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Love & Choice & Power


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Long time reader Erica sent me an email with these words:

A Practical Wedding has helped me to keep my sister sane as she is planning her wedding. I feel like every wedding conversation I have with her starts with her seriously stressing over something silly like whether it’s okay for her fiance to have a different number of groomsmen than she has bridesmaids, and ends with me telling her that there are no rules she needs to follow in planning her wedding. She can do whatever she wants.

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I got engaged. Then the barrage of questions started and the input on how we should do things began. Instead of stressing me out, they just rolled right off of my back. I know the questions and demands will only get worse, and not everyone will be happy with the non-traditional choices we make for our wedding, but now that I know there is a whole army of people out there who agree with me, and support our right to do things our way, it’s not so hard to take other people’s unhappiness with our decisions.

Which brings motivated me to get down on paper something I’ve been wanting to say about wedding planning for a long time.

First of all, lets not kid ourselves, for most of us wedding planning can be tough. There are days when nothing seems right, when everyone has an opinion, when life events make this party you are planning seem so small, when you can’t figure out how to afford things, when vendors are flat out horrible to you. There will be those days. And those days are normal.

But for me, in the end, wedding planning has turned out to be all about making choices. It’s about claiming the life that you want in the middle of a world that is telling you about the life that you should have. Let me say this loud and clear: No one can tell you how to live, and you pick the life you want. A marriage is, in many ways, the one of the few times in our lives when we make a big conscious decision about who we are, and what we want, and who we love. And, as much as people view love as magic, love and choice all mixed up together are a powerful powerful brew, and people are scared by it.

So they’ll tell you that you need to wear a big poufy dress, or have a steak dinner, or throw a garter, and and and and and. But you don’t. And you shouldn’t trust people who say you need X to have a wedding, just like you shouldn’t trust people who say you can’t have X to have a wedding. You shouldn’t trust people who tell you how much or how little you need to spend, or what you need to wear, or the vows you need to make.

If I’ve learned one thing planning this wedding, its this: The times that you say ‘NO, that is not who we are, that is not what we want’ will be vastly overpowered by the times you say ‘YES YES YES, this is who we are, this is what we want, this is how we live’.

Be true to yourself, fearlessly claim the life you want. That’s it. That’s all. That’s the solution to this puzzle.

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/12477666037374075147 Ms. Grrrl

    This was the perfect way to start my day — not just regarding wedding planning — it's a suitable mission statement for life in general.

  • http://iloveyoulove.wordpress.com/ iloveyoulove

    this blog has made my day, thank you. i just returned from the gym and thought about how much time i'll have before i have to start with wedding conversations and decisions…(i atleast need my coffee). and i thought to myself, this is our wedding and not their wedding…and that means our decisions and our conversations, not theirs. and that's okay. i don't need to apologize for making decisions that are for and about us. great blog. thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13484691703233805436 Sara E. Cotner

    Exactly! Hooray for authentic living! Thanks, Meg.

  • polkadotcupcake

    This seems like the perfect statement to sum up my own ideas for our wedding. I've been engaged for nearly a year now (since mid-July, 2008!) and we got my engagement ring 2/3 weeks ago!
    I'm not a traditional person, and my boyfriend kinda is. But nonetheless, we're determined to take our time over this. It's a huge decision, and a vast commitment to our lives together. Moreover, we're paying for most of it ourselves, which makes it even more personal!
    I very much value A Practical Wedding for the advice, encouragement and success stories of other brides and newlyweds!
    Thanks a lot!
    From a Practical Bride in Cape Town

  • http://treeplusrock.blogspot.com Callie

    it's amazing how perfectly timed this post is! just last night my Beloved dropped the bomb on me that his sister (whose creative good will we both desire) hates almost everything about our wedding. I was so offended and outraged I wanted to scream, cuss, and cry and couldn't decide which to do first. The bride and groom are on the same team – Team Awesome. Because it is the two of us who are building a new life together. We accept critiques and advice, but not bad juju and unreasonable demands. I really liked your statement about how the people who make these demands should not be trusted, because it really is a hint to something deeper and bigger that may come along later. Needless to say, we'll be watching his sister like a hawk.
    You rock.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00811942860512021126 kahlia

    Damn, you rock! Go, Meg!
    As this post says it all (and so well-put, too!), I've just bookmarked it, then emailed it to my fiancĂŠ, co-bridespeople, and mom.
    Thanks again for doing what you do and sharing it with us all!

