So today’s wedding has a bit of a story that goes with it, about the APW virtual community and real life. When I still worked at an office every Thursday I’d go to the farmers market for lunch to get (amazing) tacos. While the tacos were phenomenal, I mostly really needed a moment to get away from corporate America, and feel like I was around my people for a few minutes—even if I still was wearing my stupid heels. So I slowly got to know the guy who served the tacos, and he’d greet me with a big grin and a, “Hey Meg! The usual?” every Thursday. It was really nice, in a time when not much felt nice. So, fast-forward to December, when I told the taco people I was quitting my job. They asked why, and I sort of stumbled around, mentioning the book and having a blog, as these conversations are always really confusing (“You can make a living blogging? People read those things?”). So I said, “I have a popular wedding blog,” and suddenly my taco guy totally focused, and asked which one. I told him, and his whole face lit up. “Oh my god!” he said, “We pretty much exclusively used APW to plan our wedding! Holy sh*t! My wife loves APW! She’s going to be so excited!” Turns out my taco guy was Roem, and his wife was Amber, and they’re great. My people indeed. So, today I get to introduce you to them, and their blog White Picket Passport (about being middle-class and still traveling), and Amber’s exceptionally wise wedding graduate post.
A friend recently asked me if planning a wedding was really “worth it” in the long run or whether, in hindsight, I’d have preferred elopement. It’s hard to answer that question once the memory of the tears and stress fade and you are left with the lingering sense of love and support your wedding (hopefully) inspired. You lose perspective; you are no longer sleep deprived from endless DIY projects and can finally enjoy your pictures without cataloguing every flaw. So while you may not choose to recreate the painstakingly, handcrafted invitations resembling a music record in a sleeve, you can see the benefit of gathering loved ones for the biggest party you will ever throw.
As an encore bride, I knew I wanted a day that was true to both me and my fiancé, Roem. I had done the big traditional country club wedding the first time and I wanted something different. Determined to avoid all those guilt laden “expectations” that so often come with wedding planning, I felt empowered to create a day that was exactly what we wanted. Except it become all too clear that I had no idea what I wanted, and I became overwhelmed with so many decisions. I had no point of reference for the kind of wedding I envisioned and I had no idea where to turn. It was then that I fell headlong into the rabbit hole that is wedding planning websites.
Every morning for months I would wake up and face the day with increasing anxiety as I checked my overflowing google reader. My stomach would clench with anxiety as I saw all those unread wedding blogs and I was convinced the one idea for the perfect centerpiece was buried in there somewhere. My convictions slowly eroded and my bridal calm evaporated. I began to seriously doubt myself and in defending my ideas to others, I grew increasingly worried that my vision was fatally flawed. In actuality my husband is the cool, artistic musician while I am the more traditional Type-A bride that insists we have a seating chart because that’s what PEOPLE DO AT WEDDINGS. I began to worry that our wedding would come off as not eclectic and pretty, but instead just cheap. I agonized over how much money we were putting into this one day event and I cried that we couldn’t afford to do anything that would seemingly make this process a little easier.
It was then that I discovered APW. I felt the tension in my body release just a little as I read about Meg’s incredibly beautiful wedding and philosophy towards planning a practical wedding. I read the sassy comments and posts all over this website from insightful, understanding people and was brought to tears. However experienced I thought I was at the beginning of wedding planning, I was still tirelessly trying to please everyone but myself. I was challenging the establishment and railing against expectations in all other aspects of my life, but I still was buying into most of what the WIC was telling me.
I would love to tell you this was the turning point. That I turned off my computer, loosened up and morphed all my projects from DIY to DIT overnight. The last few weeks before we got married I was still scouring the internet for projects, dissolving into tears when something didn’t work out and playing the martyr with Roem when I felt he wasn’t doing enough to help me. In spite of this I was able to occasionally take a deep breath, put away my endless projects and enjoy some fleeting moments during our engagement. I talked about marriage with my mom over a bottle of wine, marveled at Roem’s hidden talent as he sewed all our table runners and went salsa dancing with our families the night before our rehearsal. Those are the things I look back and remember, not the making of tiny packets of tissue for our ceremony. They are the moments that now define my wedding planning experience.
One of the best decisions I made in the days leading up to the wedding was to do my own flowers. People told me I would be way too stressed and busy to take on this task but everyone pitched in to help and it was so much fun. My mom and future mother in law went to the San Francisco Flower Mart and got armloads of flowers for under a $100. We brought them all back to the hotel and spent a few hours putting together arrangements and bouquets while spending time together. I carried my flowers with so much love and pride I thought my heart would burst.
Our wedding day was a beautiful tribute to the love my husband and I have for each other and those close to us. The Quaker ceremony and handwritten vows were a big departure for both of our families but I was overwhelmed at their love and acceptance. It was exactly right for us and it didn’t matter that the chair decorations were missing or my cheese display signs were slightly off kilter. As I walked down the aisle to the strains of a Spanish classical guitar, all I could see was Roem. We had a close friend conduct the ceremony with both of our fathers leading the ring exchange and Roem’s brother presenting the Quaker Marriage Certificate. Though the period of silence became a little awkward and our guests shivered a bit in the cold San Francisco summer, it was perfect.
After the ceremony, Roem performed the Ben Folds song entitled “The Luckiest” and I felt awed at this amazing man that was now my husband. He had listened to all of my anxieties and fears, comforted me when I was overwhelmed and steadfastly stood by my side. He weighed in on the important things and let the little things go as he supported me in bringing our shared vision to fruition. As I signed the wedding certificate he designed, I knew he had contributed in the best way he knew how and it was totally and completely enough.
For our reception we couldn’t afford any of the venues we looked at in San Francisco. I cried for days mourning the wedding we would never have before coming up with the idea to have the reception at a friend’s bar. Two days before the wedding when our friend sold that bar, Roem and I banded together. We didn’t have a contract so he negotiated with the new owner and our whole family pitched in to clean the entire bar the morning of our wedding.
At our reception we entered through the dance floor and did a salsa dance to our favorite band. The slideshow we toiled over for weeks wouldn’t play, but really the best part of that project was sitting with both our moms and reminiscing over pictures. The photobooth Roem and my dad built was a hit and they both glowed with accomplishment. Every table was set with the antique plates and books my mom and I had thrifted, candles I wrapped in washi tape and the flower centerpieces we arranged in spray painted vases made to look like milk glass. Each place setting was an airmail envelope I tea dyed with a menu inside made to look like a western union telegram. I baked our cupcakes in three different flavors and adorned them with toothpick flags from every country we had visited together. The cake we cut had my parents’ cake topper on it that I crafted with music paper to fit into our theme.
Our friends and family raved about the cheap Vietnamese food we had brought in from our favorite restaurant and identified with dish descriptions made to look like boarding passes. The food pictures Roem had taken during our recent Southeast Asia trip were displayed on the walls and favors were multicolored baskets filled with spices brought from Cambodia. Our guests kept the party going late into the night with an iPod dance list Roem created with our friends on google shared docs.
The whole wedding was a labor of love and everyone was involved. My parents spent countless hours working with us on all the wedding details. My sister was the best matron of honor I could have imagined and was there every step of the way. His best man and brother gave a beautifully written and touching toast.
Unequivocally, the one thing that made this wedding worth it was getting to spend the time with our families creating it together. It was reflective of both our personalities and our love for our friends and families. In these times of economic distress and uncertainty, I feel no regret about the money we invested in that day because we did it on our terms and it paid dividends. Sometimes you just need to have a wedding.
Photos By: Slava Basovich Wedding Photography in the Bay Area