Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gut Checks and Weddings

As a woman who never cared much about weddings or getting married, I had a clear vision in my head of what my theoretical wedding would look and feel like, if it ever came to that. My wedding would be a small, casual, backyard or barefoot beach affair. Unfortunately/fortunately, wedding planning was complicated by the need to account for Jason's clear visions too. And for the needs of our family and friends who matter dearly to us and with whom we want to share our celebrations. Darn.

Jason and I have been working hard to develop our own combined vision of what's important. We've researched and re-researched and talked over all the options ad nauseum as we attempt to craft an honest day that meets everyone's needs and our core desires. Of course, this has been hugely beneficial for our relationship and wedding but, paradoxically, it's also made clarity more elusive and difficult to achieve than ever. Although we're definitely on the same page now, our exposure to so many incredible real weddings and DIY ideas has somehow muddled our focus. One day we want fabric bunting, the next we want papel picado, the next day we want fabric draping, the next day we want vintage chic, the next we want bold paper lanterns, the next we want paper flowers the next we want pinwheels and so on. Decor, however, is not a major wedding flashpoint for us. We like the pretty, but we're willing to settle on something that's simply right for our site, our vibe, our budget, and our sense of DIY ease. In the meantime, it's just inspiration (for the wedding or our next party, whichever comes first.)

Or so I thought. I thought I was doing well keeping it in perspective. I though I was doing well keeping focused on our shared vision. I thought I'd learned to dismiss most of the blog photos as too-expensive-for-us, but nice to look at and adapt.  I thought I'd been able to view it with a clear "that's great for them" and "oh how pretty - for someone else" approach until late last week, when I made a birthday-present-to-myself jewelery purchase that's closer to my true personal style than anything I've been obsessing over in my recent wedding dress shopping. The surprising immediacy and strength behind my desire for that jewelery showed me all the ways in which this wedding inspiration has been more insidious than I'd realized.

I wasn't planning to make this jewelry purchase. And, I admit that I got a bit carried away. But I love bold statement piece jewelery. Purses, shoes and dresses are great and all, but jewelery is my true personal style love and weakness. I know about quality jewelery. And I know an amazing deal on jewelery when I see it. So when I happened upon an amazing deal (over 80% off worth-it designer jewelery) on a one day secret boutique at Rue La La last week, my heart skipped a few beats, I checked my bank account, and pounced.

I am a firm believer in the gut check method of decision making. And recent books and research tend to support this. It's almost as if, the more choices we have, the more paralyzed we become. It's (one of the many) reasons I hate going to the Cheesecake Factory, because their 20 page menu entirely stresses me out. I would far prefer an edited menu of quality choices, thankyouverymuch. Wedding planning is like the Cheesecake Factory menu on crack. It's endless websites devoted to options: some great, some awful, many mediocre, and a lot of reasonable compromises-for-now. It's how I end up choosing a cajun chicken pasta because I just have to pick something and it sounds tasty enough and healthy enough and dear god I can't spend any more time with the menu but, when I get home, I realize I had really wanted a lemon chicken salad. 

This overabundance of choices actually tends to erode our well-being and happiness with the choices we've actually made. That chicken pasta doesn't seem so great anymore when I'm wondering if I should have gone with a personal pan pizza or whatever. And our gut check is an important subconscious means of cutting through the analysis as we sift through the endless options to hit at the truth of what we really want. The gut check is actually a very sophisticated means of sifting through our amassed data, drawing on our past experience and knowledge, and handing us an honest response in an instant.* And our gut check mechanisms are often overwhelmed, the more research we do and the more options we have.

The jewelery I bought at Rue La La was my personal style gut check. My "I HAVE to find a way to buy this" response was a burst of aesthetic honesty that got lost somewhere along the way in this wedding planning process.  Somewhere along the way, everyone else's beautiful dresses and weddings have clouded what I've always known I wanted in our wedding style: a simple and classic base punctuated by bold architectural lines, strong colors, and modern takes on tradition. These are the aesthetics that make my soul sing, and somehow they've been clouded by the inspiration photos of beautiful dresses, locations, decor, and core elements that are stunning in their own right.  Just not for me.  And so, my gut check gasp upon finding the Amrita Singh boutique at Rue La La finally brought me back to my own authentic style. And I purchased each of the following pieces, investing in jewelery I know I'll wear and treasure throughout my life.

