So. Sharon. I’m having a hard time even intro-ing this post, because I just want to yell, “READ IT READ IT, IT’S SO GOOD!” Because it is. This is one of those posts, even if you don’t normally read wedding graduate posts, you have to read this one. Those of you who spend any amount of time in the comments know Sharon. She writes at Bride Sans Tulle, she’s a really active APW commenter, and she wrote a guest post about how love is making a choice (and isn’t it?) that went up right before her wedding. This post hits home in a million different ways. She talks honestly about the ways the huge life change of wedding planning made her a neurotic mess on some days, and she talks about how the wedding ended up showing her something much huger than she would have ever geussed. How it showed her what love is… not just romantic love, but family love, and the love of friends and community. On top of all that, Sharon just moved to the Bay Area for grad school, and I got to meet her at the last APW book club. So, since we’re gearing up for the next set of book clubs, both wedding grads this week are people I’ve met in person. People that are now part of my real life community. So, here is to the ways that APW is helping us build real communities, as well as continuing this conversation of what communities are and can be. Cheers to that! And now, Sharon:
Right after Jason and I set the date for our wedding, I was accepted into a graduate program that would require us to move across the country within a few days of getting married. So we essentially began viewing the wedding as a giant farewell party that we were throwing for ourselves. In hindsight, this perspective was a huge blessing because it meant a) I didn’t take on a ridiculous amount of DIY on top of my full time job (because we realized that stuff like photobooth photos or a thousand paper cranes are sadly the first things to get thrown away when you’re loading a moving van) and b) it helped us prioritize what we valued. At the very top of that list was our community of family and friends, and we set about trying to craft a day that would be fun and inclusive for that community.
A lot of things were hard about wedding planning. Ironically, considering that we intended for the wedding to be all about our community, I felt incredibly alone for a great deal of my engagement, especially trying to prepare emotionally for two enormous life changes at once when most people assumed I couldn’t wait to get married/move. I had a myriad of doubts as to whether or not our wedding would be “good enough” without a ton of DIY, fanciness, or artistry. I also cried a lot over the fact that most of my closest friends and two of my bridesmaids lived out of state/the country and thus weren’t around for most of the planning and I felt like I was imposing by asking anyone else for help.
All of which meant that I didn’t at all have the kind of exuberant, dreamy, fun-filled engagement that bridal magazines posit as the norm. But while that was exhausting and difficult, I also learned a lot. About myself and how to start owning my emotions. About Jason and how he really, really wasn’t going anywhere, even as he watched his fiancée dissolve into a neurotic, crying mess over the guest list for the hundredth time.
Mostly, I learned that I was loved far beyond what I could imagine or what I felt I deserved. My larger circle of friends stepped in when the people who traditionally help with wedding planning couldn’t be at my side and volunteered to stuff invitations, day-of-coordinate, play music for the ceremony, put together our flowers, set up our reception site, and – most importantly – lend a sympathetic ear when I had moments of panic. At some point, we stepped back and realized our wedding had become a DIT affair without us noticing.
On the other side of the wedding day I can now say this: planning the wedding was hard, getting married wasn’t. The immense outpouring of love from our friends and family and the experience of having so many people we adore in the same room was like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life. It was an overwhelming experience in every good way and I was by turns joyous, humbled, and amazed throughout the course of the day.
Things went wrong – most notably the air conditioning in our church shut off right at the start of the ceremony. It didn’t matter one bit. Everyone still had fun. We had cultural and religious traditions that were meaningful to us, like Jason picking me up from my parents’ house the morning of the wedding, door games, honoring our parents during our ceremony, taking communion together. In a completely unscripted moment, the sun hit the stained glass window at the front of the church, filling the entire sanctuary with the most gorgeous warm light, right as we began our vows.We giggled through our yichud drive to the reception and stopped for gelato on the way simply because we could. Our insanely long ten-course Chinese reception gave us a chance to spend quality time with our guests and gave all our friends a chance to relax, meet each other, and form new friendships.
There were shenanigans involving one table setting an empty Sprite bottle airborne via balloons while the rest of the room laughed and applauded. One of my bridesmaids tore through the hem of her dress because she was dancing so hard.Our dance floor was packed for two whole hours. People loitered for so long after the reception ended that we finally decided to take a group of fifteen people to a sports bar for wings and beer at midnight because no one wanted the evening to come to a close. It was that kind of wedding. The kind I didn’t think I was worthy of and the kind I didn’t think I could throw.
Making it everyone’s day does not make it any less your day. In fact, for us, it made it more authentically ours because it was the truest reflection of who we are as a couple – we’ve always made it a point in our relationship to keep ourselves open and available to our community, so the wedding was like the fullest realization and celebration of that desire. The DIT aspect meant a lot of things were out of our control, but it also meant that we got to hang out with a lot more of our friends throughout the day than we otherwise would have. It felt easy and natural to treat the reception like we do all the parties we go to – sitting down with various friends, sometimes at different ends of the room, drifting in and out of each others orbits comfortably.
Surround yourself with the people who keep you calm. For me, that meant seeing Jason as early as possible in the day and grabbing my bridesmaids at various points throughout the festivities for prayer. I basically had the sleepover to end all sleepovers with far-flung women friends in the days leading up to the wedding because they kept me calm and centered (and supplied me with wine). Can I also say that APW played a huge role in my wedding zen? My guest post on choosing went up two days before the wedding and when I read all of the comments, I felt absolutely wrapped up in the support and good wishes of this community.
As we planned the wedding, we kept envisioning a day that felt lived-in and not so far outside of our normal lives that we wouldn’t feel like ourselves. I spent the morning reading. We had a dozen cheesecakes instead of wedding cake because, um, that’s what we like to eat. I wrote up my favorite quotes about love and marriage and stuck them in thrifted frames for our centerpieces because I’ll always be more at home amongst words than flowers.
What keeping a sense of the everyday in our wedding means now, nearly two months later, is that reminders of the wedding are scattered everywhere in our everyday life. We’ve hung up the centerpiece frames all over our new apartment. We play the dance mix Jason made for the reception when we cook dinner. I bawled my eyes out when we took Communion for the first time in our new city. All these things remind me of the friends and family we left back on the East Coast.
Use your wedding to strengthen friendships. Conventional wedding wisdom says not to invite anyone you won’t be speaking to in five years, but you know what? We will be speaking to some of our guests in five years because we invited them. Never underestimate the power of a wedding to bond your community. Conventional wedding wisdom also says if you have over x amount of guests, it won’t feel intimate. I call bull. It’s intimate if everyone there loves you.
Choose happiness. I spent way too much of our engagement driving myself crazy with what-if scenarios and worrying about things that didn’t make a single iota of difference on our wedding day. We’re trained to think that we need stuff in order to have a pretty wedding and that we need to look a certain way to be a “real” bride, when really joy begets beauty and not the other way around. Enjoy your day and your community, let the little things go, bask in being married, and that will be enough.
Photos By: Once Like a Spark