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BYUH student spends less than $50 on wedding decor by refurbishing decorations from Give & Take

portrait shot of a bride and groom wearing money leis on their wedding day standing in front of a wooden pallet with the initials "L" and "M" behind a green frame and flowers
Lesieli and Malcom Timoteo on their wedding day with the decorations made by Julia Sio and others set up at the Sustainability Center.

Confronted with the challenge of planning a wedding on a budget with COVID-19 restrictions, Lesieli Timoteo said she needed a decorator. Timoteo said her friend, Julia Sio, a junior from Samoa majoring in computer science, has an eye for thrifty treasure and came to her rescue by working with decorations from the Give & Take.

Timoteo, a junior from Tonga majoring in accounting, shared her gratitude for Sio and her team for overseeing her wedding’s decorations and lightening her burden at no cost. “The decorations were spectacular. … She’s an angel.” The newlywed said everything was beautifully done and she loved having her wedding ceremony at the Sustainability Center.

“The venue was beautiful already, but the decorations took it to another level,” said Timoteo.

portrait shot of white, green, and gold wedding decor with greenery on a white table where wooden letters spell out "Mr. & Mrs."

Sio said people asked her what she was going to do with all the decor she brought home from Give & Take because it looked worthless. Despite their jeers, Sio said she sees the value of things beyond their current, sad state. “The things at Give & Take aren’t trash,” she said. “They may look rusty and dirty, but they’re not trash.”
One Saturday while she and her friends served at Give & Take, Sio said she struck gold because the crowning decoration for Timoteo’s upcoming wedding showed up. She said it was a big, golden decorative ball lamp that hung like a disco ball from a railing. “That ball saved us, and it was quite expensive and pretty new,” remarked Sio.

She said she got a team of friends together to help spruce up her finds. They spent three to four hours every evening for four weeks painting pots, refurbishing picture frames, fixing up pallets for rustic wood pieces and collecting flowers to decorate the event, Sio explained.

She said the night before Timoteo’s wedding at the Sustainability Center, she and her team stayed up preparing decorations until 4 in the morning. In addition, they worked more than six hours on the day of the celebration. Despite the long night, Sio said, “I wasn’t tired at all.” She said because she felt prepared, “This wedding was fun. We were super excited.”

She said she appreciated the opportunity to decorate the wedding for free because it was good practice for her future. She said she plans to use this wedding to promote the event planning business she wants to start.

“It’s a passion of mine to decorate and to help,” she said. She explained serving Timoteo helped her put her passion to work.

After the wedding was over, Sio said she felt accomplished seeing every little thing come together. She said she felt honored to be a part of the event.

“They trusted us with their day. There were a lot of prayers and a lot of personal growth, and the night was super amazing,” she said.

A venue that felt like home

Timoteo said when she and her fiancé scoped the Sustainability Center wedding spot for the first time, her husband felt it was the place. “First, because it was free, and second, it was different. It has so much green, and it gave me a feeling of home,” she explained.

portrait shot, diagonally angled, of an arch draped in white linen and adorned with greenery and flowers at the Sustainability Center Farm
The wedding arch at the Sustainability Center which became the Timoteos wedding venue.

Leslie Harper, the Sustainability Center student manager, said when they got the idea to make the farm a wedding reception spot, they saw it as a problem to be solved. “That’s what we do here,” Harper remarked. “We look at a student problem, and we try to be part of the solution.”

He explained the Stake Center wasn’t allowing receptions because of the pandemic, so they were approached by three different couples who needed a place to celebrate their wedding. His team already used the space for their meetings, said Harper. With a little tending, he said the area became a beautiful place to hold a wedding reception.

The Sustainability Center hosted three weddings this summer, but Harper explained they are putting their wedding service on hold. He said issues with safety exits, parking and following COVID-19 restrictions make it difficult to keep this option open for students. Once these problems are resolved, Harper said the venue may be used for events in the future. •