These are the sort of necklaces I'd always imagined wearing to my wedding. I don't have a dress yet, so I don't know if these specific necklaces or earrings will work with my future wedding attire, but I do know that this is the style that makes my soul sing. This is the style that I've been investing in for years, as I've saved up to buy one or two special jewelery pieces every few years. This is me, and this is what actually that feels right for my wedding, where my true self wants a simple-but-chic white dress, some killer colored shoes, a hairflower, and accessories like this that I can re-wear each anniversary, and any other time I choose. 

It's been so easy to get off track with the wedding. It's been so easy to get seduced by all the truly gorgeous dresses I've fallen a little in love with. But some part of me has always known they're not right. Some part of me knew my previous dress wasn't right when I sold it. Because, while the dress actually fit my personal style description (bold, architectural/interesting lines, modern take on tradition) I didn't really want that style in a dress. I want it in everything else. I want it in the pieces I can carry with me and re-wear after the wedding, in accessories that make my heart sing. The dresses may be most other brides' style priority but, given that I'm working on a limited budget that doesn't generally allow for dress amazingness anyhow (though lucky breaks can and do happen for some women), my true style priority is my accessories (which also fit with my desire to keep the wedding sustainable and less focused on single-use items or attire.) From here on out, I'm looking for a basic dress with a cut that flatters and material that doesn't feel too cheap, and for long-term accessories that make my soul sing.

I'm so grateful to have rediscovered that basic truth about myself, after being so subtly pushed in other directions by other peoples' wedding truths. I'm so grateful to have refocused myself on a simple-but-flattering white dress search. This gut check is helping me retrust myself again, and I'm more excited about the wedding again as a result.

*If you're interested in the science and psychology of choice (including an overview of the value of gut checks), I just listened to an excellent episode of Radio Lab devoted to the topic. I started listening to podcasts after Ira Glass raved about Radio Lab as the best thing on the radio today, and now I'd be hard pressed to decide whether I like This American Life or Radio Lab better. It's that good.


  1. oh ya, I can completely relate. I got a little carried away and for a time thought "I SHOULD get more bridal-y earrings, cuz other wise they will clash"... (WHY??)

    and then.

    we were out and I saw these AMAZING earrings- with perfectly bright and colouring stones- lotus silver shape and I LOVED Them. and spent WAY too much money on them. but they are perfect and I am SO excited to wear them.

    and so glad that I chose something that was right for me :)

    (ps- totally adore those necklaces and earrings! yay for coming back to YOU)

  2. my boyfriend introduced me to radio lab and i happen to like it BETTER than this american life. podcasts are one of the great inventions of our new century.

    and good for you - figuring out what you want and to just go for it.

  3. I think the moment that you allow your gut to make your wedding planning decisions is the moment that it becomes a fun process. We're planning a wedding out of state and I've learned to employ the gut-check in all manner of decisions to save my time, gas/plane fare money, and sanity. I'm convinced you cannot go wrong with this method!

    I picked my dress with a "something just feels right" gut feeling. There are days when I look at its picture and don't love it, but I know in my heart that because I paid attention to that feeling, it will be just right on the wedding day.

  4. By your description, I'm going to steer clear of the Cheesecake Factory. I always make the wrong decision when ordering if there are too many choices. My food comes and I realize I wanted something else. Ugh.

    I think finding those amazing pieces of jewelry was an honest wakeup call for you. We all get a little lost lusting subconsciously after other people's weddings, that we forget what our true aesthetics are. But a great wakeup call, like that beautiful jewelry is a great way to kick you back what is at the core, what you really want things to look like.

    I know you've had so much trouble searching for the dress, but I know you'll find something. By refocusing on your aesthetic and simplifying your intended results, you are bound to. I think any of those necklaces would look sensational with a simple, chic dress, just as you described. I definitely would look outside of wedding dress though!

