Friday, March 2, 2012

Our Wedding: Part II: The Philosophy

From the beginning I wasn't looking forward to our wedding -- I wanted to get married, but the thought of planning this huge, tradition-laden thing was not at all appealing. I'm not much of a romantic, and it seemed like an enormous amount of work and expense (especially expense) that I would be expected to not only do but be enthusiastic about. As I joked with Will, I must have missed the class that all women seem to go through where they just know how many weeks before the wedding you need to send out invitations. My sister-in-law had been planning her dream wedding since she was a teenager*, but I stumbled into it with only the vaguest idea of what was expected of me. I didn't have many female friends and had never been involved in the planning of a wedding before, so the more I learned the more aghast I was at the enormity of it all, lacking as I was in close female friends and relatives to turn to for support.

WAKnight: This somewhat understates the amount of forethought -- we'd had ideas about the church, the food and the band, and Rachel's mom had provided a lot of great suggestions. So even before we really started planning in earnest we had a general idea.

While the whole thing was still a hazy blur on the horizon in October we picked a date - the third weekend in May. After Thanksgiving we sat down with our parents and looked at a wedding checklist and time table that my mother-in-law had printed out from a bridal website. The list was soothing: I like lists, and the ability to run down it and see everything that could possibly come up clarified the whole process. There was a lot to do, but as we studied the list we realized that a lot of it was stuff we didn't care about (personalized napkins? engagement photos? DJ?), and things didn't seem quite so impossible.

Still, in early in January things came to head: I was feeling completely overwhelmed with the planning, and I just didn't want to do this whole wedding thing. Maybe get married at St Anne's Annapolis (the Episcopal church we go to) with a few friends and close family and have a buffet lunch at Treaty of Paris, or have a small ceremony at my family's church in West Virginia, Tomahawk Presbyterian, and have a nice dinner somewhere in town. Will, on the other hand, wanted a real wedding, and after some careful negotiating we decided that he would take the lead on researching and planning the big items (venue, catering, cake, priest, marriage counseling) and I would assist when he asked for help and take the lead on some things, like invitations and programs.

WAKnight: two things were important for me in this - having our relationship blessed and made official by church and state (which hardly needs a big to-do) and having a sweet party for our friends (which does). Because of the second, I wanted a medium-size wedding, because I wanted to share the day with the people who cared about us. So I was happy to take the lead on planning venues, clergy, and clothes.

Before I go any further I want to say that I cannot overstate how incredibly helpful, resourceful, and determined Will was about the whole thing. He did an amazing job and it simply wouldn't have happened without him and my mom. I can't comprehend how women can get married without their partners there to be genuinely enthused about the whole thing and help put it all together.

So we decided to stick to our original plan, which was to get married in my family's church in West Virginia, and have 60-70 guests plus the wedding party which seemed distressingly enormous to me but is apparently quite small. My family's corner of West Virginia isn't long on options, which made Will's job of researching a little easier, and my mom had a lot of contacts, so she was always giving him more places to call - a lot of businesses we thought about patronizing didn't have websites and we used a lot of phone books and word of mouth.

At the forefront of my mind throughout the planning was the feeling that being married is more important than the wedding, and this party wasn't the start of something new. It wasn't the first day of the rest of our lives, and heaven help us if it was the happiest day of our lives. We had been growing closer together over the course of our engagement and a ceremony wasn't going to change anything: being married for months and years was going to change us. As such we wanted the day to be an outward expression of the commitment we'd already made to each other years ago, and a way to celebrate our decision to travel together with our families and friends. It absolutely wasn't a day for me, and it wasn't even necessarily a day about us, but a chance to bring the people we loved together to have a sweet party, so they could get the public ceremony they craved.

WAKnight: The Episcopal Church's conception of a sacrament (following the judicious Hooker) is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." Our wedding was an outward and visible sign of the relationship that we had with each other, have with each other, and will have with each other.

And with that approach the wedding didn't become about having an over-the-top extravaganza but about including people and having a good time. We were flexible, and there was a lot of stuff we didn't stress over, and what we ended up with was incredibly personalized and meaningful. When I look back I have a friend or relative to attach to almost everything - my dad chauffeuring us, my mother helping me with my make-up, our friends and Will's parents singing in our choir, a cousin making us bouquets with flowers from my grandfather's garden, people from church helping at the reception, friends hanging out programs, my great-aunt making us kruscikis.

We studiously avoided bridal magazines, bridal shows, bridal websites, bridal shops, and anything with the word bridal in it (though I occasionally peeped into Offbeat Bride to pat myself on the back for not going too crazy), and let a lot of stuff go. We started with the checklist here: and pared down almost immediately - a lot of it simply wasn't that important to us, while other things like using the ceremony from the Book of Common Prayer, having our friends sing certain hymns acapello in a choir, Will wearing morning dress, taking 35mm black and white film, and having delicious food at the reception were extremely important.

Dress preservation? I was going to have the dress recut into something I could wear as a nice spring dress. Garters? Tacky. Gloves? Not in May. Jewelry? I already owned everything I needed. Tiara? Ew. Children's apparel? No kids at this wedding. Flowers? A few nosegays, an altarpiece, and some boutineers. Bridesmaid luncheon? Not happening. Bachelor party? Also not happening (we had a Joint Pre-Marital Dance Party). Save the date cards? Facebook for our friends, phone calls for our relatives. Groom's cake? The main cake WAS the groom's cake (I don't like cake. Maybe I should've rooted for a bridal pie, because I do like pie). Cake knife? Borrowed. Limo? Dad's 1963 Studebaker. Manicure? Go to the place in the mall by myself, to get some down time. Ring bearer? No. Flower girl? NO. Unity candle? Skip. Bridal portrait? Skip. And so on.

So on that thought I leave the philosophy of the wedding post -- next up will be all of the details.

*WAKnight: I am pretty sure my sister in law has been planning her dream wedding since gradeschool, actually.

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