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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  • Ohmygoodness you had one of those rainbow parachute things! So fun!

    And that video your brother made is awesome.

    I love all of this.

  • Oh my gosh, I love this all so much. There is such an incredible amount of joy. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  • “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.”

    Because most days that’s exactly how I feel.

    I also want to straight up kiss you on the mouth for that entire paragraph about feeling ambivalent towards planning but going with it anyway. I’m in that right now. It’s good to know I’m not the only one!

    Lastly, I need a rainbow parachute in my life, right now.

  • I love pretty much all of the weddings that are posted on APW, but this is the first one that made me go OMG I WISH I HAD BEEN THERE. Thanks for sharing all of this (and it was wonderful to meet you yesterday!)!

  • ok UMM. your post was really wise and funny, for sure, but I have to skip over that pretty quickly and freak out over that video your brother made. WHAT. I’m not over it.

    also, the mental image of guests arriving to miniature scale chairs and tables made me crack up. I think you must have been the best maid of honor ever!

  • Victwa

    Pregnancy hormones + probably the only wedding video I have ever liked = crying at computer from the joy of the world.


  • RachelC


    No shame, just a brilliant idea I wish I had lol.

  • Denzi

    I love the video. If your wedding was a quarter as much fun and joyful and love-filled as it looked, it was definitely one of the moments for which the world was made.

  • Oh, the smiles! The smiles here. They are something…

  • PA

    Aww, the wedding looks wonderful! I am so glad it was something you enjoyed – with all of the piles of expectation and craziness and family, I can certainly see how you were freaked out by the idea and wanting to elope!

    On an unrelated note, hand warmers! I love hand warmers, and yours are awesome!

  • “I approached the planning process with the same apparent ambivalence”

    THANK YOU. I feel like in some ways I am the most ambivalent person to ever plan a wedding. And I’m pretty sure it’s pissing people off, because everyone wants me to care about all these things that just don’t matter at all to me. So it really, REALLY helps to know that there are other brides-to-be that are feeling somewhat ambivalent about the whole planning process.

    Then I remember that most of the reason I’m having a wedding instead of eloping is so that my mother in law and my mother can have a proper day to celebrate their babies marrying each other. As long as I come out married to the best man I know, and give our moms a celebration, I’m happy.

  • Thank you for sharing, this truly inspire me! This wedding and the one that took place in Austin with the bike parade are the closest example I have of how I want my wedding to feel. These are creative folks who know how to make their own fun and celebrate with childlike exhuberance!

  • Liz


    The joy! The giggles! The bursting at the seams fun! What a ray of sunshine for a Monday morning.

  • Sarah

    I agree with other commenters that this is likely the best wedding video I’ve ever seen. And I’m SUPER glad to know I’m not the only one that doesn’t really give a rip about having a wedding (but is somehow compelled by those I love to have one anyway). You are one awesome wedding grad. : )

  • Amy

    This looks SO FUN! Remote-control cars! Beer pong! Rainbow parachute! Enormous bouncy-balls! Your words are very wise, and your wedding looks like a fantastic, fun beautiful time. Also, that polka-dot dress you wore is so happy and lovely.

  • Leigh Ann

    GREAT post. Love the Forster quote. Vermont looks beautiful enough to rival California. ;) Congratulations. And how lucky you are to have such a great video of the day!

  • There Are No Words!

  • kathleen

    this is infinity awesome.

  • Lizzie

    Thanks everyone for your lovely words! Our 6-month anniversary was on Saturday, so between that and this, it’s been so nice to get to relive a bit of the fun and happiness and love from our wedding day.

    Regarding the video – my brother has been making a bunch of wacky and gently-surreal videos in the past year or so as a hobby. Most of them involve him walking around DC asking strangers to join in on something funny but kinda weird. He made a similar one at our bachelor and bachelorette parties, so we were somewhat prepared for it, but there was still a moment of “This is a crazy thing to have at our wedding!” that we both had when we saw the parachute and the hamster ball. Now, of course, we are just super-grateful for the video and the whole experience.

  • Cassandra

    My 8 year old just watched your brother’s video with me and announced “That looks like the most fun wedding.” I think we can all concur with that sentiment.

    I’ve been feeling pretty similarly ambivalent both to planning and even announcing our engagement. I’m excited about the *marriage* but I’m finding it hard to get interested in the wedding!

  • Lizzie- I LOVE this post, and your wedding looks like an absolute blast!!

  • Gloria

    yay vermont! i go to lake st catherine every summer, and this makes me wish i could have my wedding there now. it’s probably a little late to move it now (deposits and all). but really, i totally understand where you’re coming from. it’s exactly why i’m getting married this year instead of next, because there’s no way i’m planning a wedding for 2 years.

  • It is fantastic reportage gallery. :)

  • Great quote to sum it up. Also? Love the (presumably hand-knit?) fingerless mitts.

  • G-Pops

    Your wedding looks like it was a blast! I abolutely loved your post and all the fantastic pictures! I even read parts aloud to my fiance. then had him watch the video which he loved too. Such fun and an absolute inspiration that you can feel ambivalent about your wedding and still have a wonderful time!

  • omg, your wedding looks like so much fun! and also, your video – amazing! thanks!

  • Kelsey W.

    Your wedding looks so beautiful and joyful! I covet your golden shoes.

    Also, I TOTALLY have had that nightmare- probably enough to count on both hands! Usually we end up getting married in a high school gym and everyone is mad at me because there is no food and then we get in trouble because the basketball team needs to practice.

  • Seems like a lot of fun was had by all! Including those of us reading about it. :)

  • blimunda

    Where do you girls find all those white and gold polka dotted dresses?? I think I want one for my (still imaginary) wedding. I also always wanted to do silly things in it. Now i know such a thing as a human hamster ball exist. What’s a girl to do? ;o)

  • Lizzie

    Yeah, I smiled when I saw Meg’s similar dress. Mine was off (as were the shoes), so it would be tricky to find another of the same. The label was Corey Lynn Calter – I don’t know whether they’ve done anything similar since whenever this one was designed. The hand-knit mitts were probably from some craftsperson in rural Virginia. My aunt is a potter who lives down there has a lot of other artisan friends. She just handed them to me as the sun was setting and she could see that I was getting a little cold!

  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

    I’ll be honest, you had me at ‘Bourbon in the shower’!

  • Dana

    I was sold with “Bourbon in the shower,” but the giant rainbow parachute games put me over the edge!!! Parachute day was my favorite day in gym class growing up. Now I think I have to have one at my wedding!

  • chelsea

    sh$tballz . . . best wedding video ever

  • I love the video! It resonates a touch of everything I want out of my own wedding….

    so, WHERE can I get my hands on an inflatable human hamster ball? Cause, see, my dad already owns a jumpy castle and I fully intend on insisting its presence at my wedding and that human hamster ball would go oh, so perfectly…. especially since both my sister and I have owned hamsters in recent history (ok, she still does. I won’t get another pet until my moving is all settled).

    But, ultimately, thank you for reminding me that weddings can be playful and fun and still beautifully elegant. I emailed that video to myself so I can watch it and remember this nugget when I’m in planning mode (soonish that will be. engagement is imminent and wedding will be quickly to follow. we don’t play– ha! actually we do. a lot.).