The Case Against Inspiration Boards


Blogs ≠ reality. (Reality is usually much better.)

by Maddie Eisenhart, Managing Editor

Some of my very first posts on APW were inspiration boards. They’re less of an all-consuming THING in the blog-o-sphere than they were in 2008, but back then they were half the fun of wedding blogs. So I made one.  Obviously. (And funnily enough, while our colors, such that they were, ended up being different, this pretty much was the decorative feel of our wedding, seventeen months later.) But it was a year later that I actually nailed it with an inspiration board. Because this is what our wedding felt like, and this is how I remember it. The truth is, the way wedding blogs present weddings is a mirage. Your wedding will never feel like a wedding blog makes a wedding look. And there is no one better than Maddie, who attends (at least) one of your weddings every week in the summer, to tell you why.

MegThe Case Against Inspiration Boards | A Practical Wedding

When I was planning my wedding, I had a little file folder on my desktop titled “ideas.” It was full of inspiration photos like the one below, where I’d pull together all of my visual concepts into one neat little collage and see how it all looked together. Did brown and turquoise really go? Would orange look too gaudy next to it? What if I used old netting as a tablecloth on the patio tables with Moroccan glass lanterns? Would that be on theme, without being obvious?

The Case Against Inspiration Boards | A Practical Wedding

I planned my wedding during a time when color palettes were all the rage (are they still a thing?), and even went so far as to ask a wedding blog to come up with an inspiration board just for me. (Please take a minute and go read my submission so that we can all do a collective eye-roll at your young, impressionable managing editor. WHAT AM I EVEN TALKING ABOUT?! Ahem, okay back to business.) At first these exercises were just to help me collect my thoughts. What would our bridesmaids wear? What would the tables look like? But then, something shifted, and I started believing that I’d actually experience the wedding like the inspiration board. That I’d look back and remember my wedding like this:

The Case Against Inspiration Boards | A Practical Wedding

This led me to do crazy things like seriously consider making napkin rings out of shower curtains and starfish for 250 people. Because then people would really understand that they were at a hip beach wedding (um…is being on the beach not enough?).

The wedding industry preys on the fact that for most of us, our weddings will be the first time we have a chance to throw a big event for lots of people. So it feeds us information that promotes its agenda. (Sell stuff! Make you think that the stuff they are selling is essential to your happiness!) But we all know this. It’s why most of us are here. But what I don’t think we talk about enough is the method by which we are fed this information. Over time, I’ve grown very frustrated with the way that weddings are presented on the internet. Because they are curated to make you believe that the part represents the whole. And it’s bad news.

Take this wedding I shot last year, for example. The couple (APW readers, yay!) got married in the woods of northern California, with a lakeside Quaker ceremony, delicious food provided by family and friends, and then they had a rockin’ dance party and bonfire that lasted well after my second shooter and I had retired to the bunk beds in our cabin. If I submitted this wedding to a blog, it would probably end up looking something like this:

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It would get slapped onto Pinterest with the tag “Colorful Canoe Wedding” and you’d walk away wondering where you could collect mismatched jars to use for wildflowers at your outdoor wedding. And while that would be fine (hey, maybe you’ve been looking for a way to arrange wildflowers and this gave you a great idea), it would also be missing the point.

Because those photos up there? They represent maybe five percent of what this wedding was about. (And the canoe part? Planned only a few hours before it happened.)

When I was planning my own wedding, I put so much stock into how ten or fifteen imaginary photos in my head would look together. If they’d be cohesive enough. Because that’s how I thought it was done. That’s what I thought was expected. It wasn’t even about the wedding being blogworthy. It was about the wedding being have-worthy. It was about our guests not even wanting to be there if it didn’t look the way it’s supposed to. But then I started shooting weddings. And shooting them a lot. And you know what I learned? Weddings look and feel much more like this photo, which never ever ever makes it to the blogs, ever:

The Case Against Inspiration Boards | A Practical Wedding

Do you see those details? So tiny. This isn’t to say that details are insignificant, or that they aren’t noticed at weddings. It’s just that, when the photos you see every day are so big and the details so front-and-center, it can make you start to believe that they are the central visual focus of the celebration. When in reality, they are such a small part of something bigger, something better.

The reality of weddings looks a lot more like this:

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It’s about the people. It’s about you and your partner. It’s about all of it coming together. So often I see these layouts and it’s all beautiful tablescapes and portraits of couples and nowhere is a guest to be found. Do you want to know what made this wedding electric? The people. And unless you’re having a teeny tiny two-person elopement, chances are that’s what will make your wedding awesome too.

So next time you’re putting together your inspiration boards (I’m not going to tell you not to. That’s half the fun of the thing), I encourage you to leave some space. Leave some space for understanding that looking out at something you put together is amazing, but that looking out on that same thing filled with the people you love? It’s so much better. Real wedding memories can’t be encapsulated. Photos can jog our memories, but even those are manufactured (and most of the time a good photographer will make things look way glossier than they were. Have you ever taken photos of your friends while you’re out dancing or at the bars and ninety-nine percent of the pictures look like a dog shaking slobber off its face? Me too. And photographers throw all of those in the trash before passing along one or two photos where things look super cool.)