  • vanessa

    well said! I'm totally sending this post to my mom. Maybe then she'll understand that I'm not saying no to her ideas just to spite her.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06814302207938982159 Ariel

    Amen.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12997875522614810785 Mouse

    Hell yeah!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17896310881368841785 Bells

    I feel I need to say "thank you!" to you every day since I found your site.
    I gave you a blog award – thanks again for sharing your wonderful and sane thoughts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502258378291293510 Kathleen

    ohhh thank you so much for this post. I'm just getting started… it freaks me out sometimes when I get all excited about the DIY projects I can make for myself but the FI doesn't really want to care about – he cares about the fact that he thinks his family will physically hurt him if we don't have an open bar… except we can't even remotely afford an open bar… Thank you thank you thank you a billion times!

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

    Yes. I think the "making choices" is what so often makes it hard to plan a wedding, but not in a bad way, in a "this is growth that needs to happen" sort of way. If it were all pretty linens, who cares. But underneath every fight, every bit of pressure, every choice to compromise or not, is the fact that these frivolous seeming decisions are settings the precedent for the kind of marriage we'll have. That's why it all seems like such a big deal. Through all this decision-making we are figuring out how we want to be, how we want to relate to our families and loved ones, etc. Hard work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06841723487254421932 Sharpiegirl

    One of my co-workers is getting married this weekend. And on a good day she is high strung. Her wedding has really made her high strung.
    I've had to remind her a few times to do what is right for THEM not for that third cousin twice removed that they have only met twice. I think she's finally getting it.
    I'm also a big fan of having someone there to give you a xanex when you start to freak out over silly stuff, because seriously…it's JUST a wedding. If you approach it that way then you can accept the little hicups that happen that day.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06421997839879080174 Accidental Housewife

    My mantra has become "As long as we end up married." Because at the end of the day, as long as that happens, it'll be the best wedding I've ever been to! Oh, and realizing how big a gap there is between "tradition" and "typical". People will tell you all the time that something is "tradition" but what they really mean is that it's what's "typical". Just because something has been "typical" for ten of fifteen years does NOT make it a tradition, never mind one worth abiding by!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02798242755273465376 Roxie

    I just got engaged, but I'm excited not nervous. I've been reading this blog (and OBB) for a while now.

    I know it needs to be what feels right for us. I know there will be people who think it should be done differently.

    My brother is also engaged right now (yes, busy time for my family) and our two weddings couldn't be more different.

    But we need to do what is right for us, what fits us and our relationship. And we need to make sure we remember that at all times.

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

    Woop woop!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05954907243268322787 Caz

    This is exactly what I needed in the midst of being told I have to do this, and no, I can't do that for my wedding. THANK YOU FOR VALIDATING MY FEELINGS!

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

    Yes. Also yes. In other words yes. A Molly Bloom of yeses.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06939935590766216936 Bridechka

    As always, thanks Meg!

  • http://www.headvsheart.com Courtney

    I've been reading your blog for awhile but this is the first time I'm actually leaving a comment! Wedding planning—and the struggle of doing what we want vs. what our families ad other people want—has not been easy on me. But throughout the process your thoughtful words and those of the commenters has acted as one big collective shoulder to lean on. I so wholeheartedly every word of this post. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • http://adventurealesandtrails.wordpress.com/ Valarie

    I came across your blog today for the first time and was totally refreshed to read this post. I just said to my fiance today that I'm tired of people not understanding my style and who I am. This reinforces that I'm not crazy to say no to things that simply are not me! Thanks!

