Wedding Graduate: Prom To Altar

Nicole and I bonded way back when I was first starting my blog – we had similar vintage engagement rings (yay!), and shared a similar sense of irony and mild distaste when viewing the state of the WIC. You might remember Nicole from that post sassing The Knot and their hot new color combos, and you may have seen her personal wedding blog, Prom To Altar. I asked Nicole to write a wedding graduate post, because I figured she had words of wisdom to share… and oh, does she. Take it away, lady….
This is the story of a wedding cake, and about how weddings aren’t about stuff—they really aren’t.

Patrick and I did two things when we began planning our wedding: we set a budget, and we prioritized the things that budget would be spent on. Top priorities included having our large families and closest friends present, good photography, a good DJ, and a pretty location (not mind-blowing or amazing, but pretty). All the rest we decided we didn’t care so much about, and/or knew we could do with very little money.

When we got to the question of the cake- very low on our list of priorities- we discussed a few ideas—cupcakes (more expensive than cakes! Who knew?), having a friend make it (not many people jumped at that high-pressure, no do-overs job), buying a bunch of small cakes (turns out that adds up), or nixing the cake altogether (that didn’t go over very well). We decided to hire a baker, but only if we could find one within the budget.

We came across a woman who baked wedding cakes out of her house for a very reasonable price and went to meet her on a dreary March day. The meeting was great—she had many photos of cakes she’d done, she provided references, and she seemed to understand the (very simple) design we described. She explained the mechanics to us, we discussed logistics, and we put down a deposit.

Fast forward to our wedding day. When we arrived at the reception venue, Patrick and I went to look at the room while our guests were enjoying cocktail hour outside. The room looked beautiful (and gasp! we didn’t even hire a lighting designer!). I had totally forgotten about our cake until that moment, and got excited when I spotted it from way across the room. “Oooo our cake!” I started over towards it. “Um, honey, there’s bit of a problem with the cake,” Patrick very gently said. I noticed at that point that all activity in the room had halted– the waitstaff, the DJ, our photographers, they were all watching as I approached the cake. When I arrived beside the tower of confection I immediately saw the “bit of a problem”. The bottom tier was cracked, and the whole thing was off kilter. It looked like an earthquake had hit, and there were no survivors. It was not pretty. Not at all.
See? Heinous. And it only got worse.

“Ohhh…. well, alright, whatever!” I laughed. I had just married the love of my life– I was so happy, in such a good mood, that nothing was going to get to me. The cake could have been in a heap on the floor and I wouldn’t have cared (well, I may have sent someone out to buy a dozen pies in that case). Besides, the cake remained way way down on our list of priorities—that hadn’t changed.

We shifted the timeline around and cut our cake first so it could be removed from view (and away from the danger of completely collapsing on a small child) as soon as possible. Our DJ made a cute joke about being able to have dessert first on your wedding day, our photographers were able to capture the cutting in a way that hid the cake’s defects, and the day went on. The cake was a catastrophe (although it did taste good). And it didn’t matter one bit.

Our wedding day was beautiful.
Our wedding day was incredibly fun.
And the cake was a total disaster.
It just didn’t matter.
That’s the secret that the books and magazines won’t tell you.

So this is my lesson to you. No matter how many books are written about perfect wedding cakes/flowers/dresses, regardless of Martha Stewart articles that argue otherwise, and no matter how many blog posts focus on the minutia, the ‘stuff’ doesn’t matter. The flowers, the cake, the dress, the jewelry, even the venue- all that stuff that gets so much attention while you’re planning actually gets the least amount attention on your wedding day. Your joy, your guests’ happiness, the way you two look at each other—those all have starring roles.

Here are some of my favorite photos of the stuff that does matter: the love, the laughter, the people we brought together, the joy, and the moments that never could have been planned—no matter how careful a planner you are.
We had a blast dancing to our entrance song, The Jackson 5’s ABC. Everything was just so FUN!
It was the greatest thing to see our guests having such a good time. The dance floor was full all night, and guests of all ages, family and friends were having a blast together.
A trolley turned out to be budget friendly (vs. renting a limo large enough for our bridal party). It was also great fun. We spent the 20-minute ride to the reception singing, toasting, and (Patrick and I, anyway) kissing every time someone honked or cheered at us. We were so glad to have our best friends there.
More important than the cake was the cake topper, which had been used on Patrick’s grandparents’ wedding cake.

Can I hear an Awwwww…? Thank you Nicole! I’m not sure I can hear the ‘not about stuff’ message too many times, because darn it, the stuff is so shiny….

All photos by Upstate Photographers

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  • mel

    I am going to think about this post every time I begin to get a bit stressed about things…it will help me stay grounded and remember that the little stuff does not make the wedding. What a great story to share!

  • I love the positivity of this post!

  • I love it!

    A week before our wedding, a vandal burned 1/2 of a playground piece (a 60 foot long canal boat replica) that sat right in front of our reception venue. I wake up and my mom tried to gently break the news, thinking that I’d flip out.

    I kind of wrinkled my nose and said, “Why the heck would someone burn a boat? They couldn’t come up with their own fire wood?”

