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Lucy & Bryan’s Southern, Semi-Destination Wedding

by Lucy Bennett

Lucy, Graphic Designer & Bryan, Software Developer *

It’s Martin Luther King Day here in the States, which means there’s a good chance most of you are reading this from your cozy spot on the couch (we hope), and APW is taking a half-day in observance of the holiday. But since today is a shortened day, we wanted to make sure to leave you with some wisdom that could do double duty. Well, lucky for us, the always-wise Lucy (who goes by youlovelucy in the comments) just so happened to submit her grad post last week and, no surprise here, it’s a good one. She’s managed to fit four years of APW lessons into one smart, funny, totally spot-on post. In fact, I’d argue that if there’s one grad post you’re going to read this year as you plan your own wedding, this is the one. So go, soak in Lucy’s smarts, and then enjoy spending the rest of your day watching the Inauguration coverage (I have a feeling that’s what most of the staff will be doing themselves).


Because I love lists to the point of saving some from those halcyon days of wedding planning, it seems only fitting to make a list of lessons learned from said wedding. So without further ado (and because I’m terrible at introductory paragraphs) I present a meandering list of lessons, in no particular order.

Let People Think You’re Crazy: Hiawassee is two hours from where Bryan and I lived while we were planning, and originally had little sentimental attraction. We picked it to be far enough away to serve as a destination, but close enough that folks had the option of not staying for the whole weekend. This first decision introduced me to the Are You Sure Side-Eye (TM). The Are You Sure Side-Eye (TM) is usually accompanied by a slightly wary If That’s What You Really Want Tone, and sometimes followed by the Nervously Begrudging Agreement. Now you know.

We did more than a few things that were given the Side-Eye at one point or another: having my maid of honor’s father (who is also a licensed Santa with the best beard ever) be our officiant, doing all the decorating ourselves, having a low country boil instead of a traditional rehearsal dinner. Confident that Bryan and I knew the kind of atmosphere we wanted, we held our ground. At the end, everyone understood every single choice we made, and that still thrills me to pieces.

Now, the Side-Eye isn’t always negative. Your family loves you after all, and they just want you to be happy. Sometimes when you’re waist deep in paper flags and programs and arguing that of course you can make all the bouquets yourself, it’s not that hard…you look up and find your future husband giving you the Side-Eye. Then you stop drinking the I Can Do Everything Kool-Aid and listen to the man. He has a point.

Can Doesn’t Mean Should: I could have made all the bouquets, set up a photo booth, made a wedding playlist. I had a list a mile long of things I knew I could handle, so why pay people? Answer: so your head won’t explode. Also so you have an easier time achieving wedding zen, but mainly to avoid head explosions. Take my word for it. Part of this means picking your battles. Yes I could do all these things, but my skill in some areas was just passable. Instead, I chose to design anything and everything paper oriented for the wedding because I knew I could do it better (and sometimes cheaper) than anything within my price range. I booked a florist my mother-in-law worked for and a DJ a friend recommended. At the last minute, while I lamented that I hadn’t had time (or energy or sanity) to plan the photo booth, my wedding planner offered to bring her camera and work the backdrop area during the reception. Awesome. It all turned out wonderful.

Go the F*ck to Sleep: 
No seriously. So many planning frustrations (and frustrations in general) can be solved by A) having a nap or B) just going the f*ck to sleep. However, this was a huge personal problem at eight o’clock the evening of my rehearsal dinner, with everyone happy and buzzed and having a grand time while I hit the wall of a lifetime. It felt like every single late night of crafting and planning caught up to me all at once, and I was tired in a way I had never known. For over an hour I struggled like an indignant toddler, fighting to stay awake and play with the big kids, lest I miss any amazing moments (you will miss them. Accept this and revel in your friends’ and families’ excited retellings of those moments) before Bryan walked me to my cabin and made me go to bed.

Zen is Unique: Oh wedding zen. What a nebulous and hard to pin down beast. The truth of the matter is, for all the wealth of adjectives and descriptions of wedding zen penned here on this site, I couldn’t fathom the feeling of zen. It reminded me of the end of yoga classes where everyone is lying on the floor being serene and quiet, except I’m at the back of the class with my head still in a hundred different places, trying not squeak my heel against the floor. I resolved that if I were going to measure this day in moments where I felt like that, then I was not going to have a good time. So I tossed it. Better to feel my own feelings than pine for one I don’t even like.

