Caitlin & Alex

Maybe it’s because the whole APW team is just back from a week in Utah at Alt Summit, I don’t know, but we thought we’d focus on winter weddings today. Lovely, snowy , often-more-affordable winter weddings. Mmmm. So this morning we have Caitlin’s incredibly wise and incredibly honest wedding graduate post, and later today we’ll talk about the joys of choosing a winter wedding (snowshoeing, fur & fir, hot chocolate, free Christmas decorations, and tights, to name a few things). Later this week we’ll share with you what we learned last week in Utah, but for now, we’re going to catch up on work, nap, and let Caitlin share her wisdom.

My wedding graduate post has languished.  I have been too sacred to send it.  But now, almost a year to the day after my wedding, I am ready to send it off.  A lot of serious stuff has occurred in both of our families since the wedding that has me looking back and realizing the carefree joy we felt that day, that our families felt, will never be the same again. I knew our marriage would be tested, that we would have to be there for each other when things got tough, but those times always seemed somewhere out in the future. Little did I know how quickly those times would arrive. The tough stuff makes me appreciate the wedding day we had even more.

I feel that I should be upfront with you all.  Mine was not a budget wedding. (Editors note: I hate this term, y’all. Most of us have a budget of some sort or another, so lets stop beating ourselves up about how big or small that budget is. But Caitlin makes a lovely case for sometimes needing to spend more for our sanity’s sake.) We definitely splurged on our venue and food, which were the two most important things to us.  I feel that our venue really helped set the mood of our event, which I hoped was “coziness through community in winter” and everyone in both of our immediate families are foodies.  Providing copious amounts of good food is the epitome of hospitality for us. Thus, having deliciously yummy food was important. Also, I am a complete stress case who hates to ask for help.  For me, given we had the resources and the wedding was a 1000 miles from where we live, it was infinitely more practical/sane to pay wedding elves to do things for us. Though I did tackle things like invitations and paper goods on my own.

I am here to tell you all something that slowly dawned on me after my wedding, and through my inability to stop looking at other weddings on blogs even though I was already married.  It is something I wish I had realized the importance of BEFORE my wedding, so maybe I would have stopped obsessing over details.  As more time passes between the present and the wedding, the physical details seem less and less important.  The display tables that looked not exactly as I hoped, the centerpieces which I hardly noticed, all the DIY details that just didn’t look professional enough, all the details I wanted but never made it to fruition—all of these didn’t matter. Probably because I was never a detail person to begin with, but was brainwashed into being one by the WIC. All that mattered in the end were the people and emotions of that amazing day. When I look back on our photos what I notice most are the expressions—the joy, the laughter, the tears, the thoughtfulness, the trying-really-hard-not-to-cry faces, the beaming smiles of the dance floor.

When I look at real weddings now,  I do not care what the place settings looked like or how well-coordinated the candy bar was or how fashion-forward the wedding party portraits were, I want to see the feelings of the day.  That’s it.  Meg has known this all along, and that is why her wedding graduate posts are one of the blogosphere’s only real wedding features that have the focus set on the people involved.

For me, my wedding day was a blur, especially when I try to think back on specific moments, but all the feelings, some bad but by far most of them great, I remember. I remember, my stressed-out nervousness about how I was late getting ready and how we could not create the hairstyle I had envisioned.  I was not one of those brides that had an ethereal calm on my wedding day. I felt badly about that until I realized that I am in general a stress case, so I could not reasonably expect myself to not feel stressed to some extent on my wedding day. I know a lot of brides say they don’t have, or don’t admit to having, any negative feelings like stress or frustration or sadness on their wedding day and I am here to say it is totally fine if you do. (Editors note: I’m here to say you probably *will*, and that will be ok.) I remember my stress melting away when I saw my groom for the first time.  I remember the difficulty and absurdity of snowshoeing in a wedding dress in strong winds for pictures.

