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Meg’s Actual Wedding From 2009

Let's revisit, shall we?

My wedding exists on the internet (of course). But it’s buried way way back in the APW archives, and you have to know where to look. I know people Google it too, because it shows up in a variety of search tools I use. But when you Google my name + wedding… you get… well… everything but my actual wedding. My books, my interviews, all the pieces of me becoming a wedding expert in the years since I had a wedding. I’ve always sort of enjoyed that trick of the hat. But leading up to our ten year anniversary, the APW team convinced me to publish our wedding, in full, in the format we use now. It has a lot of pictures that never hit the internet. And just like we did when we re-created what it would cost to throw my parents 1974 wedding today, we did the work to figure out what it would cost to throw my 2009 wedding in 2019. Spoiler: basically the same amount. And that’s why getting married in public park venues is one of the best kept secrets of wedding planning. So here is my real wedding, cobbled together from excerpts that originally ran here in September 2009, plus more added photos and details. I’m currently in Palm Springs, getting ready to celebrate ten years with a lot of the same people… but sadly, without our fathers.

Meg, Author & CEO & David, Lawyer

sum-up of the wedding vibe: One impossibly happy, huge, glowing day.

Planned Budget: $20,000 in 2009, inflation adjusted to $23,900
Actual Budget: $23,000 in 2009, inflation adjusted to $27,400

What It would Cost To Throw In 2019: $30,000
Number of Guests: 115
Location: Brazilian Room, Tilden Park, Berkeley, California
photographer: One Love Photo

Where we allocated the most funds:

We spent almost half of our budget on food. As I wrote about here, we weighted our food with a lot of emotional value, which ended up meaning that it was local, organic, and probably ended up costing more than it needed to. But we also wanted it to reflect us, and our values and community, and it did! Plus, it was delicious, and now anytime I eat hummus I’m reminded of our wedding day.

We went over budget at the end by paying for flights and hotels for friends from home who couldn’t afford to come to the wedding, or were going to come but sleep in their cars. At the time, it seemed like the clear right answer, but still a tough pill to swallow. In retrospect, it was the best choice we ever made during wedding planning. Nobody ever talks about buying their friends plane tickets so they can come to their wedding. But that $2K was worth all the stupid flowers combined.

Where we allocated the least funds:

Our outfits ended up being rather inexpensive: David wore a suit his dad found on sale, and I wore a vintage dress I found for $250 at a shop in San Francisco. Of course, that was after a bit of a dress saga you can read about here, but ultimately it wasn’t super expensive, though it was a process. Our officiant required a small donation (in exchange for the big membership fee we have always paid our Synagogue), and we ordered our Ketubah online for around $200.

What was totally worth it:

This is what I had to say right after our wedding, and a lot of it remains the same, as the books, interviews, and this website will tell you. So let’s listen to ten-years-ago Meg, because I’m biased but I think she was onto something.

It’s ok to cry. I wasn’t always explicit about this on APW, but I found wedding planning to be a difficult at times. It was also one of the great learning experiences of my life, but frankly, learning sort of blows sometimes. The thing about weddings is they are this complex mix of families, friendship, faith, values, aesthetics, cultural assumptions, other peoples expectations, and oh yeah, love. So while weddings often bring out the best in people, sometimes they bring out the worst. I can admit now that I spent more than one night in the planning process crying myself to sleep. And I wasn’t crying because my flowers didn’t match my linens, I was crying because of Big Life Issues the wedding brought up. So if Big Life Issues come up when your planning, let yourself cry and work through them. Its not silly, it means that you’re grappling with important things in a major life transition.

Share it with your partner. Saying, “It’s your partner’s day too,” has become cliche in progressive wedding circles, but it’s true. But let me say this: your partner might not care about or think about the wedding in the same way you do, and that’s a good thing. This is probably one of the first really huge projects you take on with your partner, so work on modeling the same collaboration and respect that you’d like to see when you take on other projects together, like say, raising children or buying a house. And yes, if you are fiery like we are, you’ll yell at each other a bit too, which is So. Normal.

