Kristen & Cory

This wedding graduate post is funny, in the way that sneaks up on you. Perhaps apropos of yesterday’s conversation, Kristen starts the post by saying she doesn’t really have that much wisdom to impart… and then proves herself to be totally wrong! What she writes really mirrors what my wedding experience was. Weddings can be crazy emotional and transformative in the ways you least expect. Another recent Team Practical bride (post coming at some future date), wrote me recently to say that getting married was so intense and gritty and real and hard, that she thought she was broken, like she had done it wrong. But ohhhhhh no. That’s how it was for me too, and I think how it was for Kristen. So, I love that this post allows us to really honor the fact that weddings can include amazing circles of love, and crazy softball games, and life-changing vows… and can also leave you a sobbing snotty mess when all is said and done, because holy h*ll, that was a LOT. (PS ask wedding graduates about the sobbing breakdown. Most people will nod their head and name the day on the honeymoon when it happened.) And that doesn’t mean we’re broken, it just means that bride-dom is not quite what we expect it to be. And that’s a blessing.

Before we begin, let me share two tiny wedding day details to help set the tone: I was wearing a sleeveless dress, and I was also sporting a fairly prominent farmer tan. I know – really! But I will also let you in on a secret: I did not care, not one little bit. I didn’t even care when some (rude) someone pointed out my two-tone arms during our cocktail hour. I wanted to shout, “Hell yes, I have a farmer tan!” My life did not get put on hold just because I was getting married. And as I get older, I’ve come to realize that in every well-lived life a little awkward tan must fall.

I do not have planning advice that hasn’t been shared here time and time again: stick to your guns, support your family. Figure out what matters to you and forget about the rest. My husband and I had a defining vision for our wedding (for us that meant smallish, somewhere rural, with a focus on fun) and discarded everything that didn’t fit. I DITed some of the things that really matter to me (like invitations and décor) because I’m crafty like that, and then we (happily) paid wedding elves to do the rest. Every penny was purposeful, well-spent and within our means – and that, in and of itself, felt fabulous and authentic and helped set the tone for the entire weekend.

Because here is one thing I can promise you – something magical and transformative will happen to you on your wedding day. It manifests itself in different ways for different people, and you cannot prepare for it. In fact, trying to prepare for it would be like trying to harness a bolt of lightening – and don’t people look silly when they try to do that? Take it from me, you just have to go with it. But since this is a Wedding Graduate post and I’m expected to offer some sort of advice, here are Five Things I Learned About Weddings from the Moments in Mine That Made My Heart Swell.

1 . When people say they want to help you, let them. A couple of weeks after we got engaged, just as the plans for the wedding were starting to take shape in our minds, I causally mentioned to my family that a pre-ceremony softball game might be fun. (Note to the newly engaged: if your family is like mine, you might want to refrain from casually mentioning anything wedding-related until you are sure you want and are able to execute the plan.) Because a few months, a full-time job, part-time graduate degree and a thousand wedding tasks later, I started to re-think the logistics of hosting this game. But at that point it did not matter. My family was pumped, that game was happening with or without me and my cousin generously volunteered to take the planning lead.

But thinking about it still stressed me out. (What if there weren’t enough players? What if people objected to Red Sox jerseys? What if I ended up reenacting the Marcia Brady football episode two hours before my wedding? – “Oh, my nose!”) But I want to tell you that game was magic. Unbeknownst to me, my cousin had spent months collecting Red Sox and Mets jerseys (our favorite teams) and embroidered the sleeves with our names, the date and an awesome graphic involving wedding rings and baseball bats. People who had never met came together to play and those who didn’t want to play sat on the sidelines and cheered. They were having so much fun that I literally had to interrupt the game a few hours before the ceremony to remind people that a wedding was indeed taking place that afternoon, and they might want take this opportunity to jump in the shower.

2 . Honor your family in a way that feels true to you. My father died when I was a sophomore in college. He was young and his death was unexpected – but it was also nearly 15 years ago. Much of the biting pain of his loss has long since faded into an occasional dull ache. I wanted to honor my father’s memory during my wedding in some way, but I also did not want the focus of the ceremony to be on what was missing in my life. So I took a Hersey Kiss charm that my dad gave me when I was 10 and attached it to my bouquet. That small gesture was enough for me to feel like my father was there with me, without calling too much public attention to his death. And in lieu of the traditional father/daughter dance I decided to dedicate a song to my mother during our reception (“Teach Your Children,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash, the song we sang together every morning when I was young). Soon after she and I started dancing, the entire floor spontaneously cleared out to make a circle around us and halfway through the song everyone watching started to clap and/or cry. I don’t have words to describe what that moment felt like.

3 . Honor your partner’s family in a way that feels true to you. I was raised Catholic in a town not too far from Boston, my husband was raised Jewish in a suburb of Long Island, New York. Not surprisingly, we navigated our fair share of religious and cultural differences during our 14-month engagement. Some of the stuff we grappled with is likely to keep coming up throughout our marriage. But the conversations, the compromises – and yes, even the tears – were a great launching pad for our baby family. Our interfaith ceremony reflected our backgrounds, and our choice and style of venue reflected our values. Cory’s parents called us after the wedding to tell us how much it meant to them that we got married under a huppah, and many of our guests said that ours was one of the most meaningful ceremonies they had ever witnessed. But blending our heritages meant that, for either side, our wedding didn’t quite match their picture of the “typical” family wedding. And that’s okay.

