Jenn & Brandon

*Jenn, Architect/Stationer & Brandon, Data Technician*

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Today’s wedding graduate post encompasses a single, and hard to accept fact about our weddings: we can’t control how we’re going to feel, either during them, or after them. Maybe we’ll show up and be swept away by radiant joy, maybe things will feel gritty and raw, maybe it will just be a fun party. But today Jenn, she of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress (who now has hot new stationery shop), talks about coming to terms with not adoring (but liking) her wedding after the fact. (And yeah, you know it, this afternoon she’s talking about the dress.)Carnegie Institution for Science Wedding (13)

There have been a number of wedding graduates who have spoken before about not loving their weddings. This post is only half like that—I loved my wedding, and yet, here I am five months out, in post-wedding limbo. I’m somewhere between remembering my wedding with joy and fondness, and still caught up in planning and what might-have-been. I imagine there are a tons of recent brides out there like me, not certain how to feel about the day of the wedding.

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When I was planning, I was planning. A little intense, yes, but doing otherwise wouldn’t have been very me. This is one thing I am at peace with about myself—making things, and then making them complicated appears to be a central tenet of my personality. I threw myself into wedding planning and DIY/DITing with intensity.

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I collected blue and white china vases at thrift stores so I could do my own flowers. When I couldn’t find enough one weekend, I decided I would buy some porcelain paint and create my own. The vases were totally worth it—my relatives loved that they got a tangible, useful item to take home with them, and they love that I made a bunch of them myself.

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You may have read my post about making your own letterpress. I went on to make the rest of the paper goods for the wedding, and a guestbook/scrapbook collection of our old photos.

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I became obsessed with the idea of a photobooth wall that people could stick their faces through, and then I became even more obsessed with the problem of transporting it to and from my venue.

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My biggest DIY failure (notice I didn’t say only failure) were these huge urns I had bought to be an altar backdrop. I painstakingly spray painted branches to stick into them like trees, then made little hanging votives for them and bought LED candles. I thought they would be so cool… except once inside the niches of my venue, they were so small as to be laughable. On any other day I think this would have really bothered me—on the day of the wedding, I giggled to myself, and moved on.

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I felt amazing on the day of the wedding. There was no one thunderbolt moment, but I was happy, and Brandon and I got married with as many of our nearest and dearest who could make it in attendance.

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Things progressed smoothly, if not flawlessly. Even though I had guests dropping out at the last minute and stage manager/sisterhood-member extraordinaire Rachel had to dash around changing place cards, no one got confused finding their seats. Even though the Reverend had messed something up every time we rehearsed the ceremony, on the day of when it mattered, he got it perfect.**

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Despite the fact that my caterer had been duped into buying some bad seafood and had to swap it out last minute for other things to put in the pasta, all the guests enjoyed the food. People were having trouble using the remote and camera I had set up for the photo-wall, but were taking it into their own hands and we got some great photos anyway. The dance floor wasn’t packed, but that gave the rest of us more room to move.

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So when people asked me how the wedding was after I got back from the honeymoon, it was really upsetting to me to find that my typical response was, “I think it was ok.” I had a great time, and I got married. To a man I love. Nothing went wrong. I spent the better part of a year and a half crafting every meticulous detail I could think of. And it all seemed to go beautifully. Why didn’t I feel more positively about the wedding?

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A big part of my confusion and uncertainty about my wedding feelings seemed to center around the fact that I wanted to experience every moment with everyone, and I didn’t get to do that. I know this is not physically possible, but I wanted to know what everyone felt about our day and share that with them. I have moments when I wonder: Was the wedding actually any good? What were the cocktails like? Did people have a good time at all the tables? Did everyone enjoy the Mario Kart groom’s cake theme like I hoped they would?

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When you pour so much of yourself into something, sometimes you sit on the other side wondering if anyone noticed/appreciated/enjoyed your hard work. And sometimes I forget that all of that stuff wasn’t really the point.

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One of the reasons APW was so valuable to me while I was planning, and continues to be valuable to me now that I am married, is the mantra that doing it your way is more than OK—doing it your way is the way you should be doing it. Of course there are caveats about common courtesy, and choosing your battles, but overall, it’s about being true to you and your partner. And since I know that, I should also be willing to be move past with the possibility that even though I worked my tail off, my wedding was not the best thing ever to everyone there.

