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Helen & Lindi

I’m trying to find something really profound to say about Helen and Lindi’s wedding, but you’re going to get it from the first second. I get asked a lot, “What’s the point of even getting married these days? If you’re not religious, if you’re fighting for marriage equality… if, if, if, then why? What does it mean?” And I think Helen answers this better than I ever could, both in words and in pictures. And the story of her godfather stepping in as a replacement bridesmaid at the last minute. Well, that kills me. And with that, here is some magic for you to ride through the day on:

This is the first thing I have to say about weddings: things will go wrong. For our wedding, things went wrong. Lots of things went wrong: we went on a month-long trip to Italy two months before our wedding and ran out of time to make the invitations to send out before we left. We forgot to invite some people. Some people refused to come, because they did not agree with “our lifestyle choice.” We made all the favors (magnets of our engagement and bridal photos), and the glue ran on approximately 90% of them, and our faces were all smudgy and green. In the midst of baking for the reception, we found out that our oven in our new apartment heated to 125 degrees higher than the dial said, and then, some of the cookies burned, and others fell out of the fridge and onto the floor. A few days before the rehearsal dinner, we found out that the chef we’d planned to have cook for us couldn’t do it. At our rehearsal, we couldn’t find our walking down the aisle song and had to rehearse without it, which made some people very nervous. Someone stole the road sign on our country road the week before the wedding, making it even harder for people to find their way to our location. The day before the wedding, my best friend, who had spent the summer at a Christian camp as a counselor, told us tearfully that she had recommitted herself to God and could no longer be my bridesmaid. The next morning, as she was doing my hair and pinning in my veil, she told us that she couldn’t come to the wedding at all. During the reception, the formerly 99-degree, fully sunny forecast day turned into a torrential downpour.

So, things went wrong… but now, even just six weeks after the wedding, it was hard to remember most of the things on that list, because everything worked out. We divided our invitation list into those who needed to make travel arrangements and those who lived in my hometown, and finished making the invites for those who lived closer when we returned from our trip. They still got them almost a month before the wedding. When we realized whom we’d forgotten, we called and e-mailed them, and everyone important got invited in one way or another. Some people who are important to us didn’t come because they chose not to support us in this, but there were so many amazing people who did support us, that we hardly even noticed their absence.

We scrapped all the magnets that were smudged and started over, and still had enough magnets to go around. We bought an oven thermometer and learned to set our oven cooler, threw away the cookies that fell on the floor, and still had more than enough baked goods to have leftovers after the reception. We had lasagna for our rehearsal dinner, and it was delicious. We re-downloaded our song, and rehearsed two hours before the wedding. Our guests started arriving as we were finishing, and instead of leaving and returning just before the ceremony, we stayed and greeted everyone as they came in. It was better that way. We e-mailed everyone very specific directions, put a big sign with balloons where the road sign was missing, and no one got lost. With my best friend, I cried when she told me she was backing out and then cried again when she said she wouldn’t be there at all, and then my godfather offered to step in as a replacement bridesmaid- and he did, and it was fantastic. (We didn’t make him wear a dress). During the reception, we went outside and played in the rain in our wedding gowns and our photographers got a lot of great photos.

Of course, people had said that things would go wrong and things would be fine, but I don’t think you really understand how much that is true until you’re there in the moment. When I think about our wedding, and the days leading up to it, I think about the incredibly transcendent happiness I felt – and still feel- and how overwhelmed I was by the love shown to us by all of the people around us.

The most common question asked of me when I told people that I was marrying my partner in Oklahoma was “Isn’t that illegal there?” (along with “Are you wearing matching dresses?” which is really funny to me…) It’s true that Oklahoma is a long way from recognizing gay marriage. However, we still wanted to have that time in which we voiced our commitment aloud in front of our loved ones, and so we did. Lindi said, on the drive home after the reception, that the real answer to why we were having a ceremony in a place that doesn’t recognize our right to be together was because everyone should have a day when they feel that overwhelmed by love, and we did.

