When Anna and Bruno’s wedding went up on Snippet & Ink, I fell quietly in love with it. So I was really excited when Anna emailed me to say that she wanted to be a wedding graduate, because she wanted to write a little bit more about the wedding to help her process it, and explore and share what they learned (that’s the only reason to be a wedding graduate, by the way). But what she wrote is…. much more than I expected. Deeper, richer, true. We talk quite a bit about wedding zen here, and letting it happen, but some of my favorite ladies have been concerned that, well, sh*tty things happened, and they were not always zen. And that’s important to explore too. I never told you all this, but I had a long phone conversation with the amazing Captain of The Bridal Brigade (Kate!) the night before our wedding. I was starting to come unglued at the way people had been treating me (I was ready to never be called ‘the bride’ again). When I got off the phone I told David, “I’m failing our wedding.” And he said, “Nonsense, weddings are impossible to fail.” He was right. You can’t fail them, you can only learn from them. So with that, I’m thrilled to give you Anna:
I knew almost nothing about weddings when we got engaged. So we thought we’d keep things simple and plan a small, casual, weekend-long get together with a house party in the middle. We rented a retreat center near the Berkshires (picture a large rental house with bunk beds, tambourines, and board games) where most of our guests could stay and began planning a weekend of cookouts and hiking and other low-key activities.Our approach was green and DIY and community based. Friends volunteered to donate their talents; one offered cupcakes, another agreed to firespin, and a Buddhist teacher that knows us well offered to officiate. An amazing dj friend agreed to spin. We found an organic local farm to supply the flowers and planned a vegetarian Brazilian meal with our hosts who are awesome cooks.
Then somewhere along the line, as the story goes, I discovered wedding blogs (unfortunately not this one until more recently- not that I really count APW as a regular wedding blog because its not about STUFF)… and the crafter in me jumped for joy. I’m an artist and I love making stuff so it wasn’t hard to get totally sucked in the million beautiful crafty projects that will make your wedding “personal”. I spent many happy hours sewing organza roses, sawing discarded xmas tree stumps to make placecard holders, and assembling paper bag flowers. My mom jumped in too and sewed mix-matchy cloth napkins and spent hours folding paper cranes. I wanted to make EVERYTHING by hand, basically I turned our wedding planning into a giant art project.
Then about a month before the wedding things got NUTS. For one thing, we moved. Not just to a different apartment but to a different city. RSVPs went to the wrong address and our apartment was complete chaos. Also, my fella started grad school (nuff said). At this point my to-do list kept getting longer no matter how hard I tried to organize. The stress of doing so many projects made me miserable. I’d like to say I handled this gracefully and let it all go and stayed focused on the community aspect of our wedding, but, well, I didn’t. This is when reading about other people’s weddings turned from happy anticipation into obsessively comparing their plans to mine. I let myself get totally stressed out. I panicked about every detail and lost sleep worrying about how it all was going to look.
It was the perfectionist in me, but also I think in a way it was easier to focus on that than the immensity of what we were about to do or the scariness of being the center of attention. That was what was really freaking me out. Standing in front of everyone you are close to in this world and declaring your innermost feelings is a BIG DEAL. You are making a new family all your own. It is much easier to get caught up in obsessing about flowers than to face that.
So basically I showed up to our wedding weekend totally exhausted. I got four hours of sleep the night before because I couldn’t stop worrying (despite desperately popping Benadryl and a very patient soon-to-be-husband giving me hugs), and woke up convinced our wedding was ruined. Irrational I know, but I was soooo tired.
Then something changed. I just decided to forgive myself for feeling so nervous and anxious because really, with so much build-up, how could I not feel that way? I also decided, after a dear friend wrestled my to-do list from my hands, to just let it all go. Let someone else figure out how to arrange the tables, it was no longer my problem.And what happened was amazing. Friends swarmed around me and rubbed my hands and feet. Said friend who took the to-do list spontaneously taught a yoga class and another put cucumbers on our eyes. I went off to get a massage and chill out while our friends did an INCREDIBLE job of running the show and pulling everything together… teams of people climbed trees to hang paper cranes, decorated the ceremony site, moved furniture, and filled the house with flowers. When I think of it I still get tears of gratitude. It was such a revelation for a control freak like me to let go of the reins and let people take care of us. We ended up with exactly the kind of community wedding we had dreamed about in the first place.I was totally, absolutely overwhelmed by how it felt to be at the center of so much love. Our ceremony was delightful- a dear friend read my favorite children’s book and our parents helped us plant a tree. Our officiant started to cry five minutes in. When we read our vows everyone laughed with us and cried a bunch too… people said it felt like everyone got married that day. Our community lifted us up in a way that was so humbling, it really hit me after it was all over that THIS is why people have weddings.And NONE of the details I had been obsessing about for months mattered at ALL. I mean it mattered that friends took the time to help create them, but it didn’t matter if they were picture perfect or exactly how I had planned them to be. This cannot be said enough. You’ve heard it before and I must have read it a dozen times while planning but completely blocked it out. I didn’t spend time thinking about the decorations or centerpieces, didn’t care when we almost had to move the ceremony inside or the firespinning got rained out. The cheeseballs were rock hard, so I just chucked mine in the bushes. I’m not saying I regret the craft projects, for the most part they were a lot of fun, but they are just totally beside the point.
The great thing about weddings, I’ve discovered, is that you can’t ruin them. Whats special is just what happens, planned or not. This is the real gift. And all the nervousness and stress, while I would have preferred to avoid it at the time, that is a gift too. Because it gave me the chance to reaffirm what I knew from the start- that the people in your life are the most important thing. And boy did I get that message loud and clear.Also, we had a slammin’ house party.
- Some things I learned that I hope will help anyone else planning out there have joyful wedding (though I’m sure it will be anyway):
- Give yourself the experience you have, without judging it. Getting married is a very personal thing and your experience is your own. NO COMPARING (easier said than done I know).
- Put some thought into the week or so BEFORE your wedding, to prepare yourself for what is coming. When the wedding gets near, scrap any unfinished projects and spend some time taking care of yourself. Hug your honey. Take a nap. Make time for yourself.
- Your wedding will be unique because you and your community are unique, not because you labored over the decorations. If projects are no longer fun then forget them.
- Invite the people you hold dear to help create your wedding and trust that they will. I don’t just mean give them projects, I mean trust that they will bring all the things you love about them to your wedding and their presence alone will make it a great day.
- Day of coordinator = essential. We made a trade with engaged friends who, like us, didn’t have a wedding planner. They were our day of coordinators and we were theirs. It was a huge relief to have someone else in charge, and we didn’t feel guilty about putting them to work because we planned to do the same for them. Also, it was a *lot* of fun to play that role at their wedding.
- Choose vendors that are easy to communicate with. This might seem kind of obvious, but sometimes its tempting to pick someone because they do good work or have the right price. Someone who returns your emails promptly will save you a lot of stress.
- It is totally normal to have some let down after the wedding is over. It took awhile to take in all I mentioned above, first I had to spend a week or two crying about the fact that it was time to move on. But once that was done I discovered that planning a marriage is much more satisfying than planning a wedding.
Photos: Kelly Lorenz