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Francie & Matthew

*Francie, Grad Student in Public Policy & Matthew, Counselor*

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

Turns out, I’ve REALLY been missing wedding graduate posts (and I’m sure I’m not the only one, so if you’ve been pondering it for forever, now is the time to submit yours). Because Francie’s post hit me in the gut and reminded me why weddings are so powerful. (Powerful enough that I like thinking about them all these years after mine.) It’s not because they’re pretty, and oddly, not even because of the love, exactly. They are endlessly fascinating to me because they are about two people going through a powerful moment of transition and learning something from it. As Francie says, “A wedding, like a marriage, is not about bringing things under control.” It’s about something else entirely. Let’s discuss.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

Just after Matthew and I got engaged, we spent five days at a silent meditation retreat, together, but not together. We slept in separate buildings, didn’t speak at all, but would see each other during the day, on the other side of the meditation hall or during meals.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

It was a perfect way to let everything settle—the hugeness of what we were about to do, the intention I wanted to set for our married life. And, of course, it was a fabulous opportunity to contemplate various techniques for making enough lasagna for a hundred people all by myself. Let me tell you, when there are five days of silence and a wedding to plan, I know how to keep myself occupied.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

I am a planner. I love to make lists and spreadsheets, and I love thinking through details until they are settled, resolved, and mostly under control. This served me well for much of our wedding planning and really, much of my life. We did figure out where to find enough lasagna for one hundred people on the cheap, even if I wasn’t the one who made it (hint: Whole Foods!).

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

We found a spectacular farm willing to host us and a whole crew of friends who camped out. I thought through every tiny aspect of the day and the weekend, list making, supplies stocking, project managing. But here’s the thing that I learned slowly through this process. A wedding, like a marriage, is not about bringing things under control.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

From the beginning, we wanted the ceremony to be the most important part of the wedding (followed in close second by a throwdown dance party). We both felt strongly about this, believing in the importance of ritual and wanting our community to participate in a ceremony that felt like a genuine expression of our intentions. But the thing is, just what that ceremony would look like was an open question. I found myself wishing that we were Christian or Jewish or belonging to any sort of established religion. Then, I thought, it would be easier to connect to a tradition that spoke to us and to make our wedding about something bigger than ourselves.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

It’s not that our lives have lacked any kind of religious tradition. It’s just that we have yet to settle on our own. Matthew’s parents are devout Christians, actively involved in their church, and my parents were Buddhists for many years. Matthew has considered himself a Buddhist since I met him, and I’m an in-betweener, wary of labels, noncommittal, skeptical at times, and inspired at others. There was something about getting married, though, that made me feel like we needed to settle on a particular kind of spirituality that fit the both of us. And there was something about the ceremony that seemed to embody all of this. It wasn’t just about saying our vows; it was about defining our spiritual life together.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

Needless to say, my spreadsheet-list-making-planning skills did not prove to be as useful in this domain of wedding planning. I struggled to even express why it all felt so hard and so confusing and basically awkward. There were lots of long, emotional conversations, endless combing of the internet for Buddhist-inspired wedding ceremony ideas. We would come up with a plan that seemed alright, and then it would suddenly strike me as totally inauthentic and stiff and just not me. Up until the rehearsal, I felt this nagging sense of anxiety that I wouldn’t feel totally myself at this moment that felt so pivotal.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

In retrospect, this whole agonizing process was about embracing the fact that getting married is one giant leap into the unknown. It’s not about figuring it all out, or defining our future in specific terms.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

On our wedding day, as I walked in to the garden where all of our friends and family were waiting, my mom squeezed my hand and reminded me to be present. I remember the vividness of the trees against the blue sky, the smell of the flowers, the breeze. Beyond that, the details are slippery. I don’t remember what the officiant said as he introduced the ceremony, but I remember the feeling of listening, holding Matthew’s hand, letting it all fall into place.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

Here we were, surrounded by so many people we love, in this garden, on this day, committing to the wide-open mystery of the rest of our lives together. Our friends read poems, and my sister sang. We made offerings on a homemade shrine to the six Paramitas, as is the Buddhist tradition, and read vows that we had written to each other.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

To close the ceremony, the officiant threw rice and chanted the Four Immeasurables:

May all beings enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May we not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.
May we dwell in the great equanimity free from passion, aggression and ignorance.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

The gong rang three times and hung in the air until the garden was quiet, then we walked up the aisle to the opening chords of one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. And later that night we had the greatest dance party of my life, under a full moon.

