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Wedding Undergraduate: The Impossible Wedding


Today’s post is from Helen Elizabeth, who writes at Happenstance Wedding, and hosted the APW book club in Tennessee back when we read Committed. She’s good people. So, when her wedding undergraduate post landed in my inbox, one about dreams that you didn’t know you had falling apart, about church families, and waiting for sex till marriage, and about weddings being f*cking hard sometimes? Well. I knew we had to talk about it. So let’s do this, and let’s cheer for Helen Elizabeth, who’s in the painful homestretch working towards something wonderful: her marriage.

Wedding Undergraduate: The Impossible Wedding | A Practical Wedding

I’m typing this while I sit in a yucky motel that I had to rent because there’s a giant tree in the roof of the house. (I swear to God that I respect you all enough not to make it into a metaphor; I merely say this to emphasize how crummy it’s been lately. )

I had desire and a plan for a practical wedding. We didn’t invite the whole town, but we also didn’t stress ourselves out by trying to narrow a large family into a 10-person guest list. We chose to get married at our home church—because we  not only loved it, it was free—I did research online to find the best price for things and we were looking at about $3,500 all told, for this 100 people wedding. Things were going swimmingly and I was blogging rather gaily about it. Look at these altar arrangements and this set of pearls! Mr. Dear and I were in the home stretch of our eighteen month engagement, I had just started taking birth control pills in preparation for marriage boomboom, and we hit our first snag. My boobs got too big for my dress, which had fit like a glove before. So I ordered a wholesale one from China (which I still don’t f*cking have) and made a merry blog post about it. This was like a teen TV show, there is conflict, but it’s solvable and no one gets their feelings hurt for long and all’s well by the end of the episode.

Then we switched counselors. We had been counseled previously by the main pastor of our church, but all lines of communication were broken when he looked me in the eye and told me that it was my duty as a Christian wife to have babies, and that was the biblical view. He implied, but did not state that God would not bless my marriage if I chose not to have children. Mr. Dear was possibly more bothered by this than I was. Non-Christians, please note that this is not a view shared by all Christians and most of us are not legalistic. I knew that this is not usual, so we asked the pastor who would marry us to continue our counseling, and he agreed. Crisis averted?

Then, my high school best friend (and courtesy bridesmaid) told me- via facebook chat- that she was not comfortable around me anymore and it was because of my “party nature” and that I was living a life of poor witness. I really wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t comfortable, we barely spoke. I had accepted the fact that our friendship had been over for a couple of years. I was again hurt by a quick rejection of my lifestyle. Mr. Dear and I do live together, but we do so chastely in order to maintain what we see as something that God has ordained for his believers to do. We knew then that it was time to look for another church home.  My heart breaks even now remembering it, because a church family isn’t something you can explain to someone who’s never had one. The ties are deep and tight and you trust those people completely. I never used to think that my family could change into such a group of people, people I don’t recognize. I never thought that I would be confronted by them in the role of Judge.

As we were literally making a list of churches we were going to visit, I got a call from the new pastor that he had decided that one of us needed to move out until after the wedding. He said that we needed to be living a life that was “above reproach” and whether we were still virgins or not was irrelevant. I cried for almost an hour that night. I had considered this man a friend, a confidante, and a man I admired. He had changed, too. My heart is still broken.

We came to the decision to move the wedding location. The RSVPs were already back. At forty-three days until the wedding, we still haven’t found a new place to hold it. The wedding I dreamed about won’t happen. Almost all of the decisions I’ve made so far are useless. We have no dress, no venue, and no caterer. We have half a bridal party that still loves us. We have each other. I have Visine to get the red out.

I don’t have a happy ending yet. I just thought that someone needed to hear my story about my practical wedding that suddenly became my impossible wedding.  It’s crazy how dreams you don’t even have can be shattered.

Photo by Tomorrow’s Memories Photography, taken at a friend’s wedding

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  • http://cookbrooklyn.wordpress.com Tanya

    I don’t have anything that feels helpful and supportive enough to say, but since the comment list is thus far quiet, let me tell you that my heart hurts for you, that I know you will make it work, that I feel very sure you will find a Church- eventually- who loves and respects you for who you are, and that we’re all pulling for you. That’s a really rough road to walk– standing up for your belief in right and your views when a community you love and are immersed in disapproves– and it takes strong people to do so, especially at such a stressful time. I hope that strength continues throughout your marriage and allows you to keep making the best choices for yourselves and each other.

    • Eden

      Your story really struck me, because I have gone to the same church since I was a little girl, and I have been hurt by them in the past. It is truthfully the same as having a family member turn your back on you, because they are like family. Things are much better now, thank God. I don’t really have any extended family, so that is what my church family is to me. My wedding is still a year away, so unfortunately, I don’t have anything material-wise to offer you, but if you ever need to talk or need a friend, feel free to contact me. And hey, if you happen to live in Missouri, I have a pretty great, non-judgemental church you can check out too.

  • Shawna

    I have been hurt by church families in the past as well. I live in TN (Nashville actually) and just got married (for CHEAP) less than a year ago. So, if you need any help, please, please contact me. I also have a great dress that needs a home… don’t know your size or style, but if you contact me, we can work on things.

  • http://Averyhappyaccident.blogspot.com Alice

    I hate the tendency in people to form selective groups with seemingly the purpose of judging and excluding others. I remember doing so in 5th grade with ridiculous standards like your name has to start with A and you can’t be fat (I know. Awful). And it seems to be something we don’t grow out of in adulthood. I’m sure you can find a much more inclusive and welcoming church home. And in the long run, it’s probably for the best that you found this out now…

    • Helen Elizabeth

      I had a group that only blue-eyed lefties could join.

  • MEI

    I am so sorry this is all happening to you. Weddings do seem to be a time when everyone feels entitled to judgment – not just about whether you chose peonies or roses – but about the lifestyle you live now and the future you and your partner are planning to build together. Even if you’ve been dating for a long time, suddenly everyone asks and has an opinion about 1) your sex life/bodies 2) your living space/when you should buy a house/etc., 3) your career path, and 4) your potential future children. You know, The Big Stuff. And, at least for me, you’re like ‘What? You never said anything about any of this until now? Weird. I kind of just wanted to get married.’ And I think that’s so tough because it hits you from the blindside when you’re expecting an outpouring of joy about the event.
    It appears you have handled it with incredible grace and calm, and I’ll be sending out good thoughts your way for a fabulous wedding and marriage.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      I wonder if it is because when you get married, people no longer see your parents as in charge of you that they feel they have permission to speak up with their opinions. Maybe previously they kept quiet because they didn’t want to step on your parents’ toes about giving direction in life. But now that you are a full fledged adult, they feel like the monopoly your parents had on guidance and advice is broken, so they can say what they think directly to you.

      • msditz

        I think that is part of it, but I also think the understanding of weddings being a “happily ever after” as a cause. Happily ever after = The End. In the movies, it always ends when the couple finally gets it together and gets married. Credits roll, the movie is over. I think some people see your wedding as your life kind of being over, so they HAVE to say all of this stuff NOW before it is TOO LATE! I hate when weddings are viewed as the happy ending as opposed to the awesome beginning.

      • Emily

        I think its just that people don’t understand that its none of their f*cking business. I’m single (just like hanging out with you ladies) and was asked at a family event by a relative I see barely once a year “And when are you getting married?”. Um, excuse me? So its not just the engaged/married people who get obnoxious questions.

        • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

          Yes, people really need to learn to mind their own business and not butt into others.

  • Franny

    I don’t have anything I can really help with, except sending prayers your way. Somewhere there is a church waiting for you with open arms, and your wedding will happen, differently than you imagined, but it will happen, and you will have your husband and at the end of the day, that is the important thing.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Yes, keep looking. There are good Christian churches out there. I recently found the Episcopal church and love it’s welcoming community. Don’t give up the hunt because I know the right church is out there for you.

  • http://oversized-cliches.blogspot.com Zan

    Oof.

    This is hard, but you know what? Not to go all Pollyanna on you (though I do love me some Hayley Mills), I think you are doing an excellent job so far!

