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Sandy & Robert


Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

As someone who is part of an interfaith family, I’m really honored to get to share Sandy’s interfaith LDS wedding with you. Sandy makes no bones about the fact that, no matter what decisions you make, integrating two people into one interfaith family is hard. And she also makes in really clear, both in her words, and in her (amazing, amazing) photographs, that, like so many things that are hard, there is also great joy there. So, without further ado, I’m delighted to bring you Sandy, with some serious wisdom.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

Planning our wedding was difficult for a number of reasons. In between getting engaged in July 2009 and getting married a year later, I had to finish my last year of law school, find a job, move to Chicago, study for and pass the bar, work a summer job, and find a grown-up apartment, all while paying for and planning a wedding. We decided to get married in Tucson, which meant we had to plan an Arizona wedding from Michigan without the help of our far away families.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

Beyond the logistical difficulties, there were the big philosophical ones. I’m a pretty devout Mormon from a definitely devout family. Robert is not religious. My family has known that for the duration of our five year courtship, but they always hoped that he would convert before we got married. If I’m being totally honest, I always hoped he would, too. And he didn’t. So that was hard.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

We had to figure out what our ceremony, from the music to the officiant to the vows, would look like and where we’d get married, if it couldn’t be in a Mormon temple as I’d always planned. I had to figure out if I was really okay with not getting in the temple. I worried that my family would not be completely happy for us on our wedding day. I worried that his family would think mine was weird. We had to decide if we were serving alcohol and, when we decided against it, whether to tell our boozy friends that we expected them to fly/drive/walk from every corner of the country for a dry wedding.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

Now that it’s all over and I am back to safely watching and helping others plan their weddings (there’s always a wedding happening in large Mormon communities), I realize that our religious differences were a kind of blessing. We were free to start from scratch. Our families weren’t overbearing because they didn’t know how to be; they’d never seen a wedding like ours, so they more or less left us to it. I also found that going against my family’s wishes and my life long plan to marry within the faith had another positive affect on our marriage. Like Liz Gilbert did in Committed, I came to view our marriage as a private rebellion. For the first time in my life, I was utterly confident that I was doing exactly what I wanted.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

Even though a lot of my internal stress stemmed from the big things that were more or less beyond my control, I experienced the same day-to-day wedding stress which most of you are familiar: fighting to keep the guest list small without alienating people, deflecting familial doubt about certain non-traditional decisions (people particularly took issue with our plan to get flowers from Trader Joe’s the day of the wedding and our beloved Dia de los Muertos cake toppers), and brainstorming ways to keep non-dancing guests entertained (we went with board games and a candy buffet).

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

The thing that kept me sane in the final months, and that I wish I’d known I could do from the beginning, was that it’s okay to “brutally slash” (Meg’s words) anything that did not fit into our budget or our schedule. We decided early on what we wanted out of our day: I wanted to walk down an aisle in a pretty dress, he wanted gourmet cupcakes, and we both wanted a delicious dinner.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

Everything else was negotiable. When we couldn’t find a non-cheesy ceremony musician, we happily crossed that task off our to-do list and went with a playlist of our favorite non-cheesy songs. When we realized we both hated the idea of the bridal party, we asked my sister to be the maid of honor, his brother to be the best man, and told them they could wear whatever they wanted. Spending months and months planning for one day can cause you to try to pack too much into that day: too much pretty, too much crafty, too much food, and so on. In hindsight, I’m glad we skipped some of the projects and decoration ideas I’d initially thought were essential because not only did it leave us more time, but it let other aspects of the day shine.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

The wedding day itself felt rushed. Because I spent that summer studying for the bar, a lot ended up coming together the day before and the day of the wedding. I wasn’t stressed, though. I’d repeated the following  to myself enough times that I really believed it: “Things will go wrong. Lots and lots of things will go wrong. But it doesn’t matter.”

