Christen & Seth and The Local Squared Wedding

Back in March 2009, Kate Harrison Photography (loooonnnngggg time APW sponsor and I) decided to hatch a plan to make some magic happen as the economy continued to fall apart in slow motion. So Kate decided she was going to give away wedding photography to an APW reader, and after some discussion, we decided that it should go to someone who was experiencing some economic hardship. The contest we came up with was called Local Squared, because we wanted to do some good for Northern California, which is home for both of us.

Needless to say, I’ve been waiting to post the winners wedding for a long long time, and today I get to bring you Christen & Seth. There wedding makes my soul sing in a million ways. It’s in the lovely Mendocino, where my grandmother lived for years, so each feature of the small down is familiar and well loved to me. It sings sweetly of the ocean, which I love. But more than I that, I love the way Christen talks about coming to grips with having a very traditional Catholic service. Because for all our wedding looked indie in pictures, we had a deeply traditional service, something I came to love for all the reasons Christen lists. So you’re in for a real treat today. And the pictures. Ohmygod. I, um, couldn’t help but use a lot of them, since I want to eat them all up. And with that, Christen:

Seth and I met seven years ago in the tiny, storybook village of Mendocino, CA—a windswept, coastal town frozen in time and in many ways isolated from the “real world”. Seth was living and working in Mendocino, 20 miles down a dirt road, in a one room cabin at the heart of a redwood forest. I was living in San Francisco and working as a theatre actress (while juggling other jobs) and jumped at the opportunity to perform in the bucolic village of Mendocino. The rest is long-winded and juicy, but I don’t have time to go into that. Our individual journeys up until that point were rambling to say the least— I’m still amazed that our paths crossed in the most unlikely of places. But wham, 7 years later, here we are.

We chose Mendocino as the wedding location because it represents our beginning and is dear to our hearts. We are California transplants, so all of our family and many friends are from far flung parts of the country and world. We realized that a Mendocino wedding would be difficult for many people– travel time and costs would be prohibitive. Therefore, we wanted the journey and weekend to be a magical escape for those willing and able to make the trip. Despite the obstacles and difficulties along the way, we tried to keep all aspects of the wedding focused on family and friends and our gratitude for the role they play in our lives. I am still amazed and exhausted that we pulled it off. While it was fabulous, worth it, and one of the best days of my life, I am also very glad it is over.

The wedding planning process wasn’t easy. I always assumed I’d get married, but never envisioned or imagined the details. Added to that– I’m a pleaser, a second guesser, and kinda shy. Many aspects of a wedding—the planning, the actual event—are a nightmare to someone like me. I worry too much about other people’s opinions, feelings, and expectations and I tend to put other people’s needs first. This makes me adaptable and flexible and easy to be around, but leads to difficulty when trying to plan a wedding and blend such a diverse group of people. Seth was raised by hippy, intellectual, non-conforming, artist parents in isolated parts of Newfoundland and Maine, while I was raised by devout, hardworking, but fun-loving, conservative Catholics from the Midwest. Though our family’s had met and got along swimmingly, I worried a lot about pleasing both parties and blending these diverse communities.

The idea that every aspect of the wedding would be a reflection of ME, the BRIDE was horrifying. I cared deeply about many things, those choices were easy. But despite the myth, a wedding is not the Bride’s Big Day. Or at least, I don’t think it should be. And it’s not even the Bride and Groom’s big day. In a lot of ways, it’s about everyone else (our parents, our families, our fabulous friends) and I’m absolutely ok with that. While Seth and I went into the process wanting to throw a party that reflected US and do things OUR way, I think this is naive. Weddings are all about bringing people together, so compromise is key.

Seth and I definitely wanted to be married in a hand-crafted, outdoor ceremony. We share a profound love for the outdoors and nature is our common church. For my parents, however, our marriage would not be real unless it was a Catholic marriage performed by a Catholic priest. But the Catholic Church sees marriage as a sacrament that must be performed inside a church, no exceptions.

At first it frustrated me that my parents would not budge, but I understood their position—it is their faith and my upbringing and I am grateful for it. (I am spiritual in my own way, and use tools from a Catholic foundation to create my own multifaceted, non-denominational approach to the mysteries of life. Nonetheless, I am inescapably a Catholic at heart.)

After much discussion, Seth and I agreed to do a private, immediate-family-only ceremony in the Catholic Church before holding a larger, outdoor ceremony to better reflect the merging of both our backgrounds. Of course, things got complicated. When will we hold the Catholic wedding—2 days before? Will this diminish the second ceremony? In order to be married in the Catholic Church we were required to attend a retreat and have meetings with a priest and discuss the merging of our lives, and then pick readings and music for the ceremony. After all that it became exhausting trying to think about crafting an entire OTHER ceremony. And what about RAIN…Mendocino is notorious for terrible weather…What if the outdoor wedding was rained out?

I stressed and fretted about these issues A LOT. It worried me deeply that Seth’s background would not be reflected in a church wedding. I lost sleep, I cried. I fretted obsessively over the very limited biblical reading options which seemed to have a male dominant/subservient female slant. (Please know, my wonderful husband was as cool as a cucumber during all this—I’m still amazed). I was disappointed in my parent’s lack of flexibility but was also angered when people told me to blow them off. I felt undercurrents of anti-conformity—as if it wasn’t as “cool” as other religions or non-denominational weddings. Perhaps I am too sensitive. Yes, I am frustrated by many aspects of the religion, but life, love and the spirit are complicated. And this is who I am.

So Seth and I made a trip up to Mendocino to see the little Catholic Church perched upon a hill, and our hearts soared. The entire wall behind the altar is an ocean seascape. Seth was raised along the coast and his work and identity are tied up in the water. The stained glass windows around the church show coastal scenes—a young boy on a boat, a young boy in the forest and field—mirroring all of Seth’s childhood photos. It was as if this little church was made just for us and our dilemma. And so, after all that confusion, we decided to scrap the second outdoor ceremony altogether, and perform one ceremony in the Catholic Church with a post gathering at the coastal headlands to satisfy our need for nature.

While our reading selections were limited, we put great care into selecting the music—one song as an homage to Seth’s father and one to my dad. We asked our friend’s to play the music. And we carefully crafted our own “Prayers of the Faithful”—the only part of the Catholic services that you can write yourself. In them, we gave thanks and prayed for the most important people and blessings in our life.

In the end, I’m still not sure if we compromised too much with the ceremony, but we did our best to make sure everyone was reflected in some small way and we honored those we loved by putting their needs above, or at par, with our own. We did the best we could and that is all you can do. Some moments were awkward, but there is a magic to repeating the same vows said my millions of people for thousands of years.

The Good And The Practical

  • For me, the wedding was not a one day event. The best part of the whole shebang was the week leading up to the wedding. Our families travelled from far away to surround and help us. We rented lodging in Mendocino and got to share our favorite place in the world with the people who mean the most to us.

  • We baked hundreds of cookies for wedding favors because my mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. We collected rocks and sand for the reception and ceremony at some of my favorite beaches. I’ll never forget the joy of seeing my nieces and family scurry about the beach like wild, happy animals.

  • Post ceremony, we asked everyone to join us on the headlands to toss a stone into the ocean and make a wish. It was so simple and so easy and allowed everyone their own special moment of reflection.