Traditions also blended perfectly in ways we never expected. For example, when it came time to dance the Hora (which, as a raised-chair virgin, terrified me) we started out with the traditional Hava Nagila. But just was we were being lifted off the ground, Cory had the music fade into Bruce Springsteen’s “American Land,” a song he loves that also happens to be heavy on the fiddle. His relatives were so excited to be dancing and lifting us up in the air and my relatives – who, frankly, had no idea how to participate in this ritual – got so excited and started jumping around because they thought we put on an Irish jig! So trust me, things will come

4 . Emotions are powerful. You have no idea how you will feel the day you get married, and this is both a good and a bad thing. Give yourself permission to feel what you are going to feel. I loved every single moment of our wedding and reception, but when the music ended at 11pm I was done. Done with a capital D. I was like a two-year-old – albeit a very joyous one – who had reached her emotional limit. I was tired, I was thirsty, I had a headache and I had approximately 75,000 bobby pins in my hair. So when we got to our wedding night cabin, I took off my dress and just sat on the bed as every emotion in the world came flooding over and out of me. Sexy times, it was not. But there is plenty of time for that.

5 . Have fun! Don’t worry about what you look like, and don’t worry about what people think. Eat that food you’ve spent so much time thinking about, keep yourself properly hydrated and party like it’s your job. The rest will take care of itself – farmer tan and all.

Photos By: Andree Kehn Wedding Photography

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  • so.. my FAVORITE line of this post is “don’t worry how you look.” THANK YOU! I wish someone had said this to me before my wedding – because it seems that one of the few claims of the WIC that remains highly supported by the indie wedding movement is “you must look more beautiful than you have ever looked and will ever look”. I went into my wedding thinking this. You know what? I didn’t. I looked beautiful, but mostly because I was so HAPPY.

    But honestly? I’ve looked better. And I bet that I will look even more beautiful at some other occasion in my life. I had three giant mosquito bites on my chest and they show up in every photo. I was so worried about this all day – I FAILED at looking perfect.

    So thank you Kristen for saying that – and Undergrads – take that to heart.

    • meg

      Really? I don’t think I say that. I mostly say that you won’t care very much about how you look :)

    • Mel

      I don’t know if the indie wedding world sends that message or not, but I know it was the right day for me to read about your experience (and the mosquito bites!). I am devoting far too much thought to appearance-related things I thought I was over years and years ago. I wish I could switch my brain to a less sucky channel. But overall, APW is helping.

      • I think it takes constant work to stop devoting so much time to the sucky channel. Regardless of how much we consciously know we don’t need to look perfect and shouldn’t care, we are being fed all of these beautiful pictures and all we ever see is beautiful others and wonder how we could possibly live up to the perfection. I’ll tell you how – photography. and photoshop. you will be beautiful whatever happens, mosquito bites, farmer tans whatever. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT HOW YOU WILL LOOK. It’s just destructive.

        • Anon

          I wish it were as easy as turning the channel… This has been a struggle for years for me.

          Meg, have we had discussions about brides and eating disorders? I think wedding planning is a huge trigger for ED.

          • meg

            No! Could we? Could someone write about it? I’m no help in the body image department (thank god). I have lots of other sucky channels, but that one didn’t come pre-programed for me, so I can’t write about it.

          • Christina

            I’ve not had an eating disorder, but I definitely went a little diet crazy at first. The grad post A Way To Weigh What You Weigh When You Wed helped me a lot.

          • Anon2

            Yes, please. I don’t have an ED, but I’m kind of having a mental breakdown right now about the size I am and how, all of the sudden, I realized I will be the largest person at my wedding despite one very large uncle nobody likes very much and it is *seriously* freaking me out. This has never been a thing for me before and now I’m just in panic mode, trying to find diets and workouts and… yeah. Pleasepleaseplease.

    • Ky

      Heee, my husband had to pull a tick off my shoulder the morning of our wedding. Naturally, I was wearing a strapless dress. Ah, well, a little bit of concealer hid the big red ring and the bite itself sorta looked like a mole AND I got a funny story out of it.

      (I have been checked and did not contract any tick-born illnesses!)

  • Carbon Girl

    I had to get a comment in about the “Sexy times, it was not.” On our wedding night, my husband fell asleep while standing and brushing his teeth! He dropped the toothbrush to the ground and when I remarked about it, he woke up. We were so tired, we fell asleep pretty quickly only to wake up 3 hours later completely amped and went through our guest book quilt squares. I actually threw up once that night (I was not drunk, I think it was just due to the effect of all those emotions on my stomach.) We were just so overwhelmed (in a good way) that our bodies were confused. The next day, I had my sobbing breakdown moment when the last of our guests left from the inn.

    • Kristen

      I threw up too – completely sober! So not only were there tears and snot, there was also puke. Glad to know that I wasn’t alone. :)

      • Caitlin

        See, these kinds of things are what the WIC hides from everyone: Brides are real people! With all the accompanying bodily fluids ;)

      • Can we add this to a manifesto somewhere?? “You might puke” ?

        Thanks for the giggle (and the warning.)

    • Sarah M

      APW kept me going through wedding planning, but I’ve always been too shy to comment… until today. We were married two weeks ago and I wish that this post had come along before then– she hit it all right on the head! I had a ridiculously weird tan from our joint bachelor/bachelorette weekend in Key West, I had a tick bite on my back, and– forget making it to the honeymoon– I was a snotty mess down the aisle and through the ceremony. I haven’t been able to explain to people what was running through my head until this post. The combination of the culmination of 12 months of planning, the palpable love and joy I could feel in the church, and taking the last 25 steps of a 6 year journey just overwhelmed me… and cue the tears (and runny nose).

