*Katie Jane, Elopement Photographer & John, Engineer at Etsy*
Today’s wedding graduate post is one I’ve been waiting for, for a long long time. Katie Jane is a long time reader of APW who left a crazy joy filled comment from her honeymoon where she raved about her wedding and happened to mention the wedding photography business she was starting. One thing lead to another, and she’s become one of APW’s go-to elopement photographers in NYC. But today’s post is about her wedding and, more importantly, about why we really get married and what it all means. It’s about the impossible transience of our lives and why that makes the huge love of a wedding day matter. That, and the joy shining out of Our Labor of Love’s pictures is absolutely palpable.
John and I got engaged on the first day of spring in 2009. We were watching TV when he turned to me and said, “Do you want to get hitched?” I thought he was kidding, “Yeah, right.” “No… seriously… do you want to get hitched?” “What? Are you serious?” He nodded. I started sobbing but somehow managed to say yes. The next day he took me out to pick a ring.
We love a good party, but we had little enthusiasm for wedding planning, so we started planning an elopement—Hawaii on our fifth anniversary: October 9, 2010. We were just going to run off and do it and it would be amazing.
Both our families were thrilled we’d decided to get married. They were not thrilled about being left out and had no problem letting us know. “Well, what if we just decide to go to Hawaii at the same time?” While John held fast, they started to get into my head. I worried I was going to be missing out on something huge.
A few months after we got engaged we were sitting on our terrace drinking beers, talking about the future. “I think I want a wedding,” I said, out of nowhere. John, who knows me so well, smiled, “I knew it was only a matter of time before our elopement became a wedding.” We talked about the good and bad of a wedding—he didn’t think “because I’m worried I’m missing out” should be our only reason for having one. We took a while to mull it over and finally came to the conclusion yes, we’d have a wedding, but we’d do it on our terms. And so it began.
Deciding to have a wedding didn’t make us suddenly interested in wedding planning. We decided to do it together, to prioritize what was important and not worry about the rest, to go with our instincts, and if something didn’t come together… oh well.
I designed our save the dates, invitations, menus, and programs myself. We had a friend who is an awesome DJ and booked him about a year before our wedding at a much lower cost than a typical New York City DJ. Our photographers gave us a deal on their travel expenses because they were already scheduled to be in New York City that weekend anyway. Since I could not have cared less about flowers or centerpieces, when John’s aunt offered to hire a florist, I told her to go for it. I wanted fall colors, but other than that, I didn’t care what anything looked like. (Giving up control and letting John’s aunt do that for us was one of the best decisions we made.) I found the perfect shoes for $20 online. A close family friend agreed to become ordained and officiate our wedding, so we didn’t have to have someone we didn’t know marrying us. Everything was coming together perfectly. Until it wasn’t.
A month before the wedding everything started to get a little hectic. I hated my dress. Actually… I loved my dress, but I had very bad feelings associated with it. The day I picked it out was not a good day in wedding planning land, and whenever I put on the dress, all those awful feelings would rush back. Our DJ called one day out of the blue to tell me he couldn’t be at our wedding anymore because he “had another gig come up,” but he had a friend that would step up and DJ for us. WHAAAAAAT? It was an incredibly awkward situation—I felt backed into a corner—but when the new DJ said we could pay him whatever we wanted, I felt like we should just do it. We were less than a month away from the wedding—it was this new DJ—Tim Martell—or an iPod. So we took a chance and went for Tim. Then one of my best friends/bridesmaids just completely dropped out of my life—she stopped answering calls and emails, I didn’t know if she was still coming to the wedding or not. I still have no idea what happened and why she disappeared from my life without warning. I feel dramatic for saying it was one of the most devastating things to happen to me, but… it was. Realizing that she would not be there on my wedding day was heartbreaking. I couldn’t imagine doing this without her standing by my side.
I started to feel like I just wanted to get it over with. Maybe this whole thing was a mistake. (Not the getting married part, the having a wedding part.) And then I got a wake up call. I was getting ready to head out to shoot an engagement session one Saturday a couple of weeks before our wedding, and John was on his way to Brooklyn on his bicycle to meet some friends. About fifteen minutes after he left, he called me. He was calm, but he sounded weird, “Don’t freak out, but I was just in an accident in Midtown.”
The bike path he normally takes was closed off, and he’d had to go down another street. A taxi had pulled in front of him and stopped short—he tried to swerve and was thrown from his bike. He came down on the sidewalk, face first. Four off his front teeth were just gone. His mouth was full of shards. His left arm was fractured. He was bloodied and bruised. Had he not been wearing a helmet, he may not have survived. (PSA: Always wear a helmet, people!)
Although I had spent almost a year and a half not stressing about making this wedding come together—I had somehow gotten to this point just before the wedding where I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I had been so focused on everything that was going wrong that I had lost sight a of what the real end goal was: for John and I to bond our lives together. Everything else was incidental. It took me coming scarily close to losing my groom altogether to remember that. So I felt weird about my dress… so our DJ bailed at the last minute… so one of my closest friends wasn’t there… so our menus came back from the printer two days before the wedding completely messed up. Oh well. We’d roll with it. John would be there, and I would be there, and it didn’t matter what I was wearing or what music was playing. We’d be married.
And that’s what happened. We danced our faces off and ate and drank and cried and laughed like crazy. John abandoned his sling for the night, and I kept jumping into his arms, forgetting he had a broken arm. (Whoopsie.) John’s brother wrote us a song. I literally hugged every person there about twenty times each. I watched all my friends and family come together with all of John’s friends and family, and everyone partied like they’d all known each other forever. And our DJ ended up being amazing: Tim Martell stands head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd.
When I think about my wedding, I don’t think about the ruined menus or even my dress. I think about how I felt as John slipped my ring onto my finger. I think about kissing my new husband over and over all night. And I think of him twirling me in circles on the dance floor, my dress flying up around me, and everyone we love standing around us singing and clapping and laughing. A lot of little things went wrong all day long, but we got the really big thing right.