Lyndal and Stephen (with cheering from Leo)

Oh, today’s wedding. What to say? It contains the cutest ‘just married’ picture I have ever seen. It reminds you what weddings are about in the first place – forming a new family, celebrating with your greater family, laughter, tears, joy. It reminds you that it doesn’t really matter if everything is cute and blog-worthy and detailed, because in the end you are never going to pour over the pictures of the wedding stuff you had, you’re going to pour over the pictures of the wedding love you had. And just when this all sounds too sweet to be true, it reminds you that part of planning a wedding is growing into your role as a fully-fledged, fully-recognized grown-up in your community, and coming into the power of your ability to say NO! Because I swear to you on everything, saying yes to things that are not right for you will end up more painful, than just biting the bullet and kindly but firmly said, “No way.” And with that, I leave you with a thank you letter, written to this community:

Dear Meg and Team Practical,

I wasn’t sure about writing a wedding graduate post, because our wedding planning experience was so easy and stress-free that I didn’t want to make other people who are already stressed feel any more stressed about how other people have lovely stress-free weddings. But I did want to let you know that these weddings really do happen and why our wedding was like this.

To be honest, it boils down to Team Practical and all the wise couples who have shared their experiences. I wanted to share our story as a huge thank you, but also as evidence of the impact your blog and blog community is having on people like me.

Unfortunately I think genuinely easy and simple weddings are almost like fiction in our highly commodified consumer culture. My hope is that stories like mine, the experiences of other practical graduates, and the important conversations being had around the blogosphere, are slowly building to create a new story that couples can look to on their wedding day, and that is a story, or rather millions of stories, of love and joy and tears and memories on each couples’ own terms and not those of the narrower world of wedding expectations (WIC or otherwise).

My partner and I honestly planned a beautiful stress-free wedding in a couple of months. We had no arguments (and we are not one of those couples that never argue, because we do) and we tried to keep everything as simple as we could.

Around the time we seriously started planning our wedding, you featured a series of posts about not going indie/blog wedding crazy, wedding styling, and weddings not being shows or fashion shoots (actually that may have been East Side Bride), which were truly the best gift for any bride-to-be. To all brides and grooms (and brides and brides and grooms and grooms) out there: a (relatively) stress-free wedding IS possible as long as you take the advice of Team Practical. Wise people have been down your path and their experiences can help you.

So, our wedding. It really was simple and lovely and stress-free and here’s how we achieved that:

Our day consisted of a morning ceremony with family (and some friends who just had to take a peek) in a local park. Then we walked to a nearby hotel and had lunch in their award-winning restaurant, after which our friends arrived and we continued to party with them in the bar area. A simple, fun, and truly lovely day.

Another thing I should mention is that we planned our wedding for the same weekend as my father-in-law’s 70th birthday, as well as a good friend’s wedding. The beautiful thing about this was that it meant the weekend and our wedding were not just about us. We were able to celebrate many things and our wedding was just one joyful event among all the celebrations.

I could tell you all about the thrifty and creative and sane things we did, but really, there weren’t that many. Actually, maybe the sanest, thriftiest and most creative thing we did was to insist on this simplicity. The general advice I could share has already been said many times over on your blog and that is decide on what matters to you, compromise on things that matter to key people, ignore everything else, don’t go DIY crazy, and be present on the day. And honestly, when the day arrives and when you and your partner (and your baby and little dog) are right inside the wedding, all you will notice are the happy tears and the smiles on everyone’s faces.

But, I do have three pieces of advice that were specific to our wedding planning process that might help couples out there. The first is something I have never heard anywhere else before, and that is; if at all possible, try keeping your engagement under wraps for a while. We didn’t tell anyone for about 2 years, which is probably a little extreme, but life got in the way. Even if you keep it a secret for just a few weeks, it will give you and your partner some time and space to digest your new situation, and to think about all things marriage and wedding before the clutter and noise and expectations of family, friends, and broader society start to close in and confuse you. For us, having that time, allowed us to have many (many) conversations about marriage and make hypothetical wedding plans so when the time came to actually plan everything, we knew what we and other important people wanted as most of the groundwork had been laid.

