Classic APW – Wedding Graduates: Cara & Nye

For some reason, Christa’s wedding graduate post this week made me think of one-of-my-best-ladies Cara‘s wedding graduate post. Cara was one of the original wedding graduates, back almost two years ago (Ah! That long?!) when I asked a few of my new blog friends to write about what they’d learned getting married, to help steer me, still on the other side. I’ve never re-run Cara’s post, and I’m not sure how that is. She summed up everything you need to know when figuring out your wedding and the details, in a world that tells you it’s all about the details. Because it’s a delicate balance for those of us that care about style… what will matter? What won’t? How will it matter?

So today, one of the *most* classic APW posts. Since it ran, I’ve drunk whisky in an bar in an old church with Cara and Nye in Scotland, toasted my 30th birthday with them in New York, and cried over their soon-to-be twins. It’s been a long and wonderful road, but Cara’s words are just as wise now as they were then. So with that, the lady herself:

What did I learn from getting married? Many things – if you’re Doing It Yourself ask for help, loads of it. You don’t need as many boxes of biscuits as you have guests. Spending your monthly food budget on fancy cheese is unnecessary and if you take medication that alters your mood taking it upon yourself to lower the dose a fortnight before your wedding is a bad idea. But which of these things to expand on, which that might offer some insight to other brides to be? I’ll go for the one that I wish I’d realised earlier….

It’s not about the details.

Hardly a novel idea, I know. Wise women like Meg and East Side have been telling us this since the very beginning but lovestruck fools like me (I’m assuming that I’m not the only one) have been ignoring them. Let me share what I have learnt, although I feel like an idiot for not listening in the first place…

I love the details, the details were my sustenance during the bitter moments of wedding planning, the he wants to elope so he doesn’t have to wear a suit moments, the my mother has told me 16 times in the last 12 months that she hates weddings moments. Making handmade prettinesses made me smile (and occasionally want to throw things out the window, but that’s par for the course right?) and I firmly believed that they would make our wedding…*better* somehow.

Well, they didn’t. It wasn’t the details that we managed to pull off that made me realise this, it was the huge number of projects that didn’t quite make it to the wedding day either because we just didn’t have time to finish them or because on the morning of the wedding we were too busy making sure our guests would have tables to eat at to worry about fripperies like decor. The aisle decorations never made it, but even better than admiring our beautiful silk ribbons our guests admired the love and joy that shone out of our ceremony… Escort cards? Well I spent days making them but again and I know not how or why, we ended up with a list of names written on a piece of card and no lives were lost as people found their seats without the help of handwritten notes hung on a washing line with bird shaped pegs. Finally, the one thing that really brought it home to me that the details matter less than the thought behind them – the photo line.

We fantasised about a string of photos hung outside and fluttering in the breeze. Photos of us at every stage in our lives, with our family members and friends hung where all could admire them. We spent hours choosing just the right photos and a fortune having them printed. We bought ribbon that coordinated with the rest, two bamboo sticks to string them between and a hundred wooden clothes pegs to hang them up with. On the morning of the wedding we got as far as putting the sticks in the ground before we were confronted with a worrying lack of dinner tables and ceremony chairs and the photos were abandoned in a sorry pile at the bottom of a cardboard box and swiftly forgotten about. Until much later in the day that is, when they were found by a bridesmaid slightly squashed and in a terribly unattractive yellow cardboard packet. She took them out, divvied them up into three piles and handed them round. People held a half eaten cupcake in one hand and a handful of photos in the other as they congregated in groups to laugh, reminisce, cringe and get tearful. The photos were a huge hit, with everyone.

