Wedding Graduate: Bride In Exile

I’m thrilled to introduce our newest wedding graduate, Bride In Exile, a long time member of Team Practical. She has such a honest post (who doesn’t have a problem staying sane planning a wedding?) and it’s wise too (we hired people after the first or second interview for sure). And her last piece of advice is among the best you will ever hear. So without further ado, some words from the wise:

I’ll be honest: I feel like a bit of a poser here. Why? Because keeping to the “sane” part of A Practical Wedding’s mantra was a huge challenge for me.

The thing is, I have a massive perfectionist streak. Give me a project, and I have a hard time settling for “good enough” – my inner perfectionist wants, nay demands, “perfect.” There were definitely times during our engagement when, as Meg would say, I lost the plot. So what advice can a terminal perfectionist offer such a savvy, level-headed community? I’m not quite sure. But here are 5 lessons I learned along the way.

1. “Aesthetics are not ethics”

When I was worrying about whether we’d ruined our wedding by not having inner envelopes for our invitations, and judging myself for obsessing over something I knew was so trivial, I often found comfort in wedding blogs. Not the ones with the glossy, magazine-worthy photos, but the ones by smart, sassy women who were also trying to maintain their sanity and plan a wedding.

One of those bloggers, A. at Accordions and Lace, coined the phrase “aesthetics are not ethics,” and I found myself reciting it time and time again. Those four little words helped me remember that omitting the inner envelopes, choosing beef roulade instead of beef filet, and playing “Walk Like an Egyptian” were not crimes against humanity – no, not even if someone at the wedding hates the Bangles. It’s OK. They’ll get over it.

2. Don’t obsess too much over “unique.”

For a self-aware or “indie” bride, nothing is more horrifying than the prospect of having a “cookie-cutter” wedding. We don’t want to follow the prescriptions of the WIC blindly, and most of the time that’s a good thing, because the world probably doesn’t need more bride-and-groom cake toppers or eco-unfriendly plastic wedding favors shaped like swans. But it can be easy to go too far and start fretting over whether you’ve done enough to be “unique.”

On occasion, I struggled with guilt over not making our own centerpieces, or not being “committed” enough to hand-craft 150 personalized wedding favors, or going with boring old cake instead of a more interesting dessert, and I worried that our wedding would be dull and devoid of personality. But you know what? Sometimes it’s OK to go with something “typical” if that’s what you like (e.g. cake.We really love cake). It’s also OK to go with “typical” if you don’t care about your place settings/cake topper/appetizers/flowers and want the decision made NOW so you don’t have to think about it another second. You don’t need to hyper-personalize every aspect of your day in order to have a memorable, beautiful, unique wedding. You and your loved ones are ultimately the ones who make it all of those things, not the stuff you pick.

3. Find ways to have fun with the planning.

I am not a crafter, and neither is Econo Boy, so we promised each other we’d confine all wedding DIY to projects that seemed like fun rather than a chore. One thing we really enjoyed was putting together and printing a “wedding wine list” from wines our friends brought to our engagement party. Months of debating about which reds and whites to pick ensued, and at the reception, we were delighted to see our guests reading all about our choices and who’d contributed them. My matron of honor was so psyched when she saw that we picked the Cabernet she and her husband suggested! Finding a project that we loved helped take the edge off the minor snafus. Whenever we got stressed out, we’d remind each other that at least we’d love the wines.

4. You can hire a vendor even if they’re your first interview.It’s really OK.

There are lots of tips on wedding blogs about budgeting money, but fewer on budgeting hours or your sanity, and for us, the latter two commodities were just as important, if not more so. One of the best strategies we employed bucked conventional wedding wisdom a bit: we limited the number of vendors we interviewed. Most blogs and books will advise you to talk to multiple vendors in every area to make sure you’re getting the “right fit” and the best price, but we found that this was a) a huge time-sink, and b) not really all that necessary. Our approach was, if the person we’d just interviewed was within our budget and we liked and trusted them, they were a go, even if they were the first person we’d talked to. And you know what? All of our first-interview hires did a great job! (Weirdly, the ones we had problems with were the ones we thought we’d chosen the most carefully. Go figure.)

