Wedding 101: My Final Thoughts

I find it funny when newlyweds say things like, “I LOVE being married!” It’s like marriage is some state of being rather than merely a legal recognition of a present fact, as if the relationship underwent some substantial change just because of the “I dos.” I can’t speak for Shaun, but I honestly feel no different than before our “I do’s.” That could be because we didn’t say “I do,” we said “I will” [a completely deliberate move on my part – I “do” is present tense, I “will” signifies long-term intent], or it could just be because the only significant changes in our relationship are the lightweight titanium band Shaun now wears, our little “license,” and our Facebook relationship statuses.* Now, I do LOVE being in a relationship that our friends and family publicly condoned at a huge party, so if that’s what “I LOVE being married” means, I’m down. Looking out from our table at all of our family and friends that day was one of the best moments of my life. Which is why, despite some of our darkest desires, I’m glad we didn’t ultimately “screw it and elope”** like we often wished we had.

In fact, looking back two months later, I’m truly happy with our wedding. Shaun and I pulled off a 120-person party. We planned every detail ourselves. I’m really proud of us. But what gives me the most pride is that we pulled it off and didn’t lose our personalities. I truly think our identities were apparent in the details, even the tiniest ones no one would notice. Nothing was accidental. Nothing was there solely because it was pretty or elegant or “matched.” Like the music: the cocktail hour playlist was a carefully-curated collection of songs from every mixtape we ever made one another. No guest could have known this, but every time a song came on it was a reason for the two of us to share a smile. Or the cake: baked by a bakery that was always on our Saturday-morning walk route, not by the random caterer provided by the venue. Or the venue itself: a music hall where we spent so many incredible Charlottesville nights. It was our way of not only sharing what we loved about one another and Charlottesville with our guests, but also allowing every moment of a hectic day to be a private moment for just the two of us. We didn’t want a frou-frou, impersonal “wedding.” We wanted a party to show everyone who we are as a unit. I think we did that.

That’s likely why a recent article in Slate, “Why I eloped and you should, too,” rubbed me the wrong way. The author’s arguments against a “wedding” are as follows:

  • A marriage is supposed to be your day, and having a wedding takes away from that.
  • Weddings are expensive.
  • Weddings are more “pageantry” than “sincerity.”
  • You lose a year of your life to planning. It’s basically a full-time job that costs money rather than earns it.
  • “Every detail takes on importance” from the color of the envelopes to the style of the font, which the author claims sends the bride down a “tulle-lined rabbit hole.” She gives the example of obsessing over catering – when you never get to eat it, anyway.
  • When disaster strikes [and it will], it will be the only thing you can remember about your wedding day.

But honestly, a “wedding” doesn’t have to be this way, and ours wasn’t. Our wedding was our day. There just happened to be 120 other people experiencing [many for the first time] tons and tons of things we love about each other and our life together. We, and our vendors, made sure of that. That’s my first piece of advice: your wedding vendors should become your friends. They should know so much about you that they understand the choices you’re making on a very personal level. Ours did. Collean, the coordinator at the Jefferson, knew the bands we loved and surprised us with autographed posters in the poster cases in the hallway. Our DJ, Jason, played a song for us in the middle of the night to remind us to take a moment and relax. Considering we were the only two people in the theater that knew the words, it was certainly our time.

Our wedding wasn’t “expensive.” In fact, it was well below the average cost for a wedding of its size.*** Even better, we ended up making it out a little bit under our budget, too. We also didn’t lose much of our lives to the planning process, save for the week before. This is partly because we’re extremely neurotic, and honestly partly because of how personal everything was. We didn’t spend hours interviewing potential vendors – we just picked what we loved in Charlottesville. It made things really easy. Our cake, caterer, florist, and DJ were solidified almost a year out without any snags. We approached it like planning a party, which took off a lot of the pressure that I’ve seen some people crack under during the planning process.

