Stephanie & Alastair

*Stephanie, Attorney/Writer & Alastair, Consultant/Adventurer*

Perhaps fitting for the week that I’m thinking so much about my own wedding, Stephanie’s story hits me right in the chest. Her description of discovering how your wedding feels right in the second that you are feeling it (Surprising! What? Like this! Oh!) is exactly, exactly how I felt. And her discussion of keeping your wedding with you, somehow, in your heart is, for me, exactly right. Plus, the dress, I mean, RIGHT?

The basic story of our wedding should be told in three chapters: planning, stressing, and then letting go.


My entire wedding planning experience was an exercise in calmness, of refusing to give into wedding planning hype, and of not stressing about the teeny tiny details. If I had it to do over again, I would do things the exact same way: make big, important decisions as early as practicable (for us, these decisions included the venue, guest list, and caterer) and then let the rest of the details fall into place around those big items without any second-guessing.

My husband Alastair and I were a team in this wedding planning business. We divided and conquered the planning process with the understanding that we’d seek each other’s input on big decisions but would trust each other to make small decisions on our own. He took the lead on some things (catering, drinks) and I took the lead on others (decorations, music). Other things we did together, sitting side by side at the kitchen table (invites, escort cards), or with help from our moms (wine, cake, flowers). It almost never felt stressful, except for a few fraught conversations early on about the guest list.

Were we lucky to sail through the process so unscathed? Probably—no catastrophes reared their ugly heads. But we also made a choice early on not to let things bug us and to roll with the punches once the big items were in place. Even up to the week before our wedding, although I was still struggling to try to picture how it would look and, more importantly, how it would feel, I felt calm. I could picture all the individual elements—our orange cake, the potted succulents on the tables, my ivory dress—but I couldn’t really imagine how it would all come together. I felt okay with the uncertainty, though, because we had everything planned out…


… Then, the two days before our wedding happened. Things started going wrong and I started getting stressed. Really stressed. First, the kind of alcohol we needed for our signature cocktails was sold out. And then our caterer, who had told us she could store our kegs in a fridge in the catering facility, informed us the day before the event that actually, there was no room, and we ended up having to put the kegs on ice underneath the front porch of some lady who we met in the beer store (we paid her—thank you again, kind lady!). And then our wedding coordinator threw out the hand painted wooden cake topper (painted to look like Tiny Me in a Tiny Dress and Tiny Alastair in a Tiny Kilt). And I forgot to make escort cards for several guests who had RSVPed. Whoops.

As these things happened, one after the other in rapid succession, both Al and I got stressed (“Our guests are going to have to drink WARM BEER and some of them won’t have SEATS and our cake won’t have a TOPPER and our programs aren’t FOLDED”) but we miraculously ended up finding quick fix solutions to everything (and our awesome cake lady found the topper, hooray!) and by the time I sat down for our rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, my zen had returned. I had come to accept that even if people had to drink warm beer at the reception, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and as long as Alastair and I ended up married, things would be a-okay.

Letting Go

The day of the wedding, I wasn’t really nervous until about an hour before, when my stomach started flipping and flopping like I was on a roller coaster. I hate roller coasters, by the way. I turned to my bridesmaids and mom and the photographer and said, in a panicked voice, while fanning myself with my hands, “You guys, I’m really nervous. Why am I nervous? Oh my God, why am I nervous?” They were all like, “Hi, you’re getting married in a second. It’s okay to be nervous. This is normal.”

The thing I was most nervous about was not marrying Alastair, but being the center of attention and sharing my super personal vows with our friends and family. This particular anxiety was bizarre for me because normally, I am what is generally referred to as an attention whore. I hog the mike at karaoke, I love public speaking, I sometimes—SOMETIMES—interrupt my husband to finish a story he’s telling. So the feeling of stage fright felt foreign and scary and surprising. All I could do was take a deep breath and let go. I let my feelings—nervousness, excitement, even a little embarrassment—wash over me. So, I thought, this is what my wedding feels like.

I walked down the aisle with both of my parents and tried to remember the advice people had given me before the wedding: focus on Alastair, try to take mental snapshots of individual moments, stay present, it’s okay if you cry. The whole time during the ceremony, I looked into Al’s eyes and felt at once clear-headed, nervous, and ecstatic. I read my vows in a loud, clear voice and listened to every word of his. I cried when my cousin read a beautiful poem (“The Wild Rose” by Wendell Berry) and cried when Alastair said his vows. I said “I do” too early and everyone laughed. I put the ring on his finger without dropping it, and remembered to take off my engagement ring so he could put the wedding ring on mine.

Walking back down the aisle, hand-in-hand with my new husband, and seeing all of the joyful faces looking back at us from the crowd, I felt lifted up by our community, which is not something I expected to feel so fully. Afterward, hugging our parents and cousins and friends and siblings, I felt like I was floating on a cloud of love and happiness. I never thought I’d describe anything, ever, as a “cloud of love and happiness,” but there you go. Your wedding makes you feel crazy things. This magical floating feeling stayed with me throughout the rest of the night, during the heart-wrenching and hilarious speeches and the crazy dance party and the couple of quiet moments with my new husband.

Now, a few months out, I can report that being married is awesome, and our wedding, as incredible as it was, was just the beginning. Looking at my wedding pictures, rereading our vows, and even just looking at my husband’s wedding ring on his finger all bring back that happy little cloud feeling. I hope it never goes away.

The Info—Photography: / Venue: Keswick Vineyards

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  • First, omg, that last picture. Those shoes, that dress, the dancing! The clearly charmed friend /family member in the background!