Because let’s be real. At weddings, there’s generally a lot more of this:

The Case Against Inspiration Boards | A Practical WeddingThan this:

The Case Against Inspiration Boards | A Practical Wedding

And that’s OKAY. At the end of the day it just doesn’t matter if it all “goes.” It doesn’t all have to be pretty. And your wedding doesn’t need to sell anything. My wedding? So totally not blogworthy (well, except maybe here). But it was sure as hell have-worthy. And the blogworthy ones? Even they don’t look like what you see on the front page of the shiny wedding blogs (some of the best parties get whittled down to shots of favors and place settings). So don’t worry if this thing doesn’t go with that thing, or if the whole damn thing isn’t cohesive. Do what you love. Because the point of your wedding isn’t to fit neatly into a predefined grid. The point of it is to be awesome.

Photos of my wedding by: Eve Event Photography, Photos of Laurel & Ruth’s wedding by Hart & Sol West (aka me)

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is the Managing Editor of A Practical Wedding. She’s been writing stories about boys and crushes since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) in the art of talking from NYU in 2008. In her spare time, she takes pictures of people in love. Maddie lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband Michael, her Mastiff named Juno, and her roommate named Joe.

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  • KC

    Pictures can totally tell a story. But, like statistics, they often lie. :-)

    Thanks for the reminder that carefully-shot, carefully-curated photos of objects do not a wedding make…

    • meg

      As someone who edits weddings a lot, I’d clarify. It’s less that photos lie, it’s that just like statistics, you can use them to tell the story you want to tell.

      • KC

        True. I guess:
        a) sometimes the story that is told with the photos is not true (generic things like We’re one big happy family! or Everyone was dancing!)(not that these are usually a lie, but you can often tell a particular story with carefully-shot photos even if it very much is not true) and, more rarely,
        b) sometimes the individual photos “say” something that isn’t true (for instance, if you put root beer in a hip flask and then get a photo of someone taking a swig when they know it’s root beer, or if you use perspective and funky angles to make something seem very different from what it is, like making a shot of someone who is turning to talk to someone look like, instead, they’re about to kiss)

        (Note: I’m not saying APW does this! Just that it *can* be done with photos, just as amazing things can be done with cut-quotes from long interviews and statistics and whatnot.)

      • KC

        (and actually, thinking about it, I agree both that you can use photos to tell the story you want to tell… and that it’s often at least partly fabricated or at least fibbing by omission, the same way that facebook updates are usually more or less lying about the story of your life, the way American movies always have the underdogs winning, etc. What exactly counts as “acceptable” bending of the truth when crafting fiction and nonfiction is a bit of an odd question; one bride in the comments below noted that she initially expected her full set of wedding photos to all look like curated blog wedding photos, which suggests to me that her concept of “total weddings” had probably been skewed. But, generally, we mostly want to read/watch/see the interesting/emotional/inspirational/whatever parts, not the boring or somewhat unkempt or not the greatest camera angle parts [at the very least, those are harder to write stories about or capture in gripping ways], so there’s an internal tension in the production of creative media between representational truth and a massive force towards exaggeration or simplification or both.)

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    So totally true… and I remember that Eureka moment when looking at what looked like real weddings but were styled shoots… it was actually my now-husband who said something like: “but wait, there are no people in those photos”. These are fake.

  • carrie

    SO MUCH THIS. I remember being initially disappointed in my photos because I really think I was expecting to open them (yanno, all 400 of them) and see it like a Style Me Pretty post or somesuch. By the third viewing, I got over myself, and then a month later, I realized that I would look at my wedding pictures because I wanted to smile.

    Because there is so much love and fun being had in those pictures, even when I have three chins in them.

    • http://anniecardi.com Annie

      “I realized that I would look at my wedding pictures because I wanted to smile.”

      YES. You (hopefully) don’t get wedding pictures because you want them to be all over Pinterest or wedding blogs. You get them so you can look at them and think “Oh man, Uncle Doug broke out all the classic dance moves,” or “Our officiant totally made us laugh here!” or “So glad that we got a picture with Billy and Karen, all the way from Ottowa!” A stranger can still look at your wedding pictures and think “What a lovely wedding,” or “Looks like they had so much fun!” but their reactions aren’t nearly as important as the ones you have.

  • Granola

    I wonder if this also has an effect on the pictures of our own weddings that we expect to get from our photographers. “Why don’t I look like a celebrity at a perfectly curated blog-party? Why do we all look mostly the same as we normally do, just with fancier clothes?”

  • Moe

    A few weeks ago my wedding budget took a big hit and I had to make drastic cuts. Floral centerpieces were out. This little detail consumed me more than it should have. So I went back to the drawing board. The tables will have a grown Kraft paper runner (thanks APW!) they will have a scrap of vintage tablecloth and succulent plants potted in rusty cans I did myself. (Cheap!) then I collected wedding photos from my guests, printed them in B&W and framed them with estate sale frames (a little laborious but also cheap)

    I was sad for weeks thinking the tables were sad and lonely. Really though, it’s going to be fine.

