So on Monday I told you that both of this week’s wedding graduates would be Bay Area APW Book Club ladies, because I wanted to celebrate the community part of this site… the real life community part. Well, Today’s post is from Robin, who took me out to lunch on Saturday, and then wandered and chatted with me for hours. We didn’t even talk about APW much, we just talked about our marriages, and our dreams, and where we were in our careers, and then we bought vintage shoes. Which is basically what APW is, but in real life. So I’m really grateful for that, and grateful to know that’s starting to happen in DC and Boston and all over the place… not just here. And as part of building that community, later today Robin is going to give her (beautiful) dress away. So with that, here is Robin, saying a lot of really wise things and sharing her beautiful, sunny, San Francisco wedding.
We moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia nearly three years ago, mere days after our engagement. We took a year or so to settle in here before starting to plan our wedding. When we started planning, we thought we wanted a wine country wedding. It seemed quintessentially California, and a true destination for our guests, the majority of whom were flying in from the east coast. We thought—easy. A no fuss wine country wedding– a small-ish guest list, a seasonal menu, extraordinary food and wine—done, right? Ha. Every weekend we got in the car, and drove to wine county to visit potential venues. We saw wineries, hotels, private estates, and outdoor gardens. In the end, with a contract in hand, the idea of renting a tent, and a floor, and bathrooms, and transportation, and a catering tent…. it was too much. We walked away.
In reality, I’m kind of a controlling person. I like things done a certain way, and have pretty clear ideas about the right way for most things. But for the wedding, I managed to conjure up this other self, and to transcend my need to manage EVERYTHING. I just kept telling anyone who asked if I was nervous, or worried, that no matter what else happened, the bar would be open, and we would be MARRIED. The rest was a bonus, and ultimately, didn’t matter. After briefly toying with a City Hall wedding, we went in search of a restaurant, or other space, that could accommodate a small, food-focused reception. We found a small hotel with a great outdoor space with views of the Bay, and with an amazing restaurant to host the reception.
Saying I managed to transcend my usually controlling self, does not mean that nothing mattered to me. Of course it did. I wanted our ceremony to be so well timed that it would start right after the Ferry Building’s clock tower bell chimed, so that the ceremony would end before the next chime. But in retrospect, I can’t even tell you if this happened or not. I had lists, and spreadsheets. I had DIY projects, like knitting our chuppah. But I didn’t finish the chuppah, or cross everything off of my lists, and it seriously had no impact on how we experienced our day.
Making wedding choices is a lot like buying expensive items for your house. When we were shopping for a big TV (which we did for MONTHS), my husband would drag me into Best Buy and show me two or three TVs and ask me which one I liked better. I very rarely could even tell the difference between them. What I told him, was that ultimately, only one was coming home with us. If we bought the second best, or even the fifth best, it wouldn’t seem second best, because we wouldn’t have the other one in our living room to make the comparison.
This is true of your wedding, too. On your day—all of the things you didn’t choose (for financial, or any other reasons), that you worry you’ll feel badly about…they won’t be there for comparison. And what you DID choose, will be wonderful. And no one, including you, will be thinking, this wedding is nice, but it would have been so much better if she had upgraded these chairs.
Saying that, things will, indeed, go wrong. Jewish tradition holds that a wedding band should be unbroken. It’s beginning and end indistinguishable. My wedding band actually has diamonds, but I wanted to honor this tradition with another ring for our ceremony. During our engagement, I helped relocate my grandmother, and among her jewelry, found a gold band, unbroken, with the date of her 13th wedding anniversary, in 1959, engraved inside. I asked, and the ring was mine (Mamala, it’s yours, take it). This was the ring I wanted for our ceremony. A few hours before the ceremony, I couldn’t find the ring. I was looking, my mother, my sister, and even my six-year-old niece were tearing apart the hotel room. I wasn’t worried it was lost- I had just seen it the day before. But it had clearly become misplaced among the wedding things, and switching hotel rooms. We all looked around, in, and under everything for a while. Until I said, ok we’re done with this project. Stop looking. Move on. And I got married without it. I ended up finding the ring that night, after the wedding, and have worn it every day since.
We lost my grandmother in March. And when I put her ring on every morning, I think about her intentions around giving it to me, and about the love she and my grandfather shared. And I think of it as the ring with which I was married, even though it wasn’t there for the actual ceremony. And I’m grateful that THIS is my memory, rather than one of getting hysterical about a misplaced piece of jewelry.
Work on being an expert in your marriage, not your wedding. Choose experts (that you trust), and let them do their thing. We really embraced this philosophy. I’m not a florist, a chef, an invitation designer, a pastry chef. I told all of these people to do what they do best. I sent them a photo of the room where we were having our reception, and let them go from there. We had a dinner reception in a restaurant that has a seasonally focused menu. We didn’t have a tasting, and we didn’t pick our menu. We told the chef that we don’t like fennel, and that’s about it. The food was fresh, seasonal, and AMAZING. I didn’t do a cake testing either, and let the pastry chef tell me what was seasonal (Meyer lemon. Yum.) and ordered it over email. It was SO delicious, and our anniversary cake has already been ordered. This isn’t going to work for everyone, especially people who have all kinds of really good ideas, and visions for all of the creative aspects of a wedding that they feel strongly about implementing. But for us- the details just weren’t what we wanted to spend energy on. That said—I spent a lot of energy picking vendors that I could trust to have this much control.
What surprised me, and what I learned, was that. Nearly everything (blog-worthy weddings, the kn*t’s monumental checklist) and everyone conspires against this—and it takes a real mindfulness to decide how you want to experience both the process of planning your wedding, and your actual wedding day. I don’t think our wedding was particularly unusual—but I still faced innumerable “but you HAVE to have bridesmaids, dance at your wedding, choose wedding colors etc. You’re reading APW, so you already know that you don’t. But what you might not know, is that knowing it, and plowing through the experience of the WIC and your next-door neighbor telling you otherwise, can either wear you down, or lift you up.
I also think that the indie wedding community can put almost as much pressure on brides to be relaxed, as the WIC pressures us to be hysterical, and perfectionists. APW is not a part of that, and for this, I am grateful. You can be relaxed, and still freak out, and cry, and tell your mother that she’s not supportive, and your fiancé that (s)he’s not helping (probably because you’re not asking for help), and spend three weeks trying to find the right shade of nail polish, and still be a practical bride. For me—it meant being authentic. True to myself, while aspiring to be the best version of myself during a potentially challenging and emotionally fraught process. And I’m pretty pleased with myself for how it all panned out. Especially the marriage part, which is the entire point, no?
PS Here’s one more picture, for you, that I’ve saved since this week last year. I was checking the forecast for the wedding- and look at it, for 10/24–Sunny and DELIGHTFUL! I had never, and still haven’t, seen that word in a forecast. Seeing this still makes me happy. It was, in fact, a gorgeous day. We were really lucky.
Happy Anniversary you guys, from all of us!!!!!!!!
Photos By: Larissa Cleveland