Monique & Lee

Ok, guys, so here is the thing: Monique & Lee’s wedding is as stylish as they come, but it’s her raw honesty that will grab you by the heart. She tells you about how scary wedding planning can be – and how you need to let other people carry you when the going gets hard. And about how you need to trust yourself, and your husband, and you can love the details and the party too. In short, this wedding is as APW as they come – stylish, but also real. So with that, I give you the lady herself:

Our wedding began with pink champagne and croissants and ended with security staff turning on all the lights and kicking us out. There was a fire engine, rain and – shock horror! – a dress combining beads, feathers AND sequins. Dance moves were busted, food was devoured, tequila was downed and love and laughter filled the room. The biggest amount of fun was had with the best people in the world. And, somewhere in the middle of all that, I married my best friend.

But as wonderful as it all was, it was not easy. If planning the wedding taught me anything, it is that I don’t cope well with stress, but I am very good at hiding it. The silver lining in that big thunderous storm cloud is that all that stress taught me to appreciate the strength of my relationships.

In the beginning, I didn’t care about what anyone thought about the decisions we made.   I knew deep in my bones that our wedding would reflect us and we would have fun and – no matter what – we would be married at the end of it all which is all that matters anyway.

But somehow, while I wasn’t keeping a lookout, that all changed. Maybe it was one too many loaded opinions, or maybe the insecurity had been bubbling away the whole time. The little things that didn’t matter – favors, ring pillows, fake tans, ceremony programs, unity candles, registries, garters, flower-girls, monogrammed napkins, diamonds, centerpieces, chair covers, personalized pens – became big, matter of life and death things. I second guessed every decision. And then third guessed it. Not because I actually cared about those things, but because I felt like everyone else cared, and I feared I would be judged a failed bride for not caring.

Luckily, I have a wonderful man and amazing friends who never got sick of reminding me that they love me for exactly who I am. They told me to trust myself. I wish I knew then how right they were.

Having said all that, I found it very hard to talk to people. For a very long time, I was afraid that people would mistake my fears about the wedding for fears about being married. So when anyone asked how I was, even at those moments I was ready to break down, I smacked a big smile on my face and said I was fabulous. Then went home and drank a bottle of wine while looking through sites like APW through tears.

And it wasn’t just rational stress. For example, I was very worried about my ability to walk in my heels, which are higher than what I would usually wear (but very fabulous). Small issue, but it consumed me. I had a recurring nightmare that I developed blood blisters on my heels, which burst when I was walking down the aisle and the white satin shoes soaked up the blood and everyone laughed at me. Ridiculous, but I became very anxious and would have trouble breathing when I thought about the shoes.  But after I drunkenly told a friend my fear, the nightmare stopped. Talking about things really does help.

I think I actually made people feel bad when I didn’t confide in them, because they could see the stress all over my face but felt I didn’t trust them enough to talk to them.

While this does contradict a lot of what is written above, the wedding planning process was generally a lot of fun. There was a lot of laughter shared between friends over many a bottle of bubbly. The actual wedding was by far the most fun I’ve ever had. Not everything went as planned, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I got a lot from Etsy, and loved that everything was so handmade. There’s something very romantic in knowing that someone has put time and love into the fabric roses, and the pine cone flowers, and the paper cake toppers, and the crochet signs.

My favorite moment? Just before I walked down the aisle. I surprised the hubby by walking down the aisle to his favorite song – I was made for loving you by KISS – instead of the song he thought would play. Even though some family members were appalled at the idea of us starting the marriage with “a song all about sex” I had our band cover it acoustic-style. Waiting to walk down the aisle, I heard the song and knew the surprise would make the hubby feel so special and loved. I was right. Knowing that I had made him so happy made me so happy in return.

It was also very special to carry a bouquet that was made by my hubby. He spent hours and hours making it after I saw one online that was way over our budget. Lots of people also gave us brooches for the project, so I felt like it contained a lot of love. (Side note: hubby also made the bridesmaids bouquets and helped with the invitations. And he surprised me by telling people, in a lot of detail and with real excitement, all about the things I thought he wasn’t paying attention to. So don’t assume your man isn’t interested – after all, it’s his wedding too!)

