Nancy & Sean

We pretty much planned our wedding in two weeks, and it was great. Such a short time, but so much to tell!

Here’s the short of it. We got engaged in August and I immediately bought into the WIC (how could Martha Stewart be so wrong?). I was crushed when our budget, and logic, caught up with me. Then disaster: my parents’ house was wrecked by flooding in September. Then a bigger disaster: in November, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So we put things on hold. My medical history became even more complicated and I spent six weeks out of work for various surgeries. After all that settled, they set a date for chemotherapy to start – in three weeks. So we decided to get married.

We’re both [poor, public-interest] lawyers, so our first thought was courthouse. But my mother wouldn’t hear of it. So Sean asked his childhood pastor. Then we needed a venue. Sean’s sister found out that we could use the Atlanta Botanical Gardens’ small Japanese garden for $300 (a good tip – to rent the garden for a reception was thousands, but they also offer the garden for picture-taking, at a significantly reduced price!). Then I decided I wanted a long dress. So I ordered three from J.Crew (I eventually sent two back).

Then I found APW. Hooray!

APW-guided, I then decided we needed a photographer.* So my sister asked her friend Leah (who I found the day before on APW, coincidence?). Leah and her husband Mark agreed to do it and threw in a friend-of discount! On Monday, my dresses arrived. On Tuesday, I decided I wanted a veil. On Wednesday, I picked a dress and a veil (I was known at the bridal shop as “Thursday girl”). On Thursday, we got married and took our family out to a fabulous dinner. It all came together in about two weeks. Total cost: $3000, more or less.

The whole wedding day was rush, stress (my friend, who did my hair and makeup, got lost and was an hour late), then emotion, emotion, emotion. I cried, a lot. I get emotional now, three weeks later, thinking about it. I can’t believe it came together. And so well! It worked. Miracles!

My lessons-learned are typical: you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a wedding. I don’t think you should either, but that’s not my call for others. It was hard to cut out everyone but family, but our friends understood. We’ve promised them a house party on our year anniversary.

In the end, THE thing that mattered to me was one thing: I was marrying Sean. He is such an amazing man, and we’re going to spend our lives together. It’s awesome.

After the things we’ve been through over the past months, things that are hard for even for long-married couples, wedding details seem ridiculous in their insignificance. Honestly, I’m putting forced-me-to-have-a-practical-wedding even above plastic-surgery-coverage-for-life on my breast-cancer silver-linings list. Good stuff.

My two practical tips are these: 1) take a honeymoon that is longer than a weekend (trust me, you will need it); and 2) have someone take photos of you getting ready, because the presence of the camera will prompt your mother (and maybe you too) to act like a sane person.

Of course, APW already loves Leah and Mark, but I cannot express how thrilled I am with our photos! I am no shill, I promise, but I will gush about Leah and Mark until the end of time. We were going to have family take the photos, and I’m so happy we didn’t. The whole day was a blur, and Mark and Leah did a great job of capturing the moments I want to remember (and, of course, the 10 times I cried).

My two favorite pics are: 1) when I’m freaking out and my dad is holding my hand before we walk to the garden – I remember that moment and thinking, “Breathe.” And 2) Sean kissing my forehead while I cry trying to make a toast to the people that couldn’t be there. It showed the emotion and love I feel even now just thinking about that day. Can I go on about other pictures? I love my sisters in their bright colors (self-proclaimed “Skittles”). My dad’s smile and Sean’s hands in his pockets when I come into the garden. Us kissing. My sister toasting us with words from Fabolous, which I’ve been humming since the 1st:

I’m a movement by myself.

But I’m a force when we’re together.

I’m good all by myself.

But baby you, you make me better.

And, now, I’m married. To Sean. And I love him.  And chemo is even going okay. I predict: happy ending.

*You totally don’t need a photographer. But you might like one. It really depends… but I am grateful to ours.

Pictures by, hello, Leah And Mark! Go, go, Atlanta!

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  • Beautiful and honestly written. So happy for the two of them and their families.

  • Wow. Leah and I work hard on EVERY photo shoot we do – but we really wanted to do a great job for Nancy & Sean. We’re so happy that we could give them beautiful photos.

    Thanks Meg for posting Nancy and Sean’s story.

  • Lor

    And this is why I read this site the first thing in the morning…it gives me a little extra step to get through the day. I want my wedding to be like hers. Lovely!

    • AussieAndy

      Right there with you Lor. My day (EVERY day) starts like this – Get coffee. Get to work. Boot up computer. Read APW while I drink my coffee. Smile to myself (I always smile, even after the heartwrenching posts). Start work.

      It really is the best way to start the day.

  • Richelle

    Sitting here in tears for the joy of this wedding, and Nancy’s big, big heart that shines through it and her finding the silver lining in all she describes. Thank you for sharing Nancy, good luck with chemo, and may you and your groom have a long and happy life together. (Talk about perspective for the rest of us. Holy cow.)

