Natalie & Eric

*Natalie,Economic Development Specialist & Eric, Reporter*

 Today’s wedding graduate post just nails it. I mean, NAILS it. Natalie wraps everything I learned while wedding planning into one little ball and ties it with a bow for you. It reminds me more of my own wedding graduate post than anything else (and with totally gorgeous pictures). All of you in the trenches of planning are totally mandated to read this. It’s required. Love, Meg.

I have tried to write this post many times, started it many ways. Mostly in my head. But thinking about what I needed to hear when I was engaged and reading this site, I think what I want to say is this: It is worth it.

Whoever you are, your engagement has its own trials and tribulations. Some of mine were figuring out where to have the wedding when our family and friends are so wildly dispersed throughout the country, stressing out over the last thing I thought I’d ever care about (the dress), being long distance for the last five months of our engagement, navigating through different perspectives about the meaning of a wedding and the role religion plays in it.

Those were mine. You will have yours too. You will work through them, just lean on your partner, try to be true to yourself and considerate of others.

The week before the wedding, I was sitting on a couch in a rented basement apartment with my mom, folding paper and tying ribbons to mini vodka bottles while watching a romantic comedy. I remember very clearly telling her that I was just so ready for everyone to go back to not caring about me or my decisions. I am not someone with an extremely defined sense of style, a good details person, or very decisive. So the process of making decision after decision that would be held up for inspection by everyone close to me was, at times, agonizing.

I thought I would be SO done with weddings.

Cut to: a few months ago, when a business trip landed me in San Francisco City Hall on a Friday afternoon, which happens to be high tide for marriage ceremonies. I must have seen a dozen brides and grooms, and it took all of my professional decorum (and the fact that I’m really shy around strangers) to not run around hugging all of them and yelling “CONGRATULATIONS! You’re getting MARRIED TODAY!” I was just positively overjoyed for these people I didn’t know because I knew now what kind of day they were having.

Because on my wedding day, I was filled to the brim. It is hard to explain how it feels to be in a crowd composed entirely of people you love, cheering you on, as you promise and are promised to be with the person you are crazy about forever. All I can tell you is that it’s everything you need it to be. When you are pouring your energy into finding that venue that feels right and fits your budget, or into working through a fight with your future spouse, or into setting boundaries with your family of origin as you create space for your baby family—all that energy somehow is channeled out into the world and then comes radiating back to you.

If you are in the trenches, you might not believe all this. You think I’m spinning you a yarn. I’m not, but you are probably in need of some more specifics than “In the end, it all works out!” Alrighty then. I made myself sit down and write this post since it was only fair to pay it forward to all I gained from reading wedding graduate posts, so here goes. Some Advice.

1. Protect Your Own Experience. This is a Meg-ism (it’s in the book), and one that I am so grateful for. When you think about how you will spend your wedding week, or hey—your whole wedding planning time, sprinkle it with the things that make you you. Make time for people and activities that make you feel calm, centered, happy—like your best self. For me, this meant that I wanted to bake 18 pies with my mom for our wedding. I’m sure to many of you that sounds like a recipe (heh) for stress and chaos. But being in the kitchen, cutting butter into flour, and rolling out dough for hours was an oasis in the middle of the home stretch to the wedding day.

Running a 5K the morning of my wedding would be hell for me, but maybe that’s what you need. Recent wedding graduate Sarah spent the night before her wedding drinking with old friends—maybe that’s what you should do. What do you need to be unclouded on your wedding day? Who do you need to see? Do that, spend time with those people. And don’t forget your basic well-being. Appoint someone to make sure you eat and drink water throughout the day. Also, share the wealth—put an APW post or two in front of your partner and encourage them to protect their experience too.

2. Think about the emotional side of your decisions, even the ones you aren’t emotional about. Planning my wedding from a distance and in the middle of a challenging final year of graduate school meant that I had one clear, overriding goal in making wedding decisions: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” But sometimes, I let that goal blind me to the other implications of my decisions.

Just because I was personally indifferent about cutting something out of the wedding day didn’t mean that everyone would be. Early on, check in with the people who have an emotional stake in your wedding, and find out what matters to them. Your random co-worker, your distant cousin? Those people do not qualify; they don’t get a say. People who raised you? They’ve earned their day in court.

