in hindsight to get caught up on, but I really did. I needed a project. The installation took me about 16 hours. Taking it down was much easier; I just left it up as a gift to our friend for hosting. I went way more hardcore on it than I needed to, but I think it was worth it! Everything looked great.

Most worthwhile splurge:
From Pam: Our photographer! Nicole and her assistant were so much fun and our photos are fabulous! We still get compliments on them.

From James: Fifty years down the line, our memories might be a bit soft but the photos will still be sharp.

(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

What we skipped or did without:
From Pam: An expensive wedding cake. We hired a student to make our cake. She got the experience and we got dessert!

From James: We skipped wedding parties. Such a pain in the butt. Who needs it? We also did without an expensive caterer. It really came down to budget with this one—wedding catering gets crazy expensive and, speaking from experience, is usually not that fantastic. We took the easy way out and had a local taco shop do it. It was a backyard wedding in SoCal, so it really fit.

Favorite detail:
From Pam: Our cake topper made by Jennie Cotteriell! This was well worth the investment because we now have it on display at home.

What else should we know about your wedding?
From Pam: Having a crash pad helped us to have a great week. My family organized an AirBNB rental for the East Coast family to stay in for the week. We were nervous because our bi-coastal families had never met before the week of the wedding, but we created a lot of great memories of us cooking together and spending time in the pool with both families. We are grateful to have had those experiences and memories.

(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

Favorite memory of the day:
From Pam: James wrote some pretty funny vows that we still talk about. He also surprised me with a camera in his pocket so we took a surprise selfie at the altar.

From James: Obviously, my new wife. But the whole day was actually pretty incredible. I had a lot of family at the wedding that hadn't spoken to each other since the 90s. Even my 87-year-old grandmother travelled from Vegas! Everyone got along, everyone talked—it was a really big achievement.

What our guests said:
"When I have a wedding I want it to be like this!"

Your best advice for anyone planning a wedding:
From Pam: Pictures stay in families for generations, and memories stay in your hearts. So put your time and energy into things that will last beyond the eight hours. A fancy cake and an overpriced gown don't make the wedding great, you do.

From James: Chill out. It's your wedding day—usually not everything goes 100% according to plan. And that is ok! Embrace it, take a breather, drink a lot of water, and take the time to enjoy it. It's over incredibly fast.

Thanks, Pam and James!

(Image credit: Nicole Caldwell)

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