I remember when I was in high school this chick sidled up next to me and asked, “Want to see my wedding book?” What the hell is a wedding book I wondered to myself. She was barely an acquaintance but I was curious so I nodded. She pulls out this gigantic 3 ring binder full of pages cut out of wedding magazines (that I did not know existed until that day), diagrams, venues, destinations and the whole shebang. She was so proud of it and so excited. I don’t know if she was engaged or not because after that I avoided her like she was some crazy lady from the park who talked to pigeons and aliens.
Maybe this is because I had never been to a wedding in the US. I was nine when my mother married my stepfather and they went to the courthouse. She insisted on wearing a wedding dress but it was them, a witness, a judge and that was it. She went to a friend’s house and they took photos with their cameras and I don’t even know if they went out to eat. I was not a part of it so I have only seen photographs.
I had been a bridesmaid in only one wedding ten years prior to my own wedding, I had just attended my then fiancé’s sister’s wedding the year before so I really had no idea what I was doing. I had some ideas of what I wanted, ran them by him who said, “Fine with me” and found out the hard way all the traditions that entail a US wedding. My wedding might be considered a “failure” by traditional standards, but in the end, we were married and we celebrate 20 years in September!
My husband asked me to marry him in February and then asked if I could get the ceremony together by September. I thought, shoot I don’t need that long, all the while people around me insisted it took at LEAST a year to plan a wedding. That was my first lesson in weddings. LOL Luckily I had very simple expectations so it turned out okay. While I never dreamed of my perfect wedding, I loved nature and my inclination was to be married outside with real flowers in my hair and barefoot walking on the grass. I guess I am a hippy inside. In the end my wedding did not look like what I had envisioned. In my head I had something like this:
I wanted to be outside, I wanted to dress simply. I wanted to just have a few friends and family witnessing the union and then eat and drink and party. I didn’t know anything about weddings but this is what I wanted. My parents were poor and I soon found out all the traditional things about US weddings. The first hard lesson was that everyone was expecting my parents to pay for EVERYTHING. I had planned to just do it with whatever money I had lying around and maybe my next paycheck. That seemed to make sense to me. Now I know some people take out a second mortgage to afford their daughter’s wedding? Yikes.
As I planned the wedding, everyone had something to contribute whether I asked or not. I truly was naive and kind of stupid now that I think back on it. I knew I wanted to get married in nature but learned you can’t just to to any field because people owned that land and they were not there to just lend it to you. LOL So, I got married in a public park. Valle Crucis Park was someplace my then fiancé and I enjoyed biking, walking and hanging out in, so it seemed to fit the bill. The town said they had never had a request like this so they charged me $100 (I realize now it is a steal but back then I thought it was a lot. Somehow I expected to use it for free cuz it’s a public place – told you I was naive and stupid).
So, we got the “venue” and I started looking in thrift stores for dresses and being 5ft 1 and chubby I felt I would not look good in any of the dresses that were available so I figured I would go to a department store and buy a prom dress or a “church” dress that was white or ivory for $50 on sale. When my co worker heard about that she lost her mind. She was super sweet and meant well and probably thought I was just some poor uncultured swine that needed help. So she took me to David’s Bridal where they sold “discounted” wedding dresses. Holy, crap – $400 was discounted? That was a lot of money to me and I knew I would only wear this stupid dress ONCE so it seemed wasteful. But I did not speak up and she did help me pick out one that looked decent on me. I spent another $75 having it altered to fit me. Ugh. I will say that I did sell it years later for $200 so I did recoup some of the cost. Some people were horrified when I refused to put the dress in a box and save it for my future daughters that I did not know I was even going to have. I certainly did not want to wear my mom’s dress why would any kid want to wear mine? God, I hope my kids are not 200 lbs with size D breasts for THEIR sakes. LOL
I didn’t even know you have a “color theme” for the wedding and someone MADE me pick one. So I said my favorite color is green. JoAnne was with me at a bridal shop and saw a flower printed bridesmaid dress on sale and asked if that was okay. It was lovely and something she could wear again often and I told her to go for it. So then I based my “wedding colors” on that. =) Then my sister borrowed a dress from her friend’s mom. It needed hemming but it had green in it. K had two young kids so I bought her a dress from an online discount boutique so she did not have to spend money on it. I did not care about the length of the dresses. JoAnne made the cute flower fairy dress for K’s daughter and the ring pillow for the Ring Bear. Yes, he wore little bear ears on his head. LOL I wanted to be barefoot and asked everyone to just wear whatever shoes they wanted. In the end we all wore shoes because my future grandmother in law owned a shoe store and she was horrified I would want to be barefoot. She generously bought the entire bridal party flats (I can’t wear heels). I had a man of honor and he simply wore a tux with a green vest and I was done. Since I had a small town hair dresser whom I had known all my life she did my hair and she did all the bridesmaids’ hair. I can’t even remember if she charged me. That may had been a FAIL on my part. We are still friends so I think it turned out okay. I did not want a bachelorette party and my then fiancé did not want a bachelor party so we just hung out on the porch of the cabin we had rented and had wine and just visited. It was lovely and happened spontaneously. I could go on and on but my point is that I had no expectations so we just hobbled it together.
