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