    So what you’re saying is that the people sitting at the tables are more memorable? Those same people eating, drinking and celebrating is what I will remember? Oh yes, thank you for the reminder!!! With 11 days to go this is where I want my focus to be!

    • http://writemeg.com Megan

      Oh my goodness, I absolutely love that you’re featuring guests’ wedding photos on your tables . . . that is so unique and sweet, and such a great way to bring up lovely memories for family and friends. You’ve just inspired me to add another element to our wedding: a table with family wedding photos. Thank you!

      • Moe

        Right now the frames are sitting on my desk and I love getting to look at all ” the little brides and grooms”. People were really excited to share their photos too. My aunt-inlaw asked “which photo do you want? From the first wedding or the 25th anniversary?” I took both. :)

      • Amy

        We featured wedding photos of both sides of the family as far back as we could and all of our married attendants. Hands down one of the most commented on things we did, people loved seeing that history and feeling like they were a part of our community.

        • http://writemeg.com Megan

          Simply in love with this idea — family is so important to us, and we’re having a big ol’ celebration with anyone and everyone who can come! My fiance and I both want our families and friends to feel like a part of our day, and this will be such an awesome addition to our vintage-inspired day. Why didn’t I think of this?! Regardless, so glad y’all are here to inspire me. Yay, APW! :)

      • http://www.dmarried.com Blair

        Megan-
        Exactly x a million. Moe, you’re a genius. Consider your idea stolen!

    • Granola

      I spent a LOT of time figuring out the centerpieces for our wedding, and I was shocked that day about how little I cared about them. I barely noticed them – I was too excited to see everyone.

      Sounds like your tables will be lovely.

    • meg

      Here is the secret: you notice table decorations for the five seconds before you sit down. Then you can hardly see them amidst the food, and you’re focused on conversation anyway. If I were doing my wedding again, I’d cut centerpieces. So much work for 5 seconds of noticing.

      • Karyn

        Agreed! Our centrepieces were a few stems of carnations in bud-vases. And that was it! Except they were arranged in an ombre pattern of darkest to lightest, but yeah. That was all. They were perfect because they were simple and cheap but still pretty enough to add a touch of colour to the otherwise black-and-white table settings.

        PLUS everybody took a bunch home after the reception, so we didn’t have to find anything to do with 30+ bud-vases.

        • Karyn

          What I mean to say is that they were simple and pretty but they weren’t in-your-face all the time. You noticed them and they looked nice but then your mind just forgot about them and it was okay.

      • Megan

        Unless… we used Jenga sets as our centerpieces! They were interactive and fun and were the best idea I didn’t have.

        (They were my husband’s. I thought they would fall in food. They didn’t and everyone loved them!)

        • Moe

          We almost ended up with a family sized burrito on a platter as a centerpiece. We went another direction with the catering though.

          Can you imagine a game of drunken Jenga?? How fun!!!

        • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

          Jenga centrepieces? Yes please.

      • Rachel

        Yes! In a moment of panic about centerpieces and table decor, my fiancé asked me to describe our table at my cousin’s wedding just a few months ago. I couldn’t remember a damn thing – not the color of the linens, not the presence/absence of chargers, not the centerpieces, and certainly not the table numbers. I remember what we ate at that table (I like food, what can I say?), I remember dancing the night away, and I remember how happy the bride and groom seemed. I hope those are the takeaways from my wedding, too!

        • Moe

          I ask myself this question all the time, and I ask the same of my other wedding-planning friends when they are stressed out.

          What did the cake look like at the last wedding you went to?
          What did the flowers look like?
          Do you remember what the guest book looked like?

          Ususally the answer is no, and almost always someone remembers how happy the bride was, how hard they danced, or how much fun they had.

          • http://asashaparty.blogspot.com Sasha

            We did this too! For anything we were discussing (centerpieces, attire, invites) we would discuss if wither of us ever remembered any from any of the weddings we’d been to. And if so, what we remembered about them–for example, I remembered one large centerpiece because it made talking impossible. it really helped us figure out what we cared about. And in some cases it was different–he remembered way more centerpieces, I remembered invites but he never did. But anything neither of us had ever noticed we gave ourselves freedom to either not have or not worry about.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            I’ll just put in a word for us observant, detail-obsessed people: I remember the color of the bridesmaids’ shoes, their dresses, the centerpieces, the bouquets, etc. of several weddings I’ve attended; and I have no professional or other “good” reason to notice/remember. In planning my own wedding, I had lots of fun “obsessing over the details.” When it stopped being fun, I was mostly able to delegate.

            If you really don’t care, by all means, don’t “obsess.” But don’t deny yourself a fun planning process because it’s not “practical” or “you should care more about people” or even “you won’t care the day-of.”

          • Aubry

            I’m with elisabethjoanne, I remeber everything! I can tell you all details from bridesmaid shoes to certerpieces to color schemes from any wedding in the last 3 years or so. That is when my friends/cousins my age started getting married and before that it had been at least 5 years since the previous wedding.

