Michelle And The (Hot) Traditional Social Hall Wedding

Recently, I noticed that we didn’t have a lot (any?) weddings on the site of the church-hall-reception variety. And by church hall, I don’t necessarily mean *church* hall (though that’s one of the kinds of weddings I grew up with), but I mean public hall. Maybe it’s in a shul, maybe it’s in a YMCA, maybe it’s the-hall-everyone-rents-in-your-town. The thing about these halls is A) They are usually pretty affordable B) You don’t have to deal with Wedding People C) Almost everyone who doesn’t live in a big city has access to one, and D) They are pretty… boring inside. But I had FULL faith that if anyone could pull off a stylish-as-hell wedding in a public social hall, it was you guys. So not a week after me lamenting this, Michelle emailed me her wedding. I was so sucked in to Michelle’s wedding sass (that’s a proper use of the word, just wait), and wedding hotness, that it took me a while to realize – the reception was in a public social hall. So here we go. And I’m not above admitting that when I got to the end of reading what Michelle wrote, I was a full on teary mess. Because yes, this is exactly it.
My planning process went something like this: A) add every and all wedding blogs to Reader, B) obsess over said blogs, start to second guess all my ideas and think that this totally awesome wedding I’m planning is stupid, dumb, and will in no way look or be anything like these gorgeous events, C) have an emotional breakdown followed by the realization that my wedding is about the start of a marriage, NOT about favors and mason jars and shoes.I’m not going to sugar coat it, the ten months of planning was horribly stressful. Adam (my lovely groom) and I fought a lot. I cried a lot. I proceeded to immediately unsubscribe from any blog that made me feel inferior, crazy, self-conscious, or dumb. This is an important piece of advice to all engaged ladies: those feelings are not what wedding planning is about. If you have them, please promise me, go right now and take a good hard look at all wedding media you are digesting and make a strong choice to not be a part of anything that makes you feel bad.Case in point, my wedding invites: Half-way through my quest to be the craftiest, budgetiest, most DIY bride of all time (stupid blogs getting inside my brain), my Gocco broke, leaving me with half printed invites. As I cried for three hours and Adam proclaimed that he didn’t know who I was anymore, I faced the fact that I was heading down a crazy bride person path where I felt stressed out and sad. I wanted to feel fun and carefree. I threw out all the half finished invites, had everything printed at a local print shop, overshot my invite budget by half, and in the end, all my guests loved them. They didn’t care, OR EVEN WOULD HAVE NOTICED, if they were Gocco’d, or thermographied, or letter pressed, or made out of gold, or written in blood. It just wasn’t as important as I thought it would be.One thing that grounded us through this whole process was our required marriage counseling through my childhood pastor who was performing our ceremony. Even if you are not religious and don’t have a required number of sessions to go to, pretty please search out a marriage counselor and go to a few pre-wedding appointments. Of course, we are always going to have the same underlining issues throughout our marriage, but during the stress of planning, it was a huge help to be able to vocalize and work through our problems before the wedding. It brought us together, we learned a lot from each other, and it gave us a foundation to start our marriage on.I was surprised that my wedding day turned out to be the best day of my life to date. I knew if was going to be great, but I could have never imagined the love and support that I felt that day. It was full of tears, hugs, laughs, cake, ice cream sundaes, candy, friends, family, and dancing. It didn’t matter how much my dress cost, or that there was no ring bearer/flower girl, or that I made my own bouquets from grocery store flowers. No one cared that we didn’t serve lobster or filet mignon and had a wine and beer only bar. Not one person noticed the lack of out-of-town bags or limousines. Our guests DID rave about our personal, sweet ceremony. They loved the $10 vintage applique I put on the back on my dress. Everyone laughed when my mom made a few jokes during our ceremony and there were tears when my dad and I danced.Remember a few things:

  • When things go wrong on your wedding day, don’t let it ruin your experience. If you go into it knowing that something is likely to go all wackadoodle, you’ll be fine. I spent hours making these super cute little containers filled with confetti for our grand exit from the church. Then, mother nature said f*ck your confetti and proceeded to rain all day long. I cared for about .2 nanoseconds before remembering that it wasn’t going to make me sad on my special day.
  • Bribe a friend to be a day of coordinator. Mine saved my sanity.
  • Yes, wedding nights are typically for sex, but if you party all day as hard and as fun as we did, good luck with that.
  • Your wedding is YOUR (and your partner’s) wedding. It is not your Aunt’s wedding, it is not your Grandmother’s weddings, and it is not your In-law’s wedding. Stick to your guns about what you want and what will make you happy. If you need a longer than normal cocktail hour for pictures, then do it. If you want to wear a dress off of the mother of the bride section at David’s Bridal, then do it. If you want an ice cream sundae buffet, by all means, have it.
  • When your favorite song comes on during the reception, jump around the dance floor with your best girlfriends yelling , “OMG I’m married!!,” over and over again.
  • Try to talk to your guests a little bit at your reception, because, well, I kind of forgot to do this and now regret it a little. I was too busy eating ice cream sundaes and dancing.Photos: Jorge Garcia Wedding Photography

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  • Awesome post! I especially love the advice about screening all forms of wedding media that we expose ourselves to. I think people assume that as long as it's a blog and not The Knot, it must be fine, indie, and pressure free. But in the last 6 months, I've come across, subscribed to, and then unsubscribed to tons of blogs because they made our wedding feel inferior. Again, this was such a great post. Congrats to the newlyweds!

