Your wedding is not a contest

sunset kiss
Thanks to Dave Le for submitting this to Offbeat Bride's Flickr pool.
So I was looking around your website, and I feel like sort of a poser even being here.

I'm wearing a white dress and I have my bridesmaids wearing pink and although we're not getting married in a church, our ceremony looks pretty traditional.

Do you have any suggestions for how I can make my wedding more offbeat?

-Jessica

I actually don't, Jessica — because I don't think your wedding needs to be more offbeat. It just needs to be honest and authentic, and if what you want is a white dress and a more traditional ceremony, I think that's fucking awesome.

I've run into this a lot in talking to people about their weddings — the dirty flip-side of "my wedding is too weird" is "my wedding isn't weird enough." Both sentiments make me sad because your wedding is not a contest.

There's this bridal machismo that can sneak into your mind, and it's not especially healthy. I've seen this happen with DIY/crafty brides, who get down on themselves for not hand-making every last piece of wedding detritus. I've seen this from feminist brides who feel like if they let someone walk them down the aisle, they need to defend their choice. I've seen it with green/eco-brides who agonize over the fact that they're using a non-organic unity candle.

As your resident alt-lifestyle consultant, please allow me to state this clearly: brides do not need more ways to feel bad about our weddings.

I didn't write Offbeat Bride as a judgment — I've gone to traditional weddings that were beautiful expressions of the couple's backgrounds and beliefs. I wrote the book to act as a cheerleader for those wrestling with making nontraditional decisions about their wedding — not as an admonishment of those who chose otherwise.

In this way, I guess maybe my book and this website are mis-titled. Maybe it shouldn't be Offbeat Bride, but Authentic Bride. I kept this in mind while I was working on the book: Engaged women don't need another voice telling them they're failing. It doesn't matter if it's a voice of tradition telling them they're wrong for wanting to have their wedding in the round, or a voice of nontradition telling them they're wrong for wanting to wear a white dress — brides need encouragement and support.

If you check out the Real Offbeat Weddings I feature, you'll see that I make a point to showcase a variety of wedding styles, from white dress church weddings all the way to kaleidoscopic freak-fest weddings.

There's nothing to prove here. Having a weird wedding just for the sake of making a statement is just as inauthentic as forcing yourself into a traditional ceremony to keep your parents happy. Your wedding should reflect the reality of you and your partner's life together. If you're using your wedding to prove a point about anything other than your commitment to each other, it's worth taking a step back to reconsider your motivations.

Your wedding is not a race, and there's no need to win — the only prize you need is the commitment of your partner (aww) and you get that regardless of how far you choose to walk off the beaten aisle.

  1. SO well said. Thanks so much for voicing the conflict I feel…I want some traditional elements, some offbeat, and it's easy to feel rejected by the extremists in both directions.

    32 agree
  2. Thank you, I love all the profiles and brides on your site. They are all so beautiful with fantastic weddings. I was feeling sad the other day that mine won't be quite as untraditional. But after reading this I realized that at least it really is a reflection of me and the boyfriend… and that's as much as I could ever want. Thanks again for your words and this site!

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  3. Bravo. This blog was fantastic. I wish more people would apply what you said in their every day life. People need to stop trying so hard to be "different" -isn't that worse than being average?

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  4. Sam, I couldn't agree more. In fact, I am now inspired to write out this big long story about this silly but still relevant AHA moment I had about this issue in high school.

    I was in high school from '89-'93, which as you can imagine, was the apex of "alternative" culture in the Northwest. My high school definitely skewed toward alternative being vastly preferable to preppy or normal, which was seen as way too '80s. I remember one classmate telling me all about how she very carefully put this sticker on her binder crooked because, well, she didn't want it to look too normal. I, meanwhile, was a freak from a weird hippie family and I was desperate to be mainstream, so while all my suburban classmates tried to be alternative by listening to grunge, I was madly trying to be more normal by listening to Top 40. (I still have a soft spot for New Jack Swing.)

