This wedding graduate post is funny, in the way that sneaks up on you. Perhaps apropos of yesterday’s conversation, Kristen starts the post by saying she doesn’t really have that much wisdom to impart… and then proves herself to be totally wrong! What she writes really mirrors what my wedding experience was. Weddings can be crazy emotional and transformative in the ways you least expect. Another recent Team Practical bride (post coming at some future date), wrote me recently to say that getting married was so intense and gritty and real and hard, that she thought she was broken, like she had done it wrong. But ohhhhhh no. That’s how it was for me too, and I think how it was for Kristen. So, I love that this post allows us to really honor the fact that weddings can include amazing circles of love, and crazy softball games, and life-changing vows… and can also leave you a sobbing snotty mess when all is said and done, because holy h*ll, that was a LOT. (PS ask wedding graduates about the sobbing breakdown. Most people will nod their head and name the day on the honeymoon when it happened.) And that doesn’t mean we’re broken, it just means that bride-dom is not quite what we expect it to be. And that’s a blessing.
Before we begin, let me share two tiny wedding day details to help set the tone: I was wearing a sleeveless dress, and I was also sporting a fairly prominent farmer tan. I know – really! But I will also let you in on a secret: I did not care, not one little bit. I didn’t even care when some (rude) someone pointed out my two-tone arms during our cocktail hour. I wanted to shout, “Hell yes, I have a farmer tan!” My life did not get put on hold just because I was getting married. And as I get older, I’ve come to realize that in every well-lived life a little awkward tan must fall.
I do not have planning advice that hasn’t been shared here time and time again: stick to your guns, support your family. Figure out what matters to you and forget about the rest. My husband and I had a defining vision for our wedding (for us that meant smallish, somewhere rural, with a focus on fun) and discarded everything that didn’t fit. I DITed some of the things that really matter to me (like invitations and décor) because I’m crafty like that, and then we (happily) paid wedding elves to do the rest. Every penny was purposeful, well-spent and within our means – and that, in and of itself, felt fabulous and authentic and helped set the tone for the entire weekend.
Because here is one thing I can promise you – something magical and transformative will happen to you on your wedding day. It manifests itself in different ways for different people, and you cannot prepare for it. In fact, trying to prepare for it would be like trying to harness a bolt of lightening – and don’t people look silly when they try to do that? Take it from me, you just have to go with it. But since this is a Wedding Graduate post and I’m expected to offer some sort of advice, here are Five Things I Learned About Weddings from the Moments in Mine That Made My Heart Swell.
1 . When people say they want to help you, let them. A couple of weeks after we got engaged, just as the plans for the wedding were starting to take shape in our minds, I causally mentioned to my family that a pre-ceremony softball game might be fun. (Note to the newly engaged: if your family is like mine, you might want to refrain from casually mentioning anything wedding-related until you are sure you want and are able to execute the plan.) Because a few months, a full-time job, part-time graduate degree and a thousand wedding tasks later, I started to re-think the logistics of hosting this game. But at that point it did not matter. My family was pumped, that game was happening with or without me and my cousin generously volunteered to take the planning lead.
But thinking about it still stressed me out. (What if there weren’t enough players? What if people objected to Red Sox jerseys? What if I ended up reenacting the Marcia Brady football episode two hours before my wedding? – “Oh, my nose!”) But I want to tell you that game was magic. Unbeknownst to me, my cousin had spent months collecting Red Sox and Mets jerseys (our favorite teams) and embroidered the sleeves with our names, the date and an awesome graphic involving wedding rings and baseball bats. People who had never met came together to play and those who didn’t want to play sat on the sidelines and cheered. They were having so much fun that I literally had to interrupt the game a few hours before the ceremony to remind people that a wedding was indeed taking place that afternoon, and they might want take this opportunity to jump in the shower.
2 . Honor your family in a way that feels true to you. My father died when I was a sophomore in college. He was young and his death was unexpected – but it was also nearly 15 years ago. Much of the biting pain of his loss has long since faded into an occasional dull ache. I wanted to honor my father’s memory during my wedding in some way, but I also did not want the focus of the ceremony to be on what was missing in my life. So I took a Hersey Kiss charm that my dad gave me when I was 10 and attached it to my bouquet. That small gesture was enough for me to feel like my father was there with me, without calling too much public attention to his death. And in lieu of the traditional father/daughter dance I decided to dedicate a song to my mother during our reception (“Teach Your Children,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash, the song we sang together every morning when I was young). Soon after she and I started dancing, the entire floor spontaneously cleared out to make a circle around us and halfway through the song everyone watching started to clap and/or cry. I don’t have words to describe what that moment felt like.
3 . Honor your partner’s family in a way that feels true to you. I was raised Catholic in a town not too far from Boston, my husband was raised Jewish in a suburb of Long Island, New York. Not surprisingly, we navigated our fair share of religious and cultural differences during our 14-month engagement. Some of the stuff we grappled with is likely to keep coming up throughout our marriage. But the conversations, the compromises – and yes, even the tears – were a great launching pad for our baby family. Our interfaith ceremony reflected our backgrounds, and our choice and style of venue reflected our values. Cory’s parents called us after the wedding to tell us how much it meant to them that we got married under a huppah, and many of our guests said that ours was one of the most meaningful ceremonies they had ever witnessed. But blending our heritages meant that, for either side, our wedding didn’t quite match their picture of the “typical” family wedding. And that’s okay.
Traditions also blended perfectly in ways we never expected. For example, when it came time to dance the Hora (which, as a raised-chair virgin, terrified me) we started out with the traditional Hava Nagila. But just was we were being lifted off the ground, Cory had the music fade into Bruce Springsteen’s “American Land,” a song he loves that also happens to be heavy on the fiddle. His relatives were so excited to be dancing and lifting us up in the air and my relatives – who, frankly, had no idea how to participate in this ritual – got so excited and started jumping around because they thought we put on an Irish jig! So trust me, things will come
4 . Emotions are powerful. You have no idea how you will feel the day you get married, and this is both a good and a bad thing. Give yourself permission to feel what you are going to feel. I loved every single moment of our wedding and reception, but when the music ended at 11pm I was done. Done with a capital D. I was like a two-year-old – albeit a very joyous one – who had reached her emotional limit. I was tired, I was thirsty, I had a headache and I had approximately 75,000 bobby pins in my hair. So when we got to our wedding night cabin, I took off my dress and just sat on the bed as every emotion in the world came flooding over and out of me. Sexy times, it was not. But there is plenty of time for that.
5 . Have fun! Don’t worry about what you look like, and don’t worry about what people think. Eat that food you’ve spent so much time thinking about, keep yourself properly hydrated and party like it’s your job. The rest will take care of itself – farmer tan and all.
Photos By: Andree Kehn Wedding Photography