Cara & The Indie Brooklyn Wedding Disaster That Wasn’t

As you know, I was feeling a little burned out on everything last week. As I stopped to think about why I love this blog and this community as much as I do, I thought of Cara and Jeff’s wedding in 72 seconds video (if you didn’t watch it the first time, please, please go watch it before you read the rest of this… it will make your day.) So! I decided it was time for Cara’s information packed wedding graduate post. All in one post, she tells you how to deal with loosing your venue three months before the wedding, how to have a not-a-bajillion-dollars wedding in Brooklyn (my old neighborhood, sigh), AND she gives you an full-on example of a indie ipod wedding playlist (I know!) I’m also thrilled to share a wedding that happened in a CHURCH. Actually, it’s better than that, it’s an interfaith wedding that happened in a church. Because those of us who are having (or had) indie faith based weddings… well… there is not enough inspiration to go around, that’s for sure. So without further ado, I bring you the amazing Cara:
Let’s start at the beginning. Jeff proposed with a traditional Irish Claddagh ring on one knee in an apple orchard and I, never one for convention, responded by digging through my purse and handing him a card I’d prepared with my acceptance printed on it in a typeface* I’d secretly purchased as a gift for him in anticipation of such a proposal. Our engagement, like our wedding, was unconventional but traditional, light on sap and gender roles but full of meaning, humor, and fun. I’m Catholic and the wedding was at my church but we wanted to honor Jeff’s Jewish heritage and throw in a few personal touches, as well. For starters, Jeff wore his grandfather’s tallit and I carried my grandmother’s rosary. We both walked down the aisle with both parents to an orchestral arrangement of Such Great Heights. We had a Catholic ceremony including a few Jewish traditions followed by a kick ass dinner party at our favorite slow-food, sophisticated but laid back neighborhood restaurant, The Farm on Adderley.I tackled the beast that is wedding planning with my favorite weapon: The List. I had a master list and a set of mini-lists all accessible anytime, anywhere via Google Documents. Yes, I am a meticulously organized planner. My wedding ran like a well-oiled machine. And, yet, never once was I described as a veil-wearing-primate-who’s-name-we-shall-not-utter. Quite the contrary – our dual his-and-hers project timeline spreadsheets are precisely what kept us (and everyone around us) sane and present. If you try to be someone that you’re not you will inevitably become a monster. Because the most important thing to remember while planning a wedding, in my opinion, is this: Know Yourself and Be Yourself. If your venue backed out (see note below) and you have 3 months to fix this and you’re considering a completely DIY decorated party in the parish hall consider this: if just explaining the aesthetic to your mom leads to a stress-induced meltdown and you’ve never actually made anything by hand before you might want to evaluate whether the extra couple thousand to do it at a chic no-decorations-needed restaurant is worth it. My sanity was worth about $1,850.

  • If you’re not crafty, you’re not crafty. It’s not a character flaw. The closest thing to “crafty” at our wedding were Best Sister ring bracelets** and I outsourced them to one of the Best Sisters. Everything else was done with skills a 3rd grader has. (Also, buying things can often be cheaper than making them and you can support local artists who are *actually* crafty and are trying to make a living at it)
  • If you think it would be quaint and lovely to run to the farmers market the morning of the wedding and put together a simple bouquet of local flowers but you’ve never actually been to the farmers market on Saturday morning or picked out and arranged flowers yourself it might not be the quaint and lovely experience you envision. We ditched thatidea when we found Sycamore – a bar that is also a flower shop … discussing blue thistles over locally brewed beer was definitely more our type of quaint and lovely.
  • If the thought of wearing a veil down the aisle makes you want to print a disclaimer on your program explaining your complex emotions surrounding the cultural phenomenon of veiled women throughout history, don’t wear a veil. Learn to say no to the expectations of others in order to preserve your sanity. I was shocked at how much time and energy and heartache it took for me to finally say no to the veil. At one point I enforced a moratorium on all discussions related to bridal headwear. Once I said no, I was able to channel my complex veil emotions into making a small hairpin out of pieces of my mom’s veil, my grandmother’s headpiece and fabric from my dress. It honored the women I love while staying true to who I am.

This brings me to the next most important thing I learned while planning a wedding, which is a slight caveat to the first. And that is: It’s Not All About You.

