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Emily & Aaron


I’ve started to get a whole new class of emails asking for advice. I call them the, “So-and-so offered to plan my wedding and all I have to do is show up, and I really don’t want to plan a wedding, but somehow it seems wrong to take them up on it—is it WRONG?” emails. And my answer is always, “DEAR GOD. LET THEM PLAN YOUR WEDDING.” Think about it. Just a generation or two ago, the bride’s family always planned the wedding. It’s only our current obsession with *personalization* that puts the burden squarely on the bride (and sometimes the groom), so what’s wrong with letting your community throw a party to honor you? Which is just what Emily & Aaron did when their roommates offered to plan things. And oh boy, was that the right decision. And Emily wore a Betsey Johnson wedding dress, which is also always clearly the right decision.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

My husband and I didn’t plan our wedding. From day one, we handed it almost entirely off to our loved ones, and that turned out to be the best decision we made.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

When Aaron and I decided to get married, the last thing I wanted to do was plan a wedding. To make a long story short, we’d been together for six years and were completely committed, but we wanted to wait to get married until our gay friends could do so as well. Then we started looking into joining the Peace Corps. Immediately our passion for service came up against our dedication to equality: In order to apply to the Peace Corps together, we needed to be married for at least one year. When it came right down to it, we agreed that we don’t want to look back on our lives sixty years from now and see “what ifs.” We decided to go for it.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

Easier said than done! Add my issues with marriage equality to the fact that I’m not one of those women who can discuss wedding colors with my friends as though we’re on the United Nations Security Council, and you can imagine how excited I was about planning a wedding.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

Here’s where the real heroes of our wedding story come in: Our roommates. They are sisters, two of our closest friends, and an absolute blast to share a house with. They also happen to have über type-A personalities and a serious love affair with stress. The original wedding plan, as we ran it by the roomies in June, was: “We’re going to the courthouse in August, and then we’ll have a barbeque at the house afterward. No big deal.” This was met with two sets of eyes rolling and “Just leave it to us.”

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

Aaron and I spent the next couple of months being exactly as involved as we wanted to (which, honestly, wasn’t all that much). We worked out the (fairly simple) details of the courthouse and left the reception entirely up to the girls and my mom. As the big day drew closer, more and more boxes would arrive at the house and the roomies would immediately squirrel them away downstairs.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

They were constantly making vague statements about following up with vendors and having mysterious meetings with my parents. A package from my mom arrived one day addressed to our roommates, who snatched it away while I begged to know what was inside. (I later found out it contained only a card for the girls that said, “There’s nothing in here. I just love messing with Emily.”) They loved teasing us with statements like, “We cannot confirm or deny whether there will be a unicorn petting zoo at the reception.” Curiosity about what on earth they were planning got us more excited for our wedding than we could have imagined beforehand.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

For me, one of the best parts about our wedding was watching the joy it brought to our loved ones. While I would have been stressed about making so many meaningless decisions (Do we need more votives? Do all the shades of blue match?), my mom and our friends were having the time of their lives. Also, I believe that I am uniquely blessed to have a mom who genuinely wanted my wedding to be mine, not hers. That being said, she loves to plan, and having a no-frills reception would have been a pretty big bummer for her. So she got to plan the flower arrangements, the lighting, all the little details that would have driven me crazy, but those elements let her give me the things that she felt would make it special. I love her for doing all that and for still making it ours.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

Another plus? When our day arrived, my stress level was zero. We hit the courthouse on Friday evening with eleven of our closest family and friends, followed by dinner at a delicious vegetarian restaurant that we love. We spent that night at a hotel in Seattle, and when we arrived back at our house for the reception the next afternoon, it was transformed.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

Our backyard was decked out with beautifully decorated tables, flower arrangements, tons of white lights, and an awesome black-and-white checkered dance floor! There was delicious vegetarian food and a gorgeous dessert table (with my mom’s world famous chocolate chip cookies front and center). We had a homemade photo booth with to-die-for props and personalized wedding mad-libs for our guests to fill out. We were ecstatic and deeply touched that they had gone to all this trouble for us, but the girls reminded us with glee that we hadn’t seen it all yet.Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

