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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