Weddings don't have to be complicated to be awesome

July 5 | Guest post by Ariel (but not that one)
Monica & Phil01
Photo by Wild About You Photography

I went to a wedding that was boiled down to a bare minimum, and it was awesome.

Now, I had as complicated and wonderful and over-detailed a wedding as anyone around here, but every so often, when we're head-down in planning, and convinced that everyone will notice if the centerpieces aren't nice enough, or make snarky comments if we fail to provide favors or a suitably danceable playlist, or that the wedding just won't be good enough without our perfect venue, it's really good to remember that those really aren't as essential as we think.

The first we heard about the uncomplicated wedding was just under three weeks ago, via e-mail, with a date that was still tentative, and an RSVP date of a week ago because the brides were going to be spending one of those weeks in Alaska on a family vacation.

The wedding was in their church, and, as far as I can tell, scheduled based on when the priest was available. The music was the church organist and a friend who sang; the service, a fairly standard Episcopal same-sex marriage variant. (Have I mentioned that I *love* living in Massachusetts?) The single attendant's only role was to hold the rings. The outfits came out of their closets; I do believe one of the bride's dresses was the same thing she wore to my wedding.

The reception? They made reservations at one of their favorite local restaurants, which gave us a private space (with a curtain!) and a delightful Japanese buffet. There was no decor at all, no dancing, no special music. The only new purchases they made besides dinner, from what I could see, were their rings, some simple bouquets, a picture mat for guests to sign, and dessert — Taiwanese wedding cakes and Italian cookies. The total guest count was perhaps twenty.

But it was full of love and support and joy, and the reception ran for more than five hours because everyone was having so much fun. It was lovely. And at the end of it? They were married. And that's what really matters.

So the next time you're stressing because everything needs to be done within six months, or because your to-do list is too long, or because you feel guilty for not having something as picture-perfect as the brilliantly creative and crafty people on here — you don't need it. You may want it, but your wedding will be no less wonderful and amazing and getting you married if you don't have everything. And that's a really good thing to keep in mind.

  1. LOVE THIS reminder. Our courtship has been 6 years. Our engagement is 4 months, our wedding will have 20 guests, and we're doing a few more complex things than these ladies, but also just letting some things go and focusing on the "we'll be married" part. I've been to beautiful weddings that were more personalized or detailed or humorous or amazeballs than ours, but this is what feels right for us.

    I want to know more about the "picture mat;" was that a collage mat (eg http://www.pictureframes.com/html/customCollage.html ) that they planned to put wedding photos in later, or was it a mat around an already-taken picture? We don't want a guestbook with our weensy wedding, but I do want to have a record of all those who attended our nuptials.

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    • It was a plain old white picture-mat from a craft store, pre-framed, with a 6×8 hole or thereabouts that they were going to put a wedding picture in once it had been taken.

      If you're looking for other options, consider taking inspiration from Quaker wedding certificates, where all of the guests sign as witnesses. For our rather more complicated wedding, I put together a calligraphy cross-over between a Jewish ketubah (vows are sort of like a contract, in my mind) and the Quaker certificates, and everyone signed. It worked great, and is now hanging on our dining room wall. You can get some really beautiful ones pre-made, too.

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  2. Haha, personally I liked planning a huge event with tons of little details that someone just might see, or at least we'd take pictures of, and that's how our wedding was. But your advice still applies; the day before the wedding, I had to let go of all the little details that hadn't been done yet, and all the things I was obsessing over, because it was simply too late and they weren't all that important. And no one noticed the things that weren't there, and some people didn't notice the things that were, but I loved it all, and yeah, we were married. :)

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    • And that's basically the reason that I wrote this piece– not because all weddings should be minimal, but because if you can boil it down *that* much and still be awesome, it's a good reminder that no matter what your wedding plans are, not doing *everything* you wanted isn't the end of the world.

