Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sanity Check From the Other Side: It's Almost All Small Stuff

I'm so excited to share today's guest post with you all.  I first found A.Marigold's blog when I was looking around for other local women facing down the challenge of planning a sane Los Angeles based wedding. When I received her after-the-wedding guest post last week, I was hoping to find some Los Angeles-specific wisdom in her recap.  Instead, I received a post-wedding sanity-check that didn't discuss Los Angeles, vendors, or helpful how-tos at all.  And it was perfect. It was just what I needed to read. I read it over and over again, just hoping it would properly sink in and stay with me for when I need to recall it most. It's about what really mattered in the end, from a woman who spent a lot of time thinking and writing about the details and pretties and multi-cultural challenges along the way.  So please join me in welcoming a woman you may already know from her own blog or as Mrs Spaniel from Weddingbee. 

I think, if you're reading this blog, you already believe that your wedding should reflect your values, and not just because it's "your day." I thought that my wedding reflected my values, because I carefully chose where to spend and where to rein in expenses as much as I could, and where else are preferences revealed than in your actual budget? I hate to say I have regrets about my wedding, but very shortly after coming back from my honeymoon, I finally opened my eyes: my values and priorities were WRONG. I am going to tell you my experience and give you some advice. I know you won't listen to me, and that's okay, because I wouldn't have paid attention to this at all either.

I tend to think I am very smart, but I'm usually walking pretty blindly through life, smashing into the sharp corners of the hallway without really thinking about what I'm doing. Maybe you are smarter than me and can learn from watching me walk into walls. Or maybe you can laugh at what I thought was important because you already know that it isn't. Or maybe you can come back here after your wedding and say that you should have listened to me. Or maybe you won't come back here and say that, because invitations are totally worth half a month's rent to you.

I should say that I absolutely loved my wedding, and people tell me it was beautiful and they had a great time. I believe them. But if I could do it over, without the bright wedding blog lights in my eyes making me veer off track, it would still be beautiful, but it would look very, very different.

Starting with the most inconsequential, I put a premium on invitations. If I were to try to explain my obsession with invitations, I could say that more brides probably feel about their dress the way I did about my invitations, so you can substitute "dress" for "invitation" here, and you might understand. I will admit: I went a little nuts. I don't think I could have done more research on invitations if I tried. I loved them. I still love them. I have never seen a more beautiful piece of paper anywhere in my entire life than my own wedding invitation. Sure, most people throw them out, but I had a love affair with paper that wouldn't allow me to cheap out (though I did score a great deal for letterpress invitations... but "great deal" is all relative, isn't it?). But now, when I hear people obsessing about invitation details and getting upset that they can't have the paper of their dreams, it's all I can do to keep my advice to myself: your invitations don't matter. They may impress some people, and people may tell you that they are beautiful, and that will make you feel good. You may have the coolest, most creative invitations the world has ever known. But after the wedding, you will never think about your invitations again. They just aren't that important in the larger scheme of things. The important thing is that your guests know where to go and when to get there, and the weight of the paper you tell them on will not make or break your wedding day.

...And neither will your dress. It's not unreasonable to want to feel beautiful in your wedding dress. You'll probably be photographed more on your wedding day than any other day of your life, so why not wear something that looks amazing and fabulous? I couldn't possibly justify a high-end designer dress, but I was picky, and spent a pretty penny on my dress. I went with a mid-range designer that didn't exceed my budget, but I'm still not sure what possessed me to think $1,200 was a good amount to budget for a one-use dress. If my time machine were operational and I could redo my wedding, I would still have spent too much on my dress. But too much would have been way, way less. It is still just a piece of fabric, and you are going to look beautiful and amazing and fabulous because you are the bride (yes, that's actually true). It's actually not possible to be a non-beautiful bride, even if you're 20 pounds heavier than you want to be, your hair and makeup aren't professionally done, and someone spills a soda on your white gown. (Did I mention someone spilled a soda on my gown? It actually didn't upset me at all—much to my own astonishment—because I am never wearing it again anyway. Maybe I shouldn't have spent $1,200 on it!)

A few things stick out in my memory when I reflect on the best parts of my wedding. The toasts that our friends and family gave were meaningful and heartfelt, and I couldn't have planned or paid for them. Dancing with my new husband (the non-staged, non-choreographed, unrehearsed time on the dance floor) was my favorite part of the night. Sharing a table and a meal with some of my favorite people in the world, and knowing that they were putting out fires for me that night that I could never have delegated to a coordinator was priceless.

I think the details were beautiful, and I know that people noticed (some of) them. It was great to have a DOC who took phone calls from lost vendors so that I could attempt to "be present" (oh yeah, I failed. Don't sweat that either, because it probably won't happen). But it's not the stuff that I'll remember when I think of my wedding day in fifty—or even five—years. I probably won't go back to look at the pictures of my shoes or our rings, even though they are pretty pictures. I doubt I'll go back to pictures of my dress hanging in front of a window. Instead, I think I will remember the excitement, the nerves, the drama (oh god the drama), but mostly the love and support we received from the people whose love and support meant the most to us. And they would have loved and supported us if we'd invited them over the phone (though they might forget the date), if I'd worn an off-the-rack dress from the mall, if we didn't invite our extremely extended families and their closest friends to celebrate with us (even though they'd be angry about it for awhile).

