Sarah & Wes’ Thursday Wedding

You guys!!! It’s been forever and a day since we’ve hosted a dress giveaway, but today we have the lovely Sarah sharing her wedding graduate post, and then this afternoon she gives away her beautiful dress. Hooray! But first lets talk about the wedding: the hard parts, the anxiety provoking parts, the explosion of glass that started the weekend (not kidding). Lets do this thing:

Let there be no illusions: I was not a calm bride. But then, I’m not really a calm person. Instead, I was just me: a twenty-something anal-retentive control freak excited to marry her high school sweetheart and completely blown away by love.

Cheesy segue aside, I wasn’t the only one ‘blown away’— exactly one week before the wedding, my fiancé blew himself up. Literally. He’s a research assistant getting his PhD in chemistry; something went wrong in the lab, and a piece of glassware exploded in front of him. He had over forty stitches in nine different places on his chest, face, and arms. Luckily, none of the shrapnel got near his eyes, and though he’ll have a few scars, the accident didn’t do any lasting physical damage.  After the longest afternoon of my life, I no longer gave a d*mn about centerpieces, flowers, food, or anything else. I think his accident kicked off my wedding-zen (or as close as I got to it): whatever happened, happened. We were safe, happy, and going to be married; everything else was gravy.

I’ve read a ton of wedding graduate posts, but I don’t have any specific advice for future brides. I think we each find our own inspiration and advice in reflecting on the shared cultural experience of a wedding. So instead I wrote about other things: the hard stuff during planning, what it felt like that day, and what I continue to feel now, months later.

Weddings suck. Yeah, I said it. They suck, and they suck hard. They’re also some of the most beautiful, uplifting, and moving experiences we can share. One of my first surprises with wedding planning was the realization that weddings are filled with contradictions. Wedding Industrial Complex versus Blogging Industrial Complex; big-party aspirations with recession-economy budgets; the conflict of an individuality-revering society engaging in a deeply communal social ritual… It goes on and on. Weddings are complicated, and navigating the contradictions wasn’t easy.

We had our wedding on a Thursday. It was one of the biggest things that stressed me out because I didn’t want our guests to be inconvenienced. We chose to have it on a Thursday because that night was our ten year anniversary; it was hugely important to us that we had our wedding on that specific day. After all my stress about whether anyone would be pissed, I finally realized Dr. Seuss was right: “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” 90% of our invited guests attended, and it was perfect.

DIY or DIT is damn stressful. We decided to do our own flowers, a choice I still love; but it produced one of my most stressful moments. I was the Sarah who said to Meg that weddings are an opportunity to healthfully separate from your parents. The day before our wedding, as we started putting together our bouquets, I had a moment where I was really upset at my mother, and it put my separation from my family of origin into hyper-focus. It was the closest I came to having a breakdown; I snapped at my mother a little, but my friends were there to help, and my fiancé sat with us, cracking jokes to cheer me up.

I struggle with mental health issues, mainly generalized anxiety disorder; Wedding planning fed into my stress, and it was a challenge for me. The process of creating a wedding that was authentic to who my husband and I are had me struggling with my anxiety constantly. I worked hard to negotiate a path through the stress that would allow me to be confident in our choices. My fiancé supported me, and helped me refocus on what really mattered to us. And, in the last month before the wedding, the post on anxiety cropped up here on APW and had me literally in tears. It couldn’t have come at a better time, and it reminded me to be strong.

Starting from the moment my fiancé and I agreed to get married, everything shifted. We were moving from one stage to another, and we were in between—we weren’t dating anymore, but we weren’t married yet. We were in what psychologists term a “liminal state”, suspended in between phases of our lives. We were poised there for fourteen months, in between one huge, life-changing moment in our lives, and not yet at another. We were at a threshold, preparing to move forward. I learned that my biggest fear in the process was letting my friends and family down. I also learned our friends love us very, very, much and were thrilled to be there with us. They loved the food, they danced their feet off, and had such a good time we almost forgot about the cake.

You know what everyone says about your wedding day going by fast? Yeah, they’re right. We become inured to the advice because we’ve heard it so many times, but it’s all true (Editors note: It can be true, my wedding day was the longest, slowest day of my life, so you never know). The frenetic pace of the night overwhelmed me once and it took me a minute to regain my calm and enjoy the night again. Don’t do what I did— Be present. Slow down. Smile.

While I was pumped for our awesome burger sliders and badass dance playlist, the part of our wedding that mattered to me the most was our ceremony. I am planning to go to graduate school to become a minister, and having a ceremony that was both truly personal and deeply sacred was very important to me.