      The idea that you MUST look gorgeous on your wedding day is out there. But I think it comes more from looking at other people’s wedding photos than anything else; brides always seem to look radiant, where I rarely take a photo with my mouth shut, so I was freaking out about 2 weeks before the wedding… and you know what? Our photos look great. And you know why? Not because of my hair, or my dress, or my makeup, Because I was joyous. Because I was surrounded by the people I love most in life, and that is what makes a great photo.

      Our wedding was perfect, and that’s not because everything went as planned, but because our definition of perfect was a mile wide and did not include having the right flowers or chairs or a seating chart. Perfect for us only meant celebrating with the people we love, and that made all the difference.

  • This is such a great graduate post! I, too, can remember turning into a two-year old. I was hot, sweaty, and so tired, and one of my new relatives asked for one last picture. I still feel a little bad for saying no. My husband and I got in the car to leave and about…7 minutes into the ride, we both started sobbing and didn’t stop until we got to our honeymoon destination 1 hour later. It was so overwhelmingly emotional to see our families and friends come together to support us, to help make our wedding happen, b/c they loved us. Hence the sobbing.

  • Michelle

    Kristen! yay! What a great post!

    I feel you about “being done with a capitol D.” I felt the same way. During the last few songs, I didn’t want it to end, I felt like I could’ve danced for ten more hours. Then, the lights came on, I grabbed my stuff, and off we went. My feet hurt, I needed a beverage, and boy was I tired. oh yea, and the bobby pins…that’s why I wore my hair down, ha! only 3 bobby pins!

  • Caitlin

    yes, yes, yes!!! my husband and I had to make a fake getaway at the end of the festivities (turns out we had forgotten to pack for our honeymoon… oops!), and as we drove in circles I turned into a blubbering mess– he, of course, was grinning from ear-to-ear. I was so overwhelmed by emotion and totally exhausted I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts. Luckily, he stuck by his promises from earlier that day despite the crying, and on the four hour drive to our honeymoon spot I was able to stop the waterworks. But yes, totally agree with this post– weddings are unexpected things. No matter how much you prepare, the day might catch you unawares.

  • Marchelle

    F*ck. Yet another AWESOME APW graduate.

    The JOY. I love it.

  • “keep yourself properly hydrated”…. best wedding advice ever!

    thank you for your post :)

  • tupelohoney

    What stood out for me in this post is, “You have no idea how you will feel the day you get married, and this is both a good and a bad thing.” Thank you for sharing that!

    I keep wondering how I’ll feel and people keep asking me if I think I’ll cry. I’m a cry-er. I cried 3 times at my shower, I cry when I imagine walking down the aisle, I cried when my brother got engaged, I cry when I leave my dog for the weekend… I cry. Friends have told me that I’ll be so happy that all I’ll do is smile. While I can guess, imagine, wonder, try to decide (ha!) how I’ll feel… the line of thought that I have no idea puts me at ease.

    And, I love the picture of you and your mom dancing!

    • Sept Bride

      Iam alos a huge crier. I cry at commercials, at the Olympics, whenever someone says something nice about our current President. I cry all the time. I only cried twice on my wedding day – once when I was trying to get ready and I had a bad cold and my mom and my sister were fighting and I just wanted everyone to shut up and get my a shot of whiskey. So that was a bad cry. (But at least it was before makeup!) The second time was just a very small tear during my husband’s vows. And that was it. I was completely shocked by the fact that my carefully selected vintage hankerchief went to waste, but thrilled I never had to worry about my mascara. :o)

      • meg

        Yeah me too. I cried during one of the readings, when the reader started crying, and I cried at the very end. but that was it. And I’m a huge cryier.

        Oh yeah, and the honeymoon meltdown. But pretty much everyone has that.

    • I’m a huge cryer, too (commercials, the Olympics, other people’s happiness, other people’s sadness, etc.). But on our wedding day all I did was grin so much my face hurt*!
      So really, there’s just no way to know. And it’s totally ok, because no matter what you feel, you’ll get to feel it right alongside your partner (even if he/she is feeling completely different things, you’re in this together!).

      *To which my siblings responded, as our father had taught us years ago, that my face was killing them, too! ;)

    • Meg

      I’m not a huge crier, though I have my moments, but I was SURE I would tear up during the vows we wrote together.

      My eyes stayed totally dry until after the ceremony, when my younger brother came up, hugged me, and told me I looked beautiful. *Then* I cried.

      • N

        Hearing that almost made ME cry!! So sweet.

    • Caitlin

      I thought I would be an absolute dribbling weepy mess on our wedding day-I cried every time I heard the song I was going to walk down the aisle to, to the song my brother was going to sing for our first dance, when I imagined seeing Mike for the first time, but none of that happened! One lone tear during our vows which was surprising, because we had suffered a major loss just the week before so I thought normal weepiness + sadness over loss would equal mascara running mess.

      The most interesting thing for me was, in terms of not knowing how you will react on the day of, was how nervous I felt. I was shaking so much getting ready that my maid of honor had to put my earrings in. Totally unexpected. I thought I would be the coolest, most calm bride around because I had been pretty easy going up until then. But, nope, that dress went on and I felt like I was going on stage when I was 9 to sing alone in front of the elementary school for the first time. Nerves through the roof. But I just felt the nerves and thought, well, this is how I am feeling before I get married. This is how I’m going to do it. But, the best news is, as soon as I saw Mike it all went away. And a drink. Seeing him and a drink made it go away.

