Jocelyn & Scott’s Family Cottage Wedding

I love Jocelyn’s wedding graduate post because it somehow strikes the perfect balance. Jocelyn doesn’t tell you that your wedding is your day and you should do whatever you want (sigh, it’s not), but she does tell you to choose your heart. She tells you, really clearly, that in the stress of wedding planning, it’s easy to fall into doing what seems right for everyone else, and to stop listening to what your needs are, and what your partner’s needs are. She says, “So I say this to all the brides and grooms who are frantically trying to cater to others or trying to plan the perfect wedding according to the rules of tradition: I firmly believe that the two of you should be your main priority during the planning stages.” And I think this is spot on. Your wedding day is for everyone, but as you navigate the planning process, you’re slowly learning how to be a new family, and how to stick up for your needs. Be brave, and know yourself. And with that, I give you Jocelyn.

Through the process of planning our wedding, we learned everything we know now about weddings. How is that possible? Because we knew nothing (I mean nothing) about weddings before we had our own. The last wedding I’d been to before ours? It was my aunt and uncle’s wedding, I was 6 years old, and their flower girl. The term “wedding novice” was coined for people like us. I could sit here and tell you that that all changed when we got engaged; as if the presence of an engagement ring on my finger magically told me what weddings were all about. No such luck. It was a long process. It was a year and a half of learning what worked for us and what didn’t.

And for the first months of our engagement, that process was particularly difficult. I’d turn red in the face if I ever had to describe to you in person the way I behaved during the first six months of our engagement. If I had to use one word, I’d say it was ridiculous. If I use more than one word, I’d tell you how I got the idea in my head that our wedding had to be an expensive, elaborate, formal affair with a dress that cost more than a car and décor so fancy we’d need a line of credit to pay for it.

For six months, I thought that was the kind of wedding we would have. I thought it was perfect, just the way I’d pictured it. But eventually, I began to realize that I, in fact, hadn’t pictured anything at all. I could not remember a single time growing up that I’d fantasized about my wedding. Even after meeting Scott and realizing that I wanted to marry him, I still had no idea what our wedding would entail. I figured, hey, as long as we get married, it’ll be a success. I just didn’t care about a lot of the other stuff. Actually, let me try that again… I didn’t care until I was made to feel as though I needed to care. Websites, bridal magazines, television shows… all these things told me I needed a clear vision for my wedding. So I began to obsess over every single detail with the goal of making everything perfect according to the standards placed in front of me by magazines, movies, blogworthy weddings etc.

It took us (okay, okay, me especially) a long time to realize that we didn’t need a clear vision for our wedding. It could just be a wedding. It could be whatever we wanted it to be. We didn’t need a color scheme. We didn’t need a theme; Victorian, tropical beach, woodland themes? Not for us. Our theme was “wedding”. That’s it. It was a wedding. That’s the theme. End of story, goodbye.

Ultimately, the guiding force behind our wedding became doing things that felt right for us. We realized that a traditional church ceremony and banquet hall reception didn’t work for us, so we chose my family’s summer cottage outside of town for an outdoor ceremony and tented reception. Did that make our lives easier, you ask? Um, no. It made it more stressful. Dealing with a thirty year-old cottage that needed to be leveled because it was starting to tilt doesn’t exactly make for an ideal wedding location. Add onto that the task of finding rentals for eighty people, tents to keep them under, and the question of “what the heck are we going to do for the ceremony if it rains?” and… well… it’s a lot of work.

When things didn’t feel right, we didn’t include them. The idea of a first dance makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable? Cut it. We don’t drink and we’re not picky about food? Leave it up to my mom and we’ll have a delicious buffet and some homemade wine. Don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for dishes and utensils? Eat off of recyclable plates and use disposable utensils; the pork was so tender you didn’t need a steak knife anyway.

In spite of this new-found desire to do things our own way, I was still concerned. I was worried that our wedding might be too unique. (Imagine such a thing… “too unique”, it sounds crazy, I know.) At the time, I worried that a wedding too far outside the box of tradition would cause our conservative and tradition-loving guests to leave our wedding thinking we’d done it all wrong.