    A lot of people might have just rolled over and acquiesced to the demands of their Church/pastor, even if they felt that those decisions weren’t the right ones for them. So even though it is making the planning of the wedding something of a nightmare you stuck to your gut and said no, this is not us, this is not how we want to start our marriage. Standing up for what you believe in (or don’t believe in) when doing so actually makes things harder for you?! That honey, is something to cheer about.

    And hey, let’s not forget Mr. Dear who is supporting you in this — I imagine must make you feel pretty good, knowing that you haven’t even gotten married yet and already your husband-elect is sticking by you when the going has gotten rough.

    I have a feeling we’ll be hearing back from you sometime in the future and it will all have worked out wonderfully. I’ve got faith in that.

    • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

      Definitely! Having watched family members and aquaintances bend over backwards and stand on their heads over the years to acquiece to the ridiculous demands of their partners’ churches, I’m cheering for you for sticking to your guns and for Mr Dear for backing you up.

      Obviously, your faith is important to you, and you guys have been “handling the temptation” just fine up until now! Don’t let the judgy mc judgersons shame you for not keeping up appearances.

      Good luck!

      • Tina

        I just wanted to say that I laughed out loud and judgy mc judgersons. The only other thing I wanted to add is… pew pew pew… to blasting shame.

    • Helen Elizabeth

      I’ll keep you all updated by blog at least, and maybe with a wedding graduate post.

  • Rachael

    I am just so, so sorry you had this experience with a church you obviously dearly love. It boggles my mind that you had to go through this, because my experience was such the opposite. We lived together beforehand and had our wedding in the church we love. Churches lose sight of what their marriage ceremonies are about: a worship service designed to praise God for the gift of love between partners as a reflection of God’s amazing love for us. Marriage ceremonies (and the preparation for them) are NOT about shaming God’s children into following a pastor’s opinion about how the people of God should live. Just know that there are churches who would be pleased as punch to celebrate your marriage and worship God with you. I wish you the best of luck during what must be a very stressful time to find a different venue.

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

    My heart goes out to you as you try to live your life & plan your wedding. While planning my wedding, I was very, very hurt by family I would have never expected to judge & abandon me in this way. Later, I was very surprised by the people who stood up in their place & offered me the love & support I needed. They are our TRUE family & friends & I count my blessings for them everyday. Things may be dark & the road may be long but I promise you will find the love & support of people who will accept you & your choices. In the meantime, I’m sending you peace & comfort & I truly hope to read your happy ending on APW very soon.

    P.S. I’m happy to offer you my wedding dress too. Please email me at katie.rodney at gmail dot com to see if it may be an option for you.

  • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

    Oh. I want to give you a hug and tell you that everything is going to be alright. Because it is….which, you know, but the light at the end of the tunnel is probably difficult to see right now.

    Where are you located? Perhaps there are people in this lovely APW network who could help you come up with ideas…if you’re in NoVA, I’m totally willing to do whatever I could.

  • http://www.emilinda.blogspot.com Emily

    This is such an honest post…thank you so much for sharing. I am part of a church community, and I think your comments about yours turning from family to strangers acting as judges is so true. I can understand the feeling of betrayal and loss you are going through. Thank you for sharing and I am sending happy thoughts and positive vibes your way. You and your fiance are strong, and you are doing what is right for you. I truly admire you for being strong enough to leave a church community that was no longer right for you. Perhaps you can consider the APW community your “church” for the next while…you can do this!

  • Amy

    I’m so sorry about the loss of your church family. My husband and I went through a painful separation from the church where I grew up and are still looking for a new place to worship a year later. It flat-out sucks, and I can’t imagine combining the gut-wrenching turmoil with the emotionally charged nature of a wedding.

    Frankly, I’m really proud of you for having the courage to move the wedding and switch churches when it might have been a lot easier to tell people what they wanted to hear.

    • Helen Elizabeth

      My dad told me just to tell them one of us had moved out. I told him I couldn’t do that.
      A) that would be a lie and one of my personal standards is never to answer a wrong with another wrong
      B) that would be saying that I am doing something bad that should be changed. I’ve done nothing wrong and won’t apologize for doing something that’s ok.

      • msditz

        I have one thing to say to this: You go, girl.

  • Abby C.

    Oh honey, I’m so sorry! I went through a similarly wrenching separation from my church after what I felt was hypocrisy by the part of my youth pastor, and I’m sad to say I’ve never been back. It’s an unfortunate consequence of any organized group of humans that, regardless of religion or background, there is an automatic tendency to exclude and shame those who feel “different” than the mainstream of the group. It’s one of the great tragedies of the Christian faith, which is supposed to be based on love and inclusion for everyone.

    That being said, are there any public halls you could use for your venue? I know you may have had your heart set on a church, but the walls and pews of a church mean very little. You can still find an ordained official to legally marry you who may not be a church pastor, but still shares your beliefs and values about marriage. If you still craft a way to make your marriage ceremony sacred to you and true to your beliefs, that’s all you need. :-)

    Sending you lots of love from my corner of the internet!

  • http://diariodeunatrotamundos.blogspot.com Marcela

    I know it may be difficult to feel this way now, but trust me, you have the most important part: each other and lots of people who know you and love you for who you are. You will figure out the rest. Breath in, breath out, and try to take it one day at a time. Answers will come your way.

  • Amandover

    My thoughts are with you. I’ve grown away from the church I grew up in, and never found one to replace it. But I certainly miss the community. As others have said, I admire your guts in saying, “We don’t deserve to be judged like this, and we don’t have to stay here and take it.” I can’t imagine what’s wrong with sharing a living space before marriage, so you certainly have my (& the rest of APW’s) support.

    Remember that no matter where you have it, you will marry Mr. Dear surrounded by people who do love and support you.
    Hugs.

  • Esme

    I don’t quite know what to say, except I really want to give you a hug. I’m not part of a church, so I can’t really empathise with that bit, but this just really sucks.

    You obviously do have people who love you and would want to celebrate with you in any way possible, so try and focus on that.

    I would like to offer some help with trying to re-arrange reception/decoration things. I live in the UK, so not sure how useful my offer will be, but I also have quite a lot of time on my hands with a boring job, so…. Seriously, we can do this! xx

  • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

    Oh dear oh dear. You need to go read Sarah’s blog over at My San Francisco Budget Wedding (if you don’t already), and the two of you can find strength in impossible weddings together.

    You’ve got the partner, and you’ve got the Visine, so that means ou’re actually doing better than a lot of people. I have hope for you two.

    • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

      Sarah here.

      Helen Elizabeth, while I do not share your difficulties with religion, I understand Impossible Weddings more than I can ever express. We canceled our budget San Francisco wedding that we and my children had worked and planned for a full year. We canceled it after the invitations had gone out and RSVPs had started to roll in. You see, to me, a wedding without family is not much of a wedding, and my family could not go to the wedding we had planned. So, quick as a bunny, I canceled everything. When we explained our painful circumstances, we were able to recoup some of our deposits. I am still waiting for a promised refund from our venue, and we didn’t recover everything. I then — quick as a bunny — found a new venue and photographer. We chose a new date. I skipped the snail mail Save-the-Date and sent out an emergency email to all of our invited guests explaining our situation. I followed it up with a eCard save-the-date with the new wedding information (I was anxious to get the information out before any guests made travel arrangements that could not be undone). I built a website and sent out the web address in an update to our eCard.

      To say that I’ve been scrambling, or that we’ve lost money or momentum, is to say that the sky is blue. But we’re in this together, for the long haul. We chose to marry for all of the right reasons — love, fidelity, friendship, passion, comfort. I wept many, many tears at losing our fabulous San Francisco wedding, but in the end, I have come to realize that the wedding wasn’t about the location, it was always about the people and a celebration of our life together.

      When we sent out the emergency email, I explained to our friends and family, “By now, you should have received the invitations to our wedding, which we mailed last week. Well, this past weekend was quite eventful. On Sunday, Sarah learned that her mom could not travel to San Francisco for the wedding because of health complications. The thought of having the wedding without Sarah’s mom (or making her travel all that distance when she shouldn’t) was too much for us, so we decided that if Mom couldn’t come to the wedding, we would move the wedding to Mom.”

