Today’s wedding graduate post comes from Brytani, who wrote an achingly honest undergraduate post last fall, about her relationship recovering from her partner’s deployment to Iraq. We called it When The Road Ahead is Dimly Lit, and she said, “Somehow I had the constant conviction that it would pass and that after this, we would know, just know, that we could rely on each other. We would know that one of us was bound to break and that when it happened, things wouldn’t stop. We would go on, spiraling forever toward some uncertain future like a marvelous double helix with two sides always turning and the two compensating for each other. I believe very much that if you stay in a relationship long enough, you will have ample opportunities to pay each other back.” And, “We fought, I kicked him out, he went to counseling, and we spent a lot of time crying and holding onto each other. We were not more virtuous than other couples. We were not smarter than other couples. We just got so, so lucky that while we were in the dirt, we found gold beneath us.” So I suppose, given all that wisdom, that it’s not surprising that Brytani’s wedding graduate post might be one of the most useful in the history of APW. Brytani not only talks about how she moved from being skeptical about weddings, to being pretty happy that she had one—but she also gives unbelievably sensible ground rules for dealing with family during the wedding planning process. And with that, lets dive in:
Hi, it’s me and I’m one of you. Let me start by saying that I did not want a wedding, did not believe in weddings, and hadn’t even spent two minutes daydreaming about one when my parents crushed our dreams of elopement. When I thought about what marrying my fiance would be like, I saw the two of us on a rooftop with candles and wine and a jazz trio. Me, in a slinky evening gown and my fiance in…whatever he wanted. I wanted short and simple vows and then romantic dancing and drunk-getting followed by a night of great sex. That was all. Turns out, that’s not so easy to plan when your parents decide to pay and then inform you that they will be joining you along with at least 150 other good-hearted folks. After getting this news, I had two options: I could either tell them politely that wasn’t happening and incur the lifelong wrath that only my mother can inflict, or I could go along with it, making them both happy and trying my best to be happy as well.
Yeah, I went with the second. If you’re wondering how that went for me, it went like this: I moved back into my family home to help save money, took a job that I absolutely despised just to cover the things that went over my parents’ budget, fought with my mother every step of the way because she often disagreed with my choices (of course), and wound up with a bare bones wedding that wasn’t anything like most of the lavish affairs and was certainly far from my images of elopement. Still, on my wedding day, my mother shed a tear, kissed my cheek, and told me everything was worth it. Everything was perfect. And you know what? I have to agree with her.
I learned a lot planning our wedding, and not just about event planning. I learned that a balance exists somewhere between getting everything you want and telling others to go screw themselves. I figured out that you can compromise cleverly and still be happy with what you get. I know now that I will never again take a job in logistics. A lot of things fell into place that changed the shape of our wedding day and shocked me to hell in a good way–in a healing way, even.
See, I grew up with an Air Force Dad so I only got to see my family once every three-five years, if that. And Hubs? He grew up in a family situation where there were splits and tears and no one could trust anyone else. One day, I learned my entire extended family would be taking flights from all over the US to come to my wedding in coastal NC. The next day, we learned my father-in-law is in his last stages of battling cancer. My cousin was having her baby only a few months from the wedding and I would get to see my grandmother with her new great-grandchild. Will’s step-dad’s parents rallied everyone in their community, people we’d never even met, to give us a pantry shower and filled our cabinets with enough food for months. The biggest surprise, for me, was a gift my parents gave me just a few days before the wedding. The necklace I wore on the big day was one they had custom made from the engagement ring my grandfather gave my dad’s mom. All around us, life was happening and changing and we ran with it. We woke up on our wedding day knowing that this was bigger than us. Even though it wasn’t exactly as we’d planned, it was perfect.
Our wedding was simple, like I said. I was a laid back bride. I let my bridesmaids wear whatever they wanted. I got two friends to play the music for our ceremony and I didn’t care what happened with that as long as I walked down the aisle to “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” We chose a venue where we could have the ceremony and the reception. Since there was a turn-around involved, we had a mocktail hour on the second-floor balcony. That’s right, I couldn’t talk my parents into allowing alcohol so our wedding was totally dry. We decided that we could choose two cohesive decorating styles to separate the mocktail hour and reception and went with an Up-theme for the upstairs area. Some of our vendors heard this and said, “really?” but others were all over it.
