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What Really Matters


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

(I wrote this post, and then I was afraid I shouldn’t post it, because it was too boring. But then I thought, oh h*ll. Why don’t we talk about what’s really important, amidst all the posts about dresses and flowers and shiny rings. Let’s talk about it, even if it’s not flashy and just true.)

So the interesting thing about having some downtime before the wedding, is it’s given me space to really step back from the details of this party we’re planning and look at the big picture. Here is what I’ve seen: All this wedding stuff? This stuff I’ve been thinking about and planning? It’s just stuff. It’s really cool stuff mostly – dresses and hand made ties and micro-brewed beer, but it’s not the point, and soon it will be gone, or tucked away. What matters is both more ethereal and more solid all at once.

Our service. We’ve been working on it for months and months, but the last few weeks I’ve felt like I’ve lived inside it. It will be over in thirty-ish minutes, but it will be in our hearts for the rest of our lives. I haven’t written too much about it, because there are some things that are just too personal to write about publicly, but this is where the soul of the wedding lives. This is why we are doing this crazy public act.

Our families. We got to spend a weekend with both of our families in a beautiful vacation home up in sunny Russian River over the fourth of July weekend. We were there for another family event, but it turned out to be just perfect – a quiet moment before the wedding. I’m hoping that amidst the busyness of the wedding, there is some of that quiet energy of important people in our lives coming together, because really, that’s the why we are throwing the party.

Our Friends. We have some good friends in tough straights these days. The economy sucks, and life can be tough. So we’ve decided we can cut nicer shoes, or fancy paper for the programs or whatever we need to cut, and get them all a d*mn hotel room, or buy them a cheap plane ticket. Because we just want them there, with us.

Us. These days we’re working on the un-romantic nuts and bolts of things: getting our living wills notarized, and figuring out how to combine our finances. Stuff that will last far longer then the wedding, ideas that will stabilize our partnership. Boring? Yes, even to us. But important and stabilizing to focus on.

And that’s not even going into the best wedding planning experience we’ve had – marriage counseling, because that deserves a whole post of it’s own.

What really matters in this crazy world of weddings to you? What is the real and the true that you don’t hear people talking much about? Dish.

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 the San Francisco Bay Area 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/16543511597729539009 The Mrs.

    a really touching post… thank you for that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13016196445046472900 Mrs. Melberry

    We decided to have a ridiculously short ceremony. We were both raised Catholic, but neither of us relate to the belief system anymore and after years of mass and long Catholic weddings we want to keep things short and sweet.
    The best part of all this wedding hoopla is we are writing our own vows and I can't wait for that 2 minutes where we read them to each other, hearing the other's for the first time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05477437111356043452 Margaret

    Marriage counseling has been great, can't say I wasn't skeptical, but it has helped me feel even more prepared and more grounded and more excited about the commitment we're making.

  • http://www.themaidenmetallurgist.com The Maiden Metallurgist

    We got all our nuts and bolts taken care of pre-wedding too, and it was the best decision. So nice to relax after the wedding instead of gearing up for more work.

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

    Much of life is quite boring. There are times in life, even at 50, when you wouldn't mind a little more boring. Looking forward to hearing about marriage counseling. My best friend's theory is that everyone ought to get a mock divorce before they get married. !

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03935793403239182466 A.Mountain.Bride

    your posts are always so wonderful! i always leave your site feeling so centered…geez…it's like you are my blog-yoga-spot.

    come enter a contest we are having on my site…to win an Etsy artist sketch of your wedding dress…
    or your mother's wedding dress… or your grandmother's dress!

    http://amountainbride.blogspot.com/2009/07/megan-hamilton-gown-sketch-contest.html

  • Katie-did

    nothing boring about that post Meg, its just real life. I found your blog about a week ago and have been reading it beginning to end…well, current. =) I just want to say thank you so much, I am marrying my best friend this September and your posts have helped me concentrate on the real reason for us getting married. I even thought "What would Meg say on her blog?" when my Mom tried her HARDEST to convince me that we need rhinestones on the placecards!!! Anyway, two thumbs up and congratulations!!!