    … And then there was Lindsey. She rode horses and was from a wealthy family. She shopped at J. Crew and Banana Republic, and oddly she seemed the most at peace with herself. In 1990, I realized that of everyone at our school, she might actually be the most authentic, because while most of us were desperately trying to be something we weren't — Lindsey was just being herself. She was what most of us would consider preppy, but she didn't waste her time pretending to be anything else — which most of us around her spent all our time doing. She was comfortable with who she was, which when you're 15 is fucking MIND BLOWING.

    I guess, if you want to get high school about it … I'd take an authentic prep over a poser any day.

    57 agree
  5. Great post!! I agree, weddings should be truly about the couple and their lives and life together, however they may be. Authenticity rocks.

    Love the pic.

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  6. What if your wedding is a contest¿

    I watched this British comedy flick that was a sort of mockumentary of the bridal industry and it really made me laugh and also made me think of all of the offbeat brides out there who maybe could use a laugh.

    The movie is called "Confetti" and the basic plot is couples in a competition to have the most "original" wedding. The prize is a new house to start their lives in. It comes highly recommended and that is all I will say about it.

    Oh, except to warn that there is loads of nudity, but no sexy. So if nekkid people riding tandem bicycles isn't your kind of thing I would suggest you stay away.

    Love always~

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  7. Yay! These are words to comfort me when I'm fretting that I'm under some kind of massive (and completely self-imposed) obligation to "impress" people…

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  8. Those are definately words of comfort. I often find myself comparing my wedding ideas to others. I'm a very alternative person, I imagined having something like a zombie themed wedding, but it never felt right because I want my wedding to resemble how I view love, and I view love in a traditional way, so we're having a traditional wedding in the sense, but we're adding a lot of our own touches to it. For example, my fiance's father is writing out our ceremony for us, he's a religious philosopher.

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  9. I flirted with the idea of having a Discordian wedding…and concluded that the best way to do that is to elope in comforatble shoes then go eat sushi afterwards.

    I'm soooo tired of the wedding thing; the planning, the stressing, the fears that I'm not doing it right…and for what?

    It occurs to me that the whole point of staging a "wedding" is to satisfy some personal need for ritual/ceremony/theatrics. That's fine, I get that, but why does the exchanging of vows and the chosen "ritual" to seal the deal always have to be comprised of the same elements? Why does it seem that even "offbeat" weddings are the same thing in different shapes and colours?

    Think about it: You have a bride, a dress, a cake, rings, flowers and a bunch of maids/ushers. What about the whoopee-cushions and the official taco-fights? If making the wedding "offbeat" is supposed to mean that it's somehow more personalized and therefore, more authentic, why do the same *type* of elements keep repeating themselves, even if the exact theme doesn't? Does that mean these things are universals that apply to the majority of the population? Or is it something else?

    If one *really* wants to rewrite the rules here, isn't it safe to say that the only element that *really* should remain universal is the actual exchanging of vows? I mean, everything else is just play-time, right?

    Aside from the required legal crap, I think I'm going to marry my fiance by making him a beaded, KandE bracelet and dancing with him to funky house music all night long…in comforatble shoes.

    People are welcome to join us.

    8 agree
    • I love that idea! KandE bracelet…..hehehe

      Me n my fiance just wanna show up be married and hang out …..bbq, funky music, ppl in comfy clothes…just a house type party in which we just happen to exchange vows….none of the money spent on stuff no one really wants to take home…cept some munchies! =) oh but the cake….GOTTA HAVE! I freakin LUV cake! lol
      You could do a cake to look like turntables! That would not suck! =)

      2 agree
  10. You said this last nite, too, and I thought it was perfect.

    My best friend (the bride) is actually getting married for the SECOND time. Her first time was quiet, totally private and a bit of a shotgun (she was 7 months pregnant and really young). She feels like this time is the "real" wedding (THE guy) and wants the big party. Her husband-to-be has never been married and he's quite a traditionalist. They are butting heads over how "out there" he is willing to go.

    So they compromise A LOT. The wedding itself is pretty traditional in form, but she is adding little touches here and there to be true to her "offbeat" nature. Her 14 year old son is walking her down the aisle instead of her dad. While she'll be walking down the aisle to the wedding march or the canon (still in debate), the bridesmaids and groomsmen will be walking down to a rock song performed by the Section Quartet (string quartet friends of mine) on cd. The minister is someone's mom and will be incorporating elements of Catholicism, Christianity and Buddhism.

