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Cara And The 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.

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