  • Our wedding day felt slow and full. My mantra going into the day was: be present. Everywhere I turned, there was a loved one. The day was not without some confusion and drama, but it was full of a joy that overwhelmed me in the best of ways.
  • Everything was local, walk-able, and family friendly. Every vendor was either a friend or a local in the tiny village of Mendocino. Our friends brewed us beer and played music. Our favors were homemade cookies and Mendocino Mustard. All food was local and served family style. You get the point. I’m glad we put money into the local economy when it needed it most and am grateful for the overwhelming support from our community.

  • Despite all of my worry, everyone got along swimmingly and formed surprising friendships. Seth’s friends and relatives are now friends with my friends and relatives on Facebook and in life. People have visited each other and hung out afterwards. It’s awesome.
  • Kids rock. The more the merrier. I understand that it doesn’t make sense to some people to invite kids to a wedding, but weddings are lovefests that deserve to be shared with all creatures great and small. Kids are wedding magic.

  • We made the wedding a weekend affair. I am very glad we had a gathering planned for Sunday before guests departed. Seth and I snuck out at the end of the reception on Saturday night without saying goodbye. It would have broken my heart not to have a little Sunday farewell.
  • Have I mentioned our fabulous photographer Kate Harrison? Seth and I were blown away. Having Kate at our side was like having an old, dear friend as wingman. She was happy, easy, unobtrusive, always game, adaptable and extremely talented. I cannot recommend her more highly.

The Lessons and Tips

  • Beware of wedding blogs. Seriously. A Practical Wedding rocks, but the world of wedding blogs—alternative, crafty, indie, whatever, is wonderful but dangerous. I lost myself for awhile and in the end, seriously, seriously, the details do NOT matter. I’m glad I did them, I stayed very very close to my core values and heart and kept it simple and enjoyed (almost) every minute, but I could have saved myself a lot of insecurity, jealousy, and confusion if I had spared some of my unemployed hours surfing the web. Weddings are not a time to be trendy. I honestly believe that. Who looks back at photos of themselves from 10+ years ago and is impressed by trends? Have fun, know your limitations, and forget about the rest.

  • DIY or even DIT is not always the best way. We passed up a lot of wedding venues, etc, who offered us a package deal because of initial sticker shock over the price and feeling like it was too “cookie cutter”. In the end, we had so many different vendors and friends to deal with and so many details that had to come together, it was mind numbing. Know when to trust the professionals and get out of the way. Also, friends are fabulous, but contracts are important too.
  • Know your audience. Seth and I searched and searched for a ranch or hotel where everyone could be together all weekend long. But rates in Mendocino are high and quality varies. We realized that our New York banker guests and hard core hippy guests may want to pick their own lodging for their own tastes and budgets. In the end, this was definitely the best choice for us. Give options, then get out of the way.

  • I expected to cry when walking down the aisle. But the walk was kinda awkward and the whole thing a bit strange and surreal. I did not feel like a princess. I had moments of insecurity throughout the day, despite the joy. And that’s ok.
  • Trust your gut, yes, but know that it is ok if your gut has no idea. The most important thing is being ok with your decision, no matter what, after the fact.
  • Lastly, being married is way better than any wedding.

Final Note: I don’t always have warm and fuzzy feelings about the day or the process when I look back.  In fact, it’s taken me some time to even WANT to look back.  I honestly, wholeheartedly do believe it was worth it in the end, but I want people to know that it is ok and normal to have mixed feelings afterwards—even if your wedding from the outside was a tremendous success. The good news is—as time goes by, I’m more and more able to appreciate all of the good stuff and the emotional struggles seem to fade away.  But don’t feel bad if you’re a bit insecure when talking or thinking about your wedding afterwards—you’ve been through the ringer and deserve some slack.  People’s loaded opinions and complex expectations about the world of weddings don’t go away after you’ve been through it yourself.  Throughout your whole life you will have to revisit your wedding and weigh it against all the hype, opinions, and expectations of yourself and others.  At those times, it is especially important to hold onto the good things and remember the love.  So good luck and thanks for being my sounding board.

Photos by Kate Harrison Photography. I love this woman. THEY loved this woman. This woman loves you guys. It’s a good thing like that. You can (and should) see more wedding pictures here. It hurt me not to include them all.

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  • Mrs. Sarah

    Just 2 things:

    -“there is a magic to repeating the same vows said my millions of people for thousands of years” AMEN!! That is so very very true. It grows on me the more I think about it too. And when I go back and look at the words again… truly wonderful.

    -“weddings are lovefests that deserve to be shared with all creatures great and small. Kids are wedding magic.” Again, AMEN! There were battalions of little kids running around at my wedding, both relatives and just children of people from the Church, and they were priceless. I was particularly amused by the little club of girls that formed (many of whom had never met before!) and made it their business to follow me around, and make all the little(er!) kids sign the guest book! So cute… And totally worth the extra little bit of cleaning up. ;)

    I wish both you and your husband, in the Traditional Orthodox style, MANY MANY BLESSED YEARS!

  • Emily

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I really identify with your description of your personality, and your relationship to your Catholic upbringing and getting married in the church (I was fairly horrified by most of the Old Testament readings recommended for marriage ceremonies). It was really great to be able to read this – thank you for your thorough, reflective, soothing account.

    • Emily

      Actually, I wanted to correct myself, having had a look back over the various suggested readings, it certainly wasn’t just the Old Testament ones that were like this.

  • Elizabeth

    Oh my goodness, seconded x10,000 times over about the Catholic reading options having such a paternalistic slant. I’m not the devout one in our relationship, but even still I felt sacrilegious nixing parts of the Bible – but no way was I going to have a reading that along the lines of obeying your man and the home being your sole domain, etc etc. In the end, we found readings that I really love and I think reflect who we are as a couple.

    The commentaries in Together for Life (the condensed readings + commentaries on the passages) did provide some entertainment. One in particular stated outright that jizz was a gift from husband to wife. (Can I say that on APW?) Needless to say, me and my incredibly mature husband-to-be giggled over that one for a while.

  • Maureen

    Thank you so much for the Final Note. I really needed to hear that. It’s amazing how one person telling you things you already know can make it ok somehow. Thank you for being that person.

  • Jamie

    I am having some of the same issues getting married in a church that you had. I’m not religious, he’s not either. My parents wanted me to do what I wanted but my grandparents really wanted me to get married in a church. My grandmother just passed away in May. I’m not spiritual or anything like that, but part of the reason I’m sticking with the church wedding is because I feel like I can feel her in the room when I walk into that church. And that puts me at ease, feeling her presence, knowing how much it meant to her for me to get married in a church. Luckily, I’m getting married in a Methodist church, it doesn’t have as much of a paternalistic slant (some of those readings…oy). So I was more ok with it than the other option (his mom is Catholic and dropped a few subtle hints about that one. That would’ve been a lot harder for me to swallow). And then of course, there’s this:

    ”there is a magic to repeating the same vows said by millions of people for thousands of years”

    Saying the same vows that my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. said makes me feel even more connected to my family and…the world I guess. For myself, I didn’t think we needed to reinvent the wheel: the traditional vows were the only traditional part of a wedding that held any weight for us and the only ones we wanted to continue on our own wedding day. So we’re doing the traditional vows and that’s about the only super traditional thing we’re going to do. Other than have him carry me over the threshold because that’ll just be hilarious (he’s too tall to fit through standard doorways in the first place and I’m almost 6 foot tall myself).

  • So I have lots of favorites, always, because there is so much wisdom here. But this is my current favorite, has been excessively starred in my Google Reader, and will be re-read multiple times on the way to my decisions.