      • Sept Bride

        Oh, oh oh! This is SO important in a post largely about not caring about how you look (NOT), but I tried about a million waterproof mascaras in the lead-up to my wedding and fell in love with the waterproof version of Maybelline’s Volum’Xpress mascara. I even wore it swimming in the ocean every day on my honeymoon with no problems, so I highly recommend. Just, you know, in case people on this blog need info like that.

        PSA over.

        • Noemi

          I was actually wondering what kind of mascara I would wear, because I also have no idea if I will be weepy with joy or grinning my face off, and it’s better to be prepared. Check that worry off my list… Thanks!

  • LeahIsMyName

    I read that at work, and had to stop reading for a minute so I wouldn’t start crying when she described her mother-daughter dance. That’s so beautiful.

    When I got married the first time, I had my breakdown in the car on the way to the ceremony. I was already so exhausted from planning and executing plans. But this time, I’m consciously limiting the to-do list, so hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy myself a bit more.

    That, and I’m marrying the absolute best guy in the whole world. That should help. ;)

  • Jennifer

    “You have no idea how you will feel the day you get married, and this is both a good and a bad thing. Give yourself permission to feel what you are going to feel.” Absolutely! I say this as someone who expected to be an overwhelmed emotional basket case, or to feel that something magical and transformative was happening and neither of those were the case at all. (Sorry, I know Kristen promises magical and transformative, but if I had that, it manifested in some completely undectable way!) I think I thought that wedding-day ease and happiness and fun were for shallow people, and that a thoughtful person with emotions that run deep would properly sob and tremble through the ceremony, or something ridiculous like that. I wound up pretty successfully staying in the moment throughout the day, but I did have that one little flicker during the ceremony of thinking “why does this feel so…normal?” before I accepted it and moved on.

    There is just no way on earth I could have accurately anticipated what the day will feel like, no matter how many past brides related their experience and no matter how much I examined my own history. Still, I *am* glad that at APW and elsewhere I was able to hear a variety of experiences, because that helped underscore that any or all of those feelings are perfectly legit.

    • Arachna

      Thank you thank you thank you. I was angry. Because I expected magical and trans formative and joyful… and didn’t get it. It was the only thing I really wanted – I’d had that feeling of being surrounded by love during random family parties in my past – I was sure it would feel like that but more so on my wedding day – but I didn’t feel that love at all. It was only later when reading the cards the next day that I wanted to hug everyone. The day of… I had a lousy morning because I hadn’t realized how important attention from my mom and sister was going to be to me that morning and didn’t get it at all, feeling abandoned and unloved, and in a way I think I blamed all the family guests for ‘taking my mom away’ on this day (she on the other hand was working like crazy to make the wedding perfect). So I was (and I felt horrible at the time and still do) critical of most of the toasts instead of overwhelmed in a good way. Now I remember them warmly. I was a little out of it for most of the wedding. There were great things – my husband was perfect all day and that felt just right. I danced all night and that was pretty awesome. I learned that in my future I need to stand up for what I need and want more and trust my mom less. (I love my mom, she is my best friend and is amazing but it was about time I looked at her as an adult and not as a child).

      Looking at the pictures (still don’t have the professionals) is wonderful now. When I was sure the experience was going to be loving and wonderful – I didn’t care much about the pictures (we spent very little on a photographer) but with the wedding a disappointment I’m so happy we’ll have pictures. Because they make it easier to remember the good things.

      But I want all the undergraduates to know – it might not be magical and wonderful and trans formative. It might be devastatingly disappointing. But you’ll live – and life is wonderful.

      • Christina

        I am really happy to hear this in the comments. I had a similar experience. I had magical and transformative moments at the ceremony, but being surrounded by every one in my life all at once at the reception completely overwhelmed me – and not in a good way. Divorced parents and different groups of friends — It was a social marathon I wasn’t mentally prepared for, and I couldn’t get a grip on myself. So many brides here have said that it was so magical being surrounded by everyone they love, but I spent most of the reception wanting to hide. I’m trying to own that now and tell myself it’s ok. But I’m just getting there…..

        • meg

          I also think that, no matter how many times I say it, people really mis-read how *I* use transformative. First, they read it as magical (no!), second they read it as feeling good (not really!).

          I found our ceremony to be transformative, but A) You don’t know you’ve been transformed until way after it’s over, which makes logical sense, right? Afterwards you can point to a moment and say “Oh, I changed after that.” But you might not know that during the moment. And B) I’ve said over and over (but everyone covers their ears), our ceremony was gritty, real, totally not magical and glowy, and hard. I just tried to say super present and feel all of it and not judge it – and THAT is always the advice I’m giving. Stay present no matter HOW it feels. I looked like I’d been hit by a train coming back down the aisle, and not really in a good way.

          So. Yes. First, don’t expect to know how it’s going to feel. And second, just stay present and don’t judge how you feel. And third, realize that when people say transformative, they don’t mean it was fun. In my experience changing is almost never fun, it’s just worth it and important.

          And yeah. Everyone is probably going to have some really sh*tty angry wedding moments. Luckily I had mine the night before, but I think that was part of the joy of the morning wedding. I didn’t really have time to get upset, because I woke up, rushed to get ready and left. Weddings are emotional, and families and friends are super imperfect. You’re going to have bad moments when you mix that all together.

          • Arachna


            I like this comment I do and I do try pay attention when you say things like gritty and hard and not magical glowy.


