Brianne & Joe

Remember when APW got mentioned in Ready Made, and I was over the moon because Ready Made is one of the last magazines in print worthy of a spot on my bedside table? Well, today’s wedding is from Brianne, the wonderful lady who mentioned APW. Hooray! But, that’s not what makes this wedding graduate post amazing. Brianne is a journalist, so obviously the girl can write. But what she wrote about? Let’s just say it’s the gritty truth of how hard wedding planning can be on a family, and why it’s worth it in the end. I haven’t really lost it reading a wedding graduate post in a while, but halfway through Brianne’s I was crying. It’s not that it’s sad, it’s just that it’s TRUE. And that gets me every time. So without further ado, the lady herself.

Joe and I got engaged last September on a canoe, in the middle of the lake just south of downtown Des Moines. It was after work and my pant leg was still rolled up from riding my bike to meet him and the sun was setting and I thought he’d packed cheese sticks in our lunchbox, but it turned out to be an engagement ring. The boat rocked as he got down on one knee. It was just the two of us and it was awesome. We hadn’t rowed ashore yet before I’d pulled out my cell phone and called my mom to share the news.

Joe and I were married on July 3rd, and at the last minute when my grandpa and I reached the end of the aisle my mom jumped up and stood with him as Joe and I joined hands. Everything about the day felt right and, miraculously, things fell into place for an experience that exceeded the wildest dreams I didn’t even want to let myself have.

I would like to say that being engaged was blissful and that the nine months between our moment on the lake and our vows were an easy transition between my mom being my best friend and my husband being my partner, but during weddings, emotions run high.

After taking a college class (“Sociology of the Family”) that dealt a lot with the WIC and gender roles, I felt like I really didn’t know how to be a bride. I knew what I didn’t want (trying on gowns in a bridal salon while everyone offered their two cents, a wedding shower that involved material gifts, matching bridesmaids dresses, a bachelorette party, fondant and breaking the bank — to name a few.) I knew how I wanted to feel, but I wasn’t sure how to simultaneously express the joy of being engaged to a man I loved while rejecting the expected tropes of bride-to-be-dom. (My pearl engagement ring steered the conversation a little.)

I knew what Joe wanted (me, his whole giant family there, to wear a suit and do shots of whiskey at the end of “The Grand March,” a Polish tradition.) I knew what my pretty traditional family wanted (a Catholic ceremony, to dance at an event they would recognize as a wedding, for me to be happy.) I see all of this in retrospect. I probably should have just made a Venn diagram (nerd alert!) of what was important to us all instead of getting a throwup-y feeling everytime I got a notice of the three thousand or so things that were apparently overdue on my wedding checklist. I was the first cousin and first person in my core high school friend group to get married, so I was in uncharted territory.

Here’s what it took me a long time to realize: I considered planning our wedding the first endeavor of Joe and mine as new family. My mom considered the wedding the last thing a mother and a daughter do together. We were coming from different places and I didn’t want to choose sides. Joe works nights and weekends and my mom lives five hours away in Chicago, so neither was particularly easy. I felt like I could do everything and nothing by myself.

My dad died the week after I graduated high school and since then, I feel like even though I haven’t spent a lot of time home and bought a house in Iowa, I’ve been a partner for my mom. We’ve talk almost nightly on the phone since I went away to college. We’re close. But the wedding and our different perspectives on who was planning/what was important created a giant rift between us. I closed in on myself because I felt like it was harder to translate what I wanted and why I felt strongly about not having certain things than to just not do anything at all or preach to people or argue.

When I was crying and pleading with her to lay off because we didn’t want a DJ and could totally handle our wedding music, she said words like “BUT THIS IS MY LAST CHANCE!” Words that really meant “This is the ultimate day for me to show my love for you in front of everyone we know before you start a new family” but that I dismissed my calling her a “momzilla” and passing the phone to my much more patient fiancé who my mom couldn’t carry on at in quite the same way. I know every worry of hers and every detail she fretted over was because she cared.

At first, having friends and family bring cakes and desserts for a cake table instead of buying one big cake and making my bridal bouquets with flowers from Trader Joe’s and the farmer’s market threw her for a loop. Lesson: “It’ll be fine!” is not a solid gameplan for many of the people who aren’t me and Joe. I had to understand that while my first serious ideas about weddings were formed by “indie” ladies and sites like APW, my mom’s point of reference was framed by decades of more traditional affairs. Every detail she fretted over was because she didn’t really have proof that it would be OK and she didn’t want a shitty sound system to ruin the wedding we’d worked so hard to plan.

In the end, it was the kind of crafts and champagne filled day that carried a spirit of community and joy. A bunch of my friends and cousins helped decorate, the bouquets were whipped together between turns getting our hair done and the dance floor was insane. It was the culmination of the whole “it takes a village” ethos of my childhood.

I’m also really glad I had a Catholic ceremony. Although when I used to daydream about my wedding it was always a barefoot affair, I knew I wouldn’t really “feel married” unless our ceremony truly reflected the culture I was raised in. It wasn’t easy, but I don’t think getting married should be TOO easy, right? (Joe gently reminded me of these words after I literally threw up following our first pre-Cana meeting with a priest whose attitude terribly upset us after our first marriage prep session. It was also our last with him.) Joe’s grandpa is a deacon and he married us along with the Benedictine president of my high school. It was special to have people we love and respect celebrate our wedding Mass.

With all the work and high emotion that went into wedding planning, I told myself I wasn’t going to feel 100 percent excited or ready to go until I put on my dress. (I thrive on up-to-the-deadline work, then, oh yeah, I accidentally deleted our wedding playlist at 1 a.m. on wedding eve and stayed up ‘till 2 frantically rebuilding it.)