    Thank you! This is beautiful and magical and spiritual and oh so grounded in the important stuff: family and love and making it all work.

    Plus the ocean–AH!

  • Sarah M

    I hated that feeling of thinking my church wedding would not be as “cool” as non-denominational weddings. Reading APW is like a daily smack on the head reminding you that it’s not about whether or not other people will think your wedding is cool.

    • meg

      Yeah. It’s not. And also, I had the Jewish equivalent of a church wedding, it’s just that for Jews it’s MOST traditional to get married outside. Plus we were able to add some modern readings in with the Torah readings which was really nice. Anyway, I loved it. Your ceremony more than anything else, that’s JUST for you (notice I shared all of basically no pictures of ours with the internet? Yeah. It’s like that.)

      • Sarah M

        We personalized by carefully selecting every piece of music. It has been my favourite part of planning (sitting with the fiance in front of the computer listening to hymns and anthems and choosing the ones that worked best for us). Our music is yet another super traditional part of our super traditional ceremony, but knowing that our ceremony will be filled with our favourite church music (well except the Christmas ones, I couldn’t convince the fiance to have Christmas music at a September wedding), fills me with joy.

        • meg

          Indeed. We used super traditional Hebrew prayers, but I selected some pieces not traditional for weddings, but traditional for Shabbat, so everyone knew them (like Psalm 92, yum, yum, yum).

          But maybe one of you protestants doing a traditional service could use “Oh God Our Help In Ages Past” for me? Or “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”? Those did not make the cut in our Jewish wedding (for rather obvious reasons) but I *adore* them. It was hard to leave them out.

    • Don’t hate it. Embrace it. I loved our wedding BECAUSE of the uber traditional ceremony for us.

      • Sarah M

        I have totally embraced. When we first got engaged and I was perusing too many wedding blogs I went through about a two week phase of thinking my church was not “cool” enough. It took one disappointed look from my father to set me straight. Having my wedding in the church where I have been for the past few years and am fully involved and everyone knows me and my family? What isn’t cool about that?

    • peanut

      Here’s my opinion from the complete opposite perspective: We’re not religious, along with both our families (our fathers are both atheists, we’re agnostic), so we have basically no long-standing traditions for the ceremony part – which kinda sucks. I mean, it’s great in some ways that we get to figure out the entire ceremony from scratch, and we are using some traditional elements, but it’s not the same. I can honestly tell you that if there was a traditional ceremony that fit with our beliefs we would definitely use it!

  • I’m running late for work – so unfortunately didn’t have time to read the post – but scanned the pics and OH WOW. Fantastic!!! Beautiful photos – beautiful bride/wedding – all of it! Took my breath away…

  • Jennifer

    This looks like it would have been a wonderful wedding to be at. I love the rock-throwing, and how fantastic that you could find that church building! That really does seem like one of those meant-to-be things.

    I’m sort of in a reverse spot on many of these points — feeling a little conflicted at times because we’re having a civil ceremony rather than the religious ceremony we’d first assumed (for a variety of reasons); feeling sad sometimes that our wedding doesn’t have much in the way of DIY/DIT elements that so many other couples find give more meaning to the day — so I really loved reading this for a different perspective.

    I see other commenters have mentioned the reading issue. Our original game plan for the civil ceremony was to select biblical or other religious texts in order to include that element of our lives, but even with no externally-imposed restrictions, trying to choose something that seemed appropriate for a wedding, but wasn’t exalting the heterosexual, the coupled, or the Christian (or all 3) above our friends and family who don’t fit all (or any) of those categories proved a difficult task, and what little we could find didn’t seem “us.” So instead we are incorporating an lightly-adapted version of the prayers from the Episcopal marriage service along with those traditional vows. (Having the civil marriage blessed or convalidated is still on the table for some future time when we are more settled in a joint spiritual home, but for now…it turns out that what I thought was a compromise was possibly a blessing.)

  • ElfPuddle

    “despite the myth, a wedding is not the Bride’s Big Day. Or at least, I don’t think it should be. And it’s not even the Bride and Groom’s big day. In a lot of ways, it’s about everyone else (our parents, our families, our fabulous friends) ”

    This. Exactly. This.
    I wrote almost these same words when I sent out letters to the family this summer with our updated plans. It’s what I keep telling everybody who asks about “my” plans for “my” big day.

    Thank You!

  • Richelle

    Congratulations Christen! What a beautiful, love-filled, real wedding. You are just elegant,and honest. Thanks for reminding me that its okay to look back with some mixed feelings. The perfectionist in me hates that, but it is soooooo inevitable.

    Just a thought on Catholic weddings– I come from a very, very traditional Catholic background. Middle Eastern in fact, almost Orthodox. At first I thought I had to pick from the few readings they first gave me, which I also didn’t like much. The church coordinator also said I “had” to. But I know there is so much more in the Bible that speaks to love and beauty. I finally asked the priest himself, and lo and behold, this most traditional leader, who teaches church doctrine, said we can use ANY reading from the old testament, and ANY reading from the new. So beware anyone who says you HAVE to use one of the few they first give you. You don’t. Also, we wrote a custom prayer at the beginning, and added the blessing of the hands at the end. You can do that too. Just ask. You might be surprised. Of course it varies priest to priest, but I just wanted to share that there is possibility of crafting your own Catholic ceremony. I’m hoping to submit our wedding to Meg as a possible graduate post, so maybe I’ll get to show you in the future how ours was. Crowns and all! Sorry- long post. Personally important topic.

    \Congratulations again to Christen and Seth. All the best for a beautiful marriage.

    • Katelyn

      I’m going to remember this! I have been slowly convincing my mom towards a non-religious ceremony (we’re not even engaged but she’s VERY Catholic, and my two older brothers’ weddings are good times to talk about it).

      But if we end up having to do a religious ceremony, the *one* reading I’ve always remembered for all my life is the one that states “God is love.” I don’t know how the rest goes, but it was the one passage, after 18 years of weekly services, that really spoke to me. So I would fight tooth and nail to have that reading.

      • meg

        My advice in general with religious services is “Fight tooth and nail to get what you love.” You need to remember that there is a difference between serious litergical arguments and theology, and the lazy, “But that’s just how we usually do it.”

        I mean, I come from a long line of religious troublemakers, going back to the puritans and the early protestants, so I was used to my Dad waiting to be the very last person to shake the pastors hand so he could take some time to tell him all the parts of the sermon he disagreed with, and what his theological basis for that argument was.

        So. I come by it naturally. But I recommend it. If you push hard enough, and know what you’re talking about theologically, you can almost ALWAYS get what you want. Are you going to get to read Janus Joplin lyrics? No. But if you want another New Testament passage, go, make your case, and refuse to leave until they tell you why, theologically, this piece of God’s word isn’t just as worthy as any other piece.

        Plus, fighting with clergy is super fun. And since most people don’t fight with them, they usually find it memorable. I get asked to do all sorts of honors in our shul because I’m so, achem, “engaged.”

  • Jessie

    Absolutely beautiful wedding – despite the tradition you incorporated, I could feel the personalization through the photos as I’m sure your guests could too. The church looked so magical! Your final note is so true. I’m sure I’ll come back to read it when wedding insecurities creep up again (as they have even months after our wedding).

  • “I expected to cry when walking down the aisle. But the walk was kinda awkward and the whole thing a bit strange and surreal. I did not feel like a princess. I had moments of insecurity throughout the day, despite the joy. And that’s ok.”