            I do remember things I liked, like little red potted flowers in teapots for my cousin’s centrepieces 2 years ago. They also had like 30 different teas after dinner and each table had a tea name with little samples for eveyone as favors. I thought that was super cute. Or how I want to avoid speaches if I can, or limit them a lot, because there have been some TERRIBLE and/or incredibly long winded ones in my past.

            But, that being said, evey wedding (and they have been very different!) I have been too looked lovely and put together, despite an assuredly frantic bride having the same panic attacks we all seem to have!

      • http://newcomfortfood.wordpress.com JenMcC

        Thank you for this comment! I am just this week obsessing over centerpieces after deciding that hiring a florist was way more money than we could reasonably spend. I’ve been all worried about doing it myself and if I can make them memorable enough. So this is a well-timed reminder that I really don’t have to make them crazy memorable. Yay!

        • Moe

          Also, don’t rule out asking for help. I have a few friends who are savvy with flowers and one of them is making 1-2 small arrangements so that I have flowers at my sweetheart table.

          When I was going crazy about this a few weeks ago I discovered all sorts of helpful tutorials on putting arrangements together.

          • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

            For me, the help was the memorable part. I bought glass cylinders and candles online and collected seashells in the months before (I lived in Florida). The day before the wedding, my bridesmaids and I filled coffee cans with sand, brought them back to the beach house and assembled centerpieces together. I don’t know if anyone will remember having seen the centerpieces, but we’ll all remember Amy figuring out she could pipe the sand in like frosting with a Ziploc bag and Katie precisely arranging the shells using tongs from the ice bucket (while nursing a raging hangover from girls night out). I didn’t intend for this comment to reinforce the theme of the post, but really, it is about the people.

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      All of your comments about your awesome wedding make me so excited to see your eventual post about it!

  • Amy

    Thank you for this. We chose our photographer specifically because we loved her shots that people in them. We want photos of our families faces when we make our committment to one another and of the partying at the reception. Everyone keeps asking us for our colors or our theme…the response is we’re lesbians, that’s enough of a theme…and our ceremony will take place at the end of September in Minnesota – Mother Nature will take care of the colors…

  • http://www.laughterinthelou.com Emma

    Really loved how you featured your own and your client’s weddings instead of random images pulled from websites. I expected no less, of course, but I still just love the APW dedication to showcasing real people, even when showing an image that is representing a fake reality. And real photos so helped to articulate this abstract (but very real) concept. Kudos!

  • Megan

    I want to Exactly this so hard. I just had my wedding (yay!) and while I spent time daydreaming about what the photos would look like before it happened, now I’m spending time dreamily remembering the scenes I took in with my own eyes, and those were mostly people and chaos and love.

    Thank you so much for writing this!

  • Emily

    Thanks for this! So then why am I so upset with myself for mixing the “wrong” color for my letterpress invitations? On the one hand, I know Meg is spot on and I’m being kind of ridiculous. On the other hand, how will my guests know to expect a fun, bright wedding if their invitation doesn’t reflect that?! (For some reason, self mockery isn’t helping me ground myself this time.)

    Btw, it’s not just the WIC that can inflict this preoccupation of pretty objects -> happiness. For me, the only people who gain from my paper obsession are the owners of my local print supply shop, who I’m happy to support. The influence of growing up in a design-oriented household can cause the same disease of agonizing over details.

    • Rebecca

      I’d put it down more to just “I did this thing wrong and I wanted to do it right.” And then taking the “I did this wrong” feeling- which is of course never awesome- and applying it to your wedding.

      Just because everything is going to be fine doesn’t mean that it’s not reasonable to feel disappointed about not meeting your own expectations- even if it’s just the color on your invites.

      Actually having an awesome wedding/ party should take your mind off the color- until then, if you like details, care about details!

  • http://www.safarimama.blog.com Manya

    Ha! Maddie, I love the last two the most!

  • Daisy6564

    I went to a wedding this summer that had those pretty, striped, old-timey paper straws that we see all over Pinterest. Adorable, and they matched her decor. http://www.amazon.com/Kikkerland-Biodegradable-Paper-Straws-Striped/dp/B004K8SSAC

    Have you ever tired to drink out of a paper straw? The damn things disintegrate when liquid touches them. Then you get bits of paper in your mouth. Every one was relieved when they ran out and we could use, the much less photogenic, clear plastic, back-up straws.

    • Karen

      I have often wondered about these. It’s like no one ever thought of how water and paper don’t exactly go together. Go with practical!

    • meg

      I almost snarfled my toast through my nose. I did not, in fact, know that. Whoopsy. Oof.

    • Class of 1980

      Hmmm. I seem to have a distant childhood memory of straws that eventually collapsed (closed up), rather than disintegrated. You could try to blow it open, but if that didn’t work, you’d have to replace your straw.

      I had forgotten.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    “I encourage you to leave some space. Leave some space for understanding that looking out at something you put together is amazing, but that looking out on that same thing filled with the people you love? It’s so much better”.

