Jacqueline & Travis

*Jacqueline, Fashion Historian & Travis, Photojournalist*

When I was planning our wedding (and just starting blogging) the wedding world was full of the terrors of imperfection. Everywhere I looked, there was another story of a bride whose dress ripped, and that rip ruined the whole wedding. Or the flowers were the wrong color, and that’s all the poor bride could think about. (Spending more money always seemed to be the solution to whatever the problem was, of course.) The fear mongering was terrifying, and I needed to replace it with stories that would keep me sane, so I slowly collected them on APW. Stories like Dana’s, where her dress ripped and she kept on dancing, or Cara’s, where half the details were left behind but somehow didn’t matter at all. And what I slowly learned, as we coined phrases like “Wedding Zen” (that state of total I-no-longer-give-a-f*ck-release that can hit right before the wedding starts), is that embracing imperfection is a CHOICE. Wedding magic is something you allow to happen by rolling with what comes. And that choice is what made my totally imperfect wedding day… sort of oddly perfect. That’s why we’re starting this week of tales about imperfection with Jacqueline‘s amazing wedding graduate post. Because she nails it.

You hear about wedding magic and Wedding Zen a lot around these parts. It causes some of us anxiety because we worry whether we will have that experience. We celebrate it when it does show up. We talk realistically not to expect to feel a certain way.

On my wedding day it seemed the planets aligned. The Wedding Zen and magic poured in. At first, I thought I was incredibly lucky. But the more I thought about it, I realized I willed those things into being. Wedding magic and Zen don’t just show up. We have to create them. We have to open ourselves up to them.

I think the tale of my Wedding Zen started the day before our wedding. It was a mess of a day. Everything that could go bad was: alcohol-poisoned fiancé, scorching heat and humidity, forgotten errands, and feeling family obligations. At one point I lost our rental car keys and started snapping at everyone. By the end of the day, I got to our hotel room exhausted and worried. What could I do to make sure tomorrow went better than today, I thought. So I started to clean.

Yes, I cleaned a perfectly clean hotel room. I organized all our things, repacked suitcases, laid out anything I would need in the morning to get ready, hid tacky hotel signage in drawers. Then I washed my partner’s puke-covered clothing in the bathroom tub. When you find yourself washing off eighteen-hour-old vomit the night before your wedding, a wave of love washes over you. I’m not even kidding. I knew in that moment everything would be OK because if I was willing to do this, I was willing to do anything to get married and be with my partner. And I willed Zen to take over and carry me.

Then the magic hit. Well actually, it had been accruing for some time; I just hadn’t realized it yet. My friend Ellie, who I met through APW but have never met face-to-face, sent a horseshoe to me for good luck. She had worn it under the layers of her ball gown wedding dress, and she wanted me to have it. Shortly after I finished rinsing out my fiancé’s clothing, I hung it up over the hotel door’s hinge. Let no bad luck enter this room. I got a call that my partner was keeping down food for the first time that day. Good sign.

Then I got out my wedding accessories. Another friend, again from the APW community, had lent a pearl necklace to me. During the course of putting together a wedding ensemble in the months prior, the trickiest part was finding the right necklace. Robin offered her necklace to me on twitter. I was hesitant, because I didn’t want her to feel bad if it didn’t work. But it did. It was perfect. It became my something borrowed on my wedding day.

You never know where support is going to come from. I was blown away that friends I made online were willing to go so far for me on my wedding day. I’m glad I let them.

Wedding day dawned bright and sunny with low humidity. I honestly still don’t know how that piece of luck happened, but I figured it was because I made peace with the fact that our wedding would only become more colorful if nature threw a curveball. I got ready for my wedding, my brideswomen arrived, and we set off.

We met up with my partner and his groomsmen and groomswoman. We took pictures and enjoyed each other’s company. During picture taking, we saw two of our favorite animals ever—a beagle and a bunny. Again it felt like the universe was giving us a sign.