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

Five months in to our married life, we still don’t know what religion we are. I don’t think we ever will. We still have juicy, complicated, and sometimes emotional conversations about it. I think we always will. That’s the point, right?

Francie & Matthew | A Practical Wedding

The Info—Photography: Patrick Haywood as well as friends & family/ Venue: Green Oaks Creek Farm

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  • Christina McPants

    Interfaith ceremonies are so difficult to navigate! Planning my Pagan/Christian ceremony where we talked about but did not name the divine was not easy. Thank you for sharing yours (and man, this looks like a blast!).

  • Megan2

    How do you always know the exact right post, on the exact right day what I have the question!

    I’ve been agonizing over lists of things all weekend, all morning, all the time. If I just plan it more, if I just make more decisions, if I just …. handle this properly nothing Bad will happen. We’ll live Happily Ever After. And of course we will, just not in that fairy tale way that is so settled & specific. The way I keep trying to make it go, when I know that is unrealistic. And just a set up for disappointment.

    As if it all needs to be some version of Perfect, that I’ve never been in my life!

    Mantra for today – “In retrospect, this whole agonizing process was about embracing the fact that getting married is one giant leap into the unknown. It’s not about figuring it all out, or defining our future in specific terms.”

  • DNA

    I find this really fascinating because Buddhism treats marriage as a completely secular thing and not a sacrament (it’s a strictly civil affair) so there is no template for what a “Buddhist” wedding looks like. In Thailand, where I grew up, Buddhism was never a part of any of the weddings I went to. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that Buddhism isn’t or shouldn’t be incorporated into a wedding. In the U.S. and Europe where religion is so tightly intertwined with weddings, I can see why many American Buddhists incorporate Buddhism into their weddings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that as a Buddhist myself, I can relate to the difficulty of figuring out what a wedding ceremony should look like when there are no specific rules and the individuals or larger community get to decide for themselves what works best for them, which can be difficult and liberating at the same time.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Sounds like your wedding has just the “vibe” we’re hoping to create.
    And I love your hair!

  • Helen

    “I’m an in-betweener, wary of labels, noncommittal, skeptical at times, and inspired at others.”

    I feel a little like this, too. My wife and I are both in-betweeners, though, which I think made it easier for us to plan the wedding, spirituality-wise, together– but still, it was difficult sometimes in how we related to our families and other loved ones.

    Your wedding looked to be so full of joy. Congratulations!

  • PA

    These pictures are so full of happiness! SO full.

    And the post is very full of wisdom, as well – I hope to apply it to our also-undetermined religion situation. Thank you!

  • DorieG

    Wow … does this line, “”A wedding, like a marriage, is not about bringing things under control” ever resonate with me.

    My fiance and I are both Jewish, so creating the ceremony was pretty easy for us (we knew, from going to other Jewish weddings, what we did and did not want to do/say), it is a slew of sort-of last minute requests on us that are making me feel like things are spinning out of control. My fi’s family wanted to meet my mine before our wedding weekend “meet & greet” event, so we planned a small dinner with immediate family, but now , of course, other relatives are hurt that they aren’t invited. Other people are asking us to have breakfast with them, or visit with them, or (granted, this request was directed only to me) to please have a hair and nails party…the list goes on…

    These requests are especially stressful for two reasons: As a 2nd time bride, I wanted to elope or have a tiny wedding, but as a 1st time groom, my fiance wanted the whole event; also, my family is small, far-flung, and meets very infrequently, while my fi’s family is huge, lives within a tri-state area in the Northeas, and sees each other _all_ the time. While this may not sound as significant as crafting a ceremony or establishing one’s religion, I’m finding that deciding whose requests to honor (say “yes” to) _is_ defining us as a couple to others. Case in point: If we say “No” to another lunch request, then does that mean I/we are sending a message to my new in-laws/his immediate family that we won’t value family get-togethers to the same degree that they do and have in the past?

