For Real: Molly & Jon

From your wedding website to the honeymoon, we’re chockfull of virtual inspiration for your big day. Now, see how it all comes together.

Welcome to For Real, a new Riley & Grey series that features the true experts in wedding planning: actual brides and grooms. To kick things off, we sat down with Molly Anne Coogan and Jonathan Anderson, a Brooklyn-based couple that recently tied the knot at a privately owned redwood preserve in Northern California.

As creatives – she’s an actor, writer, and musician and he’s a musician and recording engineer – it was important that their distinct personal style, which Molly describes as “relaxed and classic with a little pizazz,” come through. Here are their tips for planning a dream wedding that’s both style- and budget-savvy.

1. Figure out your priorities (and spend accordingly). 

For us, a beautiful place where our guests would be really comfortable and happy was paramount, so we prioritized the venue. A day-of-wedding coordinator was also at the top of our list.

We chose a 64-acre redwood preserve owned by a private club in Woodside, California. They’ve held the property since the early 1900s and have maintained all the original buildings. It’s spectacularly beautiful in a quintessentially California way. The venue also handled the food and drinks for the reception, which saved lots of time and money. Samantha Bryer of Bryer Patch Inc. handled vendor communications for the days leading up to the wedding and was responsible for keeping our wedding day on track so we could relax with our friends and family. What a relief!

2. Rethink the traditional bachelor(ette) weekend.

We both rented houses in the Catskills through Airbnb or HomeAway and hung out with our best pals, which was much cheaper than staying in a hotel. The rentals had full kitchens, so we didn’t have to eat out. We did our grocery shopping at Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Fairway, which also saved us a lot of money because the smaller stores near the houses were more expensive. 


The couple’s wedding bands are from Catbird in Brooklyn, New York. Molly’s engagement ring is a family heirloom.

3. Think outside the “wedding” box.

Don’t buy into the idea that you have to buy something that is labeled “wedding.”  Evening dresses often make beautiful wedding dresses and cost a lot less. Molly found her dress, which is by Nicole Miller, at a great price because it isn’t necessarily a wedding dress.  The same is true for almost anything. For example, neither of us cared about having a cake so we got delicious pies from Mission Pie in Molly’s old neighborhood in San Francisco and it probably cost 75 percent less than a traditional wedding cake. We paired the pie with ice cream from an old San Francisco staple and family favorite, Mitchell’s.

4. Tap your friends’ talents (but be strategic about it).

A key piece of advice: Don’t try to save money by asking your friends or family to work at your wedding. They won’t have much fun and you likely won’t get as good of a result as you would if you hired someone to do the task.

That being said, it can be great to get friends and family involved in the planning and preparation before the actual event. For the invitations, we asked our incredibly generous architect friend to format and lay out our designs so they really looked professional before we sent them to our stationer, Mercurio Brothers in Berkeley, California. 

Molly has done her own theater makeup for years and was lucky enough to have two bridesmaids who are wizards with makeup. Together, they perfected the look weeks ahead of time so it was easy to recreate, and Molly and her mom went to a salon the morning of the wedding instead of having a hairstylist come to the house. Skipping the makeup artist and on-site stylist saved nearly $800.

5. If you have time, DIY the details. 

We made our own save-the-date postcards on – they were really inexpensive but didn’t look it. For the event, Molly handwrote all of our chalkboards and her aunt, the founder of Keke’s Kitchen, handmade her family’s English toffee as favors.

We’d already chosen a venue that had a lot of natural beauty, so we didn’t need to spend a lot of money on elaborate flowers or decorations. There’s a local nursery in Half Moon Bay, Repetto’s,that charges only the market value of the flowers if you arrange them yourself, so Molly, her mom, and sister went two days before the wedding and chose the flowers, which was really fun. We did simple arrangements in mason jars that we bought for $2 apiece at a craft store, and Repetto’s wrapped the bouquets and boutonnieres. Things like that save money and make it so much more personal.


Molly’s favorite thing about Jon: “His constant compassion and kindness. He’s the guy who will see someone at a party who is alone or looks nervous and he’ll start chatting with them so they don’t feel left out.” Jon’s favorite thing about Molly: “Her ferociousness. She’s a ferocious friend, a ferocious defender of those she loves, a ferocious fighter, and a ferocious goofball who won’t let up until you’re crying with laughter.”

6. Spread out your to-dos.

Write your thank-you notes as the gifts come in. We have heard horror stories from friends who end up with a stack to write and it becomes a dreaded task. So we’ve written cards the day the gifts arrive so we don’t end up backlogged.

We also made spreadsheets for almost every aspect of our wedding and uploaded them to Google Drive so we could access our info from wherever we happened to be. That made everything so much easier for us, our day-of-wedding coordinator, and the wedding party.

7. Remember to say thank you.

Even people who don’t live far away took a lot time and spent a lot of money to be at our wedding and we wanted to make them feel appreciated. We made small welcome bags for folks when they checked into the hotel that contained snacks from local spots and a hand-signed note from us. We put “necessities” baskets in the bathrooms in case anyone needed safety pins or a Shout wipe. We made a little instructional dance video and sent it to guests before the wedding to get people excited. In the wedding program, we wrote funny blurbs about all the people in the ceremony, so guests had something fun to read while they were waiting for it all to start. Yeah, it’s about us, but it wouldn’t be a wedding without all the guests and the people we love.

Some final words of wisdom…

Remember that in the end it’s supposed to be fun. You’ll have all the people you love in one place and as long as you’ve got good food, good drinks, and a good attitude, you’ll be golden.


You can read more about Molly and Jon at and see select photos from their wedding at

– Written and photographed by Larkin Clark 

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