    My friend has always done things her own way. She's been an amazing single mom and has gone back to school to get her degree.

    I think being an Offbeat Bride just means not buying into someone else's idea of the perfect wedding…but discovering for yourself what is meaningful and beautiful for the both of you.

    Thank you SO MUCH, Ariel, for writing this book and being so awesome.

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  11. "So they compromise A LOT. The wedding itself is pretty traditional in form, but she is adding little touches here and there to be true to her “offbeat” nature. Her 14 year old son is walking her down the aisle instead of her dad. While she’ll be walking down the aisle to the wedding march or the canon (still in debate), the bridesmaids and groomsmen will be walking down to a rock song performed by the Section Quartet (string quartet friends of mine) on cd. The minister is someone’s mom and will be incorporating elements of Catholicism, Christianity and Buddhism."

    That sounds a lot like our ceremony Cinnamon, as I already mentioned, my fiancé’s father is religious philosopher, and he has certification as both a Priest and Rabbi. He will be incorporating many different spiritual elements into our ceremony for us as he'll be writing it. Our processional music is from the Serenity movie soundtrack. Everything about the ceremony is based on what feel we our "perfect" wedding should be for us, and not some show for our guests, pretty much what you already said, "I think being an Offbeat Bride just means not buying into someone else’s idea of the perfect wedding…but discovering for yourself what is meaningful and beautiful for the both of you."

    1 agrees
  12. I just wrote a blog post on the forums about my own internal war with OPWs (Other People's Weddings). I'm a critical person by nature, but I like to think I'm aware of it. So I do my best to hold my tongue when I see taffeta, Canon in D and matchy-matchy colours.

    Especially when planning our own, we all compare our tastes with other weddings. And sometimes, we misread our own feelings. We think 'who on earth would want to see another white strapless dress?' when we mean 'I choose not to wear a white strapless dress'. The difference between the two is important; it keeps us from competing, like you said, and it keeps us from becoming Bridezillas. Worse, judgemental Bridezillas.

    Thanks for the reminder, Ariel, that the pressure to be 'different' and 'normal' are both there. Also, that what we should be striving for is sincere self-expression, not forced uniqueness.

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  13. "What we should be striving for is sincere self-expression, not forced uniqueness."

    Amen, Heather! :)

    6 agree
  14. THANK you. this looks like the sort of book I could really have used last year. Of course we had action figures on our cake and on the tables and we walked back up the isle to the Monty Python theme, so maybe I _didn't_ need it. but it looks good.

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  15. You know, I read the book and was relieved to know lots of other couples weren't going the full traditional route–and then I went and booked a whole lot of traditional stuff. Ha! I think I just needed "permission" to be myself.

    We have lots of traditional touches planned–doodled invites, mismatched bridal dresses and party (a woman on the man's side -oh no!), a restaurant instead of a hall, a touch of lovely black in my dress… But a lot of it is still simple and traditional. But I feel better about it now!

    2 agree
  16. Thank you for the term "wedding detritus"… it made me smile and its already changing the way I look at all this crap I'm hoarding for the wedding :)

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  17. I'm so glad I read this post. It really centered me. I feel like those little details can kill you. I'm about 3 mos. away from the big day, and all the big stuff is set, so I'm working on the funky fun stuff (shoes, dying crinoline, jewelry, song choice etc.) and suddenly I'm obsessed. I literally need someone to pull me away and plop me back into reality!

    2 agree
  18. […] In thinking about this, I am realizing that my parents — and probably a lot of your families, ladies and gentlemen out in weddingland — just need the same reality check that brides often need: This is a wedding. It is one day. It should be enjoyable; not a battle, and definitely not a contest. […]

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  19. I'm so happy I found this page. Thank you, Ariel!

    Sometimes it seems harder to be original, but it takes so little to start being yourself. The race has a siren song if you let it. Let your voice be louder.