    I keep telling myself that in the end, the most important thing is that we will be married, and that if things don’t go the way I want everything will still be OK, but not being able to have total control over these requests when I’m making several huge life changes (a marriage, a move to a new state, not working) is, well, just plain hard.

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  • KA

    “We would come up with a plan that seemed alright, and then it would suddenly strike me as totally inauthentic and stiff and just not me.”

    I had a similar struggle with writing (or more appropriately, curating because I blatantly stole from the great ladies of the interwebs) our ceremony. It was so at odds with the logistics-centric planning that I’d been focused on, and everything felt so awkward on paper. In the end we had to trust that wedding ceremonies read on paper completely differently than how they feel in person, and we wound up with the perfect ceremony for us that our guests wouldn’t stop raving about. In the end, it was easily the best part of the day.

    • youlovelucy

      I got a preview of this, I think, after having the same feelings about writing our ceremony. I handed it back over to our officiant (my maid of honor’s father), and made him cry during lunch rush at a Panera Bread. Oops?

      • KA

        :-D Yup! Our officiant’s enthusiasm (Genevieve – – she did YayNY! – NYers hire her!) definitely made the difference between outright panic and mild concern as to how our secular ceremony would resonate with guests used to Long Island Catholic tradition. Sounds like you’re good to go!

  • Class of 1980

    “Five months in to our married life, we still don’t know what religion we are. I don’t think we ever will. We still have juicy, complicated, and sometimes emotional conversations about it. I think we always will. That’s the point, right?”

    I just breathed a sigh of relief.

    Your narrative had me concerned that you were going to try to nail down what you believe because the occasion seemed to demand it. But belief doesn’t work on a schedule.

    Thank God you are still having complicated conversations about it. That is real. Best wishes for a happy marriage.

  • youlovelucy

    It’s really refreshing to read the thoughts of another person who identifies as being label-wary and in between faiths. I don’t know that Bryan and I will ever identify as a specific religion, but I think I cherish the talks we have over any security that attaching a label to myself may or may not bring.

    When it came to our ceremony, we used the structure of something that would be familiar to our parents, but changed the wording of the pieces to reflect our faith (or quasi-belief in a higher power, in Bryan’s case). I like it, but I’ll let everyone know how it turns out in 12 days. ;)

  • Jo

    My husband and I are of different faiths – he is an agnostic estranged Catholic, I am basically interfaith Christian/Buddhist/Unitarian – and putting together the ceremony for us was similarly the most important part of the day and similarly “about defining our spiritual life together.” Which made it tricky and a little bit fraught. What I learned by approaching this together and with love is that I had to both be intensely creative about what would reflect my spirituality as well as be intensely flexible. I had some ideas that I thought would perfectly honor my desire for deep spiritual meaning and his discomfort with organized religion… and when I presented them he vetoed them immediately. So it took us some navigating. Which made it incredibly meaningful when we did finally figure out some things we were both excited about. And it led into some of those great “juicy, complicated, and sometimes emotional conversations” that Francie talked about too. And in the end, it turned out to be a very peaceful and joyful experience. Glad to see it was for you two as well!

    My greatest lesson about marriage so far has been that it isn’t about figuring it all out before you get married, it’s about realizing this is the person you want to spend your life figuring it out with.

    This was an excellent wedding grad post. And yes, I also have been missing them!

  • Lisa

    Wow. I think this is one of the best wedding graduate posts ever. So beautifully written, and so true to the way I feel life. Thank you.

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