How we're making peace with our no bells and whistles wedding in the WIC pressure cooker

April 20 | Guest post by Jess

We recently talked about the pressure to have THE BEST WEDDING EVER. Now we're hearing from a bride who is embracing a streamlined wedding despite tons of pressure from the wedding industry. Here's how she and her partner are turning the pressure upside down.

How we're making peace with our streamlined wedding
All You Need is Love cake topper from Sophia Victoria Joy

Planning a budget-friendly, streamlined wedding that doesn't feature all the "bells and whistles" of traditional weddings is not without its judgments and that's where my recent stress has been coming in. Wedding planning forums can make you question if your wedding is going to be remembered as the "worst wedding ever," your ideas suck, and it's all going to be tacky, especially if you are cutting some corners, budget-wise.

We're having a dry wedding during a non-meal time hour so we're not planning a menu that you would expect for a full service lunch and dinner. We've been calling it a cake and punch reception with some heavy appetizers.  We don't want a party-into-the-night atmosphere. We're not having a photo booth, and as much as we would love to invite the hundreds upon hundreds of people we both know, we opted for a small-ish wedding guest list. Did I miss anything? I'm pretty sure we just committed every major faux pas according to Pinterest and every major wedding industry publication on newsstands.

I mean, if we don't have any of those things, we're not truly married, right? If you don't have a photo booth and a DJ or big band performing then your wedding is going to be the most boring event to have ever taken place. Don't even mention not serving alcohol. "Your future in-laws are recovering alcoholics so you don't want to tempt them with alcohol? They should learn to be around alcohol." These are actual wedding forum responses to posts I've read recently! One can only read so much of that before you begin to think that maybe you have no business planning a wedding or otherwise you could be stuck with a permanent black mark on your record of life.

It's all about attitude

If you go in with the mindset that everyone is going to have a horrible time then it will be a horrible time.

A few days ago I had a moment with my partner, Steven, where I wondered out loud if our friends and family are going to think less of us because we aren't going to be providing a blow-out party atmosphere at the reception. Steven reminded me that our guests are going to have a good time because we're going to have a good time. He told me, "We'll have just gotten married, we'll feel like dancing and singing because we're happy and those good feelings will be infectious. If you go in with the mindset that everyone is going to have a horrible time then it will be a horrible time."

He had a really good point, and I thought back to my original thinking about wedding planning when we first got engaged almost two years ago. While there's nothing wrong with the big, blow-out parties that follow a wedding ceremony, that isn't important to us. This was the whole idea of planning our kind of wedding to begin with. For us, a wedding doesn't have to include all the "bells and whistles," and it's been important to us to properly host our guests by providing them enough seating, a comfortable environment, plenty to eat and drink, and making sure their needs are taken care of.

Wants vs. Needs

That's the thing about the Wedding Industrial Complex — it's a constant struggle of wants vs. needs. You know what you need to be married in the U.S.? A marriage license and an officiant to marry you. It doesn't matter if you're wearing a $10,000 designer gown or a $10 dress off the clearance rack. All that matters is you walk out of that location that day knowing that you're married and committed to your partner. If you want a photo booth or a band or a huge cake, then I say that you do what you want to do. But don't feel like you are absolutely required to have them.

Those pins on Pinterest may make you think differently, but believe me, when I think about the weddings I've been to, I don't think about whether there were satin chair covers or what wedding favor I left on the table. I remember the ceremony, like the wedding where my friend had to ask the pastor one more time what line she had to repeat and how she and her husband-to-be laughed with each other during it. I remember the awesome dance moves one groom showed on the dance floor when his favorite jam came on. I remember the wedding where the ring bearer decided to play under his mother's dress as she lit the unity candle. With absolute sincerity, I hope those who come to our wedding have favorite memories like that.

Will I still worry? Yes.

That doesn't mean I still don't have my moments of "Oh crap, what if this all falls apart?" as we continue to check off items on the wedding planning to-do list. I still lurk on wedding forums, but I tend to avoid topics that may lead to reading really nasty, judgmental responses to an idea that I support.

I know at the end of the day there will probably be wedding guests who may talk about how they didn't like such-and-such at our wedding. There may be some disappointed people who realize that they're not going to get free booze at the reception. As with every event that has ever been hosted, there will be those who think they would have done something better or a different way. I can't let those fears rob me of my genuine love and excitement that I have as we continue to count down to our streamlined wedding day.

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  1. My fiance and rather introverted, and I have severe PTSD induced anxiety. While we want to have a celebration for our wedding, the idea of a large wedding with all the extras scares the hex out of us. We are having six to eight guests for our Neo-Victorian (time) travelers wedding. We did not want a party or a bunch of people; therefore, we found a beautiful venue for both the wedding and the reception. For the reception, we will be ordering amazing Chinese food from an upscale restaurant. Our guests will be well hosted, even though we are not having alcohol. (Apparently that in itself is a huge faux pas, even though only two of the guests drink alcohol.) Each of them knows exactly what our reception will be like, and all of them have said that it is going to be fun. It will be exactly what we want for our wedding.

