Wedding Graduate: Happy-Zen Lauren

Today’s wedding graduate is Lauren! Lauren, who got married the same weekend we did (remember?), Lauren who has been super honest walking this path along side me and sharing the parts that SUCKED, Lauren who loves being married as much as I do, Lauren who didn’t even screw around and sent me her wedding graduate post before I had time to ask (thank you!!). Her advice is so wise – like the inviting everyone you love bit. The only thing we disagree on is the being tired after the wedding (we were not, oddly), but different perspectives is what makes Team Practical work, no? And now, with love, I give you Lauren and her best advice...

1. Do what feels right to you, and hold your ground…
We had no formal wedding party– Jeff’s oldest and best friend was our best man, and I had a bevy of non-bridesmaids who hung out with me that morning.My brother gave the maid of honor toast, and he walked my mom and my grandmother down the aisle as my wedding party. We had an ice cream sundae bar and a giant pile of snickerdoodle cookies (baked by three of my non-bridesmaids) instead of a cake. There were no favors. My mom and I made hundreds of paper flowers to decorate the ceremony and reception sites. I didn’t wear a veil, even though this made my mom cry when I told her. I got my dress for $250 at the Filene’s Basement Running of the Brides sale. We spent months crafting our ceremony and vows, but hired an MIT grad student to DJ without ever meeting him. I created a playlist for the chapel to play while everyone was waiting for the wedding to start. We recessed out of the chapel to “Signed, Sealed Delivered” by Stevie Wonder.I wore a flower in my hair that two of my friends picked from a garden outside the hotel. Oh, and um, our reception was in a bar. And it was fabulous. All these things made my wedding thrifty, creative, and sane (for me!)2. …but be open to surprises, and the fact that your mind might change.
There were two things that were absolutes for Jeff when it came to our wedding: we were going to leave the reception early, before everyone else, and we were not going to have a brunch the next day. To Jeff, that was OUR time to be married, and be with only each other. But then, the wedding day came, and not only were we having lots of fun at our reception, but there was barely enough time to talk to everyone who was there as it was– there was no way we could leave early and give up precious time with family and friends who had travelled great distances to be with us. We never discussed this, it just happened. And walking back to the hotel at 11pm on a Sunday night through the empty streets of Boston with the last few guests at the wedding was wonderful. And then, after going to sleep at 2am, we both found ourselves WIDE awake at 7am, and Jeff rolled over and said “Hey, isn’t everyone meeting for breakfast?” You guessed it- we ran down the street and spent two hours at a Panera where about 50 people from our families showed up out of the blue. And that was one of my favorite parts of the wedding weekend. So, make decisions and hold your ground, but be open to following your heart if, in the moment, you find yourself craving something totally different.3. Do not underestimate how tired you will be after your wedding.
Between wanting to see everyone who was in town and an out of control excitement level, I barely slept on the days leading up to the wedding. And even if I had slept, the emotional exhaustion that happens after every single person you love is in the same place for a whole weekend is something I can’t describe. I’ve never been so tired in my whole life. We didn’t go very far away for our honeymoon, and only spent four days, but our schedule involved three meals and three naps a day, in addition to 9 hours of sleep every night. I know everyone says “take a honeymoon, take a honeymoon,” but the whole time that we were gone, my husband and I really just wanted to be in our own home, napping on the couch with our cat. I would never, ever, have considered going home for a week instead of going away for a honeymoon, but in retrospect, going home was our favorite part (and that’s when our marriage became real.) So I really encourage you to self-evaluate here– my husband and I love to travel, don’t get me wrong, but post-wedding all we wanted was comfort and sleep. Some people get that in hotels, but me? I just wanted my own bed. Don’t be afraid to tell everyone in your life that you’ll be gone for a week, and then sneak back to your home and enjoy every second of the reality of your new life.4. Stick to a budget (if you have a budget) for as long as possible.