Oh, and the many dance floor group hugs we received were also amazing. I do love a group hug.

Aside from my charming new nickname of ‘ball and chain’, being married doesn’t feel too different. We returned from the honeymoon and went back to our work and our electricity bills and our grocery shopping. But we went back married. And that is a wonderful feeling.

Photos by: Jonas Peterson

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  • A-L

    Congratulations! This wedding just made me feel very happy. And I am totally impressed that your husband did all of that, including your beautiful bouquet. Lovely! And you totally rocked your dress. Thanks so much for posting this!

  • This post brought tears to my eyes. You have captured beautifully all the emotion, stress, strain and joy of wedding planning and I loved reading it – I could read a whole book written by you. Congratulations on a wonderful post about a wonderful partnership and a lovely event

  • I know this isn’t exactly the point but all the stress over your details paid off because everything is unique and flawless! I love the music selections, the photographs, the paper flowers, the bouquet, the dresses, everything. I only wish I could see more.

  • Carbon Girl

    I love how you mentioned the fake tan. I got married in January and several people were very surprised that I did not want to look tan for the wedding. It was winter in Vermont, people!

    • I’m with you – those of us with the alabaster complexions shouldn’t have to look like beach babe brides if that’s not our thing!

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Agree! My bronzed sister was like “OMG you’re going to be that pale in your wedding photos?! Oh the humanity!! WHY?!?!” My thought was that I haven’t been anything in the neighborhood of tan since the 7th grade. Why be fake at my wedding? Plus, I really wanted the groom to recognize me and I was already going to be awfully dolled up :)

        • Bahahaha yes, it is good for the groom to show some recognition as the bride comes down the aisle :)

          If I really looked that bad to be pale, I’d probably do something about it more regularly too, not just the one occasion that society dictates I wear white. I like to think it will give me an “ethereal” look.

          • liz

            i was pasty as they come, but i was ME.

        • Sarah

          I got A LOT of this from my (also bronzed) sister. I had some semblance of color (but nothing you’d call a tan) when I showed up the week before my wedding, and she tried to practically throw me in a tanning booth, HORRIFIED that I’d be “pale” at my “Southern California Summer” wedding.

          Which I find hilarious. The wedding was in SoCal, but I live on the East Coast, and work an office job … and as such RARELY see the sun. I’m “pale” all year round … why change that for one day?

      • Katelyn

        B and I are both super pale with red hair – I like to think we complement each other nicely. I don’t really notice how pale we both are until someone else hops in the photo with us :)

        My sisters-in-law both tanned before their weddings – one ended up wearing makeup that didn’t match her new color at all and the result wasn’t pleasant.

        So – no knocks to you if you want to tan. But remember to buy new foundation.

    • Trisha

      A Vermont wedding? Could it be that there you are another Vermont APWer?

  • So much I want to “exactly” about this post…
    That sneaky way that pressure and expectations can undermine your previously confident assurance that this wedding is about the marriage you are beginning together rather than the monogrammed napkins…
    Trying to hide your stress when everyone else can see it and unintentionally hurting people for not letting them help…
    The amazing feeling you get when you pull of a surprise that you know your husband will love and be touched by…
    And the wonderful fact that there are men who defy the WIC stereotypes and are full-heartedly interested and involved in what your wedding will become.
    Monique, you are a wise and beautiful lady! Thank you for sharing! x

  • Chelsea

    Absolutely perfect.

    Monique, if you’re reading here– who did your dress? I’m absolutely in love with it.

    • Monique

      It’s amazing, huh Chelsea? I searched high and low for a vintage flapper-style dress, but struggled to find one with a decent sized waist. Mine is from Le Luxe Clothing — http://www.leluxeclothing.com They have amazing dresses :)

  • Cyle Philipson

    Totally love your post! It’s amazing how one day can cause so much grief and so much joy all at the same time… Thanks for sharing and I wish you both long years ahead full of love and understanding… Congratulations!

  • Kashia

    Monique, that was gorgeous!

    And a really good reminder of what we’re working towards. Right now I’m in the middle of the planning and sometimes its easy to forget what the end goal is…and also why I didn’t want to stress about favours or seating charts or the perfect cake in the first place. But it’s hard when people keep telling me “but you HAVE to do that, it won’t be a PROPER wedding if you don’t.” (What the H*LL is a “proper” wedding anyhow?)