When I think back on the wedding day, it’s packed with memories, moments, and emotions, and I think that’s common for most people. There are moments that stand out to me as I look back on that day (walking the dog by myself that morning, getting my hair done, taking portraits outside before it started drizzling) and all of them come together like pieces of a mosaic. In the last few weeks leading up to the wedding, I found I was most looking forward to the simple joys of wearing my wedding band and calling Wes my husband. And even though it went by in an uncontrollable blur, our wedding day felt like us, just as we’d hoped.

Part of what I love about APW is how it’s encouraged me to think about our wedding, and our marriage, and myself. I know I’m going to keep reading Wedding Graduate posts as I navigate our marriage—we keep realizing what this commitment means, and how it affects us, as we reach each part of our lives. I think it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the power and strength of our marriage as we encounter challenges and reach for our dreams. Our wedding was the kickoff to our marriage. It felt just as I’d hoped: like an amalgamation of true friendship and laughter and the raw, sheer power of love.

Photos By: Pierre Chiha

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  • Congrats! And I particularly enjoyed the idea of the liminal state:
    “…suspended in between phases of our lives. We were poised there for fourteen months, in between one huge, life-changing moment in our lives, and not yet at another. We were at a threshold, preparing to move forward.

    I have been thinking a lot about those liminal times and the feeling of being “in between” two states recently, whether in relationships, stages of life, phases of a career, or moves from one place to another. To me, that time often feels like a time of feeling “stuck,” but I have been wondering if it is during that frustrating time when a lot of personal growth is happening behind the scenes.

    Anyhow, thank you for sharing! (And I am very glad your husband healed okay from the glass explosion.)

    • “To me, that time often feels like a time of feeling “stuck,” but I have been wondering if it is during that frustrating time when a lot of personal growth is happening behind the scenes.”

      Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this too. We’re currently in between two cities, moving home after a wild adventure, saving up money, planning the wedding, etc, before we move off to another grand place someday. I have to slow down and remind myself to enjoy daily joys that I might not otherwise appreciate, because soon I won’t be near my family again, nor in my hometown, and these moments are sacred.

    • Yes, exactly!! The transition is HUGE, and it’s not going to happen overnight (even though it technically does, whoops), and it is an underappreciated part of getting married. You’re not just planning a wedding, you’re living an engagement. I think when we realize we are in a liminal state, and learn to embrace and accept it, then it can help us get through whatever it is we’re going through, and really get the most of the personal development during that time. If we’re aware of it, we’re less likely to feel “stuck”, or at least more understanding of it. :)

    • (not to be repetitively quoting…)
      “To me, that time often feels like a time of feeling “stuck,” but I have been wondering if it is during that frustrating time when a lot of personal growth is happening behind the scenes.”

      Sheryl Paul (The Conscious Bride; see the Blogs & Books page) talks about this as being like a chrysalis–looking, and feeling perhaps, from the outside like not much is going on, but inside making this huge transformation. I think that’s very apt.

      And oh yeah it’s intense sometimes, and scary.

  • Sarah Sarah Sarah I love this post! This is so true:

    “They suck, and they suck hard. They’re also some of the most beautiful, uplifting, and moving experiences we can share. One of my first surprises with wedding planning was the realization that weddings are filled with contradictions. Wedding Industrial Complex versus Blogging Industrial Complex; big-party aspirations with recession-economy budgets; the conflict of an individuality-revering society engaging in a deeply communal social ritual… It goes on and on. Weddings are complicated, and navigating the contradictions wasn’t easy.”

    And you say it well, so I have nothing to add. Thanks for being a voice for those of us who freaked out sometimes, had to go through The Hard Parts, and still loved the wedding (and the marriage!).

  • What an incredible post. And a beautiful dress. The entire post makes sense to me, and I think your words of wedding behavior wisdom can apply to our entire lives: “Be present. Slow down. Smile.”

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  • Glad to see that your husband’s injuries didn’t affect his ability to play badass air guitar.

    • I KNOW. I’m so proud of him. Such a badass. …Kind of.

      The rough part was that the worst of his injuries was this one really bad series of gouges in the middle of the bicep of his right arm that had a bunch of stitches, and people kept shaking his hand… and then slapping his arm (you know, the “congratulations, man!” slap/punch). The day after the wedding, he was so, so sore. But he made it through!

  • N

    “the conflict of an individuality-revering society engaging in a deeply communal social ritual.”