Some power other than my Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (pure joy?) coursed through my veins because I’ve never felt more beautiful or loved than I did on our wedding day. I slipped on my dress and that was when it clicked. All of a sudden, I really was a bride and this wedding, this coming together of two families, this day I would share with no one else but Joe, was for real. It wasn’t some abstract to-do list, or a murky thing that was getting in the way of me and my mom (and my godmothers) being totally sane with each other. It was a moment in time that I want to rewind in my mind always so I can again see the huge smiles faces in the chapel, hold my grandpa’s arm, kiss Joe, pop champagne and bacon-wrapped dates, watch the sunset and skip through a sparkler parade hand in hand with my husband in slow motion.

Photos: Laura Wehde of Shutterscapes, based in Sioux City Iowa

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  • Aaah! Beautiful. I’m teared up too b/c I have THAT relationship with my mom. And my biggest fear is that I’ll fail to be in the moment. But you just made it all wonderful, Brianne! What a wonderful wedding and grad post!

  • Stacy

    I recently stopped reading a wedding related blogs because they were poisoning my mind, thank goodness APW is the only one remaining in my RSS reader. I am an avid reader but not a commenter, in this case however, I could not resist! In one paragraph this post made me understand the current situation between my mom and me. There are hurt feelings because, as Brianne so clearly summed it up, I thought this was our wedding, the first thing we were doing as a new family and clearly my mother is coming from a different perspective. Because we are doing what we want we have “ruined her dream.” Thank you for you post Brianne, it has helped me to understand where my mom is coming from and hopefully to find a way to better navigate the turbulent waters of planning a wedding.

    • Vmed

      Yeah, it’s one thing to try to compromise, but sometimes the things we want (or need) to do are in direct opposition to the traditions so important to our people (moms, etc.)
      But THIS:

      “I had to understand that while my first serious ideas about weddings were formed by “indie” ladies and sites like APW, my mom’s point of reference was framed by decades of more traditional affairs. Every detail she fretted over was because she didn’t really have proof that it would be OK”


      • meg

        I’m a big fan of showing mom’s sites like APW and OBB, and/or whatever else you read. I bought my mom the OBB book, and that really calmed her down.

        • Other Katelyn

          My mom has been stressing about my (someday, not even really on the table yet) wedding and to calm her down, I showed her APW. Worked like a charm! It’s valuable for her to know that I’m thinking about how to pragmatically approach the wedding while still contemplating, savoring, and protecting the sacred/meaningful parts of what makes that day special. It’s also valuable to her to know that I don’t expect her to fork over thousands of dollars for the occasion, haha.

        • Vmed

          While I love OBB, I think it may not be the best tool for the job of convincing a conservative catholic mother that new ideas aren’t totally foreign*. I mean, it’s pretty radical.

          Definitely sending her here, though. APW: atypical traditionalists FTW.

          *One of my personal struggles is being bicultural. You know how stakes get high with weddings (do it different and somehow you are suddenly passing judgement on how others did it before)?… Stakes are high whenever I break away from the mexican way of doing things. Like my life decisions are a constant commentary on my mother’s. This may be true of other mothers, I only know my own this well.

  • cydney

    sigh. just *sigh,* from one “i-sort-of-don’t-know-how-to-be-a-bride” to another.

  • That weddings can be an opportunity for your family not to take over, but to show you how much they love you is an amazing point, and a bit of a wake-up for me… I mean, of COURSE my mom isn’t trying to stress me out, she’s trying to help and be involved and love us the best way she can *in this*. Thank you for the reminder, and thank you for sharing.

  • Erin

    This: “Although when I used to daydream about my wedding it was always a barefoot affair, I knew I wouldn’t really “feel married” unless our ceremony truly reflected the culture I was raised in.” — 0I really identify with.

    Also: sparklers for a 4th-of-July weekend/summer bash wedding reception? Totally appropriate :)

    Also: I’ll be the first this time. LOVE your dress!

  • ddayporter

    ahh yes. ““It’ll be fine!” is not a solid gameplan for many of the people who aren’t me and Joe.” I learned that one too! people not immersed in APW-land do not feel reassured by that when you’re trying to do something a little differently.

    and this is where I teared up: “…I’ve never felt more beautiful or loved than I did on our wedding day. I slipped on my dress and that was when it clicked. All of a sudden, I really was a bride and this wedding, this coming together of two families, this day I would share with no one else but Joe, was for real.”

    OH AND that dress. aaahhh! <3

    • That’s the quote I copied to comment on, too!
      (“Lesson: “It’ll be fine!” is not a solid gameplan for many of the people who aren’t me and Joe.”)
      I couldn’t figure out why people kept worrying after I told them not to worry, that I had it figured out (or that I didn’t yet, but I would by the time it was supposed to be done). duh.

  • I am like Stacy, I stopped reading weddingy blogs a long time ago. All except APW and my blogging brides out there.

    I agree, what I wanted for our wedding and what our Mom wanted were two different things. Lucky for us my sisters acted as “buffers” between us so we never had any big qualms :)

  • The last part about replaying all those wonderful moments in slow motion really got me…. whew. Pulling myself together & heading to work now… Thanks for sharing!!!!!! :)

  • Oh, how I wish I had read Brianne’s post during wedding planning. There were a lot of hard feelings between this (I didn’t know how to be a) Bride and her mother. I dreaded interacting with her during the time between my engagement to the wedding day because of what I saw as her need for control. This can help me mend some fences. Thanks, Brianne.

    P.S. Are you an ISU grad?

  • Congratulations, Brianne, and thank you so much for sharing your story. It made me feel so much better…last night I had my first “throw up”-y feelings with regards to my wedding. Naturally, they involve my mom – an amazing and caring woman who wants the best for me and who is doing an amazing job on my wedding. We just love each other too much, sometimes.