    1 agrees
  20. I am so happy someone linked to this page! I am sending it to my mom!! ;)

    1 agrees
  21. YAY! You are so fucking right. I'm going to print this as my daily bride affirmation.

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  22. Was just talking to a fellow bride-to-be about this the other night. She keeps saying, "But I want something no one else has done." Her sister and I kept telling her, "The chance that you're going to find something that you like that absolutely no one else has ever done is probably nil. So do what makes you happy and who cares how many other people have done it."
    My FI and I are doing some things different just because they are what appeals to us. We aren't doing it to be different, we are different we don't have to prove it to anyone. At the same time we are being pretty traditional about some things. But our wedding is about us, and we intend on being happy with it.

    1 agrees
  23. I just found this website and I love it. My Fiancee and I are planning on having a pretty "traditional" wedding but as I read above it is going to be "authentic" because we are going to do things the way that we like and I'm not letting anyone tell me how I should do my wedding.

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  24. I just joined today and read this, and though to be honest I don't feel like I've having any struggles as far as feeling like it's a contest go, this post made me cry. I am in the very very beginning stages of planning, and I think this is an amazing first thing to read before you ever start planning. It should be permalinked on every single wedding website that exists.

    4 agree
  25. Hi Ariel,
    I love this article! You are so correct that each couple needs to make their wedding their OWN. It doesn't matter what you decide to do or not do, so long as you, your friends and family can say, OH, this is sooo them!
    I am actually a wedding planner who had an "off beat" wedding and am always trying to express to my couples to try to insert their identity into the wedding.
    I've just had my own A-Ha moment and realized that I've allowed myself to get caught up in the "wedding'ness" of things and should advertise my company more in line with who I am – a sort of Off-Beat Wedding Planner. Thank you for your site. I would love to put your book and link on my website.

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  26. Awesome. Great affirmations.

    I think the central point, after the vows, is that you're saying to your community, "We are serious about each other and our relationship, and we want you to treat us that way".

    Cheers.

    1 agrees
  27. I know this was written a long time ago … but this really helped me today. thank you!

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  28. I really love this blog and this post. I'm just starting my wedding planning and I'm finding its too far easy to get caught up with the brainwashing of bridal advertising, family members, etc. that say you need this and that or else its not a true wedding. planning authentic and honest wedding will be my new bridal mantra.

    0 agree
  29. I'm a unique lady and sometimes its hard to explain 'weird' things I do on a daily basis let alone explain why I want certain things for my wedding, and reading this makes me feel like 'its ok to do what you want for your wedding, its ok to express yourself for your wedding'

    I mean I'll only be getting married ONCE!!

    2 agree
  30. I think this post perfectly sums up the entire website for me. It's very reassuring and grounding precisely because even though the whole site focuses on what's different it's not about being different for the sake of it, or to show off how different you can be, it's more a reminder that a wedding should be about the two people getting married and reflecting who you are is more important than following other people's traditions and ideals.

    I might not have aquired a lot of specific ideas from this place (although there's been a few) but it has restored a lot of my confidence that if I want to do something differently I can, instead of worrying about whether it's what I 'should' do.

    1 agrees
  31. Though some other bloggers have touched on this issue, I think this post just really made everything sink in for me. I don't know if it was the timing, or the wording, or whatever it was, but thank you. Definitely am bookmaring this one!

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  32. I am so glad you- and your site- exist. Thank you.

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  33. I absolutely NEEDED to read this. It hasn't entirely settled one particular internal conflict for me, but I needed a reminder that whatever I choose, it's MY choice and I don't need to justify it to anyone.

    2 agree
  34. I just want to say thanks for this website and for all of the people who contribute to it. I have never been to or known anyone whose wedding even resembles the one I am planning for my fiancee and I. So I find myself wrestling with uncertainty and wondering if I will regret not going a more traditional route…But the stories of all of these couples who have made bold and unique choices inspires me to be brave.

    2 agree
  35. This is excellent, thank you!

