Going the Distance: A Long Distance Marriage

Going the Distancew

Going the Distance: Long distance Marriage

Earlier this week, A Practical Wedding wrote about living apart during a marriage.   Their post hit home, as this week was the first week of my out-of-state summer internship.  Next weekend I will travel back home to get married and celebrate with friends and family.  And then – you guessed it – I am right back here, out-of-state and back to work.  Which means that my soon-to-be husband and I will spend the first 3 months of our marriage choosing to live apart.  

We were both lucky to receive our dream internships for the summer – and, it just so happens that they are plane ride (or long car ride) apart.  As for the future, there is a strong possibility that are two careers will keep us in separate zip codes for the foreseeable future.  This uncertainty and unconventional living arrangement has caused many of my friends and family to raise their eyebrows and express concern.  A few have even implied that perhaps I shouldn’t get married, or wondering why I would choose to get married now, when so much is unknown.  

But, on the eve of our wedding, here is what I have come to understand: Marriage is much, much more than having a permanent roommate.  While most of us want to live together with our spouse, my decision to get married wasn’t contingent upon that.  My decision to get married was contingent upon our love for each other and our mutual support for each other’s dreams.

I am not going to post-pone marriage simply because there is uncertainty about where those dreams will take me.  Nor will I sacrifice my dreams simply so that I can live every minute of my life with my husband.  Life is full of uncertainties, and I think sometimes we get into a pattern of thinking that we have to have everything “right” before we can possibly get married.   We have to graduate, we have to have a certain income, we have to wear a certain size.  All the ducks in a row, and all the p’s and q’s crossed.

But marriage isn’t about certainty.  At this point in our lives – married, single, or engaged –  most of us really don’t know how our careers will turn out, if we’re able to have kids (or if we even want kids!), or even where we will live.   If we wait on all of those things materialize before seeking out a life partner, then we might miss out on the joys that partnership brings.

I think of marriage as this big, quantum leap of faith into the unknown, and choosing a partner to take that leap with us.  It’s about staring into the unknown and grappling with the uncertainty, knowing that our partner is supporting us.  And, yes, it’s about building joint dreams that are bigger than you could have imagined as an individual.  As Obama would say, it’s the Audacity to Hope.


Don’t apologize for your Wedding

Over the course of my 16 month engagement, two of my bridesmaids and several close friends have become engaged (Yay weddings!).  One thing that I have found disheartening, however, is the frequency with which my friends apologize for their weddings.  My crafty, creative pulling-it-together-on-a-budget friends feel the need to apologize for their “simple, causal, thrown together affair.”   Similarly, my friends who are hiring a professional D.J. and wedding coordinator feel the need to apologize for spending the money and getting help.

Since when did we need to apologize for creating a wedding that fits our unique styles, abilities, and budgets?

1.  Please don’t apologize for a DIY wedding.    

When my friend Jenna gave me her wedding invitation, she did so with an impromptu apology: “Oh, we just did the simple/at home/printed them ourselves/pretty causal invite.  And, I hand tied a ribbon to each one.”

Excuse me?  Not only do her invites look incredibly sweet (linen paper and elegant script), but she hand-tied a ribbon. To each one.  I mean, I should apologize that I had to tape it on my refrigerator… 

DIY Wedding Invitations

DIY Wedding Invitations via WeddingBee

Let’s not be afraid to take on a wedding task.  I do think that wedding vendors are great for a lot of things.  But let’s not forget that just because the word ‘wedding’ has been added to the equation, it doesn’t mean that we’ve lost all the super-awesome talents we use everyday.  So all my graphic designing, Pinterest loving friends? Consider this your chance to rock out those DIY Wedding invites.  Or consider making your own cake or dessert table.  Or how about brewing your own beer?