    Um, yes. I am with you 100% on this one. Seeing my partner and walking down the aisle wasn’t an incredible moment for me. It was just one moment in a larger series of moments, many of which were far more meaningful than the procession. It was a bit meta, where I consciously asked myself, “Am I walking down the aisle now? This is what walking down the aisle is like? This is my wedding ceremony?” But there’s no one universal feeling for a person’s wedding and people react differently. And like you said, that’s ok.

    • meg

      Yes. I wrote a long post about this last year, as well. It was the same for me.

      • Margaret M.

        I hissed at my dad “SLOW DOWN!” And everyone heard me and laaaaughed. But it wasn’t the transcendental moment of the wedding, by any means.

    • Christina

      I feel a lot of pressure to cry or get emotional during the ceremony. I went out with my Bridal Brigade girls last night and I expressed this, but they still responded with “of COURSE you’ll cry. It’ll be SO magical.” But the truth is, I have stage fright and i don’t cry infront of large groups of people. And honestly, I’m feeling nervous that I won’t perform for everyone who all think I’m going to cry or at least tear up. Will they think I’m heartless? or don’t really love my fiance? How incredibly silly is that?

      • Margaret M.

        It’s not a performance! It’s a ritual. Be there, experience it, react however comes naturally – and that’s all that matters. You’re not living up to anyone’s expectations here, you’re going through a ritual and you will be different on the other side, and however you react is how you react. That’s all there is to it.

      • I didn’t cry the whole day. How evil is that?! But I was beyond incredibly happy. I tend to laugh more than I cry (part of why I’m known as Giggles) and I did a lot or laughing on our wedding day.

        Some people equate crying with deep emotion. The two are not the same.

      • meg

        Margaret is 110% right. It’s *not* a performance, it’s a ritual. Your only job is to show up, try to be as present as you can, and to experience it. I’ve written about this, but it felt very weird to me, gritty, emotional, real. Not romantic and lovey dovey. I was very present, and I was very emotionally exhausted by the end.

        I did cry, but just a little at the end. One of my oldest friends was doing a reading and she started totally loosing her sh*t, and I pulled out my grandmothers handkerchief and started crying a little. And then crying a little more because it was her handkerchief. And then ONE second later, they did the group blessing with everyone’s hands on us, which made me keep crying a tiny bit. But then one second later we were kissing and I was laughing and we were done. And during the vows I was grinning.

        Just show up. That’s it. That’s your job. And people can tell if you’re really present, and if you are, they will usually sob and grin no matter what you do.

      • Christina

        I’m ok with not crying. I’ll certainly be present, and I’m willing to have no expectations. And I suppose I’ll have to just let go of wanting the guests to feel satisfied with the ceremony. They’re there to witness something real…. whatever that ends up being. You guys are awesome.

      • Anne

        I felt the same way — I can’t cry much in general, and I couldn’t cry on our wedding day either. My husband cried and it made me feel guilty that I wasn’t crying. Felt as if I wasn’t as emotionally moved or happy as him, which it’s not true. I just cry only when I’m really sad, and of course I wasn’t sad on our wedding day! I just felt content and real.

    • Yes. I remember being surprised and thinking: “Is this what it is supposed to feel like walking to the venue to get married?” The whole day did feel very gritty, but I was present and I remember it all very clearly. It was an amazing, surprising, complex, beautiful, moving day. :)

  • Kathryn

    Thank you for this post! Great to see that other people have successfully managed the challenges of a Catholic ceremony. My dear friend had a Catholic wedding last December (she is Indian and he is Mexican, but both Catholic) and they added a TON of ethnic traditions into the Catholic mass that made it the coolest wedding ceremony I’ve ever attended. So, I guess my point is that sometimes (if you’re very lucky) you can find a Priest/Minister who lets you add your own flair -and if you do have the option, you should take it because it’s both awesome to be part of a ritual that is so old, and have part of it that is uniquely yours.

    I am pre-engaged, and starting to worry about the ceremony. My guy is Methodist and I am Catholic, and he’s ok with getting married in a Catholic ceremony (which my Mother insists on, and I want too). I am worried about Communion – I do not want to have a part of the wedding that his family cannot participate in, but I know my Mom will be upset. *sigh*

    • Chelsea

      We had the exact same issue – I’m Catholic, my husband is not, my mom wasn’t thrilled about not having communion. But the Church actually encouraged us to not include communion, on the grounds that you want the ceremony to bring your families together, not highlight their differences. My mom still made the occasional “I don’t see what the big deal is” grumble, but since the Church was behind us, she couldn’t exactly argue. We simply replaced communion with laying flowers at the Mary statue, and it was lovely.

    • This is where the officiant and the wording can make all the difference. DH and I are both Catholic, but he converted in college and his whole family is Christian Reformed. The priest who officiated at our wedding Mass made a kind, tactful announcement before communion, basically expression our wishes (and his) that some day all Christians can share this together, but unfortunately we can’t yet. He invited anyone who wanted to come forward for a little blessing to walk up with their hands crossed over their chest. A few of the non-Catholics did so, and Catholic folks took communion, and it went much more smoothly than I expected it to.

      Of anything in our ceremony, that was the one part my in-laws mentioned several times. “He was so welcoming,” “That was so nice.” etc. And that was the number one thing I was worried about: I didn’t want anyone to feel excluded at our ceremony. Thanks to a priest (who himself grew up Presbyterian and converted in his 20s… so this was all very familiar territory for him) who was really listening to us and sensitive to the needs of the congregation, we made everyone feel included, accepted, etc – just what we wanted.

      • Aine

        i have to say, thank God for priests who converted as adults. They’re always the best ones.

      • Mrs. Sarah

        It’s so wonderful to hear how many Christians are ready to reach out and help others (Christian or not!) understand differences, but in warm, kind, loving way. I felt very similarly at my wedding. J and I are both Orthodox, but he converted less than a year ago after a long time thinking and debating. (that would be most of our time dating! lol) So while my immediate family totally understood since they are Orthodox as well (converts too…) his whole family and all my aunts and uncles etc are not. I really wanted to have the traditional ceremony, but without leaving them out. So in addition to having a family + priests dinner the night before where everyone could meet and mingle as normal people, we had these lovely little books for the ceremony that included all the words being said (since it’s so easy to miss them day of!) and had explanations of what it all meant. Afterwords, I had several family members come up and say how much they enjoyed it, and how welcoming both the Church and the priests had been. That perhaps was one of the best aspects of the whole day- being able to share something so deeply Spiritual and personal and have it be finally understood after many years of polite confusion.

    • Alexandra

      I think the tradition of letting people know they can come up for a blessing, with arms crossed over their chest, is a nice one, if Communion ‘has’ to happen.

      My best friend grew up Catholic, her husband did not, and they got a special dispensation to have a Catholic ceremony outdoors. They did not have Communion, that I recall.


  • Mel

    Loved this post – so much good advice here. I feel like the flip-side of you. My Catholic parents freaked when we said we would not have a Catholic wedding, they expected us to back down, and when we didn’t, my mother got really, really hurt. And I got really hurt in return that she couldn’t separate her identity from my identity, and that she implied that our wedding wouldn’t be a real wedding. So you are right that you bypassed major painful drama in going the Catholic route. I’m happy with my choice for me, but it’s been incredibly hard. (It was also hard to find a non-wacky officiant.) I was raised Catholic but am not a practicing Catholic, and my fiance is not Catholic or Christian at all, so for us, at my point in my “faith journey,” if you will, I knew I had to NOT be in a church for it to feel real and authentic, the very opposite of my mother’s hurtful assumption. I am so glad you made the right decision for you – it looks like it was a beauiful and meaningful day that everyone could be a part of. And I am totally with you on the power of vows that have been said before – we are using the traditional vows. Oh! And your horror at an entire event that is meant to reflect your bridey-ness – yes!