5. Be yourself during the ceremony.

I think the best piece of advice anyone gave us came from our wonderful officiant on the day of the rehearsal: be yourself at the wedding, especially during the ceremony. Laugh if something strikes you as funny. Cry if you need to. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that everyone is looking at you (especially if you’re like me and that freaks you out), but on this day of all days, be the person your partner fell in love with. “Being ourselves” meant we both cried a bit, I laughed with my mouth wide open, and we almost kissed at the wrong moment during the ceremony because we were so overwhelmed and so happy. (Our officiant just laughed and said “you can kiss if you want to!”) When I walked back down that aisle, holding my husband’s hand, I’d never been more in love with him.

So yeah, be yourself during the ceremony. And then, have some wine, grab some food, and dance like you’ve never danced before! (Also, a search for comfortable shoes is never time wasted.)

Photo: David Wegwart of Photocrafz Inc.

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  • LPC

    I just love team practical. I've read all the posts from Bride in Exile, Accordions and Lace, and One Barefoot Bride. Once Barefoot Bride gets married I will have to find some more of Team Practical to follow through their wedding planning. It's so much fun.

  • Oh honey! I am so glad to see Bride in Exile on here, as she was one of my absolutely favourite bloggers to follow during planning. So sane. I have always particularly loved her calling out of "indie" wedding culture as putting a huge amount of pressure on brides to be unique in a way that replicates WIC pressure too easily. Smart lady!

    Best wishes, my dear, and thanks for the wise words!

  • Anonymous

    Oh man, I LOVE "Walk Like An Egyptian" and was going to use it myself! lol

    I agree about the pressure to be "indier than thou", which is impossible. You should do what you love, even if everyone else is doing it. Most guests don't attend enough weddings to compare anyway.

  • W.O.W This post just totally made me happy…my wedding is less than 2 weeks away & I have been enjoying the whole process for what it really is, not just time leading up to The Day. What would I have done without blogs like A Practical Wedding? It really has kept me a sane and happy bride. I hired my photographer after meeting her once and I have never questioned that choice. We just hit it off and that was what was important to me. Bride in Exile, you just rocked my monday morning (my last in this dreaded office until after the wedding!!!). THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

  • Is the shoes part the best advice ever? I think so.

    I really like the bit about not freaking out over everything being unique. There are a lot of weddings out there, man…and it will still be interesting to your friends and family, even if it's something the blog world has seen before!

  • Meg

    Dude. A. Time to chill out. (In the nicest possible way.) Do you love each other? If yes, than you're set. Forget the rest.

    PS It is totally fair to stress about implemention right now, if you want to stress. "Who is hauling the beer?? Ack Ack" Not, "Is the beer practical/unique enough." Because you are not even going to NOTICE the beer (or fill in the blank) and it won't occur to anyone else to judge it.



  • Meg

    ANYTHING that makes you smile is worth thinking about. My dress STILL makes me smile, so I think about it often.


  • E.J.

    I've been lurking on A Practical Wedding for a while now, ever since I stumbled upon the site while frantically searching for bridesmaid dresses that would be equally flattering on a 14 year old, a mother of three and a 7 month pregnant woman, which happily lead to my discovery of Etsy and a seamstress not only talented but an absolute doll to work with. But I digress. Thank you Thank you Thank you Bride in Exile and all of Team Practical for being the voice of reason when I need it most! Less than 3 weeks to go for me, and reading this blog is like taking a deep breath for my brain- it helps me get calm and centered.

