Kate & Tory

Drizzly Alaskan wedding

* Kate, Community Relations & Tory, Carpenter *

My husband and I got married last year on a foggy-almost-drizzling day in the Chugach Mountains in Alaska. We were surrounded by a moxie group of friends, relatives, wedding crashers, and hikers before heading to a heli-ski lodge for a barn-style reception with music, local food, and fun. Everyone camped out, and we had a leisurely brunch the next morning. I remember a lot of the day, but not all of it.

Lessons learned were numerous, sometimes surprising and applicable beyond the wedding itself. Here are the big ones:

A wedding can be whatever you want it to be. There are no rules.

This was my wedding-planning mantra. It often guided our decisions. Best daughter instead of best man? Why the heck not! Ceremony site TBD the morning of the wedding according to weather? Works for us! BYOAppetizers? Yes! Late-night tomato soup and grilled cheese? I know I’ll be hungry! DIY bouquets the morning of? Yes, we can!

But I also said it over and over again when people questioned the wedding location, the non-traditional wedding party, the lack of wedding colors, the wedding attire, etc., ad infinitum. And I had it easy. Our immediate families were crazy supportive and repeatedly let us know that whatever made us happy was fine by them. But other people had so many opinions, and in the end it helped me to say my mantra over and over in my head and sometimes out loud. Especially when talking about the wedding to my ten-year-old stepdaughter-to-be. Who’d have thought that a little girl might have some ideas about weddings?

In the end, it’s about making the day meaningful for you. And throwing a fun party, that is secondary. And yes, the mantra works for marriage, too. If you and your spouse are truly happy and fulfilled, then who the fuck cares what other people think?

Lean on your partner. Ask for help.

This should be a gimme. Of course you should lean on your partner! This is a feminist website, full of stories about all these great feminist men who have thrown themselves into wedding planning fully and happily. But you know what? Sometimes that doesn’t happen.

Last summer, we were working toward two life-changing events. The first was the wedding. The second was building a house. At the beginning of the summer, Tory and I struck a deal. I would plan the wedding and he would build the house. N’er should two meet, except for the really big decisions. It seemed like a fair trade at the time, but in the end it was hard and isolating. I felt much better when I asked him for help, but I didn’t do it enough and I didn’t do it until I felt completely overwhelmed.

I married Tory because he loves me like a fool and does anything and everything in his power to make me happy. But he’s not a mind reader, and sanity is more important than some dumb bargain that you make before shit gets real, right?

A wedding can bring a community together…

We were fairly new to the area, having moved from Anchorage (five hours away) a little less than two years before. I’m generally a social person and had made a lot of friends in town, but my closest friends were still pretty far away. In other words, I had a lot of friend-quaintences. In the months leading up to the wedding, I often felt like I was planning and organizing all alone (see above). But in the weeks before the wedding, people just started pitching in. It was amazing! Some rad co-workers threw me a lovely shower and rad bachelorette bash. Other friends came out of the woodwork, giving us twenty pounds of shrimp they had just caught, or forty loaves of bread. One friend—a professional chef—cooked for the reception as a gift. Others helped with decorations and loaned us equipment and tents. People I didn’t even know very well! I was blown away with acquaintances’ generosity and felt so supported and loved.

…but doesn’t necessarily crystallize it.

So all that love and support and friendship? It will dissipate after the wedding if you let it. That’s on you. After the wedding I felt like everyone had scattered back to their corners and that the wonderful community that had briefly formed around us has just as quickly disappeared. A year later, I realized I didn’t work hard enough to keep in touch and maintain those connections. I’m doing more now.

Some people won’t be there, and that’s sad.

I’m originally from the East Coast, and when we decided to get married in Alaska, I knew that meant that there would be people who wouldn’t make the wedding. I told myself I wouldn’t take any of the RSVP “no’s” personally. Individually, that was fine. In aggregate? Not so much. Two weeks before the wedding, I realized that none of the women who I’d considered my best friends at various stages of my life was going to make it. I cried for a whole day. Luckily, one managed to make it work at the last minute, but there was still a significant absence at the wedding.

Others said that on the day of the wedding I wouldn’t even notice they weren’t there. That isn’t true. I missed them, and let myself miss them. But I didn’t let that stop me from partying it up.

Embrace and plan for down time.

