Sarah & Jeremy’s Eastern Orthodox Wedding

Oh, kids. I had to pick a wedding to jump back into writing wedding graduate posts with, and this one made me so deeply happy. First, it’s an Eastern Orthadox Wedding, crowns and all, and I’ve been dying to have some lovely crown-goodness on APW for a million billion years. Second, everything is so right with this wedding. It reminds me of countless weddings of my childhood – church social halls, bustling family members making the food, no-nonsense decoration that end up made stunning with love. Add to that Sarah’s wisdom and Jocelyn Mathewes’ photos (who has been a friend of APW for almost two whole years, and is just the best)? Magic, kids. Magic.

Jeremy and I met in college, where he majored in History, and I in Marine Biology. Despite this, we some how ended up in the same social group (possibly because we are both such geeks and love many of the same books and films). In the middle of our junior year he asked me out. Three tumultuous, but wonderful, years later he finally proposed-outside in the middle of the first of the of several blizzards to cream MD. (The poor guy had been planning on walking to a nearby park,but when the blizzard hit we couldn’t go anywhere! So he had to settle for a patch of snowy trees right near my house.)

Now, I have always been a tomboy, and much more eager to muck about in tide pools than do my nails. My childhood sketches are of whales and giant squids, not wedding dresses. So spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a one day, even a day as important as my wedding, just didn’t make sense to me. I was determined from day one that it would be as small and cheap as I could contrive, and yet still include all my family and his. (Easier said than done as you might imagine!) Jeremy, as the oldest of 6 boys, isn’t really into the frills either, so we make a nice pair that way.

We did have one less thing to plan than most couples getting married: the ceremony. We are both members of the ancient Orthodox Christian Church, and it’s been marrying people the same way for centuries. One priest joked with us that all you have to do is show up! This left us with the interesting challenge of trying to find crowns (at the height of the ceremony the couple are crowned as King and Queen of their new household, as well as ‘Martyrs’ to each other in love), but without the need to compose any vows, or do more than give the choir director some basic idea of our personal music tastes (American, Russian,Greek, or Arabic music? How ‘bout a bit of them all!?) In the end we found a blacksmith from Florida who specializes in Renaissance reenactment who made us the two lovely brass circlets we used as our crowns.

Perhaps the hardest decision we made was to be married at my home Church in Maryland, not at the parish we attended together in college,and which would be much closer to all our mutual friends. However, the Baltimore location was better for our families, and after what that Church ended up doing for us there can not possibly be any regrets! Plus, our priest from Massachusetts made us very happy by agreeing to come down and co-celebrate at the ceremony!

Beyond that, our wedding and reception became almost entirely‘DIY/DIT’ (I did not even know that DIT was a term prior to reading this blog, but it is a great one! editors note: that’s because I made it up), from the invites, to the flowers, the programs to my accessories.

Our ‘venue’ was the Church, it’s basement, and the lawn outside. We did rent a tent for some shade (Maryland can be quite hot in June!), but opted for the top only version to save money and allow for natural breezes, without having to rent fans.

My dress was a wonderful, and sanity preserving, find at a local thrift store. My first (any only!) time in a bridal salon I was wearing an old sweater and pants covered in paint (I was on my way back from work when I spotted the place and thought I could just sneak in and look around. But I’m self employed as an interior painter and thus was not really dressed for a ‘salon’…). I walked in the door, felt immediately judged for my lack of shamncy apparel, took one loop around the room looking for ANYTHING under $1000, found not even one, and left in a hurry. Thrift stores here I come! A bit of looking and$30 (!!!) later I had a lovely simple dress with no frills, and straps, which I accented with a jacket I found online, and a belt I made to showcase the beautiful broach given to my by mother-in-law (old and blue at the same time).

Our cake was a gift from a lady who, in a previous career, worked at a bakery. She is a master, as the enormous confection she created proves. Notice the strange writing on it? That would be Elvish, yes as in the fictional language Tolkien invented for his Elves in Lord of the Rings

My now-husband and I had the whole crowd torn between tears and laughter when we explained he had courted me with love letters in Elvish! This addition to the cake, which incidentally is a translationof a verse from the service, was a secret collaboration between him, my mother, and the baker to surprise me with.