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

    Love this post.

    We've been thinking a lot about what we're saying to the world with our marriage (see that post I made about being each other's "firsts", and all the spiritual stuff) and about what all the people who are coming to celebrate with us mean. This strange community from all over the place that has nurtured us and made us who we are.

  • http://thebestweddingblogever.wordpress.com/ thebestweddingblogever

    Thanks so much for this post. In the wedding blogosphere it seems like there's far too little talk about the important things, and too much talk about details that no one will really notice, and you won't remember in the end. Thanks!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02416137629786778346 Ghenet

    I'm glad you decided to post this. :o)

  • Anonymous

    Glad to hear someone talking about the significance of the ceremony itself.

    I am 50. It seems that with every passing year, there is an increase in the number of people saying they just want to focus on the party afterward.

    It's like the ceremony is an obstacle they have to jump over to get to the party.

    I remember when people first started writing their own vows in the 1970's. They did it because the ceremony was so important to them.

    You can even see the party emphasis reflected in some of today's bridal gowns – they are designed primarily for a party, not a ceremony.

    Nothing wrong with a great big party, but placing it at the pinnacle is putting the cart before the horse.

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

    Weird I just wrote about this the other. It's come up a lot lately in our conversations, even though we're 8 months out. We are trying to take the focus off the party.

    Hmm the real and true that people aren't talking about? Well, I have been thinking about the decision to [not] change my name, whether to keep my own checking account or combine completely, trying to find the time to write wills and apply for life insurance, balancing time alone together with time spent with family and friends, balancing work with time alone and time spent together, how much to save every month so we can have a baby/start a business/take a vacation when we want to.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03422424697050612621 love-v

    You are fantastic and will have a beautiful ceremony and memorable day. What lucky (and grateful) friends you have. Weddings are all about being surrounded by the people you love, you'll never feel bad about ditching fancy paper or shoes for them.

  • http://www.theidochronicles.blogspot.com Sarah

    Meg,
    So many times I have wanted to write to you since I first stumbled on your blog early last year through another wedding site. I've loved your reality checks.

    We're nearing 90 days since our wedding, and here's what I know: All of the people who tell you the day will be a blur — "You won't remember anything." Um, yeah. Tune them out.

    Because you are fully present in your relationship FIRST, you will remember it all. I cherished every moment. I even remember saying my traditional vows. I remember my groom's sweaty hand in mine as we listened to the sermon (which I also remember). I remember meeting the eyes of loved ones as I made my way down a long aisle. And I remember smiling quietly as I looked around at people laughing, at the flowers, at everyone enjoying the food, at the man beside me. We were so happy I felt like I could hold the happiness in my hands, taste it. It was joy-filled.

    A wedding should be tangibly about commitment. I pray that your day is so. Best wishes! -Sarah

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

    Anon-
    You know, it's funny. I don't talk about the ceremony very much here, but that's actually because its *so* important that there is not room for small talk. So I don't know… maybe others are in that boat too. Though I think the cultural phenominon you're talking about is very real.

    As for writing our own vows? Well that's another post. In our case, we decided they were too important to write ourselves… though I very much see the other point of view.

    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07964067874449854147 Heather

    For us it's have our nearest and dearest with us during the most special parts of our day. Our ceremony and dinner reception will only be 70 of our closest friends and family. After we finish dinner we have rented a music club to invite an additional 100. This allows us to keep the most important parts of the day contained and memorable – and for the party to function as its own seperate thing.

  • little miss

    I'm looking forward to a post (if you may) on the marriage counseling part – because I think it would help ground us all in many ways that we can't even think of.

    I also want to credit you Meg, and the readers, for bringing up so many thoughts, concerns, observations and ideas about weddings, marriage and life in general that so often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of "what a wedding should be".

  • Cate Subrosa

    Lovely post. Boring shmoring, these things are important.