  5. @Ms Bunny - I would be so uncomfortable in a traditional wedding dress. I'm definitely looking for something simple and white/ivory, and I've been happier around the non-bridal dress sources (department stores, style/deal websites, indie designers, "bridal alternatives," bridesmaid dresses, secondhand options, etc.) I'm happy to take any and all suggestions!

  6. Those pieces are so pretty...the type of necklaces I like. And good for you for treating yourself to something *and* being able to do it with a thrifty sense of reality. I am the same way...I make splurges once in a while but totally defend them because I look for great deals! :)

    Anyway, love your Cheesecake Factory analogy...it is so true that planning a wedding is so ridiculously overwhelming. There's just way too many choices out there.

    I have to say, now that it is over for us, I am so thrilled with how most everything came out. I have much to share with future recaps and feel like we did things on our budget with our style and our abilities...I can't stand when people refer to the sites like Style Me Pretty and Once Wed...they're gorgeous and amazing and all that, but I think they just make most of us feel like crap about whether or not we can afford or achieve that.

  7. This is such a great reminder to just listen to your gut! We started out this way on the wedding journey, we really honestly did. We plotted the feel and "theme" of the wedding over a bottle of wine two days after getting engaged and haven't looked back. But somewhere along the way the pretty pictures, the realization of just how many options there are made me doubt the simple gut decisions we were making. So for a few months I got lost in the endless options and drove myself nuts. I think I've found my way back (although now gut decisions are more a matter of necessity as I no longer have the time or energy to research) but I should've never left. The gut decisions are right, or at least right enough.

    P.S. will have to add radio lab to the podcast list!

  8. This post makes my soul sing. And it really has forced me to think about what makes MY soul sing through all of this wedding pretty we've been inundated in blogland with for nearly a year... (A YEAR!) No wonder we lose focus with what our personal style truly is and what it means to us as individuals planning a wedding. There are SO many beautiful pictures in wedding blogland, it's easy to lose sight of what YOU want. Speaking from someone who is 2.5 months away from the wedding, I have thankfully stopped cooing over and coveting the amazing DIY-chic decor presented in real weddings across blogland. One day you are going to decide exactly what decor you want. Then you are going to do it... and then you will be happy you even *have* decor to begin with. It's an amazing feeling just HAVING it. Just possessing *something* to decorate our space with feels so.damn.good. At this point, as long as it looks pretty TO US, and goes along with our wedding style (colorful, re-usable, re-purposed, personalized controlled chaos), then we're more than happy campers. And we didn't have to blow the bank in the process! YAY!

  9. GORGEOUS, B! Totally the right decision.

    I agree. The gut don't lie.

  10. isn't it so funny? we get so wrapped up in "reflecting ourselves" in the wedding because of damn blogs pushing us to... we end up reflecting what we've been reading/seeing. instead of just making choices like we normally would.

  11. I have issues with Radio Lab's styling - I don't love the overuse of layering sounds and voices on top of each other, if that makes sense. Makes all the pieces sound too similar to me.

    BUT, other than that, I'm on board, although nothing can take the place TAL has in my heart.

    And in a more related vein - YES on gut checks. Always. I do a gut check and then delegate if I honestly don't care about something.

  12. Thank you for this post - the Cheesecake Factory analogy is spot on. I have been really struggling with this as of recently. Trying to really boil down all the fluff to get to the core of what it is we want our celebration to be about, to look like, to include, etc.

    Before five months ago I didn't even know bunting existed. I've never believed in the need for a four digit wedding dress (for myself - to each their own!) and yet recently I spend too many hours trying to find ways to have the big designer dress that looks so lovely on this or that bride on this or that blog.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the little wedding blog world I've stumbled upon. I think there is a lot of great inspiration out there and it's been so refreshing to hear/speak with others who feel in similar ways. But it also just opens a big pandora's box too.

    And can I just say that the first necklace (blue and gold accents) is breathtaking - love love love!