  • We really wanted all of our guests – from grandmothers to hipsters – to feel important and welcome and loved. Among other things this meant carefully a crafted iTunes play-list***, vegetarian menu options, and a little extra $$ to rent a bus to spare Midwestern uncles from the exciting adventure of weekend subway diversions. Making sure your guests are comfortable and happy (within reason) is worth it.
  • Somewhere between losing yourself in the expectations of others and never accepting advice from the outside world is a happy place where you can be yourself while respecting the fact that others are emotionally invested in your wedding, too. Let’s face it – your mom has probably been looking forward to this day longer than you have. So if she begs to have welcome bags with an apple theme or to give a guided tour of Brooklyn between the ceremony and reception including places she’s never actually been – realize that it’s sort of her day, too. And as long as it doesn’t betray your values or steal your sanity, it’s okay to let others have some control. (And a crazy mom hopped up on wedding bliss with access to the bus P.A. system can, apparently, be quite an amazing thing to witness)

Finally, two last suggestions: 1. Write thank-you notes as you receive gifts. We thought it would be fun to wait ’til after the wedding to open all the gifts. No. We’re in thank-you-note hell (and I usually sort of like thank-you notes!). Open them as they come and get a head-start on the thank-you notes. 2. Before you get your pictures back, write down the moments you remember. Some of the best images will be the ones in your head and after you flip through 800 wedding photos over and over and over, the memories that didn’t get captured in film can start to fade. So make a little list. I’ll leave you with a snippet of ours:

  • Walking down the aisle through what felt like a canopy of the smiling faces of all of my loved ones
  • The exuberant laughter after, in response to the question “Who presents this couple to be married?”, Jeff’s parents, my parents, and both of our sisters answered in unison, “We Do!”
  • My sister taking charge on the dance floor by getting everyone to sing the rest of the song that was on when the sound system briefly cut out.
  • Back in our regular clothes after stopping home to ditch the wedding attire, more high on ecstatic joy than can adequately be described, driving the short distance to the hotel at midnight in Brooklyn with the convertible top down for the thrill of it and the heat blasting for warmth, ready to conquer the world – or at least our new life, together.

(Note: NOTHING can ruin your wedding unless you let it – not even losing your venue. I’m not dwelling on this seemingly major detail because in the end we ended up at a much better location and losing the original venue hardly mattered. We realized that the timelines were just a guide and that people plan non-wedding events in less than 3 months all the time. Yes, we banged our heads against the wall and cried. Briefly. But then we discovered wedding zen and the ability to control our own experience. No detail is so important that it can steal the joy of your wedding.)*I didn’t know you could buy typefaces, either, until H&FJ; came out with Archer and it was all Jeff could talk about. And, yes, I totally hit the wedding planning jackpot with a guy who cares more about letter-pressed invitations in perfect type than I do.

**It became apparent that Best Sisters do not have pockets in which to hold the rings. Hence, bracelets were made using ribbons to tie the rings to their wrists and elastic to allow them to be slipped on with one hand (other hand occupied with flowers).

***Oh how I longed for more examples of slightly indie, successful wedding play-lists. We spent hours and hours on this and in the end the music helped set a spectacular mood. So if anyone’s looking for play-list help, I’ve posted mine at my otherwise long-abandoned wedding blog.

Photos by Sesthasak Boonchai, professional non-wedding photographer and friend of the couple

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  • Oh Em Gee, you posted the PLAYLIST? Thank you! That is amazingly helpful.

  • Love the playlist, thanks!

    Also love the attitude. Go, you. And eff the timelines and the details. It was a beautiful wedding!

  • i just saw that video for the first time and it's lovely! can't wait to get my video back!

  • ahh can you disclose where you got the orchestral arrangement to such great heights? i've been trying to figure out ways to incorporate that song into our wedding, as it means so much to my fiance and i. any insight would be SO helpful!

    your wedding seems so joyful and lovely. thank you for sharing it with us :)

  • Gorgeous wedding, gorgeous bride and groom! (I swooned over the dress. But I always swoon over the dress….but yours was definitely swoon-worthy.)

    Will you hit me if I admit that I when I read be proposed with a Claddagh ring, I was like, "*gasp* Like Buffy and Angel!" ? Cuz I did…and I apologize. I'm sure you won't have to stab Jeff to keep him from opening the Hellmouth.