3. Pick a last song in addition to a first song. I barely remember our first dance, I was too distracted by being the center of attention. But the last song, as I held tight to my new husband and danced among a full dance floor of friends, soaking it all in one last time—that song is the one that makes me nearly double-over with emotion when I hear it now.

4. Ceremony, ceremony, ceremony. I experienced the details at our reception amidst a blur of hugs, photographs, food, and dancing. They matter, but at your ceremony, your attention is held. It is when you are most present, most tuned in. So give yourself the freedom to put time and effort into your readings, your vows, how comfortable your shoes are, your music.

It has been just over half a year since our wedding. I’ve spent a lot of these intervening months trying to process everything that happened since Eric asked me to marry him on a wintery day almost two years ago. I am still processing, but one thing is for sure, and that is that there is something to the cheesy tradition of being carried over the threshold on your wedding night. You do pass over a threshold when you get married.

You step over an invisible line, one that starts to come into focus as you are further and further away from it—so at six months out, I don’t have much wisdom to pass on. Just that it’s real, passing through it ain’t no cake walk, and that what you get for it is a whole lot more than cake. Though get this—you ALSO get cake. Awesome.

The Info—Photography: Kyle Hale / Ceremony Venue: Church of Our Saviour /Reception Venue: Michael C. Carlos Museum / Catering and Day-of Coordination: Masterpiece Events / Invitations: A Printable Press / Pies: Natalie and Natalie’s mom / Cake: Eric’s mom / Florist: Candler Park Flowers / Dress: Pronovias White One, from Hem & Her in Tucson, AZ / Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Hair & Makeup: Scoobie West / Bridesmaid Dresses: The Limited / Groom & Best Man Suits: Men’s Warehouse / Ties: The Tie Bar

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  • katie n.

    Such fantastic advice and perspective. And I totally agree on the feeling of wanting to cheer for every wedding/new marriage you see! I never felt that way before getting married – now I’m a huge cheerleader.

    And great advice on picking the last song. That’s the one regret I have from our wedding – I didn’t have a plan for the end of the music. As the night was wrapping down, I asked the DJ to play one of my fav slow songs. But then, with everyone rockin out on the dance floor, I hesitated and thought ending on a slow song would negatively clear the dance floor. So I told him that the last song should be what was playing, to go out on a high note. I missed my chance at the moment Natalie remembers so well – guess now I’ll just have to plan a big anniversary party in a few years! ;-)

    • I think the “last song” suggestion may be one of my favourites.

  • carrie

    This was my experience so closely, I’m a little stunned. This is my favorite grad post EVAR because you are so unbelievably right on.

    This spoke to me the most: “I remember very clearly telling her that I was just so ready for everyone to go back to not caring about me or my decisions.”

    I think I’m right about 98% of the time, so I typically like calling the shots. But for my wedding decisions, I wanted people to leave me alone. I was afraid that my decisions would bring the whole house down. Which was absurd because that house was built on love (and a little rock and roll), and my decision to not throw my bouquet couldn’t undo the love.

    Also, the ceremony? So true. It’s the clearest part of that day, once I got up to the front with David.

    Congrats! So gorgeous! I love this!

  • Carly

    This is one of my favorite wedding grad posts of all time. I ‘ditto’ everything she said. Reading brought back so many feelings of my own engagement/ planning/wedding experience. What a wonderful, crazy, stressful, emotional, loving, totally-worth-it time in our lives. Kudos.

  • As someone who is currently planning and also in a very grueling, final year of grad school, I so relate to what you’ve said here. In fact, I think I’ve also uttered those exact same words about not making decisions.

    Thank you for the reminder. I’m going to go, right this minute, give myself some space and time to remember what is important. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

    • Grad school + wedding planning is a devilish combination. Cheers to you giving yourself some space and time. You deserve it.

  • Granola

    What a beautiful wedding and a lovely post! Thanks for sharing. You’re right “It’s worth it” is really what I needed to hear.

    Congratulations again and I wish you and you husband a lifetime of joy.

  • natalie! this post was awesome. you are adorable, if I can say so without sounding condescending. I just love the way you word things. “..get this—you ALSO get cake. Awesome.” hehehe that made me giggle for some reason. also, I totally have to fight the urge to go up and hug strangers when I know they just got engaged, or they’re about to get married, or they just got married. I saw a girl on the train the other day, gazing into her glittery and obviously new engagement ring, I had to sit on my hands to keep from going over to her. anyway, great advice! excellent post!

