Marchelle & The Three Weddings

So I’ve had Marchelle’s wedding in my inbox for MONTHS now… an embarrassingly long time to keep such an amazing woman’s wedding hidden from the world. But here is the thing: Marchelle had three weddings (sort of). She had three wedding for the most imminently sane reasons on the planet 1) Immigration issues 2) A proper wedding & 3) A blessing of the wedding held in the partway around the world from the first wedding, where the groom’s family and the couple reside. Sensible, really, and a whole lot of fun. But I didn’t want to think that I was suddenly pushing the wedding industry line on you, and telling you that YOU need to have a billion weddings (because if you can’t maximize profits one way, than just maximize weddings!) because you probably don’t. So I was waiting for the right time, and it only seemed right to balance all the recent talk of elopement with a truly sensible three wedding marriage. Because we at APW are firmly on the side of the devils advocate (whichever side that is).

I mostly know Marchelle through her married life, and her amazing blog. She’s whip smart, this girl, and thoughtful, and kind. Plus she works insane hours, making her one of my few UK blog friends that I can chat with on Twitter while I work APW evenings. So, today I bring you Marchelle. Reading her writing always makes me wish I was having a beer with her in her garden in the UK, and you’ll probably wish the same.

As a woman who ended up having three weddings over the course of one very hectic year, for one reason (let’s just call it legalities), or another (lovingly insistent relatives), I feel I’ve hopefully learnt a thing or two about wedding planning.

Certainly just the experience of planning our ‘main’ wedding in the Caribbean, from an ocean and five time zones away, would have been enough to highlight one important lesson that I am now trying to apply to life in general – keep it simple. With that overriding mantra in mind, here are some of the ways that I managed to maintain my sanity, and even perversely enjoy myself, during the process of marrying the same wonderful man three times over.

1. Keep in mind the point of it all. You and the one you have chosen to hitch your wagon to are getting married. There are enough Big Issues to be considered, debated, fought about and cried over in the run up to this major life event, without your wedding needing to be one of them. Try not lose sight of this most important of truths – it is the beckoning light at the end of the planning tunnel.

2. Get organised. Delegate like never before. Then let that shit go. Let us be clear, unless you are an event manager, or lead a life quite wonderfully different to mine, your wedding is likely to be the first big event you organise and host. It’s OK to acknowledge that it’s all a bit scary and overwhelming at times. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it, planning a wedding is essentially taking a series of decisions and making sure certain tasks get done. (Actually getting married is not at all like this, but we’ll come back to that.)

In the face of such demands, I found lists extremely comforting. But even they need to be managed, or it can all get quite out of hand. By taking the following approach to planning, my husband and I kept our stress levels manageable, and I found myself repeatedly referred to as “the calmest bride ever”. (I am not generally reknowned for my state of zen, but I was damned sure not going to let planning my wedding unhinge me.)

We started with a list of everything we wanted in our ideal wedding. Then, together, we ruthlessly culled it. We delegated as many of the remaining tasks as possible, and dealt with what was left ourselves. If anything was proving to be a pain to organise, it was abandoned. And when a decision was made or a task was completed it was crossed off the list and forgotten about.

3. There is no one perfect wedding for you. We got legally married in a tiny registry office ceremony, followed by cake and champagne at our flat, and dinner out at a local restaurant. Then we were emotionally married in a moving, multi-faith ceremony, followed by a blow-out, ring-down, no-holds-barred, bachannalian Caribbean fete.

We finally had our marriage blessed in a traditional English church ceremony, followed by black-tie dinner and dancing at the local country house. Each of those events was entirely different from the others. Each was perfect for us, and gloriously memorable in their own way.

So do not not bother trying to get the wedding exactly right. Save that kind of effort for what really matters. (Like the marriage…)

4. Your wedding is not *your* day. Planning a celebration while bearing in mind that people were putting themselves out by hundreds of dollars and a week of their time to be there with us, really brought home the point that the wedding day is all about the guests. So invite the people you really want to be there. And then base your preparations from their point of view.

Considering your guests comfort and enjoyment at every part of the process will really make them feel special and included, and will be appreciated in a way that randomly artful aesthetic touches may not. However, as with all things, balance is key. Remember, your guests will never miss the imagined delights that they never knew they might have had.