    • I was engaged once before, and the first time around, both of us were raised Catholic. My mom really, really wanted us to have a Catholic ceremony and I really did not (as I was recovering from feeling hurt by the Church, etc.)

      I basically told my mom that I respected her faith, but that if I had a Catholic wedding it would feel like lying to me, and wasn’t that worse than having an authentic, meaningful, spiritual ceremony elsewhere?
      Also, marrying under false pretenses (like being forced to pretend you are Catholic) is grounds for an annulment under canon law, so I tossed that one in there, too. ;)

      Yes, it was a painful conversation, but I think it was so important to separate her faith from my faith… this time around she never even brought up a church ceremony.

  • CarMar

    I think we may be wedding twins! I want to exactly your whole post, but especially the parts about making the wedding a journey and weekend “focused on family and friends and our gratitude for the role they play in our lives.” You write beautifully – I could not have said it better. I am also amazed and exhausted that we pulled it off.

  • This post seemed to come out of my head… Thank you for your honesty.
    I loved every single one of the tips you mentioned at the end. As I was reading, I was like, yes… yes… YES!

    And this wedding was lovely!

  • Claire

    Never thought I’d see the word “Newfoundland” on APW! I grew up there, left when I was 15, and miss it everyday. As a dyed-in-the-wool, bred-in-the-bone Newf, I have to agree that that church setting? Made for anyone who feels a kinship with the ocean. So awesome. So beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michelle

    Oh, I’m right there with you Christen. So much of this resonated with me. For an interfaith marriage, the Roman Catholic mass and protocol can feel stifling. My husband was a trooper as we jumped through all the hoops. But finding the right church and priest was the most stressful part of wedding planning, and there was drama, oh my goodness. Our priest said we could choose any passage from the Bible. But we chose from the book. I skipped all the male dominant readings and we ended up with a very meaningful ceremony.

    I’m 110% with you on your final note. I think in time I’ll look back and remember mostly the awesome moments from our wedding day, but 1 and 2 months out, I couldn’t help but think about what we forgot to do, the things that went wrong, how hungry people must’ve been because of the late meal, etc.

    And the marriage is a thousand times better than the wedding.

  • Shelly

    “We passed up a lot of wedding venues, etc, who offered us a package deal because of initial sticker shock over the price and feeling like it was too “cookie cutter”. In the end, we had so many different vendors and friends to deal with and so many details that had to come together, it was mind numbing.”

    This is so true! I’m not sure I really grasped the fact that a venue that was *only* a venue would mean that I was calling or emailing the caterer, and then the rental company and then the beverage service and then the site coordinator all about the same things. I’m sure I’ll be happy with the outcome, but other routes could have been far less stressful and required less involvement on my part.

    • Totally. One of the choices I feel best about so far (our wedding is in October) is that our Venue/Coordinator/Caterer are all the same place/person. Takes SO much stress off of me.

    • It definitely helps! Our venue was venue/caterer/coordinator all in one. We picked the bakery but even that was handled (paid) through the venue. And if we’d not done our ribbon flowers they would’ve been the florist too. It made things incredibly easy. And we got a deal on the hotel we stayed in that weekend through them! Basically we ended up with venue, photographer, and tux rental as the only people we had to coordinate that day.

    • Chelsea

      We had a venue-that-was-only-a-venue, and the way we got around this was to hire a wedding planner/ coordinator. I never would have thought of myself as the type to hire a wedding planner, but she was amazing: I did not have to deal with catering, rentals, set up, break down, day-of coordination, etc., because it was all her. I still handled a lot of things myself, but she took care of everything I didn’t want to have to think about so that I could focus my attention on the things I did care about. Plus, and I didn’t believe it was possible either but it’s true, hiring her worked out to be less expensive than doing it myself would have been.

  • Beautiful post! Beautiful photos! I’m so glad that you two found a compromise that so beautifully represented both of you!

    We’re also struggling with the church wedding thing. Neither of us is remotely religious, but we grew up in families that take their Christian beliefs very seriously.*While I understand why some couples make the decision to have a religious ceremony for their family’s sake, I can’t get past the feeling that, for us, it would be profoundly dishonest to do so. At first, I thought,”Oh, just tone down the rhetoric, and go with it.” But the more I think about it now, these are our wedding vows and that’s no place to say anything you don’t mean.

    And we don’t really have any close friends or family members that feel the same way about religion that we do. We are surrounded by profoundly conservative, Evangelical Christians. So everyone expects us to have a Christian wedding. And personally, I don’t feel that any religion or state entity’s consent is what makes you married. So having a public official declare us married because of “power invested in them by the state” also rubs me the wrong way. (My fiancé isn’t bothered by civil ceremonies, though.)

    So, in short, I ‘m stuck with need to “make it legit” without feeling that anyone else has the power to do that for us.

    *If you’ve ever heard of or seen the movies “Flywheel”, “Facing the Giants”, or “Fireproof”, you will have had a little taste of my upbringing. Those movies were produced by the Southern Baptist church I attended with my parents growing up. “Facing the Giants” was also filmed at the church-associated school that Chris & I both attended, K4-12th grade.

    • Mel

      I just want to mention that many officiants that you find online can do completely secular ceremonies and offer you options for customizing it (nixing the “I declare you” language). We interviewed many officiants before deciding on one, because we found a few strange ones or ones that just didn’t feel right, but it worked out in the end. So there’s a middle ground between religion and government ceremonies.

    • meg

      I would research Jewish vows. Now, it wouldn’t be ok to take them whole cloth, but I think you could use the idea. In the Jewish service the couple marries each other, and no Rabbi is even needed to make it official. I’m suggesting you play with the idea, not the vows themselves (which would make no sense for a non-Jewish couple anyway), but just for information, the vows read, “By this ring you are sanctified to me as my wife/husband in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Israel.” Which is nice. There are no promises, per say, you just sanctify your relationship (and have a whole lot of discussion about what that means.)

      It used to be that just the man said it (ick) and there was just one ring (ick), but for liberal Jews today, it’s a totally egalitarian moment.

      • ElfPuddle

        Catholic theology is the same….the bride and groom marry each other and the priest is just a witness…a physical manifestation that God is blessing the union the couple creates.

        • Yup. Little known fact: matrimony is the only Catholic sacrament where the people receiving the sacrament are also the ministers of the sacrament. Most Catholic ceremonies skip the “I declare you” part, and when they do include something similar, it’s just announcing what has just occurred, not actually doing the marrying.

  • I literally have a lump in my throat and I am welling up right now. I have been reading APW for weeks now but no post has rung so true for my particular situation as this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • My siblings and I were all raised Catholic and it has been interesting to see how our upbringing has manifested itself (or not) in weddings. My sister is no longer Catholic and she wrote her and her husband’s entire ceremony — she did an incredible job and I don’t think anyone ever noticed that there was no mention of God. On the other hand, my brother and his wife are extremely Catholic and they had a full, Catholic mass ceremony last May. Their wedding was equally beautiful. I’m anxious to figure out how to blend my beliefs with those of my boyfriend’s when it’s our turn, and your post definitely provided some inspiration to that end.

    Thank you for sharing your wedding with us. I’m so glad that you were all able to find a way to reflect both you and your husband in your church ceremony. Congratulations!

