I didn’t particularly enjoy planning our wedding. But man-oh-man, it was worth it. Like a lot of APW readers, we didn’t have a particularly large budget. But bigger than that, I’ll admit it, I’m a procrastinator. I think wedding blogs naturally attract and feature a lot of very organized type-A personalities. One of the reasons I wanted to write a wedding graduate post is to let other non-type-A-people, like me, know, “It’s okay, you will still have an amazing wedding.”
My husband and I were engaged for just over two years by the time we got married, but we didn’t really start planning our wedding until four months out. About one month into our planning, my 22-year-old cousin died in a car accident. I was barely functional and couldn’t think about the wedding for weeks. When I did, I felt guilty to be worrying about flowers or tablecloths. We thought about putting off the wedding again.
In the end, we got it done. We really pared things down and made choices that felt right for us. I bought my vintage dress on Ebay (for $135! Yes!). We found a place to get married. We bought delicious cakes from a favorite local bakery and beer from a microbrewery we stop at for happy hour. We found our amazing photographers, Lauren McGlynn and her second-shooter-at-the-time Zachary Hunt, on Craigslist. Our venue is run by the parks department and doesn’t allow alcohol served in glass containers, so we hired the really nice bartender from our favorite local bar to pour wine and beer. And yes, we drank out of clear plastic party cups.
During the planning I realized that having a smaller budget was a blessing, at least for me. It was easier to eliminate non-necessities and it limited my options. As a procrastinator that has trouble making decisions, having limited options saved me a lot of agonizing. There were only maybe four venues in our price range, and they all had some flaws. We chose the stone clubhouse with the killer view. Everyone loved it. No one cared about the ugly heaters or the institutional bathrooms.
Another thing that really helped me was the wedding tag-line that I ran through my head. It was “small, simple, fun.” If it didn’t sound simple or fun (and wasn’t an outright necessity), we didn’t do it. We focused our energy on the tasks that we enjoyed, like putting together our playlist. We relied pretty heavily on our friends and family. A good friend agreed to officiate. Bridesmaids and groomsmen ran errands. My mom and aunts potted our succulent centerpieces. One aunt tidied-up our house, while Justin’s dad cooked the jambalaya we served at the rehearsal dinner.
It sounds a little cynical, but it also helped me to plan for other people’s mistakes. I stopped by the florist four hours before our ceremony to pick up the bouquets. She pulled out three gorgeous orange bouquets. There were supposed to be four. Since I went so early she had time to create another beautiful (if slightly different) bouquet for my maid of honor. As a bonus, the florist called me “gracious” and gave me a discount for the inconvenience.
APW readers are probably prepared for the inevitable wedding-day hiccups. Our partners – maybe not so much. Our caterer served dinner at least an hour late. And half of the tamales were still under-cooked. I wasn’t too worried about it. Everyone was drinking and mingling, and there were chips and salsa out for the ravenous. My husband, however, got more and more tense. By the time we sat down to dinner, he was on the verge of fuming. I realized that while I was lucky enough to have a wise, supportive community like APW telling me to let go of the little worries and focus on the joy, he didn’t get to hear that kind of dialogue.
We had just under 50 people at our wedding, and I briefly worried that the party wouldn’t feel big enough… but it felt just right. Every person in that room was genuinely happy to be there. When I was walking down the aisle with my dad, I couldn’t get over all the joy and grinning faces. Taking my first step around the corner, I was physically hit with it, like someone had suddenly turned the temperature up 30 degrees. I had imagined that I would float down the aisle with my eyes locked on Justin. In fact, I barely looked at him until I was just inches away. I was so busy grinning at all of our friends, squeezing my dad’s arm, whispering “Hi” to someone, just trying to take it all in.
Our ceremony was incredibly short, but every second felt epic. We were married in front of a fireplace covered in candles and pictures of our loved ones that had passed away. There were no readings. I had spent hours looking for the right sentiment, and I’d come across so many beautiful statements about love, marriage, and partnership. But none of them called out to me, nothing felt quite right. We said our vows, which felt like all we needed to say.
And then there was the kiss, the conversations, the dancing, the hugs, the high-fives, the cake, more kissing, the laughing, and the sing-a-longs. We watched our families beam, our niece run around in her footy pajamas, and my cousin dance with all the girls. And then we packed a few things into the car and headed to our hotel room, exhausted and sweaty, and glowing.
My best advice to wedding undergraduates is this: just do it. Don’t put it off because you don’t think you have enough money for a nice wedding, or because you’re intimidated by the planning, or because your family is having a hard time. Just marry the one you love.
It’s amazing, it’s beautiful, it can be a little messy. Live the day and enjoy all the silly moments and little imperfections. Looking back, the “imperfections” are some of my favorite things about the wedding:
- Hiding in the venue’s tiny ladies room with my bridesmaids and my mom, waiting for the ceremony to start.
- My mom ironing my dress for me the night before the wedding, because I’d neglected to get it pressed. It probably didn’t look as professional as if the cleaners had done it, but when I put it on the next morning, my dress felt like love.
- The rings. We didn’t get around to buying my husband a wedding ring, so we used a grocery store twist-tie. I can’t explain the swell of emotion when I see that worn little twist-tie, but I sure wouldn’t trade it for anything.