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Crystal & Ananth’s Wedding in a Best Friend’s Backyard


Hello everyone! This is Intern Lauren subbing in for a very puke-y sick Meg to intro you into this Monday’s Graduate post. I think Crystal is one of the bravest brides I’ve witnessed and I think she overcame a lot of the issues we see while planning a wedding, except maybe we get them in ones and twos, and she got them in handfuls. She talks about the loneliness of planning a wedding, her disappointment in those who may not have supported her throughout the process, and the questioning of “is this wedding even worth it?!”. And she comes out of it saying, embrace your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you. I’ve been weepy all day, but Crystal and Ananth put me over the edge. Let’s cheer them on and maybe even have a good cry. :)

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

I was actually nervous sending in my wedding graduate post. I’ve read so many over the months and I really want it to be helpful to someone, to “pay it forward” as you say in the prompt. In any case, I want to mention that I’d love to connect with anyone who wants to know more about how we self-catered or were able to pull it off for $1,500. If anyone else finds themselves in a position of not being able to afford a lot, like we were, I’d like them to know it’s possible. I also wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for such a wonderful community. I really feel like every Wedding Graduate, plus the ladies in the comments, were there with me. When some of my friends and family didn’t support my decisions I knew this community would. I don’t really know how to put my intense appreciation into words, but thank you for reading this and if you decide to post my wedding please communicate that to all these wonderful, beautiful women.

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

Our wedding almost never was. There were such high highs and low lows that I spent the majority of the year it took to plan in a sort of planning hell.  My husband and I weren’t so sure we even wanted this wedding thing and became more focused on the honeymoon than anything else. We’ve been together since I was fourteen (ten years this March!), money was tight, and my side of the family doesn’t “do” weddings while his parents were accustomed to traditional Indian weddings. At times it was hard to realize what value an actual wedding held or if it would be worth the time and stress that came in waves and left me feeling alone and hopeless. Standing on the other side I can now accept that incredibly hard and trying time as a learning experience: the negativity of some family members, the unresponsiveness of some friends, the feeling of being alone all allowed me to appreciate all the wonderful people and moments that would come. Our wedding shined so bright with beauty and meaning that it washed out the pain and disappointment that came before.

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

For months before the wedding I read APW, and you ladies really supported me and formed my idea of what a wedding should be. I tried not to focus on details but having the wedding in my best friend’s back yard (out of monetary and practical necessity) meant I had to get creative. It was a lot of fun imagine-ing up our wedding, and I had never been to a wedding and we aren’t religious, we really just made it up as we went along. Cutting out pages of the copy of “The Velveteen Rabbit” my husband gave me as a Christmas gift when I was 16, collecting jars and ribbon for decoration, and testing recipes for our BBQ reception were a amazing creative outlets that pulled me through the stress. I put my heart in to everything, which turned out also made me feel vulnerable. Would it be enough for me? Would people “get” why I wanted them to help me decorate and make the food? Why the h*ll was no one returning my phone calls or emails?

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

All these doubts, in spite of the energy they took to hold on to, vanished the day before the wedding. We spent the morning with the amazing brigade of loved ones that helped us cook and set up the tables, chairs, and decorations. I had a general plan and vision, but generally trusted those around me and gave them my input when they just needed direction. I let go of the doubts and negative things that people had said or did and began to enjoy the day. Those people didn’t matter as much as the people who had showed up to make our wedding happen. Once things got going, once people showed up to help cook and decorate, things started rolling out of my control, anyway, and I went with the flow. It brought intense peace.

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding
The morning of our wedding I woke up calm, a feeling that continued until I put on my dress. Suddenly I was shaking- not with fear or nervousness or even joy but with just pure EMOTION. That is the only way I can describe it. I became engrossed in the moment and experienced everything and everyone around me in a way I never have before. I looked at my mother, my sisters, and my friends who were helping me get ready and felt such love and gratitude for them. The same with my dad as he walked me down the aisle, and my husband as we looked at each other and said the vows we wrote ourselves. I kept saying how funny it was that I was the only one crying until my best friends said, “Are you kidding? That’s because you can’t see straight. We’ve all been crying all day. We are so happy.” I was a hot mess; everywhere I looked I saw someone I loved, or something that someone I loved had helped me create just for that day. It was all more beautiful than I could have ever anticipated, and I could not stop hugging and kissing anyone that came in arm’s distance. Luckily my husband kept it together, gathering people around us and making us all laugh out our tears.