    My fiance & I are planning our "HalloWedding" for October 2011 & are having a blast with it! We've really got most of it planned already, and that's because we've really let ourselves have fun with it & are actually enjoying it rather than stressing. It's definitely NOT your typical wedding by any means, & I think the only traditional aspects are that I will be wearing a dress (though not white, of course), there will be vows, and everyone will eat like pigs :P

    Other than that, we've just been combining our thoughts & tastes in everything from music to attire, decorations & entertainment (both of which there are plenty of), and have taken care to be 50/50 about it. We changed the date to next year recently (it was supposed to be this October) so that's why we're a bit ahead of the game.

    Anyway, again, I love this & I think it's super important to remember what you're doing & why you're doing it instead of focusing on how many have done it before you!

    Much love & posi vibes!

    J

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  36. I know I am just now reading this about 4 years after it was originally posted, but four years later this has totally helped me put my wedding in perspective. Thanks for being a cheerleader Ariel, and creating a community full of them :)

    1 agrees
  37. Reading all of this makes me feel so normal! Isn't that funny?

    1 agrees
  38. Thank you for this reminder. I just joined offbeat bride as a tribe member to get inspiration and support. I want my wedding to be AMAZING! and there are so many ideas and possibilities that researching one leads to another and another, until I get really frustrated and just want to elope!

    1 agrees
  39. Thank you for this article and more importantly your comments. My fiancé and I have recently decided to reverse our previous priorities of getting a house before marrying, due to some very close relatives being of questionable age/health (we want them to be there at the wedding, and we're already going to have to have a memorial for lost loved ones)
    We were never going to have a 'normal' wedding, and we both have a pretty clear idea of what we want and where we are compromising for each other, but some of these comments have given me the idea to sit down with my fiancé and the two if us make a list of what we do and do not like about weddings, so we can dispense with unwanted traditions and mould the day to what we truly want. :)

    2 agree
  40. I make wedding cakes, and frequently hear this from brides. Their wedding isn't whacky enough, or unique enough, or (just shoot me) "Pinterest worthy". There is a lot of reassuring that it is not necessary to have vintage furniture in the woods. That actually, no one in their right mind would drag vintage furniture out in to the woods… so just look at your partner. Stop overthinking it all, and look at your partner. That's what this is all about. Not a damned chair in the woods, nor Pantone's color of the year. That blue is hideous and icing that color will stain your mouth.

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  41. I found your site because I am looking for "the road less travelled" in wedding quotes, sayings and words. Before I used the "send this page via gmail" option on my browser, I read this post to see what I'd be recommending. I happily sent the email and now have spent some time reading the comments here.

    I'm on the far, far side of this topic. Yes, hubby and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this fall and I can tell you one important thing. You will remember everything you "caved" on in your wedding plans, for the rest of the union, and beyond.

    I did not cave, for the most part, took some shit for it, but now I am so very glad I stood my ground. It helped that my partner backed me up and was very easy going. For the time, our wedding was "non-traditional" but far from "off-beat".

    We got married outside, in the fall, in Canada, on my 23rd birthday. We had one groomsman [his brother] and one "maid" [my childhood best friend]. I said, wear whatever you want, I don't care, as long as it's in the fall colour spectrum. The boys ended up in chocolate brown tuxes and my friend found a very pretty peach cocktail dress, today would be called "nude".

    I went shopping for wedding dresses and was appalled at the cost – it's only one day! So a quick call to my grandmother, yes, your mother's wedding dress is still here. Then where is the best/cheapest/quickest place for alterations? Mom had an 18-inch waistline when she got the dress! Turns out the ballet company costume department does alterations. Cost me $400.00 to replace the bodice, rip off the sleeves and build a crinoline that was an architectural wonder [mom wore hoops when she married in 1959]. The seamstress thought I might regret the bare arms so, unasked, she made finger-less, above-the-elbow gloves out of the bodice material. I wore them for the ceremony and photos, then couldn't stand having my arms covered [thus the ripping off of the sleeves in the first place], took them off, lost them.

