We Abandoned Our Big Wedding Halfway Through Planning

On getting back to "us"


Joey and I met in 1999. I was 15, he was a day shy of 18, and within a month we were boyfriend and girlfriend. We kept those titles for the next 11 years.

Cue the infamous question—“What took you so long to get married?”

We’ll put aside the fact that we were babies when we met, with high school to finish, college to graduate from and careers to figure out, and I’ll tell you that marriage just wasn’t a top priority for us, which I think is hard for some people to understand. It wasn’t that we weren’t completely committed to one another. We bought a house together, and a dog…and then another dog. We were committed; we were creating a life together and figured we’d get married when it felt right for us.

Before we got engaged, we talked about getting married at the courthouse, keeping it simple, maybe even eloping. But then the love of my life put that blasted ring on my finger in March of 2011 and I lost myself (and my mind) for a little bit.

Everyone was so happy for us. I was consumed by the outpouring of love and excitement. The funny thing is that up until that point, we played by our own rules. We did what made us happy and what felt right for us as a couple, but now I felt like what would make us happy (simple, no fuss wedding), would make others unhappy. I was trapped by my people pleasing ways.

I knew in my heart I had no real desire to plan a big wedding, and I knew Joey didn’t either, but we forged ahead not thinking there was another way. We set a date—June 6, 2012—but it never felt real. It never felt right. My gut was telling me one thing, but I was too scared to listen. I didn’t want to disappoint our family and friends.

It was late October when we finally had our “Come to Wedding-Jesus” moment. We finally acknowledged that we didn’t want the wedding we were kinda, sorta planning for June. What happened to the courthouse? How do we get back to Us? Doing Us had gotten us this far, why would we abandon that now?

So, we put our big girl/boy panties on and did a complete 180. And guess what—it was OK. Actually, it was better than OK. It was perfect.

We had only booked two things for June 6—the venue and the photographers. We were able to get back our small deposit on the venue, and our photographers were Leah & Mark Photography (found on APW, love at first sight), and were beyond awesome, thought our change of plans was cool, said +Raven was available on December 9, and so our new wedding—our wedding—was born. We had about six weeks to plan, which would probably freak a lot of people out, but for me it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I finally felt excited, and I could tell Joey did too.

We got married at the courthouse in Annapolis with our immediate family present. Our reception was a dinner party with our nearest and dearest, and then a larger group of friends met us out at the bar to celebrate afterwards.

We didn’t send Save the Dates, there were no letter pressed invitations, I didn’t walk down an aisle, we didn’t pick out linens, there was no DJ. Our first dance? In the middle of the street (photog’s suggestion, that’s why they’re so damn awesome).

We didn’t have all those things (things!), but goshdarnit we had a wedding! Everyone was happy. Our hearts were full. The day felt as easy as breathing from start to finish. I married my best friend, and life got a little bit better, a little bit happier.

Turns out your wedding day isn’t a direct reflection of how much you love the people in your life, but rather how much you love and respect your partner. The people in our life, well they still love us, and are happy we’re happy. In fact, one of the most heartfelt notes I received was from someone who wasn’t at our wedding.

It read:

I am so happy to hear that you are following your heart. This is your time and your day. All that is important is the memory of Joey’s face when he says, “I do.” All that is necessary will be with you then. I wish you both the most magnificent of loves.

All that is necessary will be with you then. I read that, and I cried. And when we said our wedding vows, I realized how very true it was.

To all the future-brides, I have just two words for you: be brave.

Be brave enough to follow your heart, to dig deep down inside and listen to what that little voice is telling you. Be brave enough to change your mind, and change it again if necessary. The people who matter will support and love you, and anyone who wants to judge—well, they’re just not worth it. Your love story is just that—yours. And no one can write it better than you.

The Info—Photography: +Raven of LeahAndMark.com / Venue: Harry Browne’s / Diane’s Dress: Ann Taylor / Diane’s Faux Fur Jacket: Nordstrom / Diane’s Shoes: RSVP from Zappos.com/ Joey’s Three-piece Suit: JoS. A Bank

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  • Carbon Girl

    Simply beautiful and overflowing with joy! As a former winter bride myself , my heart skipped a beat when I saw those wreaths and tree. Congrats to both of you!

