Lizzie & John

*Lizzie, Almost-Architect & John, Yoga Teacher, Writer, Grocer*

I’m just not even sure what to say here, except you’re all going to want to read this post. It involves a detailed description of how to throw a wedding with the theme “your guests are giants,” bourbon in the shower, and guests in giant hamster wheels. It also involves a lot of really damn good advice. Seriously. You’re going to have a giggle fit (and learn something despite yourself).

John and I began dating right around when my friends started getting engaged, and I was getting my first glimpses into the unsettling world of wedding planning. At the time, I was pretty mixed up about how I felt about marriage and long-term relationships in general, but I was fairly certain that weddings themselves were completely ridiculous, self-indulgent, ego-driven affairs.

As maid of honor in my friend’s wedding (note: I was the least helpful maid of honor ever—I do not recommend this as a good tactic for anyone else to try out unless you are really confident about your audience), I would pitch ideas for wedding themes that would be as patently absurd as I thought the exercise was already asking her to be. The idea that we still laugh about is the Giant Wedding, where the guests themselves are the giants, so everything about the wedding—the chairs, table, plates, cups, silverware, flowers—would be ¾ scale. I loved the idea of her earnestly explaining to vendors that it wasn’t that she wasn’t satisfied with the types of chairs they had available, it was the lack of miniature versions of them that was going to be a problem. But of course, just beneath the surface of the joke was a fountain of panic about how I would actually act if I were in the position of planning my own wedding, and a deep worry about my totalizing impulse as a designer to try to control every aspect of it.
When John and I decided to get married, all of that wedding stuff now had to get mixed into the context of my large, opinionated, and complicated family. My anticipation of how that would look was completely paralyzing. For the first couple months, we didn’t even tell people we were engaged, not for lack of excitement or because it was a secret, just because I was afraid of making a big production of it. An exasperated friend said she was going to post our news on Facebook because of how underwhelmed she was when we casually mentioned it to her.

Her threat finally prompted me to make some calls to parents and siblings, since it just felt wrong for them to find out via my friend’s status update. My brother will tease me about that phone call for the rest of our lives: “Hey! So… John and I are going to probably get married. No, I mean, we’re definitely getting married. We’re, uh, engaged.”

And still, I approached the planning process with the same apparent ambivalence. We took months to settle on a date or location, and just when we were feeling pretty confident about our venue and schedule, I started dragging my feet about following through on it all. I tried my best to talk John into an elopement, and when that didn’t work, I suggested moving the wedding up by six months so that it was over as soon as possible. We were on the verge of doing the latter when I had a variation of that classic nightmare where you walk into an exam and realize that you forgot to go to class or do any of the readings all semester, except instead it was the day of our wedding and we’d forgotten to plan it. I woke up feeling resigned, and also pretty annoyed at myself for under-performing on logistics. So I went along with the original plan and started making reservations and deposits while telling myself that I would be terribly excited about it all when the time came.

It was around then that I started reading APW. And, slowly but persistently, and mostly without my noticing, that changed my perspective a lot, and I really can’t thank you all enough. By the time we reached September, I had exorcised all the guilt and internalized as much wedding wisdom as I could. So when—very predictably—I came down with a bad cold on the Monday before the wedding after weeks of traveling for work and for two other weddings, the zen set in early and I gave up on any nonessential projects.

I did vaguely try to delegate the painting of some signs to a friend that came a couple days early, but my instructions must have been pretty lousy, because instead of the sign getting mounted on a stake in the yard to signal the party location, it became a prop that got passed around all weekend to various comic ends. People found their way to the party anyway.

I was feeling better by Friday, and after that, the whole thing was an overwhelmingly good time, and it was more forcefully emotional than I’d let myself think it would be. But also—and this is going to sound crazy—it was the least stressful span of time that I’ve spent with my family since I was a kid. Because when you’re getting married and you’ve gathered all these people together for that, everyone will take their cues from you.

It helps to have wonderful guests, of course, but it’s also like you are granted a temporary superpower to control everyone’s behavior and mood by simple example. If the bride is sitting outside in a pile of flower clippings an hour and half before the ceremony asking if it would be acceptable to just go swimming to get cleaned up instead of taking a shower, no one else is going to feel the need to make much of a fuss.

(For the record, I did end up showering because my friend made a wedding-day-only offer to serve me bourbon in the shower and I didn’t feel like I could pass that up.)

The ceremony was supremely lovely and completely relaxed; at some point in the middle, I felt the impulse to give John a hug, but as I reached out to do so, someone yelled “Not yet!” from the audience, and we ended up in a fit of giggles. The chairs were normal sized, and the whole thing looked a lot like you’d expect a wedding to look, although thanks to my brother showing up with an inflatable human hamster ball and a video camera, it had just enough absurdist humor that I still felt like myself.

The lighting in the tent was awful—it had been a focus of my dissatisfaction during our planning because I couldn’t come up with a way to fix it without spending hundreds of dollars—and it sucked every bit as much as I’d expected, but it certainly it didn’t stop us from having a ridiculously awesome dance party (it helped that the heating was also a little uneven, so the best way to stay warm was to dance).

At the end of the night, a very dedicated group of partiers retired to the kitchen to play frat-style drinking games. We joined them for a few rounds before I dragged John off to bed around 2 a.m. No shame on either account.

With my own wedding behind me, I can talk openly and happily about it now in a way that I really couldn’t before because, other than pleasing John and my mom, I didn’t know why I was doing it. Actually, I’m still lacking my own succinct statement of why we did it, so I’ll fall back on E.M. Forster’s simple characterization: “It is one of the moments for which the world was made.

This is the video my brother made of the weekend that says what I’m trying to say here much better than I managed to say it:

The Info—Photography: Elizabeth Hershey (APW Advertiser) / VenueLakeview Inn / Flowers: Stray Cat Flower Farm / Beer: Hill Farmstead Brewery / Eco-friendly disposable plates, cups, and cutlery: Green Planet Parties

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