Why? Because when it comes down to the weeks leading up to your wedding, you might want to employ a sanity-saving solution I call “throwing money at the problem.” I had planned on doing my own flowers for a year leading up to the wedding, and then, three weeks before, I couldn’t fathom the thought of spending part of my Saturday in my hotel room cutting flowers when I could be hanging out with my friends and family. So I went to Whole Foods and ordered my wedding flowers. I had a hair trial at a salon convenient to the hotel, and it was awful, so, two weeks before the wedding (note: don’t wait this long to do your hair trial!) I booked my regular hairdresser, and paid for a trial and day of with her (far more expensive than the convenient place). If I had giving in to spending temptations earlier, I might not have felt comfortable exceeding my mental budget for things like flowers and hair when it really mattered- two weeks before the wedding when I didn’t have time to stress over it. Although, if someone had told me my #6 (below), I might not have worried about hair and flowers at all!5. Don’t be afraid to invite everyone that you love.
There are people who tell you that a wedding bigger than 25, or 50, or 60, or 80, isn’t intimate, or as much fun, or is too overwhelming. I think this is crap. There was no way that we were going to let an opportunity for our large families to be in one place go by, so we invited everyone, and 105 adults and 16 kids came. And were there a lot of people to spend time with? Of course. Do I wish I’d had more time to spend with each and every person who was at my wedding? Absolutely. But what mattered was that they were there. In the months leading up to my wedding, I imagined myself crying through the whole day. I tested out countless waterproof mascara in anticipation of this. But then, over the weekend, as more and more of my friends and family started to arrive, I just felt myself bubbling over with joy. And then, I was standing behind the doors to walk myself down the aisle, and they opened, and there was this collective intake of breath, one or two people clapped, and the love that rushed out of that room completely blew me away. And I laughed my way down the aisle– there was no other way to express what had just hit me. I don’t know if I would have felt the same way if I’d limited my guest list to what someone else thought was a good size for a wedding.6. I promise you, on your wedding day, you won’t notice.
The day before my wedding, I went to get my nails done. As I was sitting in the salon, it occurred to me that there was nothing that could possibly matter less than if there was nail polish on my nails the next day. Now, getting my nails done was a great time because I went with one of my non-bridesmaids who was in town from Arizona and it was the only one-on-one time I had with her, but the point is that we could have gotten coffee and nobody on earth, including me, would have noticed my nails. The same goes for virtually every aspect of your wedding. Don’t want to do favors? (I didn’t!) Nobody will care. Worried that the flowers you ordered two weeks before the wedding showed up and are kind of crappy? It just doesn’t matter. I was supposed to get my makeup done at an Origins store, for free. Yes, they do this for anyone, if they remember. The people at my Origins store did NOT remember, however, so all my non-bridesmaids pooled their makeup supplies and one of them did my makeup, and we had way more fun. Jeff and I had planned to each dance with our moms- we had picked out songs and everything- and then all of a sudden it was 9pm and the DJ hadn’t played one slow song all night, because the dance floor was packed with people who wanted to boogie! So we nixed the mom songs (our moms were on the dance floor and never noticed). I had planned for a year to make a seating chart, and then a week before the wedding, the venue (being a bar/restaurant that doesn’t normally do weddings) said that they didn’t know what the table configuration would be like until that day, so there was no way we could assign seats. This caused me no end of stress (what would people DO? Where would they SIT? What if someone was LEFT OUT?) but on the day of the wedding, guess what? Everyone found a seat, ate from the buffet when they were hungry, danced when they wanted to dance, and met new people (or not!) It is hard to let things go in the weeks and months leading up, but I assure you, that if it doesn’t matter, you won’t notice. I don’t think my husband and I broke eye contact for our entire ceremony- he was the only thing I could see, and I couldn’t stop smiling. My nails, my bouquet, and the music certainly could not matter compared to that.