The second piece of advice is about saying no. As I said before, decide on what matters to you, compromise on what matters to key people, and say no to everything else. Practice saying it. Say it out loud. Say it often. No to anything you are not comfortable with. No to wedding expectations that do not reflect you as a couple. For us that meant no engagement shoots, no save-the-dates, no bridal party, no rehearsal dinner, no getting ready separately, no first looks, no to being given away, no first dance, no receiving line, no table numbers, no escort cards, no guest books, no groccoed napkins, no monogrammed doorways, no signature cocktails, no candy bars, no favours, no chalkboard notices, no menus, no programs, no flip flops, no vintage hand-embroidered handkerchiefs, no parasols, no photo booths, no DJs, no grass bands, no playlists, and no bits of fancy paper everywhere labelling every single detail.

What did we have? We had flowers, we had amazing food, we had cake, we had sunshine, we had love, laughter, tears, family, friends, babies, and each other.

And the third piece of advice concerns the dress. Everyone’s dress journey will be different, but do try find something that makes you feel beautiful and something that you are comfortable wearing. However, when I say beautiful and comfortable, I am not just talking aesthetics, rather, for me, beauty and comfort also meant practical and affordable. In fact, so much so, purchasing my dress ended up being an extremely liberating and defining moment in the whole wedding planning process. I was lucky enough to find a lovely designer dress in a non-bridal shop for an incredibly low price. I tried it on. It fit. It was nice. I looked at the price tag $1000 reduced to $50. Thank you very much. Done.

I walked out happy thinking it was only $50 so if I found something else it wouldn’t matter (and then I broke into a run in case the shop had made a mistake). But the more I thought about it the happier I got. I actually really came to love my dress. It was beautiful, affordable and practical, and from then on that is how I thought about our wedding planning. It was a truly liberating wedding moment where all the typical stresses and expectations seemed to evaporate. I think if I had chosen a more costly or impractical dress (could I really wear fine French silk or lace with a 7 month old son?) I might still be harbouring some wedding stress and guilt.

Again, thank you Team Practical. Your voices are making an impact.

Vendors: You mentioned recently that your Australian readers sometimes complain about there not being many vendors mentioned that are local to them, so here are mine. Anything not mentioned we already owned, DIYed or just didn’t do.

Celebrant/officiant: Russell Hansen
Dress: Leona Edmiston (Specifically the discount sample shop in Rozelle, Sydney).
Hair accessory: Powder Blue Bijoux
Restaurant/Bar: The Riverview Hotel, Balmain
Photographer: Kate Baker, a very talented family friend and her partner, who is not a wedding photographers so I cannot share anymore details.

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  • I am swooning! Such a powerful message. Thank you so, so much for sharing, Lyndal!

  • This was a very moving post. I love your advice about keeping the engagement a secret for a while – I really wish that I had done this, if even for one single day. Hopefully some of the pre-engagement readers can benefit from this idea!

    • Same here! We called EVERYONE as soon as it happened. Oh well, such is life!

    • Ditto! And then spent a day explaining that no, we weren’t getting married any time soon. At least not as long as I was unemployed, as I was at the time. I could have done without that part of the crazy call-a-thon.

    • KD

      Oh we sort of did this – I needed about a week to digest everything before it went “public” my parents and best friend knew (but also knew to keep it under wraps for the next week). It was also nice to have a bit of time to adjust then enjoy it before people started asking about colors.

      And honestly, I wish we would have waited longer…

      GREAT ADVICE! Thanks Lyndal!

  • saveroomforpi

    What a great occasion and such a happy looking family!

    We didn’t keep the engagement a secret, but because I was taking the majority of my architecture license exams during our engagement, we did keep the potential wedding date to ourselves until I was ready to have my family thinking about the wedding. (it wouldn’t have been any good for them to be thinking about it if I wasn’t “allowed” to think about it) (It did mean however that I was caught up enough in the number/date reasons and focus that when it turned out my cousin’s high school mid-terms were the following week and would be unable to make it, we didn’t change the date and my family supported the decision.)

