Christa & Chris

So, as long time readers of this site know, I go out of my way to make sure I don’t just show case a bunch of hyper DIY weddings, that make those of us that are a little, achem, unskilled/lazy in the DIY department feel inferior. But. I have been getting a wave of wedding graduate posts that fall into the, “D*mn girl!” category. As in, “D*mn girl, you did all THAT? Whoa.” And Christa and Chris’s wedding is firmly in that camp. I mean, he’s a chef and they self catered in a serious way. And that alone is pretty bad *ss. But what I love about this wedding is not how much they did themselves, but how right they got it. Christa says, “We pretty much did everything ourselves, so we were familiar with flowers, food, décor, etc. It also seemed as though so many of the wedding decorations had become part of our lives, which somehow made it more comfortable. So many of our wedding details – and I assure you, I am a detail girl – weren’t just details. They meant something to us and will give us more memories than just those from our wedding day.” And that, I think is the last word on the details versis minuta debate. And with that, I give you the girl herself:

I would love to sit here and tell you that planning my wedding from 2,714 miles away didn’t drive me crazy. But I can’t, because it did. Because we didn’t just plan our wedding. We also catered our wedding, and hosted our wedding. Did I mention this happened from 2,714 miles away?? Yes, planning drove me crazy. No, I didn’t enjoy it. Yes, I wanted to cancel everything and elope. But we didn’t, and I’m glad we didn’t. And although it was very hard at times to push through the planning process, I did, in fact, survive! And I’m confident in saying that you will, too.

Chris and I had a small wedding on a lake-front cottage in New York State – a cottage that has been in Chris’s family for many generations. And although Chris had spent his whole life taking yearly trips to this cottage and was familiar with the property and the surrounding areas, I had only been there once. This was a problem for me because I am a visual person – I need to see things to know exactly what I’m getting. I had to rely on Chris’s memory of what was there – where the trees were, how much room is there on the beach, things like that. And let’s face it; Chris doesn’t have the best memory. But just not being able to see the cottage during the planning wasn’t the only thing making me want to cry and pull all my hair out. In the year leading up to the wedding, the whole cottage was being torn down and rebuilt. Why we were crazy enough to plan a wedding during this time, I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

But it was so worth it. It meant so much to Chris to just return to this beautiful property that he’d spent so many sunny days at in years past, yet alone get married there. Plus it was a really good feeling “breaking in” the new cottage with some really great new memories. So, how did I know this was the right decision if it was so stressful during planning? I don’t really know. It just felt right. We couldn’t really see ourselves getting married anywhere else. We knew we wanted an intimate, honest wedding and we knew we’d get it if we had it at the cottage. So we had to let fate take over, and just trust that the cottage would be finished by May 22. And what did we find when we showed up at the cottage front door four days before the wedding? That it was breathtaking and absolutely gorgeous. And I do mean that it literally took my breath away. And you know what? No one had to know that the basement was unfinished.

So, let’s talk about food. Yes, we catered our own wedding for about 50 people. I know this sounds crazy to many people. But my husband is a Sous Chef at a five diamond restaurant, so he knew what he was getting into. He’s fed many more than 50 people in one night before. We hired a couple friends who also knew what they were doing, and they executed everything the day-of so Chris didn’t have to spend all day in the kitchen. You can’t keep a chef out of the kitchen; it’s just not going to happen. A little crazy, yes, but it’s who we are.

Okay, I can’t lie – I used to be that girl. You know the one. Sneaking peaks into bridal magazines since I was nine, secretly trying on jewelry on my ring finger when I was alone, and secretly planning every little detail for my wedding since the age of about ten (Editors note: Me too. Clearly. Or I don’t think I’d enjoy writing this site HALF as much). But at some point over our two year engagement, that changed. And thank GOD! Because our little “hand-made” ceremony was far better (for us) than any other ceremony we’ve seen in a movie, or read about in a magazine, could have been. We started by being honest with ourselves and before we knew it, everything was just falling into place. If it felt right, we went with it, and if it didn’t, we weren’t afraid to say “no.”

How did I feel on my wedding day? Happy. Joyous. Excited! Loved. Beautiful. But perhaps most surprisingly? Relaxed. Even the day after the wedding, I remember being surprised how calm I was all day. I thought maybe it was because we had all week to set things in their place, or because Chris and I spent the morning of the wedding together. But now I realize that I was calm and relaxed because I wasn’t doing anything that didn’t feel like me. We didn’t have some stuffy wedding that we would feel uncomfortable at. We pretty much did everything ourselves, so we didn’t have any surprises waiting for us at the ceremony – we were familiar with flowers, food, décor, etc. It also seemed as though so many of the wedding decorations had become part of our lives, which somehow made it more comfortable.