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I know I need to let go, and focus on what matters now—my family, my tiny business, my goals. The wedding was a part of my daily life for a long time, and it went well. Grief for what might have been (the little deaths) will pass. Wondering about whether table eight thought the decor was the most amazing ever? It’s time to move on. I need to remember what was amazing about the wedding:

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  • Our family and friends helping with flowers and hauling the day before, and having the whole house smell of basil
  • My relatives traveling from Canada and the UK to be with us, and each other
  • Looking at Brandon as he said his vows and feeling so loved
  • My sister’s incredible groom’s cake
  • My friend from London making our wedding cake
  • Partying with family and friends
  • My grandparents getting to experience having all their grandchildren in one room for the first time ever
  • Watching our parents dance

The list goes on.

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The thing is, our wedding was beautiful, and someday very soon when someone asks me how it was, I will respond, “It was just perfect for us.”

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** The (80ish-year-old) Reverend also broke his leg two weeks before the wedding and had major surgery on it the week of the wedding. He officiated the ceremony with one leg on a little scooter, to help him stand and move around. This man was a CHAMP.

The Info—PhotographyJenn Link Photography / Venue: Carnegie Institution of Washington / Jenn’s Rings: Turtle Love Co. / Jenn’s Earrings: Lottie-Da Designs / Brandon’s Cufflinks: Sara Lagace / Brandon’s Ring: Raven’s Refuge / Bridesmaid Dresses: Banana Republic

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  • Amazing! I love the groom’s cake. Will come back and say more when I am not running late for work, but I wanted to say hi. I’m also a sisterhood of the traveling dress (whoops, almost wrote “practical dress”) lady, so here’s a virtual high five to you. I’m just a wee bit sad you beat me to writing the first sisterhood graduate post, but you did such a fabulous job.

    You’re married, everyone looks ecstatic in the photos, and I think it is fabulous. So glad that time has helped you come to the same conclusion :-)

    • yay sisterhood!! :) and haha I think “practical dress” totally works too!

  • Good topic! I definitely had tiny things, moreso than the overall, that I felt silly being less-than-thrilled about. But they are fading away…

  • I don’t know how your guests felt about the Mario Kart cake, but I think it’s amazing!! Going to spend the rest of the of the day wanting a piece.

    I think there’s a lot of pressure to have your wedding day feel like the most awesome/loving/wonderful/extreme day of your life. Like how there’s pressure to try on “the dress” and burst into tears and scream “I FOUND IT!” And that’s not real for most people, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t like their weddings. I think Jenn really hits this emotion. Maybe her wedding wasn’t 10,000 starry explosions in her mind, but it sounds like it was a lot of fun and they had a lot of really cool, personal details, and at the end of the day they got to be married. Shouldn’t that be the ideal wedding? I don’t see anything missing. I wonder if this pressure to have a mind-blowingly happy wedding is a modern idea. I know my parents had a nice wedding, but I don’t think they’d say they were swept away by a tsunami of love and sunshine.

    • I would really, really laugh if anyone described their wedding day as a “tsunami of love and sunshine.”

  • I’m 5 months out from my wedding too…and wondering if I should stop thinking (read: blogging) about it. But one thing that I did find hard, just like you, was the fact that I can’t step outside of my bride shoes and see what the wedding was like from a guest’s point of view. Would they notice the little details and the things we made just for them? What did they think of the dessert table (I didn’t see it)? What did my wedding feel like to them?

    But I think that not every guest is blessed (cursed) with a brides-view of a wedding (unless they’re engaged!) and haven’t even come across the bride-mantra that ‘every detail matters.’ So perhaps a lot of them (the children, the men…) don’t see the small details that you put so much effort into – or they see them, but they won’t remember them 5 months later.

    What they will remember though is how your wedding made them feel. They’ll remember the emotion – that you didn’t create from all the details but found its way to you anyway – and they’ll remember the magic that they got to be part of.

    So it doesn’t matter what the cocktails were like…(after all, in ten years, would you want someone to look back on your wedding day and say “Oh yeah, I remember that. Cocktails were great.”)

    (I did get one little bit of wedding-feedback though…I was talking to one of my best friends who said…”What I learnt from your wedding was that you really loved each other. Like, I know you loved him, but I didn’t know you LOVED him until I saw your wedding day.” That seems like a good lesson to have learnt.)

