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In Praise Of The Particular


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

In Praise Of The Particular | A Practical WeddingA few weeks back, I posted a few reflecting pieces about parts of the wedding planning process that make us insane, managing our stress, and the tyranny of society’s current and obsessive compulsive focus on wedding details. After I posted it, Kathryn of Snippet & Ink and I were chatting wedding details, and she said something so thought provoking and true that I had to share it with you:

One of the things your posts this week made me think about was why do I love all of the wedding details? Because I really do love them (well, most of them; there are a chunk that I find absurd). And I realized that it’s because I love details in general, I love things that are done thoughtfully and beautifully, that are meaningful, and that are little gifts to other people whether they realize it’s a gift or not. And if a bride doesn’t feel that way about the details, and if all she feels is pressure and like she doesn’t measure up, then that’s not thoughtful or meaningful in a good way, and it’s not a gift to anyone! People need to remember that their wedding day should reflect who they are, and if for them that means walking down the aisle to Johnny Cash, and not perfectly coordinated vintage stamps, then THAT’S their gift.

Ding, ding, ding! Truth. It made me think back to my days in theatre school, where we spent a lot of time watching and writing personal performance pieces. The most true thing I learned from that experience was that universal things are never true – sweeping generalizations never punch us in the gut or grab us by the soul. The universal is always in the deeply particular. I think its this way with weddings to. If we make an effort to focus on living up to outside standards and come up with details we think we are supposed to have – whether they are flowers, or cake, or favors, or vintage stamps, we are just creating generic wedding stuff. Another invitation with cute vintage stamps, another set of monogrammed cookie favors, another shoe shot. It’s not particularly meaningful to anyone except *maybe* the bride, and it will slowly drive the bride (if she is at all like me) out of her mind trying to live up. But, if instead, we strive to create a wedding that reflects who we are and what we value, we will, without trying, create details that will form an indelible impression in our guests minds, details that will be a gift.

You all know that I don’t love favors. Well! In the wedding I featured yesterday, Ninon gave out favors of the honey that was her mother’s favorite honey before she died. On top of the honey she wrote: ‘Life is Sweet’ with their wedding date. That, my friends, is the favor to beat all favors. That is the detail to beat all details. It wasn’t about fussy ribbon tied around the honey jars (which during one wedding blackout she obsessed over), it was about giving her guests something that was deeply part of who she was. When I look at that favor I don’t think “I need to come up with a favor as great as that.” I don’t even think, “Oh boy, I better find a favor, quick!” Instead I’m overwhelmed with the deep love Ninon showed for her mother, her guests, her family. I want to be more bravely honest with my wedding. That is what details can do.

For us, we’re not working to create details, but to create meaningful rituals. I’m finding that out of these rituals details are being created inadvertently, but with great intention: the handmade wedding dress, the cake with blackberries and dahlia’s, cutting the cake with my grandfather’s saber, a huppah made with saplings. These are not details created to look good in a photo, but details that are close to our heart.

So Kathryn is right and I, up to a point, was wrong. It’s not details that are the problem, it’s how we approach the details. Strive to give of yourself, it is all the gift that your guests will want.

Photo by Jenny Ebert, from Ninon and Dan’s wedding

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18113351415713478689 Carbon Girl

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This really puts it in perspective for me. I have been driving myself crazy thinking about details. Like the other day I asked my FI about matching socks for the groomsmen and he just stared at me like I was crazy. And I was slightly hurt that he didn’t like the idea but really he had a right to stare at me like that. I don’t care about the socks! The whole point would be to get a picture of the socks and seriously, how does that even matter? But the details that I have lately decided to do myself–a homemade cookie bar (a family tradition), making my own jewelery, designing the invites. Well they feel right and make me happy with the whole wedding thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16294864366284434807 Rosalie

    Thanks for this post. I was pondering about this a week or two ago – Kathryn puts it better than I did. I’m the same as her, I love details in every day life, so crafting garlands and handmaking cookies as favors makes me happy as does self catering the wedding because I love food and cooking and crafting I find very therapeutic/relaxing. It’s all about making the choices that you and your partner enjoy and that are personal rather than feeling the pressure that you HAVE to make things/ have favors/ wedding colours etc.

  • http://accordionsandlace.wordpress.com/ accordionsandlace

    Thank you for articulating this so well–it is tricky, nuanced stuff. It helped me to read it, because I have been guilting myself for CARING about the details (enough to blog about them, even!). I felt stupid for giving a shit about my favours (handmade mini cookbooks with our favourite recipes in them) or our handmade invitations so much–I feel like all the women I know who have gotten married have been so much less fussy, have just done whatever and gotten over it. I was always the rebellious one in my circle of friends and I could not believe that I, of all of us, seemed to have jumped head first into the wedding world so thoroughly.