  • Carbon Girl

    Wow, I am crying my eyes out right now. I wish you both the best and a speedy recovery. The pictures our gorgeous. It is the emotion that matters, not the details.

  • Carbon Girl

    Apparently, in my emotional state, I used the wrong “are”. Oops.

  • Rose

    I lurk, but never comment. Today I feel compelled.

    What a beautiful window into this couple’s world. Such a special and emotional story. And amazing pictures!!

  • Mary

    Well – the tissue warning was appreciated! God bless Nancy and Sean! You guys got it right!! Priorities, priorities, priorities….love, love, love…, family, family……together, together, together. I also predict happy endings. And thanks for sharing your wisdom. God bless you, again!

  • Wow, way to make me cry first thing on a Thursday morning. What a gorgeous wedding and an amazing couple. It is such a reality check about what’s really important in the craziness of wedding planning. I’m so glad they shared their story, and I know they’ll have an amazing life together.

  • Cat

    Sigh… what a beautiful, beautiful wedding. All the best for a speedy recovery and a fabulous marriage!

  • Kim

    I’ve never posted before. Wow, just wow. You are in my thoughts and I’m crossing my fingers and toes (soon as I’m done typing) for your happy ending as well. Send in photos of the house party!

    • meg

      Indeed. We need photos of the house party.

  • Sarah Beth

    I’m speechless. Thank you, Meg (and Sean & Nancy), for sharing this! It’s such a rare thing to see people with their priorities “right” about weddings. Even if you’re a details person, or a designer who lives for aesthetics, in the end, your wedding is about marrying the one you love. And these pictures are beautiful not because they’re brimming with expensive details, but because of the love and joy that shines through.

    LOVE IT!

  • Jess

    If I didn’t share an office with 2 other people, I’d be bawling right now. Beautiful.

  • Mollie

    Ditto to all the other commenters — awesome.

    Also– this made me smile and fist-pump a little: “…have someone take photos of you getting ready, because the presence of the camera will prompt your mother (and maybe you too) to act like a sane person.”


  • Amanda

    I didn’t heed the warning about the need for tissues. And I almost made it without crying… but that last picture of the forehead smooch got me.

    • caitlin

      same here! best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery, nancy, and congrats to you and sean on what seems to be a truly wonderful marriage!

  • liz


    and i ADORE the skittles sisters.

  • Courtney

    God bless you, Leah. This story was so heart warming. Thank you for sharing.

  • KD

    Now I’m all blotchy at my desk…. this is beatiful – very centering.

  • Nini

    Nancy & Sean, your wedding was the absolute epitome of love and beauty. I adore it and wish you all the best.

  • SweetAdeline

    I got all misty! What a beautiful reminder of what weddings are supposed to be about.

  • Alyssa

    OH. SO pretty. And an awesome post. And most importantly YAY for your chemo going well!

    It’s posts like these that I love, because it’s the kind of kick in the pants that I needed while I was wedding planning. The ones that highlight the reality of what you’re doing and why. Plus the happy, happy faces.

    And I giggled when I saw that you called your sisters the “Skittles,” beause I was just thinking when I saw their picture, “LOOK at those happy fun dresses!! They’re like candy-coated bridesmaids…”

  • This made me exceedingly happy. A lovely middle ground between courthouse/elopement and full blown rigamarole. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  • beautiful and thank you so much for sharing, it’s just so wonderful to put things in such real life perspective….tissue definitely required

  • I should learn to heed tissue warnings before I read posts, because now I’m sitting outside at a Panera Bread patio choking back tears before some stranger decides to ask what’s wrong with me.

    I especially love this quote:

    “In the end, THE thing that mattered to me was one thing: I was marrying Sean. He is such an amazing man, and we’re going to spend our lives together. It’s awesome.”

    That’s how I feel. Other people around me seem so concerned with what kind of cake we’ll have and when they should throw us a wedding shower, and even my no-nonsense, hands-off mother is starting to question why I haven’t started worrying about food and fabric and flowers. No one seems to understand that I’m not worried about the details; as long as we get married and have the people we love there to witness it, that’s all that really matters to me.

    Thank you for this post; ten minutes ago I was feeling grumpy and pouty at my FH because he took a role in The Mousetrap instead of doing King Lear with me this summer. Now it doesn’t seem to matter very much.

  • Oh my goodness, this is so incredible. Meg was right, I totally cried.

    Apart from the fact that I had already bookmarked ALL of these pictures to show my photographer Leah and Mark’s incredible style (and the sheer volume of emotion they were able to capture!), and apart from the fact that you’re wearing “my” dress (yay! isn’t it great? any suggestions on alterations? I think it fits nearly perfectly, so hopefully won’t need any), I loved “I’m putting forced-me-to-have-a-practical-wedding even above plastic-surgery-coverage-for-life on my breast-cancer silver-linings list”. My mom, who is helping me plan our oh-so-practical wedding, had breast cancer*, so that actually made me giggle.
    Thank you especially for the advice to “have someone take photos of you getting ready, because the presence of the camera will prompt your mother (and maybe you too) to act like a sane person.” I was thinking I didn’t want it, but maybe that’s a good reason to have them there!