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

In our case, because we didn’t have a rehearsal, my Dad started dragging me down the aisle before the music started. We got hit with a monsoon during the photo session after the ceremony. And so on. Looking back, what stands out is how willing everybody was to do whatever necessary to help. Due to the distance between us and pretty much everybody else during our engagement and the fact that we like to do things on our own, we didn’t have a lot of help planning. It wasn’t until the day of the wedding that I realized that I’d been unnecessarily keeping our families at arm’s length.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

My sister realized that, although I’d insisted I could make all the floral centerpieces myself, I just didn’t have time, and she took over with help from Robert’s sister. When I mentioned that I couldn’t figure out how to hang our strands of papel picado and paper flowers, my brothers leaped into action. My sister and her boyfriend set up the cupcakes. My sister-in-law did everybody’s hair. Robert’s sister made sure I ate lunch. My Dad MC’d. Robert’s dad and brother gave amazing toasts. After the wedding, our friend Colin ran around gathering gifts and keepsakes and making sure they made it to our hotel room.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

The remarkable thing is that many of these tasks were taken on at the last minute. I wasn’t smart enough or considerate enough to ask in advance, but people realized I needed help and they helped.  Before the wedding, I really thought of the day as belonging to me and Robert. We were paying for it and planning it ourselves. But it wouldn’t have worked without our families. I just remember feeling immensely loved and grateful all day. Really, there’s no way repay the outpouring of love that comes at you on your wedding day. You can only be humble and accepting and try really hard to get good souvenirs for people while you’re on your honeymoon.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

On the day of the wedding and in the days since, I realize that the big philosophical worries and the little details, none of them mattered. The unfinished place cards didn’t matter; people figured out where to sit. The carefully planned for paper flowers that we put up in the chapel didn’t matter; people were watching us get married. The glaring differences between our families? As far as we’re concerned now, they don’t even exist.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

The moments that stand out now are the following: being left alone in the little room where we got ready with my little sister, right before the ceremony started, and starting to cry; wandering around the dirt and cactus with Robert in a daze, immediately after we got married but before our guests rushed out to join us, and not knowing exactly what to do; dancing with my girlfriends and cute little niece, and knowing that although this day was good, the next one and the one after that would be better. And, for the record, I still repeat my wedding mantra to myself almost every day: Things will go wrong. But it doesn’t matter. It’s made me a lot less crazy.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

Have I convinced you that the details don’t matter yet? Good. Now I can admit to you how much I completely loved the aesthetics of our wedding. While I was studying for the bar, Robert threw himself into the wedding completely, turning vintage Arizona postcards into invitations, using Mexican Loteria cards and puffy paint to make matchboxes for favors, and collecting glass milk jugs to use as vases. He even secretly purchased an amazing typewriter tie clip. His crafty streak took me by surprise, but I’m proud to say that he’s the one who made our wedding pretty. I’m also glad that I can honestly say our wedding reflected the both of us and was an endeavor that really set the stage for our marriage being a 100% joint partnership.

Sandy & Robert | A Practical Wedding

Photos By: Jenn Ireland of Jenn Ireland Photography

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  • Katie

    Lovely post! Congratulations on your marriage, and planning a successful, unique event!

    And I know this is totally superficial, but I like seeing pics where the bridge is ~4″ taller than the groom — that’s what mine will end up being. Finding shoes is such a pain!

    • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

      I say wear the shoes you want to wear — even heels! Look how amazing Sandy looked in every single picture. As another tall girl, I noticed the height difference too, but only out of pride to see another tall girl rocking it!

      • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

        tall girls unite!

        • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

          Absolutely wear the shoes you want to wear. I wore cowboy boots with a sizeable heel and didn’t think once about being taller than Robert in our wedding photos. In fact, it was such a non-issue that I was surprised to see the comments on it here.

  • clampers

    Seriously though, how gorgeous are those stormy-weather photos?!

  • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

    “We were free to start from scratch.”

    This is exactly what I love about my interfaith relationship.

    That said, it’s sometimes what causes the most difficult conversations to take place. Especially when my parents are very much the “If it makes you happy, it makes me happy” kind of people and his mother is very much the “Traditional Jewish weddings….”.

    He finally had the conversation with his mother to remind her that I’m not Jewish, and I will not be converting before the wedding, and while it might have made things “easier”, it wouldn’t have made them right if it wasn’t what I felt in my heart and soul to be the right thing to do.

    And I aspire to feel this at the end of it all….
    “I’m also glad that I can honestly say our wedding reflected the both of us and was an endeavor that really set the stage for our marriage being a 100% joint partnership.”