    Thank you for putting this into words. I have been struggling with this conflict without really realizing it, or at least without having articulated it in my mind this way. I am constantly worried that my wedding will be just like everyone else’s wedding, which I just am terrified of for some reason, even though I always remember what Meg’s dad said about weddings being stubbornly traditional no matter what you do. The sameness of the ritual is a big reason why we get married, but so much of this culture primes us to fight against sameness. No wonder planning a wedding is such a mess.

    • Your wedding *is* going to be like everyone else’s, and at the exact same time, it isn’t and never could be. And that’s the conflict. Once you start thinking of it that way, it frees up a lot of room for YOU. What do YOU like? What traditions are important to YOU? (and your partner, duh). When you pin down the things that move you and make you excited and grin or whatever, then you’re finding what is actually really unique, because the choices are yours and yours alone.

      Weddings can’t be different because we are engaging in that cultural ritual, but each one is different because of the people involved and the way we shape our weddings and our marriages.


        Such a wonderful point. When we first got engaged I also was worried about being forced to do things too traditionally, especially after our first planning family-relationship hurdle regarding location, so I had a knee-jerk reaction to try very hard to make our wedding super uniquely “us”. Since then I’ve come to realize the above – my wedding *is* going to be like everyone elses, but at the same time be unique because we have never been married before – it helped me to stop forcing the planning and enjoy the process a bit more.

        Interestingly, the realization came when I was privately worrying about one of my choices being too traditional or played, but everyone’s reaction when I told them about my choice was, “wow, I’ve never seen that done before, that’s so unique”. Go figure.

  • I loved this post but the Dr. Seuss quote is my favorite part. Months after my wedding, I’m still struggling to deal with my unresolved feelings about a relative who complained about every little thing about my wedding. She hurt my feelings so much! The quote spoke to me because it’s time to let go & move on.

    “Be present. Slow down. Smile.” Perfect, perfect advice!

  • I really appreciate the mention of how weddings are a healthy opportunity to separate from your parents. I’m fairly close with my parents, and I’m sure I always will be, but there is a transition from thinking about your parents/siblings as your family and thinking about your husband as your family. Right now, that’s a big part of my “transition” phase.

    Also, my fiance is a good influence in that arena. Whenever my mom and I argue about wedding stuff over the phone, and we hang up angry, my fiance will tell me to call my mom back and apologize. When I do, she apologizes, too, and we all feel better.

    • It’s been really hard, separating from my family. But it’s GOOD. It’s not a separation in that we don’t love one another, it’s a separation in that I’m a grown-ass adult and need to live my own life and make my own choices. And even if I’ve been doing that for a while now, they need to let me do it, too. So it’s a back-and-forth of letting go. One big thing for us was acknowledging the support of our parents in the wedding; we made sure that their biggest hopes and wishes were honored, even if we didn’t agree on everything.

      I think when I realized that my husband was my go-to for emotional support, that was when I’d really shifted from my family of origin to my new, baby family. It’s kind of scary, but also so amazing. It has, in all honesty, really deepened my love and appreciation for him.

      Also, if you haven’t read A Conscious Bride, GO, READ IT. And make your mom read it, too. It’s a quick read, and some of it wasn’t hugely helpful, but when I read it during the planning process, I re-typed entire PARAGRAPHS that were helpful to me. Good luck!

      • Great points! I especially like the idea of acknowledging parents in the wedding. It allows them to know that you love them and appreciate them, while you’re also moving to a new support system.

        And I haven’t read A Conscious Bride yet, but I definitely will now! Thanks so much for the recommendation. :)

        • To avoid the whole “we’re paying for it, we’ll do it OUR way!” we purposefully asked each set of parents what their #1 priority was, and their one veto or thing that they would hate, and tried to accommodate all of them. We couldn’t necessarily do all of it, but by asking and talking to them about it, they felt satisfied. And we were able to go off and do what we liked without it blowing up into a Big Thing.

          During the ceremony itself, we very purposefully involved our parents. My mother and his father were our maid of honor and best man, respectively, so they fulfilled their duties (my mom processed, they both stood beside us, etc). We had my brother escort my mother-in-law down the aisle, and my father escorted me. During the ceremony, we had my mother-in-law and my father give us family recipes to start our own family recipe collection (a non-candle version of the unity ceremony). We really felt like we were bringing together two families.

          The Conscious Bride is a good read, especially if you’re close with your family; it’s a little new-agey, but worth it. :)

  • I totally appreciate what Sarah describes as a liminal state — engagement. We’ve been in one since for 16 months now (a little less than 5 months to go). I felt the moment I said yes to Mr. Beagle’s proposal was half of a life changing moment. And here we are still waiting for the second half of that life changing moment to happen. It is difficult to spend so much time in transition between the two.

