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Shana & Morgan

Every so often, a wedding graduate post has a line that just GRABS me, hard. And with Shana, it was this, “If you think this could never happen with your family and friends, neither did we. It could. Create it.” She goes on to say that you can’t expect it to be easy, but you can do it. And for me, that’s everything I think about life, and APW, and families, and all of it. Do you need it in a soul deep way? Than stop complaining that it doesn’t exist and create it. Add to that the way Shana laid the foundation for her wedding, and you have a woman so wise that I stand in awe of her. Shana, honey? Next time you’re in San Francisco? Drinks are on me.

Our wedding, like our marriage, had a strong foundation. A year ago before deciding anything else, I sat down with my cousin and a notebook and we created the wedding from the deepest roots. We began by imagining what we wanted each individual person to get out of being there.

At the top of the list was our grandmother. We imagined her beaming proudly as she sat back and took it all in, surrounded by the family she was responsible for and overflowing with a profound sense of how loved and appreciated she is. She passed away in January, eight months before the wedding, but I know she had that knowledge with her when she went. As for everyone else, I think they got it too.

These were the important things. Once Morgan and I were aware of how staggeringly awesome our community was, the roots were in place, and this determined the whole outlook of the wedding. “Do we care if this happens? Is it important to have that?” Our answer: only if it will contribute to what people get out of this day. The centerpieces, the décor, and the details were more important to our awesome Martha-Stewart /Bob-Vila relatives than they were to us, so we enlisted their creative energies and focused our attention elsewhere. Someone would say, “This will look nice, and I’ll have fun making it. Can I?” Yes! So what if we never used the gold spray-paint I bought to decorate rocks and sticks? The whole thing was beyond beautiful in the end, and way better than anything I would have come up with.

The wedding process taught me a lot of things, and one of the best was how to play to people’s strengths. Know what they’re good at, find out what they enjoy doing, and ask them to do it. If you’re coming from the right place, they’ll say yes. People want to contribute to you, so let them. Give them some creative freedom – let them know which things (if any) are non-negotiable, and let them run wild with the rest. Make sure they have fun – and company – doing it. I know my cousins had a blast at the wedding, but it was also about the build up, and the participation that made the experience of that day so memorable. I’m sure they’ll never forget the week they spent together sculpting pies, mixing cakes, scooping cookies and baking brownies for 200+ people.

If you think this could never happen with your family and friends, neither did we. It could. Create it. A wedding is such a remarkable opening to get people present to raw emotion. Ours was filled with love beyond our wildest dreams, so much that it physically hurt to say goodbye to everyone. I laughed so much on our wedding day that my cheeks hurt; I cried so much the day after that my eyes were sore. This was partly because we made sure everyone knew how much they mattered to us. We made it a point not only to thank people, but to really acknowledge them for who they are to us and what they contribute.

Do this, from the bottom of your heart. Thank people for the things they did, including the things you never even knew they did, and let them know it made a difference. (We discovered that thank-you notes are an amazing opportunity – people actually have to sit silently and accept acknowledgment, which we so rarely do.)

I’m making this all sound easy, but it wasn’t. Right up to the day before the wedding, we stressed and fretted over the balance of when to relinquish control, when to insist, and when to privately freak out with each other at how irrational people can be about weddings. There were so many times those last few weeks when we said, “What were we thinking? People should just elope!” But a couple of married friends said to us, “It’s worth it in the end. Trust me.” I didn’t believe them, but in the end it really was.

I can’t advise the world on how much money is worth spending on “one day,” but all that work was not just for one day. We created something long-lasting. We showed our loved ones, and ourselves, what they are capable of pulling off. It was one day, but we will remember it forever, and they will too. (We know because they haven’t stopped telling us so!)

Photos by Liesl at PhotoPink

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