    THE BIGGEST LESSON OF OUR WEDDING WAS THIS. Not just in terms of details, and anticipation, but in your heart and plans for the day. Leave room for the magic of the wedding day to happen. When you gather all the people you love in one place to celebrate your commitment, so much magic can happen, but if you’ve planned and orchestrated and overseen every last thing, there won’t be much room for the magic. And you don’t really want to be putting on a performance, do you? Don’t you want something real, and live, and beautiful because it only happened just that one time through a series of serendipitous events? That’s what I wish for all future brides/grooms – that your wedding day hold magic that you couldn’t have ever predicted and that you will cherish forever. Just try not to get in the way of it.

  • LMN

    Thank you so much for this post! We’re three months out, and I was literally just sitting here wondering if I need to make more decorations so people will “feel like they’re at a wedding.” Thank you for the reminder–our guests will feel like they’re at a wedding because they WILL be!

    Also, I really appreciate the photos illustrating actual wedding vs. blog-ified wedding. Another thing about the Internet representation of weddings that drives me nuts (especially on Pinterest)? When I do see photos with people in them, they only show the couple and/or the bridal party. And they all look like models. Over time, I’ve become suspicious and concluded that most of them really are models. How many people have bridesmaids who are all the same height and weight with hair color that coordinates with one another? Or Abercrombie groomsmen in designer tuxes? And all the brides and grooms look suspiciously perfect, too. I think that people re-pin these images because they like to look at them, but it makes the “dream” wedding even more of a fantasy (and one that can be very harmful to everyone’s body image).

  • Claire

    Some of the best wedding advice I’ve ever read anywhere.

    • Cass

      I seriously wish this post had been made when I was planning my wedding 2 years ago!

  • http://nerdycare.blogspot.com SelkieKel

    That sound you just heard was me emailing this post to a bevy of my pre-engaged and newly engaged friends. This seriously needs to be part of Required Reading for the Engaged (Doing So Will Save Your Sanity). As mentioned above, this post puts a tangiable point on an otherwise amorphous but uber-prevalent concept.

    Also: “And unless you’re having a teeny tiny two-person elopement, chances are that’s what will make your wedding awesome too.”

    As someone who did have a teeny tiny two-person elopement, I can attest that even then the people who you encounter that day will play an enormous role in making the wedding awesome (since there are so few details that would otherwise clamor for your attention).

    When we returned from our marital island sojourn, more than one of my friends asked if I regretted not having, “beautiful pictures of a ‘real wedding’.” (They weren’t being mean-spirited; they just had strong associations with the more common outlay of ceremony and reception) To which I replied that the few pictures we did get captured the important parts: what we wanted to relive again and again.

    • Moe

      Congratulations fellow-eloper! We eloped too, last summer. It was just the two of us and now we’re having what I call a ‘public ceremony’ for everyone to enjoy. I’ve been irked by a few comments that this upcoming event is fake or staged. It is not a performance. The vows we’re taking are just as meaningful and binding as the ones we took in a tiny Vegas chapel. The vows reflect that we are already married and the invitations included me with my new married name. The wedding anniversary I will celebrate will be last summer’s date.

      I have photos from the elopement but have not shared them yet on FB. [Because you know it doesn't really count unless it's posted to FB. *sarcasm*] It just feels like a really intimate thing that I didn’t want broadcasted across the Internet, maybe I’ll feel different after this upcoming ceremony.

      I love my teeny tiny elopement, my rented silk flower bouquet, my Forever 21 dress and the witness/photographer who was sister to the officiant at the family-business wedding chapel.

      • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

        We also did both and I was afraid that *I* would feel like the public ceremony was a sham. Cut to my repressed self choking up during the vows, despite having already felt good and married for six months. It felt different, saying those things in front of our people. I still haven’t shared the pictures from our elopement, despite the fact that I love them (especially the stereotypical left hand ring shot – his ring was a plastic Batman ring from a cupcake since we didn’t have wedding rings yet.) It feels like those are for us.

  • Jenn

    Excellent post, Maddie!

  • Teresa

    I love this. So much. As much as I am glad that Pinterest was around when I was planning my wedding last year (found my invites, centerpieces, etc.), looking at all of that was overwhelming a lot of the time. What if my wedding didn’t look like those weddings? Not as polished? Not as chic? Not as fun?! It took me a long time before I realized that a lot of the blog shoots were staged and done by professionals–no one had those “I just got married” smiles or tears, bc they were models. I know now that no amount of beautiful place settings and painstakingly crafted favors can replace the look of joy and love on a just married couple’s face. The wedding photos of mine that I love the most aren’t of the details, they are of the people.

    • Moe

      It took me about 18 months of planning to finally get burned out on Pinterest. My boards were amazing though!! Now I log in and it feels like I’m watching a tired re-run of Gilligan’s Island where nothng new ever happens and I’ve seen it all before.

      It sure was helpful when I first began planning though.

      • http://www.sarahhoppes.wordpress.com SarahHoppes

        After our wedding, I felt bad (inexplicably) deleting our planning pinboard, so I renamed it “Best Laid Plans” and have kind of ignored it ever since.

