If you are like me, you have been waiting around tapping your toe, wondering when our own Shotgun Shirley (whose real name is Rachel… long story) would write her wedding graduate post. Rachel shared a bit about planning her Shotgun Wedding (which we both agree is the funniest term in the world, so we’re using it) last fall, when she found out rather suddenly that she was pregnant. And now she’s back, with a beautiful wedding story (that dress!) and… A BABY! Rachel’s story is a perfect complement to this morning’s discussion of accepting life, our partners, ourselves, and our union exactly how they come… and letting there be perfection in the imperfection.
There are so many ways to approach this that it’s taken me a while to get started. (And I’ve had three false starts already.) Do I talk about including each of my six siblings? The mama (in-law) drama? Planning it almost by myself because Anton had to study for the bar exam? But what’s really different about our story is that it was a shotgun wedding.
We were proto-engaged for over six months, then we got officially engaged and BAM it turns out we are two months along—what?!? Despite our best efforts, our plan to have a family became a bit off schedule.
We had been considering a Fall 2011 or Spring 2012 picnic reception at my parents’ house. We even did some landscaping to prepare during the secret proto-engagement. So, why did we go for a shotgun wedding? Well, there were the legal benefits, and the tax benefits, too (when one of you makes $0, you get a nice big tax refund, which can help pay for a nice big party), but that’s not the only reason. When it comes down to it, we wanted to be married before our daughter’s birth. It was important to us personally, and it also seemed more practical. (I am so glad I didn’t have any postpartum wedding planning!)
We had a civil ceremony a month after our official engagement, in November 2010, and scheduled our religious wedding for January 2011. That way I still had plenty of pregnant time to switch from my OB to an awesome midwife, prep for the birth, and get ready for a baby. A shotgun wedding was the most practical option for us, and that’s why we did it, difficulties and all.
Now, onto the how. A lot of the wedding planning was not particularly “shotgun”—we set our budget and our priorities early on (family/friends, booze, food and funk) and went from there. Invites and reception venue had to be figured out ASAP since we already knew we’d be married in my family church. We had just announced our engagement and now we had to spread the baby and wedding news. We mostly waited, except for close family and friends, until we could announce both.
We chose the first venue we actually visited, because so much was included in the relatively low cost, e.g., cake, fancy lighting. It was pricier than we would have chosen (almost 60% of our budget), but gorgeously appointed and included a ton of food in the per-person Friday price—a much lower amount than any place of comparable fanciness. All we had to provide were centerpieces and music, and they let us bring in our own alcohol, which was a big savings. Because it was the offseason; there were a lot of open dates in January, so it was relatively simple to coordinate a Friday afternoon date with the church and the venue, though it didn’t seem that simple at the time because of the rush.
While we were trying to set the venue and date, I was simultaneously in the process of setting up our invitations, working with a former high school classmate who created absolutely gorgeous invitations with pretty paper and ribbon, yum. Her florist gave her an amazing deal for her beautiful wedding, so she paid it forward to me, giving me an awesome deal. I hope to pay it forward by giving away my wedding dress.
We embraced the fact that we were having a shotgun wedding, and had a shotgun logo incorporated into the invites and programs, inspired by Snippet & Ink. The logo also adorned the photo strips from the photo booth (our big splurge, but the best price around, and we were able to support an LGBTQ/handicapped small business owner) as well as the t-shirts we got for our wedding party and family (through another small business).
We got the invites sent out in early November, accompanied by phone calls to grandparents and others to let them know the date and why our wedding was so soon. In this day and age, almost everyone was overjoyed at the prospect of a new baby. Some people even thought we’d planned it that way (nope, IUD). All but one had a completely positive reaction, and she realized later what she’d said and apologized.
The rest of the details came together in the two months remaining. Choosing a dress was difficult due to my changing body. I first bought a maternity wedding dress from a boutique online (with an awesome return policy) but it made me feel like a whale. Sure, you couldn’t tell I was pregnant, but you also couldn’t tell I had a waist! I started looking for dresses a couple sizes larger than I’m used to. (TIP: Maternity clothing is expensive! You can get away with buying in a bigger size for quite a while.) I ended up buying three dresses online through Nordstrom Rack, and the one with the empire waist was just right. Not what I would have gone for typically, but it hugged my curves well, accentuating my new bosom—and I felt like a pretty lady, not a big pregnant blob (which I wasn’t at all yet!). It’s nice to feel pretty on your wedding day.
We wanted to include as many people as possible, though we couldn’t invite everyone, so we found many ways to save money. Buying a $70 wedding dress was a big source of savings. Also, DIY flowers saved a ton, and were super fun (yay LA Flower Market). We made our own music mix for dinner/dancing and had karaoke for the last three hours. Gina let us use her sound equipment for the entire night, only charging us for the time she worked. (TIP: Create your music mix a week ahead of time, so you don’t end up finishing it at 2am the morning of your wedding.)
Since Anton’s number one priority had to be studying for finals and then for the bar, I took charge of the vast majority of the party planning. However, I did look to him for input on many things, like the seating chart, and we made all the ceremony choices together. I also showed him prospective dresses to make sure he thought they were “wedding-y” enough.
It’s easy to forget to eat with so much going on, and every bride needs to remember to eat and drink, but especially the pregnant bride! I snacked throughout the day, had power bars on hand, and plenty of people willing to jump ahead in line at the bar to get me some water. I had my second lunch during the Russian tradition of Vykup Nevesty (Paying the Ransom), during which Anton had to answer various riddles and trivia to “ransom” me from my family so he could take me to the church. (Never mind that he had snuck in the back door already and technically “won.”) I also got a snack before dinner with the Khleb Sol (Bread and Salt), during which the bride and groom take a bite – no hands – from a large loaf of bread presented by the parents for health, prosperity and long life. I fully expected Anton to win since his mouth is much larger, but I got a larger bite so supposedly I get to be head of the household.
Though it was not what I had first pictured, our wedding was, seriously, friggin awesome. Jumping up and down at seeing friends I hadn’t seen in over a year, giggling when the ring bear (a fuzzy grown man) got mixed up, rick rolling the guys who wanted to sing Let’s Get Drunk and Screw at Karaoke, dancing with my sisters and aunts, and the impromptu Don’t Stop Believin sing-a-long. My youngest sister called it the best weekend of her life. Multiple guests called it the most fun wedding ever.
So I guess we got something right. The people, especially the main players, did not change. After the bar exam, we went for a mini-honeymoon, a lovely weekend near Big Sur. And most importantly, Anton and I are married, and our little Harriet is here in all her squirmy fussy sweetness. Seriously, we got a cute one. And the day she arrived, we found out Anton passed the bar.