*Becca, Environmental and Alternative Fuel Consultant & Jason, E-Commerce and Marketing Manager*
This week, we wanted to talk about the good parts and hard parts and complicated parts of being a woman. We wanted to talk about feminism, and the pressures of life, and the pressures of wedding planning and building a life together. And as far as I was concerned, there was no better person to speak to this than Becca. Many of you know Becca from her wedding planning writing at A Los Angeles Love. These days, as she figures out what’s next, she’s blogging eloquently and smart as ever at Stumble and Leap. She also happens to be my roommate at Camp Mighty this weekend (it’s going to be an awesome weekend, clearly). So today I’m honored to get to share her deeply wise and profoundly well written letter to her newly engaged self, as well as the story of her wedding, with pictures by APW Sponsor Kelly Prizel. You all should read it, wedding planning or not. It’s that kind of post.
Congratulations! You just got engaged! I can see that you’re a combination of bouncing-off-the-wall happiness mixed with detailed excel budget panics mixed with eff-you-effing-eff-this-wedding-bs rage. In fact, you’ve already hit meltdown territory, and it’s only been two weeks. (Of course, this doesn’t surprise me. You’ve always been an overachiever.) You knew you could do this wedding thing better, cheaper and more fabulously than anyone else in expensive-city Los Angeles. You knew that months of pre-engaged research and your event planning background would make this easy. You knew that you’d bypass those nasty wedding planning fights because you and Jason have an uncanny ability to talk through disagreements instead of fighting.
Now that a whole two weeks of engagement have disabused you of these notions—here’s a glass of wine and a hug. In fact, here’s a whole bottle of wine, because you’re going to need it. I wish I could offer you sage advice from the other side, but I know now that you’ll have to learn it yourself. The hard way. The very hard way.
You can repeat APW wisdom on a mental loop (you will) and it will help a great deal (really and truly) but you are still going to fall apart a bit. Okay, a lot. Like right before you finally make peace with your budget when you realize you simply can’t throw a 150 person dinner party in Los Angeles for $15,000 when you don’t have a magical free backyard venue or self-catering abilities or enough time for cost-saving DIY. And that’s okay. And your eventual budget will be okay. You were frugal as heck where you had to be, sensible about the splurges that mattered, and smart about about the I-just-don’t-care-I-will-pay-to-make-it-go-away issues.
Somewhere along the way you realized this wedding was an investment. You were investing in the oh-so-important time it takes to nurture a new family. You were investing in a Thank You to the people who supported you along the way. You were investing in this single chance to get both of your far-flung families and friends in one place at one time. Squabbling over another $100 wasn’t going to make or break you, but the ongoing arguments probably were. You never loved the total budget tally, but you loved every piece of your wedding day, and so the money you spent was worth it.
I wish that you could hear this and believe it. Really and truly know it in your soul and not just because you’ve been trying to calm yourself with a wedding zen mantra. Because here’s the thing: your wedding will be worth it. In fact, it will be everything you need it to be. And more.
While it may be worth it, it won’t ever be easy. There will be fights. There will be breakdown moments, some over important things (having a small intimate wedding versus a large inclusive wedding) and some over unimportant things (stop stressing out about the free ugly chairs. Seriously. Stop it now. They aren’t thaaaaat ugly and no one noticed once they were sitting in them. Period.)
But because it was hard, you’ll learn things. Important things. Like that you and Jason fight fairly, and that long walks are the best way to talk through your problems. You’ll learn that you can make it in your relationship, even when things are dark and horrible and you haven’t had a non-crisis or non-wedding conversation in months because you’re both literally working until the wee hours of the morning and still trying to plan a wedding. You’ll learn that you can be lonely in your relationship but that long-term love is built on faith, trust and forcibly stolen moments. You’ll learn that you will each do whatever it takes, including braving Costco with a raging bachelor/bachelorette party hangover the weekend before your wedding, because it needed to get done and because you can always count on each other.
You’ll also learn that you have a true community, and they’ll be there for you in ways that go far beyond hosting showers, bachelorette parties, baking your wedding cake, playing your ceremony music, buying wholesale flowers at 6am, or setting everything up the morning of your wedding. You’ll learn to forgive your mother for being disappointed that your wedding choices don’t match hers because she was your rock and she made magic out of your rehearsal dinner celebration. You’ll learn how close Jason’s family is, and how special it feels to become a true part of that over the course of a wedding weekend.