Some people that had been in traditional weddings most likely thought my ideas were tacky and some tried to force their beliefs and ideas on me. Other people said I should do whatever I wanted to do. I was so torn as I wanted to include his family and still stay on budget. I got the guilt trip from in-laws who felt a church wedding was the way to go. I was able to thwart that but I felt the pang of guilt as they showed their disapproval. They did not even regularly attend church but they still felt like they could judge me. They did not even ask if I was a Christian. I was an atheist then and I’m an atheist now, not that anyone cared to ask. I wanted the sun in my hair and wind flowing across my dress and feel the grass beneath my bare feet but the some insisted that a tent was necessary in case of rain and to shade people from the sun. It was a $1200 rental. I relented and then I had to get married next to a stupid support pole.
About the only thing I really got to do that was on my list of wants was having fresh daisies in my hair. My fiancé’s aunt was a florist and she generously made my bouquet, all the boutonnieres and gave me all the daisies I wanted for the recycled bottle vases I had on tables and to make my crown. The only thing she suggested was adding a few different sprigs of flowers in the boutonnières so that they were distinguished from others. That was great advice. She saved me so much money! She was gentle and kind with her suggestions. I hope I showed her enough appreciation for all she did for us.
Honestly, the whole wedding planning and execution was very stressful and I wish we had just eloped. Don’t get me wrong, there were sweet moments too like my father and daughter dance. I will never forget Daddy holding back tears as I quietly sang along to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” in his ear. I think that was the first time I told him he was my hero. K’s little boy loved my husband and begged to go with us when we left the wedding. He didn’t understand why he could not come too. So adorable! Luckily my amateur photographer captured that moment in a photo. K’s daughter was our flower girl and she was wearing a beautiful little fairy outfit and charming the hell out of every person she talked to. She is such a wonderful soul. Because it was a public park, there were kids biking across our area and people gawking from the walking trails – I thought that was lovely. They were looking on with warm looks on their faces so they were welcomed of course. I would have even fed them but I was pretty sure that was a faux pas so I resisted. I loved that my best friends and my sister were in attendance and not a single one of them ever pushed their agenda or ideas on me. We are all still friends and for good reason.
Most weddings last all of a few minutes. Yes, everyone has their own ideas but you know, I say keep it simple and surround yourself with people who are not going to force their ideas on you. In total, I spent every cent of the $5000 my mother gave me. She had intended this monetary gift to be uses for my wedding and a down payment on a house. Yes, she thought that amount of money was enough for all that. For her that was a huge sacrifice and a very generous gift. She was very disappointed when I spent it all on the wedding. In hindsight, I should not have spent it on the wedding. No one danced on the dance floor I was told to rent. No one ate the food I was told to have at a 2:00pm reception. I gave it all away to friends, family and then the Hospitality House that fed unfortunate souls. Luckily my cake was made at Lowe’s grocery and I didn’t feel like I wasted too much on that when 3/4 of the cake was uneaten. My in law cousins never passed out the little bells or the bubbles I had bought instead of rice or birdseed being thrown so that was a waste of money. My FIL took what was left of the beer keg and had a party at his house with visiting family so at least that was not wastePeople today spend hundreds of thousands on weddings but in fairness some only pay $50 to get married with a Justice of the Peace. So there is a lot of wiggle room. My sister has chosen not to marry so far and I’ve told her that if she changes her mind to just elope and I’ll just give her whatever money I would have spent on wedding stuff. Both our parents, sadly, have passed away already so there is no pressure from our side of the family. Everyone will make their own decisions. I hope my daughters will understand weddings better than I did and make good sensible choices. Marriage is hard enough – weddings should not be so hard. The Beatles had it right – Love is all you need.