      This was an extremely difficult decision that Tony and I struggled with mightily. We had one of those awful, teary, whispered intense couple conversations in public. At the wedding of a dear friend, no less. But moving the wedding was right. It was, by no means, easy. Nor was it cheap. Our new wedding is now forced to be even more “budget” than our first budget wedding to make up the difference in lost deposits and decor that we can’t use at our new venue. But having the Old Wedding was no longer what we needed. The Old Wedding had been a Dream Wedding, but it was not the only dream wedding, and when it became a Nightmare Wedding, it was time to let it go and start over.

      There is a lot we love about our New Wedding, even if it wasn’t what we had originally wanted and even if I still, sometimes, yearn for the wedding we lost.

  • clampers

    Living together chastely…I’ve never heard of this before and think it’s amazing! Good for you guys.

    It really blows that people are so mean to you. Do I sound like a terrible person for saying that hearing your story really makes me feel better? (I mean that in the best way, the thank-you-for-affirming-my-feelings kind of way.) Like is so often mentioned on this blog, weddings have a tendency to bring out the worst in people.

    You guys sound like really awesome people. So by that logic, I predict that your wedding will be proportionally awesome!

    • Beth

      Living together chastely…I am very impressed. Very. (And “wedding boomboom” made me giggle.)

      But on a more serious note, don’t let ANYONE make you feel bad for your stance on children. EVER. There’s definitely a place in church (or community) families for Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Auntie Brigade.” (If you’re into that sort of thing.)

      Although I am (very) not religious, I attended a Catholic high school. You know what? I attended optional mass every week. I loved the feeling of community even if I wasn’t so sure about the god bit. Find the church family that fits you and Mr. Dear and accepts you with open arms.

      • Ris

        I have to chime in too – wow. Living together chastely? I send major spiritual props your way – I can’t image doing that successfully. Me and my guy are waiting till marriage as well, and it’s been SO much harder than I imagined it being in, say, middle school.

        I’m sorry about the fallout with your church family. I know that faith is a personal thing between you and God, but the fellowship of believers is incredibly important as well. I always think of that cheesy pastor analogy in times of difficulty – gold is purified when tested by fire. Your marriage and faith are being refined.

        • mere…

          Helen Elizabeth, sending you a huge virtual hug! Thank you so much for your honesty. While I wish things were going so much smoother for you and Mr. Dear, I am so impressed by your resolve and your understanding of being true to YOUR truth. Churches can unfortunately cause some of the biggest wounds because they are so unexpected. But your maturity and perspective assure me that not only will you move on from this, but you will create a kick a** wedding! I am praying for things to fall into place quickly for you and yours.

          My partner was recently accepted into med school and we are both moving from 2 different cities at the end of the summer to his school’s city. After a lot of consideration about our experiences/where our relationship is at we have decided to move in together. Our physical boundaries have been set since day one of our relationship 4 years ago and even in tempting situations, we’ve never crossed that line. (small shout-out to no sex before marriage girls hanging in there with me!) I have always been completely comforted by his respectfulness and love him even more for it. I am completely excited about this move and getting to come home to one another. However, my parents are entirely against this idea and I’ve already heard from several of my church friends that they do not support the idea. I understand and appreciate their concern for me, but at the end of the day no one knows what happens behind closed doors (whether those are at 2 addresses or 1) or knows our hearts and our relationship with God. Our faith is a huge part of both of our daily lives and it was seriously considered before our decision was final. It would be lovely if after we had a respectful conversation, they could accept that I’m an adult and making decisions I believe in and find comfort in. Sigh…unfortunately that is not the case.

          • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

            It’s incredibly frustrating how most Christian circles don’t allow for any kind of nuanced conversation about cohabitation while waiting. (And I say this as a Christian, who has worked in churches before and who, on most days, loves the Church.) I have a friend who’s in a similar position as you right now, Mere – circumstances are such that she and her fiance needed to move in together for the few months left of their engagement. They’ve taken soooo much verbal flack from her family about this and gotten a lot of side-eye from people at church because of “how it appears.” There really aren’t good options for how to deal with that… either they tell people “Hey, we’re not sleeping together” and make public what is private between them or they feel judged/condemned.

            Incidentally, one of the associate pastors at our church has been doing their premarital counseling and was in dialogue with them when they were making this decision. He said, “Hey, I’d far rather you guys be living together and practicing sexual sobriety [lol, churchspeak] than the alternative of putting on a show of chastity for everyone and lying/sneaking around all the time.” When I hear he’d said that, I just wanted to kiss him. Talk about understanding and nuance!

      • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

        Wedding boomboom was my favorite thing until I got to the end of the post.

      • Carla

        This. I loved going to church to sing long after I was pretty sure the whole idea was not for me.

      • Helen Elizabeth

        I have nine neices and nephews… is that enough for admission to the Auntie Brigade? ;)

        • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

          oh honey, they don’t even need to be related by blood (but yes, I’d say you’re qualified). I just blew 50 bucks on the sweetest hand-knitted doll for my friend’s 3-y-o kid. not my god child or anything … I just knew she’d lurve it and had to have it.

  • Kendall

    My heart aches for you. Sending you GINORMOUS HUGS across the internet!

  • Lisa

    I am so sorry about what you and Mr. Dear have been going through. While you have probably had your moments, you seem to have handled things so well so far. My husband has told me similar stories about the church he was raised in. For some reason, I always thought your church family would be the last to turn on you, but obviously I was mistaken. I don’t know if you would consider it an option, but what about getting married outdoors? I had never considered getting married anywhere other than a church, but after having church doors closed on us, it became the best option and I couldn’t have been happier with our decision. I hope things get easier and stay strong!

  • http://useyourwordss.blogspot.com/ Michelle

    So sorry for all the unnecessary drama that people are bringing into your life at what should be such a happy time. You deserve so much better, and I’m so glad that you’re fighting for it! It’s sad for the naysayers and judgy mcjudgersons that they have lost the privilege of YOUR time, company and love – not to mention their place in your wedding and future lives.

    I know it’s not the same as your church community but the APW community is pulling for you in every possible way. I’m not a TN local but if you need to delegate some googling, haggling or general (long-distance) logistical support, just say the word!

  • Chantelle

    *GIANT MAMA BEAR HUGS* Sometimes people can really let you down when you count on them the most. I admire you for sticking to your beliefs and living a life that is right for you, when so many others would have chosen the easier path.

    Just know that there are a lot of women reading this right now who are cheering you on from all over the world. You will figure this one out. You both seem like you know what you need in life,and you have each other’s backs….don’t ever feel that you have to live up to anyone else’s false standards or let them shame you. Hang in there, you will find a new community that truly reflects your values.

  • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

    As a fellow Christian, I cannot believe the judgment your church family has delivered upon you. I am literally aghast and crying here at my office (on break!). Horrified.

    If you are looking for a new church home that will work with you and be open and non-judgmental, I suggest you look at the UCC (United Church of Christ). If nothing else, they will allow you to have a church wedding with their officiant without needing to go through in-church counseling. I am biased, as this is the denomination I grew up in and continue to attend. I love the UCC because we truly believe that all people are welcome, as they are, to share in God’s love. Anyway, enough of the promo.

    I love that you’ve made a decision you’re comfortable with — to wait for marriage for sex but also to live with the other person to truly understand the depth of your relationship. I live with my own partner (tho we made different decisions re: sex but are still careful and prudent to avoid baby surprises), and I went through a bit of judgment too from some I know, but no one in my church community ever batted an eye. You should not have to be judged for making this intentional decision. You are still treating your body as the temple you know it to be, and you are living in communion with your beliefs.

    I wish you the best, and thank you for having the courage to share your challenges with us.

  • Jeannine

    i have to say, helen elizabeth, i really admire the strength and clarity of vision that you have for what you both want in a wedding and the marriage that will follow it. although 43 days is a painfully short amount of time, i can’t help but think that the fact that you know what is most important to your wedding, for it to be an honest reflection of your partnership, is going to help you pull it off with the people who admire you and want you to be part of their community, just as we all do. big big hugs of encouragement.

  • JEM

    Calling those in Tennessee to help this girl with location suggestions, caters, and a dress! Sounds like she needs a Bridal Brigade intervention (with super duper shame blasting guns at the ready!)