A lot of people have said that my wedding looked “easy” and “laid-back.” It was…for them. It took a lot of planning, emotional space and physical work. I was exhausted afterwards. We decided to wait four months to go on our honeymoon, and I only took one day off after the wedding itself. Big mistake. On Tuesday, I started daydreaming of sleep at my desk by 10:00 a.m. On Wednesday I got home, told some lingering houseguests to clear out so that I could take a nap, “and be pleasant to you all.” By Thursday afternoon, a particularly caring co-worked pulled me aside and said, “Kate, maybe it’s time to call in sick, because you’re not being very nice. To anyone.” On Friday I called in sick and slept fifteen hours.

Even if your wedding is small, it is still a major life event that takes some psychological effort. Honor that. Find a way to create space for you, your new spouse, and some down time. Naps under your desk aren’t generally accepted.

Laughter carries the day.

Our wedding day was pretty great. We were relaxed enough eat breakfast together and get out for a hike that morning. I got ready surrounded by a constantly changing crowd of sassy and awesome women and men and neighborhood huskies. It didn’t pour. The food was amazing. There was a ton of laughter and booze and dancing. As I said: just great.

But there were some snafus. It drizzled. Said neighborhood huskies ate the two pies my mom and I had lovingly made for the reception. Other desserts got knocked off the table by tipsy guests. I dropped the ring during the ceremony. We forgot to get non-alcoholic drinks for the reception. Luckily, those…perfect imperfections were met with uproarious laughter.

That is what I remember most about the day: uproarious laughter and the warm glow of love. A year later, I’ve learned that this is the heart of my marriage.

The Info—Photographer: Heather Thamm / Location: Valdez, Alaska / Venue: Rendezvous Lodge / Kate’s Dress: BHLDN / Kate’s Hair Do-Dad: Twigs and Honey / Tory’s Clothes: Vintage coat and vest / Tory’s Shirt: J. Crew shirt / Tory’s Jeans: Old Navy

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  • Laura C

    Are the pictures not showing up for anyone else, or is it just me?

  • This is one of my favorite posts of all time! Joyous and beautiful pictures and wonderful words of wisdom. Congrats!

  • “Individually, that was fine. In aggregate? Not so much. Two weeks before the wedding, I realized that none of the women who I’d considered my best friends at various stages of my life was going to make it. I cried for a whole day. Luckily, one managed to make it work at the last minute, but there was still a significant absence at the wedding.”

    Ohhh this feeling. Oh boy do I know it.

    • Oh. And GORGEOUS wedding lady. GORGEOUS.

  • Stephanie

    I’m curious — what’s happening in the second-to-last picture?

    • Is that a shotski I see???

    • they’re taking a ski shot!

      • Kate in AK

        It was a shot ski! It’s the last thing I remember from the wedding.

    • Stephanie

      I’m embarrassed — when I posted my question, the photo right above (that shows the shot glasses) wasn’t displaying. So the second-to-last photo looked kind of like a bunch of people…kissing…something.

      Now that I can see both photos, I want to know why I’ve never heard of a shotski before!!! That is made of awesome.

      • We had a shotski at our wedding too! One of my best memories of the night was throwing back bourbon shots with my mother and mother-in-law. And that’s about the last thing I remember too :)

  • mimi

    Time off after the wedding is so important. We both took the whole week off. The wedding was on Saturday, and on Sunday night/Monday we slept about 12 hours, and were very lazy the rest of the week. A wedding is a huge event, physically and emotionally.

    • Stephanie

      Our wedding is 11 days away, and I had the conversation last night with FH that he really should take at least the Monday after the wedding off work. (We aren’t taking a honeymoon until October.) He looked at me blankly and asked, “Why? We have Sunday off.” (I’m unemployed right now, so all of my days are “off,” technically.)

      Dear, sweet man. He’s the one who goes back to work after getting home at 11 p.m. Sunday night after driving 13 hours straight home from vacation. So I wasn’t really surprised he was going to go to work the Monday after the wedding.

      I told him that half of Sunday would be taken up with packing all of our stuff from the B&B where the wedding is (we’re staying there for the wedding night), and getting home and putting stuff away and dealing with details and undoubtedly phone calls and such. And besides, wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra day together Monday to enjoy being married?

      And SLEEP. Man, I cannot WAIT to sleep the Sunday night after the wedding.

      • Cathy

        Can I chime in with a suggestion to schedule in a rest on the wedding day?
        We had a nap time after our delicious lunch (for my benefit) and I was really surpised at how many of our guests also went for a lie down. Some of them had to be dragged out of bed fot the after party!
        People told me I would be too wound up to sleep but I was so happy and contently full of delicious food and love that I totally zonked out!