    I mean, what are you going to do? Literally, go build a new boat by yourself? Come on now.

  • Great advice…I always try to not sweat the small stuff in life but its great to hear about brides who are down to earth and keep their cool in the face of these annoying little setbacks.

    Thanks for the insight!

  • Thanks for your post! I don’t think that can be stressed enough: whichever way you look at the wedding — the positive parts or the negative parts — you’re going to get more of! A friend of mine still laments, to this day, some of the things that went “wrong” with the day as though she wants to do it again so THIS time the groom won’t forget the rings (although he found them before the ceremony). I learned a lot from her experience and, when the “organist” my dad insisted we hire without listening to him kept messing up the notes at the rehearsal, my husband and I declined to think twice about it because it was sort of endearing (in a Princess Bride “mawige” sort of way). We chose to embrace the joy and idiosyncracies of the day and that’s what we have for memories.

  • Dessert first! Now there is a wedding idea I can get behind!

  • Great post. Ooh, you gave me an idea.

  • Awww

    And it’s so true. 5 minutes into our wedding reception one of my friends spilled hot cider all down the front of my dress. Thankfully, it wasn’t hot enough to burn or there would have been an actual problem. As it was, I was just too busy being happy and overwhelmed to be the least bothered with it. Though the friend in question looked like he might faint. But then, that was actually pretty funny.

  • So, so true. Our cake was the only thing we had an issue with too (though not as ridiculous as yours!), and it didn’t even phase us at the time..or ever. Great advice, I second everything you wrote!

  • Thanks for the post. I hope that I also remain calm if things don’t work out as planned.

  • Anonymous

    I love reading things like this. It brings me back to earth. It helps me realize that all the trimmings are truly NOT that important, and your friends and family will have a grand time regardless how the “details” end up.

    Much as I enjoy looking at the inspiration boards on SMP, it’s NOT all about the details.

  • Pat

    Terrible shame about the cake but at least it did not ruin the party – love the first dance photos.


  • jen

    I love this post! Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

  • Sarah

    This cake discussion reminds me of a wedding cake photo I saw posted at Cake Wrecks. Some things you have to see to believe.

  • Amy

    Aww that makes me happy. Cake is low on our priorities too. So low my mother called me and begged me to let her buy us one. Our cake gets mentioned frequently on our blog. About how we planned to go to the bakery the day before and pick up some yummy looking ones. So, that made me smile.

  • This is such a great story! And a nice reminder that when it comes down to it on the day of, nothing matters but two people coming together out of love for one another.

    On our wedding day, it rained (good luck they say) and we had some guests who had rsvped for our reception not show up (we found out later, one couple had fought in the car and decided they didn’t want to come together after the argument, another person’s car had broken down days before and couldn’t make the trip, one couple came to the church and then didn’t come to the reception, another couple had a “change in their plans,” etc.) and then an uninvited guest showed up for dinner. While this was more annoying from a financial aspect (budgeting/paying for guests that didn’t show up), it didn’t even matter. It all worked out and we were so happy, we enjoyed every moment :)

  • Thanks for the comments, everyone! I’m glad our cake story could be of help in taking some of the stress out of the whole thing!

    I’m recapping and telling some more stories over on my blog, if anyone is interested.

    Thanks again, Meg, this was a blast!

  • I enjoyed the humour in this post, and the sage advice. And it’s a good story to laugh at.

    Speaking of good stories, I love blind-irish pirate’s story! A boat was burned?! That’s insane.

  • Every bride should have that same attitude throughout the wedding process. Planning a stress free wedding is exciting and worth while and makes you more and more elated to become a bride. I love reading stories about brides that aren’t worried about mishaps!

  • Anonymous

    Actually this didn’t look like a budget wedding to me.

  • Well then, Anonymous, we did a good job having a budget wedding that didn’t LOOK like a budget wedding! If you read my blog you’ll see how we cut costs, how we decided where to spend our money, and how careful we were with sticking to our carefully planned budget. Every decision was made with our budget in mind.

    And, like Meg has pointed out, budget is a very subjective term.

  • Meg

    And, as I’ve pointed out time and time again, this is not a blog about budget weddings. If you want that, you’ll need to find it elsewhere. This is a blog about having a simple wedding that’s meaningful for you and practical for your situation, whatever that is. I happen to feature a lot of weddings that were done on what is widely considered to be a smaller budget, but that is not the point of this site. If you want that, blogger is ready and waiting, and you can start that blog at any time.

  • thanks for this! it is definitely important to hear this advice over and over again. I recently got engaged in a not so romantic way and I was really bumming…it reminds me that the thing that matters is that we love each other, not the little details…even though they are fun to plan/dream about :)

  • Beautiful. I’m a baker who just took the step from my home kitchen to a commercial kitchen. I have never had a cake fall or crack, however if I had I would sure appreciate the attitude you took! What a beautiful story. We had our wedding in a very similar fashion, a friend made our cake, family helped with food & decor – and that allowed for 350 guests which I really wanted it to be about – my huge family & a few really good friends, all being able to be there with us =) I wish everyone remembered that as the most important part of their day.