Wedding Graduates (and Dress, Offered): Sarah & Mike

I’m delighted by today’s post! It’s a wedding graduate and a dress giveaway all rolled into one. Did you get that? Our first dress giveaway in AGES, Hooray! Since we haven’t had a dress giveaway in what feels like a million years, so a reminder of how it goes: If you’d like Sarah to gift you her dress, leave a comment saying why. Sarah will pick who she wants her dress to go to, and the recipient pays for shipping, and then sends Sarah (and hopefully me!) a picture of them looking all wedding-joyful in there dress. As for the rest of you, you can leave whatever comments you want. Like, how cool it is to have fireworks at your wedding, or about the stress of effing wedding shoes. And with that, I give you Sarah:

So, the thing about Mike and I is that we don’t really like to make a fuss—we’re both much more comfortable if we can be, well, comfortable. Our engagement? It happened at home, with marinara for eggplant parmesan bubbling away on the stove. When he asked me to marry him, I had a glass of wine in my hand and a cookie in my mouth. I was barely able to say “yes” without spitting crumbs all over him, but it was perfect.

For our wedding, we knew we wanted to keep it equally simple. Did we succeed? Yes … And no.

In the beginning, I wasn’t the laid-back bride I had hoped to be. I surprised myself by worrying (incessantly) about things that never mattered to me before we were engaged. Like colors. And flowers. And shoes. Because almost every person I met asked me about our colors. And aren’t the flowers supposed to coordinate with our colors? And damn it, what does that mean for my shoes?

And then, four months before the wedding, I stumbled upon APW, and the community I found here made me feel like it was ok to wear grey. And it was ok not to pay a million dollars for flowers. And it was still perfectly fine to worry about my shoes, if that’s what I wanted to worry about. (Which I did, until the very end. No joke, I probably ordered and returned about ten pairs of shoes.)

In the end, though, what really mattered to us (and to our guests) was that we could be proud of our wedding. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to make your wedding something that represents who you are as a couple and what you value.

For us, that meant supporting our local community (more about that below). And, in the same vein, it means supporting this virtual community. Aside from sharing our experience and giving our sincere thanks, we don’t really have much to offer you all … but I do have a wedding dress tucked in my closet that I hope one of you will take off my hands.* At the very least, it will give you one less thing to worry about (and, if you so desire, more time to worry about shoes!).

And now, my best advice, and the story of our wedding.

Remember: You have decided that it’s important to be together. Celebrate it with your loved ones. All other decisions are secondary, and no one can judge you for that.

Venue: Mike found the most beautiful outdoor venue. From the moment we saw it, we knew that Alpine Park and Gardens in Columbia, Mo. (about 20 minutes from our house) was just the place for us. Its slightly eccentric, tucked-in-the-woods vibe made us feel right at home, right away.

Food: We served barbecue, which was a bit of a compromise between Mike and I, as I don’t eat meat and he does. We opted for local, farm-raised, organic meats and I whipped up stuffed peppers for the vegetarians. We left the preparation and the rest of the menu in Alpine’s hands. (Except the pies-instead-of-cake and the cheese/fruit appetizer, which were made at a local bakery.)

Flowers: We didn’t have a florist and instead ordered our flowers the week before the wedding from a woman who sells at the farmer’s market. They were local, in season, and so affordable. The downside: limited options, but it turned out really well!

Ceremony: Neither of us felt comfortable hiding away until the ceremony, nor did we want to walk down the aisle. Instead, we greeted our guests as they arrived, had a couple drinks, and made our way to the front of the crowd when it was time for the ceremony to begin. We chose to include family members in our wedding party. My two sisters stood with me, and Mike’s sister and longtime friend stood with him. A reverend from the local Unitarian Universalist church was kind enough to officiate a nonreligious ceremony. He worked closely with us on the content, and we’re so happy that the ceremony truly represented our unique beliefs.

Our Team Practical: Our wedding was a product of true collaboration. We are so lucky to have been surrounded by our closest family members and friends, all of whom traveled to Columbia for the occasion and many of whom lent a hand:

  • One friend designed our invitations, welcome-to-town packet and program. We printed them (very inexpensively) at the University of Missouri press.
  • Another friend hand-drew a map of town to help guests get around.
  • Since we opted out of having a band or a DJ, another friend put together a playlist on his iPod.
  • We hired two of my coworkers as our photographers, and it was great to have people we knew behind the cameras.
  • We didn’t have a florist or a wedding coordinator, so two other friends came in town early to help decorate and arrange flowers.
  • Another stayed with us and walked our dog when we were too busy to do so.
  • My sisters did my hair and makeup.
  • Mike’s sister and brother-in-law ran every random errand we could throw their way.

From what we’ve heard, everyone had a great time—the good playlist, photo booth, yard games, koi pond, bonfire and fireworks (fireworks!!) were a hit.

*Dress details: Roman Party Dress by Siri Inc , size 4, no alterations, in the French knot embroidered shantung silk, off white. Now please, help us find the dress a wonderful happy new home. Go, go, go!

**Photos by Nic Benner and Shane Epping

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