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Emma & Kyle

Today’s wedding is an honest-to-goodness summer camp wedding with a s’more cake (!!!) and lake swimming. But that’s not what makes it awesome. What makes it awesome is Emma’s discussion of the true nature of weddings, how you learn from them, and how she learned to balance the fact that it was their wedding, and everyone’s day. It’s smart and fun at the very same time, and what could be better than that?

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding

Midwest Camp inspired wedding
Weddings are funny things. They are everything you might expect and nothing you can see coming. That is just as it should be, because they are what they are. And that’s all I can come up with to say: they are what they are. Embrace it or prepare for a sh*tstorm (not because everything will go wrong, but because they will not be whatever you want them to be).

One of my biggest struggles (which isn’t saying much because I was unbelievably lucky to have an almost-painless process) was determining when it should be about me/my fiance/us, and when it simply wasn’t. There are definitely times that you must accept that even though everyone says it’s all about you, it really has almost nothing to do with you.

Enter showers. With my bridal party 100% out of town and my desire to have everyone watch me open presents at 0%, I felt as though showers might be a necessary evil, but hopefully would be kept small. After all, showers stem from the bride’s family needing dowry help (lame!), and they seem like a weird way to finagle double gifts out of women (no fair!). But as four showers grew from an astounding amount of support and excitement, I began to realize their purpose.

Would we see all of our guests at our wedding? No, we invited almost 400. Are having these pre-parties a vital chance to celebrate with new and old friends and families alike, answer questions about the event, and let people express their genuine love and support of you? Yes! So wade through the awkward present-opening, graciously defend your simplistic lifestyle when everyone gives you a hard time about your registry not being big enough, suck it up and play hostess because even though someone else might be throwing it, you are the only one who knows everyone, write your thank you notes with genuine appreciation, and hope that at least one of these groups is willing to call theirs what it is: a sprinkle (not a full shower, but rather a potluck lunch and decoration work party with a group gift thrown in for good measure).

But when it’s time for you to take the reins again, go for it. Don’t get stuck in people-pleasing mode and start trying to invent some weird bachelorette party that has to fit into two hours on a weekday that you don’t want because it’s on a wedding checklist somewhere. Step back, realize that it’s your call again, and have a lovely night with your wedding party who came in a day early to eat Indian food and go run last minute errands with you. No penis necklaces required, thanks.

My husband (still weird to type) and I met working at summer camp. We were both campers, on staff for six summers, and now volunteer and donate regularly. We had our reception at said camp. Because they were worried about traffic flow in the event of rain, they cut a new door in the old dining hall just for us. It’s about two feet from where we first met, as dishwashers at age 16. Our DJ friendor made music from the spot where I fell asleep with my sister and playmates as a kid, while my dad would watch from his spot onstage with his guitar and my mom from hers on the dance floor. (Oh right, did I mention that my mom worked there when she was younger and I’ve been going there since birth?)

One of our favorite parts of the whole thing was sending a big check to our home away from home instead of going into debt to pay a corporate banquet hall somewhere. If you can find good people/places to give your money to, it feels a whole lot easier to spend the dough.

Doing so much ourselves left us feeling oddly calm and confident, be it in the words we had chosen for our non-religious ceremony or how our moment of gratitude before the meal entailed playing the song “May I Suggest” covered by Red Molly (which, by the way, was an awesome excuse to slow down and spend two to three minutes gazing upon our kingdom, taking it all in). Choosing things created meaning for us, even if it did leave us saying, “Should we be freaking out more? I don’t feel that different!” throughout most of our day.

Even though everyone tells you that it will all be a blur and you will be overwhelmed, you might just have a really killer party with all your favorite people and feel totally present and joyful the whole time. And it might just be a magical weekend that you couldn’t feel blurry about if you tried. (I second Michelle calling shenanigans.)

And guess what? The things you did to save money or time or headaches will be the highlights. Who knew? Having all different sizes and shapes of used jars instead of renting or buying glassware became a hilarious way for people to watch each others’ alcohol intake (“Honey, we need to move you to a smaller jar”). The frames from the dollar store filled with pictures of us were a conversation piece and people were glad there were no assigned seats so they could move around and see them all. And the fabric flowers we made to avoid attracting bugs ended up pinned on people as corsages, and they didn’t even notice we didn’t have favors (except for opening up the swimming lake and giant waterslide the next day). Go figure.

And guess what else? You will learn things you never realized you didn’t know. Like how you can (and in my opinion should) ask engaged folks if they are doing things instead of how, eliminating the assumption that everything you’ve ever seen at weddings will be present at theirs. You’ll have clarity and realizations about the people in your life that somehow could never be verbalized before (for better or worse). And you will see that it doesn’t really matter if everyone agrees with all of your choices, nor does it matter if they work out or go smoothly, because they are what they are and it wouldn’t be your wedding if they weren’t.

The Info Photography: Darrell Mankin / Friendor DJ: Audio On Demand / Wedding Cake: The Cakery Bakery / Venue: Camp Ondessonk / Jewelery: Designs By Charity / Dress: Made by a friend and Emma’s aunt (awesome-sauce) / S’mores Cake: A friend, Lindsay

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