In the end, I think that was really all that mattered. I guess food and drinks are still important because you want to be a good host at one of the biggest parties you'll ever throw, and I wouldn't trade in my photographer no matter what kind of event I would have hosted with the benefit of hindsight, because I love seeing this visible record and affirmation of everything I felt that day. But everything else? It was small stuff. It doesn't mean that I think you should ignore it, because wedding planning can be a lot of fun, and I don't think it's wrong to spend time or money on things you enjoy. I guess the takeaway is that if you don't love the way you're spending your time and money, then opt for keeping it simple, because those details (from the dress to the flowers, from the moment you wake up that morning until you leave your reception—everything except the part where you promise to spend your life with the person you chose above all others) are just that: details. When it's not fun? It means it probably doesn't matter. Don't sweat it. Let go. Let someone else make the decision, even, if you can, because it will make you both happier. Okay, now I know you won't listen to me. But at least I tried.

I'm listening, and I'm going to re-read this post on Saturday, just before I go shopping for a dress that I  really want to love, even if it might get spilled on. Thank you.


  1. Completely awesome. THANK YOU. I think I needed this. :)

  2. This is such a great and timely post. I have 7 weeks to go and so much to do and I know that there will be things that I am spending loads of time on, that won't matter in the slightest afterwards.

    Good reality check post!

  3. ahh! I LOVED this A! It's a realization I've come upon recently or more just a sweet simplicity- focus on the (few) things you love and forget the rest! :)

    And ALL: I just scored a FREE (yes free) dress that I LOVE through a trade with a vendor I often frequent. And not a time-consuming trade either. A "I'll give you this vintage dress (that I already own and never wear) for that vintage dress (that rocks!)" So keep your chin up- your dress is out there and within your means! :)

  4. "...so that I could attempt to "be present" (oh yeah, I failed. Don't sweat that either, because it probably won't happen)."

    Sad to read once again that it probably won't happen... but you're the first to say that it's ok. The excitement, the nerves and the drama are good too (and more honest) - so thanks, that takes a bit more pressure off. I will try not to beat myself up too much when "being present" gets overtaken by an emotional high instead.


    Forwarding this to my fiance right now, so he can remind me of this again and again and again for the next 2 months.

  6. "It's actually not possible to be a non-beautiful bride"

    This is so true. And something I need to keep reading again and again. I've been to at least 10 weddings, and I swear, it's true when they say that the bride (and groom!) glows. And it has nothing to do with make-up.

    (love this guest post!)

  7. This is a fascinating post, and one that is going to take some time to sink in. One thought for the moment: I think people are reluctant to listen to advice like A. Marigold's because it's disheartening to know, in a way, that you could be wrong in the end. That you could be putting emphasis on the wrong values.

    It’s hard to see this from the inside, when you’re in the trenches, battling away at the wedding. What is right? What is wrong? That’s why I appreciate posts like these, from the other side. I like hearing about the messiness and the doubts and regrets, because I want to know about it, I guess to psyche myself up. Thank you for the call to reality.

  8. Love the view from the other side! Thank you!

    I too bought a dress that, at 478 + alterations, still feels like I paid too much. I wish I could sell it and get a much simpler dress now, but oops! Hind sight is 20/20 and all that!

  9. Hee. This is very funny, because we all know that I agree more than a little with the essence of this post. But! Here is the thing, if I were going to pick a few details* that mattered for me I'd pick the dress and the invitations (and the wedding rings). I know right? The dress and the invitations? Really? But for those things it was all about the emotional journey that took me to them... And those two objects have the essence of our wedding all rolled up into them for me, forever, I think.

    And, for the record, I didn't spend a lot on those two items (how you spend is more important than how much you spend, yeah?) And I'm not sure anyone ELSE cared about them. I definitely didn't care what anyone else thought about them very much. But for me, emotionally? Magic. And visually too. I mean, eff me, that was a great dress.

    But anyway, I think it's interesting, and that might be a post brewing. Hum.

    And don't stress about staying present (because if you're stressing about staying present, your not staying present). But do go into the day knowing that is what matters. Because I was so so present during our wedding. Perhaps the most present I've ever been for a four hour stretch in my life. And I think that is part of what made it so wonderful.

    Your local devil's advocate,

    *I know, B, we're debating the best use of this word. Maybe we need to do a post that's a back and forth discussion of it.