After we broke in that fantastic checkered dance floor with the parent dances and our first dance, we were in for one more surprise: A belly dancer glided in and took over the floor for some live entertainment! One of our roommates is a burlesque performer in her spare time (I know, awesome, right?) and she hired a professional belly-dancing friend of hers to perform at our reception. She was fantastic and everyone loved her (even Aaron’s shy dad suddenly appeared in the backyard looking perky), but my favorite part was that she stuck around afterward and gave all our guests a little belly dancing lesson. I remember thinking how blessed we are to be surrounded by people who will gladly look ridiculous in order to have some fun. Almost everyone was out on the dance floor, including Aaron and his older brother, wearing the most serious looks on their faces as they put their best effort into twitching their hips just right!

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

After that, the whole night is a blur of dancing for me. I felt so awed and overjoyed by the fact that none of this would have happened if Aaron and I had planned this on our own. Our little family of wonderful people that we choose to surround ourselves with did this for us, and we danced like lunatics with them all night long. At the end of the night, after the guests had left and the food had been put away, one of our roomies told our friend, “Everything’s done, now we just need to get the bride off the dance floor.”

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

To be honest, a week before the big event I had suddenly begun to worry that a two-day celebration culminating with a seventy-person party at our home was a little overkill. Now, I’m so happy we did it that way. Friday was intimate, emotional, simple, relaxed—exactly how I wanted to make my vows to my partner. Saturday was a whirlwind, an all-out celebration, crazy and overwhelming; it was a way to share a little bit of our joy with everybody we love. It was a long party (a marathon, not a sprint, as our roomies/reception planners warned the guests), but for me it went by in a flash.

Emily & Aaron | A Practical Wedding

We didn’t plan our wedding, and it turned out to be exactly what we wanted.

The Info— Photography: Catherine Abegg of CALIMA Portraits (listed in the APW Vendor Directory) / Dress: Betsey Johnson / Mad-Libs: MTipsy / Rings: Maldonado

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  • http://smittenimmigrant.wordoress.com Pluis

    The last picture really made me melt. Awwww :)

    It’s great to see how you managed to have the best of both worlds – the intimate ceremony with your loved ones as well as the kick-ass party. And leaving so many stressful bits to others? Brilliant. Your roommates deserve awards and you guys get all my congratulations.

    Good luck in the Peace Corps, too!

    • Laura Mc

      Your roommates DO deserve an award. Wow. And your mom too. She sounds so awesome!! Looks like everyone approached things with the right spirit. Kudos and congrats!

  • Liz

    Absolutely beautiful! LOVE the photos. And what an inspiring community story – your roommates are the best.

    Can I please make a request of straight couples? DON’T NOT GET MARRIED BECAUSE WE CAN’T. It serves no practical purpose – it’s not like it’s a zero-sum game, and one couple’s unmarried state creates an opening for another to get married – and to be frank, it can feel a little insulting. (You get to make a choice – we don’t.) Want to support us? Give money to groups fighting for marriage equality. Talk to your unconvinced friends, family, and neighbors about why it’s important. Speak out. But please, please, don’t give up your own happiness because the law is wrong. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t help.

    With that said, when DOMA is repealed, I can only hope I look as pretty in my dress as Emily does. :) I wish you a lifetime of happiness.

    • meg

      I feel that way too (though I respect other people’s right to protest differently). I think the best way to make change is ALWAYS to throw your money around. Give to causes making a difference. Support and help build a LGBTQ supportive wedding industry. Talk, talk, talk. Make your marriage one that’s part of the struggle.

      But all that said, I felt like shit when I signed my civil paperwork.

      • http://www.dearwedding.wordpress.com andee

        I felt sick when I went to the court house and no one questioned our right to get married.