    • Alison

      Agree! I gave up all wedding blogs EXCEPT APW for Lent. It was awesome. I realised that there were evenings previously when my fiance would want to discuss an aspect of our wedding and I’d be like, um… hang on, I’ll just finish reading about this Californian vineyard wedding where everyone ate canapes dipped in pure gold and toasted the bride and groom with champagne made from angel tears. APW makes you think about your wedding and marriage, most other blogs make you doubt it. Congrats Michelle!

  • Great post! And Meg, I'm glad you highlighted the "local hall" concept. My husband and I got married in a beautiful county nature conservancy with a hall that is usually used for…school field trips and teacher professional development.

    It is a beautiful place, and because it is not a "wedding venue" it cost us less to have the run of the grounds/hall for the whole day than it would have to rent a hotel ballroom for 4 hours!

  • Finally, an old school hall reception! We're having our wedding reception in the parish hall of our church, and the blog-o-sphere has made me totally self conscious about this decision, seeing as wedding receptions are always in barns, museums, or boutique hotels these days. It's nice to know people still have receptions in parish halls, community centres, or the Lions Club or what have you.

  • thank you for this post! I had a gocco disaster last night and a near meltdown! Thanks for helping me get some perspective on the big day!

  • that is one fabulous public social hall! love the photos under the bridge and on the water especially! :) oh and I definitely chuckled out loud at the "wedding nights are typically for sex" comment! now there's a topic that doesn't get enough attention.

  • You did that appliquĂŠ yourself?!? That's my favorite part of your dress. Michelle, I'm a little in love with you. Because of your dress and your sass and your great outlook on the whole wedding experience. (I was DIY crazy-face too, girl, I KNOW…)
    Your wedding looked absolutely lovely. And so do you and your husband; is it insulting that I had a "*gasp* They are gonna have SUCH pretty babies!" moment? Cause I totally did and I'm sorry….

    And I'm glad you brought up the wedding night; we were tired in addition to having a few logistical debacles with our hotel and car rentals and whatnot so mine teetered on the edge of disaster. And it's funny, I'm okay with my wedding not being a fairy tale, but I'm still a little sad that my wedding night was less than romantic.

  • @andrea girl, I'm with you. I'm glad my gocco tragedy has helped you through yours. Seriously, throw out that goddamn torture device, pay for your invites to be printed, and spend all the time you just freed up with your soon-to-be husband.

    @lyssachelle the applique was my fave part too. Thanks for the kind words!

  • That's really grear you are so candid about sex on the wedding night.

    I expect that on our wedding night we'll party/dance until our reception ends and 1am, and I'm not counting on anything happening after that.

    My cousin told me that after her wedding she was laying on the hotel bed falling asleep in her dress as her new hubby was going through and getting all the checks out of the cards and filling out a deposit slip to give to his dad before they left for the honeymoon so the check to the caterer wouldn't bounce.

    I wonder how many people actually do have the romantic night they envision….

  • McV

    Yay! Great wedding graduate post!!

  • I was "THIS CLOSE" to buying a gocco the other day with the intention of convincing my fiance we should DIY our invites…I was outbid at the very last minute…and now i'm wondering if it was a blessing in disguise.

    I'll still buy the gocco (cuz, hello! crafts!!!) but you're making me feel so much better…cuz what if it broke!!! I would TOTALLY be that crying mess sitting in a pile of bulbs and ink on my kitchen floor.

    Love the wedding and thank you for reminding me to talk to my guests!! I just want to be on the dance floor all night!!!

  • @Nina – Meg did a whole post on pre-marital counseling and she was SO right. Search for it with the Google search. I still regret not doing pre-marital counseling. I'm from Texas and they have a state-sponsored website listing counseling, secular and non-secular. I'd check to see if your state does too….

    And honestly, you WILL have major problems to sort through and pre-marital counseling won't stop that (nor is it designed to.) And it doesn't mean you have a bad relationship IN THE LEAST. Anyone who acts like your marriage is going to be somehow less stable just because you had pre-marital counseling is a jerkface and needs to be hit.

  • Meg

    We had the romantic wedding night we envisioned. Better, actually.

    One more point for morning weddings ;)

  • You can always have a sexy morning-after…

  • I do actually have a bit of a girl crush on you Michelle. I can't stop screaming YES YES YES and don't even care if my office is looking at me funny. With this wedding planning jazz, it's so easy to get caught up and loose your priorities, ignore your values and in general, start acting like a crazy person. Best advice I've received so far!

