It has taken some time to figure out how to express our wedding planning experience. It’s like going on a life changing trip and then having people ask, “Well, how’d it go?” You have too much to say, and yet nothing you can think of seems to do it justice.
To begin though, it helps to clear up some reasons I was hesitant to share my thoughts for a while…
One of the thousands of messages sent my way via the online wedding industry was: “Don’t write about your wedding, it’s uncouth, and people may see you as an ungrateful or disorganized bride.” And Lord help us if people pass judgements on us based on old traditions and their own insecurities.
So I am slowly beginning to lay out what I learned in hopes to mold my ideas into a Buddhist-inspired wedding planning guide. I use guide loosely…how about: Suggestions on How to Not Lose Your Mind While Planning the Largest Party of Your Life While Still Remembering That You Are Focusing on the Beginning of Your Amazing Marriage. And Buddhism is Pretty Neat Too. I’ll work on that.
Here are some general ideas that I found did NOT aid us in planning our wedding. They will not make sense for everyone. You and I are different people, we have different relationships, so we’re going to have different wedding traditions. Take what you like, and ignore the rest. I LOVE feedback, but please don’t go all rainbow cake on me:) (What I mean by rainbow cake.)
Suggestions I didn’t care for…
1. The Proposal must always be a surprise, and if it isn’t, paint your nails.
Here is the approach Ben and I took: through some alcohol-inspired conversations, and a night where I stumbled upon the ring while looking for some wires for the Wii, I knew Ben was going to propose. Did that make it any less special? Of course not. Knowing ahead of time gave me the proper time-frame to process the idea of getting engaged. As Ben admitted later, the person proposing has months or years to process this giant idea and the person getting proposed to better decide in under ten seconds, or shit gets awkward. In the end, it still surprised me, and I was in good shape to say “absolutely”.
Now, many magazines told me that the benefit of knowing is the chance to paint my nails, hire a spy/photographer, and arrange all my friends to stalk us in the bushes for instant party time! My advice? Even if you know about it, you will be so full of adrenaline that you will forget what words you said, what the hell your nails looked like, and basically how to stand up (and we were on ice skates to top it off). All I wanted afterwards to was to be around Ben. I knew celebrating with friends would follow soon enough. Oddly enough, both our phone batteries died minutes after he proposed. So we couldn’t post anything or text anyone, and we were able to walk down Madison Avenue in blissful solitude.
I completely understand why someone would want to capture the moment or hug friends afterwards, I totally get it, and have seen some beautiful photos of friends’ proposals. And that depends on your personality. But I definitely don’t think fashion or your nail color will be the first thing on your mind. And all you really need is the person you just got engaged to.
Document everything, because it’s better to look back on it later than live in the moment. Oh and look pretty in pictures, damnit.
I learned pretty quickly that most advice online or in magazines is for presenting your engagement/wedding to the rest of the world and your future self, not for you and your significant other while it is happening.
This is not to say that I don’t believe in photography. I am super grateful for our gorgeous wedding photos from Kim. She and Dan were a huge part of our experience. It’s the other stuff that gets a bit questionable…
Here are some scary gems:
-Don’t wear a weird dress, you’ll think you look dumb in 20 years
-Photograph every moment and always look your best, people love how pretty brides are. Oh, and learn to smile in photos, no one wants to see that double chin.
-Spending money shows that you care about your wedding and your guests.
-Never get tense or stressed around family or bridesmaids, people will think you’re a Bridezilla.
-Be respectful of talking about your wedding too much (or at all to those not invited), it may upset people.
-Choose a date that’s best for every guest, and make sure they have endless information on how to get from point A to point B.
And my least favorite?
-Join a gym. Being in great physical shape will make you happier with your photos.
One of the ideas I want to primarily focus on in my writing, with the help of some Buddhist teachings, is the idea of living presently and compassionately. This is both to yourself and others. I have always loved the idea of “help yourself to help others and help others to help yourself.” It’s the version of the Golden Rule that makes more sense to me.
In wedding terms, being yourself and taking care of your health and mind will make people naturally celebrate with you. You want to work out? Great! Exercise is wonderful for you. You want to stop eating anything but green beans so you don’t have arm fat? Maybe rethink your priorities.
