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Elisabeth & Amin


by Elisabeth

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

I should tell you now, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past month looking at my wedding photos. Not just because I look good (though I do look good), but because, as Zen pointed out in her grad post , they remind me of how good I felt. And man, did I feel good.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my wedding was the culmination of a weeklong marathon of family togetherness and intense partying. It included, among other things, the civil ceremony, which was my only opportunity to say western-style vows; a henna party where some of the ladies got together to gossip and get our hands painted by an insanely patient and talented henna artist; and a rehearsal dinner where my family had a chance to meet Amin’s extended family for the first time. It was a lot of fun—not only was it amazing finally getting to know Amin’s family, but it’s a rare week where my immediate family is together in the same place. To give you a taste, let me just say that the day after the wedding, my youngest sister flew to Iraq, my middle sister flew to DC, and my mom and dad flew to Philadelphia and Saudi Arabia, respectively. Loud family sing-alongs to “I’m Getting Married in the Morning” will long be one of my favorite wedding memories.

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

Amin and I had vacillated a lot on whether to have a big wedding or a really really small one. There wasn’t really a good in-between option for us, because his aunts/uncles/cousins number in the hundreds already, so either we left everybody out except immediate family, or we had a couple hundred people. We decided to have a big one for a couple of reasons, but surely one of the major reasons was my insistence that this would be one of my few opportunities to get all of our favorite people together in one place.

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

We had mixed results. We definitely succeeded in getting many (though not most—who knew flying to London during the Olympics would be expensive?) of our favorite people together, and since we did a rehearsal dinner, and a henna party, and a few other things in the week leading up, Amin and I actually got to spend a bit of time with them (though sometimes not together). But on the wedding day, we didn’t get a chance to speak to anyone more than superficially. Heck, we didn’t get a chance to eat. (I am actually gratified by this, because Amin had long been convinced he was going to get to sit down and have a nice long relaxed meal, and I had repeatedly told him that was a ridiculous fantasy and that we would spend the whole night walking around chatting with our guests. I do love to be right!) Our cheeks were sore from smiling by about the third minute in (you can kind of tell from the panicky look in our eyes in some of the pictures), and by the time we got in the car at the end of the night we were both so happy to finally be alone, and not to have to smile any more. Our caterers had packed us little boxes of leftovers to take to the hotel room (I cannot recommend this highly enough. Do this!) so we sat and had our real dinner together long after the party had ended and we had deconstructed my enormous hairdo, while in the background the Thames was lit up by fireworks in honor of the Paralympics Closing Ceremony. For me, this remains one of my most cherished memories of the night.

The reception, then, is something of a blur of smiling and hugging and shaking hands and taking pictures, but I expected that. I always prefer little groups to big ones, and my wedding was no different. When I think back, though, I am still suffused with joy, and I think what made it such an awesome day was less the grand sweep of the party, etc., and more the little snippets of memory and remembered emotion that still stick with me two months later, and I imagine will stick with me forever.

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

First of all, our outfits were both so covered in crystals and sequins and whatnot that we regularly got stuck together and had to forcibly separate our clothing, but I know we felt, and looked, like we belonged together. My sister-in-law and I managed to craft an outfit that I am seriously proud of and enormously happy with, and I took the traditional route of not letting my extremely-picky husband see any of it until the day of the wedding. That he was blown away made the whole thing all the more awesome for me. From the moment we were officially married to the end of the night, he barely let go of my hand. I still get the warm fuzzies thinking about it.

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

Second, even though it took a million years, I really enjoyed the process of getting ready. My mom and sisters and I showed up at the venue at seven in the morning, in our pajamas (getting giddily into a black cab wearing my bright blue bathrobe and carrying my enormous wedding dress is definitely unforgettable). I announced to anybody who looked at me, “I am the bride!” as I swept up the stairs to the room where we got ready. And the stairs are great for sweeping. And although I am not generally particularly eager to have minions to order around, I really enjoyed the few moments after I had my dress on (and could therefore only move with difficulty) that I felt legitimately like things were all about me. Fetch a chair, minion! Take my bathrobe, minion! Pack my perfume, minion! It was very gratifying.

Third, I will never forget the moment of complete overwhelmed-ness as my parents prepared to walk me down the aisle. Amin and his mom walked down first (I could hear, but not see, him ahead of me), followed by his sister and aunt, and then my sisters (who apparently got announced in as the bride, to everyone’s great amusement), and then my parents and me. And honestly I thought I was going to start ugly crying all over the place. I had trouble breathing, I was shaking like a leaf, and I tried really hard not to make eye contact with anyone because I knew if I did then it would all be over. I was in a bit of a daze and calmed down only once Amin and I sat down and the officiant started talking. But it wasn’t until afterwards, when we were actually married, and we walked out of the room and down the stairs, that I really got a chance to look at Amin properly. One of my favorite photos captures I think the exact moment that we looked at each other and allowed ourselves to finally feel something like: “BOOYAH! WE JUST GOT MARRIED, BEYOTCH!”