    • Rachael

      I don’t live in Tennessee anymore but we had our wedding last year in the Knoxville area. If that is where you are, Helen Elizabeth, then I can make some recommendations about vendors/venues and if you still need a dress, mine is hanging in my closet if you want it :)

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

      What part of Tennessee are you based in? I could maybe help brainstorm, especially if it is East Tennessee….

    • Courtney

      Fellow Tennessee resident offering up help/support/resources – whatever. Just ask.

    • http://oversized-cliches.blogspot.com Zan

      Traveling Brigade of Cyber Bridesmaids to the rescue!!

    • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

      what size dress, for your new bombshell bazooms?

      • JEM

        *like*

    • JEM

      I can’t wait for Helen Elizabeth to log back in to see the outpouring of support she’s getting.

  • Sarah

    I am so so sorry. While we don’t live together, and are still virgins, my intended and I certainly live a lifestyle I’m sure some church communities would find…well appalling. We don’t have a church home at the moment (we’re working on it ) so we’ve been spared the judgement of people we love. I’m so sorry you lost your church family. Please accept my condolences.

    On a happier note, while I’m not in Tennessee, I am a wedding planner, and if you want any help (free of charge, duh :) ) doing research or talking to people let me know. I’m not sure where in Tennessee you’re located, but I know some AWESOME people in the Nashville area that I’m sure would be happy to help. Please please please please pleassssse let me help. Meg, I give you permission to give her my e-mail address. :)

    Hang in there hon *hugs*

  • http://Cubicalmouse.blogspot.com Stephanie

    This makes me really sad!! This is what gives Christians a bad name!!

    I think it’s great you guys live together chastely. I know I couldn’t (it’s hard enough to be chaste living 50 miles apart!), and I applaud you for your self control.

    You will get through this. :) Perhaps try a more progressive denomination? Or simply don’t tell people you live together? I attend a Calvary Chapel, which is a good group of churches, but I don’t know if there are any in Tennessee. I will be praying for you guys!

  • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

    Oh Helen Elizabeth, from one Tennessean to another, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. (In addition to the tree on your house — we’ve been hammered by this weather lately!) I’m in Knoxville and getting married the week after you in Memphis. Please contact me if I can help in some way. I don’t have a lot of talents — maybe designing some updated invitations or other papery items — but I do have hands that can help!

    I know this all sucks, but I can’t help but think it’s a small blessing in disguise. Even if things had gone on smoothly, chances are you’d still have had a falling out with your church family at some point, which means you might have started to look back on your wedding with less-than-blissful emotions. Now you have a chance (albeit a stressful one) to find a place to celebrate a wedding your way with the people who love you for who you are, and when you look back on it, you can be at peace with how things went down.

    Seriously, let me know if I can help in any way!

  • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Ceej

    I’m with Jem and Sarah. If you need any help, we are ON IT. You focus on the church, we’ll work on the rest. Just say the word.

  • Allison

    Helen Elizabeth, I really appreciate this post! I am in the homestretch of planning what I thought was a very simple, practical wedding, that almost over night turned into a complete disaster. I told my fiance last night that we should just elope and be done, he disagreed and this morning things seem a little bit better from my perspective, but we shall see.

    I know it is disappointing to not have your “vision” for your wedding come to fruition. Mine isn’t going to either. We get married in 10 days so I’ll get back with you on what happens when your wedding doesn’t turn out as you hoped :-) I have been frustrated by well-intentioned people telling me that, “it’s ok, you will still be married at the end of the day and that is what matters.” Yes, I know that is true and I know that is the most important thing, but good gosh, if that was really all that mattered that why the heck bother with the time, expense, and trouble of doing the other things related to a wedding!

    Everything matters, but somethings matter more than others. Certainly it is far more important that you get married to the person that should be spending your life with then it matters if there are flowers for your reception or a tree in the side of the chapel or part of your wedding party bails on you and your groom or the location of the rehersal dinner gets blown away by a tornado or your dress no longer fits or your dress is in a shop that hasn’t had power since last Wednesday or your future mother in law isn’t coming to the wedding or you get married in the church that you planned on or your minister accidentally scheduled something else when he was supposed to marrying you.

    I get it. And I know you do too. But I think it still hurts and is still frustrating. I am sorry. I am even sorrier that your church family is rejecting you and your life. That really hurts and is one of those things that matters more than others. Although I don’t *know* you I think we may have similar thoughts on Christianity being a very accepting, loving, supporting community, rather that a ton of rules to follow and judgments to made of others. There are accepting, loving, supporting, Chrisitan church families and communities out there. My fiance and I go to one. Don’t give up hope. You all can come to ours. :-)

    My wedding is 10 days from today so I hope to be back to share our *happy beginning* even if I don’t know what that is going to look like now. Maybe it is better that I no longer have the same expectations (or much at all in the way of expectations after this past week). To be determined…..

    I came to this site to plan our wedding, but I stayed at this site to plan our marriage. I’ll be thinking about you and your groom and hoping for a feeling of peace for both of you so that you can focus on your love and commitment to one another as you work out the details for that one day. (It is still ok to be disappointed about the other things).

    • clampers

      I feel for you!

    • http://www.blushcelebrations.com rebecca

      Allison, if there is anything we can do for you, just say the word. Even if it’s just listening to a big ole meltdown. There’s an amazing community here ready and willing to help you make it through all this!

      • Allison

        You are very sweet! Our day will be great! In fact just reading Helen Elizabeth’s story and typing out my own in some strange way made me feel better! Thanks for reading and being supportive!

  • http://www.palindromeathome.com Melinda

    I’m sympathetic to the upset in wedding plans and the broken relationships. However, I think it’s also important to note that churches have voluntary membership and that as a group, they have the right to set up their own rules. Part of being in that group is agreeing to the rules they set up. They believe that what they’re doing is right and God’s will. Just as I would never walk into a mosque with my head uncovered, I wouldn’t say that a pastor is unfairly judging if he enforced the rule of not marrying a couple who was living together. He probably feels like he has a moral obligation to confront (which is Biblical) and to refuse to aid and abet it. Now, I see that you’re saying you live together chastely, but you must also understand his point of living in the spirit of God’s law. Maybe they are trying to be mean to you (I’ve seen that in church groups and it’s a blemish across Christianity, if this is the case, I’m very sorry), however, they also could be very sincere in wanting to help you see the wisdom in not living together and not putting that temptation before you. Everything is a choice, and you’ve made the choice that you value living together over being married in that particular church. I can’t condemn a church for taking a moral stance and letting the parishioner make the decision of staying or going.

    • Harriet

      Fair enough, but if Helen Elizabeth has been attending this church and receiving counseling there, they must have been aware of her situation long before now. I would think they could have been open with her and her partner from the beginning about their objections. It sounds like this all happened very suddenly, and that I think is what is so devastating. Helen Elizabeth, I hope you work something out soon! Just remember that all the people coming to the wedding are there to celebrate your marriage, and I know they’ll be happy to share in whatever kind of celebration you’re able to manage!

    • Sarah

      Melinda:
      A. Very thoughtful way of putting that sentiment, thank you.
      B. I can understand where you’re coming from, but it certainly doesn’t appear that they were hiding the fact that they were living together. I’d be more inclined to agree with you if this was something that had come up BEFORE they started pre-martial counseling. Assuming that they didn’t get engaged and move into together the next day (entirely possible) if they were genuinely coming at this from a place of love and belief that God believe this isn’t right, this would have come up long before the pre-martial counseling
      C. Also the “Good Christian wives have babies thing” can be (depending on your reading ) supported by the bible, but again, typically those types of beliefs come up often in church services, home groups etc. To spring that on someone during pre-martial counseling is well…ill advised at best.

      • http://www.palindromeathome.com Melinda

        Yes, Sarah, I agree. Churches that I’ve been in, I’ve been able to tell quite readily what the belief systems are. There’s generally some sense of what the expectations are as socially accepted life choices. I can see where it would be upsetting if this came as a surprise, but I’m also a little confused as to how it was such a surprise. Like you said, involvement in church activities generally gives a clue to how these things might be perceived. Obviously, there could have been a misreading, or the pastor/counselor could just be a one off, but as an outsider to the situation, I’m more willing to assume to that it was some combination and neither party is wholly to blame.