  • Thank you for your advice about wedding blogs, DIY and DIT. The thought of a list of DIY projects fills me with dread, even though I’d consider myself a crafty person. Looking at it on the scope of a wedding is a whole other beast.

    Thanks also for giving the disenchanted Catholics a real, honest post. You handled yourself with grace.

    • meg

      Go back and look at some of our Anti-DIY brides, like Leah, of Leah and Omid. I love those ladies, and am a huge fan of f*ck DIY, just simplify.

      • Rose

        Ah, lifting the DI(Y/T) burden feels so refreshing! I’m quite crafty myself, which creates internal pressure that just adds to the external pressure to hand-sew napkins or calligrapher invitations or make my dress or all of the above.

        Also, LOVE the photos by Kate Harrison – I’ve been in touch with her about my upcoming wedding, and now I’m especially excited about possibly working with her. Her photos just seem like true art, more so than many wedding photographers I’ve seen.

      • Christina

        I’d also like to add that forgo-ing cookie cutter venues also can be a huge head-ache. I really wanted to have a venue that no one had ever used as a wedding reception venue before. The thought of it was awesome. The execution – awful. You have to do a bunch of work (like figuring out capacities, arrangements, sound abilities, catering abilities) among a group of people who have never had an event there and have no idea what to do. The cookie cutter venues know what’s going on, have done it a million times, and I can only imagine they are loads more helpful than the people I’m working with at my never-before-been-used venue. That said – maybe on the day of I’ll think it was worth it… who knows.

        • meg

          Here is the thing: we didn’t do cookie cutter. But I’d planned lots of events, and David and I had produced shows as a team in New York City (no small feat), so for us that was a no-brainer. But we were not learning on the fly. And even then, we had a friend wedding stage manage the whole day, and had some pre-production meetings with her. So YES, if you do not have these sorts of skills (and who does other than weirdos like us), reeaaaaalllllyyyyy think carefully. Throwing money at a problem to make it go away is not always bad. And always simplify, simplify, simplify.

    • peanut

      Oh my gosh, we are like 18 days away from the wedding, and I cannot tell you how happy I am that I resisted the DIY and went for the “cookie cutter” packaged deals. I am in awe of the couples that can go this route, because I can assure you that if I had to do a bunch of crafts and micro-organization right now on top of everything else that is going on I would not be filled with joy and excitement about my wedding day.

    • Alyssa

      As a DIY-crazyface, I beg all slightly crafty brides to hear my plea.

      Do NOT DIY unless the thought of buying it outright or someone else doing it makes you violent.

      And not just a little violent, but a lot violent. Like A LOT a lot.

      And even then, DIT as much as possible.

      And even THEN, REALLY think about it.

      Trust me on this one. Your future self will thank me for it.

  • Lauren

    Gosh. Gorgeous setting, gorgeous dress, gorgeous pictures. Wow. if you were worried about a church wedding not being “cool” enough, you sure made it look amazing!

  • Nina

    Lovely words and honesty. I relate so much to the personality traits you describe and your overall feelings about the wedding – especially this “I honestly, wholeheartedly do believe it was worth it in the end, but I want people to know that it is ok and normal to have mixed feelings afterwards– even if your wedding from the outside was a tremendous success. The good news is—as time goes by, I’m more and more able to appreciate all of the good stuff and the emotional struggles seem to fade away.”
    The wedding is an intense experience and sometimes, especially among us sensitive types, even love can start to feel overwhelming. And I will echo your sentiments to others out there – with time, the emotional struggles do fade and you’re left with more and more of the good.

  • That last photo is absolutely gorgeous! WOW! All the photos are amazing.

    I love that you described the day as full and slow. That’s such an interesting concept. But thinking on it, that wouldn’t be far off from our wedding either.

    • meg

      Full and slow. That was ours exactly.

      I think if you choose going into it to BE THERE, it can seem really slow. You just have to be willing to step out of it now and then, and slow it down.

  • Paige

    “I always assumed I’d get married, but never envisioned or imagined the details. Added to that– I’m a pleaser, a second guesser, and kinda shy. Many aspects of a wedding—the planning, the actual event—are a nightmare to someone like me. I worry too much about other people’s opinions, feelings, and expectations and I tend to put other people’s needs first.”
    ALSO me. You described myself better than I ever could! Thanks:)

  • My goodness, this was simply incredible. I could totally relate to the Catholic stuff, the ceremony setting compromise that ended up being a huge blessing in disguise, the mixed feelings after the whole day was over and done with, and loving being married even more than the wedding itself.

    Thank you so much for sharing! I think this is one of my favorite wedding grad posts to date. :)

  • I had moments of insecurity throughout the day too. (I feel bad about not writing about it now. I didn’t because it paled into insignificance, especially in hindsight.) But it was there, and it’s good to say so.

  • Christen

    Um, you guys, I’m blubbering. I’m seriously sitting behind my computer screen at work trying to keep it together and not start making snorting noises as I wipe snot away. THANK YOU for being such an open audience and sounding board for me. I am amazed at the depth and diversity of the APW audience and cannot thank Meg enough for being the conduit to it all.

    I love knowing that my experience and journey can be of help to others and that I’m not alone in this world. Please know it was all the lovely previous wedding graduate posts and comments that helped me feel the courage to share openly.

    I am especially hopeful that this post is of use to those people in the opposite position as myself—the ones who stick to their guns and say, NO, a religious ceremony is not for me despite the family pressure, or any other situation. Not just because I still wonder and sometimes wish I had the backbone to do that, but because I want the end message to be universal—that you’ll struggle, you’ll find a way, you’ll create magic, and hopefully some of that magic can help you heal and deal with all the rest.

    Thanks, guys. I’m full up with happy today and wish every single one of you fabulously, diverse women all the best in life and love.

    Christen (today’s graduate  )

  • anne

    Thank you for this post! I too was raised Catholic and will be getting married in the Catholic church in about 2 weeks… We had some serious family pressure to marry in the church. This post really hit home as our planning is winding down and lots of emotions and opinions are coming out from anyone and everyone. I have re-read your post a few times today and will refer back in the coming days whenever I get flustered! Thank you so much.

  • kc

    I’ve been struggling with finding the right words to describe my wedding and then you post this, which has so much of what I’ve been trying to say. This is why I love APW.

  • I just got back from the weekend retreat required by the Catholic church we’re getting married at and it was painful, in particular for those who don’t agree with the paternalistic attitude towards marriage/relationships. I’ve also been worried that having the traditional Catholic wedding automatically forces our wedding into the bland and old-fashioned box. Also, I totally agree with the beware of the wedding blogs, because I enjoyed them so much before being engaged, but now that it’s real planning and attached to actual money they make my head swim. Thanks so much for this post!!!

    • Emily

      Yes, ‘painful’ is just the word, and I really appreciated how Christen’s beautifully-written post evoked that struggle.

      I’m glad to hear from couples who managed to make the ceremony feel like their own, and I’d love to hear suggestions of readings outside those usually recommended, which are more egalitarian.

      • meg

        Psalms. Song of Songs. Dig around there.

    • ElfPuddle

      I’m sorry, Jessica. Our priest and entire group working with our pre-cana is nothing of the paternalistic sort. Having a traditional mass doesn’t force you into anything, ANYTHING, that you don’t want. I was raised Catholic, and I know the sort of priest who would disagree with me. I also know many more who would agree with me and support you and your future husband in all of your endeavors.
      I wish you peace.

