Thursday, February 24, 2011

Everything you're "supposed" to have at a wedding

My friend and I were gossiping about a mutual friend who recently got married.  Said friend and I have fallen out of touch, so I didn't get to go to the wedding, but she did and when I asked about it, she said, "it was really nice.  But it was like, they had everything you're "supposed" to have at a wedding that you've ever seen on TV.  It didn't feel very personal."  I think if you asked most of us wedding bloggers what the scariest thing somebody could say about our wedding was, it would be "It didn't feel personal."

So this got me thinking - what makes a wedding feel "personal"?  We went to a lot of weddings this past year, so I'm going to pull from a few of the most recent ones that I have pictures of.  At our scientist friends' wedding, they used beakers as cake toppers:
(by Robert Lassiter)
And the favors were test tubes filled with jelly beans.  (Delicious and fun!)
(by Robert Lassiter)
I liked this because it was a fun way to personalize their wedding without going totally overboard.  They also had a wonderfully traditional Jewish ceremony with some really meaningful personal touches - my favorite part was where the Rabbi read aloud sections from the letters she had had them write to each other in their pre-marital counseling.  She gave them the full letters to read on their honeymoon, but the parts she read aloud made me sob.  

We have two friends that got married in August and had a beautiful beachfront wedding in Annapolis.  They had a totally blog-worthy wedding - it was gorgeous.  But all of my favorite parts were not "things" that they had, or "details", even though they had a lot of them.  They were moments during the wedding - for example, during the ceremony, the minister reminded us that this would probably be the only opportunity we had to meet each other and had all of the guests introduce themselves to each other.  We were sitting on the bride's side, even though we were with the groom, and introduced ourselves to the people around us.  It was a really nice moment, and very personal to the couple, who is all about family and friends.  It did make the wedding party feel a little awkward, so they just all hugged.

One of my favorite things about this couple is one went to Maryland and one went to Duke.  So when they were introduced, they introduced the bride and groom as rival teams and had them come in to the song that Maryland plays at the start of basketball games.  (I'm sure it has a name. I don't go to a lot of games.)  The guys came in and did all the required chest bumping:
(photo by our friend Chris)
And his family did some kind of crazy dance-off skit later in the evening:
(Photo by Chris)

My point here is that there are a lot of ways to make a wedding feel personal.  A lot of people have commented that our wedding felt "very us", and when I think about the details, like our half-a$$ed favors and programs and some of the other things we threw together at the last minute, those things don't feel "us" except we were running late and got it done, which is us.  But there are other personal touches that we did add that did make the day feel more like it was "our wedding" and not "a wedding".  It's also some of the oddly small things that seem like no-brainers when you start planning.  One of the things that made our wedding feel personal to other people was our alcohol selection - but that wasn't something we intentionally did to make it feel personal.  Other things that made our wedding feel personal were the songs that we danced to with our families, and the fact that we incorporated the hora even though we aren't Jewish, all of which didn't feel like very hard choices to make.  Also things like my first dance with my Dad, which wasn't to a "normal" song, but was such a no-brainer when I sat down to pick a song.  
The wine and chocolate for the ceremony (did I mention the stinkbugs that came to the wedding?)
Our entrance
I love how our wedding turned into a costume party of people wearing photobooth props.  Also, several people have mentioned that our grilled cheese and tomato soup station felt very "us".  

I will also say this: we decided early on we wanted our wedding to be "the fun wedding" because "all of our friends are going to be so sick of weddings.  Ours should be different and fun."  Let me tell you, every wedding we've been to in the last year and a half (which is ten, in case you were counting), has been different and fun.  So don't worry so much - your friends are fun people, and they will have fun.  Do what you like, and have/serve/play what you want, and don't search so hard for something that feels like you - just do what feels right.  

I will say I got a lot of surprised glances from guests at the wedding when I hiked up my skirt because I was hot, or admitted that I needed to go to the bathroom, or obsessively asked people if they got enough to eat.  It's as if people didn't expect me to be the same person, just because I got married that day.  You will be yourself on your wedding day.  You will act as unladylike and ungraceful and loudmouthed and bossy as you do every other day of the year.  So don't be surprised by it, even if other people are.  


  1. Hi, Ellie!

    Congrats on your marriage, law degree, and everything else you have going on! I have really enjoyed your blog as I've started planning my own wedding.

    I agree that the best weddings are the ones that feel the most personal. On the other hand, I think there can be a little too much pressure to personalize your wedding, when sometimes it's easier to go with tradition. My fiance and I are trying our best to have a wedding that represents "us" but with the demands of my parents plus a fairly short engagement, personalization has taken a back seat to just getting it done. I really appreciate your point about how weddings are generally fun, and if you have fun friends, you don't have to worry about much else (of course that doesn't stop anyone from worrying!).

    Keep up the great writing!

    Diana (your old next door neighbor)

  2. Oh, it's TOTALLY true that sometimes tradition is just easier. I put my bridesmaids in matching dresses because it was so much easier than picking non-matching ones that "went" together. But it's really easy to overthink making things feel personal, and I genuinely believe that if you pick things you like, pick foods you like, colors you like, and music you like, your wedding will feel like you.

    Thanks for stopping by - Margaret mentioned that you got engaged - congrats!

  3. I was just mentioning on the budget post at A Practical Wedding, that if you approach a limited budget with the idea that you will spend more on the things that you really care about and just kind of wing the stuff you don't care about, you'll probably stay in budget AND be really happy with your choices and your wedding. Chef's wedding = great food and print at home, boxed set paper. Hippie chick wedding = garden ceremony and tons of flowers, no professional photographer.

    For me, having a pretty AND all inclusive venue was worth spending money on because I only want to have to do the stuff I want, not things like the cake and DJ. I feel like hopefully that will make our wedding feel like us, since I am literally leaving everything I don't care about to the venue coordinator.