And you’ll learn that it’s okay to indulge in fluff. In fact, because tight budgets mean every choice is deliberate and shaped by highly practical constraints, you’ll need fluff. You don’t need a wedding full of it, of course. Nor does fluff need to be expensive. But you absolutely need to indulge in sheer superficial beauty and fluff. Wedding planning will often feel like you’re being crushed by exceedingly practical realities and yet also like you have to simultaneously scream “are you crazy? Who the eff decided we needed party favors at weddings?” Even the ceremonies themselves are a contradictory mix of practical promises and formal agreements that are built on wisps of hope that this particular marriage will last and love where so many others have crumbled.
After being sensible with so many of your decisions (and yes, sensible includes some expensive choices) you need something entirely impractical. You need those wisps of hope and ephemeral beauty to be part of your day. For you, it’s not going to be about crafting or letterpressed invitations, so you can stop drooling over those now. (Even thought they’re gorgeous. Obviously.) Because for you, it will be about your hair, makeup, and attire.
It will take you time to understand that you’re not buying into the Pretty Pretty Princess Day wedding cr*p when you obsess a bit about your attire. But you’ll learn that it’s not about being the center of attention or because it’s The Most Photographed Day Of Your Life And You Have To Look Perfect. No. For you, it will be because your attire, hair, and makeup are completely, entirely, selfishly yours in your wedding, after so many compromises along the way. And once you make peace with that, you’ll also have to learn that your wedding day attire isn’t self-definitional. It will simply express who you are on a particular day (30-years-old, a comfortable mix of elegant and earthy, a little bit fierce, and entirely in love) and will fit your particular venue and celebration (outdoor wedding in a hippie community with a casual-ish taco truck fiesta). And for you, the jewelery, your friend-made hairflower, and your friend-made bouquet will be more important than your simple $200 Nordstrom dress, so allow yourself to discover your own meaning, well outside the bridal salon and perfect dress expectations.
I know you’re probably chafing against this advice. I hated all the “you’ll sees” and elusive promises of wedding zen, but it’s the best I can give you. Even if words could describe it properly, the best part of your wedding will be experiencing the particular way in which the wedding magic unfolds for you.
I can’t explain how it will feel to fall asleep the night before your wedding with a clenched-hard jaw and gritty commitment to just get through the next day. But, even better, I can’t explain how you will feel light-as-air when you wake up the next morning free from expectation, and how your wedding day will be full of expansive, weightless-yet-weighty, joy. I can’t explain how it will feel to take your first quiet moment with Jason in months, as you share a wedding morning breakfast while overlooking the canyon where you’ll get married. There’s no way to describe how relief and joy mingle when you arrive at your venue and find ten friends and family members already on site at 9am, with coffee, ready to string papel picado from the rafters and set up chairs on the field. Or how it feels to watch the soul of a wedding unfold as your community gathers around to make your wedding happen and come to life, with friendship-love and family-love and romantic-love layering upon each other in the most perfect expression of joy you’ve ever experienced.
I know you despise cliches, but your wedding will really will be the best day of your life (so far). It became more than your heartfelt hopes about welcoming and building family. Something changed that day. Your family and friends stood with you. For you. They helped create something bigger and became part of your promise. They opened their hearts to you in new ways, because they all know what it means to make this commitment. They know that the promise is solemn and huge, but they can only hint at it with tears of joy in their eyes. “We know,” they say. “And we can see that you know too. Marriage is laced with struggle and pain because life is shot through with overwhelming challenges, but it’s worth it because you have someone to rely on. Someone to love. Someone to laugh with. Someone to make it a little bit better when it’s hard.” They know. And on your wedding day, you will share that wisdom in the flashes of 150 beaming smiles, and you will feel the weight of your promise deep in your soul.
The wedding is a conversation where we speak in tears and hugs and tipsy joyous dance floor singalongs. When you say yes, your community says yes. That raw, ragged, expression of love opens hearts so wide that something important changes. Your wedding will matter.
Congratulations on your engagement. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I say that with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart because I know these next 18 months of planning will be hard. But I also know, with fierce conviction and giddy joy, that the challenges along the way will be worth it.
The Info — Photography: Kelly Prizel Photography / Venue: Topanga Community Club / Catering: Border Grill Taco Truck / Coordinator: Sweet Emilia Jane / DJ: The Flashdance / Invitations: Up Up Creative / Dress, Wrap: Nordstrom Wedding Shop / Hair Flower: TruLu Couture / Suit: Jason’s closet (originally from Theory) / Tie: Tie Obsessed / Flowers: Los Angeles Flower District / Ketubah: Fresh Ketubah Design