What I did feel that day was nerves mixed with more happiness than my tiny body could contain, and there was a moment before the ceremony where I found myself alone in the bridesmaids’ cabin. Fully dressed and not inclined to struggle off the couch I’d plopped myself on, I reached for a book I brought with me and read the first line: The view is fine from up here. I can look down over the world and see everything.

That’s when I knew how my zen felt. It’s standing on this literal and figurative mountain, feeling like I could see everywhere I’d been and everywhere I was about to go, and being so ridiculously overjoyed about it that I might explode. It’s similar to the first big drop on a roller coaster, only a thousand times better. There was nothing left to do but enjoy the ride, so I held on tightly to that first revelation and tried to take in as much as I could. What I love best are the tiniest details, not photographed, that stand out the clearest because of it: brushing aphids off Bryan’s suit after the ceremony, our entrance being “upstaged” by the discovery of a nest of baby birds, seeing the caterers bust dance moves when they thought no one could see.

Ducks are Always WilyOur wedding was mostly perfect, and that was exactly what I wanted. Up close, even our best-laid plans reveal their imperfections, the places where things went a little wrong. We were no exception. Two days before the wedding, Bryan was laid off. On the day of the wedding, along with random bumps that come with any large event, our DJ nearly missed the ceremony. Not to mention the fifteen or more people that RSVP’d and didn’t show, something I’m still working on being okay with. Also, the day after the wedding, the transmission failed in one of our cars. On top of a mountain. Without cell phone service. Sometimes my life feels a little like a terribly depressing episode of Peanuts.

Even with these ducks going in all directions and not behaving properly, I still feel our wedding went more smoothly than I could have hoped. Better still, keeping plans in motion (come hell or high water) meant that I came off wedding planning with a huge burst of energy and momentum. Within two weeks, Bryan got another job. Within three months, we bought a house. So I keep my plans in motion now because even if they are a little banged up, they get me where I need to go eventually.

So there you have it. Except, in addition to points not seen here, I find I am still learning things from my wedding. Every time I revisit that little box of memories of the day, something new surfaces. Maybe it seemed less important before, or it just needed more time, but it’s nice to root through the cracks and pull out a new piece of magic. Eventually, these odds and ends and details will be smoothed over with time into something solid and lovely. I can’t be sad about it, because I’m busy learning about the next thing: my marriage.

The Info—Photographer: Angelina of Asterisk Photography / Venue: Hiawassee River Retreat / Planner: Wrennwood Event Design / Lucy’s Dress: David’s Bridal / Bryan’s Suit: Men’s Wearhouse / Flowers: Flowerama / Table Decorations: Thrifted and put together by the families / Stationary, Programs, Paper Flags: Designed by Lucy, paper stock from Cards & Pockets and Neenah Paper / Hippo Cake Toppers: The Air Castle via Etsy

Lucy Bennett

Lucy a freelance designer/writer hybrid. When not coming up with weird self-challenges, she can be found marathoning TV shows or playing board games. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, her moderately internet-famous pup, and two cats. She takes herself very seriously.

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  • Joan

    So much wisdom in one post!! I’m 6 weeks out from my wedding and can related to practically everything in here- especially the Are You Sure Side Eye and accompanying voice tone. My mom has mastered both of these by now:) also the Can vs Should lesson is just starting to sink in for me, and I’m trying to delegate more and more tasks. Thank you so much for posting this today- really what I needed:)

    • mimi

      I just learned about the Are You Sure Side Eye yesterday, when my fiance and I were talking about our plans with his mom. We’ve been engaged about a month and are planning to get married in August, so we’re still pretty early in the planning process. We’re also planning a semi-destination wedding on family property in northern Michigan, about 3 hours from where we live, so it sounds like I will face some of the same planning challenges you faced.

      • What I think worried our parents the most about the semi-destination idea was that it was a bit remote, and it made it harder for them to do their own research (which has pros and cons). They always mean well and I think they were wanting to vet our vendors “just in case” we hadn’t asked the right questions, and in many cases they just didn’t get that chance. So they were nervous.

        It’s one of those cases where you kind of have to let your parents know it’s okay to take the training wheels off.

  • We had low country boil for our reception food! It was the Indian food at the rehearsal dinner that got the If That’s What You Really Want tone from my mom. Yes, it was and everybody loved it. I also gave up on doing my own flowers and photo booth, but stuck with designing my own paper goods. Can vs. Should is such an important lesson to learn. (Also: I love the marshmallow roasting!)

