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Wedding Undergraduates: What It’s All For


So last week was adventure week on APW, and holy moly, what an adventure we got (whoopsy!). A pregnancy announcement, two posts on weight, and the announcement of our new P&G partnership, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. So for this week, which is a holiday week here in The States, we’re lightening things up. It’s vignettes week. Short stories about planning, weddings that were planned quickly and easily. Good reads, but stuff you can read on your iPad by the pool (as I hope many of you will get to do, since that’s the staff’s plan). So after our discussion of why we get hitched (or don’t) this morning, we have a post from Erin about temporary wedding planning insanity, and how maybe, just maybe, that’s a perfectly ok thing.

Wedding Undergraduates: What Its All For | A Practical Wedding

It was as I was frantically rubbing WD40 onto the sixty-seventh dusty mason jar—with two-hundred-some-odd left to scrub—that I said aloud to myself in the empty garage, “What am I doing? What is this all for?”

The easy answer was, I was removing labels from the “antique” canning jars (read: awesome and old, but also covered in dust, rust, and mouse detritus from being in an elderly woman’s basement. $100 for 350 of them had seemed like an incredible deal at the time) with WD40, which Google said was the best way to do it. These were the jars from which our wedding guests would drink their microbrew beer, and would also be filled with wildflowers and scattered around the tables at our reception. Obviously. But they couldn’t be used in their current state, as much as I insisted to my guy that a “wash your own jar” station at our reception would be fun for all ages.

This easy answer was a checkmark on my list of “Stuff To Do For The Wedding,” which I realized in the car that morning was three months away (or 96 days, according to my daily email reminder). THREE MONTHS. SO MANY THINGS TO DO AND PERSONALIZE AND CRAFT AND PLAN. With that thought as motivation, I pulled into the Michael’s parking lot to pick up some stationery for signage and ribbons for escort cards. THREE MONTHS. After the stationery, I stopped by several local stores to find boxes to transport aforementioned mason jars to and fro—something I hadn’t thought of until now—and was met by several disgruntled store managers. Apparently, I’m not the only one in need of lots of free boxes these days. Fifteen minutes later, unscathed and with an armful of boxes, I got back in my car—THREE MONTHS—and promptly had a panic attack.

What is it all for?

When my guy and I got engaged last September (and as a longtime APW reader), I thought I was versed in the dangers of the WIC. I knew that it would be so easy to fall down the rabbit hole and be lured into a world of sparkles and money and wedding fluff. We pledged that we would stay true to ourselves and our relationship as we planned this wedding. In the end it was all about the commitment we were making to each other.

Fast-forward nine months, and here we are, three months away from our big day. Every night, as half-finished projects race through my mind and keep me from sleeping, I have to remind myself that a perfect wedding does not lay the groundwork for a perfect marriage. Every day, as just-one-more-thing-to-plan is uncovered, I have to make a conscious effort to keep my (once) level head. My sanity is threatened by the long-lost relative that just has to be invited, and addressing the envelopes for my own surprise bridal shower, and choosing the perfect first dance song, and making just one more decision that—really, when it comes down to it—will not have an effect on our life together after September 29, 2012.

My wedding manifesto could have all sorts of titles, like “How to Plan an Ecumenical Wedding with Opinionated Catholics,” or “Defending Your Nontraditional Wedding Choices,” or “The Challenges of Living with Your Future In-Laws as You Plan Your Wedding,” or “How to Have a Say When You Don’t Have the Funds,” or “Motherless Brides: The Heartache of a Parent’s Absence.” I could write a tome on each title, paper my walls with rants and frustrations and tears and fights, talk until I’m blue in the face about societal expectations and the corrupt capitalism of the modern wedding and how we—all of us—are socialized to believe that this is the Biggest Day Of Our Lives.

But, seriously, what is it all for?

It was that thought that gave me pause, grimy and slightly high from cleaning fumes, in my future in-laws’ garage, surrounded by antique jars. (I know, the scene would be pretty hilarious if I didn’t feel so desperate.) It’s for us. It’s because I love that nerdy, bearded man so much that 350 dusty jars are a drop in the bucket. It’s because he holds my hand when we sleep and makes me giggle and reads to me in Latin. It’s because we’re committing our lives to each other, to hold in the palm of our hands and shape our futures together. And we want those closest to us to witness our extraordinary commitment, the small miracle of fusing two lives together. It’s that simple, and that complex.

Bunting and burlap and pies be damned, he will be my husband on September 30, and all the days after.

The moral here is, getting swept up weddingness is not always a bad thing, and goodness knows it’s easy to do. Maybe we should be swept up—planning a wedding is such a whirlwind emotions and expectations and anticipation, of course my level head has taken her leave. This moral doesn’t do much to relieve my anxiety, and doesn’t really free me from my never-ending list. But it does justify the thought and emotion put into this day. And maybe that’s what it’s all for.

