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My Wedding Is Not the Authentic, Personal Wedding I Wanted

How do I turn my perceptions around?

Q: Over the past year, this community has been a source of endless courage, inspiration, strength and support for me as I navigate through the minefield that has been planning my upcoming wedding for this June. After reading Meg’s book, I felt so prepared to grab onto this challenge with both hands and throw myself into creating a meaningful and personal event to celebrate our commitment to each other. It was going to be an intimate, outdoor, DIT inspired, community centred, joy filled day. I would wear my grandmother’s vintage lace wedding gown (which my mother wore as well), we would get married in a forest clearing near where I grew up surrounded by our families, and then we would all go dance the night away to the sweet tunes of an incredible Motown jazz band, enjoying good food, fabulous wine, and lots of stories and laughter. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

However, I prioritized the spirit of the day and my experience of this transition above all. I wanted to be centred and focused and authentic. I wanted each decision in the planning process to be budget conscious, in line with our families’ values, and, well, practical. I thought with this attitude I couldn’t go wrong, but somewhere along the way it became clear that budget conscious, kosher food meant going to a banquet hall, that community centred and in line with my fiancé’s family values meant three hundred people need to be invited, many of whom are complete strangers to me, and that with a guest list that size, my community feels overwhelmed by the idea of any moderate sized DIY project. Fixing up my grandmother’s wedding gown turned out to be more expensive and less flattering than a beautiful gown I found in a boutique. A day wouldn’t go by where someone wouldn’t complain about the bugs and wind and pollen and rain that may distract us in the forest clearing, and it has become clear that some very important people may not be able to make the hike in. In the blink of an eye my wedding has gone from authentic and intimate to the most mass-produced WIC-style wedding I have ever attended. I am so excited to get married, but I am starting to dread the wedding itself. When I think of the wedding coming up I feel so disconnected and sad—as hard as I try, I just can’t see any of myself or my partner left in this event we have planned.

So my question for you, Team Practical, is how do I turn my perception of all this around? All of the big things are booked. My fiancé keeps saying that it’s not too late, that we can add details that are more personal if that would make me feel better, but I just can’t imagine that party favours or invitations are going to change the way the wedding day feels. My friends and siblings have started saying that it’s just one day, and I’ll just put my head down and just get through it, and that I’m doing the right thing by making choices that are in line with everyone else’s expectations. But the idea that I’ve spent so much time (not to mention money) planning my wedding just to “get through it” feels like a terrible loss. I need something to change, whether it’s the wedding or my attitude about it, but how do I start making this shift so late in the planning process?

Host Of Practical Event Feeling Utterly Lost

A: Dear HOPEFUL,

It’s not you; it’s weddings. They’re just like this sometimes.

Often in weddings, vision pits itself against logistics. What looks really nice on Pinterest, often doesn’t play out in the real world, where unpinnable things like debt and rain and elderly aunts with bad knees factor in. But so it goes in life, right? I should totally have that couch I saw in that fancy interiors blog. Except for budget, the size of my apartment, and the cat who thinks all nice things are intended for his claws. Logistics get in the way of aesthetics a lot.

So for starters, I’m here to remind you that you don’t need that stuff. The forest, the DIY projects, the jazz band—all of those lovely bits that would look amazing on Instagram are things you don’t really need. Maybe it relieves some pressure to hear that? I hope? But, I’m sure it doesn’t take care of it all, because even though you don’t need them, it sounds like you really really want the pretty bits. In fact, it sounds a little like you’re equating the look of the wedding with how the wedding will feel. When really, you have no idea how this wedding will feel! (And it’s quite possible that fancy forest wedding would feel like a million bug bites.)

Weddings, like couches and everything else, come down to priorities. In your wedding, you prioritized three hundred happy family members (and probably saving yourself a boatload of drama) over an elopement. You prioritized guests’ comfy feet over a secluded corner of a forest. Those priorities are meaningful and personal, just maybe not in the way you intended. You picked them for your reasons, and they inherently reflect you as a result. Personal! More than that, this won’t be just like every other wedding, because every other wedding doesn’t have these specific guests and this specific couple. A wedding is unique because of the people, not the pretty. And big-box choices that personally suit you and your family (the people of the thing) are authentic. They’re not necessarily of the WIC.

That ol’ tongue-in-cheek term “WIC” gets tossed around a bit, and sometimes this little jokey term causes more stress than it alleviates. WIC is referring to those groups of people who make you feel like your wedding is less-than if it doesn’t meet a neat little checklist of “shoulds.” It’s not about a particular style of wedding, or size of guest list, or even price tag. This can come packaged in a giant banquet hall like you describe, but it can also come from subtle pressure to spend a whole paycheck on craft supplies or else your wedding isn’t “meaningful enough.”

It doesn’t sound to me like you’re caving to any arbitrary list of “shoulds,” but are instead making smart decisions that reflect your values, your loved ones, and your budget. A WIC wedding it is not. But yes, I understand that maybe this wedding sounds like weddings you’ve already been to, and you were hoping that wouldn’t be the case. Perhaps, despite everything I’ve said about people and priorities, you really wish you could also have the intangible sense of community that you imagined would come from things like making over your grandmother’s wedding dress. I can definitely understand that feeling. So let’s talk about that feeling, and how you can get it.

Your partner is right that it’s not too late to add some details. Think about those original, kernel ideas you feel like you’ve lost. Brainstorm ways to bring some of that back into play. You’ll be dancing in a room with three hundred of your nearest and dearest (and not-so-near-or-dear), but there might be other ways to have an intimate moment tucked into the day. Wearing grandma’s dress isn’t in the cards, but perhaps you can take a piece of it and make it into something to wear with your dress, or a hanky to carry, or a bow to tie around your bouquet.

While you’re brainstorming, dig through the archives around here a bit. There are so many beautiful, real weddings, and a bunch of them are under the “indoor weddings” and “social hall weddings” tags. Take a peek.

But, if the details of this wedding get swallowed up by logistics? Remember: there will be other parties. You’ll have so many other chances to have meaningful moments and pretty, pretty celebrations. The wedding is just the beginning! Isn’t that kind of the point? This is just the beginning.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! 

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