  • PA

    I love the smiles in all of these photos! For lack of a better word, you all look so *comfortable* – not like you’re not all dolled up (because that DRESS! The tuxes! Wow!), but like everyone feels like they’re in exactly the right place. The sort of calm that happens when everything is going your way!

    I agree so much about the expectation shift – all sorts of things become “must”s and “should”s and “well, of course you’ll…”s as soon as the wedding/engagement! It takes sitting down and thinking about it to make sure you’re still on track where YOU want to be.

    Thank you for sharing! I am so glad that your family and friends were joyful with you from afar!

  • Oh winter weddings! I planned one for months before we had to change what hemisphere of venue was in (small change no?) and we ended up with a summer wedding. It was wonderful and all but I still get all dreamy about that lost winter wedding! And congrats on both the marriage and being strong enough to do what was right for you and your husband!

  • Kellyh

    “I lost myself (and my mind) for a little bit”

    We’re not even engaged yet, just headed that way after 7 years of dating and this has already happened to me. I just woke up one morning after weeks of poring over engagement rings online thinking what? who am I? Of course I don’t care about a ring. When have I ever cared about such things? and why do I suddenly feel rushed? I’ve never caved to a “should” timeline before. I’m happy with my boyfriend right now! and have been (mostly) for 7 years. I hope this means that I’ve learned this lesson early on and we can hold our own when we eventually plan a wedding.

    • Cass

      I was just in your situation, too, before I got married.
      This is a great place to start! And will help keep you grounded when you leave the pre-engaged period, and start planning for a marriage.


      My boyfriend and I are going on 10 years, and for awhile I saw myself growing impatient. Many family and friends got engaged after just months/a few years after meeting and I began saying “what is wrong with me”? I am glad we are doing things our way. We are beginning our search for our first home and I am finishing up a second degree. We know what is important to us and our day will come. Our love is stronger than ever and I am perfectly content with where we are.

  • “dig deep down inside and listen to what that little voice is telling you”

    In the emotional wedding planning state I have, this made me tear up. My little voice is telling me I want the big wedding. My finances are saying it’s impossible. Sigh. Let’s see what happens.

    I am so glad for you, Diana, and thank you for writing this. It made me smile and, apparently, tear up.

    • Jessica

      Don’t give up on it. You can have a big party for a lot less money than you think if you are willing to give some things up. For me, it was really important to have a lot of people there- mostly because my family is enormous and very close. Any time someone mentioned paring down the guest list, I started to tear up. That was when I realized that I should not go against my gut. A lot of my wedding presents from friends and family are services for my wedding. Their help and generosity is helping me to have the large guest list, and the things that I am not going to be able to have at all just don’t matter as much to me.

  • Jessica

    “Turns out your wedding day isn’t a direct reflection of how much you love the people in your life, but rather how much you love and respect your partner. The people in our life, well they still love us, and are happy we’re happy.”

    I love, love, love this, and it was exactly what I needed to hear today. Thanks for the post and congratulations!

  • The magnificent note from the person who was not present for your wedding just destroys me (in all the best ways). How wonderful it is to be surrounded by such people in life!

  • I think there’s a lot to be said for owning up to the fact that the wedding you were planning wasn’t really the wedding you wanted, and just going with your gut. It sounds like you have a life that is full of amazing people out there supporting you and your husband. Congrats!

    Oh, and your necklace? Beyond beautiful.

  • Marybeth E

    Wow. Where did you get that necklace? It rocks my socks.

  • 39bride

    Oh, this definitely resonates with me. Part of me would be thrilled to toss all the budget and scheduling issues out the window and just go to the courthouse and get on with our lives.

    But in the fact that I’m better at following my brain and my heart, and I get very confused…

    And then I think of all the people (not a huge amount, really) who want to be there and celebrate with us, especially since both of us are almost forty years old and only found someone (each other) less than two years ago. And I feel like we need the support of our wonderful families and friends. I’m not usually a people-pleaser, but I think of how sad everyone would be if we “snuck off” and went the JOP route.