People who had never met before shared giggles at my mum dressed (very convincingly) as a Mexican man; friends saw pictures of parties they had hosted and remembered what it was like back in the old days and girlfriends saw their boyfriends as little, fat naked babies and cooed delightedly. Nobody would have enjoyed them more if they had been hanging beautifully in a line, nobody cared that the yellow packet didn’t match the invitations or that the photos weren’t in chronological order. What they did care about was that they were given a chance to come together, to tell new friends old tales, to remember other occasions we had all been together. The details can be pretty, they can give your guests something to admire, remember and talk about. Spend time on them if you want to, spend time on them if you enjoy it. But know this one thing, your guests care about the thought not the execution. The things your guests really want to admire, talk about and remember? The love they share for you and each other. Think about the memories you will make, not the photos that your details will make. I won’t deny that the compliments I got on the little things made me smile – ‘Oh, you like the matchboxes? Why thank you, they took me hours to make’, but the self-satisfied glow that I get from remembering those moments is as insignificant as a sparkler to the sun when I think about the sight of our friends and families coming together and talking and laughing, really laughing, about the history and the future we were building and celebrating.

That is what matters, those are the memories that will fill you with love once it is over. Not the escort cards, not the aisle decorations and not the cursed invitations.

Photos by Elemental Weddings, with editing by Cara herself

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  • Just… happy sigh. And love.

    • Alyssa

      I know, right?

      And I really hope they post lots of twin baby pictures because they are going to be ridiculously adorable just judging by their parents…and talented….and really cool.

      Okay, maybe I don’t want baby pictures, I don’t need to be jealous of infants.

      • meg

        And funny ;)

        • Alyssa

          MEG! Not. Helping.

          Now I want Cara and Nye to adopt me.

          • Well I have always wanted 6 or 7 kids and I don’t plan to do the whole pregnancy thing again….

            (thank you for your sweet words, you’re lovely! )

  • I’m so glad to learn that I’m not the only one whose mother just isn’t into the wedding. It’s another of those “supposed to” things that we irrationally believe we should have, just like everyone else.

    But also… Oh dear… A box of 90 empty glass bottles with labels that say “Lucky in Love” arrived yesterday. To go with them, we will need 90 parcel tags and 90 lottery tickets. Dear God, I hope somebody notices them and thinks they’re cute. If somebody wins the lottery, even better.

    • ELW

      Exactly just isn’t enough here. My mom is also completely not into the wedding or any of the planning. It’s SOOOO good to know that I’m not the only one. I know it doesn’t mean that she loves me any less, but it is hard feeling like she’s not there for me.

      I would love to hear more about this from others out there that are experiencing the same.

      Thanks for the post today. I have been obsessing about shoes — even though my dress is long and no one will be able to see them. Thank you for the perspective on the details that aren’t all that important.

      • Michelle

        My mom wasn’t into the wedding planning at all. I asked her if she wanted to go bridal dress shopping with me, and she said, “Oh, not really. I don’t like spending hours in the fitting room. If you narrow it down to a couple, then I could come and look, I guess.”

        I knew that’s what she’d say, but still. At times it was easier not involving parents in our decision-making (we really did do it mostly on our own), but there was that feeling of missing out on some tradition that was “supposed to” be there.

      • Kippercard

        Yup, my mom is not really into it either, and usually the second thing people ask (after saying congrats or asking how the planning’s going) will be “is your mom excited?” I’m like um no, not really. But usually I just say yes. If the person asking is more than a casual acquaintance, I might get into the truth a bit more.

        In a way, I’m kinda glad she’s not that involved b/c the mothers who get over-involved and live vicariously through the daughter make me sad for them. Not that I’m saying every mom who’s involved is involved to some pathological extent.

        • Oh yes! My parents had a registry office wedding, with only Mum’s Dad, step-Mum and brother present – the idea of being the centre of attention horrified her. I suppose it could’ve gone either way – I’ve heard horror stories about mothers turning up in a full length white dress, complete with a train and tiara!

  • Glorious. So glorious.

  • Lovely. Great way to start a morning:)

  • As someone currently fixated on the big things (i.e. budget), it’s good to know details don’t matter.

  • I love this – and it’s great to read it for the second time having now had my own wedding.