After picture taking, we took the elevated train to our ceremony. Some of our initial excitement had worn off, and the sun had zapped our strength a little bit. After we got of the train, we needed to walk down an alley to get to the ceremony location. As we rounded the corner into the alley, we discovered a group of 20-somethings partying behind their building.

They shouted out to ask if we were getting married, and, when we told them we were, they invited us to join them. My partner wasn’t going to stop, but something told me we should. We drank keg beer in solo cups. We played a short game of beer pong—I won. The cold beer woke us up and, by the time we need to leave, all of us were pumped up. Then off to the ceremony we went.

Our ceremony was wonderful, and my favorite part of the day. We held it in an open courtyard in a north-side Chicago neighborhood. You can’t reserve this courtyard, so a good deal of our plan was to have friends and our wedding stage manager stake it out with rented chairs. Our friends and families sat and watched us marry, but so did strangers from the neighborhood. It felt a little surreal.

After the ceremony there were more pictures and then a reception on a roof deck. We kept it casual and served pizza and salad. There was dancing and catching up with people we dearly loved.

All these little moments of magic could have been ignored. We could have missed opportunities like petting a beagle pup or downing some cold ones joyously with strangers. But I was not going to let these moments go by. I watched out for them and seized on them when they presented themselves. They are my favorite stories of the day.

Toward the end of the night a surprise firework show set off in the distance. We had no idea it was planned by a nearby neighborhood. All of our family and friends gathered toward one end of the roof to watch. I found myself in my husband’s arms. It was magical.

The Info—Photography: Craig Watson of Craig Watson Photography and Justin Runquist of Studio Vérité / Stage Manager: Cindy Savage of Crafty Broads /Venue: Market Bar Chicago / Officiant: Rev. Julianne of St. John’s Episcopal Church / Florist: Avant Gardenia / Chair Rental: AAA Rental System / Wedding Dress: Made by a North Dakota costume designer / Bride’s Shoes: Maison Martin Margiela on eBay / Groom’s Suit and Shirt: Banana Republic Outlet

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  • It’s stunning. Your post so clearly gives off the feel that the whole universe just shifted itself to align with your wedding perfectly.

    But then, like you say, you willed it to happen.

    The force must be very, very strong in you :)

    • Also, a selective memory almost a year later helps. Because there were bad things the day of too. But focusing on the magic gets you through the day and is what sticks with you longest.

      • KA

        I’d like to argue that the universe aligning, selective memory, and a shit ton of hard work made your day the magic that it was. :)

        You worked your tail off (physically, mentally, emotionally) on that wedding (and blogging about it), and then at the right moment managed to let go. That in and of itself is pure magic. Which is why I just love this:

        “Wedding magic and Zen don’t just show up. We have to create them. We have to open ourselves up to them.”

        Wise words and gorgeous wedding – was so excited to finally see it here!! <3

  • Katie*

    Yeay!! I was thrilled to be able to go to your wedding, and so honored that you extended a last-minute invitation despite the fact we had just recently met. :-) I think the low humidity was the miracle of the day!

  • Wow, yes, real magic. The bunny, the beagle, the fireworks. The way your dress moves when you dance. You can see the joy, the love and the fun come out through the screen. All the best !

  • Jo

    Yippee Jacqueline and Travis!!!!!!

    I love the story and the pictures. xo

  • Liz

    I’ve seen your wedding photos dozens of times, and I STILL can not get over that dress. Love it.

    • Me too.

    • Liz

      I KNOW. Me too. The draped back is beyond stunning.

      • My inner five-year-old with her love of twirly dresses is OBSESSED with that dancing picture!

  • KatieBeth

    Ohhh, these photos and the story are so lovely, I wish I had been there myself! And that’s so funny that your Wedding Zen was kickstarted by cleaning – everyone thinks I’m crazy, but cleaning makes me relaxed, too.