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  • that my song to, I love it because when me and my partner 1st started going out (8 year ago) he use to call me his and I'd always joke – not until we are married. didn't say it so much at the end married or not I could never have left him. All my sister hope I will give up and order flower instead of make them myself, I still want to but we'll see. Great dress.

  • Anonymous

    You had me at snickerdoodle cookies (which are my fave)!

  • Katy

    I love this! Lauren, do you mind me asking where you had the reception? I'm searching everywhere for a low key venue in Boston that can hold 100 people.

  • TNM

    Ha – great advice, and item (4) is particularly funny. I'm 1 1/2 weeks out, and a TOTAL cheapskate, but I am absolutely at the point where I'm throwing money at all problems to make them go away. I am glad that I was much more budget minded in the beginning – so that we are OK despite the last-minute splurges – or else we'd be eating only ramen for the first 6 months of our marriage.

  • Totally agree with Lauren about not doing your own flowers and about being flexible. But, my main reason to comment is to say the church where you got married is absolutely gorgeous. The light is beautiful. Congratulations.

  • Bibs

    I was going to write a wedding graduate post of my own, but Lauren- I think you just wrote mine! Great advice, great wedding, great attitude. (also, beautiful venue and dress! looks like it was a blast.)

  • Lauren,
    Thanks so much for your comment about place cards/seating. I have been stressing about how to do seating for a week now, and I'd rather run through traffic than think about it anymore. Your comment has given me the courage to go with my gut and let people sit wherever they want. :)

    By the way, I love the decorations behind the priest… what is that? *GORGEOUS*

  • Hear hear… I support everything said above. Forgot to put nail polish (happily my nails were still cut evenly) and didn't give a d*mn. We had 116 people invited and still found time for almost everyone. And we did the same : 4 days away, sleeping, eating, napping.

  • What a lovely wedding!

    And also, Lauren, this might sound strange, but your hairstyle is kind of exactly the one I want for my wedding. Is there any possible way to get a better pic of your hair? I've been looking around and have been unable to find what I've been envisioning, and you have it!

  • Thanks, everyone! The wedding was at the Chapel at MIT, which is a completely amazing building (, and the reception was at The Living Room (Katy- email me at and I will give you all the details- I have nothing but great things to say about the LR).

    Sara- the seating issue literally kept me up at night for a few days, but once I let it go, I felt much better, and on the day of, people really did love being able to sit anywhere. Just go with it :)

  • Mellyelle- my email address is above- send me an email and I can send you more hairstyle pictures! But honestly, after the first failed trial and a second trial to get the perfect updo, I realized that if my hair was up, I felt like I was going to the gym or hadn't washed my hair, and that I felt prettiest with it down. So I showed up on the day of my wedding and just told my hairdresser to curl it with a curling iron (which, in retrospect, I could have totally done myself). Oh well :)

  • Meg

    Lauren! I can't belive you didn't tell me that was the MIT chapel, so I could put it in the post. My dad is going to *love* this. So. Freaking. Cool.

  • C

    I've been a longtime reader, and usually I lurk out of shyness – but I had to pipe up to say congratulations to Lauren because I also just got married at the MIT chapel, on August 1st! It's lovely to think that the place has seen so many other like-minded, happy brides.

  • Not only was all your advice wonderful, I really needed to hear that you were convinced you might cry and then totally didnt! I know its trivial, but I don't want to spend my whole day getting married blubbering, and I'm convinced I will! ( i still have a year to cure this though…
    congratulations, a gorgeous wedding!

  • Ha ha, Meg- I think I threw that tidbit near the top of my email to you, sorry I didn't make it more prominent! Cynthia- congrats! I work at MIT and two of my coworkers had weddings there this summer as well- it is a beautiful space! And Rebecca- I definitely didn't cure myself of crying, I was just too full of joy to do so. But I made up for it by crying through the whole first day of our honeymoon. So, you never know!

  • You say you weren't tired, Meg. But I seem to remember you mentioning the lack of naps on your wedding day…

  • Lauren and Rebecca, I'm also completly convinced I'll be a big, snotty, teary mess at the wedding. Here's hoping I'm wrong, too.

  • April

    Gorgeous, happy photos!

    Loving Lauren's Zen-like advice to chill and not stress. I will try employing that method these last 2 weeks before the wedding!

    Oh, and I LOVE the idea of having non-bridesmaid friends hanging out and getting ready together.

  • Meg

    I just like naps. Besides I didn't say I was tired on our wedding day (was) but I wasn't super tired afterwards. I was a little emotionally worn out I think, but we were really peppy on the honeymoon… much more than we expected.

  • Emily

    This is my favorite wedding graduate post yet. Thanks for the great insights – and congratulations!

  • MegsDad

    Meg said I would love this post, and I do — especially the pictures. She also thought the Chapel had been built since I was at the Institute, but is was. It is hard to tell from the pictures that the building is round, like a coffee can I see the backdrop behind the altar is still there. We always thought those rectangles looked like money and represented our tuition fluttering down.

    Lauren's post was wonderful, especially the part about greeting the older professor. I am sure he did not have anything else to do; I wouldn't. For a lot of us, our teaching schedule gives structure to our lives — and I am sure that the death of a spouse is a time when that structure is needed.