    • You can still catch me gazing at my glittery ring. It’s so sparkly!!

    • Thank you!! I was in DC for a summer right after getting engaged, and I spent my most of my time on the metro staring at people’s left hands like a crazy person.

  • I LOVE this post wedding post. Great writing and really makes me feel like I’m not alone here. I’m trying to enjoy the planning process but haven’t made time to really do my own things….maybe I do need to have some other focus right now! I LOVE your dress by the way! Thanks for sharing this! :)

  • Thanks so much Natalie! I’ve been having the hardest time focusing on our ceremony, and I’m so happy for a reminder to put in the effort. I also love your last dance advice! I have been trying hard to find things that will be enjoyable for me, but I’m having the worst time figuring out which parts will make me happy. I feel so wrapped up in “defining us” with every part of the wedding that it feels impossible to even remember what I like and will enjoy! Hopefully that passes and I’ll find a way to treat myself.

    • Oh, I have SO been there! Somewhere along the way this nice idea of “hey, not everyone loves Chivari chairs, do your own thing that fits you!” led so many of us to moments of “which of these bouquets says the right thing about WHO I AM???” It is tough to strike that balance of doing things that feel right to you and getting caught trying to make every decision be one that speaks to you as a couple.

      • Seriously! What can a bouquet or a chair POSSIBLY say about us? If we followed that line of thought, my poor guests would spend the ceremony in down dog and we would make our guests hike from the ceremony to the reception! haha.

  • I just wanted to chime in and give a little love to your Waffle House photos. My first date with my husband was at a Waffle House by the freeway in Tucson, AZ. I also recently learned about the significance of the Waffle House in Atlanta from the artist behind this painting: So, thank you for daring to sit at one of those booths in a wedding dress! Also, thank you for your words of wisdom. If I could go back, I would totally follow your last-dance advice.

    • I know that Waffle House! I am from Tucson too, though it took meeting my Southerner now-husband to be introduced to the wonderful institution.

      • Yea Tucson!!! (Currently from there as of the last few years)

  • Oh I love this post! And I totally get what you mean about being SO EXCITED OMG for other people’s weddings and marriages on this side of your own. Love how you describe being ready to just not have your decisions to matter to everyone you’ve ever known (I think that was one of the hardest things about planning for me. I was a little self-conscious about having to be the center of attention on the day-of, but the sudden spotlight on all my choices… wow, that was on a whole different level.) And yes yes yes to the bit about the last dance. Our last dance was a slow song and our emcee (an old roommate of my husband’s) asked everyone to stay on the dance floor. It’s still one of my favorite wedding memories, looking around and seeing various configurations of our friends, with their arms around each other, singing their hearts out.

    And as an Emory alumni, I love that you had the reception at the Carlos museum!!!!

    • You are an Emory alum?? Me too! And Eric too! I have been reading Bride Sans Tulle for what feels like ages, and I did not know this! It was so awesome to have the reception on campus, though of course it was the last place we thought to look.

      • Yup, class of 2008! :)

        • We must have passed each other on campus! ’09 here.

          • Heather

            Umm… how do you guys not know each other? Another Emory ’08 grad here and I can tell you for sure that you have friends in common, because I (sort of) know both of you.

  • I love this post. I want to exactly the whole lot.

  • Those four point are SPOT ON. I hope everyone who’s still planning takes them to heart. I love everything about this post!

  • Laura

    Absolutely awesome! This is the post I have dreamed about writing. Natalie could not have nailed it better. She was so thoughtful about what those in the planning process need to hear. And I couldn’t be in more agreement about the last song and the importance of the ceremony. Excellent!

  • “It is worth it.”

    So simple, so true & very easy to lose this perspective in the wedding planning trenches. Wise post!

  • Kaiti M

    This is an INCREDIBLE post! I’m right in the trenches of planning and the Wedding Graduate posts are so unbelievably helpful…this one in particular struck a cord. Loving the advice, the joy and the hope in this post! Thank you!!

  • RachelC

    Perfect. This makes me want to write a grad post, too. SO good.