5. The ceremony is all about you. And it is key. It seems so easily neglected in secular circles, but the heart and soul of a wedding is the ceremony when you do that really important bit – get married. My husband and I ended up being able to shape our main ceremony from scratch, and the time and thought we put into it was the most valuable effort we expended in the whole process. Really think with your partner about what it means to you both to get married, and then try to let that show in your ceremony. That is time and energy well spent.

6. Just enjoy the damn thing. Show up, laugh, cry, get a little drunk and love and joy, take time out to savour the greatness of it all, be in the moment, make amazing memories.

But most of all, have fun. The enjoyment your guests get out of the day will largely be as a result of the joy you radiate. So let yourself go. Relax, and feel free to enjoy it all. When you hear people say, “I’ve never seen a couple enjoy themselves so much at their own wedding”, you know you’re onto a good thing.

And at the end of the day, there will just be you, your partner, and your new marriage. And that my friends, is what it is all about.

Photos by: Juma Bannister of Flowfoto Photography

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  • liz

    I just had to say, your pictures totally made my day. You guys look so happy! Congratulations!

  • Nicole

    When I was a wedding graduate, Meg posted my long post about all the deep stuff of wedding planning. I never mentioned my dress. And half of the commenters rather sheepishly — like they weren’t sure it was appropriate to be so shallow — talked about how much they loved my dress. I was thrilled. How great that this particular community can talk about all the deep stuff and then gush over the beauty of dress that is just perrrrfect on a particular woman? So honey, let me just tell you, that dress is STUNNING. I could hardly take my eyes off of it as I was reading. So much style, so perfect for your body, so smokin hot. Love, love, love.

    (And yes, I agree totally on all the other stuff too :-) )

    • Laura

      The dress really truly is awesome. And the headpiece as well. How chic!

    • Can we also acknowledge that Mother of the Bride looks stunning as well!! What a hat!! Freaking glamour all over that familiy.

      • Let’s also give a shout out to those fantastic attendants’ dresses and the groom’s style. Stunning!

    • Marchelle

      Thank you so much Nicole! (And everyone else – you guys are too kind, I’m totally blushing!)

      And, erm, while I kept my head about so many aspects of wedding planning, I totally lost it over that dress. I. Loved. My. Dress. No compromises were made there, I’m afraid. And heck, smart sane women can love fashion too, no? ;)

      • meg

        Um, HELL YES.

  • Liz

    I agree – you look SO happy in your photos. And it was lovely to read about someone who is also having the cross-oceans/immigration/one wedding one blessing/planning from afar fun. We’re having our wedding in the States where my family lives and the blessing here in the UK, and not only is it stressful (it’s really like planning a destination wedding even though it’s my hometown) but it means that we feel we are asking a huge amount from and feel incredibly lucky to have friends and family who will fly from the UK…nice to see someone who has been in the same boat!

    • Marchelle

      It adds a whole other level of complexity to the planning Liz, that’s for sure. And one that a lot of other people have no idea about. But *it can be done*. I had A LOT of help from my mom though – she acted as my agent (of sorts) back in Trinidad when we were planning the wedding there. We talked, emailed, facebooked, texted constantly. I couldn’t have had a wedding on the scale that we did without her. I hope you have some local help? And if you ever need to shout at anyone about how it’s not like planning your average wedding and you might be losing your mind, I’m up for a listen.

    • meg

      Don’t worry too much about your friends. If you treat it like our friends did when they got married in the UK, “While we’d love you to come, we’re totally not expecting anyone to come. We know we’ll get who we get, and that’s it.” Then it’s fine. The people who come will be thrilled to be there, the people who can’t will be sad for them, happy for you, and will give gifts.

      We couldn’t make it to that wedding, sadly, ugh. But we wanted to. And we gave cookbooks, and we never felt guilted. If we had been able to go, it would have been a joy, not an imposition.

  • caitlin

    best. post. ever.

  • “Just enjoy the damn thing.”

    Oh, this made me giggle. And I was grinning while reading the whole post because how can you not smile when looking at those photos? You both just look so happy. (And sassy, lady!)