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

Our community and the people we cherish matter so much to us. Ananth and I formed the whole idea of our wedding around including them and making the day about our loved ones as much as us. Sure, our wedding was about us, we were the foci people kept circling back to and around, but at the same time every single person there was infused in to the celebration (just as we wanted!). In her speech, my best friend and maid of honor, thanked us for bringing such a great group of people together. Activities we had planned, like bocci ball and smore making, were ignored. By the end of the night those that stuck around talked and drank and sang by the bonfire. Some people left really early and didn’t “participate” as we would have liked, but I didn’t even care…anything potentially stressful just rolled off my back. I was so grateful for, and in love with, everyone around me that the rest of it just didn’t matter. I was the best version of myself that day, and I know everyone there felt our love and we felt theirs. It was a very real and authentic experience. Things weren’t perfect by any means, but as my friend kept reminding me, beauty comes from imperfection. She literally kept telling me this every time I momentarily worried about food being cold or people not having fun or even flags getting twisted. She was so right.

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

When I look back on my wedding day I remember exactly how I felt, the love and gratitude it brought, and how much fun we had. It’s similar to how I can remember the exact moment I first laid eyes on my now husband, and what I felt. And it’s gratifying to know that our instincts led us to the truest version of a wedding either of us could imagine. What we got was not only a beautiful day but a forever reminder that we are loved, blessed, and damn lucky. Many of the things we put so much time in to didn’t matter (like so many other APW ladies report). The play list we worked on perfecting for hours on end? We played four songs before people started picking up the guitar and singing themselves. The lights I spent so much time researching for the tent? Once night fell we huddled around the bonfire and only went in the tent to get leftover food and pie. As the fire died we threw our paper plates and wooden forks and decorations I’d spent so long cutting out with an Exacto knife (and others had spent time helping me set up) straight into the flames to keep us warm and together for just a little longer.

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

More than anything our wedding was a lesson in faith: we set an intention for how we wanted the day to feel and we acted from it. I’d advise everyone else to do the same. When the opportunity to let everything go presents itself, smile and kindly open the door. Find the people who are happy, willing, and eager and grab their hands and shoulders and tell them what they mean to you, for this is the day you will find the space to do that. Know that the majority of things come full circle and everything else doesn’t matter, because at the end of *that day* what you are left with are great relationships, an experience shared with those you love, and a marriage in which to experience even more.

Crystal & Ananths Wedding in a Best Friends Backyard | A Practical Wedding

Photos by: The budding photographer sister, Nicole Germond

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  • http://www.stofnsara.com saartjie

    Your wedding looked beautiful and so full of warmth. I also look back on our wedding as one of the days that I have been the most grateful in my life. I agree that it is an overwhelming but truly wonderful feeling!

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

    Oh, this made me cry too! It’s exactly how I hope mine will go. Including the bonfire.

    And appearance note: damn girl. You are beautiful, and that picture of your hair just gave me intense tress-lust.

    • http://www.betterinrealife.com Lauren

      Right? So zen-y in the face of possible bad feelings. Plus this is straight out of a fairy book of awesomeness. Sigh…

    • http://theesthete.tumblr.com/ The Esthete

      Jolynn, thank you so much for your comment, and for the phrase “tress-lust!” I appreciate the compliment, especially since hair is one of the things you’re supposed to think about for your wedding and I really didn’t…much to the disappointment of some. Keeping with the overall spirit of my wedding I didn’t get my hair professionally done. I wanted to look like myself, so I did my hair the same way I do everyday and my sister made two small braids at the last minute. When I told people (non-friends or family members) that I wasn’t hiring anyone to do anything for my wedding, including hair, man the looks I got! Everyone needs to do what works for them, and for me the “I am happy with what I have” mantra kept me making sane decisions and that translated to my hair. I think for some that made me a boring or “unenthusiastic” bride, to me it was just practical ;)

      • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

        that’s what made it so wonderful!

  • http://www.caketopweddingshop.com Amber

    I love your story, thank you for sharing. You looked amazing! Congratulations to you both, and might I add that the budding photographer sister, Nicole Germond did a fantastic job!! I especially love the photo of you standing by the fire with your arms stretched up, what a great moment!

  • Rhiannon

    Your budding photographer sister got some really great shots!

    :-)

  • Faith

    Thank you for posting something so completely honest. It’s truly lovely to see the joy and love all over your faces and to know there is beauty at the end of all the stress:)

    Congratulations!