And, I’m sorry, there was no “tulle-lined rabbit hole” down which I fell. There were a lot of lists, a lot of Google Docs, and a lot of hours on Etsy, but details weren’t “obsessed” over. That’s because I had a partner in it all, and that’s my second piece of advice: do it together. It’s your day, plural. Shaun and I found a method that worked for us and we stuck with it. Generally, we’d split up the to-do list, each do our research and send each other 2-3 different possibilities for each piece [i.e. design of programs or escort cards]. We’d talk, make the decision, and hit “buy.” There were things Shaun felt more strongly about and vice versa, and we communicated very clearly. And I don’t even remember the font we used. Third piece of advice? No one gives a shit about the font you use.

Finally, if you don’t get to eat at your own wedding that’s just silly. Remember, befriend your wedding vendors? The C&O put together two plates of food and had them at our table before we even sat down. They even made them special for us – mine had vegetarian foods and Shaun’s had all the meats. They told us to relax and eat and they would take care of everything – and they did. We still got to talk to people throughout dinner, but we also had a moment to chow. My fourth piece of advice: have lots of quiet moments. Just take a few seconds and breathe. It’s really, really, easy.

I don’t mean to say there weren’t any snags in our wedding planning or on the day itself. There were.

  • Our DJ backed out. Luckily, he was amazing and found us another amazing DJ well before it was time to worry.
  • My wedding dress alterations were a bloody, terrifying disaster. I mean disaster like, dropped off the dress in March, didn’t get it back until the week before the bar exam, tailor shredded the shit out of it, almost made J.Crew buy me a new dress disaster. Charlottesville J.Crew, I hope you’ve replaced your tailor by now, side note.
  • We had guests who RSVP’d not show up. One gave us warning, one didn’t [even though other people knew they weren’t coming, still don’t understand]. It’s kind of like throwing money into the toilet and flushing it.
  • We had guests show up who weren’t even invited. NBD, thanks to the people above, though. My dad was convinced this would happen, and I kept telling him it wouldn’t because I didn’t think people do those things, but dad, you can say “I told you so” now.
  • Oh yeah, we had to take the bar exam in the middle of it.

But those disasters certainly aren’t the only thing I’ll remember about my wedding. In fact, I hardly remember them now, nor did I care much that day. What I do remember is hearing “Love and Some Verses” by Iron & Wine playing as my girls walked down the aisle, having a pow-wow after the ceremony and Shaun giving a speech to our bridal party, getting in the photo booth 1,000,000 times [often uninvited, sorry friends], dancing with everyone, and walking out of the Jefferson at the end of the night and seeing all of our friends sitting on the patio at Blue Light Grill, screaming. I’m sure some people would let the disasters overpower those moments, but I just can’t. They’re so, so special. And so freaking awesome.

So no, I don’t agree with her article. Weddings aren’t for everyone, but weddings don’t have to follow one format, either. They don’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be a show, and you don’t have to lose yourself. My final piece of advice? Just have fun. If you don’t, none of your guests will, either! I had so much fun, not only on the actual day, but also while planning a huge party with my best friend. I can only hope everyone had as much fun as we did. And that’s my last word on the matter.

If you’d like to see a few of our wedding photos, here is a link. Give a huge cyber-hug to Joyeuse Photography for those. She put up with a crazy bride and groom, their crazy friends and their awesome guests and put together a beautiful, beautiful album! It’s a great gift to have.


All images in this post (c) 2012 Joyeuse Photography.

* And the marriage penalty from the IRS, of course.

** Elope, in the way I use the term, does not mean “run away and secretly marry without telling anyone.” It simply means have a tiny, impromptu wedding either just the two of you or with a few close friends.

*** I did research to confirm that our wedding was in fact almost $14,000 cheaper than the average 120-person wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia. Because I don’t feel like divulging how much we really spent on our wedding [who cares!!], you’ll have to take my word rather than read the article. Or track it down yourself.


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Categories: C-Ville, Wedding


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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