I remember the intense anticipation of waiting to walk down the aisle. I remember trying hard to be strong and not cry during the ceremony, lest my already emotional groom start bawling his eyes out. I remember the buzzed-like giddiness of chatting with friends and family during the cocktail hour.  I remember the surprisingly emotional first dance where I felt like Alex and I were the only two people in the world. I remember being annoyed that the main course was served 45 minutes late.  I remember the carefree feeling of dancing with my dad to Guns n’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine”.  I remember the immense joy of having “a time of my life” on the dance floor with all my closest friends and family.

I also remember the next day.  The immense emotions of the wedding and lack of sleep had left me completely spent.  I was barely able to hold it together and cried a lot.  I think I had an emotional hangover!  Luckily, my darling husband took it in stride.

So in closing, focus on what matters to you.  I lost sight of that in planning and drove myself a little crazy.  What we wanted was a personal and unique ceremony, for the guests to enjoy great food, and to keep the dance floor packed all night, and in the end that is what we got and those are the memories we treasure.  Don’t force yourself into being a detail person if you are not. When going through a photographer’s portfolio, or talking with your friends who will be taking photos, make sure they can capture candid moments where the emotions of the day really shine through.  It’s hard not to overlook those photos during planning when so many wedding blogs condition you to want photos that look like art or magazine spreads.

If you want to do portraits, don’t worry about looking like models, but do be true to yourselves.  I love snowshoeing, we love the outdoors and winter, so I got in my head early on that we would have couples portraits snowshoeing.  My mom was freaked about my dress getting wet in the snow.  I underestimated how hard it would be to snowshoe in my dress and how windy and cold it was, but it was completely worth it. My brothers even made a snowman and snowwoman for us!

Photos by: Dennis Curran

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  • Rose in SA

    I absolutely agree with you on how the details fade in importance with distance from the wedding. I also remember mostly the feelings and some key moments that are not possible to capture with a camera, or even adequately explain outloud.

    Lovely post, and Caitlin – you look beautiful in your dress

  • A-L

    Yeah, I understand about the details losing their importance the further one gets from the wedding. I remember various aggravations (the Christmas lights blowing the fuse and having fluorescent lights instead, therefore straining the a/c, or having the DJ making 95% of the guests wait while he went to serve himself) but after 2 months I have to struggle to think about them. (Well, not the lights, as that was super-super-super important for me. But even that has definitely faded.) And it is the emotions, the memories with people, that I remember. And I’m glad that it’s the part I remember. Because nobody (except possibly a wedding planner or wedding undergrad) wants to hear about your colors, and favors, and centerpieces after the wedding. They want to know what it was like.

    And y’all make a very adorable couple. Congratulations!

    • Carbon Girl

      I know! The mistakes seems pretty vivid the week after the wedding and some even 2 months after, but a year after even the light mix up will probably be a struggle to remember.

      • Liz

        and then they fade into those funny-eye-rolling memories (most of them). even the BIG stuff (for us, the wrong band showed up, my cousin got drunk and made a fool of himself, etc) becomes just a piece of an excellent day.

        • AKP

          I am starting to feel the mistakes and the stresses of the day fade away, and it is so wonderful because I feel like my appreciation for the wedding that I did have only grows. I also did not have an “ethereal calm day” but I did have a day full of emotions that I didn’t even know I had in me, and now as all the details start to fade, it’s those indescribable feelings that I’m trying to hold on to. Thank you, Caitlin, for such a relateable and inspiring post.

  • Caroline

    It is sort of like you got in my head and wrote my winter wedding, non-detail oriented, portrait in Wellies (rather than snowshoes) graduate post. Creepy, yet awesome.

    I was also surprised about the feelings I encountered – the combination of intensity, and range, was hard to describe. But amazing, and will not be repeated I bet. Thanks for sharing.

    PS. Love the muffs :)

    • Carbon Girl

      Perhaps we were separated at birth!? I love wellies!

  • oh my gosh are you freaking kidding me with that veil?? so perfect! you look a cold but very happy bunch, congrats on the wedding and the happy memories. sorry to hear the year since has been a bit rough, hopefully things look up soon if they’re not resolved already.

  • Those are really beautiful wedding photos.