    And I’ve also been really concerned about our family and friends and letting them down. It’s great to hear about everyone having such a great time at Sarah’s wedding.

    Also, glad her husband was ok after the explosion! Man, I am going to ban my partner from being near glass for the next 5 months! j/k

    • The in-between is really tough. It’s hard to describe, and it’s weird to live through, so I totally hear you. The last month or so I was just itching to be MARRIED. Just stick the ring on my finger, let it be done with. :)

      Yeah, I definitely was worried about that, what with a weekday wedding, but it turned out great. No one bitched to me, only a couple people couldn’t come, and the dance floor was packed ALL NIGHT. The photo in the post of the packed dance floor with the light flares was the last dance. People had a great time, and so did I.

    • hoppy bunny

      Ditto that! Except I’m 8 months in with 12 to go! I sometimes feel so happy to have a long engagement, and then other times I feel like–what the hell am I doing? I’m thinking about the wedding AGAIN and it’s still so far away? I just wish I was married already, but I’m not willing to give up my one chance to get everyone I love in the same room.

      Ever since getting engaged I’ve felt closer to my future Mr, which is really saying something. But I keep looking forward to getting over the hump!! Liminal indeed!

  • SarahMama Kate

    Proud mama of Sarah and longtime APW lurker here. I just wanted to say that this wedding was a truly joyous celebration of who Sarah and Wes are and what is important to them — friends, family, authenticity. And if she snapped at me in our dining room overflowing with pots of roses to de-thorn? Well, she had a right and it was Sarah-being-Sarah, which was more than fine. All through the engagement, working together on bits of wedding planning, Sarah stayed cool, very little wedding angst, so a mini-breakdown over flowers? No biggie.

    My thanks to Meg and all the amazing APW women for contributing such sanity to this crazy Wedding Business, focusing on What’s Important and giving support, advice and a forum to be heard. I started reading APW because of Sarah but I keep reading it because of all of you, your wisdom and your thoughtful reflections on Being — being women, being friends, being in relationship. You go Girls!

    • Yea for moms who lurk!

      (hi giggles’ mom!)

  • Heidi

    Way to go, Sarah! I think you found a way to infuse some advice in your post regardless.

    My husband separated his shoulder 6 months before our wedding and that was stressful enough, but at least he has a fair amount of time to heal (though his collarbone sticks out to this day). I do remember the day as a bit of an “ah-ha” moment: I didn’t care about the details of the wedding, just making sure that we’d get through this (and every other stumbling block in our future) supporting each other.

    • I woke my then fiancé up at 6am one Sunday morning two months before our wedding so he could take me to the ER where I passed a good sized kidney stone (and my first diagnosed kidney stone). Both of us look at that moment as a big one in our relationship. He saw me through that, sat there with me all morning, let me throw-up in his car on the way there (we’d brought a bucket), and then he cleaned out the bucket, twice, when we got to the ER (I used it again in the waiting room). Experiences like that really put things into perspective.

      • ka

        I HATE kidney stones. Just had to say it. :)

    • Accidents, trauma, and other major events always put things (especially weddings!) in serious perspective. :)

      • ka

        Seriously. When you mentioned the accident to me in the comments that other day, it was a little wake-up call to remember that perspective! As long as everyone’s healthy and in one piece – it’ll be a good day! Anything else is just a bonus. :)

        Lovely, lovely wedding!! :D And such wise words–the world will be a better place with you as a minister in it.

        • Awwww, thank you!! I’m so flattered. I appreciate the kind words; becoming a minister at such a young age is kind of weird, and hearing people tell me they think I’d be good at it is very encouraging.

          I think if my husband’s accident had been any earlier, it would have been an even clearer wake-up; it was so close to the wedding, I just rode it out. :)

  • Amanda

    Thank you Sarah, I’ve been thinking about asking some recently married friends to tell me again that the wedding was worth it. I’m five months out and struggle sporadically with depression that has flared up from wedding planning among other things right now and I’m ready to just elope. I keep saying that my life just doesn’t make sense right now in this in between stage (liminal, I like that too) But not really, I don’t want to rob my community of my wedding and when I really think about it there are moments in the wedding that I want to experience as opposed to eloping. Getting married when my fiancé and I decided to get married is still right for us it’s just tough right now, it’s good to have a reminder that it’s worth it. :)

    • Ooof. I have to say, eloping seemed a better idea the closer I got to the wedding. Try and focus on all of the amazing parts of having a wedding that you’re looking forward to; it will help get you through! And definitely read that APW post about anxiety; it helped me a lot. It’s one day; you get to be married for many more days than that. My anxiety really stressed me out, but one of the benefits of that liminal stage is that I found myself turning to my husband for support, and it drew us closer together. Sharing the stress and burden is what starts to make you your own family.