        99% of the things on that board never happened, either because we realized they were more work or money than we thought, or they were tossed when our circumstances rapidly changed. We didn’t miss a single thing. None of those well-intentioned, curated details that were absent mattered one iota.

        What DID matter was how relaxed we were as we got ready together amidst chaos; how much we laughed; how both of us walked away from the ceremony to hold each other and cry; how our parents held hands; how our friends who’d never met were singing 90′s pop together by the end of the night; how one friend totally rolled with it and sang along dramatically with the sad, operatic spanish music that no one remembers requesting, how strangers stopped us to say congratulations; and how everyone else looked as happy as we were.

        I have no idea how any of that would look on an inspiration board, and I’m positive none of that would make it on a typical wedding blog post, but damn that all FELT so good.

        • Moe

          That sounds awesome! THAT is what I’m looking forward to!!

        • Teresa

          Exactly! It’s the feelings and all of your people mingling together and talking and laughing and dancing. No inspiration board can truly capture how it felt to look out on a room full of all of our people and know they were there just to cheer us on. Freaking awesome.

  • Caroline

    Thank you for this and your grad post which I just reread. I’ve been “struggling” with a lack of interest in details. I just don’t care about table numbers or centerpeices or any of that. I care about the officiant, and the food, and the drink and the music and the ketubah and the ceremony, my dress, and our stunning location: my mom’s beautiful beautiful house. I don’t care what the programs look like as long as we have something to help the non-Jews understand the Jewish wedding. I don’t care about flowers beyond that my fiancé wants some and I want to get them at the farmer’s market and/or our favorite florist who makes beautiful little arrangements on whatever my fiancé’s budget is, even if we’re broke and that is $5. I don’t care about the details. I’m not a “pretty party” person. I clean the house, put out amazing food, and call it good.

    Thanks for the reminder that that is ok in a wedding too.

    • Brenda

      Me too! I’m excited about the paper goods, but that’s as creative as I get. Whenever I see all those pictures of beautiful centerpieces and wall decorations and favors and table numbers and photobooth props, the only thing I can think is “man, that looks like a pain to make.”

    • Rebecca

      I can’t say I’ve struggled with my lack of interest in details- it’s more of an active boycott- but it has been kind of funny. Particularly because I just graduated from a design program, so I have several friends who are getting married who are obsessing about designing all the details for their wedding. I get weird looks when I tell them I refused to, for example, spend a week designing our invites.

      I just picked a picture of a bouquet I liked, told the florist to do something like those, told our venue that are colors are what’s in the bouquet, and used plain linen color Crane invites. I’m fairly certain it will look fine. A wedding just isn’t a fun design project for me, somehow.

      The food, on the other hand- we’ve made sure the food will be delicious and that the staff at our venue will take good care of our guests. Happy, well-fed people usually make for a good time, in my experience. With or without a vintage-Egyptian-farmhouse-rock’n roll theme.

  • Laura

    I keep reminding myself that those beautiful, cohesive tablescapes and color schemes actually end up looking *nothing like that* once the guests, with their carious outfits and styles and skin and hair colors, show up. And, after all, the whole *point* of having the thing is to bring all those people together.

  • http://www.KatesShortandSweets.com Kate

    is it too late to go to this one? Because it looks totally super funtimes awesome

  • Class of 1980

    I think photos of wedding details are like photos of house decoration.

    You see what the house looks like, but it doesn’t tell you what it’s was like to source everything, or what it’s like to live there day-to-day, and all the maintenance necessary.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      This makes me think of some conversations we’ve had lately in my family about architecture photography.

      First, my husband daydreams by looking at listings of Victorian houses. If I’m sitting with him, the first thing I always say is, “Show me the kitchen.” Kitchens were very different when the owners of the house never cooked for themselves. Sometimes, they weren’t even in the house.

      Second, some friends are taking the train half-way across the continent and commented on the train company’s photos of sleeper cars v. what they’d seen on YouTube. My father said, “Those professional interior design photographers are genius.” We brought this up to a friend who actually is a professional architecture photographer. He said, “All you need is a 10mm lens.”

  • ErinC

    In a way, I am a member of the WIC, although I work for a small, family-owned home decor retail store (there are three of us that work there, and that includes the owner). I am often struck by how currently social culture has been try hard to revive the idea of “entertaining” in the last decade and yet none of us have experience with the concept of “event planning”. I marvel at customers who have unreasonably high expectations of paper napkins. Honest to God, I’ve pulled apart our displays for people, trying to give them options and ideas with the stock we have, only to have the customer say “These plates don’t match those napkins exactly. It’s not the same shade of pink. I think I’ll check at Wal-Mart.”

