Q: It’s always been my secret dream to get married at the beautiful San Fernando Cathedral here in San Antonio. We picked a date, plopped down some cash, and booked the church. It’s all going swimmingly. And as luck would have it, the cathedral hall is available for our reception. It will hold all of our guests, is close to the church, and within our budget. All I need to do is fax this contract back to the nice lady at the church and it’s ours. This is where the swimming stops.
You see, I’ve been an avid reader of APW for the last year or so (ever since I figured out that this is the man I am going to marry). I love to peruse all the wedding graduates and wordless weddings. Each wedding seems so meaningful and personal to each individual couple. They are refreshingly unique and you can see the joy in every picture, which is the whole point. The first thing I did after we decided to get married was to go buy Meg’s book. And I’m a believer in the APW philosophy that all that matters is what the wedding feels like. It doesn’t have to look a certain way. And that “should” is a dirty, dirty word.
Here’s the problem: My wedding is starting to look a “certain way.” And it seems to be like every other wedding (and quinceañera) I’ve ever been to. Church ceremony, large ballroom, two-tone decorations, dinner, dancing, etc. The very thought makes me cringe and feel a strange mixture of anxiety, shame, and sadness. But due to budget constraints and the sheer size of our families, this seems to be the most practical choice for us.
I know that the key to the APW philosophy is choice. And if we are party people, who love to dance, and who have large, close-knit families (which we are and do), then choosing a big, traditional wedding is perfectly acceptable. So why do I feel like I’m selling out? I guess my question is can we still have one of those meaningful, personal weddings in a big, impersonal ballroom?
Big Ballroom Blues
A: Dear BBB,
Lady, you don’t even need me. This, right here: “It doesn’t have to look a certain way. And that ‘should’ is a dirty, dirty word.” That’s it! You’ve nailed it.
Here’s a secret: when you get right down to it, a wedding is a wedding is a wedding. If you find a funky vintage cocktail dress, or if you wear David’s Bridal white… still a wedding. The only piece that sets it apart and makes a wedding unique and special is the two of you. That’s it. Not the favors—whether they’re elaborate truffles or mason jars of homemade preserves or nothing at all. Not the venue—whether a ballroom or a friend’s backyard. Not the meal—whether filet mignon or taco truck. Just little old you.
Because, here’s the other secret: that visible stuff that makes a wedding look personal and unique today, will be blasé and old hat tomorrow. I thought it was pretty dang unique and special that I had a color-coordinated candy bar in fancy apothecary jars. And then suddenly every wedding had them. And do you remember when photo booths were crazy inventive? Now everyone’s got those, too. I don’t mean to discourage you candy bar and photo booth havers. The point is that it’s all fine, because that stuff only marginally matters. When you look back on your mom’s wedding photos from the ’80s, do you think, “Ugh, more poufy sleeves? Boring.” Nope. You think, “Oh man, look at my mom!” It’s the people that matter at the end of the day (or the decade), not the style. Even if this wedding is exactly like every other wedding you’ve ever been to in style, it still won’t be in substance.
You’re not selling out. But I do understand that little desire for something pretty and special. So, here I am to remind you that yep, even a church or ballroom wedding can be pretty and special. Flip through all of that vintage wedding goodness over here (so few of our parents were worried about unique weddings, god bless ’em) or the tags for “social hall weddings” and “church weddings.” Some of my favorites are Meg’s parents (In a cathedral! With a reception in ballroom!) and cough, my own wedding (In a church! With the reception in the church hall!). See how pretty and joyful and unique they each are? Why? Because it’s the people getting married that matters, and the love, and all the people there to celebrate them. It’s the new family created that counts. The photos only matter for memories, and future grubby hands pointing and asking questions.
Team Practical, how did you fill your wedding with unique personality? What do you do when you feel pressure to fit a certain mold?