  • Jessica

    Your wedding day sounds like so much fun! I wish we had randomly run into strangers having a party on our wedding day. I think those types of moments are some of the most memorable.

  • Paranoid Libra

    I love how easy going it all seemed to be the day of. Especially love the stopping to play beer pong with some strangers part. Thanks for reinforcing to just go with the flow as I think I needed the reminder after this past weekend’s crazy last minute oh shit moments. I’m ready for Saturday…I think.

    • HollyMargaret

      June 9th weddings, holla!!!!!

      I was about to write a separate comment just like this, but I saw yours, Paranoid Libra, and I just want to more-than-“Exactly!” this whole thing. I’ve been fretting over “being in the moment” endlessly – it’s one of those things that seems as if it should be effortless, but alas, it requires openness, vulnerability, and letting go of b.s. as it happens. We can totally do this! Here’s to going with the flow on Saturday!

      OH! and Jacqueline – thank you for sharing your beautiful-insightful-magical-very-real story!

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  • Dude. Your wedding had some serious magic going on. Love it.

  • Claire

    Thanks for sharing your lovely story. Now can we talk about your dress? It’s GORGEOUS!! I adore the draping, open back and how it dances with you. Sigh.

  • Amanda L.

    I loved your wedding story! From the borrowed necklace from an internet stranger, to taking those keg-drinking partiers up on their offer, it was perfect.

    I knew I’d achieved ‘wedding zen’ when, after my groom accidentally saw me before the wedding, I chose to believe my lying photographer that he actually hadn’t. Even though a couple choice four-letter words slipped out, the overwhelming feeling was ‘I get to marry J today, I’m not letting ANYTHING ruin this… YAY!’

    Hooray for Wedding Zen!

  • lyn

    These stories are still just as booful as when I first read them and they made me a bit teary. Shhh. I’m not supposed to get teary at things like this anymore!

    • meg

      (I think it’s allowed.)

  • This wedding grad is full of wedding magic. MAGIC I tell you.

    I love the story of washing your partners vomit covered clothes so much. Which like you mentioned in the post sounds so weird but so gritty and true.

  • This is stunning and heartlifting and magical. Thank you so much for sharing. I felt the same way about our wedding day– things went wrong, sure, but everything was okay, and some of the most amazingly magical things were things we had no idea were going to happen. (Playing in a surprise rainstorm! Talking to strangers about getting married!) It was wonderful.

    Congratulations. :)

  • I’m going to assume I missed the beer pong story until now because I got married one or two weeks after you guys, but THAT IS MY FAVORITE EVER. You’re both so awesome.

  • the beer pong and the fireworks are just perfect. seriously a magic wedding day. i love what you wrote too :)

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  • d-day

    bunny!! so awesome to see your wedding here. I too must have somehow missed the beer pong story, what a perfect thing to happen! <3

  • Yay Chicago weddings! The beer pong story is amazing.

  • Thank you everyone! I’m so happy to share this here and I hope it helps someone about to get married!

  • kc

    Yay! Ms. Bunny!

  • Looks like such fun! :) The rooftop reception is one of my wedding dream ideas “that got away.” We had considered getting married in Chicago, but Canada was just way easier. But it is so fun to see your Chicago wedding that looked just wonderful! :) Congrats!

  • What a happy surprise to see this post here today! I loved the serendipitous moments when I first saw the photos and read about them, and I love them still. You’re right in saying that selective memory is a good thing . . . but what a blessing to have so many things to select in the first place, y’know?

  • I just love this post. I want to cocoon myself in it’s warmth, and also give you a giant hug.

    I am the type of bride who would be (is) frantic for these experiences – the random college students inviting us for a round, the public ceremony where complete strangers share our joy…THIS is my idea of perfect, so for the next 15 months, I will be relinquishing these desires, to better prepare myself for embracing whatever my Imperfectly Perfect Day may bring :)

  • Zan

    Bun, you looked absolutely gorgeous — and so, so, happy. Travis too! :)