    I think bigger more elaborate weddings can be beautiful: We just do not want one.

    3 agree
    • Your wedding sounds beautiful! I love the idea of Chinese food for the reception. Now I want Chinese food for dinner. Best wishes on your planning!

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      • Aw! Thanks! Our first date was at a Chinese restaurant. Over the last seven years, we have made it our personal mission to find the best Chinese food in our state. Having it for our reception dinner was important to us.

        1 agrees
    • I'm a big drinker and still think your wedding sounds wonderful. What is most important is that you and your SO are happy and surrounded by loved ones. Check and check!

      4 agree
  2. Your wedding will be wonderful especially because it is what y'all want your wedding to be. A friend recently had a streamlined wedding. Their wedding was lovely and there were many magical moments. They had all that was needed!

    3 agree
  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! We're currently planning a no bells and whistles wedding as well (although stuck on finding an inexpensive wedding that can fit the number of guests, which we can't pare down, and is within our aesthetic-ish). I've already gotten crap from people when I mention DIY. For the first 9 months, I referred to it as our potluck party, and there was no end of "you're joking, right? It'll be catered, right?!" comments. It's going to be tough to keep it in mind, as I'm a people-pleaser to the core, but you're absolutely right- as long as the bride and groom are having a good time, everyone else will, too. I appreciate that reminder. 🙂

    5 agree
    • Okay can we please make potluck weddings a more common thing?? I would love nothing more than to attend a wedding of someone I love, bearing delicious food as a gift and getting to indulge in everyone else's delicious food and stories and recipes and KINSHIP. This is what it's about people! I can't believe the reaction people give to the thought of a "potluck" wedding.

      12 agree
      • Yes! We are having a potluck party and it is confusing and baffling to people. BUT I LOVE POTLUCKS!!! And of course no gifts are expected (no registry exists). We also have no caterer or florist or event coordinator. I think we're going to manage to keep our budget under $5K, and even that is a lot for us to spend ($3K went to renting our private campground venue for the weekend, which is well worth it). When people talk about "budget savvy" weddings with a $10-15K cost, my jaw drops. And on a side note, I will be 6 months sober on our wedding day, so alcohol is not going to play much of a role in our party. We got a two gallon drink dispenser to make a signature cocktail that will be refilled one time, and that is it. The rest is BYOB. As for "people in recovery should learn to be around alcohol" comments, I think people who drink should learn to be in sober situations more often.

        11 agree
        • Congratulations on your sobriety! That is a wonderful accomplishment!

          I absolutely agree with your comment: People should learn to be in sober situations more often. I get angry when I read a comment about someone saying they are planning on sneaking alcohol into a dry wedding. It is disrespectful and possibly illegal. My ex-husband was abusive, causing me to become physically disabled. Often he was drunk during the worst attacks, so the smell of alcohol sometimes sets off my PSTD, causing panic attacks and flashbacks. If someone was to bring alcohol to my wedding they would no longer be my friend or my family.

          We have a $3000 budget, and I cannot fathom how anyone can think that a $10,000 budget is "budget savvy" either! We are going without a lot of stuff others think is essential. (Not that I am bashing them! You have the money and the desire, have at it!) No coordinator, no videographer (possibly not even a professional photographer), no save the dates. The list goes on!

          7 agree
  4. Thank you for writing this article! You have no idea how frustrating and scary when I google "Simple wedding" or " Budget Friendly", I would usually get a response of how to not make it boring by adding this and that …and all that crazy bs that weddings have now.

    With a budget that was 5k, I thought I was being fair but every vendor, venues and caterers I went to, it was the budget, times 4( jesus christ!). So at the end I resort to having it at a brewery since they didn't try to rip me off and let me bring whatever I like as long it's within reason, (plus if were paying for it, I rather be near some beer all night 🙂 ).

    I was glad that my sister is the only one that was understanding of my ideas,but as for the rest,
    I would get comments from family about our wedding ideas being "different" or "very interesting", in which gave me a vibe that it wasn't living there expectation. So of course I went into anxiety mode. So it's nice to see articles like this to know that everything is going to be okay and that sometimes you kinda have to go off the grid in order to have a peace of mind. So once again, Thank you.

    • I am so glad this gave you comfort! Thank you so much for the feedback!

      And now that I am married to the love of my life, I can tell you that our wedding went great and our guests seemed to really enjoy themselves! I got a lot of compliments about how "laid back" our event was and how it was actually nice for once to not feel they weren't at a typical wedding.

      Your wedding will be beautiful, wonderful, fantastic because it's the day that celebrates you and yours, and what's all that matters. <3

      1 agrees

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