  • meredythbyrd

    This was great. Thank you so much for brightening up my day! It’s only 9:30 am and I’m already feeling burned out. Not on wedding stuff, but on the rest of life. I think I’ll use your mantra. I should get it tattoo’d on my arm. :)

  • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

    “Really, there’s no way repay the outpouring of love that comes at you on your wedding day.” These are some very wise words. We had a similar take-away message, as things also went wrong for us, and family/friends always seemed to be there to step in and help. It was one of the best parts of the day– realizing just how much we are loved.

    And the prettiness of this wedding makes me squeal. I love every single picture and am totally blown away by the Trader Joes flowers!!!! It’s all so beautiful.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    This is wise and lovely. Thank you!

  • Jennifer

    Oh, man, this is making me tear up, partly because it looks like the wedding I always unconsciously assumed I’d have when I was growing up in Arizona — love it! The prickly pears and bolo tie might be making me a little homesick. But I really really love the sense of family and community coming through in both the words and the pictures. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

    What a beautiful, thoughtful wedding grad post. Congratulations!

    And amen to getting engaged, finishing law school, finding a job, moving, studying for the bar, and planning a wedding from afar all in one year. :)

  • Barbra

    I really loved reading about this wedding. As a fairly observant (but atheistic) Jew, I always planned on marry someone Jewish. Now I’m living with my atheist, non-religious boyfriend who come from a devout Anglican family where they don’t even know any other Jews. When I started dating him, I totally rebelled against all of the cultural messages (and PRESSURE) against intermarriage, including that it would be hard. But, man. It is hard. Hard to negotiate families and expectations, hard to negotiate holidays (i.e. when his friends and family come to visit from England every year during Passover), and mostly, hard to negotiate my own expectations and letting go of some of what I thought my life would look like. It’s so reassuring to hear about someone else going through the process and also being able to plan a true-to-them wedding (something I’m nervous about even now before getting engaged. Thanks for that!

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Barbra: Yes. “…letting go of some of what I thought my life would look like.”

      I went through this too. It was difficult (and painful) to navigate my own feelings and the expectations of family and friends. On top of that exhausting emotional stuff, the process of planning and creating a wedding that felt like “us,” with all our differences, took a lot of work. (And wasn’t at all what I had imagined when I was growing up.)

      But that hard work was so worth it (and turns out, we were also learning skills of how to deal with our differences that apply in post-wedding life.) And it’s true what Sandy says about there being a sort of freedom that comes after the letting go. When you veer off the standard, expected “path” for your faith community of origin (or secular community, as the case may be), you just have to make your own way through to create a space where you and your spouse can build a life together. Not easy by any means, but it’s beautiful to see couples from very different cultural and faith backgrounds that navigate their differences in love and respect.

      Sandy, thank you for sharing about your experience honestly.

  • Sarah

    Lovely lovely lovely. And what a fabulous mindset.

    “The remarkable thing is that many of these tasks were taken on at the last minute. I wasn’t smart enough or considerate enough to ask in advance, but people realized I needed help and they helped. … I just remember feeling immensely loved and grateful all day. Really, there’s no way repay the outpouring of love that comes at you on your wedding day. You can only be humble and accepting and try really hard to get good souvenirs for people while you’re on your honeymoon.”

    This bit. I literally stopped in the middle of reading RIGHT HERE to send an email to my husband about the importance of surrounding yourself with people that love you and build you up … and then to the two friends I was thinking of, just to tell them how much I love and appreciate them.

    Rock on, lady. Thanks for the reminder. =)

  • http://www.emlovesben.com emilyrose

    “…dancing with my girlfriends and cute little niece, and knowing that although this day was good, the next one and the one after that would be better.”

    You perfectly put into words exactly how I hope I’ll feel at my wedding. Thanks :)

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

    Yea Tucson!!

    Considering how crappy last year’s monsoon was, that’s pretty amazing that you got caught in it.

    I love all the colors.

    • N

      Yes, hooray for a Tucson wedding! Thank you Sandy for bringing me a little piece of home in this post and for your wise words.

  • http://amusinglist.wordpress.com Christina

    Beautiful and heartfelt. Magic!

    (Meg – where is the editz button?)

    • Sarah

      It’s at the very end of the post, below “More Conversations”. =)

      • http://amusinglist.wordpress.com Christina

        Wow how did I miss that? I swear I looked everywhere. Thanks :)

  • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

    oh, so beautiful. I love how your groom really pitched in too. What a great partnership!

