I love Jennifer’s wedding graduate post. I mean, I know I love all wedding graduate posts, but the way that she re-opens our ongoing discussion of whether our weddings matter or not, is as beautiful as it is eloquent. Because for Jennifer, her wedding mattered to her community. I’d argue that part of that had to do with the fact that they fully embraced writing a service that was meaningful to them, and let go of worrying how it would be received (for more help on that see APW posts on making a traditional service your own, and crafting a secular service). So without further ado, I give you Jennifer talking about the ways her wedding mattered.
The most surprising thing I’ve discovered since becoming a wife (scary!) is how much the wedding mattered. To everyone. I mean, obviously it was going to matter to me and to my husband, Casey. It was always going to matter to our parents and probably our siblings. Our best friends were pretty involved in the decision-making too, so they clearly cared. But I suppose I rather thought, throughout the planning process, that people just show up to weddings for the food and booze… especially in a case like ours, when the couple has been together so long and lived together and all that sinful jazz. But I was very wrong (difficult admission) and in a way I’m glad I didn’t know in advance.
We had our wedding at a hotel in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. My father had managed that hotel when I was growing up and I had worked there as a teenager. The head chef and events coordinator are family friends and we trusted them to take care of us. It was Homecoming weekend for the University, so we got married on a Friday. The invitations were designed by a friend of mine from college (whom I paid a fair rate… which, by the way, you should always do). My aunt made the cakes herself as our wedding present (she owns Gotta Love It bakery in Colorado Springs).
My mother-in-law put together the bouquets and centerpieces, and all the other décor was homemade as well. I made name-tags for each guest with their relation to us and “If I were…” questions on them, to serve as conversation starters. Our DJ was wonderful, the food was delicious, and everyone seemed to have a lovely time. Our wedding was a strangely traditional, community-oriented Pagan affair with serious Midwest charm. It was simple, friendly, and genuine—my personal wedding mantra.
But it was also more than just a free party to our friends and family… even the far extended ones. Everyone still talks about it, not just to us but to strangers, as a soulful experience. We weren’t expecting that at all. My husband and I made many decisions about our wedding day that we might not have made, had we known how important it was to other people. I’m a Wiccan and Casey is agnostic, so our ceremony was far from what our relatives expected. Our best friend was ordained just to marry us, and then performed a self-composed rap at the reception.
Everyone kept asking me which church she was from. Both of our siblings gave readings and my cousins sang two songs (all secular), and the best man and matron of honor gave “assurances” (a type of short speech intended to reassure the other partner’s family of the suitability of the person they’re standing up for). The handfasting was really meaningful for us, so we took our time with that, and we wrote our own vows.
Shortly after the wedding, a cousin of mine to whom I am not very close to wrote a lovely and thought-provoking blog entry about our ceremony. He’s young (still in college) and a very devout Christian. He stated that he hadn’t been to many weddings, but that ours made him feel the presence of God. He wrote: “And to think, that one day, that is how God will see us, His church, His bride, coming down the aisle to finally be with Him for the rest of our lives.”
He saw God in what we did, and so did I, even though we were not communing with the same Holy Spirits. There’s something so incredibly beautiful about that. Would it have been possible if we had known in advance, taken into account other people’s feelings and religious persuasions, settled on a civil ceremony or (Gods forbid) a fake Christian church wedding? I really don’t think so. We invited the Power into that space ourselves, in our own way, and we allowed everyone else to do the same.
So that’s what mattered, in the end. Not the party. What mattered was that we were joined together for life under the benevolent eyes of everyone’s separate, individual Gods. That’s what stands out to me. We kept everything a secret until the rehearsal, to prevent our family from influencing our decisions, and I’m glad we did. It was too late in the day for anyone to freak out, so they all just went with the flow. If you’re in the process of planning your wedding and you’re starting to wonder if your ceremony will be “too weird” or “too much” for your friends and family, keep in mind that what you’re saying and what they’re hearing are going to be very different things. Very different. If your love and your faith (or lack thereof) are authentic, then that’s what matters. The rest is just window dressing.
Keep it simple. Keep it friendly. Keep it genuine. And trust in the overwhelming sense of love your wedding will inspire to bridge the gap.
Photos By: Taura Horn, of Taura Horn Photography