Yesterday we had Part One of Morgan’s wedding graduate post – about planning her wedding as her father died. Today’s post is about details of throwing this joyful and painful and wonderful and necessary party. I want to chime my voice in with Morgan on saying big (and little) things will go wrong when you plan a wedding – maybe death, maybe divorce – and weddings can still be healing things. We didn’t have to deal with death, but we did have to dear with serious illnesses and awful divorces with our nearest and dearest. And you know what? Instead of our wedding being something we put them through (as we feared it might), it was a joyful healing moment that gave them the chance to rise above it all. And I don’t know who that was more of a gift for – them or us. But it truly was a gift, even if it only exists now as a shimmering memory and some really joyful photographs.
We had a cheapish wedding. It was not full of charming details or at a beautiful venue or full of indie spirit. It was at a plain hall with minimal decoration, and it was so full of love and family that I couldn’t stop beaming. I can tell you truthfully that going cheap and lazy in no way changed the emotional impact or joy in the day.
Taking pictures and having an intimate family dinner before the ceremony didn’t reduce the impact of the aisle walk and the way David looked at me, the same way practicing the vows at the rehearsal was a completely different experience than saying them in the ceremony. The first was sweet, and the second transcendent. Same words, but emotional intensity was sky high – David’s voice was so choked with emotion he could barely speak. This loveliness, this intensity, this palpable love? That was the only thing I should have been aiming for. I should have stopped second guessing myself about not serving dinner, or not decorating more, or any of that, and just focused on trying to allow in the most joy possible.
A few more specific bits of advice:
Things will go wrong. I can only hope that 2 deaths and 8 months of unemployment aren’t the kind of wrong you get, but I am here to tell you that if they are, you can and will get through it.
So many little things went wrong. David had a bad cold, and an emergency stop for cold medicine was required. Mamadrama made me sad, and she refused to give her speech at the last minute. One of the best men’s wife left him a few weeks before our wedding, but he still gave us a kick ass speech involving Oilers jokes and marriage advice. The MC broke his arm playing street hockey at the bachelor party. The spiked punch was so spiked my uncle had to do a vodka run before the wedding even started. Our yichud was interrupted by a woman looking for Girl Guide cookies. We aimed for a childfree wedding, and ended up with a dozen kids, including the one who cried through the ceremony. The sewn-in bustle of my dress ripped out twice – the second time by the septuagenarian in the conga line behind me, which is so awesome I can only laugh. And so on. None of these ruined the wedding.
I forgot to bleach my teeth, lose weight, shape up my arms, find a substitute for my canceled fitness classes, do a makeup trial, and so on. I looked beautiful.
Know your crowd. David has a huge farm family, and mine are mostly frugal first generation Canadians. These are not people who would ever complain about having to drag their chairs around the room, or help clean up if they stayed until 2:00 am, let alone complain about a lack of decoration. We knew that, and planned for it. While we were having our yichud, someone decided there weren’t enough tables, so more were brought out and set up. No table clothes or centerpieces, and no complaints. Now, you have different families and expectations, but for our families? They wanted to drink and dance and catch up. We also registered, and really shouldn’t have bothered. Our families are all the cash and gift card types. 6 groups bought stuff off the registry. 5 more brought other gifts. Everyone else gave money or gift cards.
Our decoration budget was maybe $150, which covered paper balls, table cloth rentals, wrapping paper table runners and candle holders. I borrowed more candle holders left over from a friend’s wedding, and that was it. No one cared.
If you are going to go cheap/simple, it’s worth it to pick one fun detail. For us, it was postcards. I love postcards – I think I bought 85 of them while in the UK. So our wedding invitations were postcards, and the guestbook was postcards and our thank you cards are postcards from our honeymoon. Canada Post allows you to design your own stamps, so we made stamps with our faces on it. The extra $30 for postage was worth it to me, especially as the invitations were free. We bought old postcards from antique stores and flea markets for the guest book – it was the single most fun part of wedding planning. We set up a table with the cards, pens, stamps, some fake postal stamps I already owned, and had David’s dad make a mail box. People loved it. We got drawings, funny stories, sweet words, and one really great dirty joke. The wedding cards were nice, but these were so much more fun to read.
Allow your community to help. I got the invitations made by a work contact, as a thank you. Hair was done by my mom’s client, and I had to force her to take a tip. The dress was hemmed by a friend of my in-laws – the hemming was our wedding gift. I asked a friend to be the DOC for all the scotch she could drink. My mother in law organized the dessert buffet, making lots of it, but food also came from friends, aunts, her neighbours and more. My new sister did my makeup, and so on. I have a hard time asking for help, but if people offered, I gratefully said thank you. People are generally happy to help, and happy to be part of your day.
In Alberta, only clergy, judges or a Justice of the Peace can marry people, so we were married by a Lutheran minister, because he was my friend’s dad. He created a personalized and lovely ceremony, and while Jesus talk isn’t my personal inclination, it totally worked, and was wonderful. He worked in wording that I loved, talked about us as a couple, and the pre-martial counselling was one of the loveliest parts of the wedding preparation.
There’s nothing wrong with taking the easiest path. We went with paper plates and plastic cutlery because it was easier than renting and figuring out how much we needed. We went with an evening wedding so that we didn’t have to serve dinner. We only looked at three venues, met with only one photographer, dj, and florist, and they seemed okay, so we booked them. It worked out fine. There is nothing necessarily wrong with under-thinking decisions. It’s amazing how well things work out.
I’m sorry for the PSA, but… Smokers. Please consider quitting. My dad died from 47 years of smoking, and while he may have made a choice, he still died too soon – months before his eldest daughter’s wedding, his 61st birthday, his youngest daughter’s university graduation, and his 30th wedding anniversary. Lung cancer is an awful, terrible way to die. Even my father, a month before he was diagnosed, found medication that actually allowed him to quit. There really is help out there, and please do consider it.
Pick your financial battles. We paid for the wedding, several big and small trips, plus the unemployment, all without going in to debt. (Other than mortgage.) Our parents covered the bar, dessert and midnight buffet costs, but the rest was on us, and we made the financial decisions (cheap and cheerful) we did because of the values we have. Spend what you can afford, both financially and emotionally. Spending more on the wedding, instead of going to Paris this fall or furnishing the house, wouldn’t have been true to us, but that’s us. Know your priorities and your emotional reactions to money, and spend accordingly.
The other side? Really is wonderful, and so worth it.
Pictures: Kevin Stenhouse Photography