  • Sarah Beth

    “try keeping your engagement under wraps for a while”

    We intended to do this, but the plan sort of imploded. My fiance made the mistake of asking my father’s blessing. He went to talk to him, but made it very clear that the proposal would be soon (in the next week or so). Long story short, the boy couldn’t wait, and ended up proposing the same day. Meanwhile, my dad called my mom (they were recently divorced, and otherwise not speaking) and demanded to know what the hell was going on.
    So when I get home late that night, floating on cloud nine, I decide I will wait until morning to tell my mom. I’m surprised to find her awake. And instead of “Hi, how was your day,” I get one ominous statement: “I know about you and Chris.”
    What followed was one of the worse nights of my life. Instead of being happy for me, my mother was furious that my fiance didn’t ask HER blessing, and yelled at me until 1 AM.
    So we waited a few weeks to tell his parents, because I was totally gun-shy.

    But, besides that, this is a beautiful story, and solid advice. I wish more weddings were this simple, joyful, and stress-free.

    • ddayporter

      aaaaackkk that sounds miserable. I’m sure it’s difficult to separate these emotions when you’re freshly divorced, hope your mom came around in the end. My parents were divorced about 25 years ago, but my mom was still bitter that my husband only asked for my father’s blessing in advance of the engagement. We had our reasons for doing it the way we did it, but if we had it to do over we would have skipped the whole blessing thing entirely. Sometimes what seems like an innocuous nod to tradition can be more complicated and painful than you would ever expect.

  • saveroomforpi

    Actually, I should say that our engagement was secret for a couple hours as we didn’t have cell phone reception at Mount Rainier and I had to wait to call family once we were back on the road to Seattle :)

  • This was a great and a very inspiring post. I love how the bride focused on what she did have- “flowers, good food, sunshine, family, friends, babies and each other.” I’ve been telling myself- keep it simple, keep it you… and this wedding is proof that that it works.

  • ddayporter

    ahhhhh beautiful! I agree with Kerry, keeping the engagement a secret for a little while is a fabulous idea, in retrospect would have been great for us. Though to a certain extent we had already kept it a secret for months beforehand, while we were talking about getting engaged.. but definitely the real wedding talk began after the engagement, and it would have been great to have more time before everyone else chimed in, to think about our various options.

    also LOVE baby in the wedding. and all the smiley-smiley throw-back-your-head-laughing photos! <3 <3

  • I love the advice! This experience has truly made me feel on par with the older ladies in my fam…I don’t know why, but I feel more like a legit adult. And being able to say no to those ladies in a nice but firm way has helped me along that journey.

  • Tamara

    Aahhh…wonderful advice, and as usual, Meg, you hit the nail on the head selecting the right post for the right day for this member of Team Practical.

  • C

    Aww the family photos with the adorable little son make me smile. I especially love the baby and daddy reading photo! Congrats on your joyful wedding :)

  • This is AWESOME. Everyone’s so happy, and there’s seersucker! Everything is better with seersucker!

    Keeping the engagement under wraps is good advice — we’ve gone back into the closet with ours after the two people we told gave some obnoxious “friendly” advice that totally freaked me out. Luckily we hadn’t talked to anyone else, so we can sort through the issues together before trying that again. I’m glad to hear thatsomeone else thinks this is a good idea!

  • Wow! What an incredibly beautiful family. That picture of the three of them right after the ceremony is too much!

    I love the advice to keep the engagement under wraps for a while. I wish we had done that longer than we did. We were backpacking through Europe when we got engaged and there was something so lovely about just giggling about being engaged together (saying, “oh my gosh, we are getting MARRIED” every few minutes, because we are dorky like that) and NOT calling everyone we knew to tell them. That only lasted the time we were gone, but it was incredibly special to keep it private like that. Great advice. Beautiful wedding.

  • Amen to keeping your engagement a secret for awhile. We waited six weeks for the ring that we ordered to arrive (we chose it after he asked). I had a bad experience with my first engagement where people demanded to see a ring I didn’t have (by mutual decision) so I wanted to wait until I had something to show this time around.

    It turned out to be the greatest gift we could have given ourselves. We had time to look at each other secretly and squeal. We had time to process the idea that this means forever. We had time to sort out some details so that rather than being overwhelmed by folks’ immediate conversational shift from ring to event details, we could steer the conversation back to our marriage and relationship.


  • This list of no’s followed by what you had:

    love, laughter, tears, family, friends, babies, and each other.

    Amazing. Thank you so much for this post.