    If there was some way I could fast track to really truly knowing that the details didn’t matter I’d take it. I’m not there yet.


    Wonderful post, with words I will definitely remember on my wedding day, especially the ones about rolling with the feelings you have, as opposed to the ones you think your supposed to have. I, too, treasure photos which capture the emotion of the moment and must say, absolutely adore the group photo with everyone huddled around in the cold. I can only imagine how the cold was always there nipping at everyone the whole time, but the immense happiness of everyone there makes it look like a picture taken in 70 degree weather with snow staged in the background! Congratulations and I’m happy that you got such wonderful emotional and beautiful shots of your day to help you through any rough times to come.

  • Zan

    Caitlin, your wedding looks awesome! As for snowshoeing in a wedding dress — I can hardly imagine how you managed. My guy wanted to propose in the middle of a field that we were going to snowshoe out to, but I put mine on wrong (had never done it before) and immediately fell over when my boot came out of the holster thingie. Graceful, I know. So I said, “Screw it! Let’s just walk.” Thankfully he isn’t too hung up on the details or he would’ve been upset that I ruined his fun proposal by refusing to wear the equipment :)
    Oh, and can I just take a moment to point out one detail that jumped out at me? The flower girl, in her little capelet/muff combo deal, is AFREAKINGDORABLE. So cute!

  • Liz


    holy crap.

    i mean. yeah. what you said about the details…

    • Sarah

      So can I be the shallow person that asks where your dress is from? I’m going to no more than 4 shops this weekend and I want a dress just like yours! I love how you are snowshoeing, dancing and having a blast in it. Exactly what I’m hoping for! Thanks!

      • Carbon Girl

        The dress is a Maggie Sottero called ariana (sp?). I am not sure they make it anymore. But the line has a lot of styles like this (and also a lot of ones with tons of detail and bling so it probably depends on the salon which types they carry.) Good luck and have fun shopping. Don’t let people pressure you into a decision (that could be your sales person or your mom).

  • This was just what I needed. We were talking today about the fact that both of us stress, and what we can do to work on that/make it less likely. This was a good reminder that even if we do, it won’t be the end of the world.

    I am going nuts for your bridesmaids outfits and those muffs–this is lovely!

  • mere…

    “I was not one of those brides that had an ethereal calm on my wedding day. I felt badly about that until I realized that I am in general a stress case, so I could not reasonably expect myself to not feel stressed to some extent on my wedding day.” …. I am SO glad I read this. What a wonderful reminder that on my wedding day, I will still be me – and that that’s completely okay!

    • Murdock

      I LOVED this part of the post. How silly of us/me/everyone else to expect us to be anything other than the person we are….especially if we are people that kind of stress about events. Who cares? Its our/yours wedding! I’m taking this one with me for our November wedding…..I’ll be me and surround myself with the people who know me the best so that they know to just let me be me. Thanks Caitlin.

      Oh and I LOVE your wedding venue and colors. You all look brilliantly happy! Congratulations! I hope that whatever trials and tribulations you’ve encountered since that magical day, you both are handling with the grace and joy you exude through your pictures.

  • Kristen

    A lot of wedding pictures look really beautiful. Luxurious details, well-staged… all that. But the ones I like best are the ones like yours that I look at and think, “Those people are a helluva lot of fun! I want to party with them!”

    And, images like these ones bring back the memories you lean on to get you through the hard times. They remind you of the good things in life and how many people love you. Just pretty things are not generally as useful.

    Keep on swimming!

  • I have to say, my heart sung out when I realized Caitlin was a short-haired bride!

    • me tooooo! i got my hair cut recently for the first time at a new place, and while chatting with the guy i mentioned that i was getting married soon. he was like, “wait, what?! are you sure you want me cutting your hair? don’t you need to be growing it out for the big day?!”

  • Kristen

    Love, love, love the dress and fur combo. And also I have to EXACTLY the description of the “emotional hangover” one thousand times over. Such perfect phrasing for that particular flood of emotion….

  • Kate

    I love snowy weddings! And your dress is absolutely gorgeous.