Please don’t apologize because your wedding is a labor of love.  I promise that your guests will be happy to celebrate with you regardless of who made your invitations or if you have a couture wedding cake.  (And, if they aren’t, perhaps you should reconsider the wedding guest list…)

Now, that said,

2.  Please don’t apologize because you hired professionals for your wedding. 

Learning this was hard for me.  At first I didn’t want to tell my friends that I had hired a month-of-coordinator, or that I was (gasp!) having someone design our invitations.   As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not crafty.  I didn’t major in theater, I majored in political science & economics.  It’s easier for me to take on a part-time job at the library and pay for someone to design my invitations then it is for me to attempt to do the same.  

The Wedding Planner

Hiring help can be a good thing :).

So, all my biology-majoring, professionally busy friends?  Realize that doing everything yourself doesn’t make you a more authentic person, and it doesn’t give your wedding more meaning.   Your wedding has meaning because of the love between you and your partner and the shared joy of your community.  Everything else – the logistics, the aesthetics, the details – really are just that: details.  Regardless of how you choose to do them (or have someone else do them!) it will not change the meaning of your wedding. 

What do you think? Have you ever felt the need to apologize for your DIY-projects or choosing to hire professionals?

Perfection is not a Wedding Style

Real Beauty Women

Happiness is not a size.

Last Friday I had my last wedding dress fitting.  Instead of the elation I wanted to feel, I immediately felt…disappointed.  A bit of a failure.  And entirely un-bridal.

You see, I bought the dress over a year ago, in a flurry of sample sale negotiation, and then quickly pushed the thought out of my head.  I was nervous about the dress, it’s slim-fitting lines, its total lack of ball gown to hide  my body.  I called my mom,  nervous, upset, and scared.  I was worried that even though I loved my new dress (it has lace. and sparkles. and an epic train.) that I would look “fat.”  As someone who straddles the size 10-12 barrier, I dread the thought of being fat,  and I vowed to lose weight before the “Big Day.”

Nevermind the fact that like most women in their twenties, I’m  busy.  The whole being a graduate-student-job-seeking-newly-engaged person?  It’s a busy life.  And I usually don’t feel fat.  Except when I look at her. Or her. Or all the other radiant, size 2 brides that populate the WIC and bridal blogs.  Somehow, the constant barrage of wedding media has convinced me that being uber-skinny is a prerequisite for being a successful bride.  And if I can’t mold my size 10 body into a size 2 bride, I will have failed.  And I hate to fail. 

But Friday, I crumbled.  I stared into the mirror, desperately hoping to feel like a radiant bride…and disappointed that I felt like myself.  Because in the face of the wedding dream, feeling like myself didn’t feel like enough. 

And yet, I write about weddings being authentic.  I tell my newly engaged friends that their wedding is “perfect” simply because it is their wedding.  I talk about not feeling jealous if you can’t have charivari chairs, and that sometimes the best weddings are small, at-home affairs instead of expensive, lavish events.   I tell my own body-conscious friends that they are beautiful and that they are loved.

So why is it so hard to tell myself the same thing? Why do I worry that everyone will think my arms are fat instead of hoping that they are moved by our ceremony? Why do I dread the eventual wedding photo album, instead of realizing that everyone will look at my laughing face and not at my “fat” arms?

Why do any of us torment ourselves with feelings of inadequacy, and convince ourselves that we have failed?

I mean, we all have something that bothers us, right? A little voice inside our head that says “you’re not really a bride, unless…”. If it weren’t for that little voice, wedding planning would be easy and there wouldn’t be an entire industry dedicated to telling us how to “get it right.”  I mean, really.  We are so scared of getting our weddings “wrong” that we let strangers tell us how to get them “right.”  I let people I have never met dictate the way I feel about my wedding dress.  This has to stop.

I’ll start.

I promise to wear my beautiful dress and to not analyze every bump & lump under it.

I promise to be present on my day and to smile as often as possible – not just when I see the camera.

I promise to fight really, really, really hard to enjoy my wedding photos.