            1. It didn’t feel transformative for me or gritty or hard. I’m pleased every day that I am married but frankly the day of or even during the honeymoon it didn’t really feel like a big deal. The ceremony was lovely but I spent half of it focused on how many empty chairs there were. The other half rocked but I can’t say it was hard.

            2. The glowy lovey expectation I had wasn’t your fault. It was my own. I was basing it on my own knowledge of myself – I knew I was capable of feeling glowy love and felt that of course this would be one of those time times a million. And it wasn’t. Ah well.

            I love my marriage and everything else fades so much in importance that (now, over a month after the event and tears and anger) I can let it go and be so pleased by the happy photos.

          • “So. Yes. First, don’t expect to know how it’s going to feel. And second, just stay present and don’t judge how you feel. And third, realize that when people say transformative, they don’t mean it was fun. In my experience changing is almost never fun, it’s just worth it and important.” Your 3d point just circles back to the first two, though, for me – I was absolutely not expecting it to feel relaxed and happy and fun, I was expecting gritty and hard. (I, um, might have read the Meg posts/comments about that just a few too many times?) So, yeah, either it wasn’t a transformative day, or it was a bizarrely easy and fun transformation that didn’t feel like one because it was easy and fun, and I’m not sure it matters which. For that brief moment I was tempted to think I was doing it wrong, because it felt so relaxed and easy (the exact opposite of the reader who was worried she’d done it wrong because it felt so hard), but luckily the staying present and not judging won out. Those, I think, are the key points and I’m glad so many wedding grads and commenters have mentioned it over time, as I’m sure that helped me do both.

            (We’ve been home from the honeymoon a few days now and I never did have the honeymoon cathartic meltdown, either. I warned my husband about it and everything! Dunno if I took care of all the meltdowns in advance, or it just wasn’t something I ended up needing or what. Or maybe it took the form of the stupid cold we both came down with – I’d have preferred a meltdown, it would have been over more quickly)

          • ddayporter

            “For that brief moment I was tempted to think I was doing it wrong, because it felt so relaxed and easy” Jennifer! This was me exactly!

          • meg

            I think it’s nice that it wasn’t gritty or hard. That wasn’t the fun bit.

            I guess my other piece of advice to the not-yet-wed would be try really hard to keep focus on what’s happening, the getting married bit. I wrote during my wedding weekend about it feeling like the hardest yoga class of my life, and the empty chairs phenomenon was totally why. I remember walking out and going, “Oh god there are so many empty chairs!” And then saying, “Not my job, not my focus, my job is to get married right NOW.” So I remember this constant pulling of my monkey mind back to the huge thing that was happening. You don’t always win with the monkey mind, but I think it’s helpful to know you’re going to want to try. If it hadn’t been for APW, I think I would have given in to it, but for some reason because of APW I *knew* I had to keep trying to focus. I didn’t totally win, but I did win enough.

            But regardless, I’m not saying your wedding will be gritty or hard or transformative. I’m clarifying what I meant by transformative, which is not magic or glowy, and encouraging everyone else to just show up and be present for however their wedding feels, and not judge those emotions. The minute you judge it, you’re pulling yourself out of it again, just like in meditation.

            So in sum, getting married was like meditation for me. Which is not to say peaceful, but is to say hard.

    • Dude, I totally expected magical and transformative and then didn’t end up with it. Or gritty or huge-massive-impact-ing, either. And I was exhausted by the sheer amount of people throughout the reception… even though they all love me and were being so nice (that aspect was wonderful!) and I was having fun with my partner (also great!), it was just not the type of event I’m used to so I guess I didn’t know how to prepare or react, and it was tiring! The ceremony was important (and touching and uplifting and funny and more!), but like Jennifer, it felt normal. Like, “Duh, what else would we be doing together on this fine Saturday evening?” (I wonder if maybe that’s because my partner and I wrote it together, so the Virgo in me knew exactly what was about to be said?) But the reception, which we had planned exactly how we’d both always wanted it, was overwhelming.
      And after it was all over and my partner and I were alone, we just kind of marvelled at each other–quietly–for a bit. And that was the perfect way for us to enjoy everything that had happened. It was also really nice to have a week afterward in which we were able to talk about everything and process it and mull it over together, just the two of us!

      • Christina

        The sheer amount of people – yes! It is exhausting. Parties of 100 or whatever are totally easy – but it’s different when literally every single person in the room knows you.

        Why didn’t I think ahead of time that that part was going to be so hard? I only thought the ceremony was going to be intense and then the reception would be time to relax and party.
        I’m not a shmoozy hostess type – I’m more of a sneak into conversations and watch what’s happening type. You just can’t get away with doing that at your own wedding. You end up talking non-stop. At least that was my experience…For example, when I tried to sneak into conversation circles at the reception – the conversation always stopped and was re-directed towards my dress, or the ceremony, or me, in general. It was totally not normal for me, and I wish I had thought about that beforehand.

        • april

          TOTALLY. I want to “Exactly” this like 10x. We had a group of 60 or so and it was so overwhelming for me cuz I’m just not a big party person. Small groups – fine. Big groups – WHOA. Yeah, I had a blast and it was fun and exciting and full of friends and loved ones, but it frickin wore me out. Everyone wherever I went was pulling, touching, hugging, on me. At one point, I ran to the loo just for an escape so I could pee, and give myself a time-out. But there were people in the bathroom who wanted to hug me, touch my dress, put more lipstick on me and jump up & down screeching – YOU’RE MARRIED… and some of them weren’t my guests… just random people at our hotel venue.