    Before you think this is just a rant about not supporting Main Street indpendent businesses, let me tell you that what always takes me aback is that someone could be that picky about something DISPOSABLE. Paper nakpins, plates, cups; selling all of it is part of how I earn my paycheck, but on the other end I realize these things will be used briefly and then most likely discarded. The colors and textures will be nothing but a misty memory against the experience of the people who brought together to celebrate somethinng. I think that’s why this post resonantes so much for me. Inspiration is a wonderful thing, it’s big part of why I love my job. I get to play with colors and styles and help people make choices for what they imagine their house or party could be, but I don’t personally believe for one minute that the placemats I sell to you will be as important as the people who eat from them.

    My own wedding is in two months, and I learned a while ago to make peace with the reality between “what could be” and “what will be”. After over loading myself with pictures of other people’s weddings, I finally came back to the idea that this is OUR wedding, not anyone else’s and I can trust my own good judgement about what will make our guests comfortable because I KNOW THEM! That’s why I want them there! Get all the information/inspiration you can, ladies, it will help you to make all those choice about where and what and how, but don’t let it consume you. Yes, vendors will try to sell you things, that’s how they make a living, but in the end we just need to trust ourselves.

  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    These days, almost every “wedding” pin I make is an APW post that I want to be sure to find again. :)

  • Hannah

    This is perfect. If I had a wedding binder, I would print this out and make it the first page.

  • AshleyMeredith

    I think I am a slightly defective APWer. (Said not more than a very tiny bit seriously.) The things I absolutely love remembering about my wedding are the decorative ones. But then, I a) gravitate towards pictures of things anyway and b) didn’t obsess about the decorating ahead of time either so there wasn’t a lot of room for disillusionment. We really didn’t have a lot and what was there was meant to enhance the garden we were in, not necessarily stand out on its own. The burlap tablecloths under mixed, non-matching silver and cut-glass punch bowls and a mason jar drink dispenser was so beautiful and seriously one of my favorite pictures…. but I also had no idea what punch bowls we were using ahead of time.

    Now, that said, this post is absolutely completely true. The moment that defines the day – the moment we knew we’d created the wedding we wanted to have – was when I found that a dozen of our friends had wandered off and seated themselves in the grass under a tree. And that is one of my favorite memories/pictures, too.

    • Moe

      In defense of details:

      I am so damn proud of the boutinneres I made myself. I collcted scraps of material and discarded comic book pages (the husband is a collector) to make flowers out of them and made my own stinkin’ boutineres. No one will probalby care unless I take time to point them out. But I loved making them, I enjoyed the hot glue burns, and I can make paper flowers out of anything now.

      If you enjoyed it, then that is awesome!

      On the other hand, I don’t have an aisle runner or any aisle decorations. For some reason this causes people worry. So I delegated it to someone in the wedding party who was concerned about it the most. I have no idea what it will look like, nor do I care.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Exactly. Don’t deny yourself an enjoyable process just because “things aren’t important.” Experiences are important. Beauty is important. You can have happy experiences planning things for your wedding and still have a people-focused wedding day.

    • Maddie

      Ha, I don’t think you’re defective. I love love love pretty things. I think the distinction is just being true to yourself and making sure the voice that urges you to make things pretty is your own, and not something that’s been fed to you by the wedding industry.

      Where I got caught up in wedding planning is that I’m NOT a details person in real life (my outfits look great, but my nails are always a mess, you know what I mean?) And in wedding planning, I tried to be a details person and it drove me crazy.

      Anyway, know thyself. It’s my wedding mantra. :)

      • meg

        I think it’s pretty easy to fall into a this vs. that trap. The idea that the way weddings are presented is not the way we experience them doesn’t mean there is anything WRONG with enjoying decorative details. The point is more to put them in perspective with how you’ll end up experiencing things.

  • Kirsten

    This is one of the best posts ever. And that is saying A LOT on this blog. Thank you for keeping it real.

  • Lauren

    Forwarding this to my photographer. This is exactly what I was trying to tell her about the shots I want her to take but said much more eloquently than I could!

  • http://www.koruwedding.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    Amen. I feature real weddings on my blog & about half the time, the photographers send me submissions that don’t include any photos of the couple or the guests at the reception. Just details. I still post some of those weddings because I know people love details but I feel like the heart of the wedding is missing.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Yup, photos of things are the first to lose importance.

    As I approach my 5-month anniversary, I’ve now made myself 2 wedding photo albums on Shutterfly and ordered 2 different sets of wedding photo prints. Even for my huge, 12″x12″ 50-page big album, not all of our nearly 500 photos could be included. Just yesterday I chose what I guessed were Mom’s 101 favorite photos from the wedding, and over and over again I skipped photos of things.

    [The 101 free prints deal ends April 2, for anyone else with some jpegs to make tangible.]

  • Carisa

    THIS whole post is everything I love about APW. Also, that gay couple’s pictures are so beautiful I literally want to do a happy dance about how amazing love and life can be.

  • Kater

    I read your post and wholeheartedly agree!

    But I cannot tell a lie…couldn’t stop myself from pinning a pic of the string lights (ok, maybe it’s not for the wedding but just for a future home???)