    And it's so great to hear you admit that your sanity was worth having someone else do it. There's nothing wrong with not being crafty…hell, I wish I'd been less crafty and more organized like you!! (And had your great musical taste, I'm SO stealing most of your playlists for my iPod!)

  • I really like the thought that NOTHING can spoil your wedding (unless you let it) – thank you for this post

  • I'm 109 days away from getting married… without a ceremony site or officiant. Thank you for demonstrating that you can get through that without a total freak-out. And I know, even if we have to go to the courthouse, we're having a kick-ass party that night. Great wedding graduate advice.

  • Cara, I think you and I have the same mom. Mine cried when I said I wasn't going to wear a veil (and then threw a fit, and then pouted– all in front of two of my friends), and then was OBSESSED with the welcome bags that I said she could do. But, like everything else, it all works out in the end. Thanks for the dose of sanity, and the gorgeous photos!

  • Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!

  • Google Documents! They saved us. They were accessible anywhere. And we could share the necessary ones with different people. Our parents had access to the guest lists so they could provide us with addresses we didn't have. Spreadsheets galore for the wedding!

  • @Cassie – our AMAZING musicians arranged it themselves from sheet music we found of the original song. (Jeff was responsible for music and he totally rocked it – he threw the dice with a string trio he found online and they blew our socks off If you want a copy of the sheet music for the original email me at clwinter AT gmail DOT com

  • First, YOU FOUND A CATHOLIC CHURCH THAT LET YOU PLAY NONCHRISTIAN MUSIC AND ALLOWED NODS TO OTHER DENOMINATIONS?!!! I'm amazed. Please send that church to Chicago asap. Perhaps my fiance and I would be willing to do a Catholic wedding to appease my mother if such a thing existed here.

    Second, your advice is fabulous and practical. I'm bookmarking this post.

    Third, your dress, so gorgeous. It fits you perfectly. From one bias cut dress bride to another — SWOON.

  • Anonymous

    That comment about moms is so true. Mine was totally hyped on my wedding day. I wish I enjoyed my wedding as much as she did. But at least someone had a good time.

  • Great post! As long as you always see the big picture, you can work anything out. My reception hall got rained out the DAY OF my wedding and we made it work too. You rock.

  • Where to start? Love that headpiece – what a great way to make a tradition your own. Love the advice about holding onto memories of your own before you see the pictures – and writing out Thank you cards as you receive things. And sharing the playlist = AWESOME. Thanks for sharing your wedding.

  • Oh, and I LOVE that shot of your Mum on the bus. She looks so thrilled!

  • This is such a great graduate post, Cara. When the link to your playlist took me to your dlog (not blog) I read the whole thing over the course of yesterday. I really appreciated reading something that said many of the same things I've been thinking/feeling written so eloquently and with such humor. Thank you!

  • One Love Photo

    What a great post-and I am LOVING all the smiles and natural moments captured.

  • I love the hyped-up mom with her PA! Great picture, you can see how she's really shining in her moment.

  • thank you for assuring me that no, this is not all about me. it is definitely about our family too! i totally know what you mean by trying to appease hipsters and grandparents alike. you caught me at the verge of crying trying to convince myself i'm not the only one! your wedding sounds beautiful, congratulations!

  • Jennifer

    Oh my!! Thank you so much for posting your playlists! :) Very helpful.

  • Erica


    What a beautiful wedding! Thank-you for a great post. Would you perhaps disclose where you bought your stunning dress? It’s very much along the lines that I was thinking of…but I haven’t found anything like it so far.


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  • Kari

    Pleeeaaaase tell me what church this was! in catholic-guilt-rules-church-finding hell here in BK!

    • Cara

      Hey Kari – certainly this is way too late since you posted your question almost a year ago, but I was perusing my old graduate post after Meg linked to it this morning and figured I’d answer anyway, just in case. The ceremony was at St. Saviour on 8th Ave and 6th Street in Park Slope presided over by Father Daniel Murphy, who was incredibly accommodating. We’ve since moved and have become members at St. Boniface on Duffield and Willoughby near Metro Tech and really love Father Anthony Andreassi and suspect he would also be great to work with re: wedding planning.

  • Samantha

    Just Love.
    Love. Love. Love