          Ceremony was lovely though… I could’ve stood up front with my guy, looking into his earnest, sweet face while listening to the soothing voice of our wedding minister all day. We were present for that bit, and it was electrifying yet also very calm.

          • Christina

            Wow we are kindred spirits because I totally want to exactly yours too! I had the same loo experience, haha. And the ceremony! yes! I could have been in that moment all day….

        • Joselle

          Thank you so much for sharing this because I know this will be an issue for me at my wedding. I’m just not a big party girl. That’s a big reason I’ve struggled with having a wedding at all. Part of me really gets off on the aesthetics of weddings, the planning, the vanity, the pomp and circumstance. But I am also just not a primpy, fancy girl at all and I feel like, who am I kidding. I should have just done City Hall and been quiet about all of this.

          Wedding planning has made me feel more like a 12 year old than I’ve ever felt since I was 12. Here I was, an adult. And now all these old feelings about people-pleasing, wanting to fit in, wanting to do what I should and not even really knowing what I want, that has all been huge for me. I know I am learning these lessons again. I know I’ll look back and say, “That was part of getting married: becoming a grown-up, again.”

          But right now, two weeks away from the wedding, I hate it. It sucks. It’s beyond uncomfortable. I just feel so unlike myself. I feel guilty about spending all this money, undeserving.

          Wow, tangent. Basically, I know I’ll feel weird having people fawn over me at our wedding. But then there’s a part of me who would also like that. I just need to be prepared for feeling overwhelmed by all the attention. I do plan on escaping to the loo to deal.

  • Moz

    Your farmer tan shows that you have a great job to which you are dedicated. As half a country girl myself, you rock it! Great post, seriously.

    Congrats on your marriage xx

  • ddayporter

    I love that you rocked a farmer tan. this is all really fabulous advice! I especially appreciate #4 because that’s how it felt for me exactly – except I didn’t cry, but I did feel shell shocked. and it’s true you just have no idea how you’re going to feel emotionally that day. I cry at Every wedding. I teared up when I would listen to our processional music before the wedding. The only time I teared up during the ceremony was when my best friend’s mom was reading the excerpt from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and SHE started to lose it, so I started to lose it. Other than that, I never had a big emotional meltdown. But I did walk around for a few weeks probably looking batsh*t insane because my face kept changing from stunned to giddy to overwhelmed to giddy to stunned in quick succession…

    also YES stay hydrated! one of my bridesmaids made it her job to stay on top of that for me all day, up until the ceremony, and I will be forever grateful.

    • My minister, a friend who would have been a bridesmaid, except we needed a minister and she is an ordained minister, so… Anyhow, she made it her job to make me drink water all day. And re-apply lipstick. Haha. It was awesome because drinking was not something that was occurring to me at all that day.

    • I didn’t have the big meltdown, either, but I definitely had the same problem as you in that “my face kept changing from stunned to giddy to overwhelmed to giddy to stunned in quick succession” for a couple of weeks afterwards! And even now, 2 months later, I’m still prone to random grins. :)

  • I love your idea of incorporating something meaningful from your father into your bouquet. I originally wanted to just carry a small marble rhinoceros in my walk down the aisle to represent my dead father. Then I got swept up into bouquet pretties. But you bet your bottom dollar I’ll figure out a way to put a rhino into my bouquet.

    • I want to hear the rhino story, Robin.

    • Me too!

    • Me, too!

      My partner and I often say “Doves!” to each other to mean “I love you”. Without knowing this, my mom and aunts gave us a card for our shower which had a silver dove charm on the front of it! So I tied that around my bouquet, and it was a wonderful combination of 1. a reminder that even though we were all dressed up and getting married, this is just us as we always are here, and 2. an actual token representing our family’s love for us and their joy at our marriage (as it was happening!).

  • saveroomforpi

    Congratulations :) This was a beautiful post, and I heartily agree/hit the exactly button with each of the five points.

    My emotional moment was the day after (I’d teared up a couple times on Sunday but happy tears), we’d gone to have breakfast with (my) family before they all left for the airport and my parents each had a rental car so that they could drive the other relatives. When those two cars pulled out of the hotel parking lot, signifying that the weekend was over, I leaned on my husband and just cried. But it was the right sort of cry.

  • Wonderful post! Especially this: “Give yourself permission to feel what you are going to feel.” That is what I have told very one of my friends who have gotten married in the last almost-year after I did. During the day of the wedding, I was surprised by how it all felt and kept asking myself, “Is this what this is SUPPOSED to feel like?” My reality didn’t match what I had imagined, and I wondered if I was doing it wrong somehow. But somehow before the ceremony I just accepted that my experience was going to be full of various emotions and that is just what it was. And that was okay, because it was what I was experiencing. So, now I try to warn others that WHATEVER emotions they experience are okay. Even unexpected ones. :) So thanks for getting this out there and talking about it…

    • Oops. Should say “every.”

    • Exactly!
      And knowing that is another reason I’m grateful for this community: all kinds of very different people sharing their very different experiences is a great way to learn!

  • K

    This is a great post! It has such a sense of staying in the moment and just enjoying it (or having a good cry if that’s what’s needed). Definitely helps me relax more about my choice to do my normal makeup and hair style, without help, and makes me rethink avoiding a strapless dress because of the tank top tan lines I’ll have at my end-of-summer wedding.