The biggest, most important piece of advice I can give – or, really, repeat, since so many brides on this site have said this- is to ask for help! Our wedding was VERY low-budget and do-it-together, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We both tried on lots of bridal gowns, but ended up going with formal dresses from a department store because they were lighter and far less expensive- and no one could tell the difference. We didn’t have colors (which people seemed to think was very weird), and instead, we just used fabrics and papers and flowers that we liked, antique mismatched platters that we already owned, lots of ribbon, and everything looked stunning.

We rented the community center near my parents’ house, put everything we didn’t like in the spare rooms, and decorated the main hall to our hearts’ delight. We ordered our flowers in bulk from Sam’s Club, and my aunt (who we found out used to be a florist), my sister, and Lindi and I made beautiful arrangements in mason jars that included grass and juniper from the field outside the building. We made our favors, our decorations, and all the food. I continue to be amazed by my mother, who took on the task of feeding the 20+ out-of-town family who came several days before the wedding and making more than half of the nearly-1000 cookies we had at the reception, with my sister’s help. My sister also made and decorated our simple wedding cake (just a 9-inch layer cake, in our favorite flavor- carrot!) and the cupcakes for our guests. We made hearts to decorate the walls and bunting for the front of the building out of scrapbooking paper that we already had. We bought muslin to make the tablecloths and my grandmother, who is a quilter, gave us about 25 yards of patterned fabric to make curtains and table runners, and then helped me make the curtains when I ran out of time to make them myself. After the reception, we folded up all the fabric from the tablecloths and table runners and gave it back for her to quilt with.

Our officiant, a family friend who I’ve known since I was a teenager, wrote a beautiful ceremony that made pretty much everyone cry. Two of our close friends from college, who are both enormously talented, took our photos. We did our own makeup, as it felt silly to have anyone else do what we’ve both been doing ourselves for many years. We asked our bridesmaids to wear a black dress that made them feel pretty and fun shoes. (They came out in style: their shoes were red, yellow, purple and snakeskin, among others!) I know that not everyone has a sister who likes to decorate cakes, an aunt who used to be a florist or friends who are photographers—but there are almost definitely people in your life with talents that you perhaps don’t know about who want to help you, and for everything else, find some lovely wedding elves.

This wedding was the most perfect wedding possible for my partner and I, but I know it wouldn’t be for everyone. We love to craft and bake, and so making our save-the-dates, invitations, decorations and food for the reception made sense for us. I think you really have to figure out what matters to you, and stick to those basic things. Do you love yellow roses, letterpress invitations, or have you always wanted to get your makeup professionally done? The things you want do matter, and you will probably have to compromise on some things, so talk to your partner and narrow the really important things down. We wanted homemade desserts, and we took the time to make them. We wanted to have our wedding and a picnic reception outside, and although it was too hot to actually do so, we worked hard to make it as close to what we wanted as possible – and had to stand our ground when people tried to convince us to move the wedding to a church. We didn’t want to go into debt as a result of one day, albeit one very important day, and so we worked hard to find beautiful yet inexpensive dresses, decorating supplies on sale and a location for the wedding that wouldn’t cost thousands of dollars to rent. We wanted the wedding to reflect who we are, and it did.

At the end of this most wonderful, exhausting, spectacular day, all I could do was think over and over: this happened! We’re MARRIED! She’s my WIFE! And then giggle helplessly at how filled with awe I am by the reality of it. I can only hope that this is how others feel after they’re married, because it is one of the most breathless, beautiful things I’ve ever felt. This is the most important thing I learned from the beginning of our marriage: in the end, it’s not the invitations or the flowers or the cake that matters. It’s not the way your hair is done, the people who couldn’t or didn’t come, or the number of times the punch almost ran out. It’s the fact that you stood there, in front of the people you love, with the person you love, said the words you said, and felt that uplifting joy.

Photos by: Stephen Ironside of Ironside Photography and Darby Gieringer

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