And I promise to resist the urge to photoshop in skinny-bride arms.

Essentially, I promise to accept that my “imperfections” are not a failure, but instead what makes me unabashedly me.  Oh, and I promise to like me.

I promise to be authentic. 

Wedding is a Party not a Performance

A wedding is a Party not a Performance.

We need to bring authenticity back to our weddings.  We need to embrace our own meaning of love, of commitment, and way of celebrating with our friends.  We need to encourage each other to resist feeling like a failure if our arms aren’t skinny, if we’re not serving a five-course, French service dinner, if we’re having the dreaded dry wedding.  We need to know deep down that we have not failed if our weddings aren’t “perfect.”  

And we need to stop aiming for perfection.  The point of our engagements is not to turn our ugly-duckling-nemesis into a swan...it’s the time to bring two families together, to set the foundation for marriage, and to plan an authentic ceremony and celebration (even if it’s a celebration for two).

I am asking you to seek authenticity over perfection.  And to help someone else do the same.  To tell another bride that it’s okay if her wedding doesn’t look like a something out of a magazine.  To tell her to stop worrying about trying to be a swan.   To tell her she doesn’t have to resort to a feeding-tube diet to be radiant on her wedding day.  And to tell yourself that you will not judge your wedding because someone tells you that it’s not wedding-enough.  To trust yourself to get it right.

Because those magazine shoots that are perfectly styled? They. Are. Fake.

Rethinking Weddings: 4 Steps to Prioritize and Plan your Wedding

Tomorrow we will breakdown the budget for a $4000 suburb wedding (with a full dinner and open bar for 80 guests!).  Before we get to the nitty-gritty, however,  I want to provide a big-picture overview of wedding planning.  If you’re just starting to plan – or having trouble making decisions – today’s post is for you. 

4 Steps to Prioritize and Plan your Wedding:

1. What are your 3 guiding principles? Sit down with your partner and think about what is important to both of you in taking this gigantic step forward.  What is it that you want to honor?  What values do you want to incorporate?  Think broadly and think people, not things.  For my fiancée  and I we wanted our ceremony to be meaningful, our reception to be a thank you to our friends and family, and we wanted it to be practical.  At the beginning we weren’t sure where the wedding would be, what we could afford, or even if there would be a cake.  But every decision we made would be in accordance with these principles. 

2. Decide the Big logistics.  These include (a) your overall budget, (b) where and when the wedding & ceremony will take place, and (c) an approximate count of your family and friends you will invite.  Note: I’m not talking about the number you think you can afford to invite, but rather just who – in an ideal world – would be with you that day.  Keep it big picture: You want your wedding within an hour of Washington, DC and in September of 2013 and you will have about 150 guests with a budget of $20,000.  Great! Or you want your wedding in upstate Washington State  in May of 2013 with about 50 guests with a budget of $3000.  Fantastic!

In keeping with our principle that our reception be a thank-you as opposed to a burden, and  because our friends live all over the world, we decided our wedding should be within a half hour of a major airport.  Lastly, we kept our friend’s budgets in mind.  We both loved, loved, loved this venue.   However, the  room rate per night was $279.  The next closest hotel was a 30-40 minute drive down country roads.  Not only was it a safety issue, but we could not fathom asking our families or friends to spring for (most likely) 2 nights at $279.  And who likes to spend 40 minutes on a shuttle bus at the end of a long celebration? Needless to say, we didn’t pick  that venue. 

3. Decide on your pre-Marriage Counseling.   If there is anything that you do in your weeks, months, or years of wedding planning, make sure you take the time to for some sort of pre-Marriage counseling.  This could be at your local church, with a private counselor, with good (married for at least 5 years) friends of yours, or on your own.  Offbeat Bride has an excellent list of pre-marriage books that range from religious to secular and that is found here.  

