What My Wedding Taught Me About Myself

Lesley & Jason

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I got married on the last day of September. At that moment, I was two days shy of living with my partner for seven years. We owned a home. We cared for a dog and three cats. One of these cats was diagnosed with kidney disease while we were planning our wedding. We struggled to change his food and give him subcutaneous fluids. I started working for my family business during our engagement, which was difficult. My husband got promoted and moved to a new location at his job during our engagement. It was a time of great upheaval and change.

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Despite all of the chaos, we planned a wedding and it came together like a work of art. I loved it. It was, cliché as it sounds, the best day of my life thus far. There were many surprising moments. We were prepared to feel different about each other. I didn’t know how we might feel different, but I was excited for the change. Even if it felt worse at first, I was excited because I was going to feel different! I had explored many of the ways we might feel different. We talked about the possibility of feeling different endlessly. Weird family of origin dynamics could come into play! We could have ideas about being or having a husband or wife we buried so deep we weren’t even aware of having such ideas! We might feel closer and more connected! Anything could happen!

Except, nothing of that sort happened.

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I felt exactly the same. A friend at the wedding noted that we were just having a party to celebrate our relationship because we had already made our commitment long ago. When he said this, I knew it was true. I had set out to plan a meaningful ceremony. People were gonna cry and I was gonna sob. I knew it! I ended up with a thoughtful but humorous ceremony. I did not cry, despite being a person who cries almost daily at some point while listening to NPR. Some people told me later they teared up a little during some of the readings, but it wasn’t the no dry eye in the house scenario I imagined.

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Part of me was annoyed. I had that commitment moment that people speak of happening on their wedding day earlier in my relationship and I missed it. How did I possibly miss such a profound moment? I had no idea when this moment could have occurred. I literally did not even know where to start in terms of looking for this moment, and even though it was probably a series of moments, I felt that a least one of those moments should stand out.

There was a seed of change planted the day of our wedding. Here’s the rub, the change wasn’t about my relationship to my husband; it was about my relationship to myself.

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Planning a wedding had been work. I had been expecting planning a wedding to be work, so this was in no way surprising to me. In fact, in my easily driven to catastrophize everything mind, I was prepared for wedding planning to be a long arduous drudge followed by a wedding I might have conflicted, at best, feelings about.

Wedding planning had transcendent moments scattered through the work parts. It wasn’t straight drudge. The result of all the work was what surprised me the most. Just as I had been prepared for my relationship to change after the wedding, I was prepared for the wedding to be full of issues, drama, and stress. I had a rain plan, a prepared statement for any family members who got out of hand, and I was okay with the fact that if the cops had to come, the cops had to come.

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The worst thing that happened was that one of the bartenders didn’t tap the good keg of beer.

The weather was gorgeous, everyone was on their best behavior, and I had never, ever, felt so loved.

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But this isn’t a story about my wedding; this is a story about what comes next. After I realized that I had managed to pull together not only an average wedding (my initial goal), but an exciting dynamic event, I started thinking about other things I might be able to do. I don’t expect to have many days feel as magical as my wedding day did, but I decided I could definitely do a lot to improve my chances of having more magical days. So I quit working for my family because it had been making me miserable. I got myself back into school and will be going into a completely new field and in completely new direction. I had hemmed and hawed about going back to school forever, and I haven’t been a full-time student since the year 2001. I am terrified to return to college. But if I want a job that is anything more than marginally satisfactory I need better skills and a degree. The process of putting together a wedding made me realize it is time to put my other ducks in a row and get my degree already. I helped put together a wedding that was a reflection of my husband and my truest selves, and I want the other pieces of my life to shine out from that same mirror.

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The Info:

Photography: Zak Kelley of Paper Photographs / Venue: Camp Mary Orton / Lesley’s Dress: Wai ChingOfficiant: Obie Ford III of Hitched by ObieFlowers: Eco-FloraFood: Lavash CafeDay of Coordinator: Emilie Duncan

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  • Wow, thanks for this.