    So thank you for sharing your amazing wedding and your wise words. Congratulations to you and your hubby!

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    Monique’s recounted stress really took me back to 1 year ago when I was freaking out about the silly little things at our wedding. I found that the only way to stay sane was to set a deadline and commit to my decisions.

    On a random day my “Big To-Do” list would say “Decision: boutonnieres – how many are needed, who is in charge of finding them” and that day (though it pained me to choose) Husband and I made a list of the men we thought should get bouts, I called for volunteers in my wedding brigade and my mom took over bout acquisition. Whatever insecurity I felt about whether I should’ve handmade bouts out of origami or felt flowers or legos was far outweighed but the relief that the decision had been made.

    On 90% of those decisions no one ever second-guessed me. The other 10% I just said “We weighed the options, this worked for us, it’s already done”. Probably I could’ve changed my mind on some of those things (gone back and reassembled the centerpieces that weren’t *exactly* as I’d envisioned them) but it was way less stressful to just let it ride. Those things were “Done!” and that meant I didn’t have to think or stress about them anymore.

  • Love this. Monique, your style rocks! It feels so confident to me, and very self aware – you clearly knew exactly what the two of you were looking for, and I don’t see any self doubt in your result at all.

    Thanks for sharing the second-guessing: after a year of being engaged, decisions are starting to creep in more quickly now that the wedding is a not-short-enough 9 months away, and I am starting to feel what you described. I can imagine it is only going to get worse, but it will be so helpful to know I can get through it, stick to my guns, and hopefully end up with something that feels as much like us as your wedding did for you and Lee.

    also: That bouquet is amazing, Lee did a fantastic job and should give himself a nice big pat on the back.

  • What lovely wedding. I will remember to talk about the stress, as I’m sure it will mount and our planning continues. I really love your bouquet!

    • Shotgun Shirley

      I finally broke down to my sister the other night about my wedding stress (it’s in 16 days), and I’m so glad I did. Just talking really helped a lot. The next day I knocked out two things on my last minute to do list and felt enormously better.

      • JUST JENCIL

        Hear You! Had a similar meltdown the other night about registering for plates and dishes to FH, coming from the couple who didn’t want to even register for anything in the first place! Been 10x more productive getting invites done since (they are actually at the printer, yay!) and feel much better. Sometimes a good breakdown breaks down those walls of shame which slowly creep up around us and prevent us from doing anything out of an unknown fear.

        Still crack up everytime I see your username Shotgun Shirley… good luck with the last of the prep!!!

  • I’ve been offline since before Christmas… What a beautiful and lovely way to come back!

    Until a few days ago I was pretty calm about the wedding planning, but now that we’re getting married THIS YEAR and in LESS THAN FOUR MONTHS I’ve been developing a feeling that my head’s going to explode.

    I’ve been trying to stay reasonable with the mister though we’ve had conversations about getting a last minute £99 deal on a honeymoon to cope with the reduced cash flow (I lost my job which I loved just before Christmas).

    Again, seriously, that was a lovely reintroduction to the internet.

  • Ali

    I love the fact that your husband made your bouquet. That is so sweet!

  • oh, my! your wedding (the photos, both of you, your *clothes*, all of it) is staggeringly gorgeous.

    not to discount a very realistic and intelligent post! only, it’s seldom that i see a wedding that is so perfectly, jaw-droppingly beautiful – in a literal sense.

  • I recently read this book called Emotionally Engaged. I would recommend it to every one. It deals with the emotional stress of being engaged. Not just the stressful wedding planning details but the bigger ones, the transitional grief that happens and manifests itself in weird ways (blood blisters! Now I’m going to have nightmares about that!) It also talks about being a Zen bride, which we all seem to be striving for on APW. Read it!

    • Jo from Reno

      I need to channel the zen. Thanks for the book rec! I just weathered the holidays (with a lot of people asking me and my man if we were going to have a baby – WHAT) and a looking at venue trip….. then came back and stumbled into a David Tutera My Fair Wedding marathon, which I viewed open mouthed, while my fiance laughed and laughed at it, and tried to console me in my abject horror. We have been engaged in an anaylsis of that particular show since then. Every decision feels crazy right now.. we just spent an hour last night debating and finally the end result was “we need a place that is both inside and outside for the wedding.” Mother of God. I hope it gets easier.