    • I just realised I used the term ‘wedding-feedback’ and it is AWFUL. Ha. It’s not powerpoint presentation, sorry everyone.

      • You mean you didn’t have the traditional powerpoint presentation at your wedding? What will people think?! ;)

        Seriously though, I think that’s the best kind of wedding feedback to receive. While you might not be able to drink those cocktails again or recreate the centerpieces (okay, you could but it might be creepy), you will hopefully love each other every day. That’s the very best thing for people to get from your wedding.

        • Haha, we had a powerpoint presentation going throughout the ceremony. :) But it was to translate since it was a bilingual wedding with guests from two countries. (And it was aesthetically attractive/pretty.)

          • You just won the APW Comments game. High five!

          • Oh no, powerpoint is fine! We had one at our wedding too (cute baby pictures…) but what I meant was how when you are in uni you have to do a presentation to your year and everyone gives you feedback – rate you out of ten in different areas and then you get to read it later. It would be awful if we treated weddings like that!

          • And what’s the APW comments game?

      • I love you for:
        1. using this ridiculous term
        2. catching yourself and realizing that it is ridiculous
        3. laughing about it.

        Also “it’s not a powerpoint presentation” is my new mantra for talking about my wedding in any and all contexts.

        • I think I’m going to pick a wedding of a very, very good friend (once they all get around to getting married) and send them a feedback form as a ‘thank you for letting me come to your wedding’… Only positive feedback mind. And only to a friend who I know would find this funny!

    • Jo

      At 5 months afterwards, I too felt very mixed about our wedding. Since then, I’ve had a few things happen – people telling us (unsolicited) that they loved it, I’ve gotten over the things that didn’t happen how I might have dreamed, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the great parts of it that I’ll treasure forever. And now, I love our wedding. Like everything in life, it’s not really about it being perfect, it’s about it being authentic and meaningful and hopefully touched by joy. And – and this is key – if your marriage can borrow some of those pieces and be authentic and meaningful and also touched by joy? Well then, that seems to be what matters in the longer short term (speaking from 2.5 years out).

    • I’ll be really honest, I think if my friends and family had gushed to me a little more about how much fun they had and what they thought of the wedding day, it might have put me in a better headplace immediately following the wedding.

      But I went back to where I live, 10-15 hours away from most of them, and sunk into a sad place because it hit me afresh how far away I live from the people I love most. So being in that sad place, I wasn’t eager to call them. Perhaps if I had I would have heard about what a great time they had and then wouldn’t have been feeling a bit poorly about the wedding.

  • I know what you mean about not letting go of things, about those things staying in your head.
    What helped, and I am not sure you did already, was getting the pictures, organizing them, filing them, and putting it all together in a scrapbook (an extra one with things like a handkerchief my aunt brought for me, and cutouts from things related to the day).
    It allows to put memories to rest, and you to breathe, and move on, and at the same time keep the joy . Not sure if I am making any sense.
    Also, I have been wanting to see this dress for so long :) having read about the story . So I can’t wait for the final chapter later today :p

    • This made me think about yesterday’s post about the funeral for the parents’ wedding, and our human need for closure (and ritual), even a private experience of closure. Of course, it is only the wedding that is over, while the point of it all- the marriage- has only just begun. But I can see how doing things like putting together an album of wedding photos would really be helpful in processing it all and getting to a place of contentment with it and a emotional readiness to move forward. I still haven’t put together an album (2.5 yrs later- eek!) but printing a couple wedding photos for frames was really meaningful. (Unfortunately, I only did it about 6 months ago!) I need to finish up the wedding album and guest book because I want to have them so that I can look at them now and then when I feel like it… Maybe before our third anniversary, haha!

  • Sarah

    Yes, this! I joked (and was half-serious) that I wished we could send evaluation forms to our guests after our wedding (“what was the highlight for you?” “how would you rate the decorations” “did you notice the funny signs on the bathroom doors?”).

    And, more than wanting to make sure they noticed and appreciated the details, I struggled with the feeling of not being able to actually be present at my wedding in the same way I am when I’m a guest at someone else’s. What did they talk about at the tables? What joke were my friends all giggling at during the speeches? Who enjoyed the food? Why do I feel left out, it’s MY wedding!?!

    Little by little, I am piecing together my wedding from a guest’s perspective, which is great as I get to relive it in conversations with friends, and they all say that the wedding was “so YOU guys” which is actually better than “I loved the mini wildflowers” when I think about it, as that’s what those little details were supposed to represent as a whole – US. Oh and yes I agree, choosing the pictures helps!!

