Rachel & Zach (And Dress, Offered)

I’m so happy to get to share Rachel’s (aka DDay) wedding today. Rachel has been a super active commenter on APW for… a long time now, and a few months ago, as I was in the middle of the site re-launch madness, she popped up in the comments to say she was getting married in four days. And I got so excited! And thank goodness she sent me her wedding, because if she hadn’t, I’d *still* be worrying about how it went. But this is how it went: JOYFUL! (Are you surprised?) Her post is so wise, and talks about something we’ve been talking a lot about lately – celebrating baby families. And, just for the record – my favorite photo of the day – the one of them looking totally blissed out with champagne? That was taken right before their yichud. Rachel said she stole the idea from our wedding. They found, just like we found, that those few moments alone, right after the emotion of the ceremony, realizing that you’re married now… those were some of the best moments of a wonderful day.

And, as if that’s not enough, Rachel is following in the Team Practical tradition ( you guys are the best…. ) of giving away her wedding dress. If you’d like her to gift it to you, leave a message in your comment as to why. The usual rules apply – Rachel picks who the dress goes to (with some lobbying from me, I fully admit), the recipient pays for shipping, and sends a picture to Rachel of them rocking the dress. And…. hopefully comes back as a wedding graduate. And with that, I give you Rachel:

We got married at a place called Old Town Hall, in Fairfax, VA (Northern Virginia suburb), on the first day of spring. We had sat down early on and set our priorities, and talked about what was important and not important.. We both wanted a basically traditional wedding (with a few tweaks) in a place that felt like “us,” and at the time we thought that meant our neighborhood, but we found out it meant a historic building that functions as a library, art gallery, and community event space, that happens to be right across the street from a little hole-in-the-wall bar (that bar became key to our enjoyment the afternoon of the rehearsal and again the next day, when we found ourselves ahead of schedule). If there’s a running list anywhere of Team-Practical-Approved venues, this one needs to go on that list. It’s basically made for us (and the staff! aahh!).

We ended up being extra lucky in many ways.

  • My mom is an artist and recently got into floral design, so she and one of my sisters put together all our bouquets/bouts/corsages
  • Her artistic talents actually came in handy all over the place
  • My oldest sister basically begged for the chance to try baking us a 3-tier cake (and it turned out gorgeous and AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS).
  • And then Zach’s parents offered to help pay, but had zero interest in any of the decision making (in addition to planning and paying for our awesomely chill rehearsal dinner).

It wasn’t all luck and roses of course! Zach started grad school mid-engagement, so naturally money became a source of stress during that transition, but we figured it out, re-worked our daily-life budget, and carried on. There were other things that were hard, like the guest list conundrum, which I’m pretty sure is universally, unavoidably a huge painful headache. That worked itself out in the end, and I think it always does, if that makes anyone feel better!

I also dealt with some guilt, planning our wedding when my maid of honor’s marriage rights were promised and then quickly taken away. I spent some time beating myself up for not being strong enough to suggest that we not marry in protest, or make some gesture in support of that cause at the wedding. Turns out she was grateful enough that I didn’t make her wear a dress. I had her stand up there next to me, as herself, as a natural piece of my wedding party even though she didn’t look like the other attendants, and that seemed to be enough, for the moment. Still feels like a small gesture – especially when I found out later that at least a couple of the (older) guests were confused why one of the groomsmen was standing on my side.

Since we had purposely built the whole event around the concept of being stress-free and living-in-the-moment and really having a good time no matter what went wrong (you know, Team Practical mantra) – I expected to have fun. I mean we were pouring X amount of money into this thing, half of which was our own hard-earned savings, the other half was money we knew his parents could have found a use for in their somewhat near retirement. We couldn’t see spending that amount of money on something that was not just hugely meaningful but also a holycraprockingout good time (with chill moments worked in). So I was not surprised that I had an amazing time at our wedding.

What took me a bit unawares was something many other graduates have referenced, but something it’s hard to imagine until you’re in the middle of it. It’s just this overwhelming, bubbling-over, gonna-drown-but-in-a-good-way JOY. All around. You can see it in the faces of every single person there. They were all so happy for us, so happy to be there.

You could see it in the faces of the married couples, I felt like we were reminding them why they got married. Whether they had gotten married a year ago or 20, 30, 40 years ago, the creation of our new little baby-family made them all feel like newlyweds again (that might be just my imagination, but that’s what the energy felt like in the room). And the joy wasn’t just coming from the married types. Everyone was just radiating happiness, and it’s something that Zach and I still talk about as one of the most memorable aspects of that day.

Weddings naturally provide an opportunity to honor marriage in your community; we tried to do that as much as possible, though we definitely could have done more. Some marriage honoring aspects:

  • We got married on Zach’s parents’ anniversary (I had wanted to make a big deal of it but they refused to let us draw any attention to them);
  • Our cake topper was from his grandparents’ wedding over 60 years ago;
  • For our readings we chose two women who were both very influential in our lives and also in strong marriages of their own;
  • At our reception, we had the DJ do the married couples dance. After most couples had been called off the dance floor, I remember standing there watching my aunt and uncle, the ones married the longest (other than Zach’s grandparents, who were not able to get up and dance), just totally ripping up the dance floor, and it made me really giddy thinking of it as a glimpse into our future. We’ll be the last ones dancing one day. We will, darn it.

Nothing went wrong! It’s kind of insane. Maybe it was karma, maybe it was great planning, maybe it was dumb luck. Maybe it was a willful suspension of expectation for that “perfect day.” I am a real proponent of the power of positive thinking; if you sincerely believe you’ll have fun no matter what, I think you’ll have fun no matter what, and it might just be because you willed it that way, which is a pretty darn good feeling looking back on it.

And it definitely goes the other way too; if you expect things will not go well, they probably won’t. Am I right? Who knows. But it’s working pretty well for me so far (although I’m pretty sure no amount of positive thinking would have gotten us that “romantic” wedding night. We were EXHAUSTED. but flopping over the bed so he could help me take the 50 bajillion pins out of my hair, and undo all the buttons down my dress, before we both went comatose, is still one of my most romantic and happy memories from that day).

WHO WANTS MY DRESS? It’s Sarah Danielle (I don’t think they make it anymore, style 5523), fitted to my measurements, about 36(b)/30(w)/40(h) (ish). I’ll tell you I wear a 34C (sometimes 36C) and there’s definitely some extra room in the bosom on that dress, it has built in cups that were actually bigger than I needed. I bought it from a girl on PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com,* she said she bought it as a sample and then chose a different dress. I would love to see this beauty go on to another APW reader – preferably someone who wants to flaunt their curvy bottom (although smaller butts are welcome to apply, the thing can be altered).

Photos by Bong Lee of Bisou Photography

*APW sponsor, but this is not any kind of paid mention, obviously

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