    • http://lezgethitched.blogspot.com Diana

      I 100% agree with you Liz. I had similar conversations with a straight couple I’m close with. After months of back and forth with them and sending along a link to APW, they got engaged on a trip to London last month :)

    • Emily

      I hear you, Liz! We know that boycotting marriage isn’t the most effective route to marriage equality, but it just felt wrong to us to get married when so many of our friends can’t. When we did decide to get hitched, we made an effort to make the wedding “part of the struggle,” as Meg said. We registered at HRC instead of asking for gifts, we made sure our fantastic photographers were equality-friendly, and we included a pro-marriage equality statement in the invites and the ceremony. I know lots of people don’t like to be that political at their weddings, but hey, that’s definitely us :)

      Can’t wait for the day DOMA is repealed and I get to see fabulous pics on here of you in your dress! :)

      • meg

        Hey,
        They can’t stop the WEDDINGS. All they can stop is the fucking paperwork.

    • Nancy

      I said the same thing – “I won’t marry til my gay friends can marry!” – a few years ago and was once and for all rebuffed by a gay friend: “Don’t put your commitment issues on us, girl.”

  • Gigi

    What a great reception! I wish I had friends like that. Congratulations!!!

  • http://lezgethitched.blogspot.com Diana

    I LOVE THIS. Love love love. You both look so happy. And that dress is AMAZEBALLS.

  • Vmed

    Amazing. The concept is amazing, the execution was amazing, you looked amazing, and you’re obviously so in love. Yay!

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

    I feel like the word “amazing” is about to get bandied about a lot in these comments . . . but THIS. IS. AMAZING. Congratulations! Your roomies should go into the wedding planning biz – looks like they know what they’re doing! (Also love the secret messing-with-you package idea. Those are some good friends.)

  • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com Jenn

    “We cannot confirm or deny whether there will be a unicorn petting zoo at the reception.”

    I wish to be friends :)

    • meg

      Me too. I say stuff like that EVERY DAY. And I’m not even planning a secret wedding.

  • Harriet

    Fantastic post. And congratulations to you and your partner for knowing when to sit back and enjoy the gift your people wanted to give you! My mom and my friends did all the set-up for the backyard wedding reception for my partner and me, and it was so hard for me to not feel guilty when they insisted on doing it all. This post is helping me remember that they did exactly what they wanted to do, and we thanked them by having fun (and writing embarrassingly heart-felt thank you notes).

    Best of luck in the Peace Corps.

  • Meg

    I love the phrase “a serious love affair with stress”. I will now be using that to describe several people in my life.

  • http://www.moodeous.com moodeous

    Beautiful post. Beautiful wedding. Beautiful people. Beautiful friends. I’m in love. APW, again with the amazing. What other blog gets to have posts about completely giving over your wedding to someone else and having it be completely magical?

    Good luck in the Peace Corps!

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    “We cannot confirm or deny whether there will be a unicorn petting zoo at the reception.”

    Your friends and family are AWESOME. Plus, this looks like such a joyful wedding. It doesn’t matter who planned it. It was a day of love and laughter and awesomeness. (Can I assume that unicorns just don’t photograph well?)

  • http://hartandsolphoto.com Maddie

    Forget the wedding, this is exactly how I want to live my *life*. Can I borrow your roomies for the next…60 years or so?

  • Erika

    Three comments:
    1. HOTT dress.
    2. What’s with that Peace Corps rule? You have to be MARRIED to apply as a couple? Isn’t it time they change that rule? Huh.
    3. Congratulations! Looks like a super fun wedding.

    • http://intrepidbrytani.wordpress.com Brytani

      I think it has a lot to do with how unmarried couples are perceived in the developing nations they’re helping. Although I’m sure even those perceptions are changing.

  • http://ellenmcsweeney.wordpress.com Ellen

    Oh my god … this reads like a joke! Or a dream! “Mysterious conversations about following up with vendors”!!! That’s AMAZING that you just showed up to a beautiful party like this. You guys must be wonderful people and friends to inspire that kind of hustle. Congratulations, this was so much fun to read!

  • Ashli

    OMG — I am in love with that dress. I would wear it all the time!

