Rachel & Anton

If you are like me, you have been waiting around tapping your toe, wondering when our own Shotgun Shirley (whose real name is Rachel… long story) would write her wedding graduate post. Rachel shared a bit about planning her Shotgun Wedding (which we both agree is the funniest term in the world, so we’re using it) last fall, when she found out rather suddenly that she was pregnant. And now she’s back, with a beautiful wedding story (that dress!) and… A BABY! Rachel’s story is a perfect complement to this morning’s discussion of accepting life, our partners, ourselves, and our union exactly how they come… and letting there be perfection in the imperfection.

There are so many ways to approach this that it’s taken me a while to get started. (And I’ve had three false starts already.) Do I talk about including each of my six siblings? The mama (in-law) drama? Planning it almost by myself because Anton had to study for the bar exam? But what’s really different about our story is that it was a shotgun wedding.

We were proto-engaged for over six months, then we got officially engaged and BAM it turns out we are two months along—what?!? Despite our best efforts, our plan to have a family became a bit off schedule.

We had been considering a Fall 2011 or Spring 2012 picnic reception at my parents’ house. We even did some landscaping to prepare during the secret proto-engagement. So, why did we go for a shotgun wedding? Well, there were the legal benefits, and the tax benefits, too (when one of you makes $0, you get a nice big tax refund, which can help pay for a nice big party), but that’s not the only reason. When it comes down to it, we wanted to be married before our daughter’s birth. It was important to us personally, and it also seemed more practical. (I am so glad I didn’t have any postpartum wedding planning!)

We had a civil ceremony a month after our official engagement, in November 2010, and scheduled our religious wedding for January 2011. That way I still had plenty of pregnant time to switch from my OB to an awesome midwife, prep for the birth, and get ready for a baby. A shotgun wedding was the most practical option for us, and that’s why we did it, difficulties and all.

Now, onto the how.  A lot of the wedding planning was not particularly “shotgun”—we set our budget and our priorities early on (family/friends, booze, food and funk) and went from there. Invites and reception venue had to be figured out ASAP since we already knew we’d be married in my family church. We had just announced our engagement and now we had to spread the baby and wedding news. We mostly waited, except for close family and friends, until we could announce both.

We chose the first venue we actually visited, because so much was included in the relatively low cost, e.g., cake, fancy lighting. It was pricier than we would have chosen (almost 60% of our budget), but gorgeously appointed and included a ton of food in the per-person Friday price—a much lower amount than any place of comparable fanciness. All we had to provide were centerpieces and music, and they let us bring in our own alcohol, which was a big savings. Because it was the offseason; there were a lot of open dates in January, so it was relatively simple to coordinate a Friday afternoon date with the church and the venue, though it didn’t seem that simple at the time because of the rush.

While we were trying to set the venue and date, I was simultaneously in the process of setting up our invitations, working with a former high school classmate who created absolutely gorgeous invitations with pretty paper and ribbon, yum. Her florist gave her an amazing deal for her beautiful wedding, so she paid it forward to me, giving me an awesome deal. I hope to pay it forward by giving away my wedding dress.

We embraced the fact that we were having a shotgun wedding, and had a shotgun logo incorporated into the invites and programs, inspired by Snippet & Ink. The logo also adorned the photo strips from the photo booth (our big splurge, but the best price around, and we were able to support an LGBTQ/handicapped small business owner) as well as the t-shirts we got for our wedding party and family (through another small business).

We got the invites sent out in early November, accompanied by phone calls to grandparents and others to let them know the date and why our wedding was so soon. In this day and age, almost everyone was overjoyed at the prospect of a new baby. Some people even thought we’d planned it that way (nope, IUD). All but one had a completely positive reaction, and she realized later what she’d said and apologized.

The rest of the details came together in the two months remaining. Choosing a dress was difficult due to my changing body. I first bought a maternity wedding dress from a boutique online (with an awesome return policy) but it made me feel like a whale. Sure, you couldn’t tell I was pregnant, but you also couldn’t tell I had a waist! I started looking for dresses a couple sizes larger than I’m used to. (TIP: Maternity clothing is expensive! You can get away with buying in a bigger size for quite a while.) I ended up buying three dresses online through Nordstrom Rack, and the one with the empire waist was just right. Not what I would have gone for typically, but it hugged my curves well, accentuating my new bosom—and I felt like a pretty lady, not a big pregnant blob (which I wasn’t at all yet!). It’s nice to feel pretty on your wedding day.

We wanted to include as many people as possible, though we couldn’t invite everyone, so we found many ways to save money. Buying a $70 wedding dress was a big source of savings. Also, DIY flowers saved a ton, and were super fun (yay LA Flower Market). We made our own music mix for dinner/dancing and had karaoke for the last three hours. Gina let us use her sound equipment for the entire night, only charging us for the time she worked. (TIP: Create your music mix a week ahead of time, so you don’t end up finishing it at 2am the morning of your wedding.)

Since Anton’s number one priority had to be studying for finals and then for the bar, I took charge of the vast majority of the party planning. However, I did look to him for input on many things, like the seating chart, and we made all the ceremony choices together. I also showed him prospective dresses to make sure he thought they were “wedding-y” enough.