    My wedding is closing in and my poor mom is so freaked out that she’s now on prescribed muscle relaxers. I had no idea she was this stressed out (I’m on the East Coast and mom is back in the Midwest where the wedding is going to take place).

    When I get stressed out, I have things like APW to read that calm me down and give me perspective…does anyone have any suggestions for readings or even just some words of experienced wisdom I can share with my mom? I’m definitely going to share this posting with her…I want to make sure she knows that my wedding is in no way her “last chance”…

  • Looks like a beautiful and joy-filled day :)

    My mom was a big stressor and also my biggest supporter. She loaded up her SUV with our decorations, leftover cupcakes and leftover BBQ after the reception ended. I had no idea she took charge of this until the day after. Our parents love us and want the best for us. Sometimes we have to be firm and other times we have to give in because we want them to be happy. Sigh… I love my mom.

    • Vmed

      “big stressor and also my biggest supporter”

      Ok so this makes me cry. Almost every day (whether I talk to her or not) I am totally overwhelmed by my mom’s dual role of stressor/supporter for the last 25 years and especially since I started becoming my own person. Because often our ideas of who that person may (can? will?) be are SO DIFFERENT and at the same time my mom loves me to the end of the earth.

      I guess part of it terrifies me- that we can love each other SO MUCH and it’s still such a hard process.

      • VMED, so right! I used to talk to my mom everyday, but lately it’s been a few times a week. It saddens me a little, but every time we talk she’s still upbeat and happy to hear from me. She never gets upset for not calling as often. The love she feels for me is one I hope to feel someday with my own children. It’s a great thing the love between mother/father and child. I feel very lucky to be part of that. And it’s good that you are too :)

  • I am lucky enough to have a laid-back mom who trusts me completely, but I’m not having as much luck with my future MIL, who is kind of freaking out about “losing” her one and only child. And in a non-church ceremony at an unconventional venue space to boot. Sending her links to a couple wedding graduate posts is a great idea; bookmarking this post for future sanity-saving rereads is another.

    Beautiful wedding and wise words, Brianne!

  • I’m so glad this post is helpful to you ladies!

    I was a lurker on the site until I wrote this and want to thank you all for being my touchstone against all the crazy out there. I sent my mom a link to APW and that really helped her understand where I was coming from, so a big hug to Meg. When I showed my mom a draft of this post (didn’t want to air our family laundry on the interwebs without consulting her first) at first she was bummed that I didn’t talk about how she and my aunts folded my napkins into pinwheel shapes (a totally cute idea she picked up herself!), but we both know this community is about sharing the hard along with the pretty. We’re back to being good friends and she’s still the same mom who’s supported me through the years.

    (I’m a Mizzou grad, Tori, but I am obsessed with all things Iowa now — even though we got married in Chicago. I’m really jealous of the people who can put “native” Iowan stickers on their cars :-)

    Group hug,

    p.s. Dress is “Oysters & Pearls” by Elizabeth Dye. She rocks my socks. It’s gone up a bit in price since we bought it, but it’s handmade and you could change out the sash color and wear it again, right?

    • Rachel

      Brianne, you said it beautifully. I had the same struggles as you (almost eerily so).

      I have often wondered why parents (at least, my parents) so long for their children to get married, but then treat it as an ending. I couldn’t find a way to adequately express to my father, particularly, taht he wasn’t going to stop being a very very important man in my life even though I was married. When he walked me down the aisle, he was sobbing so much he literally couldn’t walk for a little bit. It broke my heart, but I think it was scarier for him to “marry me away” though I have lived on my own for years than to be on the other side.

      Thanks so much for being real, because I think this is an issue wedding undergrads face (“I thought this was supposed to be fun?” was the mantra for my wedding planning process) but very few really address, simply because family struggles are so hard to put out there for others to judge.

      • Class of 1980

        Well, it took me reaching my forties and fifties to understand that no matter how much children know that they are loved, they still don’t understand the depth of most parent’s love. I don’t think it’s possible to know until you feel it yourself once you have a child in your care.

        BTW, I remember my grandmother telling me that she cried when my mother got married because “it would never be the same”. She thought about holidays without her daughter waking up at home. She thought of all the ways things would be different. And they were.

        Of course, she gained a ton of happiness with her grandchildren. But on the wedding day, there were no grandchildren to comfort her. ;) It took me years to understand how she felt. Now, I get it completely and my heart goes out to her to the point that I get tears thinking about how she felt. She was a being who was filled with love and sometimes it caused great hurt.

    • “this community is about sharing the hard along with the pretty.” – from Brianne’s last comment.


  • Fab

    You know, what Brianne’s said here about her mother’s perspective seems so obvious–of course that’s the issue! Of course her mother doesn’t have any “proof” that a TJ’s bouquet and iPod playlist will work! But until I read this, my poor self-centered brain hadn’t been able to conceptualize things like this until I read it. Love this. Love. Thanks, Brianne.

  • This spoke to me on a very non-wedding level. When I was previously married, my mom remained my best friend, and we spoke almost every day. But after I left my marriage, I needed time to fall apart by myself for a while, and I stopped calling regularly. Now that I am happily settled with my fiance, I know that she feels the loss.

    Thank you for the reminder to call my mommy.

  • Beautiful post, Brianne. I can’t wait for my own wedding day to come. :)

  • Class of 1980

    Some mothers are probably more aware of how weddings have changed. Others haven’t paid attention since their own wedding. Showing them your favorite wedding blogs would help.

    Mothers are individuals though. No matter what generation they are from, they will still arrive at wedding planning from their own personal philosophies. A mother who didn’t question traditions when she was young, is going to be very different from one who did.