    • Denzi

      Yeah. I think this is one of the predominant feelings I have about my wedding: Why do I feel left out, it’s MY wedding!?!

      That and “I worked my poor friends really hard, and I’m terrified that they hate me and didn’t enjoy it and I should have hired someone to do the crazy last minute frazzly stuff and I SUCK.”


  • Harriet

    Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jenn. I have a lot of similar feelings about my wedding (which was about 6 months ago), and knowing I’m not alone (and hearing someone else express it so beautifully) is very freeing. As usual.

  • PA

    This seems a lot like what professional athletes describe, especially Olympians – you spend a lot of time preparing for something, and then it’s over so quickly compared to the time you invested in planning for it. To be honest, I’d even been starting to feel the inklings of it now, BEFORE my wedding.

    It seems to me – and granted, I’m a wedding undergraduate – that the wedding planning was important in itself, not just as a means to an end. You got to bond with your fiance, spend some time crafting things, and straighten out what was important to you about that day. You threw yourself into wedding planning with verve (as you said, it wouldn’t have been very “you” otherwise!) and produced a beautiful event! But the PROCESS of planning was meaningful as well.

    p.s. The picture of you two dancing is beautiful! (And I’m looking forward to hearing more about the dress!)

    • For me, in the pre-engaged state, we were establishing the foundation of our relationship. The engaged state and wedding planning was a seriously huge and incredible way for us to establish our roots, learn our priorities in a lot of things (not just wedding stuff), and become even more of a united front against anything that came our way.

      Now that our wedding is over, I feel a lot of similar things to what Jenn expressed abov, but in a way, I got more out of the planning process and the months leading up to our wedding than I got out of the actual wedding itself (obviously the huge “we’re now married” part is not included in that statement).

  • as stage manager/guest at your wedding, I can tell you people LOVED that groom’s cake. even if they’d never heard of mario kart, they thought it was adorable. they oohed and ahhhed over the place cards, and at my table, people were going on about how amazed they were at all the details – and you can bet I made a point of picking up the vase and saying LOOK. JENN PAINTED THIS OK. and they were duly impressed. From my perspective, everyone had a great time. I’m sorry though, I never tried the signature cocktails! haha. wine was good though. :)

    • also the food was delicious, I had no idea anything had been changed last minute.

  • I don’t think I even realized it until I read your post – but I’ve been doing exactly what you describe! Just feeling a little unsettled, a little unfinished, and when people ask about our wedding always just saying, “yeah, it was fine.” Or telling some absurd story about one of the things that went wrong . . .

    Thank you so much for the post – at least now I know what I’m doing! Now, how to get right with it . . .

  • Sarah

    If there’s going to be another post about the dress maybe I should save this comment for that, but: that last picture, where you can see all the buttons down the back? Gorgeous.

  • Kari

    What an engaging post for me. I am thinking of submitting a wedding graduates post, but when I read yours just now, I thought, “Wow, someone already wrote all of my thoughts! and so eloquently!” I wish I’d found this site before my wedding (Sept 2011) but it is a balm to my soul as I recover from it. I am grateful to have found this community. Thank you for your thoughts, Jenn.

  • Gigi59

    4 months after our wedding, I’m having a terrible case of “Can we please do this over?” Just because there’s so much that went by in a blur and I feel like I should have paid more attention at various points during the ceremony and party. There really is so much build-up to the actual wedding and then it goes by so fast. Thank heavens for the pictures; I learned so much about my own wedding from them!!

  • Lisa

    Your wedding looks lovely. And I gotta say when I saw DK holding the wedding rings I got excited. Then when I saw it was part of the groom’s cake, I got more excited! Love it.

  • Celeste

    THIS. This is exactly how I feel about my wedding. Thanks for putting it into words for me, as I’ve been struggling to do.

  • Leigh Ann

    I feel you on the blah response to the “how was your wedding?” question. I got married three months ago and my answers have invariably been “I’m glad it’s over,” or “People said it was beautiful.” On the other hand, when they ask, “How’s married life?” I always answer, “It’s great!” :)

  • KA

    Hahaha, I’m tempted to say maybe our date was cursed (I did look at the numerology when picking it and it wasn’t exactly optimistic), but then perhaps it’s just our personalities… or maybe, judging by the comments, it’s just completely normal.