  • And this is how universal this website is. Married 2+ years, but right now I’m sitting with a stack of books and papers around me, spreadsheets of to-do lists and schedules, trying to get all the writing stuff done so I can get all the meeting stuff done (do you know how hard it is to try to schedule a meeting with four professors and a graduate student?!) so I can hopefully graduate at some point this year. And it’s reminding me a whole lot of trying to plan our wedding. Only without the ribbons. And your post got me thinking, you know what this thing needs? Cake.

    Life is not a cake walk, but it could definitely use cake. So when I cross that threshold from graduate student to graduate, I’m getting myself a fancy dress, a photographer, and cake, with yummy butter cream frosting. And then my husband and I will go on a graduation-moon and I’m putting my toes in the sand of some beach somewhere.

    • Graduation-mooning is the best idea ever. I am totally in favor of adopting wedding traditions for other life milestones. Really, shouldn’t we all be registering for our college graduation, when we actually do need a bunch of housewares, instead of at our weddings?

      Go get yourself some cake!

  • ZOMG, that last line. I nearly snorted. Awesome post!

  • Having just spent the better part of a half hour hour researching the varying prices and quality of A7 ENVELOPES online, one could say I am in the trenches, yes.

    This Wedding Graduate post feels so helpful to read! It’s reminding me there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a really, really, exciting light just beyond that invisible threshold, too.

    I also so deeply appreciate both sides of advice given here: the practical (zing!), coupled with the more emotional, gut-driven advice. Yes, we need to figure out a first song and a last song. But more importantly we need to figure out the reasons and impetus behind all these decisions, for this, one big day, and that twenty minutes of ACTUAL MARRIAGE CEREMONY that is the heart of it.

    Thank you for this, thank you!

  • Rasheeda

    That was awesome. So real. So funny. SO TRUE. My mind is running through all the things you said but ” It is worth it” is resonating really loudly with me. I have no more words, I don’t want to ramble on and on but I must say awesome ATL wedding (mad props for getting shots at Waffle House-classic institution!)

  • All of this is spot on. Comforting things to hear while in the trenches.

  • I felt the same way when I stumbled on an outdoor wedding while showing a friend around a couple months ago. I was surprised by how happy I felt for those complete strangers.

  • OMG, a million times THIS!! I feel like I could have written this exact thing about my own wedding.

    And I’ll put in another vote for a last dance song. Our “song” was “Let’s Get it On” because it’s the last song played every night at our favorite dance club. It was a great way to go out.

    • mimi

      making a mental note that “let’s get it on” should be my last song too. great idea! :)

  • Kaitlyn

    “I remember very clearly telling her that I was just so ready for everyone to go back to not caring about me or my decisions. I am not someone with an extremely defined sense of style, a good details person, or very decisive. So the process of making decision after decision that would be held up for inspection by everyone close to me was, at times, agonizing.”

    This is exactly where I’m at right now, so thank you, I really needed to hear all the rest of it.

  • I am so happily overwhelmed by all of your lovely comments! APW readers are just the best people. No contest.

  • Rebekah

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Everything in this post was so easy for me to relate to, even though I’m not “in the trenches” yet. I am sure I will bookmark this post and come back to it when I’m in need of some straight forward, honest, good, old-fashioned sense.

    Also, this post makes me wish so deeply that APW was still doing Traveling Dress, because girl, I love it, and I think I could rock it too.

    Love to you and yours.

    • Teffer

      hee. I was also thinking, “Oooh, Travelling Dress, please!” even though I am not, in fact, engaged, and therefore would not qualify.

  • lovely post! love the bride dress:)

  • This: “Because on my wedding day, I was filled to the brim. It is hard to explain how it feels to be in a crowd composed entirely of people you love, cheering you on, as you promise and are promised to be with the person you are crazy about forever.”

    Yes, yes. Oh my. This is the most perfect explanation for how I felt on our wedding day. It’s perfect.

    Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  • Kelley

    This post is 150% spot-on and mirrors my own experiences almost to a T. Every single one of Natalie’s tips should be taken into consideration (especially, IMHO, preserving your experience and the ‘last dance’). Add me to the list of people who have to restrain themselves from offering strangers congratulations/advice upon discovering that they are newly engaged/married. :-P

  • mimi

    This pre-engaged lady is bookmarking this post for when it’s time. Love your writing and observations and can’t wait to feel “full to the brim”! Congrats!

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