  10. @Meg,

    I'm not going to speak for A. Marigold, but I think perhaps she's getting at what you're saying too:

    "It doesn't mean that I think you should ignore it, because wedding planning can be a lot of fun, and I don't think it's wrong to spend time or money on things you enjoy. I guess the takeaway is that if you don't love the way you're spending your time and money, then opt for keeping it simple, because those details (from the dress to the flowers, from the moment you wake up that morning until you leave your reception—everything except the part where you promise to spend your life with the person you chose above all others) are just that: details. When it's not fun? It means it probably doesn't matter."

    Replace "fun" with "emotionally important" and I think there's less distance between your devil's advocating and this post. Because it's so easy to get emotionally caught up in the non-emotionally important parts of the wedding, because they seem to matter at the moment. And what matters to you is different than me is different than her, and so on. And I think sometimes wedding details that we *think* are important actually lead us on ugly emotional journeys. And the important aren't necessarily related to price or how we've budgeted our priorities, but they are entirely bound up in "fun," "emotional importance," "personal journeys" etc, defined as feels right for you. And I'm finding that my more recent definitions are surprising me every day.

    Even if I DO think my dress will be important, I think this post helped me focus on why and remember that it's unrelated to cost. And it helped me try, yet again, to sort out whether my pre-wedding obsessions match with our post-wedding priorities. That's a message that I can't seem to read often enough.

  11. So true. Simply stated, be happy with what you do and how you do it at the moment and after the wedding.

  12. Aaahh! Thank you for this gem of authenticity and candor. What a great contribution to the World Wide Web of Wedding Planning.

  13. @Meg: I don't think you're playing the devil's advocate. ;) If you found something tangible in your planning that was relevant and that you really connected to, then you didn't waste energy and there's nothing to regret--we're not actually disagreeing with each other. For me, those two items turned out to be a little bit frivolous, but that's only because when it was over, I didn't care about them as much as I thought I would (they're my personal examples, even though I'm addressing it to a larger audience generally). I'm more reminding people to keep their heads on, because what you think is important might turn out not to be (as was the case for me).

  14. @ A Los Angeles Love
    Hum. I will say that I HATED HATED HATED looking for my dress. Hated it. Not fun, not cool, awful. Awful emotional journey. But the idea of wearing a more traditional dress made me feel like I couldn't breathe. So, when that happens, you keep on plugging. And it turned out that awful emotional journey was very important (and redemptive).

    @ A. Maragold
    It's interesting. I think you just have to go with your gut, that's the only way to sort out what's really important from what's really not. Becuase I think you are right - it's really hard to pick out what you're going to care about afterward.

  15. Hmmm... like others have said it is very hard to know what you will care about after it is all over. You gut is perhaps your best guide on what you are comfortable with in the eye of the storm. That said, speaking from the other side of my wedding, and reflecting on a number of your recent posts, *my* gut is getting the feeling that *your* gut is very uncomfortable with how much money is being spent and trying to justify the money and the details and everything else you want in your wedding is doing battle with the rest of your non-bride self. And all this has to be decided, verified, justified, discussed with your fiance in a very difficult emotional space. Eeek! wowsa! ouch! @$%#$@%@$^&!!

    From my own personal experience of planning a wedding in an expensive city, we eliminated soooooo much of the wedding fluff/expectations that we (our guts) were not comfortable with - basically all of it bar some flowers, a pretty dress, a 'cheese' cake that took all of 15mins to make, and some great food and wine. The only details that really really mattered to me (err... my gut) were my dress (a lucky steal) some buttonholes I made out of scraps of lace, and the flowers my mum and I put together. I agonized about those flowers. For months and months and months. Flowers matter to me. I love flowers. But on the day? What flowers? I didn't even notice them!

    Figure out what matters to you and your partner. Trust your gut. And keep reading all the wedding stories and posts found at places like A Practical Wedding to help you find your own wedding zen.

  16. Thank you for that. I have found a $400 dress. And, believe it not, I'm not happy with that price.

    Because with tax, and 2 fittings, etc, it will be more like $600. Even if i wear it 10 hours - which I wont - that would be $60 an hour. $60?! Not for me.

    So, I am really focusing effort to find a $199 that I will be happy with. After all, I'll be SO happy that day that anything I wear will look amazing. It's a one day, one time thing. And, I'll kick myself forever of I pay too much.

    The ring? We're paying a larger percentage of our budget for the ring - something I will be wearing everyday - forever.

    Money is one of the biggest stressors of marriage. And, we are paying for everything in cash.

    That means $29 invitations from Michael's and hand-made Save the Date postcards. And, Dollar Store vintage shake glassware for centerpiece flower-holders.

    We will love it. Everyone will have a fabulous time. :)

  17. I know this was written a while back, but I'm trying to find mind-clearing posts to center me on the week of our wedding. This is one of them. I love Marigold and A Los Angeles Love.

    I think that this blog is one of my favorites because it allows people to connect on a deeply emotional level to other people even if they don't 100% agree on the statements, they understand the sentiment. It's a wonderful break from the "pretty blogs" with loads of inspiration pictures. No offense to those of course.


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