I did the flowers myself, but could not have done so without the know-how of the resident ‘flower lady’ who not only introduced me to the best wholesale flower shop in Baltimore (soo much cheaper than retail!), but gave me tips and aid galore. Decorations? I ordered allthe materials from a bulk craft supply site online, and my wonderful family arrived the day before and put it all together.

As with most weddings I’ve heard of, the hardest challenge was food. But enter the indomitable spirit of my mother and a slew of ladies to assist her. They prepared the most wonderful assortment of finger foods you can imagine , and laid them out buffet style on little tables scattered in the Church basement, and outside under the tent. (The biggest hit of the day was a countertop covered in Dollar Tree cookies and pretzels, some fresh fruit, and a chocolate fountain. Even the cheapest cookies in the world are divine if you dip them in molten semi-sweet chocolate!) This arrangement allowed us to keep the food budget really low, and yet still have about 175 people (mostly family members, but also lots of  our college friends) at the reception.

We didn’t hire a DJ, instead Jeremy and I put together a mix of our favorite music and had my computer plugged into some speakers. Neither of us really knows how to dance, and my father would have flatly refused a Father/Daughter dance (he’s rather emotional, and could barely get through his toast, forget a dance!) so we simply nixed dancing all together (besides, with my entire extended family being Southern Baptist I figured there wasn’t going to be much spontaneous dancing anyway…), and substituted a time of family toasts. Thus, instead of watching Jeremy and I spin on the spot for 2 or 3 minutes, we got to share in the wisdom of our respective fathers. What might be critical to someone else, was not to us. Don’t be afraid of doing what you want for your reception!

Looking back what I remember most about our wedding are the faces of our family and friends all surrounding us in the Church (without any pews everyone just filled in tightly around us!), Jeremy’s face as he saw me for the first time, the feel of his hand in mine as we took our first steps together as husband and wife, the dark sweetness of the wine we shared in our common cup, my dad’s teary toast, being presented the gorgeous quilt made for us by a woman from Jeremy’s Church in New Hampshire (It’s a New-England-style story quilt that chronicles our lives so far, and is covered in little notes from friends with their love and advice!)… in other words, almost nothing I had anything to do with planning! As much fun as I had doing the flowers, I barely saw them day of. As much as I insisted on certain food items for the reception, I really wouldn’t have noticed if they hadn’t been there! It all faded to irrelevance when faced with thefact that I had bound my life inextricably to that of my dearest friend.

In conclusion then, I’ll simply offer these few words of advice, most of which were given to me by others.

  • Ask for help! DIT is seriously the best way I can imagine to not only stay sane and on budget, but also allow more people to feel connected to and important during this meaningful event.
  • Figure out the few things you really want, and then make everything else fit around them. It took some planning, and a decent amount ofwork, but our whole wedding (from invites to the reception) cost under $6000, with our largest expense by far going to photography. Forsomeone else perhaps it would be food, or their dress, or a really great band. To each their own!
  • Don’t freak out. It’s been said a million times, but it’s important: it’s only one day!! Your marriage STARTS the day you marry. It isn’t an end in itself. You might as well save your strength for the journey ahead!
  • Think outside the commercial box. Thrift stores and consignment shops are awesome. (People throw away the greatest things, and many times in near perfect condition!) My mother wore a different dress for both the rehearsal dinner and our wedding, and got both of them from a thrift store! The same one I got my dress at in fact… Also, if used creatively, dollar stores often have materials that can be made tolook much more fancy and elegant than they really are!
  • My aunt is famous in our family for saying “Choose something simple and people will accuse you of good taste.*” Enough said.
  • Finally, the most important thing Jeremy and I have learned fromthe whole process of dating, being engaged, and now being married isthe importance of being on the same page about life. Communication is the root of this, but what you are communicating about is crucial too.Whether it’s money, sex, family, or Spirituality and Faith, you have to be on the same page. I’m NOT saying you have to agree oneverything, but you have to know where the other person is and respect it. And, I will venture to say that if you can agree on the big stuff (Faith, family, etc.) it makes a much more solid foundation for your lives together.

Photos by the deeply fabulous long time supporter and sponsor of this blog Studio Mathewes Photography (now in Baltimore and Boston). Snap her up ladies!

*Does everyone know this phrase but me? I’ve never heard this and it is GENIUS.

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