    But you are right that there is a distinction between becoming an “everything must be perfect, I need monogrammed flip-flops!” bride and an “these details are genuinely meaningful to me and a way to make others feel special” bride. I still struggle with it but both my partner and I do feel strongly that we are capable of caring about the details without becoming shallow or nuts or over the top spendy. I am sure you are too!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18209861350905135093 LPC

    Oooh. Too young to be so wise. Maybe the concept of an old soul is correct.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Caitlin,
    Skip the socks. Really. It makes me crazy that the groomsman sock shot has become a ‘thing,’ because I feel like it strips them of their power/choice/individuality. Now, if they come to you and say: we want to wear matching socks we think it would be HILARIOUS, then effing go for it. But otherwise? You are marrying this man because you trust his judgment, right? So let him pick his own socks.

    Ok, apologies. Please forgive me that rant ;) I think the details you ARE doing sound lovely. We’re designing our invites too, and it’s one of our few big wedding projects, and we love them

    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00409541531549254367 Tris

    Oh, the honey…

    I just cried into my coffee.

    I was just talking about this with my mom, because I love details too, but not the out-of-my-mind side effects. But, there are some things about those damned details that are so sweet- last week, my 3-year old niece and I mixed a blend of loose leaf Russian and Californian teas (groom is Russian, I’m from California) for our favors. Nothing too fancy, but a way to bring in our differences, and the common ground. Not sure if that made sense. But we put in dried orange zest from my mom’s orange tree, and dried lemon zest from his mom’s lemon tree… so I’m pretty thrilled with that. Even if it means funneling tea into 100 little glass jars with my niece aaaaaaaaall afternoon!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Tristen

  • http://ameliacarolyn.wordpress.com/ ameliacarolyn

    what a beautiful and wise post. thank you.

    my fiance thinks i'm crazy to care about bathroom packages (i'm putting a basket together for the bathrooms [there are only two] at the ceremony site that includes nice-smelling soap, a sewing kit, stain remover, lotion, band-aids, mouthwash, etc.). The bathrooms are pretty rustic and we're in the mountains outdoors and for me, it's a way to add a little extra thought & convenience for everyone traveling to celebrate with us. i am one that enjoys details and you've expressed quite wonderfully, how the right details can be so important if it reflects who you are.

    thank you for reminding me to spend time on what means something to me and let the other stuff go.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04229456115818198176 A Fortunate Bride

    Amazing post – thank you so much for putting things into such great perspective. My personal challenge is to let what is important to us determine the details, and not the other way around.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10044595180736126664 Melissa

    This is a great post :)

  • Brooke

    Thank you, thank you for this post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06272654565469914998 sam

    This is almost your best post yet. When my sister got married she obsessed over every minute detail of the day and decorations and it created so much stress for her (and everyone who loves her). I’ve been saying “no fussy details” ever since – but I stand corrected. I’ve never liked favors and still won’t be doing them at my wedding – but this is incredible.
    What an awesome tribute to love.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01662015478802451184 Becky

    Thanks for this post. This puts our approach to wedding planning so beautifully. Being true to yourselves and your values in the midst of all the pressures. My partner and I feel incredibly lucky to be doing most of our planning without a lot of expectations from our family or friends. We also planned the Wisconsin wedding from New Zealand, which was awesome for escaping any pressures or expectations. I hate to bring up a some-what touchy subject (I remember the comments!), but this same desire to be true to ourselves is exactly what has inspired us to make overt mention of gender and marriage equality. Because for us that is an important detail.

    At any rate, thanks for the pick me up!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08867576999087206373 Kristen

    It seems that I always mean to comment after reading a great post from you, Meg, but I rarely do. Thanks for posting such articulate and sage pieces on this blog — they mean a lot to me, and obviously to lots of other folks as well. It’s such a blessing to be able to read your blog amidst the sea of craziness! Beautifully done, keep up the great work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06206689296805893265 east side bride

    yay meg!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18322614204354706684 Amelia

    See, I’m all crafty and love homemade stuff – love to give homemade things to people I love, that is. I even considered knitting each of my witness-women a sweater as a real, from the heart present that they’d each enjoy (we’re Northeasterner, sweaters are important). And then I realized I would go crazy and burst into tears when I inevitably couldn’t finish enough sweaters to rival Mrs. Weasley.

    So we’re doing manageable stuff that we WANT to do, like making our own invitations and STDs and doing the flowers ourselves.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Amelia,
    Mrs. Weasley has magic knitting needles, you do not. This is important stuff to remember when keeping wedding sanity. Martha Stewart has has magic needles… they are just called a “staff” to us muggles.

    xo
    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01368924576964912226 Marty J. Christopher

    I love the details, too. We’re making our favors (as of now, that is), and they reflect our love story, which is how I think favors should be. Not little boxes of mints with my initials on them…this was a nice reminder that I’m not falling prey to the WIC.

    http://shesnotthemarryingkind.blogspot.com/

  • http://blondiesbaubles.etsy.com Lauren

    Girl, I don’t know how I’m going to maintain my sanity without you when my husband-to-be and I get around to getting weddinged. I can only hope you will still be blogging, if not about this then about anything. Somehow everything you talk about just makes sense!! How are you so…zen??..I guess is how I should put it. You are amazing!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15572743425243443011 Ninon13

    Meg,
    Another amazing post!! And I am (sniff, sniff) honored to be a part of it. Thank you so much. Such a beautiful distinction between details for the sake of details and details that truly share oneself with one’s guests. Love it!