Thinking of it now, it sounds ridiculous, and I wish someone had told me there is no such thing as being too unique. I wish someone had told me not to worry about flowers because the bridal bouquet my sister and I assembled with flowers from my grandmother’s garden would be beautiful. I wish someone had told me not to worry about the weather because even though the heavens opened up and a downpour caused our tents to collapse a mere twenty minutes after everyone had left, it was still a successful day. Ultimately, those worries were a waste of time because – like the wise Meg and so many wedding graduates before me have said time and time again – people appreciate an honest display of love. And that’s what our wedding was.

One of the best fringe benefits of executing a wedding that feels right to us? We got to relax on our wedding day. Sure, we panicked about setting up the rentals and I was late walking down the aisle because of a hair related emergency, but we were still relaxed. And I firmly believe that the source of our relaxation was our choice to avoid anything that would make us feel uncomfortable. We didn’t have to worry about remembering our choreographed grand entrance, or the steps to our first dance, or dealing with a formal receiving line; things like that would have made us sick with worry all day because I’m shy and my husband is adorably awkward.

What stands out to us now about our wedding is exactly the thing I was so afraid of back then. Our wedding was unique and it was a reflection of us.

You can spend your time trying to please the wedding industry, following the rules of tradition, or attempting to please the people on the guest list… but at the end of your wedding day there are only two people that matter the most. And no, it’s not your mom and dad or your Uncle Bernie and Aunt Ruth. It’s you and your partner. Halfway through the wedding planning process, we found ourselves arguing and stressing over things we were doing for the wedding to make other people happy. When we started to plan the wedding we wanted for ourselves, the decision making became a whole lot easier.

So I say this to all the brides and grooms who are frantically trying to cater to others or trying to plan the perfect wedding according to the rules of tradition: I firmly believe that the two of you should be your main priority during the planning stages. Not the guests, not the etiquette books, just the two of you. I wish someone had told me that then, so I’m telling it to you now. It’ll feel selfish sometimes and it may not always be possible for whatever reason, but the two of you are the reason the wedding is happening. Remember yourselves, always.

Every so often, when we talk about weddings, the thing that brings me the most joy in the world is to hear my husband say that he loved our wedding because it felt so perfectly us. Knowing that we were able to create a unique wedding that brings joy to our hearts eight months later is still our greatest success.

Photos By: Julie A. Whitlock

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  • Our theme was “wedding.”

    LOVE it! Kudos to you for following your hearts & staying true to yourselves. It’s not always easy but well worth it. Congratulations~

  • Zan

    You two are so freaking cute! I love it!! I have nothing but squee-related comments to make here, so sorry for the lack of depth here.

    Your dress is so pretty! Your husband looks so deliriously happy! Those three little girls in the photobooth shot must think you are the coolest person they have ever met! AND….

    I’m having a wedding-themed-wedding too! On your one year anniversary!!


  • suzanna

    You two are so stinkin’ adorable! I love the photobooth shots, too. Well done!

  • AKP

    I think this is such an important message! When you’re planning a wedding, everyone warns you not to turn into a “bridezilla” who cares for nothing but herself on “her day,” but no one warns you about the opposite effect – the trying-to-please-everyone-but-yourself syndrome, which I think is probably even more common among brides than the bridezilla effect. It’s easy to fall into the latter pattern, because (at least in my case) it feels totally justified to do things that aren’t “you” because you don’t want to let your guests down, or disappoint them (especially when they are traveling from far away), but it’s harder to realize when you’ve gotten to the point that your priorities are suddenly not on the list anymore, and even harder to then insist that you put yourself and your partner back in focus. So thanks, Jocelyn, for speaking so eloquently about how you went through this process, and congratulations!

  • RAS

    I have never commented before but I had to just say THANK YOU for this post today, it was just what I needed. I just finished an uncomfortable couple of days trying to figure out how to tell my future mother in law that while I recognize her good intentions, a bridal shower was just not my style. I still don’t think she quite gets it but as soon as I told her I immediately felt the pressure lift and a regained sense of control.