        • z

          I kind of get how a situation like this could develop if communication wasn’t clear. People often pick out their venue before they’ve made final decisions about the wedding party, the language of the ceremony, what the vows will actually be, etc. etc., and if enough of those post-booking decisions are problematic, it puts the venue in an uncomfortable situation. Like, what if you had a gay attendant, and it was ok because he was celibate at the time the venue arrangements were made, but then he meets someone and isn’t celibate, do you have to change the venue? It’s hard to think of all those things in advance. And it’s hard for a congregation and the leadership to make decisions in a timely manner if it means seriously alienating lifelong members.

          Still, I do think it’s the responsibility venue to clearly articulate its rules up front to avoid this kind of situation. Or at least to say “I think you’re approaching the boundaries of what we can accept” so that you have notice of potential problems. Good luck Helen Elizabeth!

    • Kaitlyn

      I think there’s another point in this discussion, as well… church membership is voluntary, for adults. However, many people are raised in churches and are later faced with the painful choice of having to leave a strong community. The “big picture” of the church may not have been visible from the beginning – for example, it’s entirely possible that someone could grow up going to church events as a child and adolescent, learning the expectations for children and adolescents (the obvious one here – don’t have sex), but never be fully exposed to the expectations of adults (the other obvious one here – must have babies).

      If someone’s exposure is limited to a single church/community experience, how would they know what their other options might be? Exploring these issues is the classic challenge of modern adolescence and young adulthood. Many of us negotiate them at college – and it’s entirely feasible that some of us negotiate them when roles change at marriage.

      I’m absolutely not saying that it’s wrong to raise a family within a church. However, I do think that the “how could you be ignorant of the rules” argument is unfair, when so many young adults were intentionally raised with blinders on.

    • http://www.kaylaearwood.com Kayla

      I have to disagree with this sentiment as far as the Church as a whole goes. Yes, this type of “follow the rules” mentality is practiced by some churches and some denominations as well but biblically, this isn’t the role of the Church at all. The Church is supposed to be a welcoming community to worship and praise Christ (since we’re talking about Christian churches here) and to SERVE the larger community. Paul even chastised his churches many times for becoming too legalistic and creating arbitrary rules about diet, circumcision and a host of other things. The rules that this Church is enforcing are arbitrary societal norms. I mean, monogamy hasn’t been around for too long and was definitely not the norm in Biblical times and neither was abstaining until marriage (except of course in New Testament Jewish communities). A great biblical scholar wrote (and was our sermon last Sunday at the Church I go to in Memphis) that the Church shouldn’t be in the morals business but in forgiveness.

      • Class of 1980

        “The rules that this Church is enforcing are arbitrary societal norms. I mean, monogamy hasn’t been around for too long and was definitely not the norm in Biblical times and neither was abstaining until marriage (except of course in New Testament Jewish communities).”

        BRAVO!

    • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

      but for the church to seemingly support and assist her and her future husband to a point, and then turn around and judge her status and relationship and future thoughts or feelings on children? that seems really odd to me…and not at all helpful or loving or kind.

      I’d say it’s not what I would expect from a church, but I don’t know what, exactly, I expect from a church….I guess “understanding” would be a good start.

    • Helen Elizabeth

      We, of course, realize that membership is voluntary. And again, our issue wasn’t that they chose not to “support” a certain lifestyle, it was that for the past 11 months, no one batted an eye even though they were aware of the situation.

  • MNBride

    To give you the longview, 25 years ago this summer, my mom and step-dad were forced to have a morning wedding, performed by the associate pastor, with no church people invited because the senior pastor disapproved of their lifestyle. They had been living together and had my youngest brother before they got married. My mom wouldn’t marry my step-dad just because she was knocked up, she knew she could do it on her own if she had to. She wanted to marry for love, even if some judgy-wudgy pastor told her the way she was doing it was wrong. That pastor left the church in disgrace and my parents will celebrate 25 years this summer. Moral of the story: love always wins.

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    Sending more e-hugs and positive thoughts your way. I’m really sorry you’re going through this… judgmental people suck. Especially coming from a church group that expects you to be beyond reproach, in light of the number of biblical quotes about not judging others (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37, Romans 14:10, etc). I give you major props for staying true to yourself and your relationship. Dresses, venues, and caterers seem important, but they’re really just details. So long as you two wind up married at the end of the day, your wedding will have been a success.

    Please write a grad post! Like Michelle said, that APW community is pulling for you!

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    While I can’t personally relate to what you’re going through – there are always other options out there. My brother and his wife chose to remain virgins until they were married, however, they are not a part of a church, and were married on a friend’s property – they did have separate bedrooms before they got married even though they lived together. My husband and I did know a couple who were in a similar situation, though. They are both very religious and wanted to wait until after being married to have sex, however, because of timing they needed to find a place to live that would hold them and his future wife’s children from a previous marriage and that meant moving in together before their wedding. I believe they had problems at first with their pastor and it took time for their family and some church members to accept it for what it was and they were eventually able to get married in their church as they wanted. There’s hope for you, I’m sure! If you really can’t get married in your church – if they won’t budge or be reasonable, definitely look into public halls and be creative. You can still have a beautiful, memorable wedding – it may just be different from your original vision. In spite of the difficulties you’re going through now, it will still be a day you look back on and smile and you’ll be a little bit stronger after everything. ;)

  • Brenda H

    This is a sad thing to happen and I’m sending you hugs as well. What I can’t get over is that your pastors probably held these beliefs for a while and partway through planning they decided to spring them on you. It is too bad the care they have for you got lost in all of this.

    I admire you and Mr. Dear’s courage in living the way you do because that is matters to you. I live in Canada but if it would help I’m a graphic designer, let me know if I can pitch in and I can pass on my email.

  • http://foxandtoad.com/blog Nadine

    I’m so sorry to hear this, but to echo other commenters: good for you for standing up for yourself. I wish I could help in some way, but I’m in Kansas, which isn’t very close!

  • danae

    Helen Elizabeth, i’m from Tennessee too (the tri-cities area) and while I no longer go to church, I grew up in a Free Will Baptist community and understand both the deep connection you have with your church community, how difficult it must be to separate from them, and how painful it must be to feel that these people are turning against you.

    I felt it as well, at a much younger age when I started asking awkward questions and dressing differently — I ended up leaving the church (and religion) and have never gone back as a result of the judgemental nonsense that I had to endure. I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this, and if you’re anywhere near the Tri-Cities i think i might know a pastor who would be delighted to marry you, I would be happy to put you in touch with my mother who could help.

    Good luck and well done to you and your fiance for staying true to your own beliefs.

  • http://emuhleem.typepad.com Emily

    Helen,

    I’m so sorry to hear about all of this. As a Christian, I understand the imperfect nature of a church family quite well. As much as we want to lean on and feel support from those “families”…like any other family, they’re not perfect. They struggle, make hasty decisions, and can be wrong.

    But, maybe their intent is good and true. I commend you SO much for being a virgin. Especially while living with your fiance–I’m sure that is quite a temptation! That being said, though, I can understand where the officiant doing your ceremony was coming from. Perhaps he wasn’t disagreeing with you so much as he was just saying, sometimes we need to let our influence for Christ be untainted.

    There are so many things out there that Christians might be permitted to do, but shouldn’t because it would hurt their influence. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with living with someone (so long as you’re not having sex), but for the outside world looking in….how will they know we’re different if the appearance of our actions are the same as those of the world?

    Please don’t take any of this as negative toward you. I think you’re doing a fabulous job. God is in control of your plans, and I know His ways are higher than ours. Definitely sending some prayers your way!

    • K from downunder

      Emily, I think I’m with you. I know I have a (Christian, like me) friend who’s currently living with his girlfriend, and i’ve definitely expressed a strong opinion against it. My fiancé and I are getting married in November, and if we moved in together before then, our attempts to stick to God’s word and wait til we’re married would be over. Completely. We just don’t have that much self control… :( So that would be why I tend to think it’s not a good idea.

      Having said that, I have no idea what the “right” answer is for Helen Elizabeth. I’m sorry that your church has hurt you – us broken and imperfect people seem way too good at doing that far too often. I hope it turns out well for you, and that, on the other side of this crazy thing called wedding-planning, you can rejoice in your love for each other and God’s love for you both.

