Morgan & David, Part II

Yesterday we had Part One of Morgan’s wedding graduate post – about planning her wedding as her father died. Today’s post is about details of throwing this joyful and painful and wonderful and necessary party. I want to chime my voice in with Morgan on saying big (and little) things will go wrong when you plan a wedding – maybe death, maybe divorce – and weddings can still be healing things. We didn’t have to deal with death, but we did have to dear with serious illnesses and awful divorces with our nearest and dearest. And you know what? Instead of our wedding being something we put them through (as we feared it might), it was a joyful healing moment that gave them the chance to rise above it all. And I don’t know who that was more of a gift for – them or us. But it truly was a gift, even if it only exists now as a shimmering memory and some really joyful photographs.

We had a cheapish wedding.  It was not full of charming details or at a beautiful venue or full of indie spirit.  It was at a plain hall with minimal decoration, and it was so full of love and family that I couldn’t stop beaming.  I can tell you truthfully that going cheap and lazy in no way changed the emotional impact or joy in the day.

Taking pictures and having an intimate family dinner before the ceremony didn’t reduce the impact of the aisle walk and the way David looked at me, the same way practicing the vows at the rehearsal was a completely different experience than saying them in the ceremony.  The first was sweet, and the second transcendent.  Same words, but emotional intensity was sky high – David’s voice was so choked with emotion he could barely speak.  This loveliness, this intensity, this palpable love?  That was the only thing I should have been aiming for.  I should have stopped second guessing myself about not serving dinner, or not decorating more, or any of that, and just focused on trying to allow in the most joy possible.

A few more specific bits of advice:

Things will go wrong.  I can only hope that 2 deaths and 8 months of unemployment aren’t the kind of wrong you get, but I am here to tell you that if they are, you can and will get through it.

So many little things went wrong.  David had a bad cold, and an emergency stop for cold medicine was required. Mamadrama made me sad, and she refused to give her speech at the last minute.  One of the best men’s wife left him a few weeks before our wedding, but he still gave us a kick ass speech involving Oilers jokes and marriage advice.  The MC broke his arm playing street hockey at the bachelor party.  The spiked punch was so spiked my uncle had to do a vodka run before the wedding even started. Our yichud was interrupted by a woman looking for Girl Guide cookies. We aimed for a childfree wedding, and ended up with a dozen kids, including the one who cried through the ceremony.  The sewn-in bustle of my dress ripped out twice – the second time by the septuagenarian in the conga line behind me, which is so awesome I can only laugh.  And so on.  None of these ruined the wedding.

I forgot to bleach my teeth, lose weight, shape up my arms, find a substitute for my canceled fitness classes, do a makeup trial, and so on.  I looked beautiful.

Know your crowd.  David has a huge farm family, and mine are mostly frugal first generation Canadians.  These are not people who would ever complain about having to drag their chairs around the room, or help clean up if they stayed until 2:00 am, let alone complain about a lack of decoration.  We knew that, and planned for it.  While we were having our yichud, someone decided there weren’t enough tables, so more were brought out and set up.  No table clothes or centerpieces, and no complaints.  Now, you have different families and expectations, but for our families?  They wanted to drink and dance and catch up.  We also registered, and really shouldn’t have bothered.  Our families are all the cash and gift card types.  6 groups bought stuff off the registry.  5 more brought other gifts.  Everyone else gave money or gift cards.

Our decoration budget was maybe $150, which covered paper balls, table cloth rentals, wrapping paper table runners and candle holders.  I borrowed more candle holders left over from a friend’s wedding, and that was it.  No one cared.

If you are going to go cheap/simple, it’s worth it to pick one fun detail.  For us, it was postcards.  I love postcards – I think I bought 85 of them while in the UK.  So our wedding invitations were postcards, and the guestbook was postcards and our thank you cards are postcards from our honeymoon. Canada Post allows you to design your own stamps, so we made stamps with our faces on it.  The extra $30 for postage was worth it to me, especially as the invitations were free. We bought old postcards from antique stores and flea markets for the guest book – it was the single most fun part of wedding planning.  We set up a table with the cards, pens, stamps, some fake postal stamps I already owned, and had David’s dad make a mail box.  People loved it.  We got drawings, funny stories, sweet words, and one really great dirty joke.  The wedding cards were nice, but these were so much more fun to read.