    • Maddie

      String lights are awesome. No other reason needed. :)

    • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

      String lights created the whole atmosphere for our reception. Yes, the people were what made the reception fun, but the string lights made it so, so pretty and festive. I’m already trying to figure out how to string them up in our little townhouse backyard whenever we have our first party here. I may not be able to figure out how to wear my dress again (though lord knows I am trying) but the string lights will get reused as often as possible.

  • Sam A

    We had paper straws… And centrepieces and details and prettiness that I obsessed about.. (It was pre-pinterest, so i had folders). And, i wldn’t have had it any other way – obsessing about detail? Kinda my thing. Getting lost in the creative execution of an idea/event? Also, a thing for us as a couple. Did we do because we wanted a ‘blogworthy’ day? nope. did we do it ’cause actually… It was fun? Hells yeah. So,, i claim my pretty details (and the photos thereof) with PRIDE!

    But, all that said – my absolute favourite photos and memories from the day – allll about the people. (But, even some of those are of the people, my people, helping with the pretty…)

  • http://www.michelleedgemont.com Michelle Edgemont

    As someone who makes a living on putting together custom inspiration boards for weddings, decorative details, and color palettes, I agree with this post 110%.

    Decorations are awesome. But people are more awesome.

    • Maddie

      I love you.

  • Kestrel

    So this is going to sound kind of silly, but does anyone watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? This 100% reminds me of the episode where Apple Jack was in charge of planning a family reunion and had all these activities and things that she made people do, but what everyone really wanted was to just talk with the family they didn’t get to see very often.

    I think I’ll be keeping that in mind when we plan our wedding. Details are nice, but don’t matter nearly as much as the people you get to share the day with.

  • Suzzie

    My favourite parts of our wedding aren’t even in photos! Things like my dad playing polka music days before the wedding to try to see if it would get my mom and I to braid the ribbon for our hand fasting/saptapadi ritual faster (braiding 7 ribbons together is a pain in the you know what). Morning of our wedding when I had my husband push my on the trolley we had used to take boxes down to the car (garage of our apartment complex) while I saw standing in a charge pose laughing my head off. Having groups of Asian tourists clapping at us like we were celebrities while our photos were being taken. My husband tearing up during the ceremony. My mom trying to help in use the restroom (reality of wedding dresses with layers!). Our guests giving answers/questions during one of our dinner games. Guests insisting on our first dance (my husband hadn’t wanted one). And just the overall feel of the wedding.

    The photos we do have are lovely but certainly don’t show what our wedding actually was! I had made some folders on my computer that had inspiration items, but when it came to actually doing things for the wedding I didn’t use them at all!

  • dragonzflame

    I stole this idea from a photo I saw, and I’m freely offering it to others to steal. Instead of centrepieces, which people look at and go, ‘oh, how pretty…when do you think dinner will be?’, we used funny stories that had happened to the two of us. Each table was cryptically named after a story. In the centre of each table was a cardboard triangle, standing on end (you know, like restaurants often put their drink menu on), with a 200-word story on one side of the triangle, and with the artwork from our invitation on the other two sides.

    Those things got passed around and shared all night. And they were FANTASTIC for people that didn’t know one of us that well. I think that was one of the coolest parts of the wedding, and one I’d never have thought of on my own.

  • C

    I also appreciated this post. Particularly because, recently, I was so excited by some photos posted of a wedding on this website that I went to visit the bride’s blog (where she promised, and did, in fact, post more photos), because I couldn’t figure out how the couple fit all these beautiful photos in a variety of scenes into one day. They were that fantastic.

    And you know what I found out? They didn’t. Some of the photos posted were actually taken on a subsequent day (even though bride and groom were in wedding attire). This blew. my. mind. Not because there was anything wrong with that, but just because it illustrated the gap between perception and reality was a giant chasm. It helped me realize that capturing the memories is important, but it’s not a substitute for the actual memory.

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

    I am late to this post, but man, oh, man, does it resonate with me. Everyone looks so transcendentally joyful on the blogs, and while I was joyful on my wedding day, it wasn’t the only emotion I felt. I felt nervous, excited, annoyed, embarrassed, and also transcendentally joyful, but because no one looks nervous on a blog, I felt like I was wrong. It took me a while to come to piece with our wedding photos because many of them don’t represent how I felt. They show the happiness, but not the other things.

    Also, my favorite photos hands down are the ones of everyone dancing at the reception. They are just the best.

  • Amanda

    AAAAAAH!!! I was AT that wedding! It was the most DIT wedding I’ve ever been to, and the prosciutto was the most amazing thing ever.

  • Ali

    Jeebus I needed this post right now. I’m two months away as of this weekend, and I feel like we’re entering full psychosis mode, or at least I am. This reminded me to take some perspective.

  • Megan

    Whoa Nelly!! The “real” version of this wedding tells so much more of a story of what it was like to be there and who these *precious* people are. I am so Tired (with a capital T) of blog posts that are just endless pictures of place settings… wooof. It’s also beautifully shot! Maddie you are so hired!

  • Kristin

    Can anyone tell me what the name of this venue is and where it is? It is absolutely breathtaking.

    • Maddie

      It’s Leonard Lake Reserve in Northern California!

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