  • I want to add to what Nicole said and announce that, aside from my heart growing three sizes by reading Marchelle’s beautiful words, my dress-loving lizard brain thinks this is the best-dressed wedding I’ve ever seen. Such an elegant wedding gown! Such chic and sassy attendants! And the woman in the fourth picture, the brown patchy dress and the fantastic hat? Is who I want to be when I grow up.

    • Marchelle

      Hitchdied, she’s my mom. She’s who I want to be when I grow up. :)

  • Anna

    good on you for doing 3 weddings! I can’t imagine – the thought of planning one is enough to make me want to bury my head in the sand like an ostrich.

    Also, you look beautiful!! and happy. and I love your gown.

  • #6- “Enjoy the damn thing” will be my mantra for life. Love it.

  • I’ve been loving Marchelle’s blog for a while now and now I get to love her wedding and her great advice too! Thanks Meg and Marchelle for sharing!

    • Granola

      Where can I read her blog? All this lovely talking up of it has me interested and my Google efforts have gotten me precisely nowhere….

  • jolynn

    Love it! Such a beautiful wedding, beautiful woman (in every aspect) and a wonderful reinforcement of the premise that weddings do not have to be any one way, or any three ways, or not at all—they are hopefully what is right for you and yours.

    And Meg, I <3 the bit about the devil's advocate. You do it oh so well, and I mean that in the best way!

    • meg

      I do it in real life too. Shhhh… but it’s a little less shocking now than it was, say, in the 7th grade when I would just tackle my teacher in debate on anything. He always looked so blindsided, poor thing. Now I’m a little bigger ;)

  • Caroline

    I could have just Exactly-ed most of these comments, but I had a quick read of your blog, Marchelle, and it seems our situations are super similar. We almost got married for immigration (before my Irish Grandfather divinely intervened) and would have gone exactly this route. I’m so impressed with all the planning – its great to have so many excuses to see your families…

    …and to wear that hot dress.

    • Marchelle

      Caroline, it did feel a little like a crazy indulgence at one point – I mean who *needs* three weddings, for chrissake? But, because of our kind parentals (and generous parentals played a large part in this whole exercise in every way), we were able to celebrate our marriage with almost *every single one* of our friends and loved ones. (And I have a HUGE family.) There is quite literally only one friend of mine who wasn’t at either wedding because she was posted in Afghanistan. I cannot begin to say how lucky we feel to have been able to do that.

  • Oh thank you thank you for this post. You have no idea how close to home it hits – we’re a multi-wedding couple , though I’d prefer to call them celebrations because it makes me focus on the happiness of it all rather than the stress that comes with immigration concerns, as well as making sure all families and friends on both sides of the pond are appreciated and celebrated while we manage significant financial concerns.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and thank you Meg for just magically knowing to post it on a day when I really, really needed it. Makes me feel a lot more calm and sane to know that I’m not the only legal ceremony ->one country celebration -> a second country celebration woman. And that I’m also not the only one to just cross things off the damn list when I find us saying ‘heck with it, too much work’. Instead, we’re focusing on the love and support we’re getting from everyone around us and enjoying the damn thing!

    • Marchelle

      No Suzanne! As crazy as your situation is, someone else has actually been there. And survived it! I tried to remember how much of a priviledge it was whenever it started to feel a bit much.

      (And in case you were worried that a shotgun legal wedding might impact negatively on the proper wedding you had already started planning before whatever situation made it necessary for you to marry or be deported at short notice, take it from me that it doesn’t at all! In fact, I think I enjoyed our proper wedding more, cause the scary legal bit had already happened, and I could just wholly focus on the emotional committment that we were making to each other. If that helps.)

  • liz

    what a frickin gorgeous smile this girl has.

    and 3 weddings? if we’re all wedding graduates, marchelle has like a doctorate or something.

    • Marchelle

      I’m gonna add that one to my CV ;)

  • Word, Meg. Word.

  • Sally

    fuck yes. thank you.

  • How wonderful to see you here Marchelle! You look ABSOLUTELY amazing, and your happiness is infectious. Lovely, lovely wedding for a lovely, lovely girl.