    Then there are generational perspectives. At 52, I am completely aware of current wedding trends and I think weddings are more visually creative today. However, since I like to take the best ideas from my past and combine them with the best ideas of today, that means I don’t love every current wedding trend out there. I have the perspective that some things have gotten much better and more creative . . . and some trends are just a fresh version of Hell. ;)

    Besides showing your mother your favorite wedding web sites and blogs, you can open each others eyes by talking about WHY you like certain things and not others. You will learn so much about each other and both of you will gain a wider perspective.

  • Oh my goodness, this spoke right to my heart. Even though I am lucky enough that dad is still around, my mother and I have always been tremendously close. And, similarly, she felt that it was her duty to help as much as possible with the wedding, including giving advice when it was sometimes, ahem, not exactly welcome. However, I think Brianne took a very healthy approach in balancing what she wanted and what others expected. Yes, you should not cater to every silly wedding expectation in the book, but I think a lot of brides forget that it’s really not *just* about you and partner. When you plan a wedding, you open a door to your network of love (as I like to call it) and just like you take into account food preferences when planning a dinner party, you need to take into account what is going to feel right for most of your guests (you can’t please ’em all!) while still feeling true to you and your partner. To carry the metaphor a little further, you wouldn’t take away the prime rib at the party if a vegan was coming, but you would make sure there was something suitable, right? Anyway, the point is, I thank Brianne for her inspiring story because, in the midst of my own balancing act, it’s really nice to know that others have gone through it as well and emerged triumphant. :)

  • Frequent reader, first time responder.

    My wedding planning was similar but not entirely the same. My mom got freaked out that my future MIL wanted to help. MIL only has boys, so she finally had a chance to do something girly and my mom felt like her toes were getting stepped on. SIGH. Luckily, my mom eventually relaxed and realized that the wedding involves another family, too.

    Great post!

  • Alyssa

    Oh moms…they are the best and the worst, aren’t they?
    My mom got married in front of the JP so she had NO idea what I was getting into. I was lucky in that way, we both waded into this beautiful mess together and when I said, “Screw it, I’m doing my own flowers,” she was like, “YEAH! Screw it!” And then when I was weighed down witht he enormity of all the DIY projects that I got myself into, she was there to tell me to calm it down and get a florist.

    Brianne, I loved your post and I especially loved “crafts and champagne filled day.” It just sounds so fun and amazing.

    Also? DRESS LOVE.

    • Haha! Our mom’s sound very similar. When I took my mom to the picnic pavilion where our reception was I was very afraid of what she’d say. Then I told her my worries (picnic tables being too heavy to move, the space being too large to decorate etc.) she pulled out her hardcore momminess and was all, “oh honey, you can get this place together in a snap…” followed by her MANY suggestions. Although we disagreed on some of them, her enthusiasm was much needed and her support was needed more.

      Thanks for keeping me mindful!!! Yay mommies!

      • Alyssa

        They do sound similar! That’s exactly how my mom was when I started planning. At first I wanted to have our wedding on The Boy’s family farm in Oklahoma and when I started worrying about people not wanting to come to the middle of nowhere and FREAKING OUT about the fact that The Boy mentioned us having to have Port-a-potty’s, she was there telling me that I didn’t want those people at my wedding anyway and “how about your dad and I rent an RV and they can use that instead?” (You won’t believe the conversations about my wedding, people and poop.)

        But then when we changed our venue, she was like, “THANK GOD, I was so worried. Okay, now how do you want to decorate the new place?”

        I’d say that this post made me want to call my mom, but I call her pretty much everyday anyway. :-) But it did remind me to thank her for being so awesome at my wedding….

        • caitlin

          ha– I spent WEEKS re-doing the outhouse at my family’s cabin so that we could get married there! oh, the conversations that were had… my mom decided they’d rent a porta-potty anyways, so I was determined to make the outhouse the clearly superior choice for the guests. In the end, I think it was about a wash.

  • MinnaBrynn

    “I considered planning our wedding the first endeavor of Joe and mine as new family. My mom considered the wedding the last thing a mother and a daughter do together.” <– should be required reading. We're a couple months in to being married, and I still had never understood this so clearly.

    We didn't do a Venn diagram (love the idea), but we did have lists of [who wants what] running in Excel. It didn't make decisions easier, but we at least had a good idea who was going to be disappointed to learn there wouldn't be any cake toppers.

    Love it all!

  • kmc

    Ditto on the p.o.v. divide between daughters and moms. My mom has told me flat-out that it’s important that her and my dad pay for my entire wedding day outfit: dress, veil, jewelry, etc.

    For them, it’s a way to complete their “sending-off” of their daughter to a new family, to provide everything I’ll wear that day as a sort of symbol. For me, I started discussing my second thoughts about the necklace with my fiance and then proceeded to break down over not wanting to be my parent’s dress up doll. So, yes, in theory, they are trying to express their love and send me off all wrapped up in it… in practice (and perhaps in theory), that’s difficult for me. I want something, anything, on that’s all me.

    But…my mom will also find 100 different necklaces if that’s what it takes for me to be happy. So “biggest stressor and biggest supporter” says it all.

  • ka

    Thank you Brianne for sharing this!! I know I would be in the midst of a similar relationship with my single mom had she not passed away 5 years ago. As hard as it is planning my wedding without her (and it is—I’ve yet to be able to stomach trying on dresses), my one consolation is not having to navigate the stressor/supporter struggle! Since it’s just us, it’s 100% OUR thing, for which I’m truly grateful.