It’s easy to forget to eat with so much going on, and every bride needs to remember to eat and drink, but especially the pregnant bride! I snacked throughout the day, had power bars on hand, and plenty of people willing to jump ahead in line at the bar to get me some water. I had my second lunch during the Russian tradition of Vykup Nevesty (Paying the Ransom), during which Anton had to answer various riddles and trivia to “ransom” me from my family so he could take me to the church. (Never mind that he had snuck in the back door already and technically “won.”) I also got a snack before dinner with the Khleb Sol (Bread and Salt), during which the bride and groom take a bite – no hands – from a large loaf of bread presented by the parents for health, prosperity and long life. I fully expected Anton to win since his mouth is much larger, but I got a larger bite so supposedly I get to be head of the household.

Though it was not what I had first pictured, our wedding was, seriously, friggin awesome. Jumping up and down at seeing friends I hadn’t seen in over a year, giggling when the ring bear (a fuzzy grown man) got mixed up, rick rolling the guys who wanted to sing Let’s Get Drunk and Screw at Karaoke, dancing with my sisters and aunts, and the impromptu Don’t Stop Believin sing-a-long. My youngest sister called it the best weekend of her life. Multiple guests called it the most fun wedding ever.

So I guess we got something right. The people, especially the main players, did not change. After the bar exam, we went for a mini-honeymoon, a lovely weekend near Big Sur. And most importantly, Anton and I are married, and our little Harriet is here in all her squirmy fussy sweetness. Seriously, we got a cute one. And the day she arrived, we found out Anton passed the bar.

Our wedding was great, but being married is so much better.

The Info— Photography: Friends / Her Dress: Nordstrom Rack / His Suit: Already had it / Ties: cheap-neckties.com / Bolero: Alex Bridal / Shoes: Ross

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  • I love this wedding! I think this is one of my favorite posts yet, and I’m not even sure why! I love how you embraced your circumstances and just went with it, and your fantastic personalities shine through in the photos. Congratulations on a beautiful wedding a lovely little girl!

  • Everything about this wedding is adorable. I love the logo!

  • KW

    What a great story! I’m especially impressed with your attitude in your previous posts as well as this one, how you took hold of the situation and directed exactly what you wanted to have happen. I’m sure the stress of the bar exam didn’t help things at the time, but I feel like your strength shows through in times as those, as well as in these posts.

    Excuse me while I Google more Russian wedding traditions! How fun!

    And, apologies for being off-topic, but as an IUD user I have heard a couple of stories now of the device failing. Does anyone have recommendations to ensure its continued effectiveness?

    • Kara

      I had the same IUD concern when I read this. Yes, yes, lovely wedding, but what about the failing IUD?!

      Congratulations! It looks like a truly fun celebration!

    • Shotgun Shirley

      You could, I supposed, avoid intercourse while ovulating? Which kinda defeats the purpose, I know… Anyway, it is like 1 in 1000 that a pregnancy will occur. She barely made it; the placenta was attached very very low, so it’s like the fetus grabbed on right before leaving… There was actually an incredibly scary complication which we didn’t find out about until after the placenta came out (vasa previa, don’t Google if if you’re pregs) but thankfully there was no ill effect due to her extremely quick delivery and my midwife not popping the bag of waters. It may or may not have been caused by the IUD.

      • This is the 3rd mention of an IUD failing that I have heard on APW alone (the other two were in the comments). It freaks me out! They are supposed to be super safe. “Avoid intercourse while ovulating” : ) Your daughter is beautiful!

        • I thought the same thing. Like love this story, gorgeous wedding, great sentiments, but IUD what?? Freaks me out. Especially b/c of the complications and scary side effects. Glad yours turned out well and your daughter is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your story.

        • I’m going with it’s one of those things you hear more when it goes wrong than when it goes right. Even when it apparently goes right 99.something% of the time. (And has for me so far. Still believing.)

          • Manya

            Re: IUD

            I work in public health on family planning and have for 12 years. IUDs have a far lower fail rate than just about any other method. Millions of women them happily for 5-10 years. This is definitely a case where we only hear about the very few that fail. Sex, unless you have a vasectomy or tubal ligation, always has some risk of pregnancy (and you even hear a couple stories about vasectomy fails!). With IUDs the risk is truly tiny, mostly because once it’s in it no longer relies on a human behavior (ie remembering to take a pill…).

  • Tamara

    This is an awesome post- and the payoffs! Being married- a cutie-pie kiddo…heck yeah, I’d say you got it right! Congratulations!

  • Congratulations. Your wedding looks so full of fun and love. You looked very pretty and most of all happy and Harriet is beautiful. So happy for you guys .

  • Granola

    Congratulations on all counts! Your wedding looks fantastic and baby Harriet is just utterly adorable. Babies and weddings all in one post? Hurrah!

  • mimi

    Love that you embraced the shotgun aspect in your logo! Also, a baby and bar results all in one day?! Must have been quite a day!!

    • Shotgun Shirley

      Yes it was!