  • I’m loving the point that wedding zen is different for everyone. The morning we eloped, my wedding zen felt like this perfect bubble in which my soon-to-be husband and I were perfectly happy, a little bit excited and surprisingly calm without even a hint of nerves going about our thing, but we had to be very protective of that bubble of feeling because my mother was so excited that she was intent on blasting songs about getting married and just crazy excited and trying to pull us into her overwhelming excitement in a way that was making us feel anxious.

  • Rachelle

    “stop drinking the ‘I can do everything Kool-Aid;” hahaha. Yes, fantastic. What a great post!

  • This is perfect. I especially love when you talk about how ducks are always wily, and how your wedding was mostly perfect– and that was okay. We had a similar experience with lots of things going wrong, and everything turning out lovely.

    This is a wise post. Thanks for sharing. And congratulations!!!!

  • I think these are my two favorite bits of wisdom for life in general here: “Can Doesn’t Mean Should” and “I keep my plans in motion now because even if they are a little banged up, they get me where I need to go eventually.”

    There are so many things about life in general right now that I probably could do, but I’ve reached the point where not only am I not going to pay someone to do them, I’m not even going to bother doing them at all. And I’m going to enjoy the peace that fills the space where that thing was.

    And so often when I’m tired and just want to forget I’m an adult for a while, it’s often when I just keep pushing just a little bit more that things finally start to fall into place.

    Thank you for beautiful wording those gems of wisdom. :)

    • This spoke to me too. Sometimes it strokes my ego a bit to say, “I can do that!” Yes, I’m capable of a lot, many of us are. That doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea.

  • I was so not expecting my face to show up in my Google Reader this morning, but yay!!

    I will say, I have most of these items still written on post-its and stuck up in my office as reminders, because they apply to so many things. I’m really glad others are finding benefit from them. :)

  • Emilie

    “The Are You Sure Side-Eye (TM) is usually accompanied by a slightly wary If That’s What You Really Want Tone, and sometimes followed by the Nervously Begrudging Agreement.”

    I really hope I can stop being on the receiving end of these once the wedding’s over. JESUSCHRISTIT’SEXHAUSTING! I know various advice givers mean well, but often find myself wishing the world was more apathetic about our plans.

    • Karen

      I know, right? It’s amazing how much other people care about what you plan to do at your own wedding.

    • Unfortunately, I’ve found all these things still happen (though NOT NEARLY as frequently) when you start making larger plans or taking risks. Especially so in the South (or so I’ve found) where we love to give opinions almost as much as we love to gossip.

      Still, it made me realize that I have also given many people the Are You Sure Side-Eye, so I try to stop and think before I accidentally rain on someone’s parade.

      • Emilie

        So. True. about THE SOUTH (I’m a Tennessean). The boundaries here between what’s a personal decision and what’s a community decision are often blurrier. It’s actually one of the things I love about my home–emphasis on relationships. BUT wish we could put that community effort on hold till my partner and I have a chance to nail down our some basic plans… sigh…

        I definitely could do a better job of following Meg’s advice to keep wedding plans on a need-to-know basis.

  • Jess

    Love your dress (it’s remarkably like mine… in fact maybe the same). I picked mine out because the “off-the-shoulder” reminded me of the white dress from Gigi. Looks like a lovely wedding and so glad you had fun. It’s so hard to learn to stop the “Are you sure side-eye”, but I guess awarness is a good first step.

  • Meg

    Lovely post — and very inspiring! I’ve gotten a few side-eyes already, just a month into the process — mostly about how we’re not getting married in a church. It was awkward to tell my grandparents that, especially after my dad brought it up at the big ol’ Christmas family dinner (!!!!! Thanks, Dad.). But in the end, I’m sure everything will work out. It always does.

  • meg

    That description of wedding zen is amazing. And fistbump to a layoff at the worst of times, and just soldering through somehow.

    (And you said you couldn’t write. LUCY!)


  • Laura

    Toasting marshmallows?! I wish I knew you and had gotten invited to your wedding! It looks like so much fun!

    Also, thank you for excellent advice – I’m bookmarking this to re-read many times.

  • Lucy! Loving this post! Can does NOT mean should (#canIgetanamen). And congratulations to you and Bryan.

  • “I could have made all the bouquets, set up a photo booth, made a wedding playlist. I had a list a mile long of things I knew I could handle, so why pay people? Answer: so your head won’t explode.”

    This was so me during the wedding planning. While I am really good at doing floral arrangements, I actually decided to hire someone (got a coupon for it, boo yah!) to do it so I wouldn’t be so stressed the day before the wedding doing my wedding flowers. Plus I’m a bit of a perfectionist and so would have spent way more time trying to get everything right. In the end I made some things and bought some things and threw some things out the window. If something wasn’t made more than a day before the wedding, I didn’t make it. I had the most relaxing day before my wedding day, had everything ready to go and even went to bed early!