We collected vintage pieces and made many of our decorations, incorporating vintage elements to keep the feeling of an adult celebration and to blend with our garden tea party reception. I worked with our florist to design a look for our banquet tables and insisted that everyone sit at one long table. I set the guests’ favors and a cupcake by each place setting to streamline the event. Since it was a lunch reception and we opted out of dancing, I didn’t want anyone waiting, bored, for us to cut a cake or waiting for the appropriate moment to pick up their favor and leave. I wanted people to hang out with us for as long as they liked and then be able to leave without a timeline. It worked perfectly for us. Our whole event lasted around three and a half hours and during that time, we got to hang out with every one of our guests for as long as they wanted.
Sure, lots of things didn’t happen that we would have liked and some things happened that we definitely didn’t like. We forgot to give the venue our iPod so they played a random assortment of music that kinda made us queasy but we laughed and ignored it. I had to do all the setting up after our rehearsal and missed a good bit of our rehearsal dinner (and I’m still sad about that). Our photographer forgot to send the B shooter to cover our DIY photobooth so that was never used and someone forgot to turn on the Wii for the mocktail hour. Oh, and then one of my bridesmaids started a fight with another during photographs and I had to take time out of my day to deal with it. You know what I have to say about all that, though? Oh, well! Glad it’s over! Over a dozen people left saying it was the most beautiful and comfortable wedding they’d ever been to and I still love it when I visit Will’s family and they say, “we want to go visit your aunt and uncle in Washington! They were just lovely!” Or, “We sure do miss your grandma.” I feel like I succeeded at something after all.
What I remember most is the immense feeling of family on that day. I managed to work with my mom on weeding our guest list down to 70 of the most important family members and only a few close friends. Then I focused on making those people feel included and special by incorporating them in our ceremony. We had them give us a verbal pledge of support and then invited them to pray with us at the “altar.” Also, although we didn’t choose to be married in a church, we had a definite knowledge that God was present and joyful in our union, maybe even working somehow at binding us all together. My favorite picture from the day is the one of everyone gathered around, heads bowed in prayer, and towards the edge of the crowd you can see Will’s dad with his arms around his daughters. We didn’t think he would be well enough to attend but everyone pitched in to help him along and we both treasure the memory of his happiness there. My whole family stayed in a beach house nearby and after the wedding was over, our photographer graciously gave us a family photo session on the beach, so for the first time in the history of our family, we have a picture of four generations. Even the picture of my dad and his dad is precious to me in a way that all people who live far from family understand.
I would have loved to elope…but this was okay too. So, to close, here are my tips for future brides and especially those who are struggling with parents who are paying:
Establish ground rules and boundaries early with outside parties who might have input: I cried and screamed so many times because my mom kept coming around to criticize my choices or to make decisions of her own without consulting me first. If this is something you anticipate, may I suggest saying something like, “You can only ask me to change something if it exceeds your budget and even then, I would appreciate it if you didn’t overboard in giving me suggestions on how to change it.” Establish that you have authority over every detail of your wedding and though you care about their opinion and will consider what they want, yours comes first…all the time.
Think about giving that person/group a job: I suspect a lot of conflict with overbearing parents stems from them feeling left out somehow or being made to feel like a piggy bank. Maybe if you have something you don’t particularly care about (like choosing favors or dessert options), you could let them take care of it.
Keep them in the emotional loop: If you kick out one of their ideas, take a moment to explain why and to tell them what’s most important to you. This is actually how I got our guest list cut in half. My parents didn’t agree but they understood my desire to spend my day with only the most important people.
No matter what, someone will say they wished they’d had more time with you: I spent a few days with my family in the beach house and I still had people say they felt like they didn’t get to see me. Do what you can with whoever you can and then don’t feel guilty beyond that. I can guarantee that most people will understand but there’s always at least one person in the crowd with silly expectations.
And one more thing. Good luck!
Photos By: Melody Kristensen of Aria Images