Because we had two years to plan, we also had two years to fold the 1,000 cranes we knew we wanted, so scattering them all over the place at the wedding wasn’t just because they might look cool. It also gave us an opportunity to share stories of folding them – some in long car rides from New York to Seattle, some at my parent’s kitchen table, some that our cat (who left this world a year before the wedding) would bat all around the floor after we folded them. So many of our wedding details – and I assure you, I am a detail girl – weren’t just details. They meant something to us and will give us more memories than just those from our wedding day.

At first, it was really hard for me to let go of the things I thought I wanted. But thankfully, I had a man by my side willing to help me push through all the meaningless details and get to the good stuff. And he did a really great job. He knew when to give me space and time with things when he knew I needed it, and when I knew it was time to move on, he helped me get excited about the things that really mattered. Like our dear friend who agreed to marry us, and another friend who was creating a wedding certificate for everyone who attended our wedding to sign. These things meant more to me, and will always mean more to me, than any table linen, or bridesmaid dress, or any typical wedding detail EVER could. And I’m so glad Chris helped me open my eyes, because a wedding, for us, isn’t just the day you say “I do” (or whatever you say in your vows) – it’s the whole experience leading up to it. And if I was too focused on all of these little things, then I would have missed it. And that would have been bad news.

Some of my favorite memories are from the week leading up to the wedding. We stayed at the cottage all week, and had family and friends over for dinner a few times, and to help us prep the place for a wedding. Living apart from family isn’t easy for us, so any time we get to spend with our families is special. Having dinner with old and new friends, spending time with my sister and her beautiful children – just relaxing and being ourselves, excited and anxious for the big weekend coming up – feeling all the love and support from everyone around us, and everyone just being so happy and just plain excited for us – for me, that was it. That was the whole point of everything. That made the planning that I hated so much worth it completely.

Like I said, I didn’t really enjoy the planning process. But I’m glad we went through it. And even more so, I’m glad it’s over. I can see how some women could be sad when their wedding is over – so much time and energy put into planning – what do you do when you don’t have a wedding to plan after all of that time spent? And honestly, in the beginning of our “wedding journey,” I thought maybe that would be me. But… it wasn’t. I’m so relieved it’s over and I can get back to a normal life. I think we both took a big sigh at some point shortly after the ceremony, and just thought, “THANK GOD IT’S OVER!” Because now we can move on! We got bigger-and-badder things planned, and now we don’t have any wedding plans holding us back from going after ‘em. Hooray!!

My advice to you (and I know you’ve heard it before, but it always bears repeating), is this:  Be in it.

Be aware of what is going on around you. Not just on your wedding day, but every day you get to spend with someone you love. Because life is short. And in the end, no one cares if your hair fell out of the cute little bun your sister put in your hair on your wedding day. Because you know what? Mine did. And it didn’t matter. Because the time I got to spend, just me and my sister, getting ready for my wedding, was so special to me, and it means far more to me than any pretty hairdo a professional hair stylist could have ever created on top of my head (that would have lasted all night).

And in the end, no one cares (or will even notice) if the flowers in your bouquet are starting to wilt. Because mine did. And it didn’t matter. I built my bouquet the night before the wedding. I was in LOVE with it, and I was proud of it. Like I said, I’m a detail kind of girl, I like pretty things. Yes, I thought my bouquet was absolutely gorgeous. But I was also aware that in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter. It was a tiny speck of existence on a beautiful day.

And in the end, you can’t follow every rule. People have different views and beliefs in life. People will always have a different take on things. But I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate true, honest love. Both of our families have a more “traditional” view on faith and marriage. But, like I said before, having an honest wedding was important to us. We knew our wedding would be different than a wedding our families may be used to. But we kept it honest, and we kept it as close to us as we could. I wrote our ceremony (with some help from the wonderful world wide web), and in it, we had an “open talk” time. This served as an opportunity for anyone to speak during the ceremony, and share loving words with us, and wishes for us.

We only officially asked one person to prepare something (my sister) and pretty much just hoped and prayed every night that someone else would come forward and say something. And someone did. Several people, actually. And it was truly amazing. And some of these more “traditional” people who spoke, are the ones whose words I most often think back on.

So, I have a hope for you. I hope that you don’t spend so much time worrying about how others may react to your wedding, because honestly the only opinions that matter are yours and your partners. I spent nights, days, weeks, and months agonizing over some of these traditions that our family may be used to seeing at a wedding, and we weren’t including in ours. We didn’t want to upset anyone by not meeting their expectations of what a wedding should be. But eventually I had to no choice but to give up, and do what was right for me and my husband. And people appreciated that. We could feel their warmth in their wishes for us. Their feelings and hopes for us were honest. If we weren’t honest with ourselves from the beginning, none of this would have been possible. And I could have saved a lot of time and energy for myself if I hadn’t worried about it so much. So, don’t worry your pretty little face so much.

Although it seemed like almost everyone who attended our wedding came from different points in their lives, they were all there for one thing:  Love. And that’s what we were there for, too.

Godspeed to you and yours!

Photos by Denyse Clark of D’Marie Photography, and her assistant Kathy

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