How can I not fall head over heels with a woman who describes her wedding ceremony as, “a living eulogy” and her reception as, “a lovely afterglow” to the ceremony? How, I ask you? And then when you add in the midwifery, favors that incorporate marriage equality, and impromptu shadow puppets, and pies? You get magic. And the funny part? When I first saw these pictures, I literally gasped over the beauty of Megan’s dress. So, I was delighted to hear a story of how she wasn’t sure she loved her dress at first. (Exactly like Lauren!) So with that, here is some flat out magic from Megan.
First, let me start with four things that helped ease the stress of wedding planning for me:
1) An alternate preoccupation: I was in my last year of graduate school as a nurse-midwife so I was too busy catching babies, staying up all night, and studying for boards to obsess (much) about the wedding. Whenever people asked me how wedding planning was going I would feel a little bit guilty that I didn’t have much to say beyond, “Fine, I think,” and I would wonder if there was something more I was supposed to be doing. In the three weeks before the wedding I was just too finishing school and packing to move to be overwhelmed with the wedding details, and that, surprisingly, was a good thing.
2) Limited choices: We chose to get married in a small town that we know well, so our choices were limited and we more or less knew what they were from the outset. I was able to ride my bike to just about every possible wedding venue over the course of one weekend and they all recommended the same caterer so done, and done.
The value of limited choices certainly held true for my dress, which was the first one I tried, off the sale rack in the Nordstrom Special Occasions section. $140 later I had a dress that I liked, not loved. My sister (a romantic, who thinks that all momentous decisions should hit you like a bolt of lightning) was lukewarm about the dress, which deflated my thrill at finding such a good deal. I had to remind myself that, for me, the weekend wasn’t about falling in love with the perfect dress. So, permission granted not to loooove your wedding dress! It’s just one part of a many faceted weekend. I never really did fall in love with the dress until the day of the wedding when I was just in love with everything and everyone and very happy to be completely comfortable in normal underwear and a bra, and a dress that fit me without any tugging, and after Malcolm (honest to a fault and with some surprisingly strong opinions about fashion) had seen it and I could just tell by the look on his face that he thought I was beautiful. Even my sister thought the dress was perfect the day of.
A final note about limited choices, when overwhelmed by the plethora of beautiful and thoughtful choices in the fast growing indie wedding blogosphere, it was helpful to remember that while I had perused just about every indie wedding blog, website, and magazine I could find, our guests had not—sure bunting flags and wild flowers in antique milk jugs have been done, but our friends and family weren’t at those weddings!
3) An artistic and talented intended: Malcolm is the DIY engine in our relationship and he applied his considerable artistic talent to making the invitations and the simple decorations with much more style and skill than I could have managed. One of the best comments about our wedding was that it truly reflected both of us and not just the bride’s “vision.” Only once did I have to reign in his DIY enthusiasm when days before the wedding he decided making a piñata from scratch was a good use of his time.
4) Supportive, but not meddlesome, friends and family: My parents were generous with their time and money and his parents and our friends were generous with their talents. Neither set of parents made any demands or suggestions beyond the guest list. While I appreciated this hands-off approach from my parents with whom I was in close contact and therefore had no doubt about their excitement surrounding the wedding, the same approach from Malcolm’s parent’s felt dismissive and unsupportive. It wasn’t until the weekend of the wedding when Malcolm’s mom and her best college friend spent hours sprucing up our yard and an equal number of hours baking pies that I believed she truly was excited about the event. People express their enthusiasm and support in different ways.
On Friday morning Malcolm, his mom and a crew of helpers went off to bake the wedding pies, while my mom, brother, friends and I went to a local farm to put together the wedding flowers. These opportunities to work and laugh alongside our friends and family in the time before the wedding set the tone for the weekend as a celebration of our community as well as our relationship. On Friday night we hired a Taco Truck to serve our guests at a local park, and the morning of the wedding, as is Malcolm’s tradition with his college friends, we hosted a 5K fun run.
I loved spending the night before the wedding together, and waking up the morning of the wedding in our house. It was very intimate and grounding to be with Malcolm at that time and to recognize that the night before this “big event” we were still the same people. Why, exactly, should the bride and groom be sequestered away from one another? How much better is it to share those few moments of alone time during a busy weekend.
We puzzled over how to acknowledge our commitment to marriage equality in our wedding. We decided in lieu of wedding favors to create favor cards printed with photos of us on one side and a few words about our donation to Freedom to Marry and our commitment to marriage equality on the other side. Each place setting got a card and it felt great to celebrate our values in this way and ruffle a few of our more conservative family members’ feathers!
From the beginning we knew we wanted the ceremony to be central, not just a peripheral excuse for a party. Not being religious, we still wanted a ceremony that honored our commitment and our community and didn’t feel as if we had just pulled it out of thin air or the new age grab bag. A Quaker-style ceremony in which all of the wedding guests have the chance to speak seemed like the right fit. I’d been to two such ceremonies and they truly stood out as the most moving, inclusive, and meaningful weddings I had ever been to. Those ceremonies seemed to invite friends and family to sincerely invest in the partnership. It also required the least orchestration as all we had to do was compose our vows and leave the bulk of the ceremony up to our friends and family. As one friend said, you really have to trust your friends and family to open your ceremony up to whatever they choose to say.
For me, the ceremony really was the highlight of the whole weekend. Throughout the ceremony I felt totally present and joyous and connected to Malcolm and to each of our friends and family who spoke. I was impressed with just how articulate everyone was. Maybe it’s morbid to say it like this, but a Quaker wedding ceremony is the closest you will get to being present at your own funeral—a living eulogy—as one friend put it, “How often do you get the chance to tell the world what’s so special about your friends?” I was gratified when one couple thanked us for sharing our ceremony with them because it gave them the chance to truly reflect on their own marriage. My hope was exactly that—that the ceremony would be truly ceremonial, a time for introspection, reflection, and joy, rather than a hollow ritual during which people are really thinking how uncomfortable everyone looks to be dressed up and “on stage.”
The party that followed—amazing food from a local caterer, the homemade pies, the home-brewed beer, the contra dancing, the champagne, the sparklers, the amazing brunch our friends hosted at our house the next morning—seemed to me the afterglow of the ceremony. A lovely afterglow to be sure, but it would not have been nearly as wonderful if not imbued with the meaning and sentiment of the ceremony that had preceded it.
Photos by: Matthew Zimmerman