Friday, May 31, 2013

Weddings: You Can Go Your Own Way

Wedding season is upon us! From April through September, brides and grooms all over will be tying the knot in all kinds of moving and lovely ceremonies. Parties will be thrown, family and friends will eat, drink, and be merry and it will all go by in a blur. This wedding season, two dear girl friends are getting married and I couldn't be more thrilled! Erin and Jillian have weddings in August and September, respectively, and I look forward to helping them celebrate. A little more than a year ago, I wrote this post about second weddings. I do not claim to be an expert on weddings, but that was a fun post to write, and I have been inspired to write another. Jill's been asking me questions and running things by me and I figured I would do another wedding post. Jill and Erin, this one's for you (and for all you other brides [and grooms] out there).

A disclaimer: I am no wedding expert. I've just done it twice and been a guest at a ton. What you are about to read here is my opinion only. I do not condemn anyone's choice to do a small intimate wedding or a big, lavish, traditional wedding.I mostly just think couples should do what makes THEM and not OTHERS happy. Also, sorry this is super long.

Tradition vs. 'Non-traditional'

There are hundreds of wedding magazines, TV shows and books. There are probably thousands of wedding blogs, websites, bridal shops, etc. When one thinks of a wedding, very specific things come to mind. White dress. Cake. Flowers. Music. Food. Dancing. This is because Americans have been doing weddings pretty much the same way for ages and ages. In fact, there are whole websites dedicated to 'doing it right.' The Knot's links down the left hand side are a handy, built in checklist, so as not to forget one single thing. Part of the struggle for modern day brides (and grooms) is figuring out the perfect wedding day. Many women have had their perfect wedding planned since they were little girls, right down to the most minute detail. Others get engaged and think- 'oh shit, now I have to plan a wedding. What now?' For the not-already-planned wedding for the not-so-prepared bride, planning is extra tricky. There's the desire to please everyone, including yourselves, the pull from society to "stick to tradition," and the voice in your head screaming "elope! elope!." Friends, family, strangers, Martha Stewart; everyone's got an opinion. I am here to remind you that the only opinions that matter are the persons* getting married. 

*I am trying to shy away from just "the bride and groom" because weddings can be bride and bride or groom and groom and I want this post to be applicable to all couples. Love is love!

My first wedding held to many of the traditional components. White dress, tuxes, flowers, church, food, music, etc. Even then, we cut some corners and tried to save money (more on this later). My second wedding could not have been more different. I liked the second one better (for a multitude of reasons). Not to discredit the fun and style of my first wedding, but this time around, we were so much less stressed and less broke afterwards, and so were our families. I got married in a purple cocktail dress in the living room of my in-laws' house with about 12 people looking on. We had some cake and champagne, but no meal served, no reception (a champagne brunch came months later) and after the wedding we got drunk with my new siblings-in-law at a bar downtown. The only "traditional" aspect was that my priest was there to do the ceremony. Ethan and I even wrote our own vows. When I tell people my wedding story, many times I hear "I wish we would have done ours that way." Most people are happy with the way they did theirs, but they always have an "I wish this hadn't happened" or "I wish we'd done xyz differently" or even "the whole fucking thing was a nightmare and we should have eloped." Why does something that's supposed to be such an amazing, magical, beautiful day bring so much stress and anxiety to people? Why does there have to be "tradition" at all? I think if a couple wants to throw a huge, lavish, fancy wedding, go for it. Their friends and family should be supportive and engaged. If a couple wants to pull a MacDougal and go super simple and intimate, than they too should go for it. Don't worry about adhering to strict traditions; worry about what will make you the happiest. Here are some ways to 'break the mold.'

I am not talking about color schemes and making sure napkins match everything else
(though, go crazy- patterns, plaid, whatever you want!). I am talking about a dress that's not some variation of white. About bridesmaids dresses in different colors. I wore a short, purple cocktail dress. It was fancy, but it certainly is very different from my David's Bridal wedding gown from the first wedding. A few people said to me "you're not wearing a white dress? You have to wear a white dress, it's a wedding!" No. You do not HAVE to do anything you don't want to. I felt and looked so beautiful that day. Wear whatever color you want. A friend told her bridesmaids initially to wear whatever they wanted. They were all completely confused and needed to have actual bridesmaids dresses because "it's just what you do." They did end up going for coordinating dresses, but they will all be in different colors. It is going to look amazing.