  • E

    Totally beside the point of this post, but… Yay! A bride with glasses! I’ve been surprised at how much my glasses come up for people… as in, “are you wearing your glasses in your wedding?” To which my non contact wearing self says, “ah ya!!?!? I can’t see without ’em!” But I’m afraid those pesky comments snuck their way into my subconscious and one day I found myself contemplating contacts for the first time in my life. Until I shook myself out of it (with the help of a loving fiancé who told me he wants me to look like me on our wedding day) and said screw that! But I admit I’ve felt some pangs at the total absence of glasses wearing brides… until now! LOVE these beautiful pictures.

    • Kate in AK

      DO IT, Girlfriend! I was surprised about how divisive this issue was among my friends. Literally HOURS of debate, and the consensus was overwhelmingly against glasses. In the end, I just thought to myself “I wear glasses every day. This is who I see in the mirror. This is who Tory sees. GLASSES ON.”

      • MK

        Not only do you wear glasses, you look beautiful in them! I confess to the same worries, and that I won’t look “bridey” enough, that it’ll attract all this attention. But I didn’t even really notice until they were pointed out. Hallelujah!

        I’ll try to stay strong on the glasses front, too!

      • E

        That is awesome! And I agree… glasses on!

    • Pipaa

      So good to see a bride with glasses!
      For me, the ads in wedding magazines and constant sub-text and outright comments against women wearing glasses on their wedding day make me really angry. The first time I ever had someone ask me this question, my response was,”Why wouldn’t I?” Which left the questioner with a total absence of any good reasons why I should get married without them (when I wear them every single day of my life, as well).
      The argument is ridiculous and really gets me fired up. As you might be able to tell.

      By the way, this comment is in no way meant to reflect my feelings towards glasses-wearing lasses who choose to forgo their specs on the day, especially if they regularly alternate between glasses and contacts. You do what’s right for you. What some people tend to forget, however, is that there ARE people out in the world who wear glasses every single day, and have done for years or their entire life, and never ever wear contacts. For these people, I feel the pressure to lose the specs is just insulting.

    • K down under

      I rarely wear contacts except when it’s convenient. Think hiking (too much sweat, they fall down my nose), being a tourist in Europe (so much easier when you don’t have to continually swap sunnies for glasses every time you walk in and out of a building), and, yep, my wedding. People did comment that I looked a bit different, but they get in the way when i cuddle into my tall husband’s shoulder, and that was more important to me that day :) That and not having to deal with camera flash reflections :p

      But yes. Glasses-wearing brides, totally allowed and awesome.

    • megep

      I wore my glasses during our wedding and got some complimented a lot for wearing them. Definitely wear them if that is what you are more comfortable with and will make you “look like you.”

      As a side note, a wedding can be a fantastic time to justify purchasing new frames. They make such an impact!!

      • megep

        Sorry, edit button won’t work– should read “got complimented a lot” not “got some complimented.”

        Sorry, only one cup of coffee so far today.

  • Shots on a ski! SHOTS ON A SKI! LOVE.

  • jashshea

    Holy ish re: your ceremony location. YIKES. GORGEOUS.

  • I love your dress – and your boots! Such a great combo.
    Also, you guys got married in the most stunning location – I’m just in awe of the scenery.

    • Kate in AK

      Thank you! Our ceremony was about 10 minutes from our cabin. In the 4th photo (with the arch) you can actually see our neighborhood below. Thompson Pass is still the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and I’m so lucky we got hitched there, and even luckier to live there!

  • omgphd

    You – and everyone else – look so happy! And everything looks so gorgeous! And you have great advice to share. Cheers!

  • This post is amazing. Love the advice and your pictures are great!

  • Sarah

    No idea why but the picture of you two kissing made me tear up. I thought it was a fluke but then I scrolled up again and there it was again. Tears. I think it’s just the pure love that comes streaming through the photo. You look so… committed… and sure, like you’re grabbing on to each other for dear life. And yes, the glasses are awesome and the cardigan and jeans makes it look so natural. Well done.

  • Jessica

    Thank you for this post, beautiful photos! I’m glad I’m not the only one to decide to have a wedding and build a house at the same time! If you pulled it off maybe we can too.

    I am also planning a wedding as my husband-to- be builds our house. We had pretty much the same deal – I would do the wedding and he would take care of the house……but we actually have worked together on both things and it has been a wonderful challenging few months for us both.

    We also look forward to sleep!

  • another meg

    Hey Meg or Maddie, can this be tagged as “bride with glasses” or something? Can that be a searchable thing when the site undergoes its beautification?

  • Simultaneously taking shots off of a ski cannot be easy. Bravo to you guys for doing is so magnificently! It must have been loads of fun.