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Wedding Graduate: Accordions and Lace

One of the best things about writing this blog has been the wedding sisters that I have found. I started the wedding graduate series when my best online girlfriends got married, and I wanted to find out what they had learned. This spring, I’ve had the delight to get to know Anna, the thoughtful writer between Accordions and Lace. Anna and I got married a week apart, and both had Jewish weddings with interfaith families and piles of dahlias. We bonded over similar heartaches and similar joys. Because of that, I thought it would be interesting to run our wedding graduate posts back to back: hers today and mine tomorrow. While I swear we wrote them independently, the posts echo each other. Anna’s is as long as mine is short, but read it all the way through (and oogle the deep rich pictures that will make you tear up). This lady is smart as h*ll.

We loved our wedding, in that intense way that a person loves something when it’s been hard work to obtain it. It was an endless night of hugs. It felt exactly how standing in the middle of a room surrounded by almost 100 people who love you should feel.

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The morning after, I will admit that I was lying in bed and already thinking about what lessons I had learned that might be useful for other women. What can I say–I am all about solidarity, and I am a nerd. And it turns out that I have a lot to say, so I apologize in advance for the length of this tome, but here’s what I’ve got:

The details matter, but not how you think they will. While we were not hugely detail-oriented, the mister and I still spent many hours gocco-ing, painting, photoshopping, etc. I was sure that on the actual day I would feel like an idiot for having put so much energy into unimportant details. I didn’t. It’s not like I walked around our reception hall lovingly admiring our handiwork–I had bigger stuff on my mind! But when I looked around this room full of most of the people that I love in this world, all having an awesome time, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that we had created this. Assembling our huppah quilt (made of pieces lovingly crafted by our friends and family) was a long and sometimes stressful ordeal–but it gave people ownership over our Jewish ceremony in an amazing way that calmed my fears that our over 50% non-Jewish guests would not be able to relate to our ceremony. It was a physical representation of community that set the tone of our wedding. I don’t regret spending time on the details, not because of the aesthetics, but because they all came together to make us all feel loved, special, included, excited, and all manner of other cool things.

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One of the smartest things we did was schedule little bits of quiet time into our wedding day. We got ready by ourselves, at home. It felt right to iron his shirt while he showered, and for him to be the one to zip me up. There was no photographed “first look”, no staged drama–this allowed us a bit of calm and comfort before the chaos. Our most meaningful moment alone was our Yichud, the Jewish tradition in which the couple spends some time alone directly after the ceremony. Thank goodness for the Yichud; my only emotional breakdown happened during the recessional, when the reality of what had just happened hit me like a tonne of bricks. By the time we got to our little room, I was a mess of tears. we would not have been able to greet and play host to our guests had we not had 20 minutes or so to just breathe, cry, and process what had just happened. It allowed us to feel so much more centered and present for the rest of the evening.
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On a similar note, dear lord, have yourself a honeymoon. I know that many folks are strapped for cash or can’t take time off directly after the wedding, but if you can even take two days to go 10 miles outside town, it’s worth it. We needed time to be together, to process what had just happened, to stare at the rings on our fingers and repeat to each other, “this is so crazy.” It’s not necessarily about going somewhere super exotic or absurd luxury, it’s just about having that time to go, “whoa, we’re married,” about the three million times that one needs to do so until it sinks in. (It still hasn’t sunk in!)

Take breaks to step back and take stock of where you’re going. We began with a lot of grandiose ideas, and it helped to take occasional moments, often over brunch, to assess how we were doing, and adjust our ideas as we needed to. Some of those plans, like the mister homebrewing all of the beer for the wedding, were ditched due to legalities. Others, like the DIY cookbooks full of our favourite recipes that would be our favours, were ditched because we just didn’t feel like it. It is crucial for one’s enjoyment of the process to take these steps back, and more importantly, to never, ever, for a single second, feel guilty when you change your mind or get rid of stuff, even if it is because you were just too damn lazy. I am oddly proud that we made a lot of decisions based solely on the fact that we couldn’t be bothered.

Let yourself experience it. I know us blogging ladies are painfully self-reflective. I hashed out how the prospect of marriage was making feel online and off, and visualized our ceremony to the point of tears a few dozen times. I thought I had a pretty good grip on how I would feel on the day of. I was wrong, and it is awesome that I was wrong. That is the beauty of it: the intense wave of emotions that swept over me; the desire to hug every single person that I’d ever met; I couldn’t have foreseen it and I just needed to, well, feel it. We can predict all sorts of things, like the mood we will set with our music and decor, but we cannot predict what it will feel like in that very moment, and we should embrace that as a blessing.

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It is your decision whether or not to be a laid back bride. You can choose this. Lots of things went wrong on our wedding day. It pissed down rain; our rabbi was late; our dinner menus were printed in the wrong language; etc. I remember walking into our venue beforehand and seeing the set-up, which was lovely, but a little bit off from the careful plans I had given them. I looked at it and thought, “it’s beautiful. It’s my wedding day. I am going to let go.” Perfect weddings don’t exist–brides who say their weddings were perfect are women who made the conscious decision not to give a shit. I have read so many blogs where brides stated that their enjoyment of their wedding was hampered by the mistakes. I’m a pretty neurotic lady, so I know that I could have been one of those brides myself, but I consciously decidedto turn the perfectionist part of my brain off and have an awesome time. It’s your choice too.

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Start a blog. I often refer to my blog as the best wedding decision I ever made. It allowed me to work through a lot of the hard stuff in a discrete space, and to surround myself with smart, kind, supportive ladies who were working through similar things. I like to think of it as a sort of virtual consciousness raising, and let me tell you, sisterhood is powerful. It kept me sane. However, as others have warned, it’s easy to OD on the pretty pictures on the blogs out there and to consequently hold yourself to a strange, made-up standard. My mister has dubbed this the “blogging industrial complex” (I love him). I had to remind myself that my goal was to create a beautiful, meaningful day for myself, my partner, and my guests. My goal was not to impress the internet. So start a blog, and make it your refuge, but don’t let it weigh you down.

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Finally, use your wedding as an opportunity to work on your relationship and your vision for your life together. Like I said above, a lot of hard stuff came up during our planning, but I am proud that we seized the opportunity to turn some of it into really useful conversation and action. The best example of this was our relationship to Judaism. When we first got engaged, we weren’t sure that we wanted a Jewish wedding at all–I had felt quite alienated from the Jewish community ever since my rocky upbringing, and as a non-Jew, the mister didn’t know what level of practice he felt comfortable with. We only knew we wanted a Jewish family, but not what that meant to us. Over the course of our engagement, I immersed myself in Jewish theology, we took a course together to learn more about the religion from a progressive perspective, and we shocked ourselves by attending temple regularly. We had a million hard conversations about what we loved and what we found troubling about our burgeoning little Jewish community, and what kind of Jewish family we wanted to have. And as hard as it was, I am grateful that we had the opportunity to learn from it. And of course, I hope that we keep on learning.
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Actually, that’s a really good way to end this lengthy tome: as hard as it was, I am grateful that we had the opportunity to learn from it. And to dance our asses off.

Here is wishing you both many many many years of happiness together. May you carry each other through the hard times, and rejoice together often. Now go read her blog. She’s writing smart smart stuff about her wedding, showing beautiful pictures, and making me cry almost daily.

All photos courtesy of Davina + Daniel.

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