  • K

    Points 4 and 5 (read together, not separately) really stand out to me. I hadn’t quite figured out how to see our wedding because on one hand, it’s a celebration, a party and as hosts, you throw it for your guests to have a great time with you. But on the other hand, it’s a spiritual, cultural and legal ritual, a joining of two people, the creation of a baby family as Meg says. So how do you combine the two?

    Well, these two points of Marchelle’s have cleared up all of that in my mind! It makes sense to me now.

    • meg

      You take care of the guests when you set up the SPIRIT of the day (and you set up a point person the day of to handle problems). Your guests can read the spirit of the day a thousand miles away. On the day itself, you just let yourself show up and celebrate and you stop worrying. That is what the guests really really want from you anyway. They want to tear up when they think of how happy you were.

  • C

    Marchelle….OMG WOMAN! I know this is supposed to be about the wedding, the practical advice, and love…but all I could focus on was your GORGEOUS dress and amazing fascinator! Also your Mom (I’m assuming it’s your mom) has the most amazing hat on. I am super jealous of all you who are from countries/cultures where women (and men) wear hats. I’m totally putting dress code: hats on my invites! lol

  • Sarah Beth

    This post is just awesome. Words fail me, really. You two look SO FREAKING happy. Enjoying the process, enjoying the moment, enjoying the party….why don’t we preach those mantras more often? I mean, folks do, here at APW, but why is it so rare?

    I hope I’m “the calmest bride ever” and we’re having such a good time at our wedding that people are amazed.

    Oh, and “There are enough Big Issues to be considered, debated, fought about and cried over in the run up to this major life event, without your wedding needing to be one of them.”

    That is seriously one of the best pieces of wedding advice I have EVER heard. I hope I remember this post in July when I go to see my mom for crazy-fast planning session, cause after three years of the engagement roller coaster, we’re doing this thing next summer. Come hell or high water, we’re getting married. It feels good, but it also means all the major decisions need to be made and paid for before fall semester. *Note to self: REMEMBER this post, keep calm, and carry on.*

  • Sarah

    I have to ask…where did you find that fascinator? This is such a lovely post!

    • Marchelle

      Sarah, I made it. :)

    • meg

      All the best fascinaters are made :) We made ours in the week lead up with basically no instructions. It can be done.

      • Liz

        that is one diy project that i failed at horribly. i made several. and all looked wonky. i was shocked at just HOW wonky.

  • “But most of all, have fun. The enjoyment your guests get out of the day will largely be as a result of the joy you radiate. So let yourself go. Relax, and feel free to enjoy it all. When you hear people say, “I’ve never seen a couple enjoy themselves so much at their own wedding”, you know you’re onto a good thing.”

    A MILLION TIMES YES!! Thank you for making that point!!

    Congratulations! Your wedding(s) sound so full of joy!

  • Yay! You are lovely, my dear! And obviously very experienced in the whole wedding thing. Great advice. :)

  • SweetAdeline

    This is brilliant advice. Absolutely spot on. And the best part is, it’s not that hard to follow.

    Congratulations, Marchelle – you’ve got it right.

    P.S. – Dress. WOW.

  • kat

    Your wedding looks like so much FUN! I found myself wishing I was there!

  • april

    Absolutely LOVELY! Gorgeous bride – love your dress! And the photos of you and your husband laughing and holding on to one another are very sweet.

    And can I just say I want to get married again so I can steal the flower-fans idea?!?? Holy moly that’s just brilliant!

    • Marchelle

      April, it gets HOT out there. They were fully functional too. :)

  • Ahhh, I wish I could print this post & require that all of my wedding planning clients read it, especially #1 & #4. I always tell my couples that as long as they make it down the aisle, exchange vows & get married, that’s all the truly matters. If the cake is wrong flavor or the flowers are the wrong shade of pink, you’ll still be married & that’s what matters. They often look at me like I have ten heads. Now that I’m a bride-to-be, I hope I can keep these things in mind on my wedding day.

    Congratulations & best wishes!

    BTW, love your big, happy smiles in the photos!!!