    So thank you and congratulations.

  • Laura

    First of all, I wanna say: 1) That first photo of you 2 is totally magic, I love it! 2) Cute owls!!

    Also…I love your comment that getting rid of the stuff that would only have made you uncomfortable is what allowed you to relax. That idea really speaks to me – it completely makes sense! Words to remember as my fiance and I plan our wedding celebration. Thanks!

  • This post gave me chills. It’s almost as if you crept inside my mind and asked, “Olivia, what do you need to hear?” This was amazing. Thank you for this.

    Also, you have my (soon-to-be) anniversary! June 26th!

    I set out to have a “Wedding,” and that’s our theme, too. Classic, family, love, some tradition, some new traditions–it’s a wedding and it’s ours. No colors, no gimmicks, just a lot of love!

    Thanks again. Man oh man, do I love APW.

  • jrebeccac

    “When things didn’t feel right, we didn’t include them.”

    Yes! I’m so glad I’ve realized this early on. Mainly it’s because I’m so frugal, but buying a dress and basket and petals so a little girl can freak out and cry and not walk down the aisle? Not going to have it and not going to worry about it. (Also, perhaps it’s because I’m secretly jealous I was never a flower girl, but whatevs). Your post strengthens everything I’ve been saying to myself during this planning process….THANK YOU!

    • clairelizabeth

      “When things didn’t feel right, we didn’t include them.” has pretty much been my/our mantra when planning our wedding for this July. In many ways it has kept us sane (ixnay on the cake cutting/feeding, garter & bouquet toss, seating plans, and most of the speeches), but it has also been kind of difficult…

      Unsurprisingly, L’homme and I differ on the wedding traditions that we feel have value and are important to us. Whether to have a wedding party, whether to walk up the aisle together or have me be ‘given away’, first dances and dancing w/ parents, have all been discussed, re-discussed, and negotiated with the intensity of an international trade accord.

      I’m not big on many of the above traditions |(except for the dancing – there WILL be dancing) and my slash-and-burn approach to most of them has caused, ahem, friction. The whole process has been an important process for us, almost a pre-marriage counselling session in itself.

      And I wonder sometimes if, after the wedding, I’ll be sad about the things we chose to leave out…

  • The perfect post for me right now! I’m in the crazy place of planning a wedding in three months, and I’m stressing about things my mom and grandmother insist on; things my crazy, Type-A sister wants to do with flower arrangements, and what I really want–a wedding that suits me and my fiancè. So thank you. Thank you for empowering me to create the wedding that WE want. Our parents/my sister had their weddings already–this day is ours.

    Kudos to your awesome wedding! It turned out perfectly! So glad you enjoyed it!

  • The line I identify the most with in this is: “At the time, I worried that a wedding too far outside the box of tradition would cause our conservative and tradition-loving guests to leave our wedding thinking we’d done it all wrong.” This self-consciousness is something I am dealing with, even if our wedding isn’t terribly untraditional, especially as whole. But sometimes I worry about the smaller things, like the choice that we’re making to see each other before the ceremony and have that private moment, will sound un-sacred to family members. Or that our guests will wonder what the heck to do with YAY flags. But we chose things like this because they resonated with us (I say the word YAY entirely too often, so why not? And we both get nerves and anxiety so why not take a minute before the ceremony to enjoy the day together and relax?). As much strength as reading APW has given me in knowing that these choices are okay for us to make, there are little twinges of worry for people’s reactions. But the bottom line is like you say, “hey, as long as we get married, it’ll be a success,”so I think it will ultimately be perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  • “We didn’t need a theme; Victorian, tropical beach, woodland themes? Not for us. Our theme was “wedding”. That’s it. It was a wedding. That’s the theme. End of story, goodbye.”

