It’s hard to pin down the day Samuel, 22, and Serena, 24, became an official couple. But it didn’t take them long to realize they wanted to spend eternity together.
The Pluims either met at an LDS Church institute class or in the church singles’ ward, depending on who you ask. Samuel asked Serena on a group date to a drive-in movie to field her interest.
“I thought she was pretty cute ... but I wanted to scope it out before really asking her on a date, because sometimes girls get blindsided, they get awkward on a first date,” he said. “So you hang out for a bit and get to know each other. Then when you actually go on a date it’s more relaxed because you’ve already hung out.”
For their first official date, Samuel took Serena on a hike in the Ogden foothills, building a fire and surprising her with ice cream. Soon, Serena realized Samuel was someone she could see herself with for the long haul.
The Pluims’ Wedding Day
Venue: Wedding at the Salt Lake City Temple, reception at “White Building” in Hooper.
Most creative cost-saving strategy: Serena found her wedding dress at a thrift store and had a family member alter it as a wedding gift.
Worth the splurge: The couple made sure guests were well-fed with a catered dinner and sweet treats for the reception.
Who paid: The couple’s parents.
Final wedding cost: $3,500
“It kind of fit in place for me. He was somebody I wouldn’t get tired of being around,” she said. “You go out with other boys, and eventually you want something different. For me, I can usually tell after a couple weeks, and I just kept wanting to be around Samuel all the time.”
Samuel said he admired Serena’s integrity, morality and tenacity.
“Obviously I’m not super old, so I haven’t been on that many dates, but I’d gone on enough and kind of talked to my friends that had been married … so I’d kind of imagined who’d I’d marry and how they’d be and act,” he said. “Obviously, no one can fit some perfect list, but Serena just aced every category I thought was necessary for a wife and mother.”
The couple dated for seven months before Samuel proposed. He wanted it to be a surprise, so he took her on a hike again — this time in the dead of winter.
“It was a little crazy, not the best idea,” he said.
A friend hiked ahead of them and set up candles and roses above a sweeping view of Ogden at night.
“She asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I thought to myself, ‘What do you think I’m doing?’” Samuel said. “There’s candles, there’s roses! Then I went on one knee, asked if she’d be mine forever and she said, ‘Yes.’”
They planned to marry three months later, on March 7.
Since Serena and Samuel are both still students at Weber State University, they wanted to keep costs at a minimum. They conjured up plenty of innovative ideas, starting with Serena’s dress.
She found it at the Layton Deseret Industries thrift store.
“It was a strapless dress ... but I just fell in love with it because it had this fancy beading, kind of a coppery silver color — it had it on the front and all along the train,” she said. “It was only $75, so I just bought it. I figured even if I didn’t end up using it or couldn’t alter it the way I want, I could sell it.”
Samuel’s aunt, a seamstress, added long lace sleeves to the dress as a wedding gift.
For her bridesmaids’ dresses, Serena turned to the web. She knew she wanted them to be pink. She knew she wanted them to have long, lace sleeves like her gown. She also knew she was on a budget.
“My sister was my maid of honor, and we spent two hours or more looking for dresses. One kept popping up, she said, ‘This is a China dress,’” Serena said.
Feeling wary about ordering a dress from online and wondering about the quality that comes with a $15 price tag, they ordered one at first to see if it’d work.
“It was perfect,” Serena said.
She bought three more for her bridesmaids and one for herself — so she’d have a wearable keepsake.
The couple also kept cost low on the decorations for their reception. Serena borrowed colorful glass vases her grandmother collects and dug through recycling bins to find more. They used linens, white fabric and string lights from a friend’s wedding event company for their reception.
The couple married in the Salt Lake City Temple, where Samuel’s former mission president officiated. The LDS Church allows couples to marry for free at their temples. They had their reception in Serena’s hometown, at the Hooper “White Building,” an LDS Church gymnasium and cultural hall. That venue was free as well.
“Obviously, the gymnasium is maybe a little tacky to some people, but it’s pretty common,” Samuel said. “It’s just convenient. You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a fancy place. It’s an important day, but it’s not the main thing.”
Serena agreed — while it’s fun, the reception for her wasn’t the main event of their big day.
“The most important thing is getting married,” she said. “For me, the reception is just a party — a place to celebrate and have fun with family and friends.”
The couple was most shocked about the cost of professional wedding photography. They found a friend who gave them their engagement photos for free and charged $500 for a two-hour session at the temple. Friends and family took photos for free at the reception.
“I think that was the trickiest part, at least for us, expense-wise,” Samuel said. “You don’t know what’s a good deal. No one’s every really talked about it.”
While they were creative in their cost-saving, the couple knew they didn’t want to scrimp on food.
“That’s half the reason people are happy at a wedding,” Samuel joked.
They had dinner catered for family and close friends after the wedding ceremony. They served sheet cakes and cupcakes for their reception.
The Pluims’ big day marked a big milestone in their relationship, but for them, a wedding is just the beginning.
“The role of a wedding, especially in Mormon culture, is symbolizing you’re making a commitment – not only to them, but to yourself that you’re going to support them and to God that you’re going to take care of that person,” Samuel said. “The part I liked was looking at her, thinking about having kids, raising a family. It sort of flashed before your eyes — thinking about all the things you get to do with someone now, that you really love and they love you back.”
That’s why Serena recommends other couples keep their wedding day in perspective.
“Plan it so you can enjoy the day,” she said. “I think that’s more important than all the hustle and bustle.”