Remember that the purpose of an engagement is two-fold.  First, it allows you and your families to prepare emotionally for this big act that will join you together.  Second, it allows you time to logistically plan an event that will feel meaningful and match the principles you selected earlier.  But don’t skip the first step in lieu of only the second one.  Even if you’ve been living together for a while (we have), counseling will create a stronger foundation for marriage (ours did). 

4.  Now let’s talk details.  This is the time to decide what  food you will serve, the traditions you’ll incorporate, the pretty dresses you can have, etc.  But it’s also the time to not lose sight of those principles you picked earlier.  Those guiding principles will help you make the tough choices you’ll be faced with and create a wedding that is authentic to you and your partner.

Using your principles to make decisions works something like this:  

I really, really, reallyyyy wanted to have chiavari chairs.  I stared at pictures, pinned them on Pinterest, and tried to work out a budget that would accommodate chairs.  The only way I could afford $1500 chiavari chairs is if I (a) cut guests, or (b) cut out photography completely.  For us cutting guests wasn’t an option – we were celebrating with our community, not excluding them.   As for the decision photography v. chiavari, well this one became a decision of practicality.  To us it was simply more practical to keep the chairs we were ALREADY paying for (they came with our venue, I just didn’t like them) and to use the money to pay for photography so that we would have professional pictures.     

What are your guiding principles for wedding planning? 

Rethinking Weddings: Do not let your Budget define your Wedding Date

Last night I wrote about not valuing your wedding based on what it cost.  Today I want to talk about not letting your budget define your wedding date.  I promise tomorrow I will get back to the pretty details.  I have a ton of posts that are coming that talk about nitty-gritty planning: how to diy-flowers, how to choose a wedding cake.  But at this moment I want to talk about the big picture: Choosing when to get married.

Most of us contemplating marriage in our mid-twenties are lucky if we have next month’s rent and enough pesos in our pocket to buy a beer on the weekend.  It’s not unrealistic to contemplate the thousands of dollars that a wedding CAN cost (but doesn’t have to!) and to think that we can never afford it.  Or that we will only be able to afford it when we graduate, or when one of us gets a job, or when we get a raise, or when we can afford the perfect diamond ring (because clearly you need a big diamond ring before you can set a wedding date. FALSE), or the economy improves…etc.  

We put so much pressure on ourselves (why don’t we have the blog-worthy wedding money?!), there’s pressure on our partners (why aren’t you making enough to support a wedding?!), and there’s pressure on our parents (why didn’t you save $30,000 for my wedding?!).  But, can I make a proposal?

Take the pressure off.  Get married now. 

There’s never going to be a perfect moment.   You will probably never feel like you have enough money. Set a date, set a number that you feel comfortable with, make a plan to save.  And whether it’s $50 or $5,000  – move forward.  Make your plans. Live your life.  Own the wedding you will have, and get prepared to be married on an emotional level.  And then Get Married.  Your wedding will be beautiful because its YOUR wedding.  You are marrying your partner – the one that will be there “for richer and poorer.” (And for most of us, we’re going to spend more time on the poorer side of things.)

But, but, wait you say…oh, you want a wedding for 200 of your closest friends, a couture cake, and full dinner?  Married bliss just won’t be the same if you don’t have a glitzy gown and exotic honeymoon?  Well, that’s fine.  I want those things too.   And maybe those things are worth waiting a year (after all, it does take some time to plan out a full course dinner for 100…)  But if your realistic savings plan is going to put all of that 5 years down the road….then I leave you with wise words from someone much more brilliant than myself:

“So. To all of you waiting and wondering? You don’t get perfect. You just get someone that you want to spend imperfect with.  And that is the biggest gift in the world.” (Meg‘s thoughts)

Let me leave you with this inspiration (also found in Meg’s thoughts):

An emotional, beautiful $2000 wedding

An emotional, beautiful Wedding

An emotional, beautiful Wedding

Need more inspiration?  How about a fun, smiles-filled City Hall Affair.     Or a tear-jerking living room wedding.