There are a million amazing things about Jen’s wedding graduate post, so lets just start with the most obvious: THE DRESS. Normally, the amazing black color crinolined, corseted wedding dresses all end up on Offbeat Bride (even though I’ve been known to wear a corset or two myself in my day). But Jen is an APW Bay Area book club-ber, so I figured this was Team Practical’s chance to rock the black dress.
But mostly, Jen’s post is just smart. What she says about budgets? Is smart. Listen to it. Maybe take notes. What she says about her wedding being the best wedding she’s ever been to? Exactly. But this bit, maybe you should get tattooed on your arm: “While our choices didn’t always fit with what people know of weddings, they did fit with what people know of us.” Because you really need to remember how important that is. And with that, I give you Jen, herself.
I remember reading wedding grad posts and wondering how the hell all these ladies were so d*mn calm and composed. Now that my wedding is over and I’m writing this, it becomes clear. Reflecting on wedding planning, you remember that there were things that sucked. It’s hard to get worked up over them, since clearly they either worked or they didn’t. Obsessing even more about them now won’t fix the amount of obsessing and freaking out that you did before. I’m also picking and choosing what I want to talk about, because the internet is a scary place that already has archives of embarrassing things I said in 1994. So this is what you get.
Unexpectedly, I was pretty zen for the last 2-3 months or so before the wedding. There were many many things that I over engineered, over thought and over emphasized while in the planning phase. However, once the ideas were decided on, everything seemed to get a lot easier. It helped that we made some smart decisions. For example, I refused to choose a shade of purple, because I knew that I would go mad trying to get things to match. Also, we decided that we’d rather pay more to have our ceremony/reception/tables/chairs/food/drinks as a package, rather than deal with that many vendors. I also remembered to treat my friends, who volunteered their time to assemble invitations and programs, as friends not staff (and consciously didn’t let my perfectionist tendencies apply to them).
It also helped to sit down and decide what Rob and I wanted out of our wedding. A wedding can be many things- fun, beautiful, religious, charming, traditional, exciting, scary, quick, quirky, unusual, etc. Trying to plan a wedding that is *all* of those things would drive you insane pretty quickly. We spent the time to decide that what we wanted was the wedding to be fun and comfortable. We used that decision to help us with the other decisions. (Did we want an aisle runner? Would it make the wedding more fun or comfortable?)
Also, we made many of our decisions together- Rob didn’t get to just show up to the wedding, he helped make decisions and did most of the phone calls. I dealt with the fiddly bits of the decor, invitations and programs and tried to not pester him with too many boring questions about details that he wasn’t excited about. I did ok, but he’ll verify that I still asked about a ton of things that he didn’t care about.
I did two smart things the week before the wedding. First, I took most of the week off, even though I didn’t need to. Second, I had a ridiculous google spreadsheet schedule of all the things that everyone related to the wedding was doing for the week before. It included important info like flights, scheduled time for us to have dinner and brain dump with the best man and the officiant (my cousin) and allowed for important things like massages and a road trip to the Jelly Belly factory. There was wedding stuff to be done as well, but having the time off of work made it so there was also time for some fun life stuff, which was great.
The most important thing I learned while planning was how to better step back and let go of the right pieces while hanging on tight to what mattered. When it came down to it, we cut/avoided a bunch of things that sounded stressful to us – tent/table/chair rentals/flowers/transportation between ceremony & reception/aisle runners/wedding fairs/matching outfits, but the hard part came for me when I’d get excited about some complicated idea that sounded fun, but was a completely unreasonable amount of work. Like our centerpieces. At one point I had the idea to have each table themed around a board/video game that we both liked. It would have been amazingly complicated. It was well beyond my skill to make it work, and it would have never lived up to what was in my head. After stressing out about it and then realizing the stress wasn’t worth it, I was able to come up with a simple and elegant solution that ended up being all the theme we needed. (Our centerpieces were plush versions of a board-game piece, that we had also used in our save the dates. They were cute even if you didn’t get the reference. )
It bothered me a bit at the beginning that we were paying more for the convenience of having a single place handle so many things. There is definitely a vibe I’ve gotten from the internet that either you’re cool, thrifty and crafty or you’re a rich snob who is spending too much on your wedding (Editors note: APW-ers? Please never, never think this! I know it’s a tempting way to beat yourself up, but it’s so not true.). For us, it was most important that we didn’t go into debt for the wedding. It was also important that we didn’t spend so much that we’d look back and think about how we’d rather have remodeled the kitchen. We were lucky enough that we could afford the wedding we wanted entirely out of our savings and still have enough money to pay for a bit of convenience where it mattered.