    Looking forward to reading about your marriage counselling experience.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07273495404035054849 Roxanne

    The ceremony is a great part to focus on all that, because it ties it all in together. Everyone is there in one place. And we had a group response at the beginning, and when we did a hand blessing, everyone held hands.
    Its a moment you share with your partner, and that's beautiful, and it's also a moment you share with your closest friends and family and that makes it special too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13587382445025430711 Evelyn

    This was a great post to read and I don't think it was boring…I think it was REAL. *knuckles*

    Though I can't speak for my darling man, I can lend my 2-cents for what I feel has really matters most to me in this pre-wedding period…

    Through the exercise of planning our wedding, we've found common ground. We've talked, shared, cried, yelled, compromised, got creative, laughed and dreamed together – and we always end up on the same page. We've been together 11 years. He's my best friend and ally. This entire process has helped me remember why.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00016971593901669734 Lindsay

    The comments are just as beautiful as the posting! I love the soothing way Meg talks about not writing her own vows – it comforts me to know I don't have to do that even if it's trendy these days.

    Meg, I know this isn't the point, but I'd REALLY love to hear practical wedding advice on a practical marriage — combining finances! Please do tell what you're doing!

  • Anonymous

    When I talked about people beginning to write their vows in the 1970's, I didn't mean to imply that everyone needs to do that.

    Not everyone wrote their vows back then! What I meant is that there was a greater emphasis on the ceremony and what was being said.

    Maybe it's because it was a time of questioning. Couples who opted for a very traditional ceremony had to actually stop and think if that was what they really wanted.

    Some people didn't write vows, but they helped to craft the ceremony with the officiant.

    Speaking for myself, it would be my aim to have a ceremony with meaning, so that would be more important than the specific vows. And that is very much in the spirit of those times.

    I was not a child of the sixties – I was a child IN the sixties. The spirit of the sixties was still alive and well in the seventies, and I miss the hopefulness and ideals that permeated everything.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14757441474371776203 {The Perfect Palette}

    Thanks so much for this post. It so rings true ! In the end its not the stuff but the people that matter. The relationship with your future husband- the relationship with your friends & the relationships with your family. well written.

  • http://www.ficklefig.com Jess

    Thank you for this post, Meg. As my wedding nears, I've been forgetting why I'm doing it in the first place.

    As for the ceremony, I feel like no one talks about it… and maybe that's because it's so personal, but also because it's not the "flashy, fun" part? I know I definitely feel that way, and that's a shame. That's why we're all doing this, right? Once again, you've helped me remember why I'm even reading this blog in the first place, and it's not because of the 2,000 meticulously hand-assembled DIY touches.

  • April

    My beloved and I have lived together for 8 years so every aspect of our lives is homogenized and there really isn't much to tidy up and decide or do before the wedding event itself.

    What we're excited and most giddy about on a near-daily basis is having all our friends and a few family members in ONE place for three solid days. It's going to be magical and moving and fun and delicious. I just know it.

    And we're writing our entire ceremony together. And we're thrilled about that too (we're keeping individual vows private from each other until the day-of).

    And while we've yet to say, "I Do" we're fully committed heart and soul. And still, I feel some parts of our daily "togetherness" becoming more solid just on its own.

    Just the very thought of marriage, how it will impact and maybe even improve us socially and personally, is deepening the feelings we already have for each other. Can't wait!

  • Anonymous

    What a coincidence. I had this bookmarked and forgot about it.

    It's the very subject you're talking about.

    http://www.metro.us/us/article/2008/05/13/02/4338-66/index.xml

    You must read – it's short and sweet.

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    Oh Meglet, I do wish that you would write about the ceremony, people need to hear about the important bits. I understand why you won't though.

    We wrote the ceremony (not the vows though, for your reason I guess) and it was the bestest best bit of the whole wedding. It was the bestest best bit of my whole life so far. It makes my heart ache (in a good way) just thinking about it.

    Sorting out marital life insurance felt kind of similar. You mentioning living wills reminded me of it. I felt so close to N discussing what we would do if the other died!

  • Amy

    I'm so happy to read something like this on a wedding blog. *tear*

    It's so easy to get caught up in all the cool stuff. And it seems even more tempting when you're a little offbeat or DIY because it opens up a whole new world of stuff to buy and make.