    • http://www.betterinrealife.com Lauren

      I felt the exact same way about the honesty. Her entire wedding was honesty; the bonfire, the best friend’s backyard, doing the wedding on a budget when they could have easily gone into debt for a wedding that really wouldn’t have been THEM, how they were willing to stick to what they wanted even if it meant some family/friends not joining in. This is bravery.

  • William

    Absolutely beautiful story. Congratulations Crystal and Ananth.

  • http://www.msawesome.com ms. awesome

    Lovely. Thank you! I keep trying to find words to convey everything I feel about our wedding day and the importance (and freedom) of letting go, and I think you really put it best when you said that “we set an intention for how we wanted the day to feel and we acted from it.”

    And you both looked beautiful! Congratulations!

  • Caroline

    Such a great joyful post (which yes, made me a bit weepy at work).

    Also, wedding bonfires need to happen more often. It’s like wedding camping. And that makes me happy.

  • Leahismyname

    Someone already beat me to it, but that picture of you with your arms up, wearing your sweater is so, so beautiful. I think it embodies the relaxed joy of this whole post.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://rescuedinsanity.com Kristine

    Thank you so so much for sharing this, Crystal.

    I’m going through a similar situation right now. My fiance and I have been living together for so long I’m not even sure we want a wedding. Sometimes I wonder if we’d just be doing it for others. My parents don’t care but his really do. It’s leaving me with a lot of mixed feelings as regarding the planning part. We certainly do not have a lot of money. Good to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    And to know that there is light. Your wedding looked absolutely magnificent. If you can do it, maybe I can?

    • http://www.betterinrealife.com Lauren

      You can! You can! You can! However you do it, as long as you make it your own, it will be worth it. :)

      • http://theesthete.tumblr.com/ The Esthete

        I echo Lauren’s comment Kristine! My wedding was not just a reflection of me but also of my community. So many people helped, they showed up, pitched in and made their “job”, whether it was mixing noodles or hanging handkerchiefs, their own. That was part of what was so overwhelming for me and inspired such gratitude: all these people caring enough to help bring my vision to life. So in that sense I know not everyone could duplicate our experience, but I am sure you also have talented people who love you and want to help, who are EXCITED and INSPIRED but you and your partner’s love. If those people offer to help say yes, and if they don’t offer ask :) And don’t doubt for a second whether you deserve it because you do.

        And KA, reading your words is like reading my own a few months ago. When I say my family doesn’t do wedding I mean it…I can’t remember anyone having one and my dad kept saying (from a place of total love) that I should use the money for something else. Ananth and I were more focused on the honeymoon and at times I wondered why I was doing so much work for a event that felt like it was for others. BUT then I would think of all the people we love from all stages of our lives together in one place, or I would read the vows I wrote for Ananth and my heart would flutter and I knew what I was planning, this wedding, was right. IT WAS SO WORTH IT. I don’t know if it was transformational but the whole experience of planning, executing, AND living the wedding was certainly one of the most pure, beautiful, and challenging experiences of my life. You know, something like transformational ;)

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

      You’re definitely not the only one who feels that way, Kristine! I have been on again off again on the whole wedding concept for ages. We do not even have parents/family pushing for us to do it, so some days I really wonder why have a wedding? (Those are usually the days when I’m thinking about what else we could do with the money: put it towards an amazing honeymoon, a new car, dental work, a new kitchen, and on and on.)

      And then I read someone like Crystal saying something like, “I was a hot mess; everywhere I looked I saw someone I loved, or something that someone I loved had helped me create just for that day. It was all more beautiful than I could have ever anticipated, and I could not stop hugging and kissing anyone that came in arm’s distance.” And I believe that feeling might be worth the planning part.

      Congratulations on a beautiful day Crystal, and thank you for managing to put into words that feeling of transformation everyone keeps promising. ;-) (And I now totally want to burn my plates and utensils rather than have to take them home and wash them all, hahaha.)

  • http://memorableceremonies.blogspot.com/ Maureen Thomson

    I love what you wrote about setting the intention for your wedding. So many brides get wrapped up (and overwhelmed) by the “hows” and the “what ifs?” (in the negative sense) of planning their wedding. I say, envision what you want FIRST and trust that the rest will fall into place.

    Well done!

  • sarah

    “More than anything our wedding was a lesson in faith: we set an intention for how we wanted the day to feel and we acted from it.”

    That is a really wonderful piece of advice and one that I’ll carry with me while I continue to plan my wedding. Thank you for this beautiful post and congratulations! (And congrats to your sis, the budding photographer- she did a great job!)