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

    Leaving a church family is hard, and I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to leave under not-so-good circumstances. It’s so hard to find a church family that not only shares your faith but also whose members are people that you genuinely like. I left my church family when I moved almost three years ago and haven’t found one where I feel comfortable yet, so I hear ya on that struggle.

    That being said, the wedding stuff will be over so soon (!), and it’ll be easier to deal with the rest when not dealing with the added wedding stress. Hang in there.

  • Kaitlyn

    I’m sorry you’re going through such a hard time right now, but I’m very impressed by the extent to which you’re living your own life and taking ownership of your decisions and circumstances! APW is always full of talk about the importance of sincerity and authenticity – well, you guys are living that, every minute of every day. You’re maintaining your own dignity and self-respect; you’re remaining honest and true. I think this is very good news as you walk toward your marriage and toward the rest of your lives. If you are sincere in all these aspects of your life, your love must be sincere as well – and, at this moment, that’s really the only fundamentally important thing.

    There are so many communities in the world. You guys will find the ones that are right for you.

    And, you are gorgeous, you’ll look fabulous in whatever dress you end up wearing :D

  • Jo

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having such a difficult time with your community. As a non-churchgoer myself, I can’t relate word-for-word, but it reminds me of a similar rejection I went through with a group of very close, dear friends when I first started dating my (now) fiance. They didn’t approve of him, and I lost 2 friends, and barely saved a 3rd friendship. I know how it feels to have the rug pulled out from under your feet as you re-examine all the assumptions you had about the nature of these important relationships. The silver lining, however, has been the 3rd friendship. It was an amazing lesson in forgiveness and working through disagreements — allowing our friendship to become more important than any differences we have. It was a struggle and took time and work — but today, she’s become my biggest supporter and most helpful aide in planning my wedding! I’m eternally grateful that we made it through. All my best wishes to you — be strong! It sounds like your take on the situation is spot on. I’m so sorry that your wedding had to be the catalyst to discover that a different church will suit you better.

  • Fiorentina

    I am so sorry that you’re being put through this kind of wringer by people you felt you could trust to reserve judgment and just be happy for you. People you consider family are not acting like family should. That is so hard, and so isolating. In spite of that, your writing about this situation has so much clarity and conviction and I really admire you for that.

    If I were in the TN area, I too would offer any help necessary. Sadly, I’m too far away I think for that to be of any use, so instead I send all the good thoughts I’ve got on hand for you and Mr. Dear.

    Also, Team Practical, you people are amazing. I managed to make it through the post without tears (barely) and then I got to the comments and all these offers of support and love and real tangible on-the-ground assistance to pull off this wedding and I lost it. At work.

    Helen Elizabeth, I’m so sorry that your church family let you down. But I hope you will let Team Practical step in and lift you up.

  • ann

    I have a dress that needs a home, too! Please contact me if you’d like to hear more about it. Also: I know a bunch about getting married for cheap in Milwaukee and Chicago…looks like we’ll be able to pull it off for around $2000 and 150 guests.

    • HelpingInChi

      Ann: I’d love advice for a friend in Chicago, would you mind sharing your contact info?

      • Ann

        Sure! I’d be happy to help. Have him or her email me at sundriesandtreasures@gmail.com.

      • ellobie

        Ooo ooo ooo, I have lots of Chicago area resources! :)
        ellobe at hotmail dot com

  • http://loveyourway.net lizzie

    christians can really suck sometimes. i’m a christian, grew up in a legalistic church environment and a fundamental christian school environment and i was often the subject of many “prayer requests” as people assumed that i wasn’t following god or being a good christian.

    being a good christian has absolutely nothing to do with your love for god and everyone’s journey and decisions are completely different. keep doing what you’re doing and just brush the haters to the side.

    i’m sure you’ll find your happy ending…we wound up just going with an outside venue and an outside ceremony location for our wedding because we didn’t want to deal with the craziness of the church in our wedding.

    a lot of our judgy friends don’t think we should live together either, although we aren’t…so chaste about it, ha, but is it really any better to do what a lot of them are doing? RUSH into marriage after a few months because you’re too eager to have sex? i don’t know, lady…being a practical, fiercely independent woman getting married is already a learning experience…then to be a christian who values morality and closeness with god is a whole nother beast. i think you’re rocking it, though, keep it up.

    • morgan

      I didn’t grow up religious but have been witness to many divorces recently by people who got married at 19 in a faiths that prohibited pre-marital sex. From the outside, it wasn’t surprising to see them fail – just really sad. Good for you for knowing yourself and owning your choices!

  • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

    Sending my virtual hugs too. Early on in our relationship I went through some very dramatic fights with my family about the religion I left and the transition to the religion I participate now. It was like a stab in the back to have such close family turn on me all because of religion.

    I’m sending strong vibes too that’ll help you get everything taken care of quickly. I would volunteer my own time and energy if I could, but I’m much too far away. Hopefully some of the rad Tennessee ladies can help you out!

  • Class of 1980

    My suggestion – consider joining a different denomination.

    A lot of Christians speak about “what Christians believe” and it is shocking how many don’t know that different denominations have WIDE differences. So, there is no blanket viewpoint.

    I can guarantee that there are denominations that would not have any problem with how you have been living. You might find something that is more in line with your own convictions.

    • Hillbetty

      Yes! Don’t give up. There are so many loving churches out there just waiting for you. Hugs and good luck.

  • GeePuff

    Girl! You are going through some serious tests of faith, and I seriously admire your strength. I’m down south and have a ton of friends in the Nashville and Chattanooga areas and I know we’d all be more than happy to help you out. Please let me know if I can do anything (Meg, feel free to send my email addy if needed). Prayers, hugs, and good vibes are headed your way

  • http://mightycourage.blogspot.com Nicole

    My heart so goes out to you. We didn’t have the same things happen, but we did have some dreams shattered during the whole process, and I know that it sucks. And hurts. And crying is always okay.

    And, you are loved.

  • http://www.kaylaearwood.com Kayla

    Oh boy do we have things in common! I live in Memphis, got married less than a year ago, grew up in a very legalistic Christian church and left because of the political stances they were making. It was the hardest and best decision I’ve ever made. Please, please get in touch with some of us from Tennessee. I’m also a graphic designer and come from a long family tradition of excruciatingly planning every detail of everything. If I can help you in any way, please let me know. I also have a pretty good idea that my church here would love to assist you. They are part of the reconciling ministries network of Methodist Churches that try to nurture and encourage members who have been shunned from other churches and help those in situations much like yours.

  • http://www.treelovesjake.blogspot.com Theresa

    Helen Elizabeth, my heart aches for you. I can’t imagine how confusing and upsetting it would be to have people that you are close with all of a sudden show a side of them that you didn’t know. I somewhat understand the whole “dreams you don’t have” shattering phenomenon. I never wanted to have my Dad walk me down the aisle, or to do a father-daughter dance. I didn’t like that these left my Mom out of the picture, and I also didn’t like the spotlight being on me so much (to be honest). When my dad died 8 months before the wedding, I mourned the loss of my choice. Now it wasn’t about what I did or didn’t want-I didn’t have the opportunity to make that choice anymore. I hope that you and your fiancee find a way to wade through the muck-the other side is so nice! :) Sending positive thoughts your way for your search for a new venue!

  • http://chilingwang.com chilingwang

    I too am getting married very soon. This period of life is stressful. This too will pass.

  • http://www.blushcelebrations.com rebecca

    I live on the west coast, but I’d love to help you any way I can! Email support, advice … I’ve read this post three times this morning and I just want to give you a hug and a big high five for holding on to what is important to you, and recognizing when to walk away from a bad ‘relationship’!

  • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

    Oh Helen Elizabeth, my heart just goes out to you. My husband and I went through something similar in that we left our church (where he’d been an assistant pastor) the year before we got engaged/married. The whole process of searching for a new church that was a good fit while trying to untangle our emotions from our old one (which was full of people we loved yet, like your situation, held some beliefs that we were growing increasingly uncomfortable with) was one that broke our hearts over and over. People made some really dire and hurtful predictions about what would happen to our spiritual lives and our relationship if we left. On some days it was enough that we had each other… but some days it wasn’t.

