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Melissa and Ray’s Handmade Brewfest Wedding

I’m not even sure what to say to say to introduce Melissa, except, um, BREWFEST WEDDING. I think, somehow that says it all. Except, oh right, Melissa threw in a birthday surprise for her best friend in the middle of her wedding. Clearly she is my kind of person. So with that, I’m going to let the sage Melissa take it….My husband Ray and I are homebrewers, and in general, great lovers of craft beer. We live right outside of Philly, which is an excellent beer town, so when we began to talk about getting married and where we would hold the wedding, we came to a quick conclusion: We needed to find a brewery.

Luckily for us, there’s Stoudts Brewery, in the heart of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. It’s a family-owned, German-style brewery and restaurant, with a biergarten-style banquet hall chock full of wild-looking antiques like carousel horses, taxidermied coyotes and moose, vintage posters, instruments, etc. It was perfect for us in every way.We didn’t have a large budget, but careful planning and creativity helped us stretch every dollar. Ray also participated as much in the planning process as I did; this was not “my” wedding but “our” wedding. While he designed the invitations and Save the Dates, I wrote the ceremony and hand-sewed corsages; while he was the point person for all phone calls (I hate being on the phone) and made all the playlists, I sculpted flowers for the bouquets and boutineres and built cake stands for the centerpieces. It was a creative collaboration that I think was a great exercise for what would come after the wedding: marriage.For organization, Google docs was my best friend. It was a great tool I could access from almost anywhere and I was able to share it with Ray and my MOH. It kept us on track and minimized anxiety, because when it came down to it, it was all written down.

I can be a bit of a high-strung person (working in publishing can do that to you), so everyone around me was prepared to deal with some stress-induced freakouts on the wedding day. Surprisingly, it never happened. Instead, I focused on the fact that Ray and I were going to share our commitment with some of the most important people in our lives and then party hardy. That’s it. It wasn’t a theatre production—if something went slightly not as planned (like me getting so choked up and emotional that I could barely squeak out the vows I had written) it wasn’t the end of the world. It just wasn’t. And no one said a word otherwise.Case in point: our cake. We hired a local baker to make cupcakes for the guests and then a small cake for us. However, when I saw our cupcakes for the first time I was horrified: They looked like something Aunt Mabel and Aunt Effie could have whipped up in a pinch. They looked nothing like what I asked for and the top cake was covered in fondant, something I had clearly said I did not want. I saw the cake right after our photos and proceeded with “What the f**! What the f**! What the … oooh, look there’s Rach and Dave!” Essentially I took 30 seconds to swear at that awful cake (which was also dry …we have NO IDEA what happened here, what we had at the tasting session was divine) and then saw my best friend from college and all was well. I got over it.
What ended up being one of the most important things to me was the ceremony. I wrote it, piecing together some of the most fantastic things I had come across—A quote from Albert Einstein (Ray is very science-oriented), a passage about how a wedding is not magic—along with parts of the traditional Filipino wedding rituals of the coins, veil and cord. Though the majority of it was not completely original content, it was carefully and lovingly edited together; and it was complimented time and again throughout the reception.Our venue was a No. 1 priority from the beginning as well. We love craft beer, and Stoudts is one of the best brewers on the East Coast. Stoudts helped set the tone for the entire reception: essentially a brewfest with some fancy clothes! But not only was it a brewfest; I also turned a portion of the reception into a surprise birthday for Rach, whose birthday was the exact day of the wedding. All four years of college I threw her a surprise party, even after she transferred to a different college. But then I moved to Philly, and it got harder. So
I made up for those missed years—some might think it was weird to turn the spotlight off of ourselves, but I loved it.The photography was also immensely important to us. We discovered Georgi Anastasov through a posting I placed on craigslist. After seeing his website, I thought there was no way in the world we could afford him—the man is an ARTIST! But we met with him in a tiny tea shop in Philly and discovered that he was in our price range and that he is one of the loveliest people ever. Seriously. He’s also an independent photographer, which was important to us—we wanted to focus on supporting small and/or family-run businesses as much as possible.We asked Georgi to tell the story of the day through his photos, and he did just that. Now we have a collection of beautiful photos—not just of us—but of cousins and aunts and parents and friends. Of laughter and dancing and even a few snaps of a Pink Floyd sing along (I told you Ray created the playlists).I stressed about many things … sometimes too many things that were often superficial. At times I went a little too far, thinking I needed to be more indie and funky. After seeing so many candy-colored ballet flats, I was convinced I could custom paint a pair I got at Payless—easy right? Luckily I got over that obsession.I stressed about having jewelry that made a statement, but in the end I wore my grandmother’s necklace, a ring from my aunt, my mom’s diamond studs and a few pieces of my own. Was it a jeweled bib collar? No. But that day I wore pieces given or borrowed from important women in my life.

I think many indie brides stress themselves to death trying to be 100% unique, and honestly, it’s not worth it. It’s a day. Focus on making the rest of your life unique and exciting with your partner instead.My advice? Try not to lose yourself in the wedding blogs or in other people’s expectations. Do not do something because it is expected or because you think you HAVE to do it to keep your indie cred. Remember, those who would judge you are not important.

When it comes to purchases and project decisions, try to take a moment to step back and ask yourself “Does [the item or project] truly add anything to our ceremony or reception? Will guests even remember it if I asked them about it halfway through dinner?” If the answer is no, put the item/idea down and go about your business. I can tell you that this exercise possibly saved my sanity.Also, though it might go against the idea of having the “big reveal”, I think it’s a great idea to mingle before the wedding. I did it, and it was possibly one of the best decisions I made that day. I got to welcome in friends and family I hadn’t seen in months, chat, and relax. Any nervousness that I may have had earlier had been completely washed away by the time I walked down the aisle with my parents. And that, my friends, is priceless.Pictures by Georgi Anastasov

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