  • http://pepperedmoth.livejournal.com/ pepperedmoth

    That honey is from the county that I live in!

    Just had to comment. Vermont is so tiny, it always tickles me to find bits of it in unexpected places.

    As far as details . . . I don’t know. I love beautiful details when I notice them in the world around me, but I don’t spend much effort on them otherwise. I’m not sure my wedding is going to have any beautiful details, intentional or otherwise . . . and at this point, I’m okay with that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Lauren-
    Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa. I’m not Zen. I’m not even close to Zen. AT ALL. I’m a sassy emotional loudmouth, who happens to be realativly grounded. I do however, think things through the best I can and string words together.

    I suppose that I am Zen compaired to most wedding media. Which says far more about them then it does about me.

    But you are sweet.

    xo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09673896395330316583 Catherine

    love.this.post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05987184147935636439 Emmalinda

    YAY!!

    I find myself getting excited about the basics of our wedding: music, a tent, fresh local food….and overwhelmed many times when I’m looking at wedding blogs, b/c it seems that everyone is incredibly detaily! But the details stress me out. I keep telling myself not to sweat it, but it’s so nice to see it in print on the interwebs.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11371172824707301749 Cate Subrosa

    LPC is right, there is definitely such a thing as an old soul, and you my dear were born wise, I’m sure of it.

    New mantra: “stuff that matters or no stuff at all.” (Has a nice rhythm to it!)

  • http://mimsie.typepad.com/wedding mimsie

    “meaningful rituals”. That’s a beautiful and simple way to put it. I may have to scrawl it across my wedding planner, my laptop, and every wall in this wedding infested house to keep myself in check. ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16787392184686950891 Autumn

    I loved this. Early on I vowed not to obsess about details, but as we went along I found ideas and thought of ways to incorporate our true “selves” into the wedding. Those aren’t details, they’re our personalities, and those are the things that make me smile the most.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08814173541770616670 Polka Dot Bride

    Thankyou Kathryn and Thankyou Meg for putting into words what I have been struggling to for so long.

    I too love details but more than anything I am excited when a bride shows me a details that has a relevance to her and her fiance- the cake knives her mum used, a ring pillow (I know noone see’s the point of these!) with lace from her mother, pokemon cake toppers because they met over pokemon. That’s what excites me!

    It what I wanted to help others do- to think past what they “had” to have into things that reflected who “they” are and the love that they have.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01345111249901954561 Crystal

    This was really brilliantly spoken..really.

    I’m finding that planning my second wedding is a very different experience from the first… for many reasons, no the least of which who I am now v. then….not to mention the difference in who I’m marrying!

    My first wedding was all show….that was how he wanted it, and it should have been a signal to me, but I was so overwhelmed with the “have to’s” and the manufactured checklists….anxiety vomit isn’t the half of it.

    The one thing I did, the ony gift I really gave myself or anyone selse that day, was the single pink rose tucked into the back of my otherwise fall-toned bouquet…daddy, who had passed away a year before, always gave me pink roses. My mother wept when she saw it. Just for us, that moment..just for the three of us. There wasn’t a single moment of the rest of the day that held that kind of power.

  • How we came to be…

    agreed on SO many levels. being a really crafty person, i wanted to do as much of the “fun” stuff myself as possible. we made our invites, programs, gifts, hankies (from my dress fabric remnants), all decorations, and embellished my dress. now that we’re down to the details, it’s little signs for the treat buckets (“we need more chopsticks!”) and a matching yellow purse for my rehearsal dinner outfit (“but everyone knows i sew! i HAVE to sew it!”).
    but i just had a breakthrough for my now 16-days-away wedding. for the past week i have been wondering if it’s cold feet – “should i even be doing this?” i cry to myself as i peer at my endless checklists of details, details, details. FI comes in and offers “i’m going to target to get the champagne flutes, need anything else?” needless to say, my checklist of “still have to make”‘s was eliminated right there in those target aisles. sorry, individuality, sanity won this time.

  • K

    This post has allowed me to take a deep breath. I’m one of those people who really could care less about the details. Actually, the fewer details the better. I like simple, basic things and ideas and everything floating around out there about what you could do for your wedding was starting to overwhelm me. Just give me something simple, but beautiful.

    My friends even keep reminding me that they’ll bring the beer and wine in cartloads, because they just want to celebrate with us. So anytime I start stressing about things, I just remember that and know that none of them will care about anything other than being there with us.