    I'm really trying to focus on making the ceremony the centerpiece of the wedding because that really is the most important part of the wedding (not the dress, as my salesperson told me).

    You don't hear much talk on wedding blogs or in real life about the changes in your relationship wedding planning can bring on. And to me it's a fascinating process. To see a relationship grow before your eyes, to become a team and a family in the space of a year.

    Hope you post a bit on your marriage counseling. Ours has been really interesting and fun.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13832774245899798162 Mary-Kate Hopkinson

    I second the request for a post about combining finances! I'm thinking no, because he works for himself and doesn't separate his business expenses from his personal. We have a system that works for us, but I feel pressure from…somewhere…to combine somehow. Practical advice, please!

  • http://anotherdamnwedding.wordpress.com/ lyn

    totally late to the comment party, but i wanted to echo what others have said and insist that this post is not boring. this is exactly why your blog is in my google reader, meg. because even amongst the dresses and flowers i can always find reflection and perspective here.

    i'm really early on in the planning process still, so maybe this will change with time and experience. but to me, right now, what really matters in the crazy world of weddings is just listening. listening to others tell their stories and explain what is important to them in their marriages. in turn, this shores up my reserves and reaffirms what my fiance and i believe in. what is important to us.

    and that's something tangible we can build on, now and past the wedding date.

  • MegsDad

    Back in the seventies, writing your own vows was popular with a lot of our contemporaries. We looked at and discussed the idea, but somehow it did not catch on for us. We had studied the service, including the vows, in the Anglican Prayer Book. We were far more impressed with them than with any of the more recent tries, so we stuck with them. I have never regretted it, and I have never felt that Hannah has.

    As for the service, in his wedding sermon, David Green, who married us, told us that "Love is an act of will." I have found that useful to remember. While it was wonderful to see our friends at the party, I enjoyed the service more.

    In the seventies, many women felt (with good reason) that their financial life was invariably controlled by men. Hannah had been worried about giving up control of her finances, so I asked her if she would like to run our finances. In one way, this was rather selfish of me: under the best of circumstances, finances bore me. In another way, Hannah thought I was doing her a favor. Sometimes your likes and dislikes mesh. I have never regretted giving up the finances any more than I have regretted using the Prayer Book's vows. (Hannah might have, though.)

  • Veronica

    Wonderful post!

    We have just begun planning our wedding and already it is getting crazy. It is comforting to hear someone appreciate the ceremony and meaning of a wedding over all the little details. While I am having a blast trying to coordinate and plan, I'm really looking forward to that first moment when it "hits" us that we're husband and wife.

  • Anonymous

    Meg's Dad,

    Interesting about the finances. I handle the finances too and it's a job!

    My grandmother died a few years ago at age 97. Although she never worked at an outside job, throughout her marriage she handled all finances including investment decisions.

    She used to say that if my grandfather had run his own business, he'd have given his services away for free.

    Grandpa was no dummy, but they recognized early in their marriage that finances were more Grandma's cup of tea.

    LOL

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Interesting post, Meg. Here's the thing that I realized when I was going through me and Chris' wedding planning process– most of life is about the everyday mundane realities of life. Most of your married life will be about how the two of you navigate through each day together, doing regular stuff you do TOGETHER. Yes, the wedding ceremony, party and honeymoon will be spectacular and awesome (I still think about how amazing ours was), but there is still a life to be lived afterward.

    I think you have a great balance. It's hard to do. Some people focus too much on the party and don't realize that after, it's back to going to work or school or whatever it was they were doing before. And there are some who focus on the afterward aspect so much that they don't enjoy the ceremony and the party!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02329381801379166829 Traveling bride

    I've been thinking like this for a while. I get a lot of strange looks from friends when I say I'm not too worried about the details I just want to walk down the aisle and get married to C, the other stuff doesn't really matter to me that much.

    I have to admit though a public ceremony scares me a LOT, we are such private people and to let anyone even our nearest and dearest in on something so important and private is like standing naked in front of everyone.