    So far I’m coping by keep our budget minuscule and remembering that for us it’s all about the marriage and the people we love–all the planning/details are just little extras.

  • Kristy

    I loved this. Fabulous writing. Very heartfelt. You are utterly glowing in all of your pictures. Congratulations!

  • Chris B

    This post really spoke to me. Thank you for writing it. We also scrapped a big(ish) wedding we were planning for other people, because we realized we didn’t want it. Doesn’t it feel wonderful?

  • Andrea

    “Be brave enough to follow your heart, to dig deep down inside and listen to what that little voice is telling you. Be brave enough to change your mind, and change it again if necessary. The people who matter will support and love you, and anyone who wants to judge—well, they’re just not worth it. Your love story is just that—yours. And no one can write it better than you.”

    Great wedding planning/life quote–I love it! Sometimes I have a hard time separating what we want vs. what other people want, and determining whether we are doing something that is right for us, or are giving in to pressure to do it a certain way. There are so many decisions to be made! Through the planning, though, I think we’re learning to identify what feels right for us, and learning to trust that. No doubt that is a valuable life skill.

  • AHHH the photo of Joey, getting his boutonniere pinned on?! So much happy! So much joy! You obviously did the right thing.

    • Seriously, the best photo.

  • LaneC

    Great to see +Raven here! She will be our photographer in 39 days (who’s counting?!) thanks to APW!


    • meg

      She’s GREAT.

      • I could tell it was someone from the L&M crew right away. Raven just keeps getting better & better.

  • “We didn’t have all those things (things!), but goshdarnit we had a wedding! Everyone was happy.”

    Ahh! I love this. I think that’s what we forget sometimes in planning – the people that love us will be happy for us on that day. And they won’t love us anymore if we offer up lobster rather than hot dogs. I feel like half the pressure to buy all the things is to impress people that wont even be there, or to make us feel better about the “inconvenience” of our wedding. That magnificent note tells a different story, though…

    Congrats on writing your own love story!

  • “Your love story is just that—yours. And no one can write it better than you.”

    Too fucking right. So powerful, and also empowering to know that.

  • Montclair

    This is great – it looks completely beautiful and joyful!

    My wedding planning journey was similar… I got swept up in the initial excitement and started planning a big evening wedding with all the trimings, and also booked a venue. But after a couple of months, the stress of trying to plan it, the costs that were adding up, and my growing unease about the whole thing reached the point where I just decided no way. I went in the complete opposite direction, cancelled the venue and started planning a courthouse wedding with just family.

    But my friends were really disappointed and less understanding than yours, and kept suggesting ways to make the celebration larger. And I could tell my husband wanted something bigger too (although he wasn’t willing to put in the necessary effort plan it, which is another story…). So we went for a compromise. An afternoon ceremony with a finger food, cocktails & dessert reception right after with all our family and friends present, and then a family-only dinner at a restaurant that evening. It managed to please everyone and took the pressure off. And I loved it! I still think I would have been cool with the courthouse too, but what we ended up with was also really great.

    Kudos for following your heart!

  • Claire

    WOW! I love this post and the gorgeous photographs gave me goosebumps. Reading this reminded me a bit of my own wedding planning experience (4 weeks) and I just loved hearing how you came back to “Doing Us”. Wise advice and so much pretty (All The Things not required). Yay!

  • Faith

    “Turns out your wedding day isn’t a direct reflection of how much you love the people in your life, but rather how much you love and respect your partner. The people in our life, well they still love us, and are happy we’re happy.”

    This. This is exactly how i feel about our family only wedding. Love it Diana and good for you!

  • Cass

    I love this post. I love all the sincere sentiment. I love how it’s completely different from what my husband and I wanted for our wedding.
    These features are why I still read APW, even after being married, because I get to see so many people being happy doing what they want (/what they need)- whether eloping, going to city hall, or having the “big” wedding in a church.