    Two things I caved on. One, a wedding cake. I didn't need one, didn't want one and "everyone" said I should have one. My florist mentioned in passing that she had a fake cake in my colours that she used at wedding shows. She was happy to lend it to me. Every picture that cake is in makes me shake my head and tsk tsk to myself. I know it's fake, it means nothing to me and really, who would miss it if it wasn't there? Don't get me wrong, we had dessert and cake at our wedding. Himself adores cheesecake so that's what we had and he had many servings of it, which I still tease him about. My grandmother and I love her homemade fruitcake, so she made the cake for the little boxes, and a cake to eat and a cake to freeze [which is still in our freezer]. I also admonished our guests that our cake in the little boxes was meant for eating and if they weren't going to eat it, not to take it, I'd eat it for them!

    The second thing I caved on was a "professional" photographer. I use the term loosely. Again, "everyone" said I'd regret it if I didn't have real photos. This is before digital cameras, before the internet. That's $500.00 wasted. We only bought one of the professional's photos for my mother because she said it touched her. It's Himself and I leaning into the crook of an oak tree looking at each other. I hate it, when I see it, all I see are big noses! But, it's not in my house so I don't care.

    My girlfriend's husband wan't going to know many people so offered to take pictures for us. He said he'd get a photo of everyone there. So we bought, I think, 10 rolls of film and left him to it. His are the pictures we cherish, his are the pictures we've blown up and framed. He got fantastic candid photos of everyone attending, including the kitchen staff and bartender. Some of our favourite photos are the ones he took at the end of the night. All the women are carrying their shoes, quite a few people look a little worse for wear. He even was clever enough to approach the gals in groups and say "show me your feet", evidence that very much dancing was performed in honour of our wedding.

    I've been asked to do some crafty things for a friend's wedding, which brought me here. I'm sharing my story so if even one gal can shut down her critics by saying "an old lady on the internet celebrating her 30th anniversary said I'll regret it if I cave, so this is my decision for my wedding. period." If it feels phony and fake to you now, even if you do it for someone else, it will always feel phony and fake to you. Sometimes, that's OK too, I bought the ugly picture for my mother, we invited one couple for Himself's father … family sometimes means compromise. As long as it is compromise and won't ruin how you feel about your day.

    The wedding is only one day. The marriage will last longer. The memory will stay with you forever.

    1 agrees
  42. This is great, I have an example of this happening to me, We wanted off-beat but also traditional because we are blending our family of five years (finally) and its time to make it official. Even though my guy is a super casual game designing nerd he wanted to make the effort and asked for a bowtie, we found great purple bowties made out of an awesome comic book fabric, I found a great button up shirt, got him some jeans (instead of his usual shorts) and his aunt pleaded that he wear suspenders to honor his father whom always wore suspenders. So last week I had him try on his "wedding look" and took one look at him and burst into TEARS! uncontrollable sobbing just this isnt HIM! we sat together on our bed, talked it out and ordered him a batman shirt, some new shorts and a nice button up for over the batman shirt, bought his groomsmen some robin shirts that say "wingman" on it and done. I just couldnt bring myself to fuss with "traditional" or "offbeat" I just wanted HIM at the end of the isle waiting for me! we have SIXTEEN days until we get married, and honestly I am over "traditional" "offbeat" or any other labels to my wedding, I dont even really want to call it a wedding anymore, Its the day I am getting married, having a blast bowling with 25 close friends and family and starting the beginning of our marriage. At this point anything that falls through the cracks or doesnt turn out exactly as traditional or off beat as I had wanted, tough! cause all I want is to make it through my ceremony without blubbering myself into hysteria HA and bowl the afternoon of 4.1.14 away!
    Thanks for this post its an awesome one! and on a side note, his awesome aunt did not get brutally offended when we decided no suspenders, she wants him to be him too and if its too much no pressure, thats the kind of awesomeness you need to surround your "wedding" day.

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  43. Thank you so much for writing this. I needed to see this tonight. :)

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  44. "brides need encouragement and support." – this is something I completely agree with and am feeling right now, but I am struggling with the idea too. Wondering how to explain to someone I love that moral support is more important to me than she seems realize. I feel like I will get a big "Suck it up – we are all busy people" or at least that's how she will feel, but not verbalize.

    Also, great topic here. I feel the DIY pressure, since it's part of my most basic identity, but definitely interested in making things easier on myself. Daily life takes priority sometimes, and we have to come to terms with doing only our best.

    0 agree

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