      • ka

        It does! I can’t speak from wedding grad zen, but once we settled on a venue and other big things it was a huge relief-I feel like we have a direction now and aren’t just floundering aimlessly! (Also I can-and have-laughed at and analyzed david tutera and bridezillas at length…)

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        We got married indoors in a room that was practically all windows – photos of our ceremony look like we’re in a garden. I highly recommend this strategy, our guests were able to wander the grounds and enjoy a little sunlight but we didn’t need a back-up plan for rain and I avoided the 95+ degree June heat until after the pictures and ceremony.

    • Katelyn

      I’ve started reading the Conscious Bride – another good one to deal with emotional components of getting married.

    • Oo, thank you both for the reading recommendations.

  • liz

    ach, you’re so right! it’s easy to not care what anyone thinks AT FIRST. but it’s almost as if we need to be ever-vigilant, constantly on the lookout because somehow we still may get mired down in the wedding “shoulds.”

    and i’m sure 800million comments are going to say this, but HOLY DRESS. love love love.

  • So beautiful! Your dress is to die for.

    Thank you so much for talking about the “dueling pressures”. I feel so conflicted between talking about my stress and feeling like if I do, people will judge me. But then when I’m genuinely feeling good about everything, people try to convince me that I’ll have a meltdown over the planning soon enough. You just can’t win!

    • Shotgun Shirley

      Yes! It’s like when my MIL saw my copy of “The Panic Free Pregnancy” and scoffed ‘there’s no such thing’ – STFU with your self fulfilling prophecy, geez!!

  • Kim

    Glad to read that someone else had the crazy-dream-scenario-replaying-until-looking-at -the-actual-thing-made-you-hyperventilate thing! I agree that as soon as you give voice to the fear it magically disappears…although I wish I’d know that at the beginning!

    Congrats on your beautiful wedding, and on that AMAZING bouquet. Stunning. Also, I simply have to say how tops it is to see a wedding from my hometown on APW. I used to live right across the park and have had many delicious sunset-y arvo beverages on the balcony overlooking the river :) so nice to see that brickwork again!

  • Monique, you had some really wise words, but I have to finish processing the absolute stunning stylishness in the pictures. Holy mother of perfection! That dress, those little paper and button flowers, the location, the hot bridesmaid dresses. I’ll be back later with something meaningful to say about what you wrote, but for a little while longer I’m going to drool over the photos.

  • april

    What a lovely, wise and sweet grad post! And now – allow me to be shallow for a few sentences so I can just say: OMG OMG OMG!!!! The pictures are oh-so-lovely and the vintage everything so delicious I could eat every single picture. YUM!!! And your sparkly frock – squeeee! And shoes – oh, heavenly shoes. I am in LOVE with the entire ensemble.

    What a pretty pretty wedding you had and you and your new hubby are just darling! Congrats on your wedding and thank you for sharing your grad post with us!

    p.s. Oh, do I hear ya on the worrying what everyone else thinks! Seriously… I worried myself literally sick re: what people would think of decisions my mister and I made for our wedding too. It was exhausting. But in the end, I finally let it go and everyone was too drunk to notice there were no favors… ;)

  • Kathryn

    Monique, I think I may need to reread (and reread and reread) your post when I plan my wedding because I’m exactly like you in the sense that I don’t want anyone to know how stressed out I am. You remind me that telling people helps! I’m so extreme that my preference is to invite people to a party and then “surprise! You’re at a wedding!” to avoid having to share my wedding plans at all. My friends, however, informed me that I am not J.Lo.

    Also, rocking bouquet!! And your husband made it!? *melt*

  • So beautiful!

    I’m in the same boat–very secure in what we wanted, now starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, worried about defending all of the decisions, not being “detail-y” enough for anyone.

    But this, this is lovely. And made me tear up. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Beautiful, what a beautiful bride.