      • Jessica

        Yeah it was a bummer Elfpuddle. But I’m glad I read the most recent post about choosing to not have kids. That was definitely left out of the entire Catholic engaged retreat. I felt really bad for those few older couples or those that already had children who had to sit through session after session about how having children is the primary reason for someone to get married. I wonder how that makes couples feel who can’t have children or have already chosen not to.

  • ka

    Thank you, Christen! Thank you, thank you!

    Your “Final Note” was a huge wake up call and a big hug all in one–I know it will be getting a reread when I’m on the other side! From one “pleaser, second guesser, and kinda shy” to another, thank you for being so open about how just because things look picture-perfect on the outside (as your wedding certainly is), doesn’t mean they are picture perfect on the inside, and that’s OK. The part that we can see, however, seems to be particularly illustrative of what APW reminds me it’s all about: a celebration that is meaningful to you and your husband, your friends and families, and your lives together.

  • thank you for this. what a beautiful wedding. almost a year later I feel a lot of complicated emotions surrounding our wedding. I really appreciated hearing that someone else does too.

  • Alyssa

    For some reason, I just want to lay this wedding down on the floor and roll around in it like a puppy. It is THAT amazing. Just BEAUTIFUL, Christen, and such good advice too!

    I’m so glad you were able to come to terms with your ceremony. It was one aspect that The Boy and I sort of ignored and left up to the officiant, (I KNOW, I know….) and so it was a bit surprising when The Boy’s family preacher gave us a much more religious ceremony than we would have chosen for ourselves.
    Don’t do that, guys. It’s super dumb.

    • meg

      I want to eat this wedding, so we’re even.

  • Magdalena

    I worried for a split-second about the uncoolness factor too. The rustic barn weddings were going to be so much prettier than mine! I was upset about this even though it means so much to me and my love to get married in the Catholic Church. It literally never occurred to us to consider any other options.

    But all the purty pick-sures on all the blogs, both indie and mainstream, were of outdoor/barn/botanical garden/converted loft/deep-green-forest-where-the fairies-live-and-the-lighting-is-fantastic type weddings. I began to feel very dorky with my Church wedding, which was still kinda OK, because I am at peace with being a dork…

    But I have slowly come to understand that there is something bewitching about a Catholic ceremony. About all formal ritual weddings, really. Crafting your own ceremony may be fun (or a hair-pulling fest), but there’s something deep and true about having the same ritual your grandmother had, the same basic ceremony couples had 1,000 years ago. My sister remarked to me that the wedding Mass is the ultimate thorn in the WIC’s side, because it costs $0, the customization options are limited and the spendy brides get the same product as the economical brides. On another level, Catholics believe that the wedding ceremony actually changes the souls of the bride and groom in a way that can never be undone – similar to being baptized or ordained to the priesthood. Now that’s hard to pass up!

    • Jessica

      I agree with all of your comment, but I especially love the “thorn in the WIC’s side” part. I’m getting married on my college campus, and yes, there is a chapel use fee, which I am glad to pay because I love the church, I love my alma mater, and I know that campus ministry will put the money to great use (they do a ton of retreats and programs and community service projects with little to no cost for the students). The priest costs as much as a hotel room, because he is the “family priest” and is excited to “celebrate” our marriage. I was discussing this with two separate engaged people, and both were amazed that it was so inexpensive. One said the cost to get a judge to marry them was more than twice the cost, and the other said everywhere they looked at as a possible ceremony location was more than three times the cost! Talk about WIC!

    • meg

      Yeah, lets hear it for ritual.

      Also, you want your wedding to look like that? Hire a photographer that takes pictures like that. Our public parks venue looks like fairy land in our pictures. But if I had you google that wedding venue, 90% of the pictures you would see would NOT look like fairy land. So seriously. If you decide you care, here is the lazy and cheap guide to a blog-chic wedding. But you probably don’t. Ritual and tradition are better any day in my book.

      • Mrs. Sarah

        so very true. all the photos of j and i in the woods looking like something out of middle earth were all taken in a public park in a suburb of baltimore, 2 min walk from the church where we were married! oh, and the portraits of me and my mother? in the gravel driveway full of weeds behind my house!! lol we had people going ‘oOoO! where were those taken?!” and we’d have to repress a snigger and say, ‘uh…the driveway…’.

        so yeah. artsy is all about the photographer and basically nothing to do with the location!

    • I had to comment in addition to “exactly-ing”

      I’m not Catholic, but the same could basically be said of our ceremony. It cost absolutely nothing. There weren’t any customization options for us at all. And large or small, thrifty or spendy, you get the exact same thing out of it. We also have the level where the ceremony changes us forever as an ordinance like baptism or ordination to the priesthood.

      It was the least stressful part of the whole day. And it is probably the part I think back on the most.

  • Magdalena

    Also, PS, I just wanted to note for other Catholic ladies, you can have whatever readings you want at your ceremony, as long as they are from the Bible! They will give you a book with “suggested” readings, but they are only suggestions, they can’t make you use their planning book :)

    • Christen

      Yes! And to add to this, though we did select from the “suggested readings”, we went directly to the bible itself and “re-crafted” them. You’ll notice that the passages the book editors suggest are actually a patchwork of various lines from the bible. I realized, if they can do it, why can’t we!? So we went to the same edition of the bible and we edited the passages ourselves– selecting which lines to add or omit. We did not change ANY words and everything was directly from the bible– we only selected our own flow of verses. The priest had no problem with this and it helped us a lot!

  • “Weddings are not a time to be trendy”
    Oh yes, I’m going to try and remember this!

    • Christina

      That one is so good. Also, “Your wedding is not a photo shoot.” I can’t remember if I read that here – but it’s calmed my nerves about the wedding (or myself and hubby) not looking totally ‘blog-worthy’. Photos of the event are good – but I’m not a model and that’s totes cool.

      • meg

        That was ESB. Though I wrote a follow up, I think.

  • I love you Christen & Seth!! And of course you too, Meg!! :)

    • Christen

      We love you too, Kate :)

      Book this lady, Bay Area peoples! She’s the real deal– absurdly talented and nothing but a pleasure to have at your side. (Shameless plug, yes, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Sigh).

  • Christen, Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! We’re in the midst of crafting our (Unitarian Universalist) ceremony, and I’ve been having all sorts of internal drama over whether or not to include a reading from the Bible, and if so, which one. I was raised Catholic and Methodist (one parent of each, so we all went to both churches every week), but my fiancee was raised UU and while she doesn’t object to having a biblical reading in the ceremony, she doesn’t feel strongly about it either. And while I don’t identify much with Christianity anymore, it’s a big part of my heritage and was influential in making me the person I am today, so it’s important to me to include something from the Bible both for me and for my parents.

    Anyway, I’ve always loved the passage from 1 Corinthians 13 (“love is patient, love is kind…”) that’s so common at weddings, but I had rejected it early on because of the “omg it’s ssoooo overdone” factor. I was instead favoring a reading from Ruth which is admittedly less pretty but slightly more unique. But then my fiancee came across the Corinthians reading the other day and liked it better, though she said it doesn’t make much difference to her either way. But reading your post (which had me in tears at a couple points) reminded me of what Meg and others have mentioned before, which is the value of incorporating sacred words repeated in the weddings of those who’ve gone before you. Even if it is a common reading it weddings, they’re beautiful words that make me a little teary, so I think it’s at the very least worth reconsidering and discussing again.