    Also, “Although when I used to daydream about my wedding it was always a barefoot affair, I knew I wouldn’t really “feel married” unless our ceremony truly reflected the culture I was raised in.” is something that I’m totally working through. As a little girl raised Catholic, I always dreamed of a church wedding. But without my mom to insist, and in keeping with my fiance’s strong atheism, it’s going to be a barefoot affair for us. I’m far from practicing a religion right now, so this feels more right for us right now, but man, it’s hard to imagine it feeling “official.” Although, I’m guessing there’s probably a legion of lovely beach/garden/forest brides here that will happily assure me that it will.

    • Vmed

      If it’s the long ceremony you need, you can probably make it so. Meg mentioned her need for a longer ceremony, and as another catholic turned secular ceremony bride I am insisting on length and multiple readings.

      But I’m curious if there’s something else about the church aspect that you think adds to that feeling of realness? Is it the place or the priest or the organ?

      • Vanesa

        If you are struggling with trying to reconcile your barefoot wedding with the “real” ceremony you have in your head, I think VMED has good advice here. Try to figure out what specifically about the Catholic wedding adds to the sense of realness and then consider incorporating those small things into your non-Catholic ceremony.

        *Warning: Long, boring personal anecdote ahead*

        I also come from a Catholic background. I didn’t realize how much this had colored my understanding of what weddings look like until my fiancé and I started talking about the length of the ceremony. We agreed that we wanted our ceremony to be “medium” length, but my idea of “medium” length (30-45 mins) and his (15-20 mins) were totally different. This complete disconnect over what wedding ceremonies look like made me realize that it’s not just the length that is the issue for me. The ceremony also needs to have a certain degree of familiar ritual behavior and language for it to work for me. The first thing that comes to mind when I think wedding ceremony (after the vows, of course) is phrases like “Please be seated” and “Repeat after me” – all the simple directions inherent in a mass that don’t have any religious meaning but are so tied up with the Catholic ceremony in my mind.

        After acknowledging that, I have been able to start suggesting components for our totally atheist, not even a tiny bit spiritual ceremony that still give me a similar feeling as the Catholic ceremonies that have so much meaning for me. How? We’re simply trying to include a few of those ritual-but-not-religious phrases into our ceremony. Guests are probably going to be standing at different parts during the ceremony purely because I need “Please stand” and “Please be seated” to feel complete. We’re most likely having a statement of community support in part because I like the idea behind it, but also just because I want someone to say “Repeat after me” and then have the entire group say the same thing.

        Point of the rambling is that, if you want an atheist ceremony but are still mourning the religious ceremonies of your childhood dreams, it might be worth it to spend some time trying to untangle your memories of church services to see what it is that comes to mind first. There are some truly meaningful pieces of those ceremonies that have very little to do with the religious aspect and everything to do with the importance of marriage as a ritual.

        • I love this thought.

        • Claire

          Hi Vanessa, VMed, and KA,

          Love this conversation about Catholic/church weddings vs more secular/”barefoot” ceremonies. It’s something I think about a lot, having been raised Catholic (and considering it a big part of my identity, though I may not be practicing atm) and also being a capital-F Feminist. The way I’ve come to terms with it so far is reminding myself that just as secular and “barefoot” weddings come in many flavours, so too do church weddings, not just in religion but in feeling, in mood, etc. Finding an officiant who works for you and who’ll work with you is so very important, as Brianne’s experience shows us.

          Also, it must be said: Brianne, I covet your dress, and think pearl engagement rings are so very lovely. Thanks for sharing.

    • meg

      As someone who had a wedding outside the tradition she was raised in, it will feel real. Just think a lot about what is important to you and include it. If you need a reference to God, for example (practicing or not), you need to talk to your fiance about making that work in a way that dosen’t make it seem like HE believes in God, but is still there. Because it’s got to be about where you meet HONESTLY, not, “He’s atheist, I think I need to go with that.” (You’re not saying that, but it would be an easy trap to fall into). I have some interfaith wedding books on my books & blogs tab, and I’d suggest getting some and giving them a read. Because you’re doing something similar… finding a place to meet.

      Once you find that place to meet it’s golden, but I’m not going to lie to you, there are often a lot of tears and figurings before you get there.

    • ka

      thank you guys for giving me so much to think about!

      to be honest, we haven’t even begun to discuss the ceremony itself yet, we’re so stuck on finding a venue. but that’s very much at the root of my church/beach dichotomy: the “realness” is added for me by the simple act of being in a church. few places bring out my latent spirituality and add so much… serenity, as certain churches do. (although a beautiful body of water is probably a close second.) my deceased family was also quite religious, and it gives me a definite sense of connection just to be in a church. i suppose an option for us is to look into non-denominational chapels, but i sort of feel, being as non-religious as we are (he an atheist, myself “temporarily agnostic” – i’m open to religion and spirituality, but not currently doing anything about it), if that would be unfair to those that do practice a non-denominational Christianity. other options to find the feeling of a church would be a secular space with that kind of “soul” (i think the SF city hall would do it for me, if we weren’t in NY), or to decorate the great outdoors in such a way: arches, candles, oh how i’d love a forest that feels like a church… sorry! call me odd, but i’m very sensitive to how places “feel”!

      music is another thing, but i have a couple friends who have years of experience singing in chorales, so i’m going to ask them to sing something either secular or religious. the other aspects of the Catholic mass i have an easier time letting go, and i’m really looking forward to unconventional readings, and audience participation, and other things (walking down the aisle to “unforgettable” by nat king cole, as it’s the closest i can get to having my grandfather physically beside me) that would not be possible in a Catholic mass. that said, you’ve all reminded me to keep searching for the compromises that will allow us to have a wedding that really speaks to my soul AND is a “place for us to meet”, and raised some wonderful points about creating our ceremony that i’m sure i will be returning to when we get there-thank you!

