Wedding Graduate: the ‘i do’ chronicles

I’m so excited to introduce Sarah (remember Sarah, with the wishes and the littles?) who blogs at the “i do” chronicles, talking about her wedding this morning. I’ve really been delighted to share some practical, grounded ladies who had somewhat more traditional weddings this week, along with funky/quirky weddings, because there are many wise women who read this blog (and some kick-ass men, heeeey!) and some of them are walking down a church aisle and rocking it (um, for most of my life I assumed *I* would walk down a church aisle and rock it). So here is Sarah, speaking her truth (and look at her blue dress girls! Someone steal this idea please!) So, Sarah, preach it:for perfectionists, wedding planning can be as much a curse as a blessing. I found A Practical Wedding on one of those days — an ohmygosh-I’ll-never-have-the-most-elegant-original-perfectly-choreographed-wedding day.

Like many couples out there, we’re a pretty traditional pair of people who had a pretty traditional wedding. Over our 18 month engagement, I slowly accepted that our day was for us. I got over whether I was being practical enough, thrifty enough, enough like a Martha Stewart spread. Couples sometimes need a reminder to be true, not put on a performance. For Patrick and I (ok, mostly for me), finding this truth was a journey.

There were so many parts of our wedding that we “owned.” We did some things that are the norm and other things that just felt right. Anything that didn’t fit, we dropped.

Our ceremony was held in the same Catholic church that I grew up in. One family friend wrote in her card about remembering me in my first communion dress and veil walking down the same aisle. It was very special. (Though, honestly, it’s not what we originally had in mind. One thing brides should know is that sometimes keeping family peace and honoring your upbringing was as important as the wedding-in-a-field that I might have been picturing…That’s another story!)

When the doors opened for me and dad to walk down the aisle to Patrick, the weight of the love in the room erased any doubts about the merits of a big wedding. Joyful tears wet my cheeks and neck. By the time I took Patrick’s hand, I was wiping snot away with the hanky. We celebrated at Laurel Hall, a restored Jacobean-style mansion with a sloping lawn, dark woods, stained glass, and an awesome patio. It was a dream! (And I can’t believe I just typed that, but it’s true.) The pastor’s prayer opened with a thank you to my parents for having us to their “house.” So funny, but it actually did feel homey and warm. It was the one over-the-top part of the whole affair, and it was worth every penny we pinched on other details. It’s exhibit-A for the A Practical Wedding “sometimes pay full price” mantra.

You can have a Catholic wedding and a traditional party and still make it personal. Some of our favorite details: My brother played a Nickel Creek song, “When You Come Back Down” during the ceremony that we wove into the sermon and our programs. It meant so much to us. And my “something blue” was a group of 13 very special women who wore blue to “stand up with me in spirit.”

There were other wedding-y things. We hired a local baker to make pies like grandma (with LARD! AWESOME!) and served them “help-yourself” style. We served a hearty, simple buffet even though the dinner was in a fancy mansion. We did a wish jar instead of a guest book.

You don’t have to spend under or over a certain dollar amount to do it “right.” We made a commitment to each other at the very beginning to be out of credit card debt (we had a chunk, but not too big) before the wedding instead of IN debt because of it. But we still had a damn good party. And we still spent some change (sigh…parties are expensive).

My parents helped a ton (thank you!), and for the rest we really held each other responsible. We truly splurged only on a few things: venue, open bar, and my dress.

We had a small wedding party (8 people total), a small cake, simple arrangements on the tables, and no flowers in the church. We hired an up-and-coming DJ and one-man local catering company. All of these decisions actually made our wedding BETTER, in my opinion. (For evidence of the happy results, see the photo below.)

The small wedding party allowed me to have my cherished “something blue,” and I loved the intimacy of just having my sisters beside me as maids of honor. The food was fantastic! We ran out of pie…not a slice left! And that DJ had people on the floor until they shut him down!

Lean on loved ones. Ours came out of the woodwork to help. Invaluable. A friend (love, lillian weddings & events) coordinated the day, put out fires, and helped our parents enjoy hosting while we danced away! To me, a coordinator is a no-brainer investment. Another good friend (Photography by Shea) shot our amazing photos (including those with this post and our totally awesome slideshow). I was honored to have my dad design custom invites, and we hired a family friend to print them. All of our vases were all ball jars from Patrick’s grandma’s farmhouse basement. So, our details took on real meaning.

When it comes to staying sane, all I have to say is: pre-canna. This is the Catholic pre-wedding counseling. It helped us to stay centered. Most valuable was the weekend-long retreat we took away from cell phones, computers, TV, and wedding checklists.

We learned how to argue (and boy do you need that in the process of wedding planning). We made a covenant with each other about how we would lean on faith and each other on the wedding day and in the future. We talked about real-life things people just sometimes forget to hash out when they’re engulfed by wedding-stuff: kids, money, religion, holidays, fears, in-laws, life goals, communication styles, name changes.

It’s so important remember the groom as a part of the wedding…which in today’s bride-obsessed wedding industry is unfortunately easy to do. During the retreat we were “required” to write a love letter to one another. Wow. Talk about getting back to basics.

I think it’s because we felt so reassured by the counseling and planning for our real lives that the Saturday before our wedding, I was able to relax. We spent the morning running errands and the evening swinging on our tree swing, snuggling and talking about how we weren’t nervous.

You must carve out time on the wedding day to spend alone, which for us included 15 minutes after the ceremony. We disappeared in the limo and shared a beer and giggled like little kids! We felt so present in the day. We remember sooooo much of it. All of it, actually. We just smiled and smiled and smiled.

I was moved in ways that words cannot explain. Overcome by optimism and joy.

We had snafus, and some things did not go perfectly. But, here’s a secret to share with all those brides-to-be: the “perfect” wedding is one that finds you waking up next to a man who is whispering, “Good morning, wife.” You reach for his hand, feel the ring, and realize—this is my husband.

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