      Good luck!!

  • Feeling the liminality! So glad you brought it up.

    Dicey sh*t goes down in liminal states and liminal places! Midnight is not quite one day and not quite another, vampires are not quite living and not quite dead…

    Getting away from folklore, engagement is really a not quite settled or clear place. I don’t feel part of his family, I feel separate from mine – a bit more than a girlfriend but certainly not anyone’s wife. It’s good but a little painful, like stretching a sore muscle.

    I am sticking with calling him “boyfriend” until the wedding though…saying “fiance” means people start interrogating me about “my colors” or whatever.

  • I’m so relieved to read this because we, too, are having our wedding on a Thursday and it’s been stressing me out lately. Between this and an out-of-town friend who said “Another day off work? Sweet!” I’m feeling much more confident!

    • Wooo, Thursday wedding!! It had so many perks: we saved a ton of money, everything and everyone was available (at first my hairstylist was worried about fitting me in, but when I said Thursday she just laughed), stores were open, and the BANKS were open the day after so we could deposit our checks! So awesome.

      I was really stressed about our family and friends, but the great majority were either local or traveling for the week anyway (wedding party, etc). Almost everyone came, we had only two people who had issues (arriving late due to work), and people stayed and partied late in to the night. It was amazing. Keep your chin up– it’s stressful, but will be fine.

  • Ali

    I love your silly faces, I can tell you’re having fun through it all, despite the fact that you weren’t a “calm bride”. It’s tragic that you had to experience the accident the week before your wedding, but I am so happy for you that you came away from it with the right attitude, appreciative that you were both safe & together!


    • Awwwww, thanks!! I make a TON of silly faces, so it make sense that they got caught on film. :) I did have an amazing day, even though I wasn’t necessarily “calm”. I think it’s totally a personality thing; where Meg said her day was a slow, moving day, mine was a total whirlwind… much like my personality! But I loved every whirling minute.

  • Benny

    Sarah! So glad to see Boston APW bookclub represent. I love your post.

    When I was telling one of my mentors about my engagement about a year ago, the first thing she said (after being thrilled and excited for me) was, “This is a liminal moment in you and your partner’s life. Think of it like a doorway; a lot of other people and other peoples’ emotions and stuff are going to try to go through the door with you. But you have to remember that the doorway is only for you and your partner. No one else gets to go through your liminal moment.” In a way, only my partner and I have to fit through the door, and we have to focus on that. And it has been one of the best things that anyone has said to me about all of this. Thanks for the reminder:)

    • That is great advice! I can think of a few other liminal moments right now. Thank you so much for sharing that.

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  • Class of 1980

    SARAH WROTE: “Weddings suck. Yeah, I said it. They suck, and they suck hard. They’re also some of the most beautiful, uplifting, and moving experiences we can share.”

    Never heard it put that way before, but that’s pretty much how I feel about weddings. What a contradiction there is inside my head!!!


    “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

    I saw this quote a few months ago on Offbeat Bride and its what started my wedding zen. Now I quote Dr. Seuss to those who are worrying about some of our choices and it seems to calm the troops a bit. Thanks Sarah for the wonderful post and posting my new mantra again. As the wedding gets closer (six weeks, aaahh) I really needed to see this printed again. Think I’m gonna print it on my wall now, so I don’t lose my clarity over the next few weeks!

  • Anne

    Love, love, love, Sarah. Thank you so much for sharing with honesty and insight. My partner and I are also high school sweethearts getting married on our 10th anniversary.

  • Kendra

    You’re air-guitaring in that last photo! I love it. Many, many congratulations to you and Wes!

  • Christine

    I was AT your beautiful wedding!! Actually, I am marrying your brother-in-law…Wedding planning does suck. We are having issues ranging anywhere from marriages failing in our bridal party (the last thing they want to think about is sharing in our wedding bliss) to crazy life schedules making planning pretty much a back burner. You were very fortunate to be such a supported and diligent bride! Any advice you can give on helpful stress-relief?? We, as you know, are 7.5 weeks out and it’s starting to hit the crazy part…