Or maybe the moral is to always use WD40 in a well-ventilated area, or nervous breakdowns and temporary enlightenment may ensue.

Photo by: Cassandra Allen Photography

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  • Daynya

    I too am about (just under) 3 months from the big day. I keep saying, three months. Three months! THREE MONTHS! I am currently still collecting old jars (just recycling ours, and stealing them from friends), but greatly looking forward to said state of nervous breakdowns and enlightenment. So I keep having that same thought. What is this all for? Is anyone REALLY going to care if we give out a few of my favorite homemade cookies as favors? Probably not. Will anyone really be affected by us not being able to play music as loudly as I’d like? Probably not. It has been nice though, having details to focus on. I’ve enjoyed hunting down addresses, making appointments, personalizing invitations, etc. It gives me a healthy outlet for the uncontrollable amount of energy that is building. I still have a ton more to figure out, and to do, as most of it can’t be done until this last home stretch any way, but I am looking forward to the chaos. Check in with me in 2.5 months, and I’m sure I will be pulling my hair out, but whatever. :) Best of luck with the rest of your jars, and preparation!

  • http://www.thebluegrasstrifecta.com Alicia

    I’m also a September 29, 2012 bride and recently had the “three months?!” freakout. I’m trying to keep calm, but I feel like that’s just going to bite me in the ass in another month or so. So yes, “Bunting and burlap and pies be damned, he will be my husband on September 30, and all the days after.” Thanks for reminding me (as I resist the temptation to harass the caterer just one…more…time…)

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  • Katie

    Go Erin and Michael! The LA APWers totally support you and are willing to listen when you’ve had enough of that countdown.

    • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

      Ditto!!

  • Laura

    I’m also at the 3-month mark (hey, September brides!), and OMG YES to all this. Stuffing the wedding invitations this weekend brought one some unexpected, MAJOR “holy guacamole it’s 3 months what??” freakouts. But it’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

  • SaraB

    Another Sept. 29th bride here with the same freak out. I’ve been trying to keep the panic reined in for my sanity and that of my fiance, but it is getting harder and harder to calm down. I keep telling myself and everyine else that, “we’ll be married at the end of the day, so everything else is just icing on the cake”. But, it is very hard to not freak out about the origami bouquets, and groom gear, and song selections for the DJ (who knew you needed to come up with the music for EVERYTHING?). I guess we all just gotta breathe and do what we can. Good luck with the jars! PS: WD40 is amazing. So many random uses. :-)

    • Sarah

      Yep.. just found out about the music for EVERYTHING bit on Wednesday. I was stressing about just the first dance. Lawdy!

    • SaraB

      So I just told my fiance about this post and his response was twofold.. First, he said (facetiously ) $ that it is my job to keep us on schedule and his is to pretend nothing is wrong. Second, he suggested using one scoop of oxiclean to 5 gal.. Of water to deal with label removing.. He has done this to remove labels on beer bottles to prep for home brewing.

  • Megan2

    “And we want those closest to us to witness our extraordinary commitment, the small miracle of fusing two lives together. It’s that simple, and that complex.”

    Well said!

    What I think is the underlying reason behind my own freak outs, is the Ending. All this planning & preparing for our Beginning, the rest of our lives together, & the anticipation … is making me worry for the Ending. What if “rest of your lives” isn’t long enough. What if something happens to him, to me, to someone else.

    Plus the general stress or never having enough time or money for all the things I’d like to do, in general & wedding related. There were things we wanted to do before it became ALL WEDDING ALL THE TIME, & now those things just seem farther away & even harder to get to.

    oh & Sept 15th here!

    • Kat

      Oh goodness I think about the Ending a lot too and wish that I hadn’t met him at 28 and 38 respectively and that we could have that “lost decade” back or added on to the end. Deep down I feel like “til death do us part” is just not fair and just too soon…which is ridiculous I know.

  • Sarah

    WD40, who knew? Well I guess I’ll be passing that on to my mother then, who has volunteered (ha!) to remove the labels from the jars that she’s been collecting for me for September.

    I think at the moment she is more stressed about completing all these ‘little’ tasks than I am, which in itself I find concerning as I suspect that a meltdown maybe approaching, though I fear mine is going to be a giant 1-month-to-go meltdown when I discover that all the ‘little’ things are going to take forever and the fact that I’ve been doing the majority of the planning and organising because my fiance is working silly hours and just hasn’t the time to do it has worn me out. Alternatively perhaps it’ll all be just fine and I’ve reached Wedding Zen already…?!?! Fingers crossed for all September 2012 brides-to-be.