Allow your community to help.  I got the invitations made by a work contact, as a thank you.  Hair was done by my mom’s client, and I had to force her to take a tip.  The dress was hemmed by a friend of my in-laws – the hemming was our wedding gift.  I asked a friend to be the DOC for all the scotch she could drink.  My mother in law organized the dessert buffet, making lots of it, but food also came from friends, aunts, her neighbours and more.  My new sister did my makeup, and so on.  I have a hard time asking for help, but if people offered, I gratefully said thank you.  People are generally happy to help, and happy to be part of your day.

In Alberta, only clergy, judges or a Justice of the Peace can marry people, so we were married by a Lutheran minister, because he was my friend’s dad.  He created a personalized and lovely ceremony, and while Jesus talk isn’t my personal inclination, it totally worked, and was wonderful.  He worked in wording that I loved, talked about us as a couple, and the pre-martial counselling was one of the loveliest parts of the wedding preparation.

There’s nothing wrong with taking the easiest path.  We went with paper plates and plastic cutlery because it was easier than renting and figuring out how much we needed.  We went with an evening wedding so that we didn’t have to serve dinner.  We only looked at three venues, met with only one photographer, dj, and florist, and they seemed okay, so we booked them.  It worked out fine.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with under-thinking decisions.  It’s amazing how well things work out.

I’m sorry for the PSA, but… Smokers.  Please consider quitting.  My dad died from 47 years of smoking, and while he may have made a choice, he still died too soon – months before his eldest daughter’s wedding, his 61st birthday, his youngest daughter’s university graduation, and his 30th wedding anniversary.  Lung cancer is an awful, terrible way to die.  Even my father, a month before he was diagnosed, found medication that actually allowed him to quit.  There really is help out there, and please do consider it.

Pick your financial battles.  We paid for the wedding, several big and small trips, plus the unemployment, all without going in to debt.  (Other than mortgage.)  Our parents covered the bar, dessert and midnight buffet costs, but the rest was on us, and we made the financial decisions (cheap and cheerful) we did because of the values we have.  Spend what you can afford, both financially and emotionally.  Spending more on the wedding, instead of going to Paris this fall or furnishing the house, wouldn’t have been true to us, but that’s us.  Know your priorities and your emotional reactions to money, and spend accordingly.

The other side?  Really is wonderful, and so worth it.

Pictures: Kevin Stenhouse Photography

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  • Camille


    Though we’ve never met, I feel so proud of you. For your strength and balance. To have walked through such an emotional, life altering period and still have the mind and heart to understand priorities and the grace to share it. That is an amazing gift.

    This loveliness, this intensity, this palpable love? That was the only thing I should have been aiming for.
    I wish you buckets of happiness and love.

    • That line! Yes!! Morgan, I’m completely in love with you. What an amazing series of posts- thank you.

      • Agreed. That line got me, and it got me good. So, so happy that you had so much love and joy on your wedding day, and that you stayed so phenomenally grounded. Mazel tov!

    • I second that! You are some kind of wonderful, Morgan!

  • Yay I loved getting to work and having this to read! So great as a follow-up to yesterday. Morgan and David, this looks lik a lovely wedding.

  • Erin

    “I forgot to bleach my teeth, lose weight, shape up my arms, find a substitute for my canceled fitness classes, do a makeup trial, and so on. I looked beautiful.”

    You did look beautiful, Morgan! And this is totally what happened to me, too, hehe. Best wishes for happiness to you and David.

    • Jo

      You looked beautiful, and it’s amazing to know the back story of all that is oozing out of your pictures – amazing strength through trial, peace found through being true to yourselves, and clearly deep deep love that you and your husband have for each other, and the love that the people you invited to share in it brought to your amazing day. Cheers to making it sane by focusing on what really matters: the marriage, the family and the people involved in those. Bless you, girl. And thanks for sharing!!!!

    • Paige

      i knew i wouldnt be the only one to love that quote!

  • Maureen

    Thank you for helping me gain some perspective. My wedding is one week from today and we have a beautiful outdoor ceremony planned with a VERY rainy forecast. I woke up feeling grouchy about it and then mad at myself for caring so much about the setting (but still mostly just bummed about the rain). I sat down with a cup of Joe and read your post and I’m now feeling like a little rain is no big deal. If you can have a wonderful wedding with all that you went through, no rain will stop us from having a great wedding. Thank you. Congrats on your beautiful wedding and marriage.