  • Sunshine

    Accidental Housewife (love the name) said exactly what I was thinking.

    I have a giant pet peeve about the word "traditional" when used to describe weddings.

    It always seems like the very people who like to throw the word "traditional" around, are the ones who never studied any history.

    Which traditions out of the thousands of years that humans have been marrying are they referring to?

    Many of our traditions are not even a century old. White dresses, diamond rings, bridesmaids, etc . . . are not really very old at all.

    In fact the addition of a bridesmaid procession was once frowned upon by some because it gave a more theatrical air to weddings and necessitated the "new" practice having a "rehearsal" because of the greater number of people involved.

    In the early middle ages, no one even got married inside a church because marriages were a civil issue. Later on they got married in front of the church doors. And finally they began to get married inside the church.

    Just saying. All these so called "traditions" haven't got enough history behind them to cause so much grief.

    That said, I think part of the stress is that unless you are a professional event planner, your wedding is the most complicated event you will ever plan in your life . . . and you're doing it as an amateur!

    Of course you will be stressed.

  • Cate Subrosa

    The wedding is truly the microcosm of it all.

    Congratulations, Erica!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06630785047050193288 Inventing Weddings

    Thank you for such a candid post. You words tie into life as well. When it is all said and done, make sure you have the wedding that you want to have and not the one that you were prodded into thanks to everyone and everything around you. I think back on all of the great weddings I have been a part of and realize that the very best, warmest, most memorable occasions are those that contain the personality of the bride and groom. It is your day! Take it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07272458316916900053 Laura

    Wow… I love this group of ladies so much. We are 5 weeks out and finally things are starting to feel ok – people are getting what it is that we want, and we are letting some things slide because we really don't care (and if someone else wants to take on the project, then so be it).

    It is so shocking to me how common these experiences are. I always like the reminders because even when I look at the weddings featured here they always look effortless and perfect (with no family misunderstandings and stress). I know it is not the case, but sometimes it can feel that way.

    I too have adopted a mantra similar to Accidental Housewive's "As long as we end up married." As long as I am there, he is there, and the marriage commissioner is there, it will be great.

    xo

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

    No family stress? No stress?
    Ahahahhahahahaha. Just remember – what people feel comfortable sharing with the wide world is a bit limited. When things are super stressful with me, for example, I can't always write about it. This is a public thing, and that would be hurtful to others. So, keep that in mind when looking at real weddings.

  • nmgastea

    I completely agree. I'm from a really good family in Nicaragua which lead me to spend 1000 dollars per person for a tiny wedding in a Scottish manor and now I'm planning a second with a comfortable dress, flats, and a serve yourself country barn BBQ in North Carolina. How far apart could those worlds be? It might not have been what I wanted and you might think I'm crazy for having done all of that but an important part of a wedding is family. Having them fly out to join me and lavishing them with everything I could think of made for a very special and memorable weekend.

  • Anonymous

    hellz to the yeah.

  • Adina Marguerite

    I'm so happy you wrote this post, this was exactly what I needed this morning. We are coming up to a major crossroads in our wedding planning that is all about love, choice, and power. This post is everything we needed to hear to feel confident going forward in which ever direction we end up choosing.

    Thank you so much Meg!

  • CT

    As the future husband of one of your many avid readers, I’d like to thank you for writing this blog. Some people in our lives feel the need to express their opinions on every aspect of what our wedding will be – it’s still eight(!) months away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard variations of the phrase “Well, that’s just how things are done at weddings.”
    I have a hard time believing the world will implode if so-and-so isn’t invited, or we choose cupcakes over a traditional, four-tiered, frosting coated monstrosity. Maybe that’s just me.
    It’s nice to know that there are scores of folks out there who’ve wrestled with the same issues and I (and the future wifey) appreciate your work.
    Cheers.