Today's brave wedding features Emma & James, whose wedding taught me that sometimes planning a simple wedding isn't as simple as you'd expect. And as this couple discovered, sometimes having a simple wedding invites your loved ones to ask not-so-simple questions like, "Why are you marrying so young?" and "When are you having kids?". It seems that there's no getting around the fact that planning a party to celebrate something so powerful and life-changing as MARRIAGE is complex no matter how small your guest list or how simple the menu. Why? Because relationships and expectations are involved. Because joining forces with the one you love will inevitably bring you hardships you never wanted to endure. Because starting a family brings up the question of readiness for the brave balancing act of selfless giving and autonomy. And all of this is made tremendously complex (yet utterly beautiful) by the fact that you can no longer come to conclusions about Big Life Questions alone. You've got to work through all of it with your partner. And together, your convictions must have the strength to withstand the doubts and endless curiosity of others. Yup, complex indeed!
But. While planning a simple wedding is no easy feat, the day itself is really about one very simple thing: LOVE. Today's bride, Emma, writes, "I didn't cry when I was walking down the aisle, saying my vows or hearing my dad's toast. I did start to cry on the way home with James when I thought about how the people at our wedding were there because they loved us so much. I think that's what a wedding should be, just a day full of love!" Amen, sister. And with that I give you Emma...
In what ways were you a brave bride?
While James and I were dating we had discussed what we wanted for our eventual wedding day. We both have small families and knew we would prefer a small, intimate gathering. I don't like large parties and the idea of the traditional dinner and dancing wedding did not appeal to us at all. We decided a morning wedding with a brunch would be perfect. I can't imagine if I had had to wait around all day to get married, I would have driven my family crazy I was so excited!
I didn't follow the "normal" bride route with showers or a bachelorette party. Instead my sisters, best friends and I spent a day at a spa treating ourselves to manicures and pedicures then had dinner and an old fashioned girls night. It was perfect for me and I liked that we weren't focusing on me and 'the wedding' but on a day of having fun and pampering ourselves.
We decided we'd each have only one attendant, a best man and a maid of honor. With such a small causal wedding, we wanted to keep it all small! We didn't have toasts from the best man and maid of honor, instead only my dad made a toast. His notes for it fit on a business card and it was perfect; short and sweet. In it he mentioned how we had wanted an informal wedding and that meant a lot to me that my parents understood so well what we wanted our wedding day to be like and helped us to get just that.
It was important to both James and I that we get married in a church. God has always been an important part of our lives and our relationship. We got married in the church my family and I have been members of since our move to New Jersey in 2001. My sister was married there in 2007 and my parents were the youth leaders there for a couple years 30 years ago. We worked with my pastor to create a ceremony that stressed the importance of our commitment to one another and our relationship with God. It was simple and perfect for us.
One problem we came up against was that because we were getting married in a church with a traditional service, it was expected that we have a traditional, formal wedding. We didn't want it to be formal and didn't have ushers or parents processing. I think this might have come across the wrong way to some people but James and I are not formal people and we don't like old fashioned formality. We like casual and we tried to get it!
After writing out a guest list we ended up with just over 30 people. We included our families and those who we consider to be family. We went back and forth a few times worried about who we were not including and what we could do to include more people. We knew we'd have the church open to anyone who wanted to be there for the ceremony and thought maybe we could have an hour afterwards where we could spend time with everyone. We soon decided that wouldn't work for us. We knew that if people love us they would be happy for us and not upset that they weren't there.
When we knew the approximate size we thought we would run into a problem finding a reception site. When my sister was planning her small wedding she left reception sites feeling like they would be shoving her in a back corner. I didn't want our wedding to be shoved to a back room where I couldn't wear a gown if there was another wedding there the same day. I also couldn't see myself having a reception in a fussy, frilly banquet hall. We were lucky to find an absolutely beautiful reception site and everyone there was extremely accommodating from the beginning. We had the entire place to ourselves, including the restaurant and both outside areas which allowed us to take pictures wherever we wanted. The day of the wedding it was set up beautifully and it was just what I had envisioned.
My dress was also not so traditional or "formal". A friend had told me about Dolly Couture's short wedding dresses that she had come across on a wedding blog. I fell in love with her dresses immediately and knew I wanted one. I went dress shopping and tried on long dresses just to make sure I wouldn't change my mind about having a full length gown but I still couldn't get Dolly's dresses out of my mind. With a short dress I could show off my shoes! People that know me know I have a thing for shoes and it just seemed right to show them off. I'm so glad I went with what I loved as I received so many comments about how "me" the dress and shoes were.
Overall I don't think James could have asked for a more perfect day. It was exactly what we wanted; intimate and casual. It was a day to celebrate the relationship James and I have had for six years and the many, many more years we have ahead of us. I didn't cry when I was walking down the aisle, saying my vows or hearing my dad's toast. I did start to cry on the way home with James when I thought about how the people at our wedding were there because they loved us so much. I think that's what a wedding should be, just a day full of love!
What was the most emotionally challenging part of wedding planning OR getting married? How did you respond? What big lesson(s) did you learn from the experience?
One part of wedding planning and getting married that I found to be very difficult didn't have to do with the actual wedding. It was when people would ask about our future plans, or question them. When you are planning a wedding you're planning the day that starts the rest of your lives together but sometimes this brought up subjects you'd rather not talk about time after time. A few times people asked us why we were getting married so young. We are both 24 and after being in a serious relationship for six years we knew this was not a rash decision and that we were not too young however, we found ourselves defending our decision to others.
The subject of children was also brought up on a few different occasions. Everyone has different thoughts on this subject and I felt uncomfortable when this was mentioned (although I know we have definitely not escaped this issue now that we're married!). This is a very personal subject (and I can't believe how often it's brought up!) and I got stressed anytime anyone asked. I know that the only thing that matters is what James and I think and I try to keep that in mind even now we are married. As long as we've discussed the important things and are on the same page, or are open to discussion, we are ok and that's what matters.
Another emotionally challenging part was the stress I put on myself! I didn't want the typical "me me me" wedding that seems to be all over the place now and I worried sometimes that I was getting too caught up in things. Did I really need to spend that much money on flowers? Was that too expensive for a headband I'd wear once? Luckily my family is amazing and helped to calm me down. My mom reminded me that the money she and my dad had put away was for James and I to do with whatever we wanted. I wasn't going overboard with anything and could splurge a little if I wanted to. We could have had the 200 person dinner and dancing wedding if we had wanted so spending a bit extra on flowers for 30 was justified. In the end I let myself spoil me a little and it did feel good.
What advice would you give to engaged couples?
My advice to those planning a wedding is to be open to suggestions but at the end of the day, stick to what you had envisioned. It can be easy to be swayed by wedding shows on tv and the seemingly endless amount of wedding magazines available but if it's not "you" as a couple, don't do it! A couple times I worried that I was missing out on some of the typical wedding things, such as not having a shower. My sisters reminded me that I would have hated a shower, they were totally right! They also helped reassure me that there is no typical way to get married. Just because everyone is doing something one way does not mean it's the right way for you. Every relationship is different, every wedding should be too. It is so great to look back and think, "Wow that was the perfect way to share our love for each other with those we love."
Dress: Dolly Couture
Reception: Stone House at Stirling Ridge (Warren, NJ)
Cake toppers: Etsy RedLightStudio