    “I helped put together a wedding that was a reflection of my husband and my truest selves, and I want the other parts of my life to shine out from that same mirror.”

    What a great insight to come from your post-wedding ruminations.

    Congrats on going to college!

  • anon

    “I helped put together a wedding that was a reflection of my husband and my truest selves, and I want the other pieces of my life to shine out from that same mirror.”

    Love this.

    And great dress!

    (edit: ha ha – obviously I am not alone in liking that quote!)

    • It’s a good quote. :)

      • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

        Agree with you both, and I also have to say I loved “I was okay with the fact that if the cops had to come, the cops had to come.” Yeeeeeeeeeah! Talk about a sign that you are planning an excellent party.

        • KB

          “I had a rain plan, a prepared statement for any family members who got out of hand, and I was okay with the fact that if the cops had to come, the cops had to come.”

          Best wedding plan EVER!!!

  • Manya

    Um, is anyone else overwhelmed by the coolness of this dress? Did you make it? Is it a silk quilt? It’s completely unique and really, really amazing.

    Ok, now to the important stuff: What a beautiful thing your wedding catalyzed! Thank you for sharing this thoughtful piece. I found that I missed my wedding terribly once it was gone. I loved it so much. It was this ribboned extravaganza of sparkles–a halcyon creative explosion of beauty and tulle and flowers and endlessly thinking about my sweet husband and honoring our love through ritual and ceremony and food and fun. It combined all of the things I love: food, fashion, beauty, poetry and crafts and rarely seen family doting on us…!

    And then it was over and we were back to smelling the milk. And I realized that for me to be truly happy I must have a major creative endeavor in my life every year . Last year it was an epic halloween bash. This year I’m launching a CSR platform at my company. Next year I might direct a play.

    How lovely that your love and your wedding led you to discover these things about yourself!

    • Also overwhelmed by the dress here.

      Manya, I love how you have decided to make happen at least one major creative endeavour every year. Genius.

    • Alexandra

      I was going to guess and say it’s a Wai-Ching, but I don’t have to guess, because I went to get you the link and her dress is the splash page: http://wai-ching.com/

      Coolest dresses, they make me squee a little whenever I spot them.

      • Manya

        Oh yes, I ALWAYS remark on these dresses. Truly unique design perspective and voice is such a thrill, isn’t it?

        Unfortunately (or fortunately) I will never again have occasion to buy a wedding dress. I say this because I never loved my dress, and it’s the one thing that kind of sticks in my craw about our wedding. I wish I had been in love with my dress and myself in it, so there’s still this part of me that looks at dresses and longs.

        • MDBethann

          Manya, sounds like you need to treat yourself to a gorgeous dress for one of your anniversaries. Who says only brides get to have awesome dresses????

      • Haley

        Seriously, those wai-ching dresses are all gorgeous. This ones seems Klimt-esque to me! Every time I see one I reconsider my wedding dress choice, maybe I’ll have to get one as an evening dress a few years down the road or as someone else suggested for an anniversary!

        • Anon still

          She makes kimonos too! That’s also very tempting to me.

  • MT

    Yay for Columbus weddings!

  • Kaitlyn

    Congratulations on your new path!! Wishing you all the best.

  • js

    I am still struggling with this, three months later. Not with the wedding being over because I loved it, I love my husband and I am so very glad it is over. But with the relationship with myself and what comes next. What will make me happy? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? After getting married, I thought some of the answers would magically fall into place and my life would make sense. Instead, my husbands’ career is soaring and I am left feeling lost. I also feel very normal after reading this post and I am very thankful for that. And your dress is gorgeous!