  • “all that is necessary will be with you then” ahh, just beautiful! judging from your beautiful photos & wise words, you had it all on your wedding day.

  • “Be brave enough to follow your heart, to dig deep down inside and listen to what that little voice is telling you.”

    This is so similar to the wedding my boyfriend and I want, I actually started crying. The one we’ve been talking about for the past year. And being so afraid our family and friend’s won’t support it (don’t even get me started on how my grandmother pressured my parents into a big wedding they never wanted!) is the reason we’ve been avoiding getting engaged for several months now.

    Thank you for reminding me how important it is to do what’s right for us and our relationship. Maybe we will get married after all…

    • Teresa

      You might find that your parents will support it simply b/c they were pressured into having a wedding that they didn’t really want. This is what we are experiencing with my soon to be in-laws. They are so laid back and supportive of everything we suggest, not forcing us to invite third cousins and everyone’s great aunts, b/c they were forced to do that when they got married 30 years ago. My mom, on the other hand, never had a wedding and is being a bit pushy. I know she just wants to make sure we don’t regret our choices, but I wish she’d trust us a bit more!

    • It was definitely fear that held me back from verbalizing that we wanted something different too. We did get a couple strange responses/ passive aggressive emails, but the support and encouragement outweighed the negativity. Someone along the way said to me, “It’s your day. Everyone else has had, or will have, their day, so make this yours.” Keep that in mind, and best of luck to you and your BF!

  • Kate

    Fabulous post!! Really great. Congratulations to you and your husband.

  • Jennie

    Thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed to hear today. We’ve only been engaged a few weeks and already I’m feeling like two people, the APWer I’ve always considered myself and suddenly, this WIC bride who for some reason wants ‘all the things’ I’ve never previously wanted. It’s totally caught me off-guard and taken me for a ride. Glad to hear that it’s possible to find your way back to yourself and the heart of your partnership.

  • April

    That note you received from one of the non-attending guests is just a stunner. WOW. *I* cried when I read it! So wonderful that you were both supported and loved and even cheered for making the decision to do what was right for you and your partner. Your wedding day looks absolutely glorious and filled with smiles and love. Congratulations!

    And if I may be so shallow: Hot damn you two are gorgeous!!! :-)

  • Jenna

    Thanks for sharing your story! I commend your bravery!

    This was a little tough for me to read, honestly. The first few weeks of our engagement were fraught with discussions and arguments (not just with my fiance, but with our families as well) about what type of wedding we would have. Before we were engaged, we had agreed to a small wedding. The problem was that his “small” (which could be as small as eloping) and my “small” (family + a few close friends) were not equal. We thought up a compromise (a small destination wedding with just immediate family), but not many of our family has the financial means to travel, and this would have put a lot of burden on our parents to buy other family members’ plane tickets. There were a lot of tears in those days.

    Ultimately, we decided to move forward with my idea of “small,” which will probably mean around 75-90 people in attendance. (We have big families.) I know that this is still not what my fiance would want in his ideal world. Despite the fact that I appreciate him making that sacrifice for me, and despite my continued efforts to make sure the wedding will feel small and intimate, I still struggle with the fact that this is not what he wanted.

  • Anon

    Oh gosh… I’m getting married in Annapolis next month, and you had the wedding I wanted. Instead, mine is complex and involves multiple events (one at your venue) and is complete with hotel and dress drama, all being planned long distance, to boot. I wish I’d had your insight six months ago. My mantra over the last few weeks has been, “the theme of my wedding is marriage, nothing else matters,” (thanks Meg).

    Love, love, love your dress and how happy you both look! Congratulations!

  • Rachel T.

    Stunningly and beautifully simple, strong, courageous, and to the point. I love this. ever. so. much. Thank you for sharing your confidence and your gumption.

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  • Jessica

    I love this post. You both look so in love, so happy, and so surrounded by love. I’m glad you made the switch and did what felt right to YOU.

    And can I say. your photos are gorgeous and you are a breathtaking bride. I love your dress, your hair, all of it.

  • This is amazing. Thank you.