  • Chantelle

    um, feathers, sequins and beading…you ROCKED that dress! Thanks for sharing, you brought tears to my eyes (causing weird squinting and winking at my desk at work) at many places. I think the part about how people closest to you felt that they weren’t trusted because you were scared to unload really hit home.
    Cheers!

  • You are so, so wise.

    I love the last part, “Aside from my charming new nickname of ‘ball and chain’, being married doesn’t feel too different. We returned from the honeymoon and went back to our work and our electricity bills and our grocery shopping. But we went back married. And that is a wonderful feeling.” You captured that feeling for me just beautifully.

    I also love how real you are in your words. Beautiful.

  • Rachel

    wow, wonderful post. :) How ever did I make it through that week without wedding graduates!? haha. This post was inspiring and reminded me to lean on others, too.

    Gotta work on that…..

  • LC

    Dude. Can you please tell us where you saw that bouquet online??? it looks fantastic. Well done to your husband.

    • Monique

      LC, the one I saw online was at http://www.studiodelfiore.com/blog/ and I happened across it through the wonderful world of Google searching. There are a few popping up on Etsy now too!

  • Trisha

    I love, love, love your bouquet. And the fact that your husband made it for you? So awesome. Made me tear up a little over my lunch.

  • Kim

    Stress is a tough thing for me. I really relate to you, Monique. Thanks for opening up a great conversation on this topic.

    I delegated tons, shared the work load with my husband, and was actually ahead of schedule. And when I started needlessly staying up late, waking up in the middle of the night and arising before dawn to work on last-minute details, despite being ahead of schedule, I explained to my now-husband that “I need you to be more stressed so I can be less stressed.” I guess that’s my way of saying that it doesn’t help if I bottle it up inside…I have to talk about it to figure it out.

    That said, I thought I had gotten through all of the stress before the wedding. I thought I was in this “wedding zen” place on our wedding day – I must say, everything actually went off without a hitch – but apparently I didn’t take the time to process the hugeness of the wedding in a constructive way and wound up having a near panic/asthma attack on the limo ride back from the wedding (certainly scarring groomsmen and parents for life). I’m sure the tightly-bound corseted dress, alcohol and exhaustion didn’t help. But I regret screwing up the one thing I didn’t see coming.

    I’m a tightly-wound person, and should’ve seen this coming…so, for the sake of the other brides out there, if you too are anxious (and I wasn’t anxious about getting married to my best friend, I was worried about our families merging, minute-by-minute schedules, last minute adds/drops from the guest list, to name a few), my advice would be to not only carve out time for you and your husband to reflect on your marriage, but for you to sit down for a minute during the reception, preferably alone and sober, take it all in and breathe.

    • Kim, this cracks me up: “I explained to my now-husband that “I need you to be more stressed so I can be less stressed.” I can so see myself saying this.

      I am a manic hyperventilator, and like you, Monique, I don’t think I’m stressed but then all I can do is pretend to yawn to get some air and hope I’m able to fall asleep. Funny how I try to convince myself of things that are clearly not true!

  • It’s so true that you can start off as calm, clear and confident as you like and yet somehow doubt and insecurities worm their way in. I was blissfully sure that I’d sail through it all and yet have spent hours, literally hours of my once-only lifetime, fretting about which type of invitations do or do not look cheap. What?!

    Thank you for saying that even though you were stressed you also had fun. That’s my experience too, planning your wedding isn’t just all a nightmare or all a giggle it’s both – obviously because that’s how life is.

    And speaking of nightmares, bad dreams about my wedding started for me with 2011. They’ve all been about having forgotten things; flowers, shoes and best of all I dreamt I’d forgotten to shave under my arms!

  • Class of 1980

    Girl, you have STYLE. Those are fun pictures to look at.

    I once had a boyfriend that was such a “guy’s guy” and I was always surprised when I heard him talking to other people about things I said and did. In a good way!

    He was not only paying attention; he was remembering. And he often said “WE are doing this or that.” The relationship didn’t work out, but that part was cool. I understand exactly how you felt hearing your fiance talk to other people.