      And also because it was a pretty darn cool wedding. ;)

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  3. And ya know what else?
    The people who love you will remember a few details like that cute peacock feather in your bouquet, they will remember really liking that one appetizer–oh, what was it called–and they will remember how happy you looked. Much of the other minutia will be lost in the hazy collective memory of weddings past.
    My advice to brides has long been that if something is really giving you stress and you don't have to have it (and I mean, legally/spiritally HAVE to have it to actually be married) then edit it out. Chances are, you won't miss it and no one else will, either.

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  4. We're doing something very like this next week. We have to get married quickly, but we wanted a little bit of ceremony to it. So a few friends will come over next week, we'll do the marrying thing, and then take them out to a fancy dinner. The end. It works for us. :)

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  5. Thanks for the reminder! We're planning simple, and I know there will be moments of stress, but I really do expect it to be simple, and not heavy on the details. It's nice to hear a story to go with the hope that it's possible. :)

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  6. Yay! More power to simple weddings. My fiancee and I are planning a Welsh wedding from Brisbane, Australia, so we have to let go of some of the details and just trust that it will be a fun and beautiful day for us. We're lucky enough to have her family "onsite" to sort some things out, but details like the flowers (to be purchased at Asda's on the day) and the table centres (to be arranged as per our mood on the day) and the reception (open mike free-for-all instead of set speeches) will be left to chance/fate etc. We figure that it was fate when a Welsh girl met a Brissy girl across the other side of the world and fell in love – so it's served us well before!

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  7. If you must obsess, consider:
    -communicating with people about where and when they need to be places
    -working out a detailed time line that makes sense and with padding for people running a bit late
    -communicating with and and all vendors about the details of that timeline

    My friend went to a wedding the other night and most of what she remembers about it is being hungry and confused. The couple simply didn't consider these things and all their attention to other other fun details went unnoticed.

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  8. Well said. A couple of close friends went a similar route. No decorations, 2 attendants only, a small group of close friends and family. The only indulgences were the venue (Sonoma ain't cheap), the favors (DIY chocolate-covered cherry mice), and wine bottles as guest books. And it was lovely and totally worked for the bride and groom. On their wedding night, they went to see a movie. And it was awesome.

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  9. I love this. All I care about is the vows and sharing the day with people we love and who love us. To do this, I think it's important to feed them, and give them beer and wine, and make sure the older family members are comforable. The rest is extra.

    I feel really sad when I hear people say mean or judgemental comments about other people's weddings. Sometimes I hear these negative statements and imagine people saying things about OUR wedding. then I remember what matters about the day: We are getting married!

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    • I totally agree regarding the negative comments. It has always baffled me when people do this. Seriously – someone cared enough about you to invite you to their wedding, and all you can do is make snarky remarks? Totally unnecessary, and very catty in my opinion (because these comments, sadly, are almost always coming from women, and almost always directed at the bride – as if the groom didn't have anything to do with the planning!).

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  10. I totally agree with this, I had a Legion hall wedding but still obsessed about everything, even though the decorations were mainly an arch, tablecloths and tulle. But I'm funny that way.

    I prefer budget weddings where people have to get creative myself. I once went to a cottage one where the bar was a kid's wadding pool full of wine and beer!

    Big, small in the end we all get married and people will only remember how much fun they had celebrating the most important day of their friends and loved ones lives.

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  11. Thank you! And now I exhale! Can someone also tell me where those rings are from? I really like them!

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  12. And I thought MY wedding was going to be simple, lol.

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  13. Well said!

    My wedding was a huge affair compared to this but we still cut out a lot of things just because we didn't see any need to have them there and I'm sure if we'd tried to include them it would have caused a lot more stress, expense or both for relatively little gain.

    As it was we were able to focus on the stuff we did want and I think it made the end result more enjoyable all around.

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  14. Ariel, thank you for this. I am three weeks away from my wedding and getting totally overwhelmed by details and family stress. In this, my future husband is the greatest resource in the entire world. He calms me, goes for walks with me, feeds me ice cream. In short, he reaffirms all the reasons why I'm marrying him in the first place. So, like you say, as long as, at the end of the day, we are happily married, it's a job well done. The rest is just detail.

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