  • ann

    Yeah, I also really appreciated the “you won’t know how you’ll feel comment.” My fiance (?) and I are already legally married (long story), but at the time made the decision to not regard ourselves as such until we had made a public, social commitment to each other. But lo and behold, happy domesticity has crept in, and I admit I’ve been kind of scared of feeling blase during our ceremony.

  • carmar

    I want to exactly your whole post, but especially #2! My father died senior year of college, 6 years before our wedding. I was worried that the emotions and importance of the day would make me prone to losing it and cloud the happiness of the day. But I was so overcome with love and happy giddy-ness. I decided to carry his handkerchief with my bouquet, and pass on the father daughter dance. Wish I had thought about a song dedicated to my mom! What a great idea.

  • LPC

    What a very lovely post. Unsurprisingly, the photo of the bride and her mother dancing, along with the accompanying text, made me tear up. Thank you. I don’t mind crying for a good cause.

  • if there’s anyone I’m ever going to trust about wedding zen, it’s a bride with a farmer tan.

    • I should clarify that I had a white bathing-suit-stripe across my back on my wedding day, in my open-back dress.

  • Cara

    “Keep yourself properly hydrated” – YES! The MINUTE we entered our reception I was like, GET ME WATER.

    And the mixing of Catholic/Jewish traditions in a way that is true to your baby family but also sort of upends the traditions of your families or origin totally resonates with me. I remember my day saying, “Hava Na-what??” And I reassured him that we’d be playing “Thank God I’m a country boy” too.

    And I LOVE your necklace.

    • The glass of water our venue hostess brought us after post-ceremony pictures before we went into the reception was hands down the most-appreciated thing all day.

      And I wanted to second the awesomess of the necklace. Fabulous choice!

  • Okay, had to comment before reading the entire post. I’m already getting misty from the part about first dance with mom to CSN&Y. Beautiful.

  • Love the tan. LOVE the necklace! It’s so full of personality!

  • I don’t know why i’m such a sap this morning, i just ended my period, but geez the tears are just streaming down my face as I read this!

  • I’m very moved by Kristen’s advice about emotions and everyone’s comments about them. I am really curious about how I am going to react on the day of. I can see myself ugly crying very easily or having a permanent smile plastered on my face. Or maybe a mix of the two. Thank you Kristen and all the commenters for sharing their emotional experiences. I feel a little better prepared knowing that I can’t anticipate my emotions.

  • april

    “at 11pm I was done. Done with a capital D. I was like a two-year-old – albeit a very joyous one – who had reached her emotional limit. I was tired, I was thirsty, I had a headache and I had approximately 75,000 bobby pins in my hair. So when we got to our wedding night cabin, I took off my dress and just sat on the bed as every emotion in the world came flooding over and out of me. Sexy times, it was not. But there is plenty of time for that.”

    Oh girl – ME. TOO!!! Wow – can I ever relate to that paragraphy. This is *EXACTLY* what happened to me and it was a real downer for me – had a hard time (and still do) being “OK” with it. It was so upsetting, I left this bit out of my own grad post because I thought “who really wants to hear about how I lost it completely, and then, on top of all that – didn’t even get frickin’ laid on my wedding night! ACK!” And then I had a breakdown the day before we left for the honeymoon, and I slept thru the first 2 days of the honeymoon once we got to our resort. To say that a wedding takes a lot of a person and is a HUGE emotional experience is an understatement.

    So – THANK YOU for sharing your experience.

    And I love your farmer tan.

    And one more thing: pre-wedding baseball game?!?! OMG. You are my hero! That is sooo awesome!

    • Kristen

      April – I was a little hesitant/embarrassed to talk about my post-wedding emotions, too – but then I realized that meant those feelings were exactly the sort of thing I NEEDED to be talking about. So yeah, there was the snot and the puke on the wedding night. And then we went to Maine for a couple of days to relax (longer honeymoon came later) and my upper lip broke out in 5 cold sores…which has never happened to me before. Hello, crazy physical reaction to stress!


    Love love LOVE this post. As one half of a Jewish/Catholic couple, I am always happy to see how couples manage to bring both faiths/traditions into the wedding… he’s also Russian and I’m psyched to share those traditions (not just toasts, wedding shots! for reals!).

    Before I start to ramble: Thank you for sharing your wisdom. And your dress and necklace are gorgeous.

  • “Every penny was purposeful, well-spent and within our means – and that, in and of itself, felt fabulous and authentic and helped set the tone for the entire weekend.”

    THANK YOU. i got engaged 5 days ago and feel so super happy to be getting married and super overwhelmed and sad and happy and a bunch of other emotions about the wedding. and your graduate post made me feel better. like a lot better. like i can have a wedding better. like i want to find where you live and give you a hug and say thank you. and i’m not a hugger, so that’s saying something.

    • Sarah, first: congratulations!
      I think a lot of us have a grad post which stands out and just speaks to us and makes us feel like you do now. I’m glad that you’ve found that first serious bit of “ok, I can do this.”! No worries, there will be many more… and they always seem to come right when you need it most!

      (Mine was Alyssa’s! <3 )

  • i LOVE this graduate post! love. i see a lot of myself in it. as well as my fiance’. i was raised catholic, he’s very much jewish. we’re trudging through the interfaith stuff, as well as the engaged stuff and the planning stuff. it makes for a LOT of stuff. but it’s fun.

    he lost his father a month before we met. i’m trying to come up with ways to honor his father’s memory, but without knowing the man, it’s hard. i fear overstepping my bounds. that’s a whole other topic…

    i can only hope our wedding outcome is as moving and loving as this one. that we can combine both backgrounds, both traditions, both religions and both families and end up with a transcending event that moves us into the next stage of our lives together.