  • Lydia

    I’ve been stalling on writing thank you notes, and reading this, I think a big part of the reason is that there’s no way that a card could adequately express how much our guests gave us, and how appreciative we are. (It was mind blowing, they were spectacular. And I should probably write up a grad post about designing a wedding for your guests to throw for you, which wasn’t necessarily what I intended, but worked out well enough.) It’ll be ok, because the thank you cards aren’t supposed to repay the guests.
    I hadn’t realized that was holding me back before, so thanks.

  • Dream

    Tucson- woo hoo! Love your photos, looked like a blast!

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    “Our families weren’t overbearing because they didn’t know how to be; they’d never seen a wedding like ours, so they more or less left us to it.”

    oh, such good advice.
    it has been easy to get our feelings bruised by some family members’ lack of involvement. it’s been easy to view things as people not taking our wedding seriously because we’re both women (and it’s not legal). but i think what you said is much more the truth. it’s just that, culturally, we’ve been prepared for “gay wedding” to equate with “people being shitty” even when all of our people are awesome (even the ones who won’t come because they can’t support that sort of thing are awesome and not mean).

    i’ll have to remember what you said. it’s so much easier – and so much more true – than worrying.

  • Manya

    I must see a picture of the puffy paint matchbooks. Pretty please?

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

    “Things will go wrong. But it doesn’t matter.” I love your wedding & life mantra!! Congratulations & best wishes~

  • http://www.themaidenmetallurgist.com The Maiden Metallurgist

    Beautiful wedding! I just wanted to tell you how much I respect you for finding a way to make your relationship, wedding and family work outside of your faith. I know it must be hard and it must have been a big adjustment you reality vs. what you’d imagined growing up. But it sounds like you are making it, I wish you the best in the future.

  • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

    “Spending months and months planning for one day can cause you to try to pack too much into that day: too much pretty, too much crafty, too much food, and so on.”

    This. This is now my advice to every newly engaged woman I meet. Because all the magazines, all the blogs, all the pretty pictures – I so fell into the trap of wanting everything I saw in our wedding. It would never have worked and I’m so glad I let it go because, as Sandy wrote…

    “not only did it leave us more time, but it let other aspects of the day shine.”

  • http://bestofcourt.blogspot.com Court

    I really resonated with this graduate post, and not just because I think we might be the same person! (I, too, have a green ring and we used Dia de los Muertos figures as a cake topper) I am a perfectionist and worried about things going wrong, but then, that day, when they did, I was able to go with the flow. I think I had your mantra without realizing it – I repeated to myself that things would go wrong but at the end of the day I would still end up marrying Grant.

  • http://www.kissmytulle.com cris

    This post really hit home with me because I was raised Mormon (and it is hammered into your head from birth to marry within your faith) and marrying a non-Mormon. I liked being raised Mormon (though I am not practicing now) because I feel that it prepared me to make good decisions and taught me to see how my choices had consequences – all good things to understand while preparing for marriage.

    Like you, we going with a civil ceremony – though my father will be officiating it through the church (totally legal and non-religious). One religious moment I’ve insisted upon though is a pre-ceremony blessing from my dad and my awesome brother-in-law. I need that love from them and my Heavenly Father that I have made the right choice and that I will have all eternity to make it “right”. I does break my heart a little that my marriage will be “til death do [us] part” and not “for time and all eternity” but sometimes, you just have to let it go and have faith that everything will work out.

    Good luck to you and your husband. And thank you SO MUCH for this post.

    • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

      We ended up doing a similar thing with our ceremony. The bishop of the ward I grew up in officiated the ceremony and it was lovely. I also got a blessing beforehand, and afterward I felt so good about all the decisions we made leading up to the wedding. It was also wonderful to have that moment of closeness with my family before all the wedding craziness happened. Best of luck to you, also!

      • http://heidiaphrodite.com HeidiAphrodite

        I’m a VERY practicing LDS woman who hopes to marry a very practicing LDS man someday, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 3+ decades on this planet, it’s that you don’t always get to see the path in front of you, but I also firmly believe that Heavenly Father knows it all and guides you (in sometimes strange ways) to where you need to be. :) Thank you for sharing! As President Hinckley used to say: “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end.”

  • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com/ Kinzie Kangaroo

    “Spending months and months planning for one day can cause you to try to pack too much into that day: too much pretty, too much crafty, too much food, and so on.”

    Yes, this. Thank you for the reminder. Beautiful wedding and a beautiful post to go with it.

  • http://www.orangeandbarrell.blogspot.com Emme

    I was raised LDS and I left the church a few years ago and I have been with my Jewish boyfriend for almost four years. We both just finished law school last year so I felt like I could really relate.

    Good for you for sticking to your guns and having the wedding you wanted. I haven’t seen very many inter-faith LDS weddings, actually this might be the second or third, and it’s refreshing.

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  • http://www.newlyla.blogspot.com AKP

    Sorry for showing up late to this one, but Sandy, I too was a law student looking for a job, and then working a summer job when I planned my wedding about 6 months ago. I can TOTALLY relate to how stressful all of that can be! And I completely agree with your sentiment that not having the time or energy to think about every possible detail was actually a good thing because it puts things in perspective. Funny how having the perfect DIY name tags suddenly becomes insignificant when you’re faced with the choice of spending your day making them or a spending that day prepping for your career.

    Anyway, bravo to you for bending tradition and doing things exactly how you wanted, and bravo to your family for accepting your wishes. Beautiful wedding :)

  • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

    Thanks so much to Meg and Lauren for running my wedding grad post, and thanks to all of you for your kind words and wishes. Sorry I’m a bit late to the party. It figures that the one day I don’t check APW first thing because I spent all morning in court is the day I’m on it. Hi to all the Tucson folks and hi to all the LDS (or once LDS) ladies!

  • Amanda

    “I just remember feeling immensely loved and grateful all day. Really, there’s no way repay the outpouring of love that comes at you on your wedding day. You can only be humble and accepting and try really hard to get good souvenirs for people while you’re on your honeymoon.”

    This! I have had trouble with how grateful I was to everyone and not knowing how to come close to letting them know how awesome they were!

  • Stephanie

    Thank-you so much for sharing your experiences. I’m also LDS (and practicing), and I’m currently trying to negotiate the complications of planning an interfaith marriage/wedding. I’ve got a couple things that are making it a bit easier. I think my parents had mostly given up hope on me actually marrying, and I’ve been through a bunch of difficult experiences the past 5 years (especially re: relationships), and so my family is thrilled to see me happy. But I know they are still not completely okay with the fact that I’m not following the traditional path, and I’ve also been keeping them at arms length. Like you, it’s mostly been because of the circumstances–we are planning a wedding near where we live, but our families are far away. But I think I also have some worry about their potential disapproval (both about the marriage generally and the specific wedding decisions my fiance and I are making).

    I’m not sure how all of these things will play out as the wedding gets closer. But it was reassuring to read your experiences about how your family reached out and showed their love for you. My family is loving and generous too, and I think I needed to read your post so that I am reminded to make space for that.

  • lolo7835

    “Before the wedding, I really thought of the day as belonging to me and Robert. We were paying for it and planning it ourselves. But it wouldn’t have worked without our families. I just remember feeling immensely loved and grateful all day. Really, there’s no way repay the outpouring of love that comes at you on your wedding day.”

    DUDE. Awesomeness. I kind of want to sew that on a pillow and give it to my future sister in law.

  • Meghan

    Thanks for the post! It made me tear up a few times. I’m Greek Orthodox and my fiance is getting baptized for the wedding (adult baptism, gulp). And though we’re not getting married until October, so much of what you described sounds familiar already.

    Mind if I ask a question? Where did you get your dress? I’ve found a dress for $600 that could work, but I had originally thought I’d get a lace dress (til I saw how much they usually go for. Double gulp). Anyhow, I thought if anyone would know where to get a reasonable lace dress, it would be someone on APW, and I’d ask. Thanks!

    • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

      hey meghan! i knew i wanted lace, too, and tried on some gorgeous ones that cost more than a semester’s worth of financial aid. i found the one i’m wearing at david’s bridal, though, normally $700, but on sale for $600. i will defend david’s bridal to the ends of the earth for giving me such a gorgeous dress with no hassle at all.

  • Alexandra

    Congratulations! Beautiful words and pictures. ;-)