    I could have written this (which is good, now I feel less guilty about not yet writing one!), except to say I had the opposite experience with “wedding feedback” (brilliantly hilarious phrase!): my guests gushed, raved, everything anyone would want and yet it didn’t make me love my wedding an iota more. It just made me feel even guiltier about not loving it. I worked my tail off and made everyone happy—except myself. And alas, wedding as microcosm of life…

  • Class of 1980

    This post reminds me of Oprah interviewing George Lucas recently.

    He said “I’ll never get to see Star Wars.”

    Oprah looked at him funny and he explained that he will never have the full experience of seeing the movie fresh, the way the audience saw it. He was too involved in the blood, sweat and tears of making it.

    Ditto for weddings, I think.

    • that makes perfect sense to me, and really helps me add another element of clarity to my feelings. As usual, you hit the nail right on the head :)

  • I have a lot of this post written in a draft e-mail in my inbox as I attempt to push through my wedding graduate post.

    But really, this…

    “A big part of my confusion and uncertainty about my wedding feelings seemed to center around the fact that I wanted to experience every moment with everyone, and I didn’t get to do that. I know this is not physically possible, but I wanted to know what everyone felt about our day and share that with them. I have moments when I wonder: Was the wedding actually any good? What were the cocktails like? Did people have a good time at all the tables?”

    I’m only two months post-wedding and I’m struggling a lot with what I’m feeling about it all (not the marriage part, but the wedding part).

    And with that, I just need to say that I can’t wait until Monday evening when I get to meet some of the brilliant APW-DC people. It’s often times crazy for me to think (or realize) that there are people out there feeling the same things as I am…or have felt them, or will feel them.

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  • “When you pour so much of yourself into something, sometimes you sit on the other side wondering if anyone noticed/appreciated/enjoyed your hard work. And sometimes I forget that all of that stuff wasn’t really the point.”

    Exactly! Thank you for writing this most. It captures a lot of what I felt about my wedding too.

  • I got married almost a year and a half ago and I find myself thinking about how I didn’t really love our wedding probably a little more than I should. Just like Jenn said, I poured myself into 8 months of wedding planning surrounded by beautiful blogs and magazines (and even working in the industry) only to find that I was disappointed in my own wedding. I didn’t even know that was possible until I read an APW post a while back about coming to terms with not really loving your wedding and I feel like I’m slowly getting over it. And when I do feel like I should have done more to decorate and planned more for our guests, I try really hard to go and look at the pictures of our wedding. And see the faces of my husband and I and all of our friends and family. That part of the day was unbelievable and amazing.

    I really can’t thank everyone involved with APW for talking about what most people wouldn’t dare to say. I’m even reading the book (and frigging loving it) even though I’m already married because #1. I couldn’t not support this book and, thus, this community, and #2 it’s helping me to completely come to terms with how I feel about our “big day” and that that is 100% okay.

  • I LOVE this: “One of the reasons APW was so valuable to me while I was planning, and continues to be valuable to me now that I am married, is the mantra that doing it your way is more than OK—doing it your way is the way you should be doing it. Of course there are caveats about common courtesy, and choosing your battles, but overall, it’s about being true to you and your partner.”

    Yes, yes, yes indeed. Thank you for sharing.

  • Other Katelyn

    Maybe it’s because your husband reminds me of my fiance, or maybe it’s because of my long hard day at work, but this post made me cry. Beautiful story and obviously everyone at the wedding was DELIGHTED by the Mario Kart cake. (How could they not have been??)

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  • Butterfly Bride

    This chain has made me feel so much better about my own experience, and I agree wholeheartedly with Jenn.

    I had problems with virtually every aspect of my wedding, starting the week before and continuing through the wedding. I had worked so hard planning the event, and just felt really let down after my wedding.

    I think if it had gone smoothly, I would still have felt some post-wedding blues, but the myriad of problems we faced made me feel as though I’d done a bad job planning, and like our wedding was a series of unfortunate events.

    I wondered if anyone noticed all my hard work, or if they just noticed the snags. I’m trying to get past them and focus on the good parts of our wedding. Reading everyone’s comments helped me to realize that most importantly we stayed true to ourselves, shared the day with people we love, and had a really lovely wedding – unfortunate events and all.

    Thank you everyone.