    My wedding is two weeks away, from yesterday, and this was exactly what I needed to read. You and your husband sound exactly like me and my guy, what with the calm “whatever man, details shmetails, we got this” attitude, but we still have these two weeks for something to go awry.

    Thank you for the reassurance that things will be ok, thank you for the reminder to be present, and thank you for the wisdom to accept what is happening in said present.

    • Things will probably go awry – but seriously, as long as you end up married to your dude, it’s all good. Good luck with your wedding; it will be a wonderful day! Soak it all in! xx

    • OMG, THAT LAST PICTURE is right. SO amazing.

  • Laura

    Yay for featuring a wedding in Virginia that’s outside of DC! And Stephanie, you wrote in a way that really speaks to me. Looking forward to incorporating these ideas into my own Cville wedding!

  • Zephyr

    That last picture. Is. Amazing.
    And I think I am in love with your dress. And your husband’s kilt.

  • Marie

    This was so beautiful…really, close to tears, I am so moved. Thank you for the eloquent insight into your wedding and how it felt that day. I just recently started feeling a little nervous about the concept of getting married in front of everyone (I don’t know why this hadn’t registered with me before! That is what we have been planning for months!).

    I wish I could say that I have been cool as a cucumber throughout our planning, but it has been pretty stressful at various points. Many thanks to APW for a much-needed dose of sanity!

    • Thank you! It’s okay to be nervous! I found that it really helped to focus on my groom and while the nervousness doesn’t go away, you don’t feel as stressed about it because you’re too busy focusing on getting MARRIED!! ;) Good luck on your big day!

  • I love this post so much. I’m rapidly approaching my wedding, and I’m starting to get nervous about things going wrong. Thanks for letting me know everything will be OK.

    Also: That dress! Those shoes! The bridesmaid dresses! The kilt! Love love love love love!!!!

    • Thank you, thank you!

  • As a planner and someone who stresses easily, this is a much-needed reminder for me. T minus 5 weeks!

  • Thank you for writing this– this is how I felt about our wedding, exactly. Also, that last photo? AHHHHH.

  • Exactly exactly exactly. This almost mirrors the whole wedding experience that I had, just 3 weeks ago and I’m so glad someone put into words what I couldn’t. A cloud of love and happiness is just what I had and what made the whole craziness worth it.

  • The bride is STUNNING!!!! You stepped out of a magical fairy tale dream!

  • Sign of a successful reception: Bridesmaids doing push ups on the dance floor.

  • Emily A.

    Holy crap. I got married a few weeks ago and our Maid of Honor and Best Woman had a push-up contest on the dance floor. That is uncanny.

    Also, this is beautiful.

  • Jill

    Can I be the lame one who interrupts the gushing over the post/wedding feelings in general to ask…where’s the dress from?? I am 9 months out from my own wedding, don’t have a dress, don’t know what I want in a dress and can’t even think about clouds of happiness til I find a dress! But this one…I adore. And I can’t wait until my own wedding graduate time :).

    • Hi! It’s actually a Vera Wang from 2008 (I think – could be 2009). Since the design is from many seasons ago, it was quite affordable! :) I bought it at a bridal salon near where I live in Washington, D.C., but I know I saw it available online (used), too. Good luck!!

      • Allison

        Oh good – can I ask then where you got those fab silver shoes? They’re just what I’ve been searching for!

        And I relate so much to this post! I’ve been totally cool for 13 months and now…not so cool! I’m waiting for the “letting go” to start.

        • They are salsa shoes! Our first dance was a salsa dance, so… necessary. If you go online and search for salsa shoes, there are a lot of good dance shoe retailers that sell sparkly pretty ones.

  • KB

    “The thing I was most nervous about was not marrying Alastair, but being the center of attention and sharing my super personal vows with our friends and family. This particular anxiety was bizarre for me because normally, I am what is generally referred to as an attention whore.”

    This cracked me up because it’s so me – I’m always the first one up for karaoke, I’ll share my opinion with God and everyone, I am normally very confident. But the concept of being “The Bride” is terrifying because people will be staring at you even when you’re not DOING anything!! I’m going to need to have a pre-planned dance down the aisle or my fiance is going to have to make a face at me something because otherwise I feel like I’ll crack under all that staring :-p

  • Not Sarah

    I absolutely LOVE your dress. And I’m not a huge dress person. But that dress looks perfect!


  • Shalyn

    Thank you for a lovely, inspiring and honest post! Do you happen to know the brand of your friend’s green dress in the second-to-last photo? It’s amazing.

    • Yes, I checked with her and she said: “The dress is Adriana Papell from Lord and Taylor a long time ago.” :)

      • Shalyn

        Thank you! :)

  • The second to last photo there has me grinning so much. And the dress! Oh my.

  • This is such a beautifully told story, and it makes me feel so happy for Stephanie and Alastair! Interesting to read about how some of the earlier stresses just melted away the night before, making room for the ‘cloud of love and happiness’. Awesome!

  • This is so great! Thank you so much for sharing. 26 days from our wedding, and what I’m nervous about is not KNOWING which feelings I’ll have, and because of that, not being able to prepare myself for them! ahhh! But you talking about just letting the feelings wash over you is helpful. Very Zen. :)

  • Shiri

    I’m days late on this, but I just got home from my honeymoon and am catching up on APW and had to say: this this this. There was stress, there were family-drama-induced rehearsal dinner tears, but the wedding was just this happy, big, cloud of joy. I’m so glad you had it too. And that dress is gorgeous.

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