  • K

    I have some pretty serious tan lines from my bike jerseys and am also going sleeveless…
    THANKS for the perspective and courage boost to not care :)
    Unbelieveable that someone would mention it at cocktail hour… really? At least now if that happens to me I’ll know to just laugh it off and remember that my typical lifestyle that earned me those tan lines is much more important that one day of pictures.

  • Jolynn

    oh yeah, this one left me teared up! So beautiful. Thanks for the rawness.

  • Aimee

    I teared up a little when you mentioned the song dedication to your Mom. I don’t get along with my father and opted to not invite him to my wedding. In lieu of a father/daughter dance with my step-dad, whom I love, I had a mother/daughter dance (he was not offended as he HATES to dance).

    “Crazy” by Patsy Cline has always been “our song”. We sing it at the top of our lungs with as much country twang as we can muster. We slow danced to it at my reception and she even dipped me at the end. I thought I would cry through the whole thing (I’m a cry-er too), but we were laughing so hard we could hardly sing :)

    Cheers to making your own traditions and doing things the way that make the most sense for you!

  • You and Cory were so much fun to photograph. If anyone had asked me, I would never have suspected that you were anywhere near your “emotional limit”. It is wild hearing about the day from the opposite (of me) perspective. I hope this isn’t an inappropriate comment for this blog, I just wanted to chime in that I thought you were an incredible bride. :)

    • meg

      Awwww, no! It’s an awesome comment!

  • “Party like it’s your job.” Love this!

    I also appreciated the bit on how your honored your Dad. I’m in similar circumstances- it was unexpected, he was young, it’s been 20 years- & I’m still working on how to honor him properly. So far, we’re dedicating the ceremony flowers in his memory. That may be the extent of it but I’m inspired to think a bit more creatively too.

    Congrats Kristen & Cory!

  • Barbara

    I have been lurking on APW for many months now but I’ve decided to come out of the woodwork to say a big thank you to Kristen. I honestly thought I was the only bride who ever cried on her wedding night. I must have overlooked all past references to honeymoon meltdowns because I’m not much of a crier. But back at the hotel at 2am I started to bawl, so I woke up my snoring husband to cry on his shoulder. I was expecting the whole day to be a very emotional experience but as I hadn’t cried even one tear all day I just assumed that I was okay. I guess it had all just taken time to sink in.

    A huge thank you to APW for saving my sanity once again!

  • Carreg

    Thanks so much for this post. I shall *try*, when it’s my turn, to remember all the stuff about overwhelming emotions being normal. At least I can try not to be overwhelmed by being overwhelmed. :)

    I really appreciate how people here are willing to share stuff which is really quite personal, for the sake of letting the rest of us know that it’s normal.

    What’s a farmer tan and why is it meant to be bad? :) Hey, at least you tan — put me in the sun and my skin goes lobster red and peels off. Seriously, you look lovely – and I like the necklace.

    • Alexandra

      A farmer tan is evidence that you’ve been wearing t-shirts outside. ;p
      So the top half of the upper arm is pale, and the lower part of the upper arm is tan, usually with a distinct line between the two.
      If you’re looking for it, you can see it in the third photo.

      (I can’t believe someone brought it up to her!)

      I guess a lot of brides worry about their tan lines and try to even things out before ‘the big day’. ;p

  • Lindsay

    Thank you for loving your farmers tan! I got one of the worst sunburns of my life two weeks ago. At first I was upset, wondering if it would fade in time for me to put on my strapless wedding dress exactly two weeks from tomorrow. Although my arms look like those birch trees with peeling bark, I don’t really care anymore. I’m ready to party! Plus, it gave me the excuse I was looking for to buy this adorable crocheted shrug that I had been eyeing on Etsy.

  • Great wedding advice! I’m getting married in TWO WEEKS. I’ve had a couple meltdowns (doesn’t everyone??) but now I’ve kind of resigned myself to whatever happens, just so long as I end up married. I will try and remember to hydrate!

    I like what you did for your dad. My FH and I met at my ex-boyfriend’s (who I still loved dearly, as a friend) and his best friend’s funeral. He was a huge part of our lives before and after his death and his sister has been my best friend since we were 15. I’d like to acknowledge his contribution to our lives together, as we’d never have met otherwise (my FH lived across the country–I moved!) but I haven’t found anything appropriate. Maybe we’ll just think about him for a moment, thank him, and get hitched!

    Great post!!! I love the farmer’s tan. It makes it special. :)

  • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, advice, and farmer tan! Your outlook on your day (and tan) is really great and so wonderful to hear!

  • Em

    Thank you for this beautiful, honest portrait of a wedding! One & 1/2 weeks out, it really resonated with me, and gave me a good reminder as I prepare to be married.

  • first off, I love your dress! :)

    second, my father died when I was 8, also young, and for the past few years, as my friends got married, I’ve been trying to figure out how to honor him without being depressing, AND what I want to do in terms of all of the father-daughter traditions. I got engaged in August, so the current plan is… to have my dad’s best friend walk me down the aisle, do the dance with my stepdad (who is currently separated from my mom, that’s a whole different story), and have my dad’s other best friend do a toast. we are also going to not do favors and donate the money to the American Cancer Society or something. At least, that’s our attempt.

  • Alexandra

    SO rockin’ it! Congratulations! I hadn’t really thought about the tan thing, probably because I wear sleeveless shirts so much already…but that is a great reminder to not care about insignificant details!
    & yes, the necklace is great! :D