    Congratulations on a beautiful wedding, full of love all around, and what is obviously an amazing relationship.

    *Technically, she had it twice, though she’s been cancer-free for over 12 years now! Also, she’s totally willing to talk to anyone about her experience, so if you’d like to hear from a survivor, have Meg give you my email address or DM me on Twitter and I’ll pass it along to her.

  • I really did tear up! Gah! So beautiful! <3

  • So beautiful. <3

  • Wow.
    Apart from the cancer thing, that is totally what I want to feel about my wedding – that we did what mattered to us, in a way that mattered to us.
    One of my friends, after spending 6 months planning her wedding, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 10 days out. They held off starting chemo for her so she could have her wedding, but they had to cancel their honeymoon as treatment started the Tuesday after the wedding.
    She still looked radiant on the day – and so did you Nancy. Best of luck with the treatment, and may you continue to see the silver linings! (But dont beat yourself up too much on those occassions when you cant!)

  • ila

    love, love, love this wedding and dinner recption. So quiet and happy looking.

    oh, and thank you for the advice! i will make sure to have a camera person around prep-time, so that Mom won’t go into momzilla mode.

  • Emily

    You weren’t kidding about the tissues! Totally 100% gorgeous. Great post. Best of luck to Nancy with chemo and recovery!

  • Orange Skittle

    Meg, thank you so much for posting my sister’s wedding story. This was a day we will never forget (especially thanks to the amazing photographers). Cheers to you and the loving couple.

  • Nancy

    WOW. Thanks guys. I too have been an APW lurker (since you know when), but I just have to chime in now and say, “Cool! You guys feel the same way about my wedding that I do!” SO awesome to come home and read that you guys can share the emotion and love of our wedding with us. It makes me misty again. Jeez. Thanks too for the good recovery wishes!

    I hope our year-late reception/house party is just as great. I have a feeling that being done with treatment and celebrating with our friends will make that a sure thing. We might even enlist L&M again for the occasion.

    @Kalhia – no alterations on my end, which was one reason I chose that dress. It did benefit from the veil I think, since, and I hate to say that my mom was right, it did kinda look like a nightgown without it. Also, I love to hear about survivors. I can’t wait to officially join the club!

    Thanks again guys for the congrats and good wishes!

  • Chandra

    totally teary eyed here… thanks for this and so many more reminders of what weddings really ought to be about: love, commitment, family, miracles. the rest is just icing. thank you thank you thank you.

  • peanut

    beautiful :) thank you for sharing with us.

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  • Ah, yes total tears! And such a good post on realness and what is important, and emotions. I’m training my inner zen now to be calm and slow things down on our wedding.

  • The images are beautiful, and you look stunning. I love that you decided to get married on that short notice, and just WENT FOR IT. We could all use a little “go for it,” I think.

  • Kristen

    This is beautiful. Aesthetically, but most of all in the actually important ways. Unfortunately, I often sneak APW at work and it certainly made me cry.

  • Nicole

    When I was reading Meg’s intro and the line about getting the tissues, I thought to myself “pshh, I never cry at these things!” Sure enough, I’m sniffling and my eyes are all teary… What a beautiful strory, thank you so much for sharing. I was having a minor meltdown the other day over food choices & whether to attempt self-catering or not, it’s great to read something like this to bring me back down to earth and remember that the food is not what’s important.

  • Just had to say that I LOVE her practical advice about having cameras during the getting ready process to preserve sanity… No one has put it that way yet but it’s so true

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  • Courtney

    Dear Beautiful Nancy,
    Congratulations! Such a sweet journey you posted that took me through your wedding day. I am so happy for you. What an overwhelming and blessed time this is. I love you dearly. Know that you are in my highest thoughts and I send healing light your way every day.
    Much Love!

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  • Mariela

    I’ve finally come out of my no-comments shy phase. I made the mistake of reading this post while sitting in a buzzing Santa Monica cafe. As I type this comment there are 3 people literally whispering and pointing at me due to the fact that I was sobbing just moments ago and am now doing that very childish sniffle-gasp thing that I do… This post was so beautiful, and I will print this out and put it up on my inspiration wall, because if this doesn’t lead to inspiration- nothing ever will.

    Congratulations to a beautiful couple and godspeed to a beautiful woman.

  • emmylou

    My tears say it all. Yet AGAIN APW is showing me what marriage is really all about. This is beyond beautiful.

  • rose

    um i love the advice:

    have someone take photos of you getting ready, because the presence of the camera will prompt your mother (and maybe you too) to act like a sane person.

    thank you thank you thank you. i’m pretty sure i will be sane but my mom/bridesmaids/MIL – most are on the dramatic/high energy side, so maybe the presence of a photographer will mellow them out!
    congrats on your marriage and way to have the best attitude ever about chemo/your future. cheers to that.

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