Today’s wedding graduate post is from both Kari and her husband Matthew. It includes a circus clown (Matthew), a serious over-crafter (Kari), a carousel (why don’t more people get married on carousels, P.S.? One of the first weddings I ever went to was on one), a tornado, and one of the best wedding graduate quotes ever: “Then the tornado sirens went off. It was at that point that I made the executive decision to open the bar before the ceremony, a wise call if ever there was one.” To which I can only offer an Amen. Today’s story is one where everything goes wrong, and yet, somehow, the important things still go so very right.
Our wedding story had a fantastic beginning: my husband – a circus clown and variety artist – proposed with a juggling ring inscribed “Will you be my Primary Primate?” After accepting, we started planning a ceremony on April 24th, my grandparent’s anniversary. We wanted a backyard ceremony that was very “us” – no wasting money on things we didn’t love, no listening to what the WIC told us we had to do. We planned a picnic at an indoor carousel as the “rehearsal dinner” and invited everyone who was invited to the wedding. It was meant to be lighthearted and fun.
It started to turn when my crafty instincts took over (I cut and strung mini flag bunting on every wedding invite for example) and I went a little off the rails with DIY projects, but I felt like handling everything myself made it more personal.
I have been doing events from large (New York Fashion Week) to small (client dinners) and everything in between (my husband’s off-Broadway circus) so I didn’t think that I needed any help. I certainly didn’t want a wedding planner – I didn’t have an extra $100,000 for Colin Cowie and everyone else scared me. I also thought that getting other people involved (who I wouldn’t have been paying) was an imposition. I thought my family and friends wouldn’t care about these small details, and somehow might judge me for caring about them so much, so I didn’t ask them for help.
Since we were planning to have our ceremony in St. Louis and my family lives in North Carolina, our little New York City apartment became the center of everything. The craft supplies took over and no one could really assist. His family isn’t crafty, my family wasn’t close, and with only one other person in the wedding party I felt very much on my own. I realize now what I needed was another person like me—but I was on DIY overload and no one was around to talk me back from the ledge. I saturated my eyes with Martha Stewart-like projects, and every new wedding recap I saw on a blog made me want to add something. I wanted everything to have our fingerprints on it so that it would “mean something”.
This “make everything myself” was a fine approach at first, and I was able to white knuckle it through the planning process (luckily my husband stepped in when I proposed making the cakes ourselves and convinced me that Whole Foods was a smarter choice). That well crafted plan fell apart however, when the wedding day itself did not go as I thought. When trying to make it through the main portion of the wedding amid small disasters, those carefully crafted details got lost. Because I had cared so much about them and was the only one who could really understand the time they had taken, I let losing them be more of my focus than it should have been.
When trying to wrap my brain around what happened the day of our wedding, I asked my husband, Matthew, what he would write about – since we don’t hear from grooms often – and this is what he said:
On April 24, 2010 a tornado touched down St. Louis, and it was the happiest day of my life. Not because of the tornado, mind you, but because that was the day I married my wife. The experience was not without incident. The tornado and the storms that preceded it meant that all of my wife’s carefully detailed craft projects had to be reconfigured or scrapped entirely. We moved the ceremony site from a copse of trees (too muddy), to the pool deck (until the rain returned), to the only “enclosed” space that would fit the guests (a leaky event tent that was meant to be the dance floor later in the evening). And it wasn’t just the weather. One of the musicians got sick, and our ring-bearer (our 12 lb. rabbit) refused to cooperate.
As water was baled and furniture moved, the band set up in the garage and played “Stormy Weather.” Then the tornado sirens went off. It was at that point that I made the executive decision to open the bar before the ceremony, a wise call if ever there was one.
Maybe it was the theatrical training of many of the guests, but certainly an air of “the show must go on” permeated the proceedings. The storm broke just as my bride walked down the aisle, and the ceremony culminated with a double rainbow. (I’m not making this up.)
Perhaps the moral of this story is trite, but our day was made as rich by the things that went wrong (and were overcome) as by those that went perfectly as planned. It brought everyone together. No one freaked out, and many of the guests continue to say that it was the best time they’ve had in years. To my wife’s credit, she too became like the fabled reed in the wind, bending gracefully and enjoying the beautiful comedy of errors that began our marriage.
How could I not be married to this guy, right?
I wish I could, in fact, have been a little more reed-like, but I found that instead of bending during our disaster-ridden ceremony day – I shut down. I embraced the “f*ck it moment” that I am forever eternally grateful to APW for, but I took it to the extreme of, “Whatever. I will just pretend I don’t care about losing control and just try to make it through the day.”
Why did I shut down?
We had a tornado – hail and all – on the outdoor ceremony; A band member had a heart attack the night before (he’s okay) and my husband’s carefully composed march song wasn’t played; There was a fire in the kitchen and my mom complained about the delivery of food; My Dad decided not to come (partially because he wasn’t walking me down the aisle); All the handmade – literally every petal on every flower in every bunch of table decorations hand stitched by me – decorations got piled in a basket and taken down to the basement to get them out of the rain; A guest at the rehearsal carousel picnic gave us some sort of illness so both my husband and I ended up in the emergency room (me in a scary state after my new husband found me passed out and choking and probably saved my life).
Because all of this happened I felt like it robbed the wedding of what was going to make it special. I had been so committed to doing everything myself that I focused on those handmade details and couldn’t keep the wedding train on the tracks. We have wonderful friends and family who pitched in and cleaned gutters in their fancy clothes, and moved water off the dance floor, and made the best of it. They really wanted to do whatever they could on the day.
My Uncle grabbed his stamped escort card and pinned to his lapel, since there were no longer reception tables to go to, and people followed suit. Later in the evening I was surrounded by family members with “Cow Table” and “Little Fish Table” boutonnieres. Everyone tried really hard to get my vision the way I wanted it.
I didn’t ask for it enough, and I should have. I know now that my friends and family wanted to help me (they certainly came through in a crisis situation). They would have been thrilled to be involved earlier. When I thought I was saving my Mom and my best friend the annoying details and manual labor, they really thought that they were being cut out of this great time in my life. I have memories of the day, but I could have had memories of building decorations, or sewing my bouquet, or any other number of projects – if I had only been willing to ask them.
I look back on our wedding I think of all the things that were lost: the songs that never got played, the toasts that never got made, and the wind-up toy bouquets that never made it out of the basement. I wouldn’t have those regrets if I had spoken up, let go of the control, maybe paid someone, and had anticipated what I know now to be true: friends and family will do what they can and not feel like it is an imposition. Perhaps on an anniversary I will throw another party to get my design details right, but I know now the love I felt that day can’t be replaced with all of the craft projects in the world.
P.S. We are now 12 months into our marriage, and I firmly believe that everyone should ride carousel horses with their fiancees while a vintage pipe-organ plays “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” – it makes for a happy couple.
Most of the photos are by one of my best friends – Carrie, of Carrie Ann Studios who broke her “I will never photograph weddings” rule for me.