      (@vanesa: too funny that you’ve mentioned the “please sit” “please stand” part of the Catholic ceremony, as it’s my fiance’s biggest befuddlement with Catholic rituals. luckily, i can do without it, but such a great example for me of finding and incorporating the elements that matter to you, even if they don’t have a particular meaning to someone else! and thank you for reminding me to define “short” because i can tell already we’re not on the same page there.)

      • Vanesa

        I definitely get the fact that some places just have a “feel” to them. I didn’t want to go into it in my already long comment before, but I’m actually the daughter of an interfaith marriage (sidenote: talk about a long wedding. My parents were married in a bilingual ceremony with a catholic priest and a methodist preacher tag-teaming the service – one doing it in English and the other in Spanish. No wonder I think 30-45 minutes is medium length.). Growing up, I went to a lot of different churches and sometimes, I admit, sat there and compared them in my head. I still remember sitting in a beautiful old cathedral in France, listening to mass in a language that I didn’t really understand, and thinking that, whether or not I believed in Catholicism, they sure knew how to put you in a spiritual place. The beautiful church, the familiar cadence of the mass, it just seemed so awe-inspiring and serene.

        I think you can definitely find that feel you’re looking for in an outdoor location. The first time I saw pictures of this wedding, I remember having that same “wow” feeling: . Also, I’m glad you already have the plans for the music too :)

        As far as the ceremony goes, the only reason we’re even thinking about it this early is that in a very early conversation about what we wanted in our wedding, my boy sweetly said “and of course I want to write my own vows” and I unthinkingly snapped back with “ew, no, of course we’re doing the traditional ones”. At that point, we figured it was best not to assume what the other had in mind for the ceremony, no matter how obvious it seemed. So, while our ceremony is nowhere near done, we’ve talked about nearly every idea we’ve bumped into just to make sure there are no more hurtful outbursts. Still haven’t worked out how to handle the vows ;)

        • ka

          Thank you for sharing that wedding. Gave me chills! THAT is the feeling I want. And this is definitely me, except it was Italy, not France: “I still remember sitting in a beautiful old cathedral in France, listening to mass in a language that I didn’t really understand, and thinking that, whether or not I believed in Catholicism, they sure knew how to put you in a spiritual place. The beautiful church, the familiar cadence of the mass, it just seemed so awe-inspiring and serene.”

          And your point about assumptions is well-taken, definitely think its never too soon to discuss the ceremony–good luck with yours!

  • Cathy52

    Great story. Also, it was a GREAT wedding!

    • Three cheers for an awesome MIL!

  • Jessica

    I worry that my mom has withdrawn from helping me plan because her mother was the “take-over-everything-and-invite-lots-of-strangers” type. She’s worried I’ll interpret her the same way.

    Thank you for this article. It made me realize this and I’m off to compose an email to her now.

  • Karin

    So I’ve been having the opposite of Brianne’s problem… my parents have been largely disinterested and noncommittal about the wedding planning process. It might be because they don’t have a good marriage themselves, or it might be because of money concerns, but either way it’s becoming increasingly difficult to deal with as my future wife’s parents and family are all sorts of enthusiastic and excited for us. I wish my mom had an opinion about anything! Have any of you had a similar experience and/or have advice on how to try to entice them to care?

  • My fiance and I have chosen, and it was really a no-brainer for either of us, not to have a religious ceremony. Expecting the worst, I thought that would be a big issue for my mom and the MIL-to-be, as well as the many members of our greater families who are practicing Catholics. But, it hasn’t been. The only push back has been from one aunt who is not sure if she can attend because of her disapproval (and, may I just put it out there that she thinks that yoga and anthropology are pathways to sin, so I have known for a long time that I couldn’t satisfy her on pretty much any level?).

    My mom was telling me about this on the phone the other day, and I told her, “You know, if you and grandma had really wanted us to have a Catholic ceremony, we would have done it. But, I have to admit, it would have felt a little like we were lying to everyone.” Some people might call that weak…to do something just because my family wants it (and this isn’t about money either, as my fiance and are the sole financiers). Like our marriage, this wedding is going to involve some compromise, and that includes some we make with our families. I know where my heart is, I know where I need to stand firm, and for me, and I know I am not everyone, this is something that was negotiable. As long as I am getting married to the man that love and want to spend my life with, I’m okay.

    Anyway, can I tell you how much I love my mom?! She answered, “I wouldn’t ask you to do that because I love you too much, just the way you are. And, I certainly wouldn’t ask you to do that because I also love my church too much to ask someone to do something that feels dishonest in it.” I know that we disagree on some things and that she sometimes worries and prays for me and my choices, but man, how can you not love, love, love being sincerely spoken to and respected (and loved) like that!!!

    • And, Brianne, you looked lovely, and surrounded by love from everyone! Congratulations!

  • Eliza

    This post made me cry too! Such a beautiful wedding, and that dress! And I love the sparklers!! But most of all it was really helpful to read about someone else with a close-but-not-easy mother-daughter relationship, and how Brianne made it work.

    My mom and I are very close, but she is what I would call “emotionally irresponsible” – she doesn’t have any awareness of the consequences of her actions when she gets upset. Last night I told her on the phone that I was thinking of getting my wedding dress online and she cracked it at me and yelled and cried and yelled at me. For an HOUR. Because apparently this is disrespectful and a slap in the face to her and I am selfish – ? I don’t understand. If she’d shown any real interest in wedding planning before this I would get it a bit more… but it seems she only gets involved when she wants to tell me an idea is terrible and that she and Dad hate it. At the same time she was telling me I should involve her more in the wedding planning – but how can I, when any time I tell her about an idea I have, I get yelled at? (This is not an exaggeration. Last night was by no means her first crying-and-yelling phone call to me about how terrible our wedding plans are, and how she wanted to veto lots of our choices – some of which she has already gotten her way on.)

    I really do not know what to do or how to deal with this. I would really appreciate advice!