  • Love, love, love you guys. We’re STILL talking about you two and your wedding. You’re the best. <3

  • Ash

    “Be Brave.” Holy sh*t, that made my heart skip a beat! Thank you so much sweetie for sharing your wonderful day (and amazing advice) with us! I may or may not have just changed my mind on my entire wedding while reading this! ;)

  • happy couple! fantastic! a wedding on clear day, beautifully captured on camera..the wedding is really creative. For sure, even if the couple hates being photographed, the type of service that minneapolis wedding photographer offers will definitely put the couple at ease and make the event even more memorable just like the photos shown here.

  • Arielle

    I’m so happy to see this. We were planning a huge wedding, it made me completely miserable and I finally listened to that little voice. We are eloping next weekend!!

  • thank you for sharing your story! it really made me feel good knowing that what my partner and i have decided is what we want, and that it has nothing to do with the people in our lives … just us. your last paragraph resonates with me!

  • Cassie

    This is the first wedding graduate I read and it so exactly what I needed! Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging us newbes to be brave.

  • Chrissy Marrero

    “Be brave enough to follow your heart, to dig deep down inside and listen to what that little voice is telling you. Be brave enough to change your mind, and change it again if necessary. The people who matter will support and love you, and anyone who wants to judge—well, they’re just not worth it. Your love story is just that—yours. And no one can write it better than you.”

    MY NEW WALLPAPER. Thank you, and congrats!

  • Heather

    I’ve been considering throwing away the big wedding for months now, and just having an uber-intimate wedding with a handful of our closest and dearest! This post gave me courage. I have been so scared to cancel the wedding and disappoint all the people who are looking forward to us getting married, but my fiancé and I are miserable planning this 150 guest list $25,000 budget (that none of us have – mom and we are planning on paying for it). Now I’m ready to throw it all away (all I have anyway is a dress, venue, and photographer) and have the wedding we truly want!!

    • Heather, sending you a HUGE virtual hug and high five! Best of luck to you :)

  • Brittany Lee

    This was absolutely beautiful!!!

  • Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this. I cried as I read it. I am 9 months from wedding to the love of my life (2nd wedding for both of us). I never wanted another big lavish affair and he really did. I have an autoimmune illness that makes it difficult for me to function sometimes and honestly, I just didn’t want the stress. Life is too short. I just wanted the significance of the marriage vows/rings.

    We compromised and split up the dates of the ceremony and reception which is a casual BBQ event to make it easier for me physically. I REALLY tried to get excited and into it. My fiance has taken an equal part in the planning but I stress about things that he does not because he is much more laid back.

    Then a BIG blow out happened (not between him and…between me and a bridesmaid) because he wanted a wedding party, I chose bridesmaids and one of the bridesmaids got upset because I originally said I wouldn’t have a MOH and then changed my mind and asked my future stepdaughter rather than this friend. Between that and a few other things, it has been horrible and I no longer want to do it. I feel selfish and awful because I love him so much I want to be able to do this for him but the price I am paying stress wise is too much.

    We talked about it and he truly listened to me and asked me to take some time to let my emotions settle down from the bridesmaid fiasco since it was such an emotional nightmare which was fair enough. But in my heart, I know I don’t want to be doing this planning crap for the next 9 months and worrying about drama and hurting people’s feelings.

    I do want to get married in our church, that is where we met and I love our minister but just him and I and maybe very immediate family only or just eloping. I am even OK with the BBQ party. It is casual and pretty much set. It’s not much different than hosting a party at our house and plenty of family will help decorate…this I know for sure.

    I don’t know. i just know that i don’t feel so alone or odd now. Thank you!!

  • Mackenzie

    Diana! That was beautiful!! And so is your dress!!! What’s the style called? I’ve been feeling crazy as hell looking for dresses and feeling crazy over planning and when I saw your dress, I said to myself, “that’s it!that’s the perfect dress!!!”. You looked so happy and beautiful!!

  • Lyndsey

    Thank you for writing this and expressing so eloquently so many things I feel, and reassuring me that we are doing the right thing. My fiance and I are planning a Vegas Elopement with a small, casual celebration when we return. We are only having a 7 week engagement, but as time goes on, little things start to make me wonder if we are doing the right thing or if we should be more traditional to please others and avoid questions.
    3 more weeks to go!