  • Liz

    Love the picture of you by the fire – CONGRATULATIONS!

    • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

      beautiful story and, i agree – the joy in the picture by the bonfire speaks volumes of how it all turned out in the end :)

  • http://abouttobe.wordpress.com Mary

    Ah, that is exactly how I want to feel on my wedding day. Just pure EMOTION, as you said. Beautiful.

  • JEM

    The part about where everyone threw the decorations and plates in to the fire to spend more time huddled together? Yes. This is how it is supposed to be. Just… yes.

  • Cody

    Crystal, you’re, like, my hero right now. My situation is not exactly the same (we’re getting married on our one year anniversary, for example), but a lot of what you’ve described is what I feel like I’m going through. Suuuper budget, friends and family not supporting you when you thought they would. Your wedding is an inspiration that not only will it all work out, but that it’ll be ten times better than anyone probably imagined it would! So, thanks!

    p.s. wedding bonfire = awesome

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

    Crystal, thank you for giving us faith that everything is worth it in the end. I needed that reminder! My sister & I were talking last night about how disappointing it is that some family members are not supporting my wedding. Sometimes, it really crushes my heart. Mostly, I’m able to keep it in perspective & realize it is what it is. That’s life. I love that your friend told you that beauty comes from imperfection. I keep telling myself that the wedding planning & the wedding are & will be perfectly imperfect :-)

    Congratulations & best wishes~

  • RKELZ

    Beautiful, just beautiful! Backyard weddings are the best.

  • Alyssa

    I’m kind of in love with the idea of you guys using all those utensils and decorations you spent time on as kindling to stay warm and together for a little while longer. There’s poetry in that….

  • Melodious

    I have to agree with everyone who’s commented about the bonfire photo! As if I needed another reason to love a bonfire…

  • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

    I love what you said about being caught in this upswell of emotion. That is. exactly. how I felt on our wedding day and what I hope all brides can feel, and you put it so beautifully!

  • Joanna

    This wedding looks awesome! I am going to take you up on your offeer of contacting you to see how you did this for $1500. I am trying to pull off a barbecue wedding, mostly because I freaking love barbecues. And cheeseburgers. (Or veggie burgers) – what kinds of food did you put together? I am curious about that… because I am having visions of me chopping, and I tend to be overambitious.

    • http://miscetcandmoremisc.blogspot.com Eliza

      Another person here who would REALLY love to hear how you did this for $1500. It looked spectacular – you really did glow with love. (And your sister is a kickass photographer!) Your photos make me so happy because YOU looked so happy in them. Can’t beat that.

      Also, that “Love makes you Real” frame is just so perfect and almost made me cry.

      • Another Thea

        Count me in, too. I would really, really love to know how you had such an awesome wedding for such a small amount of money! Are you including your dress and such in there as well?

        • caroline

          me three? four? We’re (hopefully) getting married soonish, and plan to do really everything ourselves or with family and friends (catering included). And our budget is around there. Maybe 2000 for the whole thing, maybe not. How many people did you have?

          (I’m not quite sure how to contact you to ask you more questions about it though. Meg?)
          caroskis at aol dot com
          Caroline

    • http://www.suncentered.com Jenny

      I would also love to know! I think weddings cost way too much, and even if I had tens of thousands to spend, it just doesn’t seem worth it.

  • http://www.alacartealbums.com Jeliza

    I totally got teary eyed reading this — your words, and your sisters pictures, are just so… straight up and beautiful, it’s like your joy splashed out of the screen. Thank you for sharing.

  • meg

    “More than anything our wedding was a lesson in faith: we set an intention for how we wanted the day to feel and we acted from it. I’d advise everyone else to do the same. When the opportunity to let everything go presents itself, smile and kindly open the door. Find the people who are happy, willing, and eager and grab their hands and shoulders and tell them what they mean to you”

    This is how I feel about LIFE these days people. This is seriously the best life advice I could give anyone

  • http://brocheszepequena.blogspot,com Zepequeña

    Great pics!

    Zepequeña.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Such wonderful wisdom!