    Love it. We did have colors but no theme. I think my mom really wanted us to have some sort of travel theme, and while we love to travel, we just really did not feel a need for suitcase decor and luggage tag favors or whatever she was envisioning. But she kept asking what our theme was and being dissatisfied with my answer of “Um, red and purple? And um, there are swirls on the invitation?”

    Also, I LOVE the owls–so cute! And the pictures! Looks like everyone had an awesome time at your wedding!

  • Karen

    “Eat off of recyclable plates…”

    Where did you get the recyclable plates? I’m going to need to do that as well, as I think it will be less expensive and more fun than china.

    • Jocelyn

      The brand name of the plates was “Bare” by a company called Solo; we bought them at a local grocery store and I’m not sure how widely distributed they are, but they have a retail locator on their website (barebysolo [dot] com) so you might be able to find them somewhere near you. If not, there’s a ton of retailers that sell recyclable plates online; that was our original plan until we found the Bare ones locally. Best of luck finding them!

  • Lola

    OMG you stole my theme!!!

    Seriously, though, your wedding is exactly what I am hoping mine will be. Love it!

  • This wedding is awesome and I love everything you said. This was totally what our wedding was and it’s so funny and true how AFTER the fact you have this epiphany and things you wish you’d know while going insane trying to plan the wedding… It’s like people can tell you a thousand times that this or that doesn’t matter or that the wedding is really all about you and your husband, etc., and while you want to believe them, during the planning process it’s hard to see that. You get kind of lost in the planning and the pressures.. that suddenly, once you look around and see what REALLY matters, that’s when you get it. That’s when you wish you’d have known that.

    But there’s something really neat about having that epiphany after the fact. Something that really tells you how much your wedding rocked, and how it was a reflection of you and your husband (or wife!). I lovelovelove when I attend a wedding and leave feeling like, “Wow, that was SO [insert couple’s name]!” and I feel like I grew even closer to them but being part of something so amazing and beautiful and intimate. Those are my favorite kinds of weddings and you can tell yours was one of them.

    Congratulations on your beautiful day. :)

  • RachelC

    Yep…awesome. The looks that people give us sometimes can really shake our confidence in the wedding the two of us are in reality psyched to be having! “You guys aren’t doing a garter toss? Oh that’s cool…at least the DJ….oh you’re not having a DJ? Ahh….well at least you’ll have a quiet cake-cutting…oh no cake cutting? Uh..ehh…” hahaha. Wedding posts like this just remind me that on the day of, everyone will be happy to celebrate with us no matter what we do or do not do. I love that this wedding focuses on what’s important and ignores all the “you MUSTs” and “you CAN’Ts” that are out there. I know in my heart that our wedding will be amazing, so thanks for this gorgeous reminder :):)

  • Awesome post :) Thanks heaps – saves me needing to write one, this one and a couple of others combined have said everything I could think of for my own…!

  • Lukitene

    Those invites are perfection! May I ask where you found them?

    • I LOVE the owls! So awesome… :)

    • Jocelyn

      Thanks so much! Those are actually the programs we used for the ceremony. We made them ourselves, with a ton of help from tutorials we found online. I don’t have the link but if you search for “accordion programs”, a bunch of tutorials or places to buy them come up. They were pretty simple actually, we printed them at home, got the fronts and backs from an online printing company and bought the owl artwork on Etsy. Hope that helps!

  • Tracy

    Yes, great post. I absolutely agree with the sentiment that most people appreciate an honest display of love. I was just at a wedding this weekend that felt so much like the people getting married, and absolutely showed their love for each other, and it was wonderful.

    Also, everyone keeps asking me what our wedding colors are. I used to be frustrated, but now I’m kind of enjoying straightforwardly and unapologetically saying, we’re not doing colors, we’re doing all colors.

  • Irene

    You look so beautiful and serene!

  • Jo

    Lovely, lovely wedding. Makes my heart happy!

    And no, picking a family venue does NOT make it more simple, most of the time. The thing that I find calming about it is that the extras end up going to family afterward–now the family cottage is leveled! Future generations will benefit. :)

  • Alexandra

    Lovely. Congratulations!!!!