    • Sending good vibes your way, Lyndsey! Sounds like you’re having the wedding that is exactly right for you and your hubby :) Early congrats!

  • Shannon

    Thanks so much for this, we just went through almost the same thing and it’s easy to feel like we’re the only ones in the history of weddings who have called off the big to-do after already spending time planning, telling people the date was set, booking some vendors, etc…

    In our case, when we first got engaged over a year ago (after about 6 awesome years together), we talked through many different options: eloping (he loved this idea, but I needed my dad and a few other close people there), having a small immediate family & very close friend dinner party (we both liked the idea, but it was tricky because both sets of our parents are divorced… can you say awkward?), having a small destination wedding (too expensive for close family), having a medium-sized 50-60 person wedding (awesome except it would require us to invite certain people but not others, i.e. aunts & uncles but no cousins), or invite our entire families and have a giant 150+ person reception (difficult not only because my fiance is really shy and hated the idea, but also because of issues in my fam; dad & stepmom were paying but my mom, who has some serious issues, wanted to be involved as the “mother of the bride”).

    Then we went to the holidays and saw our extended families, felt guilty and decided WTF let’s just have the big wedding everyone seems to be SO excited about. We booked an awesome venue, started telling people about the date, and for a few months I was semi-excited planning it. I even ordered invitations (thanks Vista Print)! But then it got so insanely stressful, and expensive… and to top it off the entire situation seemed to be fanning the flames of my mom’s mental illness. When we first discussed the thing I thought we could do it on a $10k budget. Eventually that grew to $17k+ and was keeping me up at night w/my stomach in knots. I started getting really angry about things like having to pay $500 for simple metal ceremony chairs that would be sat in for 15 minutes. I mean, we were planning a casual beach BBQ, but the logistics of hosting 150 people, and all the worry about judgment and traditions and etiquette that go with that, meant that even our “casual” celebration was turning into a house downpayment. Hurricane Sandy came and slightly damaged our venue (nothing irreparable)… I found myself secretly wishing it had been ruined so that we’d have an excuse to cancel!!

    Meanwhile, my fiance got to the point where he couldnt even talk about the W-word for 5 seconds without getting stressed out – leaving me completely alone in the planning process.

    Finally, my fiance decided he was going to make the decision for both of us, and told me we had to cancel the big wedding. He wanted to marry me but he couldn’t deal with the money being spent, the family strife that was erupting or the fact that 150+ people we hardly ever see would be watching us declare our personal feelings for each other. And know what? I was a bit sad… I truly loved our venue and I had already put a significant amount of time & energy into planning and thinking about things. But mostly… I was SO RELIEVED!!! Within an hour of this tearful discussion, we were laughing. It was one of the best nights we’d had in a long time. And he told me he couldn’t wait to marry me. It was the first time I’d seen him, the other person in this wedding equation, actually EXCITED to get married. Imagine that!! A groom who wants to be there? Probably a good thing!

    So, we’re doing the small immediate family & friends thing (~20 people, max). Our parents were disappointed but OK, and they are helping us to spread the word to our families about it.
    My dad will walk me down the aisle (or whatever there is to walk down). I will wear my gorgeous wedding dress. Dammit, I’ll probably even have a florist make me a bouquet and get my hair professionally done – both things I was foregoing on the big wedding due to cost. And then we will all go out to a nice dinner, and if my parents feel awkward around each other I’m going to ignore it… it’s their problem and not mine. And our families will probably throw us small BBQs (actual BBQs, not crazy out of control wedding BBQs) to celebrate with each extended family later on in the summer… whenever they feel like it. We’ll just show up!

    Oh, and the best part? Our parents are giving us all the $ they were going to spend on the wedding. We now have a downpayment for our first home together. BAM!!

    (Sorry for the book-length response, but I know I’m not the only one who was scouring websites looking for stories like mine… so now here’s another one for those big-wedding-cancelling brides like us!!)

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