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

These are the things I’m going to remember. Not, I think, the things I expected to remember, but they’re what made this our wedding, instead of somebody else’s.

So, what advice would I have given to my pre-married self if I could have? What advice should I give to all of you?

Well, first off, I completely completely agree with Meg that it is important to have somebody there, on the day, that you trust to make sure things go okay. I had my sisters, and Amin’s sister, and Amin’s cousin, and a whole host of other people who were happy to step in and do whatever needed to be done and ensure nothing got forgotten. We also hired a coordinator, although to be honest I’m not sure what exactly he did (which probably means he did a good job). But the key here is that I was never thinking about what to do with the flowers after the party, or whether everybody would get back on the bus to go home, or how we would deal with the gifts we got or the guest book. I let other people figure that stuff out, and I focused on enjoying the heck out of my wedding.

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

And I guess secondly, I would warn my pre-married self not to worry too much about whether her wedding would be the best wedding of all time ever. It is unfortunately not possible to have your wedding be ALL THE WEDDINGS. We did not get married in a forest on horseback; we did not get married in my backyard with barbeque; we did not get married in Our Favorite Place with all the meaning; we did not write our own vows and cry with love as we read them. But we did get married. And we got married in style, and had people that we love surrounding us. And it is very nice to have a day of such joy to mark the beginning of something wonderful, to remind us of what our relationship means to us, and to our communities.

I’m not sure I can say a lot more than that, yet. Maybe with a bit more distance I can say something more profound. Being married is quite a different beast from getting married, and being married has radically changed the way we see our relationship, and the way our communities see our relationship. I’m going to have to think a bit more about that before I venture to make any conclusions, though. (I also have to spend more time with my husband, because no, my immigration issues are not yet sorted out. We are getting very, very bitter.) At the very least, I can say that both Amin and I can highly recommend getting married, and that being married promises to be a lot of fun once we actually are in the same place and can start doing it for real.

Elisabeth & Amin | A Practical Wedding

Photos by: Segerius Bruce

Elisabeth

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  • Emily

    I love all the vivid colors everywhere. It’s so beautiful!

    Also, THIS: ” It is unfortunately not possible to have your wedding be ALL THE WEDDINGS. We did not get married in a forest on horseback; we did not get married in my backyard with barbeque; we did not get married in Our Favorite Place with all the meaning; we did not write our own vows and cry with love as we read them. But we did get married.”

    • Leigh Ann

      I’ve been reading this blog for about three years, from well before my engagement to now (two days after our first anniversary), and that quote is one of my favorite things ever! I was just discussing with my husband some of our regrets from the wedding. But every single one was like, “Well, I wanted to do this a little differently … but there were very good reasons for the way we DID do it.” You can’t have ALL THE WEDDINGS. :)

    • Jo

      There’ve been posts in the past about allowing yourself to mourn the wedding you don’t have. I always found that comforting. That to make one decision sometimes means rejecting others that might have been appealing. And that it’s totally okay to mourn the things you didn’t end up with while still loving what you did.
      We went through a long process before we decided to just elope a few weeks ago. I knew at each iteration of plans that I would never be 100% about whatever we decided. I firmly believe we did what was best for us, and I’m extremely happy. But if anyone wants to nitpick at me and ask me if I’m sad that our choice meant we didn’t have certain moments with friends or family, etc, well, yes, I am sad. But not sad enough to regret our decision. And I get the reverse, the happiness of knowing I didn’t spend a year in arguments with my husband and our families over planning the big production we’d begun to pursue, and we got to have a fabulously intimate weekend. You just can’t have “all the weddings”.

      • http://dressingfordinner.blogspot.com Gemma

        I was about to write almost exactly the same reply as Jo. You can’t have all the weddings and our decision to elope came about after a lot of discussion over what we would do if we didn’t elope. Yes, there is a part of me that wonders whether I would have liked a bigger and more traditional wedding but I also know that had we done that I would have spent the whole time pining for the New York elopement that we could imagine so clearly.

        • Leslie

          I’m here to say more of the same as well. This is a very useful perspective to have. FH and I have been engaged for a little over a year now, and just this week we finalized what we actually want to do. Sure, we don’t get everything, but it is helpful to be reminded that the mourning period is normal, and if we just do what we feel is best for us, all will be great.

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

    Elisabeth, you look absolutely stunning, and everyone looks so radiantly happy. I have chills from this post. Congratulations!

  • Annika

    Oh my goodness – your dress/veil is just breathtaking! I love it!

  • http://katerees711.blogspot.com/ kate

    Beautiful wedding and thank you for this graduate post. I will be revisiting this one frequently as I overcome my desire to have ALL the weddings and simply have OUR wedding.

    I also love that you embraced that you were the bride and geeked out, somehow with all the talk of egalitarian weddings I forgot it’d probably be okay if I owned that!

  • KB

    I am in love with this graduate post!!! Not only is everything GORGEOUS – including but not limited to, your dress, the henna, everyone in general – but all of the described moments really resonated for me. Especially the “all of the weddings” point – it’s probably going to take actually having a wedding to make me come to terms with the fact that we, too, are not getting married in an arcade, on a beach, in a field, or all of those things that could also be “us.”