    I’m normally a stress case too, and always have trouble sleeping the night before anything big (a party, a trip, etc – I just repeat my To Do list in my head for hours). Somehow during wedding planning I convinced myself that by the time the wedding rolled around I’d have magically turned into a person who would get a ton of sleep the night before. So of course I got about 4 hours! Your post is a good reminder that we won’t suddenly grow a new personality on our wedding days.

    • Murdock

      I’ve dreaded this too as I’m the same as you Kate……debating taking an ambien to make sure I’m well rested for the big day!

    • Carbon Girl

      My little bro stayed over with me in the hotel room the night before (mostly because we didn’t have room elsewhere for him but it helped that he is an amazingly calm presence.) He stayed up to play banana-grams with me until I could no longer keep my eyes open (around 1:30) and then I went to bed. Still woke up around 5:30 amped though.

  • hoppy bunny

    What a great post! Thanks for the advice on photographers–I am lucky enough to have a future sister-in-law who’s a photo major, and since she’s never done a wedding before I think I should sit her down and make sure she knows that shots of people looking blissed will be more meaningful to me than ictures of my centerpieces. And the advice to stop looking at wedding porn? Done and done. Thank you ma’am, and congrats on a wonderful winter wedding!

    • Murdock

      Yes fantastic tip about this!

  • OMG, those winter wonderland pictures of you are ADORABLE (esp that pic with you two and the snowman.)

    We’re also having a “non-budget” wedding and are not detail-oriented people. I’ve been a little worried that the venue will look lame because I just don’t have the bandwith to care about coordinating candy bar jars or super cute centerpieces, but your post is making me want to go “Eff it.” We have a lovely venue and lovely people. Who cares if the escort card table is ugly?

    • Carbon Girl

      One reason for me to have a barn venue is that it made a statement without any details. If you like your venue enough as is, the rest of the decor won’t matter as much.

  • This is so beautiful. And as another winter bride – it makes me really happy to see others braving the elements to have the wedding they want!

    It’s so true, now on the other side of it – all I can really remember were the conversations, jokes, laughter, tears, emotions of it all…and that makes me so happy! I look at photos and am just blown away by the emotion – happiness, love – on everyone’s faces. My cake toppers? fun but so insignificant in the long run.

    Thanks so much for sharing !!

  • Yea for another snow wedding!!!

    I like that you admit there was stress, because I had some too. I blew a fuse at my uncle’s house doing my hair. And then when we arrived at the ceremony I thought my bag with all of our documents and my dress was in my car. It was in my parents’ and they’d already gone in (and turned their phones off). So there were a few freaking out moments when it looked like we’d lost pretty much the one thing we needed to get married – the wedding license.

    And that “only two people in the world” feeling truly is wonderful. I remember that as well.

    Lovely wedding!

  • I am so glad you had such a joyful day! And I love that you guys snowshoed. :) Yay for winter weddings!

  • Cass

    First off, having a really crappy day – then I saw the picture of you and your dad dancing. It made me smile. Thank you!

    Secondly, and quite beyond the point of this very wise post – a comment in the opening comments I’d like to comment on: “…later today we’ll talk about the joys of choosing a winter wedding (snowshoeing, fur & fir, hot chocolate, /free Christmas decorations/, and tights, to name a few things).”
    It’s always smart to consider the season you’re getting married in for this very reason! Especially Church weddings, where there’s always some sort of religious holiday where flowers, or other bold decorations are already placed. It’s super practical to get married right after Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween – the church tends to be filled with flowers – thus cutting the need for any flowers for the ceremony (beyond bouquets and boutonnieres).

  • april

    “…that is why her wedding graduate posts are one of the blogosphere’s only real wedding features that have the focus set on the people involved.”

    ABSO-F*CKING-LUTELY! Which is why – even 15 months later after my own wedding – I *still* visit this site on a near-daily basis and love it.

    Gorgeous wedding and wonderful advice and sentiments. Congrats, Caitlin & Alex!

  • ka

    Yea muffs! I’m all about bringing back the muff!