The best thing about being able to use our savings to pay for the wedding was that everything didn’t fall apart when I was laid off a month after we were engaged and three days after our offer on a house was accepted. Calling Rob to tell him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It also really drove home what we were committing to. Me being laid off suddenly affected this other person in a way that it wouldn’t have just a month before.
In retrospect, being unemployed for the first six months of wedding planning was super convenient- it gave me time to do house fixing work and wedding planning work. I was raised by bargain shoppers, so being unemployed while planning the most expensive party I’ve ever planned meant that I spent plenty of time online neurotically comparing prices of paper and sealing wax. There was a week where I obsessed over the choice between environmentally friendly ribbon and extremely cheap ribbon. The thing is, you have to know when to stop thinking about the money and start thinking about what it is you are actually buying. Meg has said this before- sometimes its worth it to spend money to not worry about something. We didn’t go into debt for the wedding and the peace of mind was well worth it. (Peace of mind isn’t a splurge. Color coordinated choreographed doves that launch fireworks are a splurge.) Depending on your priorities, hiring a DJ might be a splurge or it might be the most important purchase, only you will know.
One of my favorite details from the wedding was completely spontaneous. I gave my little brother a plastic viking hat when he got to town. He loves vikings and he can rock a hat like no-one’s business, so he loved it. He was wearing it in the hotel, on his way to the reception dinner when he met a guy in a tux going to another wedding at the hotel. The guy looked at my brother and said “We’re dressed for two very different events.” My brother wore the hat to the wedding and used some of the extra ribbon to fancy up the hat. This was pretty great on its own, but when he was wearing it next to the fire-pit outside at the reception, Emily hardly had to do any work to get some amazing shots… I’m so proud to be related to the kid.
Our wedding wasn’t traditional in many ways, but I’ve had friends describe it to people who weren’t there as the “Best wedding ever!” so I don’t feel like I dropped any of the important bits while making it mine. To steal a phrase from a friend it was “more than traditional.” We tried to have nothing that didn’t feel genuine which resulted in a mix of traditional and new. We walked down the aisle together, our ceremony was written to be simple and non religious and almost completely gender neutral. We had a hand-fasting, my outfit is the dream of a gothy six yr old princess, and we ate pie. While our choices didn’t always fit with what people know of weddings, they did fit with what people know of us.
During the ceremony, every time I’d look out at the crowd all I could see was purple and smiles. It didn’t hurt that the ceremony arch would creak and groan whenever the wind picked up, which caused us all to crack up. Apparently my uncle who was in the front row was ready to jump up and grab it if it went down.
When I look back on our wedding I still get a big grin on my face. When I think of that day I remember brunch with my best friends, sitting around playing Apples to Apples and killing time. Then an explosion of hair, makeup, and getting dressed, followed by many hours of not being able to do anything but smile and laugh and hug and dance like lunatics. Our DJ did a brilliant job of playing great music that we liked, and our friends and families did their part of keeping the dance floor packed. We even attracted a small crowd of twelve year old girls who were dancing in the hallway outside our room. One my favorite moments was Rob spinning me in circles to Dead or Alive “You Spin Me Round.” I was wearing the very best spinning skirt and it was fun and cheesy and…. perfect.
While it wasn’t the ‘best day of my life,’ it was definitely the best party and the best wedding I’ve ever been to, and it’s likely to stay that way. As introverts, there is a special calm about throwing your own party- you are already friends with most of the people there!
Photos By: Emily of EmilyTakesPhotos, Bay Area wedding elf extraordinaire