Looks black here, but it's a dark purple. I didn't even wear tights!

Picnic. BBQ. Potluck (gasp! did she really just say "potluck" in a wedding post?"). No food. Vegan. Gluten free. Food can be one of the most expensive aspects of the wedding. The expectation is that there will be a meal. We had finger foods, but no official meal. I think my own was the only wedding I've been to where there wasn't a meal. And while I've never been to one, I LOVE the idea of a potluck wedding. The invitation could read "we love you and we love trying new things, so please bring a small dish to share!" The RSVP could have them check off "entree, salad, or dessert." (If you did this or went to a wedding where this was done, please share in the comments!). Also, with so many dietary restrictions people have, I would not have even known where to begin with regard to food. I've heard of food for a wedding ranging from $50- $250 PER PLATE. And special dietary needs often cost MORE. Be creative! Certainly, if you can and want to serve surf & turf, do it. But if you and your future spouse LOVE pigs in a blanket, pork rinds and beer, SERVE THAT. Be sensitive to your guests' dietary needs, but the food at your wedding does not have to be limited to beef, chicken, fish or pasta.

A reminder; I got married in the living room of my in-laws' beautiful home on Portland's West End. A living room where we spent a lot of wonderful time. To us, it felt right. I've been to weddings at hotels, lodges, cabins, churches, community centers. Fall in love with some place, and do it there. I wanted God to have presence at our wedding, but I didn't feel like we needed a church. A priest in the living room solved that problem. Make it personal and special, then fit everything else in around it. Doing it the other way around (how many people, then find the space big enough to fit everyone) may lead to having the wedding in a generic spot that doesn't mean much to you as a couple.

Don't feel the need to immediately plan and leave on a honeymoon. If you've just spent tons of time and money on a wedding, you should not then feel as though you need to spend more on a honeymoon (unless you really want to). We took our honeymoon vacation months later when it was warmer out. We were 35 minutes from home, spent little money and had the time of our lives.Here in Maine's frigid climates, a lot of couples who marry in the summer take their honeymoon in the winter and travel to someplace warm. That's like, double the bang for your bucks!

The moral here is this: do what  feels right.


Recently on Pinterest, I found this:

Who decided this?!
Weddings can be outrageously expensive. There are even TV shows about the most expensive weddings. While I have never asked any one what they spent outright, I've heard numbers ranging from a couple hundred dollars to over $30,000. A friend's sister spent $5000 on her dress ALONE. She loved it and looked wonderful, but that number makes my head spin. Likewise, what if one or both families are not in a position to contribute financially (see: Maria's Dad)? I think a better checklist would be made by each specific couple. What do we really want, and how much can we spend? Do we need to ask family for help or can we do it ourselves? A bride or groom should not feel guilty because traditionally certain things are done by one side or the other. And have people forgotten that by getting married, a couple is joining their families? Why do there have to be 'sides?' Do what you can afford. At my first wedding, we did cupcakes instead of cakes because it was way cheaper and easier.  If you have the money to spend and want to throw a giant party for your wedding, by all means, do that! But that should not be the expectation for all couples. Some money saving suggestions:

Buy a used dress/rent a tux. If you both aren't totally attached to the idea of buying new wedding garb, rent/buy used. No one has to know if you don't want them to, but I hear this is becoming a trend. Take "something old" and "something borrowed" and run with it.

This sounds terrible, I know. BUT. Your wedding should be about you and your partner and who you want to have there. It is easy to get caught up in "if we invite so and so, then we also have to invite this person and this person and this person." If you don't want certain people there, don't invite them. This will save money and your sanity.

Find interesting things on Pinterest you can make yourself, look for Dollar Store finds, up-cycle and recycle, etc. You'll be doing your wallet and the environment a favor.
I could ramble on forever about this, but I will spare you the rest of my opinions/non-advice for another time. There are two weddings this summer that I'll be going to, and I couldn't be happier for either couple. I hope this post gives the stressed brides a chuckle, and maybe inspires other brides-to-be.

Happy Wedding Season!