  • Can I tell you how cool I feel right now to be one of A Practical Wedding's Wedding Graduates? Team Practical is just way too awesome :-)

    A, hang in there! And whatever you do, don't beat yourself up over whether you'll live up to some opaque standard of elegant/unique/sane/indie/family-oriented/[insert other adjective here]. Go ahead and freak out a bit (sometimes it helps to just get it out of your system!), and then go on a date with your fiance where all wedding talk is banned. My husband and I went to see Star Trek and ate Mexican food. Worked like a charm! :-)

  • April

    PURE. BRILLIANCE. I felt like I was a reading a narrative of myself and how I've been the past few months, so this graduate's post especially resonated with me.

    With 3 weeks till the wedding, I'm a bundle of nerves; fretting over aesthetics and whether or not the things we've chosen are sane enough, practical enough and dare I say it – "unique" enough.

    Clearly, I need to stop worrying!

    So thank you THANK YOU – for this post, as it comes at just the right time.

  • April

    Tryin' Meg! ;) And thanks for the kind yet oh-so-needed "Chill the eff out" reminder.

    Yes, we absolutely love and adore each other.

    Will now try to "forget the rest."

    Can I think about my dress, though? It's quite loverly and makes me smile when I think on it.

  • Thank you for sharing, BiE!
    I think that I'll have a similar reaction to the process once we get further into it (still 10 months out): freak out about some perfectionist things, but ultimately not worry because it's just not that big a deal. (And definitely take time out for dates!)
    Do you think it was easier or harder to not be "on site" while planning? My mom is there (it's at her house), but partner and I will be in either Barcelona or Florence for the entire planning process.

    My mom said the most wonderful thing to me the other day: "If something is making you anxious, it's not something we need to do for your wedding!" (She is so smart!)

    (Also, I lied, we don't have the same haircut, as mine's not stacked in the back, but it is the same length and nearly the same color (just slightly more red, naturally). So thanks again for the unintentional style idea!)

  • ps- I found BiE through LPC, who I found through this site… APW is the best community! You guys* rock!

    *gals, people, etc… please don't take offense, I just haven't found a suitable (non-possessive**) neutral pronoun yet.
    **I'm a big fan of using "they" for all my singular, non-gendered, possessive pronoun needs. And Grammar Girl said I could, so I'm keeping it!

  • Great advice! What a beautiful wedding.

  • I'm at the beginning of wedding planning and when I started looking at blogs a few months ago, I started feeling this tremendous pressure to be different and unique, as if that was the only way I could truly have a meaningful wedding. After reading accordiansandlace, APW, Bride in Exile, etc, all of you lovely ladies have assured me that if I still want a white dress and some gorgeous flowers (that I don't put into arrangements myself), my wedding will still be gorgeous, amazing, fun, full of love and truly mine and my fiancee's.

    Thank you for keeping me grounded, and, well, sane.

  • I second the comfy shoes search! I bought a pair of flip flops for the reception that happened to have ridges on them but didn't think twice about it, until I took them off at 1:30am that night and my feet had lines on them!

  • Meg

    You know, in the online world sometimes I feel like "Man we had a normal wedding. White dress, dancing, food, you know… uh… ceremony." And then I show people our pictures and they say things like, "Oh god! Your wedding was so non-traditional! It's so artistic! It's so unique! Wowie!"

    And, whatever, I'm not really sure which is true, to be honest. But what I find really jarring (and sometimes mildly alarming) is how juxtaposed the two views are. So. Yeah. Blogs can warp your head. Also, people in the real world have differently warped heads about weddings. So maybe it's pick your poison?

    Or better yet, just don't judge your wedding, as much as you can.

  • Amy

    I love this! I am that way… hyper aware of making things perfect. I'm in a line of work where perfection is the standard. So, it's hard to have f-it moments.

    Also.. you know are most recommended vendors are our most problemsome too!

    Geez! Lovely advice and wonderfully beautiful wedding!

  • Couldn't agree more with "be yourself during the ceremony." I nearly stumbled down the stairs, which is so typical of me. Luckily my dad was there for me to lean on! And I laughed when my groom added "in sunshine and in rain" to our vows. Yes, it was raining. And yes, it was perfect.