  • Nina

    Beautiful wedding, you look like you are having an amazing time! And totally with you on the wedding night thing – I assume I'll be falling asleep in the car on the way to the hotel.

    You brought up pre-marital counselling sessions as many others have before, and I have wondered about doing this. It seems like if pre-marital sessions are part of your church then it is more simple to attend – but I would have to search someone out and I feel this suddenly gives it more of an expectation like "we have major problems to sort through" rather than the more casual "let's have an open conversation about our lives and expectations." I'm not saying we don't have our issues, but I just don't know what either of us would say.
    If anyone else out there has actually sought out pre-marital counselling, I'd love to hear your experience.

    • Sarah E Shreeve

      My Fi and I are actively searching for our premarital counselling, and have no massive issues to speak of- we barely even fight! We’re getting married in one of my dad’s churches in Norfolk, UK but I like in Sheffield (North England) and my hubby-to-be lives in Portsmouth (south coast) so we’re kinda meeting in the middle and bringing our pastors with us, which means noone seems to be responsible for our premarital counselling! We just want to get off to the best possible start, and for us that means actively making the pastors marrying us meet with us, travelling up and down the country at weekends (even during my current finals) and having lots of heart to hearts because I am truly of the opinion that if it can help us in the future, why wouldn’t we actively go after getting us some of that?! :D its knackering but awesome!!

      • Sarah

        oops sorry my mac autofilled my entire name! that is way more formal than it should have been! sorry

  • WOOHOO! Another hall wedding! I'm getting married at my church and am having the reception in the fellowship hall, so I definitely feel the dearth of that type of reception in the blogosphere (or Knotsphere, for that matter). You had a beautiful wedding Michelle, and thanks so much for sharing!

  • Thanks for this post…I NEVER get tired of hearing from the newly marrieds! Gocco is one of those things I just didn't even know existed before I started planning a wedding. How can I be both cheap and non-crafty? *shrugging*

  • I would really love for us to go to a pre-marriage counselor, but with just a big list of names, how do you know you're going to a good one?! I feel like I don't know how to start looking… :/

  • This reminds me of all the old superstitions- its good luck if your veil tears! its good luck if something spills on your dress!

    They totally must come from "Oh NO, my daughter is hyperventilating! Quick, what can I say to calm her down before the groom gets here?!"

  • Sarah

    is it weird that i actually feel like there must be something wrong with me because i'm NOT going into a total insane mess/crazed psycho with wedding planning? sometimes i'm like "maybe there's something i'm missing," but besides the added stress and unnecessary tears, i can't figure out what that might be!

    that being said, i totally agree, whether you find out the hard way or not, don't sweat the small stuff!!! some people have actually freaked out on me for not being more psychotic about that cr*p, and i'm just like "srsly people… plz".


  • Thank you so much for sharing this with us. My sister has banned me from wedding blogs (except this one of course :) They just keep generating ideas on decisions I already made weeks ago. Very lethal. Anyways, thanks for encouraging us to live in the moment on the big day. I plan on definitely jumping up and down with the "OMG i'm married!"

  • p.s. I don't even know what a gocco is!! Sounds like that might be blissful ignorance…

  • Thank you! I've bookmarked this post. Excellent advice about removing anything that makes you feel bad from your Reader. Though I mostly avoid all that already, it's good to be reminded!

    (Mind if I ask where the bridesmaid dresses are from? That's just about the exact colour the girls & I were thinking about and a great style!)

    @Nina In addition to Meg's post on pre-marital counselling, check out Sara's posts on $2000 Wedding. They actually did it after the wedding, but were able to find a cool secular programme and apparently got a lot out of it.

  • Suz

    @Sarah: I know exactly what you mean. I think it helps that I don't have to "let go" of the details, because I actually don't have the eye for caring about them. Sometimes I wonder if I'm lame and tasteless and utterly lacking in creativity for not caring what the invitations look like or what colors my bridal posse wears. And until a month or two ago, I had never even heard of a wedding having a theme. I'm sure I would love to attend a more creatively developed wedding, but I sure don't want to plan one. So I won't. And it will be okay.

  • @kahlia the dresses are from Chadwicks. unfortunately, they are no longer available, but here is the link http://tinyurl.com/y8jhkdl.

    @Octpumpkin wow! I'm flattered.

    @T-bone Lee the best combo would to be able to get all your guests on the dance floor – talking and dancing, yea!

  • @Michelle aw, too bad they're not available any more. Thanks anyway!

  • @Nina – I don't know if this helps, but my husband and I did an Engaged Encounter, which is a weekend-long, intense counseling session intended to raise awareness about important issues that come up in marriage. It's sponsored by the Catholic church, but it's open to people of all backgrounds (neither I nor the hubs practice Catholicism). We were required to do it, and I am so grateful that we were because it was so rewarding and we would never have sought pre-marital counseling otherwise. At no point did either of us feel as though we were trying to "fix" something; rather, the experience simply reinforced the fact that we're made for each other and that getting married was a good idea!