    • Violet

      This was such a lovely post to read first thing this morning. And I have to echo everyone else and agree that keeping the engagement secret is a brilliant idea. We got engaged by way of conversation on our couch so had a couple of weeks to really talk it through before telling anyone else which did feel like a secret us-only-society of excitment and love and marriage.
      I also appreciate the dress comments and I adore Leona Edmiston’s dresses; you look radiant!

  • Moz

    It is lovely to see an Australian wedding – so beautiful. I think it must be a beautiful thing to have young children already when you marry. The thing about taking some time after you get engaged to tell people is really wise advice, I think.

    Just gorgeous. Congratulations Lyndal and Stephen!

  • Lyndal, you’re an inspiration. My two main objectives during the engagement are to stay stress-free and to keep it simple. Your no list helps me see how few things we really need to have a meaningful day.

    And I completely agree about letting the engagement be its own excitement for a while instead of jumping immediately into wedding planning. You need time to process and think about your marriage and commitment. The one-day wedding is not the most important part of being engaged.

  • Alyssa

    The picture of you guys laughing with ADORABLE squidgy little baby Leo cheering says it all. Great advice, gorgeous family, beautiful wedding. Absolutely perfect…

    What I love about all these wonderful and diverse stories is that while they’re not going to speak to everybody all the time, they will at one point speak to one person SO much that it helps them out and makes their life a little easier. And what makes it totally worth it.

  • Kim

    Beautiful and very inspirational.

  • Krystel

    Thank you SO much for your timely post! I’m below 2 months and have started suffering daily anxiety from the stuff that isn’t done. THIS is why I save APW for my last blog that I read in the morning…the voice of sanity and firm grasping of the shoulders and light shaking that I need.

    • Nina

      Right there with you on the daily anxiety… early on in wedding planning it seems easier because you can handle each “big” thing one at a time: book caterer, book venue etc. but when you get closer the tiny little details threaten to swamp your brain!
      This post was a great reminder that all those things really are just that – details (well except maybe figuring out the ceremony in full)

  • Jenn

    We also waited to tell of our engagement…a little over a year. This will be a second marriage for us both, so we knew that we wanted things our way AND simple.

    We went so far as to plan the big pieces of our wedding before telling family (date, venues, dress, invitations). This allowed to create a scaffold of a wedding that was US before our families tried to put in their two cents.

    So far it is working for us, but we haven’t had our wedding yet.

    PS I love all the children at this wedding. You can really feel the joy from the pictures.

  • Seriously inspiring. Love, love, LOVE her list of the things they didn’t have…juxtaposed with the things they did.

    Details just aren’t important compared to all of that love.

  • Nini

    I love how simple and down to earth it all was. It sounds like you had all the details that mattered – and in abundance! I love the babies at weddings :)

    I agree about keeping engagements under wraps – which we did.. so of course I agree :) We kept our engagement quiet for about a month. It was niiiiiiice. It was just us, enjoying the next step – no colours, no dates, no wedding talk at all. Just.. bein’ engaged. But then we wanted to share, so we “rock, paper, scissor’ed it to see who’s parents we’d have over for dinner first to tell them. (we really wanted to see the look on their faces – our parents have been dying for us to get married but have been awesome silent soldiers on the subject – never pushing, just waiting) It was so very worth it. They were surprised we kept silent for so long. And we’ve been living off the look on their faces for months. It was the look of complete joy.. and I’m eagerly anticipating seeing it again. I’ve become a total “Joy” addict.. and these pictures are a good way of holding me over till my own wedding. So thank you for enabling me :)


  • Arachna

    I love seeing a wedding where the planning was mostly stress free and it turned out beautiful. Sometimes I feel like because I am not too stressed the end result will not be as nice/together as I hope. Silly but true.

    I loved sharing the engagement news though, no regrets there.

  • Nina

    LOL @ “and then I broke into a run in case the shop had made a mistake”

    Would have been my reaction exactly! That is one incredible deal for a beautiful dress :-)

  • april

    Maybe I’m just extra emotional today, but this wedding has me sobbing at my desk right now. So touching, so sweet and lovely and that baby – what a darling! Gorgeous family and I love hearing about how someone (FINALLY !) had a blissfully happy and stress-free wedding. Not all of us can say that, but I’m sure tickled to hear about couples that did. FABULOUS!!!!