And being grateful and respectful to your friends, family, vendors, and guests (the same way you were to them before you were engaged) is all they need to feel appreciated during your special day. They don’t need their hand held, they don’t need proof that you’re pretty and organized, and they won’t judge you. If they are, that’s their own deal, not yours. They love you, which is why you are inviting them to your wedding. Your wedding is to give people a glimpse of the world you have created as a couple. And to eat a lot.
My wedding party has signed up to be indentured servants
Oh Lordy. Why why why? These people are your closest friends, the ones you want IN THE ROOM WITH YOU before you go take your wedding vows. They have agreed to spend money on a dress (or suit) they wear once, several expensive trips, and parties they are expected to plan. These are fabulous people.
I realized early on that having a bridal party was an excuse to get together with five very close ladies in my life and celebrate each other. They have cried with me on bathroom floors, gotten me home in one piece after parties, and celebrated each step of my relationship with Ben. You are blending your life with someone else’s life, and these people are a part of that. So have a drink, and don’t boss them around. Think of them as an extension of your constant party that is planning a wedding. Otherwise, the wedding will end, and you will feel stinky about being a jerk.
My goals was to make sure they were always a little bit tipsy on champange.
Everything has to be “Perfect”
I snort a little when I think of this word. A. Because I’m not sure what it means and B. It’s dumb. Life is never “perfect” and I prefer it that way. If life had been how I was planning it, I wouldn’t have been living with my parents the night I forced myself out of my moping stupor to go to Jenn’s party. I wouldn’t have met Ben, and wouldn’t be planning this wedding in the first place.
Stuff will happen on your wedding day and leading up to it. Money for your dream budget will not come through, your wedding craft project may look a little wonky (sometimes the wind blows when you’re spray painting tambourines and leaves get stuck on them), a guest you love has to back out, or something really hard happens, like losing a family member or friend.
Life keeps moving even while you’re planning, and it can be hard when your emotions are understandably in la-la land.
My advice? (And the basic theme of my book that will theoretically be written?)
Dream about how your want to feel on the day of your wedding, everything else (how it will look, who will be there, how everyone else feels) will fall into place. Figure out together how your thoughts differ, and find a happy balance.
I knew that when I imagined a “perfect” party, people would be so comfortable in their surroundings that they never want to leave. It was that feeling of nostalgia you get on a peaceful vacation. I’ve always had that feeling at the Jersey Shore, so that’s how we found Cape May.
Ben always wanted a Bar Mitsvah-like atmosphere of celebration, where everyone knew they could let loose, eat good food, and celebrate how much they love each other. And this is how we found the Chalfonte (they had famous fried chicken, we were sold).
All of the other options: colors, fabrics, flowers, clothing, were then flexible. If we didn’t have $500 centerpieces as high as the ceiling, would we be able to feel the way we hoped on our day? Yes. So screw it, we’ll make our own centerpieces.
I knew that physical distractions drive me crazy. So I didn’t get a corseted dress and I put flip-flops under our dinner table.
Also, since we are both in theatre, I expressed that I didn’t want our wedding to feel like a flashy production. We have enough of that. So we chose The Chalfonte backyard and made almost everything by hand.
It amazed me how all the ideas made sense by the end, and they all had a story behind them. We made friends with most of our vendors, and we want to return to the Chalfonte every year now. What more could you ask for?
Things did fall apart: my nails were totally chipped from arranging flowers, my body decided to shut down the week before, and it was 50 degrees days leading up to it. None of this ever mattered, and we still got married. And still felt nostalgic, relaxed, and ready to party the whole time.
So that’s a start for now!
My goal for writing down all my ideas in some sort of organized manner is to help any couples that feel the way we did about the wedding industry. There’s a lot of crap out there, and a lot of wonderful traditions as well. It’s all about finding what works for you as a couple, and enjoying the adventure of planning. At the end of the night, you want to be pleasantly buzzed, exhausted from hugging everyone and dancing, and ready to continue celebrating how awesome marriage is.
Clearly more wedding posts to come. This is just a start to get my mind rolling and write something down. Thanks for reading:)
Thank you to Helen for the awesome blog title idea. She is a thinker!
And all of the photos from the wedding day are by Kimberly Craven Photography. Check them all out at kimcraven.com!!