In mid-November, my husband and I took a long lunch break one day and got married. Despite the quiet, brief ceremony for just the two of us (plus an entourage of City Hall employees who heard what was going on and showed up to watch), we decided that we wanted to have a more traditional ceremony and reception for our friends and family. The weekend before last, a little less than three months from engagement and two months after legally getting hitched, we had our wedding extravaganza. Somewhere between Christmas and the new year, I came to the conclusion that we had completely missed the point of eloping.
Weddings are an expensive business. Who knew? Well, pretty much everyone knows. I’ve planned and helped organize many a political fundraiser, so I figured, how bad could it be? As they say, this was not my first rodeo. But I didn’t realize the specific craziness of “a wedding” until I started planning one myself. Even having a number of things taken care of by some talented and generous family members, it’s still a sizable pile of money. Here are a few things we managed to do that made me feel better about dropping so much cash on what’s essentially a big party, especially considering we were already legally married!
1) Have fun. Oh, God, did we have fun. I hope that everyone thinks their own wedding is the most fun ever, but still. Our wedding was seriously the most fun ever. The food was absolutely amazing, the dancing music was a bunch of cheesey crowd pleasers like Living on a Prayer and The Electric Slide, the dinner and dancing music included a bunch of requests we had people send in with their RSVP cards, there were legos to play with at every table and a huge robot attack scene, my skirt spun like a crazy spinning thing on the dance floor, a beautiful light snow was falling for the photographs, my cousin got pooped on at the Zoo. And I have four words for you: Ice. Cream. Sundae. Bar. The evening before, I gave up and decided that whatever happened would happen, and if it didn’t, it would still be fine. Once I just let go, I was able to have a total blast, and in the end, we were both really glad that we’d gone through with the whole thing. Can we do that again?
2) Get others involved. Given that we were already legally married and had already been living together for two years before that, the shindig was more for our friends and family than anything else. Letting them actually be a part of it all not only made them feel included, but it took a lot of pressure off us. My dad spent days preparing a dinner for all of the out-of-town guests the night before the wedding. My aunt made the cake, she and my mom put together trays of Italian cookies, my parents and my mom’s friend decided we needed favors and just took care of it. My husband’s aunt and uncle own greenhouses and arranged all of the flowers. My cousin took our photographs. One of our college friends made sure set up ran smoothly while we had photos taken then played DJ with the iTunes playlists we’d put together. Another was the official Lego Coordinator who made sure my husband’s well-laid plans were executed on the big day so he wouldn’t have to fiddle with all the little details himself. When people said they wanted to do something, we gave them a job. Not so much that it was overwhelming, but just enough so that everyone could take a little bit of credit for making it such a great day. In the end, everyone seemed to be impressed with the whole thing, and I am sure that feeling invested in the day instead of just being an observer helped with that a lot.
3) Donate shit. Prior to the wedding, we made a donation to a state organization that lobbies for marriage equality. We put a little sign near the name cards to let our guests know that we did this, providing them with information about how to donate and volunteer if they felt so inclined. This was something that was really important to me as part of my decision to get married when so many of my friends and colleague can’t. But after the party was over, we were able to do a couple of other great things to share the love that I hadn’t even planned for. We took the centerpieces and other assorted flowers to the hospital where my father works for the patients there. And we had so many extra cups of ice cream leftover that from the sundae bar that we were able to give my mom’s Pre-K class a surprise ice cream sundae party. Can you imagine? It’s snowing out but not enough for a snow day, you’re on your way to school thinking it will be just another regular day, and BAM! Surprise ice cream sundaes with rainbow sprinkles at snack time. It’s the best ever! We were both so excited about being able to do that. (Also, my mom says that she told them they could have ice cream from the wedding and, being four, they asked, “How did it not melt?” The next day, one of her students asked her whether they could have ice cream every day. Kids that age are hilarious.) And after I have my dress cleaned, I’ll be donating it to Housing Works in the hopes that they can get some money for it and put that to good use.
Wedding planning was stressful. For a little while there, I think I spent more time with spreadsheets and fighting with our printer than I actually did with my husband. We stayed in the vicinity of our budget, but it’s still way more money than I’ve spent at one time on anything before. (Well, certainly not my college education, but you know what I mean.) Thinking of these three things, though, I can’t imagine having done it any other way.