    And your roommates? So wonderful! Congrats on a fabulous time and having such wonderful people that want to make you happy! I’m just over a week away and while I don’t feel really nervous, some nights I lie awake and wonder if I’ve gotten everything finished that I needed to that day. Congrats on finding someone to take the stress that wanted it and still enjoying your day!

  • Katherine

    So gorgeous and amazing!

  • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

    I WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH YOUR ROOMMATES!!! Planning my friends’ wedding would be a dream come true. I’m definitely one of those people who, as you said, has an uber-Type A personality and a love affair with stress. I have so many “weddings” in my head (the beach wedding, the winter wonderland wedding, the wine country wedding, etc. I sound like a freak. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.) and it would be such a blast to plan one of my alternate reality weddings for a friend.

  • Abby C.

    Oh, the conflicted feelings I have about this post.

    First, Emily and Aaron, let me me congratulate you on an AWESOME wedding and on having such wonderful friends that they gave you this gift. May your marriage be blessed and may you have great luck in the Peace Corps.

    I must say, though, that I’m in the process of having a (first) wedding planned for me and I ABHORE it. But it’s really important to my mother that people witness my legal ceremony, so I’m letting her steamroll ahead with it. It would be less of an issue if there wasn’t drama surrounding choice of officiant, but that’s the one place where I think it matters and I’m only willing to compromise so far. (Background, FH and I are having what we consider our wedding in a country where FH’s parents live, as his mother is not well enough to travel. Due to local laws, though, we’d have to be residents for 30 days to legally marry, so we’d planned on having an intimate courthouse ceremony with just the two of us first. Mother got wind of it and was Not. Happy.)

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

      I think one of the key points of this story is that the friends and mother of the bride took the couple into consideration and made the day about them and what they would want. This definitely won’t work for every couple.

      I’m really sorry to hear your mother is steamrolling your wedding and making choices you don’t like. If I had left my wedding in my mother’s hands, it would have turned out to be a nightmare for me. I know she wouldn’t have taken our wishes into consideration either.

      I hope you can reclaim the parts of the wedding you care about and let go of the rest.

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

    The dress!

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

    This sounds like heaven. Handing off the planning to friends and family who actually care about what the bride and groom would want sounds amazing. Now I want to plan a wedding for one of my friends. Any takers?

    • Kinzie Kangaroo

      Ummmmm…. :)

  • Marina

    That is A-MAZ-ING. Love it.

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    What a FANTASTIC idea. Worthy of all-caps, IMO.

    • meg

      Let’s throw a wedding, ok?

  • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Ceej

    I think Emily and I might secretly have the same mom…

    Also if anyone wants someone to plan their wedding for them, I am ON IT. I love planning weddings that aren’t mine. My loved ones always think I’m exaggerating about my eventlove and won’t let me take on their party planning. But for realz, people. I am at your disposal.

  • FawMo

    Emily and Aaron, fab-u-lous wedding. The joy and community love just radiates out of these photos. I’ve got two questions:

    1. Are you in Seattle and if so, get thee to the book club! I want to talk unicorn petting zoos.

    2. If you don’t mind sharing, in whatever level of detail you feel like, how did the finances work when non-family planned the wedding?

    • http://www.bluscelebrations.com bec

      I have to second the book club thing. Talking unicorns and burlesque … it will be a fun night.

      Also: {I later found out it contained only a card for the girls that said, “There’s nothing in here. I just love messing with Emily.”} Ummm, we might be related. That is so something my family would do as well.

      Congratulations. You are lucky to have so much love and support surrounding you guys. What a great way to start a marriage!!

    • Emily

      1. Book club in Seattle? Yes please! Where and when? Clearly I’m out of the loop :)

      2. Here’s how the finances worked: The roomies ran ideas past my mom to make sure they were within budget (she basically told them, “Go, and I’ll tell you when to stop”) and they kept a running total, which my parents reimbursed them for. Fortunately they’re all great communicators and super organized – my mom told me at one point that one of the girls sent her an email saying she was 9 cents up :)

      One of my favorite details that I didn’t mention in the post: My mom kept all the emails, planning lists, photos used as inspiration, etc and compiled it all in a binder for me to keep at the end. She has a similar book from when she planned her wedding (including her handwritten playlist, articles she used from ’80s bridal magazines, and her packing list for her honeymoon) which I found and LOVED flipping through. Can’t wait to show mine to my daughter some day!

      • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com d-day

        well this story just got more amazing. I think I have a big crush on your mom if that’s ok to say.

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

    AMAZING! Love the story, love the dress, love the wedding, love your friends & family. Congrats & best wishes~

  • http://www.calimaportraits.com Catherine Abegg

    I’m so very happy that you featured this post! Aaron & Emily were so much fun to work with–the kind of couple that I was sad to leave, and was trying to figure out a way to hang out with them again. When I asked her what she about submitting their lovely story to APW, I was so pleased to hear that yours was one of the only blogs that she read as she “prepared” for their wedding… so it was totally meant to be!

    If it’s okay, I also wanted to share the photos from the photographer who was at their courthouse ceremony: http://thesopebox.blogspot.com/2011/09/aaron-emily-there-was-time-in-dubai.html They’re super fun too, and worth a look-see.

    Thanks for commemorating Aaron & Emily as Wedding Graduates! So perfect!!!

    • meg

      OH MY GOD. Look at these pictures you guys!!!!!

    • Emily

      Oooh Catherine I love you!! Thanks so much for posting the link to Amy’s photos too (she proves that courthouse weddings can be magical)! Clearly, the only major thing Aaron and I cared about was that we had FANTASTIC photographers along the entire time!

    • Laurel

      Amazeballs.

      Those shoes!

  • http://daisytosunflower.blogspot.com HiLLjO

    THANK YOU. I am so sick of people bashing “trends” in a general way. If the wedding is meaningful, well dammit, what’s wrong with that?
    A wedding doesn’t have to “be” anything. It can just be. Whether it is planned by loving family or you and your fiance, it should be meaningful no matter what.

    Great wedding and great blog. OMG so happy I found you.

  • http://acreswild.tumblr.com Violet

    OMG that dress!

  • http://medeamaterial.com Juliana

    This sounds so awesome! It takes special people to just sit back and let themselves enjoy a celebration in their honor… and everything looks awesome. Congratulations!

  • http://www.agirlherblog.com/ agirl

    This is the best thing since sliced bread. Absolutely loving it.

  • http://www.thehandmadeevent.com Kari

    This is amazeballs. I love that couples can say that they really don’t want to get into the details about planning their wedding and it works out great! Not everyone cares about the wedding – and as long as the couple cares about the marriage, that is what matters. It is fantastic that your roomies/friends and family did this for you.

    I love the idea of planning a full event without any input (with or without unicorns). I have never gotten to do it – so much of my planning is collaborating with the couple – but I’m excited that I had a request from a couple who just want to show up in NYC and get married and want me to arrange everything! They just bring their clothes and meet me at the venue and I am so looking forward to it – I am hoping that it goes this well (though I would be surprised if she could find such an awesome dress). Much congrats to you both (and if your roomies want to join the brigade of sane wedding planners, Ang, Elizabeth, Bec and I could probably find seats at the next secret club meeting)

  • Pingback: Aaron + Emily | Seattle Film Photographer » CALIMA Portraits()

  • http://www.suncentered.com Jen @sunCentered

    I LOVE your dress! The lace makes it wedding-y, but could be worn anytime! I have been thinking a lot about that lately.

    So awesome that your roomies planned everything! I would be disappointed at the lack of unicorn petting zoos, though. ;)

    • http://www.suncentered.com Jen @sunCentered

      PS world famous chocolate chip cookies?? Where is the recipe?!

  • http://MTipsy.etsy.com Michelle

    Emily what a phenomenal collection of memories! I’m thrilled to have been a small part of your oh so special day. Thank you for sharing!
    Cheers to you and Aaron,
    Michelle
    MTipsy.etsy.com

  • http://www.4realequalityweddings.com Emily

    Thats just awesome.

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