  • KB

    A-freaking-men to this. I’m just starting out with the wedding planning stuff and already I’m asking myself “What’s it all for?” It’s sad because I’m actually a girl who LOVED weddings before this – I would secretly buy wedding magazines and peruse sites and fawn over adorable pinwheels and bold color schemes. And when I got engaged, it was like jumping into a big ball-pit of fun and shininess, until everyone’s opinions started creeping in. Not to mention having my big shiny bubble of happy being burst by finding out the cost of throwing a decent wedding in my current large metropolitan area. I’m glad you posted this, it seems like a call for us to remember why we loved the idea of mason jars or fill-in-the-blank in the first place – because it made us happy and reminded us of our significant others and why we decided to actually get married in the damn first place.

  • Rachel

    This is such a good post and so well said.


    The moral here is, getting swept up weddingness is not always a bad thing, and goodness knows it’s easy to do. Maybe we should be swept up—planning a wedding is such a whirlwind emotions and expectations and anticipation, of course my level head has taken her leave. This moral doesn’t do much to relieve my anxiety, and doesn’t really free me from my never-ending list. But it does justify the thought and emotion put into this day. And maybe that’s what it’s all for.”

  • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

    Ahh, yes. I remember this. But it seems like you’ve hit the nail on the head. Congratulations– and best of luck!

  • Sarah

    Oh boy do I feel this post. With 83 days to go (September 23rd, holla!), we’re living in Indiana, planning our wedding in CO, trying to move BACK to CO before the wedding and dealing with my position being downsized 1.5 months ago. With our funds running low and our plans being on hold because of my fiance’s potential job in CO, I’ve been trying to keep my brain where it belongs. Fortunately, posts like this and many others on APW have helped me (mostly) maintain my sanity by reminding me I’m not the only one. Thank goodness for that!

  • E

    Yay for 9/29! Clearly a perfect day to be married on.

    I too have been freaking out about all sorts of things, but usually not the things I expected. I’ve discovered that, while I don’t have strong opinions about food, flowers, decorations, favors and all of that hullaballoo, I do care an awful lot about how people feel, and I find myself trying to micromanage other people’s feelings about my wedding. This has come up in random places, including arranging accommodations (I must find cheap places to stay, or everyone will hate me for making them drive to middle-of-nowhere Maine!), the rehearsal dinner (invite everyone! No! Don’t invite everyone! Invite everyone or they’ll think I’m cheap!), and the damn registry link on our website (must get the wording exactly right or they’ll think I’m gift-grubbing!). (Inner monologue in parentheses.)

    Unfortunately, other people’s feelings are probably the number one thing I CAN’T have any say in. It’s really hard to let go though.

    • Em

      Yes! So many FEEEEELINGS! I wish I was worrying about the artichokes :)

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  • Taryn

    Gosh, I love so many things about this post. I had this moment last night while sitting in bed shoving the 1500th silk sunflower into the 17th styrofoam ball. (Fun fact: it takes on average 92 mini-sunflowers to cover a 4″ ball. And when they say mini, they mean mini. I have 3 balls left and only 30 sunflowers. Guess who’s waiting for another afloral.com sale?) Anyway, I’ve run short and my fiancé says, in his very analytical mindset, “Do you really need 20?” Simply? No. I don’t need 20 pomanders to hang on the aisles of the church, then get taken down and rehung on the pass throughs at the reception. The priest will still marry us after walking down an unlined aisle, and our guests will still party down without my hanging spheres of sunshine floating around them. I don’t need any of the decorations, I don’t even need the reception. All I need to make a difference between November 16th, 2012 and November 17th, 2012 is my man and my priest. And yet I still have a list of 20-something DIY projects that I’m happily getting through because I want to, because it’s a day for us, and I want it to feel magical (cliche I know, but I don’t care). And with our budget it’s up to us to make most of the magic happen, and honestly, I’m having fun doing it. That’s not to say I haven’t wanted to rip my hair out on multiple occasions, haven’t shed many a manic tear, or haven’t thrown in the towel for the day and headed to the pool saying “better luck tomorrow”. But it will mean so much more to us knowing we did it, and seeing it all come together. And yet I’m having a hard time finding anyone besides my groom who understands that. My mother and my sister think I’m crazy and taking on too much. But these are two women who had splamazing (made-up word is necessary here) weddings (weddings I have grown up comparing all other weddings to) but really didn’t have to lift a finger to make them happen. My mom would have eloped in a heartbeat, but she was marrying a man with 3 younger brothers and a future-mother-in-law who just wanted a daughter to spoil and a wedding to plan. So she handed over the reins to everything but her dress, and six months later had a huge, stunning, happy wedding. Fast-forward 25 years and it’s my sister’s turn. She’s the first of my siblings to get married, business was booming, so she and my parents get wrapped up in all the whistles and bells of the WIC and book a gorgeous all-inclusive reception in a big white tent at a country club where all the details were settled in one meeting. Fast-forward 5 years, and now it’s my turn, the one who actually dreamed about her wedding for years and years. It hasn’t been nearly as easy. Business is far from booming, we’re footing most of the bill ourselves and we’re 22. In a process that at times has seemed so far out of our control (Reference: Moving 1000 miles away for work, Future-sister-in-law piggybacking her wedding the day after, bridesmaids bolting, etc.), it’s all these little projects that have honestly kept me grounded, given me a sense of control, and reminded me just what is all for: us. That small two letter word is the big picture. It’s the only detail that will matter after November 16th.

