How To Plan a Real Wedding

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My wedding fantasies included, but were not limited to, eloping with a taco truck after party in downtown LA, a three-day extravaganza in my Sonoma County hometown, going to Paris with immediate family only, and hosting a small brunch at our house. My fiancé offered his own ideas, which were primarily film focused and soundtrack based. My folks had an idea that included hymns, his were concerned about a Pulp Fiction themed reception. In the end, we decided to compromise our fantasies with those who would be footing most of the bill: our parents. We worked hard to make sure that our wedding was a reflection of our personalities, but we were also dedicated to honoring many traditional expectations of our families. I think this decision contributed to creating a planning process that our loved ones felt included in and respected by, and saved us all a lot of dinner table discussion headache.

My parents are religious, but we are not; we managed to connect with a Presbyterian minister who could create a sacred ceremony without a specifically Christian perspective. My fiancé feels strongly about music; finding a DJ that promised not to play his extensive "no" list was possibly the greatest challenge of the planning experience, but we did it. (To be fair, our entire planning experience was really easy, so to say the DJ was the hardest part is not saying it was very hard, after all. Just don't play "Blurred Lines," k?) When the music of Federico Fellini's films graced our cocktail hour, it was lovely for everyone, but especially fun for Kalen and his dad because they are obsessed with Italian film. We also knew that this was a precious time for our extended family members, so we created an evening that honored the multiple generations of relatives that came from near and far to be with us. To counterbalance all the formalities, we hosted a pizza party at our house the next day, and I wore my pajamas. It all felt right.

A few weeks later, I learned that a friend of mine was overheard saying, "We will NOT be doing that at our wedding," more than once during our ceremony and reception. I let out a short, loud laugh when I heard this. This is congruent with aforementioned friend's personality but also, who says that at the wedding? Did this person never learn the privacy-of-your-car protocol of wedding recapping?

I think most of us have a tendency to use other people's weddings as real-life sampler platters: yes, I want a bouquet like that; no, I won't ride in on a carriage; definitely more succulents; absolutely no burlap. I did it at every wedding I attended after I was ten-years-old. And I'll admit it... I created a Pinterest board before I was engaged. I know I'm not alone; not-getting-married wedding boards are among the most popular on Pinterest, which is a curious by-product of the billion dollar wedding industry's rise to world domination.

Sure, this commitment might be the bravest step you've ever taken, you might have hundreds of people watching, your family might be happy or unhappy, your uncle might drink too much, and your life may change forever after this day... but we have been conditioned, massaged, manipulated into focusing on the exact shade of cream table runners. Everything is screaming at us to make every detail magazine perfect and simultaneously unique. Learning that my wedding choices were on someone's "no" list, taught me that it isn't only something that the industry is doing to us; we are doing it to each other.

A wedding isn't defined by the flower arrangements, the officiant, the cake, or the prayers. A wedding can have none of those things, and I think we can all agree that it is still a wedding. I searched for the definition of wedding: "A marriage ceremony, especially considered as including the associated celebrations." Nothing said a wedding was defined by what the bride wears, or what the guests eat, or if there are guests at all. Zero definitions I found mentioned mason jars, photo booths, or flowers. There were no charts--anywhere--measuring one wedding against another or whether matching bridesmaids dresses correlated with the length of the marriage.

I looked through the internet and measured the most traditional wedding against the most untraditional. You know what is the common denominator? Love. (Duh.)

My wedding has nothing to do with anyone else's wedding, and vice versa. I had a semi-formal dinner in a downtown loft; you can have a three-day extravaganza that includes a tea ceremony and live animals, or you can go to city hall all by yourselves. You can whisper vows to one another alone on a cliff--or yell your vows together in the shower--without an officiant or any legal papers at all. How each individual couple decides to take this step for one another is nobody's business but their own.

I want to feel excited about the way my friend's wedding is gong to be different from mine, instead of approaching it as an opportunity to compare and contrast. I want to walk away saying, "I want a love like that," instead of whether the fire dancers were overkill.

This post was originally published by A Practical Wedding.