  • Tam317

    I am not engaged yet, but the thought of planning a wedding literally makes my stomach turn. You are talking to a woman who has never had an adult birthday party because of the anxiety around planning a party!
    I realized why when I read this. The #4 on her list freaks me out. Me and my boyfriend have widely different friendship circles. The idea of planning one event that will please everyone freaks me out and makes me not want to do it. While I want to be a good hostess, I am not willing to do so at the expense of my/our sanity.

    • Marchelle

      Tam, it’s NOT about trying to please everybody. It’s about realising that the day is by it’s very nature *your* day. You and your partner are the ones being celebrated! Of course, it was done as *I* (we rather, my husband had lots of extremely sensible, reining me in, opinions) liked it. All your different friends will expect that. I mean it is *your* wedding! But we did it the way we like to make other people feel welcome into our space. I tried to be a good hostess, exactly as you said, and that’s about knowing what makes you feel good about hosting other people. Because if you know that, and you do it with your whole heart, then they’ll feel good too, regardless of the specifics of the party.

  • Marchelle

    You guys are beyond kind and awesome! Being a secret lurker on APW helped me keep my sanity when I found it just before our wedding (why not sooner?!), and now I am just so ridiculously proud to be able to contribute what I learned during our rather excessively crazy wedding planning to this amazing community. Thank you so much for your wonderful compliments! (And I’m totally going to send my mom to read what you’ve said about her. She’ll be well pleased!)

  • peanut

    “emotionally married”. Love that.

  • nastassia

    Well you’ve heard this a million times by now – but you guys looked beautiful!! i especially love your dress – it’s all i would’ve wanted back when i was still searching :( :) but why i really wanted to congratulate you publicly was because you’re the closest ‘neighbor’ i’ve seen thus far on APW – i’m guyanese living in barbados, so hooray for fellow caribbean gyals rockin it @ their awesome weddings! :)

    • Marchelle

      You know we must represent Mastassia ;)

      • Marchelle

        Nastassia. Gosh, I’m so sorry, I haven’t had any coffee yet…

  • Christina

    I wish that was my dress, holy cow woman! Stunning!

  • Marchelle,
    You are the hottest babe ever, mainly because your smile just seems to radiate through the computer screen even many continents away.
    I am so excited you’re a wedding graduate. Friggin’ rad wedding, friggin’ rad advice. But *ahem* where are the photos of the other two weddings? Don’t think I didn’t see that tweet…

    • Marchelle

      I hear you, lady :)

  • Marchelle, you are wonderful and beautiful. No wonder your weddings turned out the same.

  • Just have to say that I love seeing all the brides being featured…but I LOVE seeing the black brides being featured here on APW..As a black woman I can’t get enough of it!

    Thanks for this lovely post.

    • meg

      Oop! You just volunteered to be a wedding grad ;)

  • This wedding made me want to cry. So beautiful and joyful!!

  • I needed this today. We got married a year and a half ago, but had our wedding yesterday, and boy lots of thoughts go through your head that night and the morning after!
    This was so grounding to hear, and what a gorgeous dress!

  • Yay for people of color on this site!! Woo hoo…I can’t wait to email you about my wedding!

  • Robin

    Oh thank you for this post. I’ve been reading this blog for quite a while… and this post is EXACTLY what I am going through with my wedding. We had a legal wedding last September because of imigration issues from my side. And now we are planning two weddings for 2011 on two continents. I’ve struggled with having the whole thing not go with the ideal I realized was in my head. But I’m ready to have some serious fun now! Thank you!

    • Marchelle

      It’s a crazy priviledged position to be in Robin. So enjoy it!!

  • Theresa

    Beautiful, joyous and stunning!! Congrats!

  • Dream

    I am loving your style! Your dress is beautiful, everyone’s dress is beautiful. Big congrats to you too!

  • Marsha

    I feel so blessed and happy to have come across your post today of all days. We will be having our “elopement ceremony” next Saturday with our best friends then come next May we will be having our big beautiful religious ceremony to celebrate and share with all our friends and everything you have said will be my mantra. I must say that planning a wedding in Jamaica while living in Miami can be intimidating but I am having the best time of my life with help from the wonderful man who is going to be my husband very soon. Thanks so much for sharing and when I look at your pictures and see the happiness from both of you I just know that being able to celebrate our wedding on two different occasions in two different countries will be AWESOME :-).