    It’s taken us a lot of time and some distance, but we’ve come to a point of repairing all the relationships that were worth repairing (for example, our former pastor ended up being the one who married us) and I think we’ve all learned a lot about the Church and ourselves in the interim. There are still many days when I wish we could still be back in the heart of that particular community, since we still haven’t found one that’s as open, deep, and welcoming as the one we had, but I can look at our lives now and know without a shadow of a doubt that we made the right decision. Our relationship didn’t fall apart. Our walks with God didn’t implode. And we emerged with a stronger, deeper commitment to each other because of that trial.

    Sorry for the novel-length comment. I think we just hear a lot in Christian circles that leaving a church is the Worst Thing Ever, and I wanted to reassure you that it doesn’t have to be. In our case, it ended up being a deeply good thing for everyone involved. If you’d like to hear more about these experiences or just talk with someone who’s gone through a similar thing, I’d be happy to chat (pensyf AT gmail DOT com).

  • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

    it was truly surprising (gut-wrenching, at times) to discover who of our friends and family became the most supportive of our choices, and who became judgmental and negative, or outright withdrew from the process.

    what you must remember (nearly impossible with charged emotions and a deadline) is that this milestone is for you and mr. dear … and no one else. you may wish to celebrate your families, your capital-c community … but please remember that the ones who deserve your appreciation will be there to celebrate *you.*

    and know that *this* family supports you no matter what.
    (bet you a dollar this bunch could *build* you a new church and fill it with people, if it would help!)

    • JEM

      (bet you a dollar this bunch could *build* you a new church and fill it with people, if it would help!)

      whoo hoo!

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    I’m going to a) add your blog to my reader and b) comment really quickly before I go back and re-read.

    I just want to say thank you for writing this. And big, huge hugs. As someone who’s been the member of many churches that have split, someone who was judged horribly by many churches, rejected when I most needed it, yet someone who has been accepted by others, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m still in the healing stages right now. I turned to Unitarian Universalist churches to fill the gap that’s left. I don’t agree with all of their beliefs, they don’t agree with mine, but they don’t judge me and they’re a place to fellowship in spirituality.

    If you ever want a hug, email away. Johannahharper at gmail dot com.

  • Kristen

    My fiance and I left our church three months before our wedding. While the church did have problems with us living together it wasn’t the straw that broke the camels back. We ended up leaving because my two best friends (gay guys) weren’t going to be allowed to stand up on my side of the bridal party. I ready your post today and saw so much of myself in it. I too, ran around for days with a list of local churches. I’m convinced that everything happens for a reason and I used that as my mantra during that stressful time. I ended up finding a church that is a much better fit for us and I KNOW you will too! You’re definitely in my prayers!

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  • kyley

    Oh, I’m so very, very sorry. My thoughts and prayers are definitely turned in your direction. I applaud you and your fiance for standing by each other, even in the face of so much pressure. My heart goes out to you. You inspire me.

    I live in New England, and if there is something I could do? Please, just say so!

    When my best friend got married, she had beautiful paper cranes all over the venue! Maybe APW could mass produce some beautiful paper cranes or flowers or pom-poms, and send them your way, for the new venue that you will find? And you will find it.

    Love & prayers.

  • TP

    From another living-together-chastely future bride, you have my complete support and prayers. I am a pretty spiritual Christian who believes in the importance of a strong relationship with God. Unfortunately, chruches are run by people. None of us are perfect, so the same must be true for church.
    It seems like you have a rational head on your shoulders, so you know that the important thing is the relationship you have with God, not with others who may not fully understand His love and acceptance of us all. While some people may be concerned about outward appearances, God will bless you for your commitment.
    I have no doubt your wedding and marriage will be joyous.

    And wow, I sound like a pretty strident Christian with all this. Sex + Chrisitanity is just a topic that I feel really passionate (hah!) about.

    Best wishes for you!

  • http://www.karaschultz.com knschultz

    Hugs to you! My mom is still apart of the church that I have grown apart from. I questioned a lot of things and that was not allowed at all. We were to take the word of the elders no matter what. One of the other girls younger than me got into a huge argument about abortion (to which I told her it was God who shall judge us, not her) and had a huge falling out with everyone there. I’m sure I’m on a million prayer lists. I’m sure they talk about me a lot because of my devilish ways. On the other hand, my husbands family is part of a religion that I don’t fit in either. I’m not sure if I’ll find anything right now in my spiritual life but I’m sure it’ll eventually happen!

    I know everything will work out for you in the end!

  • Helen Elizabeth

    Wow. I have no idea what to say! You have all been so fabulous with your support. I’ve been at work today and I’ve been following your comments. I stole a minute out of the day to reply.

    I am so bowled over. I never expectecd to get offers to help with this wedding! A few thing have changed since I wrote that email last week. We found a venue– a city park with just a couple acres and a small amphitheater. We’re now looking for a way to have sound since there is no equipment there. AND, we found an officiant… Mr. Dear’s mother. She’s apparently been an honest-to-goodness (as in not one of those online ordained) minister for years. She mentioned this off-handedly a couple days ago. My dress also arrived yesterday (and it fits my newly dispropotionate figure).

    I have only a few tasks ahead now, but I’m more than willing to accept some community help because I’m this.close. to losing my mind…

    I need to make some bunting or poms to go across the base of the amphitheather.

    I need to make a pdf map of the parking and the path to get to the amphitheater.

    I need to get a DOC because I just can’t do it myself now.

    I need to find a cheap honeymoon, since almost the entire honeymoon budget went to renting the new venue.

    If you have any ideas I’d love to hear from you. You can email meg for my email address or find it on my blog under the “contact me” page.

    • bumblebee611

      I’m so glad things are going better for you. I don’t know *anyone* in TN or I’d offer some help (and I am seriously uncrafty), but I wish you the very best. Good for you and Mr. Dear for sticking to your principles.

    • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

      what color poms? How many? what size? put us to work!

      … and also, if there’s any way to convey in writing (or perhaps a pic) what you need from the map graphic, I’m happy to assist with a digital file. here’s the map insert I did for our wedding last month: http://tinyurl.com/3uy45b4 (boo. just don’t look at the ugly ampersand that googledocs flattened from the original font)

      (no pressure, but seriously! I’m a whiz at cutting poms!)

  • COCO

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post and sharing all the challenges you’ve faced with your wedding planning. I’m one month out from my wedding and have been dealing with bouts of disappointment. Sometimes wedding planning can feel so lonely.

    Like you we are not getting married in the parish we call home — I’m catholic, my fiance was never baptized and the priest we contacted was non-responsive in helping us understand all our options at the beginning of this process. The $1600 fee to use the church for 1 hour also made me unconfortable, so while we haven’t left the parish altogether, we are choosing to celebrate our wedding elsewhere. I am still coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be having that moment of walking down the aisle in a church.

    One of the other big disappointments has been the fact that so many people we invited won’t be coming to our wedding. We decided to have our wedding in the town where we live and where we met and fell in love. Unfortunately this is 500 miles from my friends and family back home, and several hundred miles from where my fiance grew up. This has also meant that few people will be attending my bridal shower. I know I should feel grateful and excited about all the people who will be joining us, but it’s hard to think about the absence of so many people you thought would be there to see you walk down the aisle.

    Hang in there though, you can do this. And remember you aren’t getting “weddinged, “you’re getting married. No matter what happens you will be sharing your life with a wonderful partner.

  • Emily P

    My now husband and I went through a similar situation with our wedding and I know very much how you feel. We used to live in Georgia and moved to Texas a year and a half ago. (We got married at the end of March, and were living together the whole time before then with me as a virgin-so nice to hear that other people manage it too! And boy did we get the family judgment laid on thick for living together.) Our wedding officiant was supposed to be the pastor of the church in Georgia that my husband worked at full time for five years and still does freelance work for, and that I worked part time at for 9 months. The pastor knows my husband well and saw him through his divorce, so he was very happy for us and supportive of us, telling my husband how excited he was for him to move out here with me. Less than two months before our wedding, a couple who we thought we were friends with that are members of the church (and the husband also worked there, with my husband) told the pastor’s wife that they had some “concerns” about our marriage because we are different religions (both Christian, just different denominations). This is something that they NEVER brought up with us personally and in fact acted very supportive of and excited for my husband when he met and started dating me, knowing full well what religion I was.

