I’m thrilled to introduce Rebecca’s beautiful beautiful interfaith wedding, and her wise advice. (And can we talk about her dress? I know that’s a little shallow, given all the beauty at hand, but girlfriend, WOW). You can read more about Rebecca and her wedding planning at Princess Max, but now, I give you the girl herself:
This was my second wedding and my partner’s first. I can’t tell you that I would do it again for myself but it was so important for our family relationships and for my husband. We are still very new to one another (we only dated 6 months before we got engaged) and so this ritual act turned out to be very important, both in the relationship dynamics that it made us examine and as a milestone to look back upon and measure our growth from. I wrote a wedding program with footnotes (one of which cited this website) so I wanted to share what I learned from the wedding event.
The best advice I can give for your wedding is to spend the hour before the ceremony grounding yourself in something that defines you. We modified a Jewish custom and spent the hour separately with our families. My grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins and nuclear family did a Bible study, sang hymns and prayed like we do every year at our reunions. This involves much laughter and reflected something I have done regularly for my entire life. For you it might be knitting or being with your partner or playing basketball. Do it. You want to be yourself when you get married, not some stressed-out stranger in a bride costume.
One of the best things we did was to give people permission to buy things that were not on the registry. Using alternativegiftregistry.org and really encouraging second-hand or personally-chosen gifts made people feel much more engaged in our celebration. We gave generally types of things that we needed (crock pot, drying rack, 12 ounce stock pot, etc) and explicated asked people to search their cabinets or to choose the brand that they liked best.
Along the same lines, I would encourage you to make your wedding site an actual blog. In addition to logistical details, we wrote stories about how we felt when we were first dating, vignettes about how we were reminded that this love was worth it even amidst the fighting, anecdotes about excited conversations with friends and descriptions of how we decided that both of us would hyphenate our names. Wait 24 hours before posting anything that you write so that you’re not using the blog as a passive-aggressive tool but don’t be afraid to mention that you have had struggles while leaving out ALL gory details. This isn’t the place to work out any of your feelings but if you are authentic about the fact that you had them, it will help the people who don’t know you yet feel closer to you on the actual day of your wedding. I got so much positive feedback for doing this.
However, It’s OK to not meet your guests every need. Obviously, do this politely, but I found myself in such a defensive state because of the pressures of many of the people involved in the wedding that I had to give myself permission to do this. If you are having an intimate affair or have planned a giant party because you have followed the great advice to choose two or three things that are important to you and one of those things is seeing everyone you have loved all in one room, this advice is not for you. If you have arrived at an event that has quite a few new-to-you guests through compromise with your partner, it’s OK not to make the rounds. I never attend a wedding expecting more than to say more to the couple than, “You look so beautiful! Thank you for including me.” So I wasn’t expecting the number of people I barely knew who wanted to buttonhole me for ten minutes when I wanted to be dancing or just being with my family and so I gave myself permission that this event did not have to be the time when I sat down for heart-to-hearts with every person who wanted it. This event would be a shared experience that would feed our growing relationships. It’s OK to do this. I have not had one repercussion in the six months since the wedding.
This leads me to my next insight, which is that you and your partner may not be on the same page about what makes a perfect wedding and that’s OK, too. I remember feeling so frustrated with the wedding blogs I was reading because it seemed like every writer had a partner who was absolutely just like her because s/he was passionate about letterpress, too. My husband and I have very different aesthetic styles, very different socializing styles, very different relationships with our families, very different personal histories and very different religions. Each and every one of these differences had to be hashed out and that was exhausting. It was made worse by feeling like every other couple out there just needed to figure out whether they would have a rockabilly fiesta or gnomes-and-buttons campout because both were integral parts of their relationship. I had to remind myself constantly that loving someone is not reliant upon liking the same things they do.
This has been said before but you do not need to DIY the hell out of your wedding, even if you are crafty. People are there to witness and celebrate your joy and fear as you make this preposterous commitment together. Everything else – and I mean everything else – is extra. Do only the things you actually want to do instead of the things that you want to have done. I wanted to make all the yarmulkes out of thrift store dress shirts and custom fabric because I wanted to do the work, not because of what it would contribute to the event. I found a great organization that employs developmentally disabled people to sew the handkerchiefs from the custom fabric because I didn’t want to do that work. Be deliberate about your crafting choices to maintain your sanity.If you are enlisting the help of friends AND forgoing traditional bridesmaids, give people titles. It honors the relationship you have and empowers them to take ownership of the project. I watched a friend be really disappointed because although she had a large friend base, none of them wanted to step on each other’s toes so not much got done. She says now that if she had told them they were the Bridal Brigade, like I did, and explicitly given them permission to communicate with each other without going through her, she would have felt less burdened.
If your wedding is existing in a non-traditional paradigm and you have adequately prepared folks for this, expect that your guests will act non-traditionally, as well. You have no idea how this will manifest. We communicated such egalitarianism that no one stood when I entered the auditorium. My parents and I were flummoxed but laughed and continued forward because there was nothing else to do. As it was an afternoon wedding, we only offered appetizers and champagne while we were in yichud, but didn’t realize this would mean people would also eat the cupcakes we wanted to cut ceremonially. My partner and I shrugged, laughed and fed each other with not one spectator but the photographer.
Finally, don’t put off your honeymoon planning. We were so overwhelmed with sorting out the relationship and family implications that come when planning a wedding that we figured we would just wing it when we arrived in our honeymoon city. However, we were so tired that we couldn’t generate the energy to be adventurous and then felt bad that we were wasting the trip. We talked through this and realized that watching lots of Cartoon Network from the hotel bed was actually OK. Also, while you’re on your honeymoon (and you should go on a honeymoon, even if it is in a cabin on a lake, like we should have done), write down your memories. Tell the whole story of your wedding to your journal. The pictures you get back will be of someone else’s perspective. Record your own perspective to cement it in your memories.
Photographs: J Wiley Photography