  • Holy cow!!! A $50 designer dress?? In SYDNEY??? I’ve never seen such a deal here! You, my dear, are shopping royalty! I would have run too! :) Thanks for the great post and for sharing your tips! It looks like you two had a very special day and I’m encouraged. I’m living in Sydney as well but all of my family and friends are in the US so a practical wedding is our only option–whether we do it here or there. I don’t think we’ll end up with any of those things either (the napkins, the bridesmaids, the reception hall, the bachelorette party) which makes me sad sometimes but reading all the stories like yours of women who said “screw it!” reminds me that it’ll be beautiful no matter what. Thanks again!

  • Amy

    This post was a great reminder of the important things. I was just having issues last night with all of the STUFF that was expected of a wedding. We ended up deciding not to go with our $700 wedding/reception hall. Instead, we are marrying with immediate family in my mother’s backyard and then having a picnic potluck at a local park (shelter rental for the entire day? Only $120). After the picnic potluck, we are planning on going to a local bar that a friend runs and anyone that wants to join us can.

    I’ll wear a sundress, he’ll wear a shirt and tie. We’ll have no flowers. My sister is standing with me, his brother is standing with him, and that’s pretty much the extend of our wedding party (except my nephew will probably hand us the rings because he has his heart set on it). Our cake will just be a sheet cake from a local grocery store.

    Now that I’m not worrying about fancy cakes and fancy dresses (none of which are my style), flowers, centerpieces and favors, I feel SO much better about my wedding. :)

  • Emily

    Great post! Your section about saying no is wonderful. Some of your no’s are my yes’s but I love it anyway!

  • Christine

    I just wanted to say how grateful I am to hear about a stress-free wedding process. So much of the “story” that is repeated over and over about wedding planning is that it is stressful, stressful, stressful, and that hasn’t been my experience whatsoever. Though I’m still 6 months away, our wedding planning has so far been nothing but fun, and my fiancé and I promised each other it would stay that way. However, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop… so it’s very refreshing to hear my hopes confirmed!

  • Beautiful and joyful.

  • Lauren

    Yay for another Aussie bride!!! Absolutely beautiful – it looked like a very fun, very special celebration :)

  • elemjay

    I love the list of NOs – saying yes is empowering but so is saying NO!

    We didn’t tell anyone about our engagement for about 9 months. We decided to get married right after my dad died and suddenly coming out with the getting married story would have been just too much emotional turmoil. It was a secret joy that kept me warm when I most needed support.

  • AussieAndy

    I know I should be focusing on the wedding (perfect, just love and happiness and perfect), and the beautiful Aussie/APW simplicity about it, but I’m addicted to little Leo. The photo where you’re both holding him is just adorable. Its like he knows exactly how important what is going on around him is, and he’s celebrating his little heart out.

    Congratulations Lyndal and Stephen. If you have that much happiness on your wedding day, I’m sure the future holds wonderful and beautiful things for the three of you.

  • It seems you did a wonderful job remaining stress-free. Congratulations on your marriage and your gorgeous family!

    My wedding planning also started out with finding a pretty, comfortable, and inexpensive dress (on sale for US$65!). It’s good to hear that you were able to use that to set/keep the tone for the rest of the planning. Well done!

  • Melissa

    I just showed my fiance these Leo pictures and sarcastically said, “I told you I wanted a baby six months ago.” We’re getting married in four months. :)

  • candy

    I especially love the advice about keeping the engagement private at first. Totally wonderful advice.

    • Tina

      This wedding makes me so happy. I’m just getting to read it after a busy week, and I get tugs at my heart strings and my… uterus? ha ha. (That has started happening when I see gorgeous babies.) For some reason this one just really hits home for me. I don’t have kids yet, but my partner and I are a bit conflicted over when the right time to get married will be. He thinks marriage once kids are in the picture makes sense. I prefer marriage before kids. But, seeing this beautiful, amazing wedding with little Leo, I think it would be just fantastic either way. That photo of all of you laughing as he grasps your pearls and throws an arm in the air is so precious. It is emotional wedding inspiration no matter what type of wedding a person is planning.

      Best of luck to you both!

  • Theresa

    What a beautiful day! Thank you for sharing. And yes, definitely jealous at how stress-free your wedding was!

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