    Thank you so much for sharing your wedding and wisdom (seriously, so much good advice!) here and for unknowingly poking me to do a bit of my own soul-searching.

    • meg

      You know, I’m awfully fond of Micah 6:8 myself. And Song of Songs, but not the overtly sexy parts “My beloved thrust his hand into the opening” is not my idea of wedding DAY appropriate. Thats sort of wedding night, if you ask me. But there are other lovely bits. And PSALMS. But I think I’ve said that seven billionish times. (But hey, Psalms is listed in my favorite books on Facebook, so, you got me.)

    • ElfPuddle

      Would you mind sharing which bit of Ruth? It would keep me from having to read the whole thing again to see if I could find it. :) Thanks!

  • “Throughout your whole life you will have to revisit your wedding and weigh it against all the hype, opinions, and expectations of yourself and others. At those times, it is especially important to hold onto the good things and remember the love. ”

    I really appreciated this comment. We had a beautiful, meaningful and authentic-feeling wedding ten months ago. It wasn’t perfect but it was wonderful. But having now helped a couple of close friends organise their weddings since then, it is a huge temptation to over-analyse every detail of the day, and I often feel the need to defend our decisions to other people. Which is dumb, because this tradition/ decoration/ plan was right for us, that one is right for you. I loved our wedding day (well, week really). And that is all that needs to be said.

  • One thing I love about this site is that it’s indie and yet doesn’t discriminate against tradition. I’m actually a very traditional person, if the tradition has meaning, and if you look back, most traditions do.. (and if they don’t, like the bouquet toss, I’m cutting it. I can be like that too lol). I’m also a devout Christian and look forward to the formality, the Bible readings, etc. I can’t imagine NOT getting married in a church.
    And yet, I’m also very indie. I’m an artist, and I’m into bohemian, creative ways of looking at things. I want to DIY or DIT most things– not just need to for financial reasons, but WANT to. It’s more personal. It’s lovely to me. I want to design my own invites on the computer. I really can’t stand the WIC and the wedding porn. It makes me sad, actually.
    But because I am very traditional, when I’ve been on other indie sites, I feel rejected. Like how awful to WANT a church ceremony. How awful to not right your own vows.
    So… I’m glad APW is not like that and I just want to give you kudos for it!
    And, btw, Christen & Seth your wedding was lovely! Thank you for sharing.

    • Christen

      Hi Pamela,

      Thanks for your kind words!!! You’re a girl after my own heart– an indie crafter with a heart for tradition!!

      You bring up a great point which makes me want to clarify something about my DIY/DIT comment in the wedding post: I also LOVE to craft and DIY projects. It is a part of my character and gave me great joy throughout the wedding process. DIY/DIT helped to capture the spirit of our wedding and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I only wanted to warn people not to put too much pressure on themselves and get overwhelmed. It is important to know when to stop– Because I did become a bit obsessed and zapped a bunch of energy into details that in the end, are just icing on the cake. Lovely icing, but not the focus of the day. It’s all about balance. That’s all :)

      Ok, all my best!!


  • Wsquared

    Long-time lurker here. APW and The Offbeat Bride are the only wedding blogs I actually read. Christen and Seth, this was a lovely wedding. Congratulations!

    There are several comments here that I appreciate to which I want to say “exactly!”

    @ Pamela: I also like the fact that APW is indie, and yet does not discriminate against the traditional. It celebrates weddings that are authentic– that feel right for the couple, whatever it is they plan to do. The flip side of “my wedding is not traditional enough,” for one, is “my wedding isn’t indie enough.” It saddens me a little to read of people who actually want to have church weddings, because it does mean a lot to them, who simultaneously worry that their weddings won’t be “cool” enough.

    Along with reading APW and The Offbeat Bride, I also take to heart what my priest told my fiance and me: “it’s YOUR wedding. It’s your free consent to be married that makes the sacrament, not me presiding over it.” When seemingly bombarded by all “the little details that matter” (cue “engragement”), remembering that keeps me grounded. No matter what we do or don’t do, we’ll be fine. In terms of the people who will share in our making that commitment, who are genuinely happy for us, we’ll have them with us and God. To paraphrase Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons”– “not a bad audience.” Anyone who would really be an ass and criticize us for doing X and not doing Y, and comparing us against a list of “shoulds” and “have to haves” that are subjective, but shamelessly masquerading as objective, doesn’t have to come.

    @Magdalena and @ Elfpuddle: Thank you for pointing out what does go on in a Catholic nuptial Mass. I also appreciate the part about how couples who spend more money and couples who spend less money still have the same sacrament, regardless, therefore focusing one’s attention on what really does matter. I and my fiance are both Catholic, and we also plan to marry in the Church. Indeed, it is a little-known fact that what makes the sacrament is that the couple comes to be married of their own free will. It is also a little-known fact that the text of the Catholic nuptial Mass does not include the word “obey” anywhere.

  • Christen, you are my soul sister. I’ve fought myself over the exact same things. I’m Catholic, I was raised Catholic and I still practice and believe in my Catholic faith. I’ve wanted to both get married in the church with all the tradition and readings and music and beauty of a Catholic mass, yet I also very much want to have a courthouse or outdoor ceremony. Thank you for showing me you can have both!

  • Mel

    “Trust your gut, yes, but know that it is ok if your gut has no idea. The most important thing is being ok with your decision, no matter what, after the fact.”

    I’ve never commented on this blog before, but I have to say, I am IN LOVE with this statement. So many times I’ve heard, “make sure you do what you want,” “you HAVE to do what you want” and so many times my only thought is, “well, I’m not exactly sure what I want, oh sh**!” I love the idea of making a decision even though you’re not “100 percent sure” (that phrase terrifies me) and just being ok with it.

    I’ve been so worried that I’m going to regret the choices I’ve made, with regards to flowers, centerpieces, etc. and this made me feel so much better.


  • I don’t know how I missed this wedding graduate post and I am sooo glad I stumbled upon it while scrolling back randomly through APW for no real reason. Maybe something was guiding me to this post.

    Christen’s discussion of figuring out how to be true to herself and Seth, her parents, and dealing with the Catholic Church rings so especially true to me. I’ve been basically battling my mother over religion, and I feel done doing it. I just need to find a compromise. And it’s hard when neither my partner nor my mother wants to. I really feel a wedding is about you and your partner and your communities. So it’s important to me that all sides find a voice in the day.

    I too thought about a separate ceremony or blessing before the actual wedding in the Catholic Church, but it no longer really makes sense in my head. If I get married in a private Catholic ceremony, I’m married, regardless of a larger ceremony later. And if I’m getting married in the Catholic ceremony, I don’t want it to be private. I want everyone there like Christen did too.

    Also, my partner and I feel very connected to a particular outdoor courtyard. If we end up getting married inside a church instead of this courtyard, I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways that we could still gather everyone to this location. Christen and Seth’s stone tossing into the ocean won’t work for us exactly, but I love how they found a way to honor this meaningful location in a kind of extended ceremony. I’m going to continue to brainstorm with their wedding as inspiration.

    Thank you so much for sharing your wedding Christen! It means so much to me.

    • Alexandra

      My best friend grew up Catholic, her husband did not, and they got a special dispensation to have a Catholic ceremony outdoors. One of the priests that she grew up with performed the ceremony, even. [Maybe a/the Monsignor?]

      So, you CAN have an outdoor Catholic wedding. GL!

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  • Alexandra

    Congratulations, Christen! The photos and your words are lovely, and I love the ocean background in that church!