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  • http://turningtoward.blogspot.com Kara Haberstock

    I love this so much! I’m six months out from my wedding, temporarily living in Texas for a summer job, and trying to plan a wedding in Hawaii and reception in Arizona with my mother and grandmother (in AZ), my fiance (in AZ), and his family (in HI). Everyone has been so helpful, but at the same time I keep hitting those moments of panic when I think about how much I still have left to do and how little I can do at the moment with my current job. It’s so hard not to constantly worry in the back of my mind about logistics and guests and flowers and such.
    But in those moments when I remember why I’m doing this, that come December I’ll be marrying the man who I love, who has already supported me through sickness and health, who makes me feel protected and supported, and who makes my life so much more joyous, I realize how excited I am. And all of this is worth it.

    “It’s for us. It’s because I love that nerdy, bearded man so much that 350 dusty jars are a drop in the bucket. It’s because he holds my hand when we sleep and makes me giggle and reads to me in Latin. It’s because we’re committing our lives to each other, to hold in the palm of our hands and shape our futures together. And we want those closest to us to witness our extraordinary commitment, the small miracle of fusing two lives together. It’s that simple, and that complex.”

    Amen to that! I wish you all the best in these last few months!

  • http://www.theatreprojects.blogspot.com jessamarie

    I have been spending the weekend in St Louis (where I am from, and where the wedding is, but not where we currently live) working on wedding things. I’ve been running around town meeting with vendors and with the priest, and assembling centerpieces in my mom’s kitchen. Yesterday when I was going over the guest list and stressing about how many people my mom wanted to add (she has four more people that “really need invites” every time I talk to her, and becuase of recent family tragedies I really can’t say no). In the middle of the stress I got a text from my fiance, still back in Chicago, “Two months from right now we will be dancing our first dance as husband and wife, just so you know.”
    Leave it to that wonderful guy to remind me about what is really important.

  • http://californiapearl.blogspot.com Dabay

    As an October 7th bride, I too am feeling the hot and bothersome pressure of the looming big day. But I feel guilty for feeling pressure, and feel as though I should just be focusing on the marriage, and not the wedding so much. The “THREE MONTHS” statement really resonates with me especially since when I logged into The Knot the other day, a chipper mass of text informed me that there were a mere “98 days until our wedding!”. I was seriously like shut the front door. get out of here…how. dare. they. It’s so great to not feel alone in this crazy little thing we crafty brides call wedding planning. It’s about the man or woman we’re fortunate enough to marry, not all the nonsensical bullshit things that won’t matter in the long run (but damn do they look cute and magnificent and sparkly)! Thank you for this reality check. And I wish you all the best with those jars!

  • Anna

    Holy Moly, Erin, your story is my story almost to a T. Our wedding date is also September 30 and I had my THREE MONTH panic yesterday. Today, I spent a couple of hours writing out a very color-coded to-do list, and in doing so, reminded myself how much I’m going to love OUR wedding. Just because it will be OUR wedding.

    Thank you for your post!

    PS- Our Mason jars are gold. ;)

  • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

    Girl, as another September bride (September 1st!) I am waving to you from amid a sea of paper flowers carefully crafted out of old book pages, which I SWORE would be super easy to make and would be done in no time. Well. It seemed reasonable enough a year ago.

  • http://siripaulson.wordpress.com Siri

    Yet another September 29 bride here. Finally got the dress nailed down (hallelujah!), but am still missing some other major pieces. We can do it, sisters!

  • Kristi

    Erin, I just want to tell you how much I LOVE this post. I also have been feeling the same way….really trying to make sure that even the smallest details have some sort of significant meaning to it all. Only, I wasn’t WD40ing mason jars–though I will be soon!–I was modge podging paper onto clothes pins. REALLY? yes. But it’s the little details that make me oh so happy. But nothing makes me happier than the thought of also marrying my bearded husband-to-be. So it must all be worth it.

    I know this is a tiny detail–but I noticed that you mentioned you could write a wedding manifesto titled, “Motherless Brides: The Heartache of a Parent’s Absence.” I’m also a motherless bride-to-be and have been thinking of submitting a post on this. Even more than 8 years later (and I thought I was strong enough to move on), planning a wedding has brought the fact that she is not present in full force. It’s almost unbearable sometimes. I’m wondering if you have any insight on how you’ve made it through. I still have over a year to go…