    “you look up and find your future husband giving you the Side-Eye. Then you stop drinking the I Can Do Everything Kool-Aid and listen to the man. He has a point.”

    This was so my husband! Especially being in New Zealand where there is not the plethora of things in craft stores, etc to be able to utilise. Even got a few eye rolls from him at some of my outrageous creative ideas. I also got the Side Eye when he thought I was being to anally retentive and frustrated over things. Thank goodness for partners who help keep our insane side in check and help us be ok with not going overboard!

    Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful wedding! :)

  • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    Hooray for lists!

    1. “At the end, everyone understood every single choice we made” – I’m so glad this happened for you! Even though your wedding would have been awesome no matter what, it must have been great to feel everyone getting on board.

    2. Amazing moments: “you will miss them. Accept this and revel in your friends’ and families’ excited retellings of those moments” – oh yikes. I hadn’t even realized I was starting to stress about it until I read these lines, but the worry about missing out on some tiny vital thing that will never be repeated is very real. Definitely filing this thought away and hoping that second-hand retellings will be memorable in their own right.

    3. Wedding Zen doesn’t have to feel like … zen? RELIEF.

    4. I love the thought of reflecting on your wedding over time and continuing to glean new insights from different aspects of the day.

    5. Your wedding wins everything because you got MARRIED BY SANTA. Your entire post could have been pictures of this (although selfishly, I’m glad it wasn’t!)

    Congratulations, you guys look like you had the best time and sound like you have many happy adventures ahead!

  • ThatAnnoyingGrammarNerd

    Hi folks,

    I have to raise my hand and be *that girl* — the one who corrects a mistake in the text. Sorry, but it’s not a typo, it’s a case of crossed wires (well, crossed homophones). Being both a grammar/writing nerd and a French lover, I just couldn’t get past “without further adieu” without speaking up… Unless the writer was making a cute pun / wordplay that I missed completely, she meant “without further ADO” (that is, fuss/bother) rather than “adieu” (aka, goodbye).

    Much love, and please don’t throw too many rotten tomatoes at me!

    • Ack, typo!

      No, I get that wrong a lot. As a fellow grammar nerd, thank you for the reminder lesson!

    • Emily

      Fixed! No worries. :)

  • Marissa

    I read this whole thing with a Southern accent and it was delightful.

  • It was a really fun wedding as I see, congrats!!!

  • girl george

    A girl after my own heart. “So I keep my plans in motion now because even if they are a little banged up, they get me where I need to go eventually.” Man, did I need to hear those words. And, funny enough, the “I Can Do Everything Kool-Aid” bit, too. It seems the projects that should be seen through personally are the ones I’m attempting to jump ship from (due the element of not knowing exactly how they may turn out) and the ones I really shouldn’t do myself (um, 150 invitations) I’m less likely to let go of. Here’s to accepting I’m not Martha Stewart Craft Queen…but my crazy ideas should not be surrendered so long as I access the right people. Thank you….from here to July…thank you.

  • KB

    I definitely giggled at the wedding zen description because I, too, do that thing in yoga where you’re lying there during shavasana, thinking, “Why does my leg itch? What is that humming noise? Why am I now thinking about my leg AND the humming noise? I suck at zen. But maybe I’m supposed to suck at zen. I’m sweaty. What am I going to eat after this class? OOH, pizza! NO, be zen, dammit!!!”

  • April

    Brilliantly written. All of it. And a big resounding YES to “Go the f*ck to sleep!” I wish someone had told me that. I learnt it the hard way. Oy. So yes, sleep well. Sleep well enough so that you are rested and can be present for all the shiny, wonderful, raw, edgy, funny and tearful yet breathtaking moments. And then sleep on the honeymoon, too. Because you CAN! :D Congrats, darlings!

  • Cassidy

    Oh this post came at such a needed time for me! I’m also planning a north Georgia wedding a couple of hours from my home town, and I’m catching a lot of heckling for it too! I’m planning from Arkansas though, so thankfully I’ve been spared the Eye a lot of times, but the Tone is worse. It’s been a rough day planning (my sister called my wedding a joke because I’m leaning towards a dessert/snacky reception and not dancing! I need to give her the chapter on traditional weddings from the APW book!) and this post (Like APW always does) has me back on the Who Really Cares What She Thinks I’m Marrying Prince Charming train of thought.


    • That’s the spirit!

      Also, hells yea North Georgia weddings! Fistbump!

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