  • I love this. And it’s true. I spent a long time trying to figure out what to do with these gorgeous “floating” candleholders that I wanted to attach to trees… in the hustle of the day, the entire box of them was left in a room and it wasn’t until the end of the night that I realized that they weren’t up. And it didn’t matter!

    Also: that last photo is amazinggggg.

  • I think I’ve gotten to a point where just the important things matter. No longer do I see them as big or small or details or not-details… they’re just Needs vs. I don’t have time for that sh*t right now. It definitely took some time (ok, months) to get to this point, but I think this is the zen everyone is always talking about. Just doing the damn thing and weighing what has to be there and what doesn’t- those things are different for everyone, I suppose.

    “your guests care about the thought not the execution.” I’m going to keep these words from Cara in mind while I half-ass hand stitch 30 more yards of bunting tonight. :)

  • Oh my gosh – all these links – I was clicking away! I just fell in love with Cara & Nye’s photography! Gorgeous!

  • Thank you SO MUCH for reposting this- I remember reading the part about the photo clothesline that never happened when I was planning and feeling overwhelmed and crying at how beautifully that turned out. Love this one.

  • Annie

    Can I just say reading/hearing the words, “It’s not about the details” may be the best thing that has happened to me this week? I had sworn off wedding blogs about a month ago as they ALL seemed to be about… the details! Our wedding is October 2 and my fiance is leaving with the Army (only for a short while) on Saturday and then MOVING to a new city for his new job. Almost needless to say, the wedding planning has taken a back seat to relocating planning and me processing moving away from my family and friends for better opportunity and the being apart from my love for 2 months before the wedding isn’t helping either. I’ve found myself upset that I can’t pay more attention to the deeeeeeetails of the wedding. And this post just made me realize how ridiculous that is of me, but in a good way. Not in a condescending way. THANK YOU!

  • Thanks for re-posting this, Meg. I’d read it long ago and it’s nice to re-read it knowing that Cara’s words could not be more right. It’s hard to believe that the details won’t matter sometimes, but now that I’m on the other side, her words speak even more truth to me. Yay for Classic APW!

  • Such a lovely couple. Excellent advice, thanks.

  • Rachel

    That dress is diviiiiiine!

  • Melaniedk (and the last initial ain’t changing)

    It is a relief to me to have a forum where I am reminded daily that it is all going to be okay…no matter what goes wrong with the details on the day, and that I am not crazy for stressing about centerpieces that are 6 months away until 4 in the morning last night. Thanks, Cara. Thanks, Meg.

  • ka


    “What they did care about was that they were given a chance to come together, to tell new friends old tales, to remember other occasions we had all been together.”

    :-D That’s what it’s all about. I must make this my mantra.

  • Great post. As a recent wedding graduate i appreciate the wisdom in your words. The day has a mind of its own and all that really matters, and that guests take away, is love.

  • i wish someone had told me before the wedding that I wouldn’t need as many favors as there are guests. On the upside, I know have bookmarks and bubbles to last a long time.

    And I just have to say, the way Nye is looking at Cara in that first picture? OMG. I totally melted.

    • ddayporter

      hah! right? the funny thing is, I knew we wouldn’t need as many favors and programs as there are guests. so what did I do? I made extra, just in case. now what I’m gonna do with 10 extra “Zach + Rachel” mini button tins, I have no idea (and that 10 extra is after I gave a bunch out to my co-workers).

      • Alyssa

        There’s got to be a market for this stuff. You know, like how to be cool you’d go to Goodwill and get a family reunion or bowling t-shirt that had someone else’s name on it, even though you’d never wear one that had your own name on it? (I know I’m not the only one who did this…)

        There needs to be a Etsy category for random leftover favors…


    I want. that dress. Yowza!!

    • meg


      Like how I remember that from two years ago? Steel trap, ladies. Steel trap.

      • My dress? My dress was by pronovias. I loved it. Also, it was cheap online (score!)