    • Hi Eliza,

      This post is definitely about what I learned in wedding planning and the scenes/emotion that went into it sometimes sounded a lot like what you’re experiencing.

      I think, if you’re interested in buying a dress online and your mom feels left out, you could almost go virtual dress shopping with her. Print out some of your favorites, if you’re crafty, put together some inspiration boards or whatever. It’s probably less about your mom wanting to dictate what you wear, and more about her feeling left out of that moment that she was expecting you’d share in a bridal shop. You could make doing it your way feel special and like an event in itself. (Go out for coffee/margaritas and bring along your printouts?)

      I think trying to wedding plan over the phone was awful, but there wasn’t a ton of opportunity for us to sit down. If your mom starts obsessing over light blue napkins and you were thinking more of a navy, I think that’s an instance where compromising in your mom’s favor is a good idea. If she wants a religious ceremony and you don’t, it could be a bigger deal. Maybe pick three things that you ask your mom to help with, specifically? My mom asked her longtime stylist to do her, my and my wedding party’s hair at our house, which was awesome because it saved tons of money.

      I’m always better at writing my feelings out, but if you want to send her this post, it could help! Also, even though my mom and I struggled up through the rehearsal dinner, I think the day of the wedding our hearts righted themselves and we were able to see each other as the people we were before all of the wedding drama began. There’s a ray of light!

      • Eliza

        Ah Brianne! Thankyou so much for your thoughtful and empathic response! It means a lot just to know there are other people out there like you who are struggling with similar things to me.

        Ironically, although I wanted to get my dress online from the start, I knew my mum would want to come dress shopping with me, so I planned a trip for us to go (with my sister), and we went to the bridal area of our town and tried on heaps of dresses. I made it pretty clear to her at the time that I was just looking for styles and it was *very* unlikely that I would buy one of the (froofy, $2-6K) dresses, but that I would go try on dresses because I knew she would want me to. She turned up late, didn’t seem particularly excited or happy to be there, and used the coffee time afterwards to re-pick fights with me that we’d already had about venues. Clearly there is some kind of disjunct in our expectations, but I’m not sure what.

        Perhaps it’s that, like you, I see this as something my fiance and I are planning together, whereas she saw it as something she would be planning with me (and that he would have little input). I asked her (when we were on the phone and she was upset) what things she had seen herself having major input into and she said some pretty major things (venue, dress, invitations) that I hadn’t seen her as necessarily having any substantial input into – partly because she seems totally uninterested, and partly because I know she has a very different vision of what weddings “are” to me and my fiance (much, much more formal. Lots of marble and ornate trains and stuff) and so she hasn’t liked any of our ideas (beachside, casual, fun). It seems like we do need to have a sit down and discuss how her involvement can work, if she genuinely does want to be involved. I have been wanting to do this since we got engaged, but she doesn’t often have time to have coffee with me or give me her undivided attention.

        On the up side, like you said, it will all work out! Mum and I have had years (YEARS) of basically fighting with each other and making up, so these sorts of conversations with her are not alien to me. I don’t like having them, but at least I know that at the end of the day she’ll still love me to bits and be happy for me, ultimately.

  • Katie

    Having suffered from several wedding playlist fail related dreams, the idea of deleting the playlist at 1am the night before the wedding makes me want to die right here. I am in awe of you for not still having heart palpitations over that the next day.

    • It actually worked out better that way! I almost died and called Joe freaking out, but then I just tried to remember my favorites and the favorites are what mattered. The final playlist had fewer slow songs, which turned out to be a better thing, anyway! We had a friend’s sister and her boyfriend act as computer guards/gave them permission to cut songs and whatnot, which worked out well. Plus, by having the computer there, we were able to Skpye in 1/4 of our wedding party, who couldn’t make the drive out because they were expecting their baby any second. (There’s a photo in the post of everyone freaking out when Ellen shows her belly on the screen.)

      Just in case, try this:

      I don’t know why I didn’t think to google that!

  • I probably should have just made a Venn diagram (nerd alert!) of what was important to us all instead of getting a throwup-y feeling everytime I got a notice of the three thousand or so things that were apparently overdue on my wedding checklist. I was the first cousin and first person in my core high school friend group to get married, so I was in uncharted territory.

    If there was a Venn diagram for you and I, Brianne, there wouldn’t be many outliers. BWAHAH. Ahem. But, yeah– I think the Venn diagram would have made life a lot easier for us, too. Finding priorities and the overlap would have been infinitely helpful. And being the first to do it all really sucks, too– first cousin in a big, BIG family, first of our friends. It’s a lot of pressure.

    And I’m really close with my mom, too (talk every day, etc etc), to the point where she’s my maid of honor. And that pressure that I was feeling was on her, too. Her Only Daughter’s Wedding had to be right.

    Every detail she fretted over was because she didn’t really have proof that it would be OK and she didn’t want a shitty sound system to ruin the wedding we’d worked so hard to plan.

    And THAT is the big thing that kept us on the same page. When I said that we could do our own flowers and my mom started hyperventilating, we did a trial run where she realized just how easy it was, and quickly we could pull something together. It soothed her, it gave me a little extra practice, and we walked away unscarred.

    We figured out how to navigate it pretty well (no screaming or crying, thank god), but we quickly realized that it was a little bit about our separation and the formation of the little baby family between me and my fiance. As much as I love my mother, things will be different after we’re married, and we knew that. The time of the engagement has been growing pains in my relationship with my mom, and we’ll be all the better for having experienced it.

    Mind you, I still cannot WAIT for the wedding to get here (twenty four days to go!) and for wedding planning to be in the past. Families are hard.