    • I’m with you, JS. I’m still struggling to get started three years(!) after my wedding. I found a lot of community while planning my wedding, and then I ran out of things to say on my blog, and have felt a bit lost. There is something amazing about having the opportunity to plan something that is intended to be so you, and have everyone ( or most everyone) support you in the process. After that, the time, the money, the community moves on. Unless of course you are magical like Meg, or inspired like Leslie.
      But thank you Leslie. This is a beautiful post and I’m so happy for you and your continued growth!
      I’m working on some new inspiration myself. If slowly.
      And also, Wai Ching rocks! I almost bought one of her dresses, but then made my own instead.

  • Bethany

    Finally a Wai Ching dress on a Practical Wedding! Beautiful, 100% unique and affordable (at least to me). I cannot recommend Wai Ching enough.

    Great post too! Good luck with your future endeavors!

    • Another Meg

      There’s another wedding on here with a Wai Ching dress, but I can’t remember enough details to find it and add the link. I’ll think on it. I remember because it was so beautiful I had to go to the site immediately.
      Edit: Found it!

    • meg

      We tend to want Offbeat Bride to have all the amazing Wai Ching brides, because, I don’t know, that’s Ariel’s jam! My sister in law wore one at her wedding though.

      • Alexandra

        I always wonder if APW and OBB occasionally have the same weddings submitted to both sites, and how that works out.

        Also, thanks to both these sites, I now recognize Wai Chings easier than any other designer, ever. I’m not complaining though.

        • Alexandra: We do, and out of respect for each other’s businesses, generally try to avoid duplicating weddings that have run on the other site first. :)

  • It is great how you suddenly feel you have to start “getting sh*t done” and suddenly you do, because you are a team, and you are capable of so much more.
    Good luck in your new chosen career, as well as all the love and joy and happiness in life.

  • I love hearing about life “after the wedding,” and it’s always inspiring to hear how many people took their marriage as an invitation to make big changes, conquer huge goals, and take leaps they may not have taken before.

    Good luck with your newfound path!

    (Ps-that dress is spectacular, as are your beautiful tattoos!)

  • Meg

    What a lovely post. This line rang really true for me: “After I realized that I had managed to pull together not only an average wedding (my initial goal), but an exciting dynamic event, I started thinking about other things I might be able to do.”

    As I’m a little ol’ month into my wedding planning, it’s wonderful to know that a sense of empowerment can come from the planning and stress and chaos! And more importantly, that it doesn’t have to be that way. Love the photos, too! Congrats!

  • Teresa

    I rarely comment on posts on this site but I LOVE all the empowerment and victory in this post and in this picture, and I wish you all the best on your new path. Carpe Diem!

  • Lan

    Lovely lovely lovely dress!! (and post too)

  • What a lovely post, and gorgeous dress!

  • meg

    Yeah, this is why I still run APW :)

  • Lesley

    DANG! Thanks for all your nice words, everybody. I am happy to report that two weeks in, my back to school adventure isn’t quite as fun as Rodney Dangerfield’s, but it is going well and I feel really solid about how everything is panning out.

    Also, as some previous commenters noted, my dress is a Wai-Ching and I loved it and it was so comfortable. Like, unimaginably comfortable. I am trying to find other reasons to wear it …

    • Jen Maz

      Lesley, are you still reading this? I am getting married this summer on Lake Superior – June 2014 and love love love your dress! I cannot afford a new Wai Ching dress and was wondering if you are willing to sell – lease it? I am all about recycling amazing things things on this earth? I am sure it is so special to you! If you want to chat about it email me at maziasz@centurytel.net Thanks!

  • Marina


  • I missed my “moment” too but still loved my wedding. I really love your attitude, writing and style. Congrats and good luck!

  • This is one of my favorite grad posts… ever. Thank you for that. And congratulations!!

  • Kristi

    I love this graduate post SO much. Mostly because everyone always feels this need to have it ALL together before they get married, which is not the case. Bravo to you for truly realizing the feelings and potential that your marriage has brought out in you. Going back to school is awesome. It’s hard at times, but worth it. I wish you the very best!

    oh, and ROCKING dress. :)

  • Is that Chrissy Wai-Ching I see? Badass.