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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