Melissa & Eric

More wedding graduates! Hooray! Melissa’s wedding graduate post has been a long time in the making (by which I mean it’s languished in my inbox for a long long time, and for that, I’m sorry). What really struck me about Melissa’s post, is how she talks about finally discussing, and understanding, what both she and her partner want out of their wedding day. The way they untangle what’s expected of them, and what they are dreaming of, and put it into words and values, is perhaps the way all of us should start wedding planning. Really understanding our needs, making a wedding mission statement of sorts… well, I’m not going to say it will save you tears and screaming, but it will definitely give you a place to come back to when you’ve gotten the tears and screaming out of your system (or it did for us, achem). So with that, I’m thrilled to bring you Melissa and her love song to Team Practical:

I knew planning a wedding with my fiance Eric was not going to be an easy feat. I didn’t necessarily need a super traditional wedding, but I wanted a dress, a dance, and flowers. Eric on the other hand wanted a field, beer, and fire. Every wedding related conversation ended with me running upstairs and sobbing into my pillow. Bottom line: I was a girl who lived in a hoodie and jeans, yet I had been socialized (brainwashed) into feeling like I “needed” an over the top wedding. I wanted to sip champagne in a posh dress boutique with my girls without having to worry about a price tag. I wanted to import out of season flowers from Florida. I wanted killer wedding photos that I could gush over for years. We had plenty of money, and I wanted free reign. During the first few months of our engagement, I quickly realized that no matter how many hours I spent crying and stomping me feet, Eric was not going to give in to what I wanted…until I could tell him why I wanted it.

Blogs like APW helped immensely. We started reading them together. I slowed down my wedding porn consumption and started being a little less ridiculous. Eric started to realize that there were people who felt the same way he did about the industry and became a little less angry about the whole thing.  We were in love, we wanted a wedding, and through reading APW, we decided that we needed to actually talk- there was a compromise somewhere and we needed to find it. Finally over our weekly Tuesday night taco dinner we decided to complete a task that we had attempted a handful of times. We both wrote down what elements were important to us, and how much we were willing to spend. This time, after reviewing the list, we went through and asked each other why each of the things was on our respective lists.

Eric learned that I wanted the bonding experience that dress shopping offered, and I learned that Eric wanted late night, laid back fun with his guys.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want a cake or nice flowers, it was just that he would rather spend money on creating an event that celebrated not only us, but also our friends and families. I had always made fun of him for being my Vulcan (nerd alert), but around the dinner table that night, he also revealed to me how important the emotional side of the ceremony was to him. I left dinner touched and amazed by my fiancé.  He wasn’t anti-wedding, he was just anti-wedding that didn’t reflect us and our simple life that we lead. I pulled myself out of the wedding porn world and became determined to somehow create “our” perfect wedding. I took his list, combined with it with mine, took the average of the two budgets and went to work.


We were married on a Thursday night in an intimate, family only ceremony at my first choice of location. We sat in a circle and allowed each of our family members to speak. I was raised Catholic, and expected my parents to read from the Bible, instead they wrote a poem. My brother is a writer and instead of writing something, he just spoke from the heart. My sister cried, and Eric’s brother quoted A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It wasn’t the most traditional ceremony, but it couldn’t have been more perfect for us. It was about the joining of two families and we will always remember every word that was spoken.

We then traveled to a local state park where we fed and entertained 100 of our family members and friends for the weekend. By thinking outside of the box, and through ideas I gathered from APW, we still were able to include the majority of the things on our lists, pay for everyone’s lodging, and stay under our $12,000 budget. I bought my dress during a crazy weekend at Filene’s Basement Running of the Brides. I traded the champagne and comfy chairs for 7-11 coffee and sleeping in the snow on the sidewalk- but the bonding experience was the same none the less. I delegated the list of decorations and had shoppers scouring junk and thrift stores all over the east coast. I set a maximum budget of $1.50 for each vase, $5 for each plate, and $30.00 for the one chandelier. We ordered all of our flowers wholesale and my mother in-law lovingly arranged each of the 50 thrift store vases. I cut coupons, and would not allow myself to make a purchase at a craft store without one in hand. I made everything, including two make-shift photo booths, and enjoyed every minute of doing so.

Basically, APW helped us slow the process down. I figured out how we lived as a couple and created a wedding around that. With every decision we asked ourselves why we were doing it. The first time Eric had me over for dinner, we spent the night building a fort in the family room and playing with Play-Doh.  It is one of our favorite memories of the early days of our relationship. We aren’t chocolate covered almond people, so as favors, the story was framed with a basket of Play-Doh for our guests.

There seems to be a lot of talk about details. I thought I’d add my opinion to the debate. Eric and I had spent an amazing day at a winery in South Africa in June. Back in the States, I spent a month tracking down the US distributor in order to import a case for the Saturday reception. Once we got to the park, I couldn’t find the frame to display next to the wine that described our day in Cape Town. I had a melt down.  It was not a small one either. Fortunately, I had it in the safety of our own cabin and Eric was there to talk me down off the ledge. The framed sign was found and all became right in the world again, but at that moment the worst thing someone could have done was tell me that the details weren’t important. The chicken was under cooked (raw) at our wedding dinner and I could not have cared less. But that frame? It brought me straight to tears- and not the pretty kind. Looking back, as so many people have said before me, it didn’t actually matter, but it was a super emotional day (or weekend) and a little thing that I felt was important at the time set me off- and I think that’s okay.

Also, it’s important to prepare yourself for happiness. I was not prepared for things to go well and I found happiness to be a really overwhelming emotion.  I am an optimist, but because I was responsible for all of the planning, I read, researched, and attempted to prepare myself for every possible thing that could go wrong. I was prepared for rain, broken cameras and bee stings. But I didn’t prepare myself for everyone’s desire and determination to make sure everything went correctly. When I realized there was no room in the budget for a professional photographer, my aunt offered to video the ceremony. She drove down from Vermont early, attended the ceremony, and spent the weekend editing in her cabin. She then allowed us to show it to everyone at the reception on Saturday.  I had known for months that she would be doing that for us but throughout the weekend I couldn’t even talk to her because I was so touched by her generosity.

At the last minute I chose to have an ice cream truck instead of “camp” tee-shirts. It was a tough decision (because every summer camp needs tee-shirts), but I wanted to stay true to the budget. As a gift/surprise to us, my mom and her sister hand stenciled 100 tee shirts. Eric and I arrived at breakfast on Saturday morning to a sea of bright yellow shirts. As an avid gocco user, I spent the majority of breakfast counting the hours they must have spent using their antiquated method.  Once again, I was lost for words.
During Marion’s unveiling of the video on Saturday night, the projector broke and to break the tension, I jokingly asked if anyone if they had any camp songs. My cousin and aunt jumped up and passed out words to a song they had written about our quirky life. Everyone broke out in song about our dogs, our family traditions, and the weekend.

Every time I looked around, I saw someone doing something to help. People were scrubbing dishes, hanging pictures, and cooking food. I sat on a picnic table on Sunday morning as people left, in tears (the pretty kind this time) in total awe of what everyone had created. It was so much more then I could have ever imagined and saying “thank you” as they were leaving did not seem like nearly enough. So be prepared to be touched and perhaps lost for words- people will come together to celebrate you.

APW, and all of you, helped provide the confidence I needed to think outside of the box. The end result brought happiness to us- and all of our family and friends. It was truly a celebration, of love, family, and community.

Photos By: Rimas Rudys, Cat Holbert, and friends + family

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