      I was joking that it would be awesome if she was born on Friday the 13th, same day as bar results…. would Anton be sneaking off during the delivery to check the computer or call a friend to do so?

      But she showed up at 5am… we got home about 10am and slept alllll day, waking up about 20 minutes before the results were posted.

  • Sometimes I have thoughtful commentary on wedding grad posts and sometimes I am just like HI LET’S BE BEST FRIENDS.

    Congratulations on a having an awesome attitude, a fun wedding, and a cuuuute baby.

  • Harriet is a lovely name and I’m so glad you used it! You Call It It would be so proud :)

    • Shotgun Shirley

      Harry It!

  • Jen M

    omg I almost peed myself at the shotgun logo! LOVE IT!

  • Harriet! Gorgeous! Congrats on all things.

  • Cassandra

    You looked gorgeous! That dress is perfect for a pregnant bride, and your little shirt-thing (is it a shrug if it’s not a sweater) is a really nice complement to the outfit.

    And Harriet! I’ve never seen such a beautiful Harriet. Enormous congratulations on all fronts!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Yes, that was the perfect wedding dress.

    Mazel tov on the marriage! Mazel tov on the baby! Mazel tov on the Bar Exam! Mazel tov!

  • This is just beautiful.

  • Contessa

    I love that you embraced your circumstances and celebrated. This reminds me that we can choose how to feel about things and that we don’t have to get caught up in the “Shoulds”. No matter how often I think I’ve risen above the “Shoulds” they catch me time and time again!

    Hooray for you and your beautiful new family!

  • alyssa

    Tears of happiness! What a wonderful celebration! Congratulations on your gorgeous baby girl, and that your husband passed the bar! How could anything be better!

  • This wedding is teh awesome.

    That is all.

  • Ok: I have not been able to check APW for lack of good internet for about two months (poor me!) and today was the PERFECT day to check right on back! What a beautiful beautiful beautiful (so lovely she had to say it thrice) celebration you created. I am blown away by the amazing pics for your little poppet to gaze at as she grows and know that she was the centre of the love.

    And… I LOVE that you have entirely embraced the name my sis-in-law shirls (at her hormonal wedding-stress height) hated so much. It has made me giggle out loud.

    • meg

      Oh GOOD. I was hoping you’d see this.

  • k

    I love the picture of you and your bridesmaid staring at your belly in shock. Hilarious.

  • Shawn

    Hi! I loved this post because Anton went to my law school! He probably doesn’t know me by name, but he is such a friendly person and our law school was small enough that I recognized him in the post right away. Congrats on the bar, the wedding and the baby. And Harriet is such a cute name – Harriet the Spy was my favorite book growing up.

    Was your venue in the L.A. area? It sounds great and I was wondering if you would share the name with us. Also, I would love to do karaoke when I get married and I’m wondering if you have any advice on how it worked. Was there dancing and karaoke off to the side at the same time, or was the karaoke something everyone got into? Thanks!

    • Shotgun Shirley

      Aww, go Waves!

      It was the Imperial Palace Banquet Hall (most ridiculous name evarrr!) in Pasadena.

      For the karaoke, we had dinner music then dancing music til 9ish, then karaoke 9pm to midnight (close). People danced to the karaoke music too though! The venue was huge, so it almost got split into 3 smaller parties – outside (hookah and cigars), in the back by the bar & photo booth, and in the front dancing/karaoke.
      My MIL wasn’t sure that people would be into the karaoke, but once it started there was never a pause, and the sign up sheet got long fast. I had talked it up a little beforehand to some of my friends, so quite a few folks knew ahead of time and had decided on a song.

  • Gigi

    I LOVE your bouquet and now I’m upset that I didn’t think of doing mine like that. And Harriet is too cute. Congrats…

  • I’m so glad you finally shared your grad post with us! What an epic celebration of both your marriage and your gorgeous baby.

  • So sweet.

  • LOVE the shotgun logo- fabulous. Congratulations on your beautiful, happy wedding & your beautiful daughter!

  • Beautiful wedding! Stunning dress! Adorable baby! I just want to give all three of you a giant hug (and maybe nom a bit on Harriet’s amazing cheeks).

  • Cute little healthy baby, Congratulations two times, haha. Great wedding you had, I love those pics too.

  • This is such a beautiful wedding, the pictures just ooze love and happiness :)

  • Class of 1980

    Wow, that dress just works! And I love the picture of your baby at the end. Is it wrong that I want to kidnap her? ;)

  • Rachel,
    I am so happy for you! Harriet is absolutely adorable and I love how you put together your wedding. Your invites were gorgeous (I got to see them when I was working with Jasmin to put mine together!)

  • Congrats on both — on everything. (The baby rolls on Harriet’s arms almost killed me.)

  • ha! awesome!
    also, i think it is hilarious that you had a ring bear too. ours were two teenage girls with panda ears.

  • Kathleen

    Beautiful story!! I was wondering if you had any sort of vows to your unborn baby during your ceremony? We are planning a surprise wedding at our baby shower in a few weeks, and really want to include the baby in our ceremony, but don’t really know where or what to say! Any ideas would be super helpful! Thanks! :o)