Olivia & Eric

Olivia and her sister Jenny are long time APW readers and write Lovely At Your Side, which is about, well, growing up. I met Jenny at Yay New York, where she officiated for us, and fell in love with the sisters Lovely. So I’m delighted to bring you Olivia’s wise Wedding Graduate post, talking about how hard the engagement process can be, getting hitched with divorced parents, how we make things more complicated for ourselves, and how the tide of love does eventually sweep us home. All this, plus photos by APW Sponsor Hart + Sol Photo, open mouth laughter, and a banjo jam session? I’m in!

Let me say this, I did not, in any way, understand what a big deal getting married was. I knew I loved Eric more than words could explain; I knew he loved my family, and I loved his; I knew I wanted to build a life with him. But, what I didn’t know was how our marriage and wedding would actually affect us and our community.

The day after we got engaged, I felt like a huge wave had swept me into its swell…and to be quite honest, I wasn’t sure how I was going to swim ashore. I laid in bed for three days after the engagement. Don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon about marrying Eric, but the thought of having to plan, deal with, and organize an event involving so many emotions and people made me want to cry all day long.

First of all, being a child of multiple divorces (hello, parents and all grandparents have been divorced and married multiple times), I began to feel like planning a wedding with divorced parents was like managing a hostage crisis. But the thing is, my parents get along great, and they didn’t even cause me any issues; I was the issue. I took on too many other people’s emotions, feelings, opinions, and ideas.  I was constantly on the phone with people double checking that everyone’s emotions were okay and they were happy with my decisions, when in reality they were all happy just because I was happy, and I was only stressed out about trying not to offend anyone. I was overly concerned with honoring the traditions of the family I was marrying into, all the while trying to stay loyal to my family.

For me, the engagement time was a weird limbo time, where I felt like I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I wanted, and no one was ever happy with me. However, I did know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew the day would be beautiful, and as my sister reminded me, “At the end of the day, you’re going to be married to Eric, and we love him!” As the wedding grew closer, the tide seemed to calm, and my feet finally seemed to reach the shore.

Once I realized that everyone was just so honored to be involved with our special day, and no one was actually judging me, and no one was offended by my decisions, it seemed as though my head came above water, my arms could swim again, and I could enjoy playing in the ocean. I didn’t know the engagement period would be so hard. I didn’t know how much I would learn about my relationship with Eric, or about myself, but in my gut I did know that the day would be full of love, family, and all of that planning finally becoming a reality.

By the time the wedding weekend arrived, I was clear-headed, and I was able to feel confident in my decisions. We knew we wanted my sister, Jenny,  to marry us. I didn’t know or realize how important the ceremony would be until we had finished writing it, and I couldn’t even read through it without giggling/crying.

It took me a long time to realize that the words we were writing would be the “script” in the movie of my life where I would actually get to marry Eric. Jenny  guided us in the ceremony writing process with such grace, humor, ease, and constructive ideas. I wanted to laugh and cry during the ceremony, and I certainly did! Jenny did such an amazing job that she’s now a real live wedding officiant, and we are so proud to be her first couple that she married.

My one totally shallow want for the wedding was to get my hair done. For some reason that was the one thing I thought would make me feel like a bride. My mother, a woman who bought her shoes a half hour before her own wedding and did her own wedding makeup and hair, couldn’t comprehend my hair-obsession. However, when I went to get my hair trial, and they put the veil in my hair, my mother started weeping. It was the first moment she saw her daughter as a “bride.” I didn’t have a clue that that would happen. It was a poignant moment which we actually didn’t discuss much after, but I knew it solidified those “my daughter is growing up” feelings in my mother.

My hair-obsession also led to a beautiful moment on the wedding day. My Maid of Honor sister (Jenny) came to get me at 6:00am and we hunkered down in the bridal suite to wait for my hair stylist. Our younger sister (and bridesmaid), Tess, came to join us. Because we have different mothers, we often spent periods of time away from Tess, but that morning, the three of us laughed, ate a ton of Pop-Tarts, and had the most relaxing, spiritually-energizing, and perfect morning. It was calm, the room was full of love, and I was so proud to be watching my two little sisters get dressed up and pumped up to stand next to me at the end of the aisle.

One thing we absolutely knew we wanted was for that weekend to be full of family. We picked our venue because it’s an inn everyone could stay at. We wanted to be surrounded by family, and surrounded we certainly were!


Eric is a guitar and banjo player, so from the outset, as a gift to him, we planned a huge music jam in the bride and groom suite (really, the reason we got the bride and groom suite) the night before and the night of the wedding. My uncles and aunt are musicians, as well, so we thought we’d have a few people in the room playing music…little did we know the room would be jam packed, chairs taken from everyone’s rooms, people scrunched against the walls, listening to music!

I handed out pizza, sang along, and danced around the room. As I greeted everyone, they would look at my quizzically and ask, “Don’t you mind everyone in here the night before your wedding?!” But, I didn’t. Not one iota. The families were blending, mixing, and loving all through music. We all sang “The Tennessee Waltz” (albeit, not the most “wedding-like” song) so loud that you could hear us from outside the cottage. People came in to listen to one song, or two, and some people stayed all night. The next day, immediately after the wedding (I was still in my dress!), people gathered in the cottage and started playing again.

My groom, still in his wedding clothes, sat playing bluegrass banjo while my uncle played dobro, my other uncle the guitar, and my aunt sang. Though their notes and lyrics, they welcomed him into the family—as a musician now in their “family-band” and their circle. Through the music jam that weekend, our two families sang in one harmony, became one big orchestra, and one huge, happy, sing-songy family, sharing in all of our new joint traditions, and neuroses.