  13. Part of the reason why, if I did it over again, I'd plan it in three months. I found that by the last two weeks I just gut checked everything, and couldn't be bothered. That's how I ended up picking our main course. And while the picky eaters might have hated it, everyone else is still raving about the chicken and cinnamon in filo. F*ck, it was good. And I picked my dress the last month too.

    I mean, if I have any real advice (since you're not going to plan it in three months) it would be as long as you have the main things locked down (which you're close to doing) just forget about the whole thing. Wait till one day you're walking around and your like, "Hey. That dress seems totally ok." And then just buy it. Whatever. The important things will appear, you don't have to go looking for them (hello necklace), and everything else? Well, if you don't care now, you're DEFINITELY not going to care after. And if Jason cares, it's going to show up in his life, or he'll go find it. I mean, f*ck it, right?

  14. Uh, yeah.






    / Thus concludes my summary of my reaction while reading this post.

    But seriously (SRSLY?). How much do I love that you compared the multitudinous wedding options to the Cheesecake Factory menu? Here's the thing I always think about a hefty menu like that: With the vast, broad range of items, there cannot be any one dish that they actually DO WELL. Such saturation dilutes excellence. With dining, as with wedding planning, I'd almost always much rather go to the hole-in-the-wall place that has a certain specialty and not much else -- say, a dim sum joint or a gourmet fry truck.

    Wow. My analogy is kind of all over the place.

    Anyway. I'm so glad you've rediscovered your true vision. And congrats on your stunning new jewelry!

  15. I totally needed this today. My gut and I haven't really been on speaking terms for the last, oh, 5 months. Time to fix that.

    Also, those pieces are beautiful!

  16. "this is the style that makes my soul sing"

    anything that does this, you deserve to have. more of wedding planning process should have this feeling.

  17. For one, those pieces are gorgeous.

    And, I'm glad you're truly finding yourself. I think planning a wedding is such a unique and fun process, and many of us get caught up in it, but as long as you're happy with your decisions, that's what matters.

  18. I have this habit of finding the one dish I like at a particular restaurant and ordering it every time I go there. It's not like I get that dish every day, so it never gets old and it never disappoints (and I don't have to spend half an hour trying to make a decision). Gut check decisions usually end up being the right ones for me, too. I'm off to listen to radio lab (love TAL but why does it have to make me cry every damn time?).

  19. Can also totally relate... there are so many choices that it's so hard to choose one thing - and you always see something else... I LOVE that first necklace by the way.

  20. I'm new reading this blog. LOVE the jewelry you got and really loved this post. I understand completely what you're saying.

    I wanted a dress under $500 and thought I'd get a colorful designer evening dress. Instead, I fell in love with an Ivory Destinations by Maggie Sottero dress that's $900-something. I'm just glad it isn't more!

    While I see beautiful dresses all the time, that dress speaks to me for the feeling it conveys. It's ethereal and has a sense of ceremony.

    I will either sell it afterward, thereby making it inexpensive, or I will donate it to a charity that resells wedding gowns for fund raising. Either of those options will make the expense sit well in my mind.

  21. Amen, sister girlfriends! I have completely shifted from blog participation to validation-by-blog...and then I remembered that the narratives of a done day are not the same as that during an on-going process. That has allowed me to stop judging my insides (as much) by other people's done outsides, and to just run my race. There's enough drama in the world already, without adding my over-stimulated brain to the mix!

  22. I *heart* Rue La La. And of course, this post. :)

  23. I totally agree with idea of going with your gut. Whilst I do research things thoroughly I am a sniper shopper. If it feels right, it usually is. Although I'm sure Bean disagrees.

    P.S. Your choices are timeless and heirloomy.

  24. Oh gosh! Who would regret purchasing those pieces?! If I have thos. I could wear plan shirts everyday and then wear one of them.

  25. I love your picks. And it is nice to have things from your wedding that you can wear again and cherish for the rest of your life.

    Too many choices totally overwhelm. Wedding dress shopping was a nightmare. So glad that's over!

  26. I still think you should stick with these! SOOOO gorgeous, so perfect with your theme and colors!! The blue!!


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