  • elyse

    i read your post yesterday and got teary, today’s made me smile – mainly at this:

    “We only looked at three venues, met with only one photographer, dj, and florist, and they seemed okay, so we booked them.”

    that’s pretty much how we’ve approached things, and fingers crossed, all will do their jobs at our wedding next week!

    oh – and at my friends wedding, they walked into their yichud room, only to find the band members getting changed!

    congrats, and may you only have good things going forward!

  • Courtney

    “I forgot to bleach my teeth, lose weight, shape up my arms, find a substitute for my canceled fitness classes, do a makeup trial, and so on. I looked beautiful.”


  • Tricia

    I love the septuagenarian in the conga line. That is absolutely classic. (And the rest of it too of course). My condolences on all your losses and congratulations on your beautiful wedding. I hope you have a wonderful life together.

  • kelly

    so inspiring to think of a wedding as healing for your family….what a wonderful insight!! and i think one of the greatest things i’ve heard my entire journey is “spend what you can afford, both financially and emotionally.” sometimes i get random guilt because i feel like i “checked out” of some planning elements emotionally…but now i think i realize i was just picking my battles! thanks!!!

  • Morgan is a wedding planning rockstar…for bravery, courage, perseverance, and putting love first, as well as WEARING HER GLASSES on the day she married her true partner. You over here healing ME with your wedding- now that’s some powerful mojo!

  • J

    Congrats on a BEAUTIFUL day but moreso on a beautiful marriage. You DID look beautiful & were quite surrounded by love. Isn’t that what weddings are supposed to be about? The rest of it is just filler :)

  • jen m.

    “Spend what you can afford, both financially and emotionally.”
    My new credo. LOVES IT!

  • There are some moments of inspiration that hit home and matter, and your two posts are some of those. I’m bookmarking this and re-reading it when life gets hard and our choices seem harder than they are. Thank you for sharing your journey and your strength and your beautiful wedding.

  • I can only hope that if anything goes wrong at my wedding (who am I kidding? it probably will!) that I will handle it with the grace and class that you had.

  • There’s little else I can add after the words of praise and support posted above. You’re an inspiration to me as well, and like Jess/T-Bone said, I hope that if anything goes wrong or happens at our wedding in August, that I’m able to handle it with grace like you.

    Congratulations and I wish you a very happy lifetime together. :)

  • jolynn

    I love all of the above, plus that you knew your families and played to their strengths! And I have to say that I love me a glasses-wearin’, scotch drinkin’ girl!

  • ddayporter

    two favorites:

    “I forgot to bleach my teeth, lose weight, shape up my arms, find a substitute for my canceled fitness classes, do a makeup trial, and so on. I looked beautiful.”

    “There is nothing necessarily wrong with under-thinking decisions. It’s amazing how well things work out.”

    I also love your postcard notes in the mailbox idea! We did something similar, we put 4×6 index cards at each table, gave them crayons and pens, and had them write/draw something for us and file them in a recipe box we had on the gift table (have I blabbed about this before? I’m getting a little deja vu, sorry if I’m repeating myself). We got so many amazing notes and drawings, some sweet, some goofy. unfortunately no dirty jokes! haha.

    Congrats on your amazing wedding – and I support the PSA. it’s an important message.

  • Kim

    This post was *exactly* what I needed today. Seriously.

    I don’t know who or what to blame it on (it’s probably a mix of things), but I feel like such a failure knowing that I may not reach the goals I have for my July wedding. Yesterday I cried because I realized we cannot afford (to rent or buy) tablecloths, for goodness sake.

    But when I read about your simple decorations and how “no one cared”, or how you forgot to lose weight and looked damn gorgeous anyway, or how you and your husband describe yourselves as “cheap and cheerful”…all of my anxiety seemed so silly. And I found myself relieved, tearful, and smiling from ear to ear.

    So THANK YOU for the strength and wisdom you’ve shared in your string of posts. It’s amazing how joy and comfort can spread like wildfire on this little blog. :)

  • This:

    “I forgot to bleach my teeth, lose weight, shape up my arms, find a substitute for my canceled fitness classes, do a makeup trial, and so on. I looked beautiful.

    Just this. Wonderful.”

