Today’s beautiful international wedding talks about two cultures and families coming together to create one day of magic. Add to that the fact the Amanda gives excellent advice, and you’re a lucky bunch of ladies….
My name is Amanda. My husband, Mark, and I got married last September. Mark and I met in an airplane. I am Mexican, he is Dutch, but his dad is now living in Mexico, so we were both traveling for Christmas holidays to visit families. We wanted to point out how important and lucky and crazy it was that the online check-in system randomly gave us seats next to each other, so we put a model airplane over the cake, with a playmobil bride and groom. Our wedding day was truly magical because of all the joy we felt around us. Not only our joy, but also of all our family and friends that had joined us from near and far. We didn’t stop smiling the whole day.
Mark is Protestant and I am Catholic, so it was not so easy to find a priest that was willing to marry us. Our situation is not that unusual, but the first priest that we went to told us that we needed special permission and started to make the whole situation complicated. But! When we met the priest that married us, the feeling was totally different. There was a click right away. He was very funny and friendly and open with us. For the liturgy, we chose readings that had a special meaning to us and that were common. For example, my mother-in-law, Sharon, was named after a reading from the Song of the Songs and we had her read it during the ceremony. It was a way of honoring Mark’s granddad, who passed away two years ago and would always tell her the story of her name.
We were surprised by all the love and help and support we received throughout the process. My mother-in-law works at a university and is a good friend of the photographer who usually takes the students’ pictures. She hired him for us and gave us the photos as a wedding present. Mark’s grandma paid for our flowers, my parents paid for part of the reception. And we got a lot of financial support from all our friends and family in the form of wedding presents. We did not expect this at all. As I learned, it is very common in Holland to print a little envelope icon in the wedding invitation, meaning you would like guests to bring you money. We felt very uncomfortable with this, and refused to do it. We were aware that people might want to give us something for the start of our home, so we made a list at a department store, but we only gave it to people when they asked us. Receiving all of this was a bit of a shock, though in a good way, to see how much people just wished to help us in the set up of our new life.
Now for the practical stuff. If I could speak to other brides-to-be these are some of the things I learned:
Do whatever feels important to you, not what society, tradition or wedding magazines say you should do. We absolutely did not want to have a seating plan, as we wanted a more “dynamic” feel, where people could move freely and talk to each other in a relaxed way instead of being stuck in the same place for three hours. So what we did was scatter all kinds of food on big tables, like a buffet, but made sure that not all the food was in the same place.
Also we had tables and chairs set up but not enough for everyone. In this way we “forced” people to walk around, talk to each other and be able to choose with whom they wanted to sit, as well as encouraged them to change places throughout the day. We love ice cream, so we had an ice cream truck, and lots of different cakes, and macaroons. Yes, we love the sweet stuff. People really liked it, and everyone mingled. Also, both of the families got to know each other much better.
When you make your plan of the day, try to be realistic with the time. This is the one thing that we could have done better. Our reception lasted from 12:30 (after the church ceremony, which started at 11:30) until 6:30. We were really afraid people might be bored, so we planned a lot of activities. We set up a photobooth with different accessories; we organized a game for children (a “photo race” where we gave disposable cameras to the kids, with a list of precise things they should photograph and whomever did it fastest won a small present); my sister, brother and sister-in-law prepared a video about our story and childhood; we set up a table for the smaller kids with coloring books, crayons, bubbles and playdough; we also had to have our wedding pictures taken, since for me it was crucial that Mark did not see me before the ceremony (yes, I am superstitious like that).
On top of that, we still had a playlist for the dancing that lasted almost four hours. The good news is people did not get bored. The day went extremely fast, a lot faster than we thought it would. And yes, we slow danced, because it really was important for us, but that is where the dancing ended. With all the eating, talking, surprise speeches (extremely touching, from my mother-in-law, dad, uncle and brother-in-law), and video, we barely had time to cut the cake and dance our “First Dance” before we had to go. I am really happy about the way it turned out. It was a very relaxed atmosphere, and we saw happy people all around us, talking, having fun, enjoying themselves, and sharing our joy. But I have to admit that at some point I started freaking out, thinking, “When are we going to dance!” It was almost the end of the day and some people were already leaving. So yes, savour every moment, and take into account that “activities” might take longer than you think.
Whatever “unplanned thing” happens, won’t matter. What you are doing will. A very good friend who works in catering and organizes a lot of special events told me this at our civil wedding (which was in May). When you are in the planning process, you tend to focus on every detail and want everything to be perfect and to look exactly like you imagine. Well, I am guessing this is impossible. For me, it was the bouquet. What I had in mind, I think I could have done myself, since I wanted something truly simple. I wanted some vertical flower branches tied together with a ribbon or lace. Period. Nothing else. Our florist apparently didn’t get the idea and did what she felt like doing. But did it matter? No, not at all, it didn’t change anything, and though I didn’t want to do all the traditional wedding stuff, I was happy to toss it to the girls!
Use the blogs, websites, media and other wedding porn for inspiration and for ideas, but do not go crazy or feel pressure about how things should be done. For instance, DIY is really in fashion now, but I feel ambivalent on this matter. On one hand, the way I was raised, DIY is “the regular” way to do it. We organized everything ourselves, and asked for help when we needed it. We made our favors (the same way you prepare thank you gifts for children on Christmas in Mexico. Basically these are goody bags filled with candy and cookies), as well as “welcome packs” for our foreign guests (these included a map of the city, candy, handkerchiefs, paracetamol, tea bags and a little card thanking people for having traveled for us and a reminder of telephones and addresses).
On the other hand however, there were things we wanted to DIY that just would have made things complicated. We saw pictures of antique vases and old painted cans used for flowers, and we thought, “Wow! Pretty and original.” Then we went to antique shops and flea markets, saw the prices and right away headed to dollar shops and markets for truly cheap stuff. Also, we wanted to actually do the flower centerpieces, but taking glass vases to the reception on the same day of the ceremony, when everything started at 11:30, was way too complicated. Especially when we were also taking care of our guests, some of whom came from abroad. Same goes for our original idea of having different flavored cakes instead of the classic wedding cake. In both cases, it was easier and cheaper to just have the florist and the bakery do this for us, since both of them brought the stuff to our venue instead of us having to transport everything in our small car to the restaurant the same day. So what I am saying here is be practical, and just do whatever is simple and easy for you.
The wedding day is gone, but I will always remember the floaty feeling. I still think back and feel the joy of having our families and friends together, all at once. I remember the chaos of the days before and after, but what stands out is the fun time spent together, and all the love that we felt around us. All that mingling and mixing during the party is exactly how I hope our families will intertwine together in the future as well. And now, I feel happy, lucky, and grateful for having met Mark, for us being together now, for our families coming together, and now the start of something big. I feel excited and full of joy and I am looking forward to travel, to share our lives with one another, and to live new adventures together.
The Info—Photography: Fotoflex & some friends and family / Venue: Restaurant De Sniep / Dress: Pronovias Maria / Flowers: Aquaflor / Cake: Lekkers Taarten en Bonbons / Chinese Lanterns: The Hanging Lantern Company