I love Jocelyn’s wedding graduate post because it somehow strikes the perfect balance. Jocelyn doesn’t tell you that your wedding is your day and you should do whatever you want (sigh, it’s not), but she does tell you to choose your heart. She tells you, really clearly, that in the stress of wedding planning, it’s easy to fall into doing what seems right for everyone else, and to stop listening to what your needs are, and what your partner’s needs are. She says, “So I say this to all the brides and grooms who are frantically trying to cater to others or trying to plan the perfect wedding according to the rules of tradition: I firmly believe that the two of you should be your main priority during the planning stages.” And I think this is spot on. Your wedding day is for everyone, but as you navigate the planning process, you’re slowly learning how to be a new family, and how to stick up for your needs. Be brave, and know yourself. And with that, I give you Jocelyn.
Through the process of planning our wedding, we learned everything we know now about weddings. How is that possible? Because we knew nothing (I mean nothing) about weddings before we had our own. The last wedding I’d been to before ours? It was my aunt and uncle’s wedding, I was 6 years old, and their flower girl. The term “wedding novice” was coined for people like us. I could sit here and tell you that that all changed when we got engaged; as if the presence of an engagement ring on my finger magically told me what weddings were all about. No such luck. It was a long process. It was a year and a half of learning what worked for us and what didn’t.
And for the first months of our engagement, that process was particularly difficult. I’d turn red in the face if I ever had to describe to you in person the way I behaved during the first six months of our engagement. If I had to use one word, I’d say it was ridiculous. If I use more than one word, I’d tell you how I got the idea in my head that our wedding had to be an expensive, elaborate, formal affair with a dress that cost more than a car and décor so fancy we’d need a line of credit to pay for it.
For six months, I thought that was the kind of wedding we would have. I thought it was perfect, just the way I’d pictured it. But eventually, I began to realize that I, in fact, hadn’t pictured anything at all. I could not remember a single time growing up that I’d fantasized about my wedding. Even after meeting Scott and realizing that I wanted to marry him, I still had no idea what our wedding would entail. I figured, hey, as long as we get married, it’ll be a success. I just didn’t care about a lot of the other stuff. Actually, let me try that again… I didn’t care until I was made to feel as though I needed to care. Websites, bridal magazines, television shows… all these things told me I needed a clear vision for my wedding. So I began to obsess over every single detail with the goal of making everything perfect according to the standards placed in front of me by magazines, movies, blogworthy weddings etc.
It took us (okay, okay, me especially) a long time to realize that we didn’t need a clear vision for our wedding. It could just be a wedding. It could be whatever we wanted it to be. We didn’t need a color scheme. We didn’t need a theme; Victorian, tropical beach, woodland themes? Not for us. Our theme was “wedding”. That’s it. It was a wedding. That’s the theme. End of story, goodbye.
Ultimately, the guiding force behind our wedding became doing things that felt right for us. We realized that a traditional church ceremony and banquet hall reception didn’t work for us, so we chose my family’s summer cottage outside of town for an outdoor ceremony and tented reception. Did that make our lives easier, you ask? Um, no. It made it more stressful. Dealing with a thirty year-old cottage that needed to be leveled because it was starting to tilt doesn’t exactly make for an ideal wedding location. Add onto that the task of finding rentals for eighty people, tents to keep them under, and the question of “what the heck are we going to do for the ceremony if it rains?” and… well… it’s a lot of work.
When things didn’t feel right, we didn’t include them. The idea of a first dance makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable? Cut it. We don’t drink and we’re not picky about food? Leave it up to my mom and we’ll have a delicious buffet and some homemade wine. Don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for dishes and utensils? Eat off of recyclable plates and use disposable utensils; the pork was so tender you didn’t need a steak knife anyway.
In spite of this new-found desire to do things our own way, I was still concerned. I was worried that our wedding might be too unique. (Imagine such a thing… “too unique”, it sounds crazy, I know.) At the time, I worried that a wedding too far outside the box of tradition would cause our conservative and tradition-loving guests to leave our wedding thinking we’d done it all wrong.
Thinking of it now, it sounds ridiculous, and I wish someone had told me there is no such thing as being too unique. I wish someone had told me not to worry about flowers because the bridal bouquet my sister and I assembled with flowers from my grandmother’s garden would be beautiful. I wish someone had told me not to worry about the weather because even though the heavens opened up and a downpour caused our tents to collapse a mere twenty minutes after everyone had left, it was still a successful day. Ultimately, those worries were a waste of time because – like the wise Meg and so many wedding graduates before me have said time and time again – people appreciate an honest display of love. And that’s what our wedding was.
One of the best fringe benefits of executing a wedding that feels right to us? We got to relax on our wedding day. Sure, we panicked about setting up the rentals and I was late walking down the aisle because of a hair related emergency, but we were still relaxed. And I firmly believe that the source of our relaxation was our choice to avoid anything that would make us feel uncomfortable. We didn’t have to worry about remembering our choreographed grand entrance, or the steps to our first dance, or dealing with a formal receiving line; things like that would have made us sick with worry all day because I’m shy and my husband is adorably awkward.
What stands out to us now about our wedding is exactly the thing I was so afraid of back then. Our wedding was unique and it was a reflection of us.
You can spend your time trying to please the wedding industry, following the rules of tradition, or attempting to please the people on the guest list… but at the end of your wedding day there are only two people that matter the most. And no, it’s not your mom and dad or your Uncle Bernie and Aunt Ruth. It’s you and your partner. Halfway through the wedding planning process, we found ourselves arguing and stressing over things we were doing for the wedding to make other people happy. When we started to plan the wedding we wanted for ourselves, the decision making became a whole lot easier.
So I say this to all the brides and grooms who are frantically trying to cater to others or trying to plan the perfect wedding according to the rules of tradition: I firmly believe that the two of you should be your main priority during the planning stages. Not the guests, not the etiquette books, just the two of you. I wish someone had told me that then, so I’m telling it to you now. It’ll feel selfish sometimes and it may not always be possible for whatever reason, but the two of you are the reason the wedding is happening. Remember yourselves, always.
Every so often, when we talk about weddings, the thing that brings me the most joy in the world is to hear my husband say that he loved our wedding because it felt so perfectly us. Knowing that we were able to create a unique wedding that brings joy to our hearts eight months later is still our greatest success.
Photos By: Julie A. Whitlock