    So many yays for this :-)

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

    Oh, the henna! Swoon.

  • mimi

    I LOVE the first photo. You both look so happy and your outfits are perfectly coordinated! Congratulations!

    • MDBethann

      I’m impressed that your outfits were THAT coordinated since you wouldn’t let him see your gown before hand. Well done!

  • JC

    ” It is unfortunately not possible to have your wedding be ALL THE WEDDINGS. We did not get married in a forest on horseback; we did not get married in my backyard with barbeque; we did not get married in Our Favorite Place with all the meaning; we did not write our own vows and cry with love as we read them. But we did get married. And we got married in style, and had people that we love surrounding us.”

    THIS X 1,000,000! That is exactly what I needed to hear as I start booking vendors and mourn all of the weddings that could have been, while still being thrilled with the choices we’re making.

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    goodness, this may be the prettiest wedding i have seen.

  • http://thecelebrationgirl.com/ Marcela

    Your post is so lovely,and so true to my own experience in so many ways (I still look at my wedding pictures, almost 7 years after our wedding)…but can I be shallow and say how PRETTY everything looks, and how gorgeous you two are? Because, OMG, every picture is so beautiful!!

    May your immigration problems be solved soon and may you start you married life together very soon!

  • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly

    You look absolutely stunning! I’m so happy to hear that everything went well and that you had such a great day.

  • Julia

    What a beautiful wedding!! As a fellow multi-cultural wedding thrower, I love to see weddings that celebrate what it takes to make that happen. You’re right – you didn’t have ALL THE WEDDINGS, which is really, really hard to accept at first. But it looks like you had a stunning, gorgeous, touching and personal wedding.

    Also, as a fellow multi-cultural married, the immigration issues never seem to end. But have faith, they will work themselves out. We just got the next round of “you’re allowed to live here for a few more years” papers yesterday. I took the chance to exhale and enjoy before worrying about the next step in the process. Celebrate the little milestones on that front because it is what will get you through that. And remember that feeling you have today – all of it is worth it because you get to wake up next to the love of your life.

  • http://misshappnstance.wordpress.com Miss Happ

    You look so beautiful. I love the red and white combination – and the flower petals on exit. So striking. Thank you for sharing your journey with us – I look forward to hearing more as you grow as a couple and as individuals. Congratulations!

  • meg

    Love, love, love, Elisabeth.

  • L

    Umm I am totally inspired by your outfit. I have been pondering what my wedding outfit might be (the only rule I have set for myself is no white hijab because white hijab with white skin is not so cute). Anyway, I love the red and the dress and you look beautiful and happy. So congratulations to you and Amin and thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, it has been a wonderful ride. <3

  • Justine

    I’m newly engaged, and my fiance and I haven’t even started planning in ernest yet, but I’m loving the reminder that it’s impossible to have all the weddings. That said, and this is purely because I think mendhi is beautiful on anyone: I do want to have ALL THE MENDHI, despite neither of us having any cultural connection to it (We’re both white, american I’m of Italian and Irish decent, he’s from British, German and Polish decent, and from Judeo-christian backgrounds, but I’ve loved mendhi since the first time I saw it at an amusement park 12 years ago, and I’ve been plotting to have it for my wedding since I saw Bend it Like Beckham).

    I love this wedding for you, Elisabeth. I love the lessons and memories you took from it, I love your dress and the way you had your own multi-cultural wedding. I hope immigration issues resolve very soon, because I can’t personally imagine what you’re both going through while you’re apart during the first months of your marriage.

  • Justine

    I’m newly engaged, and my fiance and I haven’t even started planning in ernest yet, but I’m loving the reminder that it’s impossible to have all the weddings. That said, and this is purely because I think mendhi is beautiful on anyone: I do want to have ALL THE MENDHI, despite neither of us having any cultural connection to it (We’re both white, american I’m of Italian and Irish decent, he’s from British, German and Polish decent, and from Judeo-christian backgrounds, but I’ve loved mendhi since the first time I saw it at an amusement park 12 years ago, and I’ve wanted to have it for my wedding since I saw Bend it Like Beckham).

    I love this wedding for you, Elisabeth. I love the lessons and memories you took from it, I love your dress and the way you had your own multi-cultural wedding. I hope immigration issues resolve very soon, because I can’t personally imagine what you’re both going through while you’re apart during the first months of your marriage.

  • Jessica

    Elisabeth, you look gorgeous. Absolutely stunning!

  • (Another) Elisabeth

    It’s great to see your “graduation”! I think everyone is in agreement about your point regarding “out of all of the weddings”. Part of me is really struggling with this partly because my best friend’s wedding a few years ago was literally that – one of the funnest, most meaningful days of my life (and I was only a bridesmaid!). That’s coupled with the intense negotiations of culture and religion that come along with my wedding as well. I’m really striving for the experience to be great instead of the meaning packed into my hand… we’ll see how it goes!