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Kate and Phillip’s California Vineyard Wedding

* Kate, Graduate Student & Phillip, Structural Engineer*

Five weeks after our wedding I left to spend eight weeks in rural New Hampshire (no cell phone service, no time for Internet) to work at a short-term residential treatment center for children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral issues. I left my rings behind (convinced I’d lose them), and while I was gone, I only got to see Phillip twice (for twenty-four hours each time), and we only spoke on the phone once or twice a week. In short, my wedding day feels like eons ago, even though we are just now approaching the four-month mark.

It’s so strange to think about the things that I thought would really matter during the planning process, and then to think about the things that actually ended up mattering on the day and in the weeks that followed. We knew the ceremony would matter. It was the most important part of the day, and we kept that in mind throughout the planning process. We asked our dear friends Zak and Lea, who had originally set us up four and half years prior to officiate our wedding. We couldn’t imagine anyone else marrying us. Zak and Lea wrote the ceremony text, and the ring exchange ceremony was actually lifted directly from their own ceremony, which made it even more meaningful. For me, that was the most emotional part of the day. And the most powerful.

Other aspects of the day mattered less, or at least differently. The cake was crooked, but everyone agreed that it tasted amazing. My dress was too tight, but I got compliments all night long (and the satisfaction of getting out of it, and then knowing—and accepting—that I would never fit into it again, was strangely freeing). I accidently left out the “h” in my father-in-law’s name on the chalkboard program (DIY be damned!), but I don’t think he noticed or cared. We got behind schedule during the eclipse (oh yes, there was a SOLAR ECLIPSE), but our planner Elizabeth somehow got us back on track. The gathering stitches on one of my sleeves fell out, but Mom and Elizabeth stitched me back up. Things have a way of righting themselves.

In the end I found that what truly mattered for me was the people. Some things we could have done differently, but I’m so glad we followed our hearts—these were some of the most meaningful parts of the night: my mom and dad both walking me down the aisle (in the face of my mother’s protests that it wouldn’t be “traditional”), Phil’s great uncle giving a beautiful Anglican blessing during an otherwise secular ceremony, my father-daughter dance. These are moments I will never forget. But in a way it all mattered, because it was all part of our wedding and the start of our marriage.

That said, a lot of things about the wedding were hard. Planning was hard. I felt especially alone. Phil and I were in Chicago, and all of our family and really close friends were elsewhere. Hundreds of miles away elsewhere. My bridesmaids were amazing, but they were in five different states. I found their dresses by myself. My mom was able to fly out twice during planning, which was amazing. Since my parents live in a very small town in Oregon (ninety minutes from the nearest airport), there are no direct flights to or from Chicago, so for one or both of them to come see me (or for me to go see them) it’s an all-day proposition just getting there.

The aftermath was also hard. During wedding planning, I liked to compare the planning process to cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Every year my mom would labor in the kitchen for a day and a half, only to have her carefully crafted and curated meal gobbled up in about twenty minutes. Wedding planning is kind of the same thing. We planned for fourteen months, and then it all crystallized in five hours. And then it was over, and we were married. Like Thanksgiving too, the wedding is about so much more than the food or the work or the amount of time people actually spend enjoying the fruits of your labor. It has an ideological weight and a meaningfulness that makes all that labor worth it, even if the time spent preparing it seems wildly disproportionate to the time spent enjoying it. As a side note, it’s so important to document the joy, whether that means splurging on professional photography and videography, or having friends and family snap photos and take video (I would highly recommend multiple friends and family).

Now that I am back from New Hampshire, with rings back on my finger, and a shiny new driver’s license, I feel married (not that those things are what make me a wife, but in times of transition they do help). And with some space from the wedding, I feel safe to spend some time languishing in the beautiful memories of it. It was gorgeous and eye-opening and hard as hell at times, but it was once-in-a-lifetime, and I’ll gladly take the crooked cake and the lower back pain along with the dancing and loving and merriment that came with them. For ladies and gentlemen currently in the throes of wedding planning, my only advice is to think a little bit about how you’d like to remember your wedding, because it is kind of like Thanksgiving, only instead of a year remembering it (and then getting to do it all over again), you’ll hopefully spend the rest of your lives remembering it. Do your wedding how you want to, not how a blog might stage it, or how your parents did theirs, or how any book or bridesmaid or planner tells you that you should. Spend a little extra time making sure your vision is what gets executed; it won’t all turn out exactly as planned, but the “imperfections” may turn out to be precisely what makes it your perfect day in the end.

The Info—Photographer: Bliss Blue Sky’s / Planner: Lowe House Events / Kate’s Gown: Pronovias from Wolsfelts Bridal / Kate’s Veil: megsveils / Phillip’s Suit: Indochino / Decor: Etsy / Venue: Trentadue Winery

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