  • Whoo boy. This is just what I needed to read this morning. I am grouchy, sitting in a sea of half cut craft paper, zillions of family and friend photos. Ikea Torsby frames, and little bags with tags that will eventually be filled with pistachios to go into, and pretty much feeling like f*ck this! I hate wedding planning/DIY! Nice to get some perspective.

  • Ahhhh . . . I really needed this today! My fiance & I have tackled all the big things that are important to us- date, ceremony venue, reception venue, photographer, band & florist- & now we’re sitting back & relaxing. We have about six months before our wedding & lately people have been asking well, what about this & that & those other details? Besides the fact that we need to tackle invitations so people know they’re invited, I thought we were good. After the millionth question like this, I began to wonder if we are being too relaxed & if we should start worrying about these details. I’m going to print this post & if anyone asks about any more details, I’ll happily give them a copy to read :-)

  • dev

    I’m so happy Cara made the comment about days her husband wanted to elope. Before we got married, I wanted to get married surrounded by family and friends, and he wanted to just run off to the courthouse and be married already, d*amn it. We had spirited negotiations and eventually decided on a small laid-back wedding. During the planning process though, I’d get annoyed by all the couples that had this unified vision of their weddings, like “we’ve both always wanted to be married on a beach, in a huge church, while sky-diving, etc.”

    So it’s nice to know that not all couples have compatible views on weddings. As long as we have compatible views on marriage, I think we’ll be okay.

    • We had *very* different ideas about weddings. I wanted a big wedding with everyone we knew and all of the family friends who have been in my life since I was little, the people who are friends of my mum and my grandparents. Nye wanted to elope, just us.

      We compromised on a wedding of only the people that when I pictured getting married without them, I cried. And a few extra people who invited themselves.

      It was the biggest lesson on compromise that we’ve ever had and I am so grateful for it. Those are things that couples NEED to learn at some point and before you get married seems as good a time as any.

  • Haha, I’m currently very much in detail mode because all of the supplies for our pocketfold invitations (I just couldn’t resist, even though they’re expensive despite DIYing them) just arrived and we’re busy assembling them. And I know that 99% of them are going to end up in the trash, but I’m still REALLY excited about them (for now. We’ll see how I feel by number 90 or whatever.) But it’s always good to have one more reminder that cool invitations or the promise of favors and cake aren’t what will inspire our guests to come to our wedding or have a good time while they’re there.

  • This makes me smile so much. I heart them.

  • Kate

    Indie brides and the ‘details’, sigh…

    I know from experience that many soon-to-be-brides will still secretly think after reading this “But I’m different! I CAN do twenty DIY projects to make my own bunting-invitations-escort cards-photo wall-flowers-thank you bags”.

    As a bride who did lots of details herself (napkins with our initials! Flower arranging with homegrown flowers! Bunting! photo wall!) my advice to brides still in planning stage is:
    Write a list of everything detailsy you want to do yourself. Show it to your best friend. Cut 10-20% of the list with her advice. Rewrite your list in order of importance. And I mean, most important to YOU. Do things in that order, and not five simultaneously.

    Now give yourself a deadline. This deadline should be at least ten days before your actual wedding. Now tell your fiance, mother, matron of honour and bridesmaids that if the details are not all done by that deadline, they are to REMIND you that you must let them all go. Seriously.

    Because my only regret in planning my wedding is that as time got closer to my wedding, I lost more and more perspective. Seriously, I spent months on the details – and only worked on my vows two days before the wedding. And looking back, I am not proud of that.

    I spent the day before my wedding running around, doing flowers and photo walls and tying ribbons on jam jars. Yes, you can do it, but seriously, do you want to? Rather go for a massage and have coffee with some of those awesome people who are in town specially for your wedding.

  • Gosh, two years ago? I can barely believe it.

    I’m so happy you reposted this, Meg, it made me feel all warm inside when I kinda needed it.

    And Cara… I bloody love you.