  • http://handmaderomance.blogspot.com/ evie

    ok yes the tears are rolling. told with emotion and truth. and another great example why APW is saving my sanity through wedding plans xo

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.wordpress.com/ Anna

    Ah, this is such an amazing take on a wedding. And I think I’ll be sticking these words up somewhere:

    “I was so grateful for, and in love with, everyone around me that the rest of it just didn’t matter. I was the best version of myself that day, and I know everyone there felt our love and we felt theirs. It was a very real and authentic experience. Things weren’t perfect by any means, but as my friend kept reminding me, beauty comes from imperfection…:”

    I would love to just be…the best ‘me’ I could offer on my wedding day.
    I think you’ve succeeded in ‘paying it forward’ so to speak – cause it was a really honest, really..just cool post to read!

  • http://www.budgetbridetobe.com Kristin Kowalski

    Wow, this wedding was so amazing and her words were so beautiful. This post really brought home everything that’s important about a wedding. I love when she says that she was the best version of herself that day – what a wonderful feeling. All I can do is keep this wedding story in the back of my mind as a reminder of what’s important and hope that I feel the same on my wedding day.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

    Great post. I spent most of my wedding planning wishing that my husband and I did an “elopement” (that is, just did a private ceremony with our immediate families, and then took an expensive vacation with the money, instead), and while I think that would have been lovely, too, I’m SO glad we did the wedding. It’s hard to keep that idea while wedding planning – exerting all of this money and time and energy into something that no one seems to care about except for you (but, OH, do they care if you don’t do it, or if you don’t give them the role they deem worthy, even if they’re not up to the task).

    It’s lovely to see when it does come together, and with such joy. :)

  • Hoppy Bunny

    Thanks for the post! I would also love to hear more about your budget wizardry as I am in basically the exact same boat as you! A decade together, a BBQ wedding, sister in law will be our photographer, postponing the wedding because of our budget being in the red just to get by, let alone to celebrate!

    I would also love to hear more about how you knew what you wanted your wedding to be–I seem to change my mind an awful lot and have had trouble figuring out how to even start talking about it. I know what I want it to feel like, but GETTING there is so seemingly tricky! How did you frame your conversations? How did you get from Point: Marry Me to Point: I Do?

    I’m sorry to bombard you with questions, I am just excited that you have actually amazingly accomplished what I am still floating around in my head! Your wedding was beautiful and your post was inspiriing to me!

    • http://theesthete.tumblr.com/ The Esthete

      Hoppy: I’m trying to figure out the best way to share my wedding budget “wizardry” (awesome phrase), but on the subject of how I executed the wedding I will say that it was a long process. I planned and “imagined-it-up” for about a year and a half. “Process” is the word…our wedding evolved. It was conceived with our engagement, grew and changed and took shape over many months, and then was born: unexpected in some ways but beautiful and perfect. If you know how you want it to feel make decisions that mirror that feeling. I know this isn’t necessarily the most helpful advice but a lot of the wedding was organic and not conscious- we set an intention. In planning I focused on a vision and a feeling. If I came across something that made me recognize the same feelings, or reminded me of my vision I chose it. Kind of the same way I chose my husband! LOL. He came at the right time, he felt right, he reminded me of all the things I wanted and knew to be true and he embodied what I value. In making decisions for my wedding that paralleled my decisions for marriage the two came together and created something authentic. If that makes sense to you I know you can do the same.

      • hoppy bunny

        That does make sense. I have been trying to feel out the details but it is so. hard. It’s heartening to know it took you over a year to plan, because I think it is going to take me at least that long just to come up with a vision cohesive enough to encompass all I wan to feel and all I want my loved ones to feel. That is some good advice!

  • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com Olivia

    A) I ADORE the pic of your hands in the air! Perfect!
    B) I ADORE you for using “foci” correctly! I’m a Latin teacher and just jumped up and down at your proper use of the plural of focus!

    Beautiful wedding!

  • http://www.ivorypearlbridal.com Margaret Ivory – Ivory Pearl Bridal Mall

    The “Hitched” sign is too cute. They really look happy! Congrats!

  • Dodie

    Thank you so, so much for writing this! Your honesty rings very true. My fiance’ and I have no family support (we are same-sex and while our families like the person, they don’t support our relationship), we would have a teeny-tiny budget and I only have a couple friends currently that I feel I’d want in a wedding party, yet…. a wedding feels important. I know it’s important. Your post nailed this for me. Thank you.

  • Alexandra

    Eeee, so awesome! This post & photos are so full of love and win. Congratulations!

  • Emily

    “As the fire died we threw our paper plates and wooden forks and decorations I’d spent so long cutting out with an Exacto knife (and others had spent time helping me set up) straight into the flames to keep us warm and together for just a little longer.” OMG, THIS.