  • ka

    One more comment chiming in to say thank you for your super wise words (seriously the insecurity and hiding stress is something I really need to work on…), and now let’s get to the pretty stuff! The dress! The photographs! The venue! The bouquet! Obsessed with the bouquet. If your husband wants to write an APW DIY post… ;-) Seriously, though I have a pic of one on my inspiration tumblr (wedding nerd alert), and I didn’t think it was diy-able, but now I’m reconsidering…

    • Monique

      You really should! It took a lot of work but it’s worth it! It was time consuming but easy (says me, who watched him work while I sat back with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other) thanks to hot glue guns and a bit of patience (why he made it and not me!).

      It’s just a Styrofoam ball, which Lee covered in chicken wire for support. We gathered lots of vintage brooches, and he wired them onto the chicken wire. He looped the wire through the back of the brooch, and attached it by sticking the ends of the wire stick into the Styrofoam ball. He also glued some of them down with hot glue. We used some fabric to mask the messy bottom of the sphere, and the handle is just a thick bit of wood wrapped in the fabric. Does that make sense? 

      • Jessica

        Oooh yes, APW and Meg — can we have a ‘how to’ post on the bouquet??? Please say yes!

      • ka

        thanks for the how-to’s! it does sound doable… so excited now, eee!

  • Gen

    Awesome article. You should very seriously write a book, I could read this all day. Thank you for a brave and honest post at a time when I really needed to hear that other people find sticking to their guns hard.

  • Lee

    Yes I am the most awesome Husband in the world… But it is easy when I have the most beautiful bride and now wife… I love you my princess….

    and you started the ‘Ball and Chain’ thingy…

    Lee

    • Trisha

      Lee,

      You just managed to make me tear up a little at my desk. What lucky people you both are! Many congratulations on a beautiful wedding & what’s obviously the start of a beautiful marriage.

  • jacqui

    I was there. This was the best wedding ever. I can’t speak for family, but your friends love you for the kooky chic you are. We never expected or wanted tradition from you. I certainly wouldn’t have noticed chair covers, unity candles, programs or pens. But I did notice your dresses, your zombie vows, music selection & the love in the room. The whole thing was undoubted Mon & Lee. I can’t believe you ever doubted yourself!

  • Kristin

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! I am so glad your wedding turned out beautifully and I LOVE your dress! (And your shoes!) My wedding is in 38 days, and I, too, am feeling the all-consuming little thing stress. I think I’m going to take your advice and start talking to people!

  • Savychacha

    This post is magnificent! I’m still abour 9 months out from my wedding and although I have the big things like venue, dress, foods all covered, I can’t stop from feeling like if I don’t get everything done NOW, then come the month before I’m going to be a mess. Thank you for putting things into perspective and making me ralize that when I’m feeling crazy, I need to take a step back, and maybe call my sister in law, or mom, or anyone and talk it out.

    By the way – gorgeous!!! (If you could tell me where to find a feathered shawl like the one you had, I would be the happiest girl in the world!!)

  • Paige

    Not feeling like you can share your stress is the big thing. We have everything thought out, but nothing booked for our wedding in 6 months. I’ve been stressed about this for the last month, but have been silently letting it brew. My attitude toward the Fiance has been very undeservedly sharp/mean/snippy. Last night on the way to dinner I let it all out and what a relieving experience.
    It is so easy to get caught up in the details of one day, and forget about the fact that every day after that I will be married to my best friend.

  • On a serious note: I also have felt strange sharing my not so positive feelings about my wedding, especially with female friends and colleagues who are not married. I feel like they would just be humouring me and after I walked away, would comment something like “does she ever talk about anything OTHER than the wedding?” …so I don’t say anything.

    On a happier note: Eeeee! I was just swooning over the story and thinking how lovely the photos were and then I got to the end… and realised that we have the same photographer!!! *happy jig*

    • Monique

      Oh good choice! Jonas is the best. Ever. I couldn’t be happier with my photos :)

  • Alexandra

    Congratulations! Beautiful photos & sentiments. Super woots for the groom constructing the bouquet!
    Here‘s a brooch-bouquet tutorial that uses silk hydrangea for the underpinning/base. Cheers!

    • Lee

      I never considered doing the bouquet that way… The pictures the misses showed me never looked like that…. It would be cheaper, eaiser and lighter… but she wanted a ball… We nicked named it Monie’s Mace…. I recon she could bludgen a few annoying rellies with it without damaging it….

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