Find a way to keep yourself grounded. One of the things I wish I’d realized going into wedding weekend is that your wedding is not a totally free pass. Family tensions will still be family tensions, someone will get stressed and yell, and that person who always acts a little weird at parties may act a little weird. But the bottom line is, for one weekend none of it is your problem. Let it go, move on, stay grounded. For me this was one biggest challenges of the weekend, but also the most spiritually rewarding.

Focus on the Ceremony. Sometimes the ceremony gets lost in the shuffle, because it’s not pretty, or because it’s emotionally complicated. But this is why everyone is there, this is how it all starts, and this is what changes you forever. No matter how traditional or non-traditional you want your ceremony to be, think about it, talk about it, and make sure it feels like it’s yours. Make sure you both feel like you can live inside it, as your truest selves.

Show Up. When the ceremony starts, you need to be THERE. Even if it makes you sob, even if it makes you laugh, even if someone just yelled at you, even if something major just went wrong. Be fully present, because you only get to live this once.

What was totally not worth it:

In retrospect we spent a lot of money (and time) DIYing our flowers in an attempt to save money. If I had to do it all over again—and I am kinda doing that in a small way—I’d just hire a florist to make bouquets, and not bother with centerpieces. It would have saved us a bunch of time and money spent on something we ultimately didn’t care much about. Plus, my bouquet would have been prettier.

A few things that helped us along the way:

I said this right after our wedding, and it’s still true. Make someone else in charge day-of. Always.

Get. A. Wedding. Stage Manager. You can’t be in charge the day of the wedding, no, no, no. Get someone else to be in charge of the organizational details, even if they just take your cell phone from you as you walk up the courthouse steps. Lots of people will tell you that this means you need to hire someone to run the day of, but you don’t necessarily. Having a friend manage our weekend made us able to bliss out, and it filled the day with a depth of care and joy that we could never have bought.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Well, listen. I’ve made a career out of giving practical wedding planning advice, so you’ve probably heard a lot of this by now. But this is what I had to say right after our wedding, and honestly I think most of it holds up:

  • When people ask you if “you might regret such and such a choice…” say no. And move on. Because if you make a choice that is authentic to who you and your partner are, I can emphatically tell you that you won’t regret it. Period.

  • Gut-check. By the week before the wedding, I was making all my decisions by instantaneous gut-check, “What seems right for us? Ok, done,” no second guessing. It’s easy to loose track of this during the planning process, but if you’re not sure about something, check your gut, and then go with it. I think your gut is where your heart lives.

  • Keeping people on a need-to-know basis is fine sometimes. It’s not just that it’s easier to apologize than to ask permission, but that people will be so caught up in the joy of your wedding day that little things that might worry them before hand won’t bother them at all on the day of.

  • Learn how to kindly but firmly say no. If you know deep down that something is just not right for you, be kind but firm, it will save you endless heartache in the end. Maybe you learn this in wedding planning because its the single best preparation for adult life that there is.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

Getting so many people we loved in one room to celebrate together. Looking at these pictures is currently a little painful. We’ve lost more people, a lot sooner than we hoped. But that makes that one glorious moment when they were all in one place all the more important.

Anything else:

I’ll let ten years ago Meg do the honors. She remembers exactly what it felt like.

If I could only pass on one thing about our wedding day, it would be this: Getting married? It’s huge. It’s bigger than you ever expected or imagined. It’s life changing. And having done it, I can categorically say, in a way I never understood before, that it is not about the carefully planned the details. If it matters to you to have a cute cake, by all means, have a cute cake. But it’s barely going to hit your radar screen on your wedding day. The details that will end up mattering to you are the ones you could never ever, ever plan.

And, finally, the one thing I can tell you from the other side: the party will be wonderful, it will be joyful, it will be what you need it to be. But the real secret? The other side is better. The other side is something you’ve never quite felt before. The other side is worth it.

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