The Info— Photography: Hart + Sol (APW Sponsor) / Officiant: Cheerleader For Love (APW Vendor Directory) / Dress: Helene Bridal / Veil: Tessa Kim / Boutonnieres: A Simple Start / Flowers: AFloral.com

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  • First of all, I love your dress, and I LOVE the jam sessions. What a wonderful way to bring people together!

    Also, THIS: “I took on too many other people’s emotions, feelings, opinions, and ideas. I was constantly on the phone with people double checking that everyone’s emotions were okay and they were happy with my decisions, when in reality they were all happy just because I was happy, and I was only stressed out about trying not to offend anyone.”

    YES. I really needed this today. Was anyone else completely mauled by wedding advice over Yom Kippur?? I barely had time to atone in between leading questions and raised eyebrows.

    • Thank you, Diana!

      Yes, I found the holidays (any holiday) were the worst for wedding planning. I tended to avoid them, at a certain point. I just couldn’t handle family+holiday+wedding crap. Too much to handle for me.

  • “I took on too many other people’s emotions, feelings, opinions, and ideas. I was constantly on the phone with people double checking that everyone’s emotions were okay and they were happy with my decisions, when in reality they were all happy just because I was happy, and I was only stressed out about trying not to offend anyone.”

    I think this is me too. Reading these words is kind of a wake-up call this morning — I need to stop being so careful about this wedding planning thing, and realize that it’s our wedding. Yes, it’s for our families too, but at the end of the day, our families love us and support us and the choices we make. Thank you for these helpful words.

    On another note, I love love love the idea of the music jam. What a lovely way to being your new family!

    • Kinzie, I am so glad my words could help! Thank you! The wedding jam was by far the highlight of the whole weekend :)

  • Lizzie

    YES to the advice both of the ladies above have highlighted. Here’s what my new seriously-Catholic uncle-in-law said to my new also-very-Catholic mother-in-law about the nonreligious wedding we had last month:

    “That was a really lovely wedding. I mean, it was a pagan wedding, but it was still really lovely.”

    I think that if the theme of the day is love and you both look like you’re having a good time – like Olivia and Eric in these pictures – you can’t really go wrong. Especially with inter-family bluegrass jam sessions – that is awesome.

    • Lizzie, we did have a BLAST. How could I not, I was with my very best friends and family! Ha, pagan wedding–that’s funny…we didn’t have any religion in the wedding either–but we both come from more spiritual familes. The theme of the wedding was “love” because that’s what we ascribe to and believe in!

  • Completely Lovely! I’m glad you found your feet and were able to enjoy yourself and the process.

    • Thank you, Contessa! It took time, but I did find my feet.

  • What a beautiful post, Liv! All the happiness in the world for you and Eric.

    (And on a superficial note, your pictures are gorgeous :) )

    • Thank you, Mel!! :) I love our pics, too! Hart + Sol all the way!

  • It does not surprise me that one of the smartest grad posts I’ve read would come from you. And this might be one of the most astute life lessons I’ve ever heard.

    “I took on too many other people’s emotions, feelings, opinions, and ideas . . . when in reality they were all happy just because I was happy”

    This is huge. And you’re so smart for realizing it this early on.

    • Thanks, Mad!

      I learned so much from YOU and your family and wisdom. Thank you for being you!

  • goodheart

    i know this is a small part of the whole of this post, but i just have to second (third, fourth) how much i LOVE the wedding jam – i requested one the night before our wedding too and we just sat around singing and playing guitar for a while – so peaceful. highly recommend to anyone who has a musical crowd! also highly recommend the “everyone staying at the same place” approach for getting your family and friends to get to know each other – our parents had never met, living on different continents, and we ourselves had not met some of the other’s out-of-town friends. staying in a lodge with everyone was so much fun and i know folks have stayed in touch since. the funniest was coming back from our first look pictures to see all of our friends and family playing competitive scrabble!

    • Goodheart–YAY for Wedding Jams! I am SOO happy we did ours! It was the best!

  • Thank you for bringing to light the scary, sometimes terrible part of being engaged.

    My brain broke while I was engaged. We were planning a wedding I didn’t want and I was slipping into a very dark place and it was an awfully scary place when you are only shown images of happy, enthusiastic engaged people. Luckily (with APW’s help) I was able to bring my issues to light and plan a wedding that didn’t wake me up with night terrors and make me cry.

    • Andee–Yes, it was very important to me to impart to other women that being engaged, for me, was not always a fun time. It was freaking tough. And the worst part is everyone EXPECTS you to be happy ALL THE TIME. And you’re simply not. APW was a LIFESAVER for me, as well.

  • Elisa

    Did anyone notice that Olivia looks like Rachel Weisz, which is totally a compliment!
    Great post by the way!

  • Maddie, your photos are incredible.

    And Olivia, so is your wisdom. And your hair! Shoot, that is some gorgeous hair you’ve got.

    • Emily Rose, Thank You! I do love Ms. Maddie and Monica’s photography so much!

  • “no one was ever happy with me” and then “no one was offended by my decisions”

    YES. Oh yes. I’d gotten in a rut of thinking my family always sounds vaguely annoyed when they say, “Well, you only get married once so do what you need to do.” But no. You’re so right. They’re happy for me. I know this to be true.

    Thank you for the reminder.

    • Beth, families are not always the easiest to deal with…but in the long run, they do want the best for you, even if they don’t come out and say it. Good luck!