    And this:
    “I remember, my stressed-out nervousness about how I was late getting ready and how we could not create the hairstyle I had envisioned. I was not one of those brides that had an ethereal calm on my wedding day. I felt badly about that until I realized that I am in general a stress case, so I could not reasonably expect myself to not feel stressed to some extent on my wedding day.”

    I am so prepared for this. Every prom, every someone else’s wedding, every other big event, that’s me with the hair. I’m seriously considering ways to construct a hairpiece that I can just affix on to my head in some foolproof way (it sounds worse than it is, I’ve danced with girls who would do this to compensate for short hair and it totally worked) I’m so sure it’s going to be a disaster/major cause of stress. But I’m also reassured to see how your hair turned out beautiful, even if it wasn’t how you had planned!

  • Erin

    I was so pleased and surprised to see this post- I was at this wedding! It was truly a beautiful occasion and had the most wonderful, fun, and amazing “feel” to the whole thing. It’s the kind of wedding you attend and think “This is how it should be.” It’s surprising to read about the nerves and roller-coaster emotions that Caitlin describes in the post; as a guest, I was unaware of anything except the fact that she and Alex were positively glowing the entire day and radiated the kind of joy that I hope to emulate on my own wedding day (t-minus seven months…eek!). That just goes to show that what everyone says must be right- the day will be PERFECT even if you don’t feel perfect or think all of the tiny details are perfect. Perfection is the nature of the day (even with all of the imperfections that come along with it) because it is your wedding day and you end up committed for always to your best friend at the end. What’s not perfect about that? I’m trying to keep that constantly in mind as those sneaky details keep me up at night these days…

    Caitlin and Alex- you are an amazing couple and we were so happy to have shared your fabulous day with you! -MF&ET

  • SNOWMEN!!!!!

    And yes to feeling like you and your new spouse are the only two people in the world. Thanks for bringing that memory back to me so vividly.

  • Kayakgirl73

    Beautiful Wedding. I’d have been worried about face planting in the snowshoes since I’ve done that before. So try on the pics of people having fun, those are some of my favorite pics from my wedding. Just wish the photog had got one of my great Aunt dancing with her walker, but at least the videographer got it on the video.

    • Kayakgirl73

      Blast. Why did I type try instead of true. Can’t type today.

  • I think this is the first one of these I have ever read ALL THE WAY THROUGH.

    Maybe it’s because I am 60 days away from my own wedding and realizing that perhaps I am becoming a bit stresses. Just maybe.

    But really, I think it’s because I can relate to this bride who doesn’t like asking for help, and I am one who will probably be very cranky and stressed for the entire weekend of wedding festivities. I’m a pretty cynical, Type-A person who would control the world if I could. So yeah, things going wrong will piss me off.

    But she obviously had a good time and everything was fine, so perhaps keeping this in mind will help me freak out a bit less in the heat of the moment. And not say things I’d regret.

    Great, well-written post.

  • snowman and snow-woman??!?! that. is. awesome.

    plus the wisdom in here resonates in my heart.

    and your name is the coolest. ahem.

  • SNOWSHOES! I love this wedding so much, and am so jealous of the snow shoes! Between that and leg warmers, winter weddings are going to be setting the trend for the fun and unusual!

    • I know, bride & groom on snowshoes=best thing ever, right? Maybe living in Utah has made me love winter even more than usual, but these weddings are great.

  • as i am getting married in about… oh… 12 hours from RIGHTNOW i really appreciate this. thank you!

  • Moz

    I love the advice for photographers, so true.

    Congrats on your marriage. And I hope the pain eases soon xx

  • Denise

    Oh my, you got married at the Round Barn! You’re wedding at this venue is as gorgeous as I’d always envision. My fiance and I wanted to marry here but it wasn’t quite without our budget. It’s so nice to look at yours though and it is clear that the price is entirely worth it. However, like previous comments have said, you notice how much fun you are having even more than how beautiful it was. The most heartwarming aspect of your wedding is how happy and in love the two of you look. I’m sorry that the tough times hit you so soon but I’m really glad you were able to get through them and that you posted this wedding. You speak some wise words.