    • Thanks, Sarah! I hopped over to your site for a look and I think if I lived in Boston, we’d definitely have to meet up. I totally hit a wall with wedding blogs, and most blogs in general in the middle of wedding planning. I deleted everything but APW for a good few months. I’m sure you and Bear will have a wonderful day.

      • Wedding planning isn’t all fun and games, but TALKING about wedding planning isn’t even all fun and games! Thank god for APW, really. This has been a stressful year, and I really can’t wait for it to be over. I’ve found some amazing, brilliant, funny women through the course of planning our wedding and considering marriage, and I absolutely look forward to having these discussions and helping people plan from the other side of things.

        Twenty-four days! Yikes! I’m so excited. :)

  • Deb D

    Brianne: I really, really like this. I am sure most mother’s and daughters have issues before the wedding and then dance happily on the big night. What a great wedding and gorgeous couple!

  • Thank you for sharing your troubles planning a wedding and trying to create a wedding with your partner while still make your mom happy. I’m running into all sorts of walls trying to please my partner, please my mom, and please myself. And none of it is working. Actually at this point a Venn diagram sounds like a great idea. In the end, it sounds like your wedding was magical, and that gives me a lot of hope that all this stress will dissolve in the end, and I too will find magic.

  • Moz

    Terrific grad post – congrats on your marriage! And I love your dress xx

  • Mary

    Wow – this hit home on multiple levels. I’m a mom of a recent bride and a bride-to-be myself. My daughter and her new husband had to deal with divorced parents on both sides…they chose to have an intimate wedding in Jamaica. I wanted to help her in so many ways, but she is intelligent and organized and was making decisions with her new husband. I felt totally excluded.

    And after a couple of heartfelt conversations, tears included, I realized it wasn’t about me. In no way was I excluded. She was making decisions that were comfortable for her and her new husband and all their guests. They were doing exactly what they wanted and keeping the wedding intimate and easy for all.

    I explained that I had this burning need to help her. Just help. I didn’t want to control or decide or any of that. I wanted to help zip her dress, put a whispy hair in place….that kind of thing. I did want to walk down the aisle with her and her father, but she said no. I accepted that gracefully.

    It took several conversations, emails, text messages to get there. But she, too, had to realize that weddings are about more than the bride and groom. So she found ways to make this special for me, her father, his father and his mother and the significant others of these parents and the brother and sister-in-law…you get the picture.

    My daughter gave me the time I wanted. We had our hair done together. I was in the room with her as she got dressed. This was interrupted by her husband’s mother in the most obnoxious manner….but my daughter simply let the woman to the door, smiling the entire time, and politely but firmly explained where she should be! She had more grace and diplomacy in that one moment than I think I have ever had in my entire life. I wasn’t much help…she really had everything under control (and that is her personality to a tee). But I was there and I got to see her breathtaking beauty first and she made that happen for me.

    As a bride-to-be myself…. I hope I learned from my daughter and you through this post. It is an emotional roller coaster that culminates in the vows. I’m just going to hold on and smile!

    God bless you Brianne. God bless your Mom too. Great post!

    • Michelle

      Mary, this is a beautiful story. You and your daughter are both truly classy ladies! Best of luck on your upcoming nuptials.

  • Heather

    Loved this post!

    Great story and GREAT dress!

  • Thank you Brianne, for naming so many of the things I’ve been experiencing. Glad it all worked out to be a beautiful day for you AND your family.

  • Jessie

    Such a beautiful wedding! :)

  • Michelle

    “After taking a college class (“Sociology of the Family”) that dealt a lot with the WIC and gender roles, I felt like I really didn’t know how to be a bride. I knew what I didn’t want (trying on gowns in a bridal salon while everyone offered their two cents, a wedding shower that involved material gifts, matching bridesmaids dresses, a bachelorette party, fondant and breaking the bank — to name a few.) I knew how I wanted to feel, but I wasn’t sure how to simultaneously express the joy of being engaged to a man I loved while rejecting the expected tropes of bride-to-be-dom. (My pearl engagement ring steered the conversation a little.)”

    Brianna, SO feeling you on this. My fiance and I are getting married next June and the FIRST wedding planning task I accomplished was reading “One Perfect Day” and thinking verrrry hard about what I needed & didn’t need. The beautiful silver rose ring ($40) that my fiance got helped steer the discussion a great deal. We – like you – decided against matching bridesmaid dresses, expensive/embarrasing bachelor/ette extravaganzas, fondant, the highway robbery of wedding boutiques, and hiring a DJ. But the way I prefer to think of it now is deciding FOR pie, which we love, mixed-gender wedding “attendants” (haven’t come up with a better term yet) who wear what they want, using our own excellent music taste to iPod DJ the reception, and combing consignment boutiques for a great wedding dress.

    Luckily my mother is a fairly relaxed about the planning for now. I come from a liberal background and her job as a high-school teacher keeps her in touch with the changing times, so the POV issue is a little less extreme. I’m sure, though, that there will be trying days ahead! I will definitely send her a link to APW ASAP.

    The kicker is that this fall I’m a bridesmaid in a (legal!) gay wedding here in DC and it will be MUCH more traditional and heteronormative than the one I’m planning. To each his or her own, but I sure am thankful to have the information and support that I have in this process.

  • what a great story/post, i think thats the situation with most brides and their mothers, especially during planning, I thanked my mom and got her a custom piece of jewelry from this colorado fine jeweler for baring through the wedding with me, she loved it! check it out, she has great custom wedding collections as well,

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  • Tee

    Wow. Just wow. Congratulations on getting married. though probably tired of hearing that… or are you? … I’m trying to find something practical to say, but all I can think right now, is that you look gorgeous in that dress. And that one day, when I end up taking the plunge, it’ll be as free-styled and awesome as yours. …Because who want to dream of of a three-tier wedding cake falling on her?