You know how wedding media has become saturated in the last few years in what I’ll call the DIY-ish wedding (or, ok, honestly fake wedding photoshoot)? And you’re like “oooohhhh, that is so lovely and handcrafted” and then you try to actually DIY it and you end up just covered in glue? Well this is the real story of the DIY wedding. Indie, yes. DIY, yes. But also covered in glue, and love, and glitter, and exhaustion, and joy. This is the real thing.
Our wedding day was utter madness.
I know that’s probably not what you want to hear. It would be more reassuring to hear that it was economical, wisely planned, and flooded with meaning; that legions of amazing wedding elves showed up and it all came together in a dreamlike way. That we don’t have any regrets.
The strange thing is… all that is true, too.
But all those months of methodical planning, all that eff you WIC! and DIY industriousness and the repetition of wedding graduate mantras could not mentally or emotionally prepare me for how the day actually went down. I thought they could. I prepared for this wedding like I was studying for the SAT and GRE combined. I had color-coded to-do lists and seven copies of my vows. I even prepared for things to go wrong: I repeated over and over that as long as we got married, that’s all that mattered. I made plans to dance in mud puddles if it rained. I’d be the anti-Bridezilla: nothing would faze me. I mean, I’m super chill and indie like that, right? (ha)
Well, in the moment, things fazed me. Big time. When our sound system went missing and then wasn’t working an hour before the wedding, I was upset. When it turned out the tablecloths that I’d sewn didn’t fit, I was crushed. When the fishing line holding up the tissue-paper poms kept snapping, I started to lose it. It’s hard to pour so much time, energy, and money into something and not feel frustrated when things get derailed. And then I started stressing about the fact that I was stressed—I was supposed to be a cool-as-a-cucumber bride, dammit! What’s the point in having a casual, homespun wedding if you’re still freaking out about your (muslin) tablecloths and (burlap) runners?
I wondered if we’d been too ambitious, attempting to do so much ourselves. I wondered if we’d regret not having time to unwind (or even grab lunch) before the ceremony. I wondered if maybe I would hate my wedding. As my repressed expectations whooshed out of me and disappointment leaked in, hot tears pricked my eyes.
I took a deep breath. As I inhaled, I looked my worst-case scenarios in the face. I stared down the possibility that guests would arrive and see me in grungy shorts and a t-shirt; that I might not get to shower or use the make-up I’d carefully researched. That we wouldn’t get the outdoor games set up or have a chance to unpack the cake stands I’d collected and transported across the state. That the organic flowers we’d bought wouldn’t make it into glass jars, let alone become centerpieces; that my relatives might be thinking I didn’t have it all together, that friends might turn up their noses, that we might not have any ceremony music, period, and that there would definitely be no “first look” photos. And then I realized something.
All that extra sh*t doesn’t matter.
I’d only read or thought this about a million times since getting engaged. But at that second, I felt it. Way down deep in my bones. Bob came outside and brought me a bottle of water because he was worried I might be getting dehydrated. We clung together for a moment, our sweaty, dirt-streaked bodies leaning against each other for support. I looked over his shoulder at all the crafts and supplies littering the grass, months of solid effort. And I knew we had to keep going. But I also knew that all I needed was right there, wrapped around me.
If this were a fictional story, I would hang a “the end” on that last sentence and be done. But this is real life, and that was not the end of the set-up work, because even though the stuff didn’t matter, it still had to be put somewhere (or hidden in the kitchen) so people didn’t trip. But the stress began ebbing away. With about an hour to go before we walked down the aisle, guests started arriving. Our DIY wedding was apparently a trainwreck, but I was filled with a bizarre sense of peace. I’d given up. And that sounds horrible, but it made me feel lighter than air. I ran up to greet our friends, dirty clothes and all. The only thing I yearned for at that point was to be married to Bob.
After taking an ice-cold shower (hot water wasn’t working) and tossing makeup at my face, hoping something would stick, I slipped into my gown and sandals and walked back into the reception room. And lo and behold, there were flowers, and bunting, and wooden cake toppers, and chalkboard signs.
I looked out the window at the ceremony site: guests were seated on benches, holding parasols and programs—both of which I’d assumed had gotten lost in the shuffle. Flower girls (neither of whom had rehearsed) were standing adorably at-the-ready. I could even hear music. If you’re a cynic like I am, you may have raised an eyebrow at the idea of Zen composure or “wedding magic.” Wedding grunt work, I understood. Magic? Eh. I wasn’t waiting on it.
Thankfully, it was still waiting on me.
I breathed it in—it felt magical, even to a skeptic, and there’s no other word for it. I’d focused so intently on Plan A and even Plan B, I couldn’t keep up when we had to move to Plan C. But our friends and family had bravely stepped in to help make this wedding happen. Most things were not as I’d imagined; surprisingly, they were better. I’d stumbled onto a gorgeous wedding—in spite of, not because of, my best efforts. But more importantly, I was swimming in love and a sense of community.
Bob and I ended up staying to clean up. A heavy tree limb fell 40 feet and grazed my car. The piñata wound up being an afterthought. People left early-ish. I never got to play with the giant bubble wands. And it was still good. I was floating, and by this point nothing could bring me down. My brother blasted “My Girl” on the iPod as we packed up. I walked across the lawn, holding up the hem of my dress and carting empty Coca-Cola bottles and sticky plates, laughing at my unlikely representation of The Bride on Her Wedding Day. I ended the evening sitting outside on the blacktop, next to my new husband, both of us barefoot. We sleepily looked on as my younger brothers played kickball in the growing dusk, while we waited to load up the last car-full of leftovers. It wasn’t the picture-perfect sparkler ending I’d seen in so many blogs. It was chaos, but a beautiful chaos, and we were saturated with joy.
Photos By: Lisa A. Rice