  • Ky

    Morgan, you did look beautiful. Your joy shines through in every picture and I admire your grace, confidence and cheer. (P.S. That little jacket thing? Is AMAZING. Exactly what I wanted for my wedding and did not find!)

    And I 100% support your PSA. Two dear family members of mine have passed away from lung cancer. August 20th will be my 712th day without a cigarette.

  • Sevillalost

    Congratulations, and thank you so much for sharing both parts of your story with us. Your two posts were both extremely uplifting and inspirational, and…and…

    just Yay!

    Thank you!

    (oh, and am I the only one who wants to know what the really awesome dirty joke was?) :)

  • april

    Oh, tears – tears! Beautiful day, lovely couple. Congrats to you both on your marriage. You endured such heartwrenching trials leading up to your wedding; and your courage is so admirable. Wishing you all the best!

  • Carly

    Wow, what a wonderful post for a Friday afternoon! Loved every word of it.

  • Thank you for calming me about how “un-pretty” our November wedding is going to be. I dont like the venue particularly because its not bright and cheerful, and not naturally “nice”. But I am learning to live with it, and if we can have a reception anything like yours, I will be more than happy with our plain venue, decorated cheaply in our own way.

    Your posts have been wonderful. Congratulations on remaining sane, and STAYING OUT OF DEBT for your wedding – thats our biggest aim for ours… “Where do we want to splurge (within budget) and where can we save to then stay within that budget. Thankfully we have friends who have offered to cater. That is a budget saver for sure! Your friends blessed you immensely by their offers, and good on you for accepting that blessing. :)

  • Tanya

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you so, so, much. Our wedding won’t be pretty either. We’re probably not going to spend anything decorating our ugly, cookie cutter venue. We’re don’t have money for flowers. Everything we have is being spent on getting the people we love there, fed (kosher food, as his community is very religious), and at least moderately entertained ( a cheap dj and wine/beer). We went with the second photographer we found that we could afford (and because I ran into her at the supermarket and she rocked, or else we would’ve gone with the first.)… and I have huge guilt about it. I always thought I’d have something small, intimate, and beautiful– but part of what I love about my fiance is how grounded he is– including his love of tradition– and how strongly rooted he is in his community, even having left the religion. Having the wedding I wanted seems inconceivable given his values, and it’s hard to value the details over including the many people who shaped his life. Hearing that the love does come that day– rather than community disapproval for imperfection– is exactly what I needed right now.

    Congratulations! Hope the other side treats you well.

  • Em

    Congratulations to you, Morgan! You are a beautiful pair! Your ability to adapt and look at the big picture is inspirational!

    I loved what you said about “know your guests”. Our wedding this August will involve everyone- because we need there help for all our music-making, moving chairs, etc, and like you said, I know they will be happy to do it. Also- thanks for the bit about the registry. We are working on our registry at Target right now, and it’s such a pain. Maybe I’ll just leave it how it is :) All the best to you!

  • Tasha

    I don’t normally get this touched by posts but I want you to know it made me cry to read this. It was tears of sweet love and joy to see how you managed to do what you did, how even though you had some rough spots along your journey, your love that you shared with your fiance pulled you through and you still had a beautiful day. Its very hard to have a simple wedding and not get caught up in all the lil details and the harder times when they fall on you before the big day and you my dear did it with such grace that I can only hope to have the day when I walk down the aisle. I want you to know I have read alot of books on weddings, many posts on various sites and boards and you amaze me! Your grace, is the kind of attribute that would make even Emily post and all the rules of etiquette and tradition take a second glance at. I believe you had the perfect balance of how a wedding should be. You were humble and the things that mattered most are what shined brightest on your wedding just as they always should. I really hope I can achieve that throughout my own wedding experience.
    Thank you for inspiring me!
    Cheers to your Beauty and Grace Inside and Out!!! :)

  • Sara

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful wedding! My wedding is in 3 weeks and I am feeling the crunch. This post has helped me find my wedding zen again. Thak you!

  • Liz

    Thank you for sharing your wedding with us, Morgan! You are full of wisdom and a great writer! And you should never apologize for a PSA that may save lives!

  • Thanks again for sharing. And can I just say, that first photo is beautiful and magical?! And knowing your story and how you and your community came together and chose to celebrate love in the midst of grief makes it even more beautiful.

  • theresa

    wow! I’m glowing, so I know the happiness in these pictures is for real!


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