    This had never come up between us and the pastor because we honestly didn’t think it was a big deal; the church is a large, technically non-denominational church that plays rock music during the service for crying out loud! Well, when he found out, he talked it over with my husband for about twenty minutes and then told him that he would be unable to marry us as he felt that the Bible says we shouldn’t get married and that although he personally supported us and thought we would be fine, he didn’t want to look like a hypocrite in public. Although we understood his need to protect his public image and respected his right to believe differently than us, it was crushing, especially to my husband. And the underhanded judgment of a couple that we thought were friends cut deep. Of course, needing a new officiant less than two months out and with no money to pay a stranger was just icing on the cake.

    As if that wasn’t enough, my husband’s side of the family, almost all of them (when less than half even bothered to show up in the first place), left our wedding right after the ceremony because there was “rock” music being played. I hate to come off as whiny and while it feels good to get it out there, that isn’t my intention! I hope that knowing someone else has been there helps a little. I’m so sad that you’re having to deal with all of this right now. It’s not ever easy, but just before a wedding adds an exponential amount of stress. I wish I could give you some magic words of wisdom, but I’m honestly still working through all the hurt and frustration myself. Talking about it helps! And if you need someone to talk to about it, I would be more than happy to oblige. You can email me at emilylayman at gmail dot com anytime! As meaningless as it may be from a complete stranger, you will get through it somehow!

  • luluaj

    I’m sorry that you’re having such a difficult time during what is supposed to be a happy and exciting time. I do have to say that given the context, the term “church family” seems to be a misnomer in this situation. The church is most certainly not acting like a “family” and more like clique of 7th grade girls. In my book, my family loves and accepts me for who I am, all of the time (and even if they don’t especially like who I am or the choices I”m making at the time).
    I don’t expect changing the terminology will lessen the hurt you’re feeling but I wanted to share my thoughts all the same. I hope that you and your husband to be find peace and another community that loves and accepts you ALL of the time.

  • http://shellynn.wordpress.com Michelle

    Helen Elizabeth and others who’ve had a church home judge or reject them:
    I’m so sorry you are going through this, and you’re not the only one. My story is much like Helen Elizabeth’s. A very easy engagement turned into the most stressful situation of my life due to our church and family.

    Three months before my wedding, the Catholic priest who was going to marry us at the church I belonged to found out we had moved in together between getting engaged and getting married (for very practical reasons and with separate bedrooms, by the way). To skim over the very painful time and hard conversations that followed, with six weeks to go we found a more welcoming Catholic church (had to be Catholic, my parents said) where the priest accepted us and our relationship. We had a beautiful wedding, but the hurt of rejection didn’t go away, and I no longer call myself Catholic.

    We already had a separate reception site booked and paid for, so I figured even if we didn’t get legally married that day or if we had to go to the courthouse, we were having that party! You, with your fiance and support network, will find a way to make this work!

  • Izzy

    All comments about church and faith aside – I wonder why you started taking the birth control pill so early? The month before the wedding would be ample and would have probably avoided the need for a new dress. I wish you luck with the wedding´and finding a new church.

    • Aine

      It’s a good idea to start it early- when I used to use the Pill, I had to switch formulas a couple of times because of side effects. I would NOT want to think of getting married with the moodswings I had that first month…

    • Helen Elizabeth

      To make sure sure that it worked with my body. And the “blessings” came the very first week.

  • http://stefaniedebestphotography.blogspot.com Stefanie

    We need more wedding undergraduate posts x 100!

  • http://strawberriesinparis.com Elizabeth

    Helen Elizabeth – you can do it!! We are “standing” right behind you cheering you on!

  • melissa

    The only experiences I’ve ever had with church are like those you describe. So, I am happily without church family, or religion at this point. But you want one and they hurt you, and well, that just makes me sad. It’s your life and your relationship with your god. Argh.

  • Laura

    By looking at the comments you know that you have a really supportive community around you. We are all so proud of you and Mr. Dear for knowing yourselves and being strong in what you want for yourselves and your future. Way to go.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that nasty feelings and judgement suck. Just don’t let it overtake you. Your practical wedding will become your very possible, and wonderful, wedding because you and Mr. Dear will make it so. From all of us who’ve had doubters, and roadblocks, and naysayers, and critics, just remember that all you need is the two of you to show up to make it special and unforgettable… and it sounds like you’ve got that part cased!

    xo

  • Marchelle

    Aw, sweetie. I’m sending you love, and wishing that the wedding you have WILL be the one you dreamed of, even if you just don’t know it yet.

  • Just Jencil

    “We have each other.”

    Most important part. Stay strong, my prayers are with you!

  • meredyth

    Ugh! Legalism and judginess in churches makes my skin itch and my gag reflect flare! I’ve seen my fair share of it (and borne the brunt of it on occasion, like when my siblings’ classmates asked if I was a true Christian because voted Democrat!). Your former best friend’s judgement, as well as your pastors’ and church family’s makes me ache for you. It must have been incredibly painful to go through and to still be going through.

    The lack of room for people with different views made me uncomfortable at my church and I still haven’t found a good replacement. My brother’s beliefs are creating a huge dilemma for my family and impending wedding. As much as l love my brother (50% of the time he is the most awesome, fun person; the other times make me think violent thoughts) his views and judgements on the rest of my family hurt us in ways he doesn’t see. He thinks it’s “loving” to point out all the ways we’re going to hell. This makes me anxious about the wedding because he won’t speak to my divorced parents (it’s against God’s law for two miserably married people to find relief through divorce apparently).

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I firmly believe that if you and your fiance can come through this together, loving and full of compassion for others you will be the WAY better for it and make me proud of those who call themselves Christians. We need all the nice ones we can get! I really really can’t wait for your wedding grad post to see how you come through this and the tree in your roof!

  • http://mylifeincocktails.com/ Carly

    My heart really goes out to you. If I lived anywhere near you, I’d probably offer to run around frantically trying to help you get the venue sorted and all of that. Of course, I’m sure the disruption to your wedding plans pales in comparison to feeling so abruptly alienated from a community that has been so important to you and your fiance. I hope you find a church that is warmer and kinder towards you both.

  • JenniferA

    Someday I really want to turn to people that judge me and my life and say, Sin, what you are doing right now is a sin! Do not judge said Jesus. Lets analyze your life and see where you are sinning!!! Oh man people like that make me want to scream. The holier than thou people piss me off. I am a Christian, I have a relationship with God and I only answer to Him. Just because I don’t live my life exactly as you do does not mean I am less of a Christian. (Can you tell that I’ve been judged? :) ) I am so sorry that “Christian” people are treating you this way, instead of being happy for you and helping you. Shame on them. I hope it all works out for you.

  • Seraph

    I watched a couple of friends go through similar circumstances a few years ago–one was a strong, independent feminist who had the ceremony in her small, conservative home church, in which the pastor pointedly made comments in the ceremony about how she should submit to her husband. The other had bad experiences in pre-marital counseling with her home church pastor, who refused to acknowledge decisions about division of labor that she and her fiance had already made.

    I applaud your courage in walking away from a hurtful situation. And as for voluntary membership…I grew up in a moderate church that went toxic-conservative under me. (some of the change is my own growing up…and some of it is really a church environment turning toxic for me). I agree with so few of their tenets, but it’s the only church I can remotely call “mine.” And that hurts.

  • Katie

    It is really sad that you had to go through such a tough time. I am a Christian and I definitely know what it’s like to encounter overly legalistic judgmental believers. However I do find it sad that you took your second pastor’s request as a judgement that required you to feel you had to move locations all together. You seem to be judging him for not being tolerant of your lifestyle, while he was doing his job, as an authority in your life, by saying you are not living according to God’s plan. I know I do not know you, or the whole story, or this pastor. What I do know is that it is a Pastors job to watch over their congregation, and looking the other way to marrying you if he felt you were doing something wrong would be even more wrong. I am not saying I would not be upset at this too, just stating that just because someone states what you are doing is not right with God does not mean they are judging you. I do hope the best for you and your husband to be and that you will settle into a church where you feel loved and welcomed.