When Nicole sent me her wedding graduate post, she said something hilarious, ie, “I feel a little shy about sending you this… I’m really not sure that our Australian, homespun, fairly un-traditional (but oh-so-joyful) wedding of two ‘older’ people is appropriate for A Practical Wedding.” Ha ha ha ha ha. Because it could not be MORE perfect for APW if it tried (and more specifically more appropriate for Meg). You know how sometimes I say things like, “I wish I had been at this wedding”? Well with this wedding I am FREAKING OUT about how Nicole forgot to invite me. Forgot! To! Invite! Me! Because, you see, I grew up doing things like hippie-world-music-dance-camps-under-the-redwoods, and this wedding looks like it came right out of my old photo albums. Happy, happy photo albums. So. Without further ado, I bring you Nicole, with the wedding I wish I was at. Oh. And she brings some serious wisdom to go with her serious inspiration.
I read a lot of wedding blogs in the months before our wedding, and with all of my extensive research I really believed I was prepared for anything that the wedding planning process and the wedding itself could throw at me. But of course there were some surprises and some lessons, now neatly slogan-ised as:
- Some form of stress is probably unavoidable
- There really are no ‘shoulds’
- There truly IS something magical about the whole wedding experience
A little bit of background. Tim and I have been together for eleven years and so in getting married, we felt like we had license to be utterly ruthless about which traditions to include in our wedding. We picked up virtually every tradition and had a good look at it from all angles and figured out whether it meant anything to us. Being a bit older (late 30s/late 40s respectively) we also had very little in the way of family expectations.
The feeling of seeing our dreams realized for our wedding weekend was really quite marvelous. We had booked a big wooden bunkhouse in the forest, where most Western Australians would have spent a school camp at some point in their lives. This is no ‘walk-in’ function centre, so it had to be a very hands-on, DIY wedding.
Without the very intimate involvement of family and friends, we would never have been able to pull it off. My mum cooked our feast, my sister coordinated the breakfast for the following day, our friends organized all of the PA and music equipment, other friends turned big boxes of wildflowers and foliage into beautiful jars of flowers – it goes on.
Which brings me to my first lesson. I was SO determined to be a cool-under-pressure, low key kind of bride, I genuinely didn’t find the 6 months before the wedding all that stressful. My non-bridal dress I found on the sale rack of a local designer and was only the second dress I tried on. We made lots of the little details (the burlap table runners, a heap of red cushion covers, a bunch of red flags, and the bunting for example) but we just fitted those tasks in around our lives. I am quite comfortable organizing events, in which case I really should have known that stress at some point is unavoidable.
Quite a few things didn’t quite go to plan on the Friday night and the Saturday morning before the wedding (hire company problems, flowers in more of a natural state than we’d imagined). Each task took just a little longer than we’d planned on, and I had some mildly terrifying moments on Friday night and Saturday morning where I really didn’t think we would get there, and would still be in our jeans and in a flap when all the guests started to arrive.
That stress I felt just before the wedding leads to my second lesson – ‘there are no shoulds’. We actively resisted so many of the ‘shoulds’ in creating our wedding celebration. So the pressure I felt was more about what I should be feeling. As we lay there trying to get to sleep on Friday night, both of us anxious about whether it was possible to pull this whole thing off, I remembered a blog I had read where the bride couldn’t get to sleep because of excitement, and I worried that I really wasn’t feeling that. Then as I ran around for the most of the morning, I worried that I wasn’t really feeling the wedding bit at all, in fact I had pretty much forgotten that we were going to get married in just a few hours – weren’t we just organizing this huge event? I worried that I should be feeling differently, I should be reflecting on what we were about to do and focusing on the ceremony and our love and commitment instead of setting the tables.
So to my final lesson. Something magical truly does happen in the whole wedding experience. I hadn’t quite believed it, but it really does. We only had about an hour and a half to get ready together (we bucked tradition there as well!) and we were trying hard to calm down and turn our thoughts around to what we were about to do. By the time we were ready to sneak up on all our guests to lead them in a procession, complete with red flags, down to the riverside ceremony spot, the magic was starting to work. In a matter of minutes I had the biggest smile on my face that was pretty much pasted on all day and night (to the point where my cheeks were aching the next morning).
Our ceremony was so heartfelt and beautiful and emotional that it was hard to imagine I’d been worried about my lack of appropriate emotions just a few hours before. We had our celebrant ask us to look around at our community of family and friends at a couple of points in the ceremony, and we both basked in all that loving attention and all those beaming smiles. How often do you get to experience that amount of love and goodwill directed your way? It was an amazing and infectious atmosphere.
From the point that we left to get ready the wedding seemed to take on a life of its own. All these little jobs happened that we (as chief organizers and coordinators) hadn’t necessarily arranged to happen.
Everything flowed and while a small list of un-important things didn’t happen, absolutely no-one noticed, least of all me. For a slight control freak, it was such a wonderful experience of letting go.
All of the important parts of the joyous wedding celebration that we had dreamed of creating did happen:
- We were married by a friend who understood us and what we wanted from the ceremony, in a stunning riverside forest location.
- Music was a big part of our ceremony and celebration – with a good friend playing ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ on ukele as everyone gathered. Then another couple of good friends and their two boys played ‘Sea of Love’ while we signed the register.
- We had one of our favourite Irish music trios play on the front deck of the bunkhouse overlooking the forest.
- We drank lovely wine thanks to my brother the winemaker.
- We had a beautiful Moroccan inspired feast cooked by my Mum and some other kitchen elves and served by paid staff and friends. It was served almost an hour later than our original schedule, but this didn’t matter in the slightest, because the whole schedule had slipped by that point.
- Our dear friends spent a long time making espresso martinis for almost everyone, which gave everyone an after dinner lift!
- All the women surprised the men in the room with a belly dancing / Bollywood performance, coordinated by my sister in law the belly dancer. This was so much fun and such a great way to move from the placid dinner part of the night into the dancing part of the night.
- The dancefloor rocked! I had to tussle (playfully) with everyone a number of times to stop the music (already about an hour over our original plan) because I thought there were people that needed to get to sleep in the bunkhouse and the DJ needed to leave. Actually, one of my few (half) regrets is that I danced too much and didn’t spend long enough moving around to talk to everyone there.
- We finished the night playing music around the campfire, everyone in beanies and jackets against the cold.
- We had a beautiful breakfast together the next morning, telling tales and reminiscing about the night before.
This is an email we got the day after the wedding: “Just to say thanks so much for such a magic wedding experience….you nailed it to the tree. As we were promised, beautiful location, beautiful music, beautiful food, beautiful wine. But it was the people who made it…” I couldn’t agree more, it was undoubtedly due to our wonderful community of family and friends who made our celebration both possible and such a joyful celebration.
Pictures: By family and friends