I never imagined myself getting married; of the many fantasies I entertained as a child, the most exciting probably involved building a life-size LEGO house or excavating a lost tomb — not an excessive, floofy wedding. Needless to say, when I recently got engaged, I was left a bit — well, lost doesn’t even begin to cover the emotions I’ve wrestled. As a clueless bride-to-be, I knew nothing about registries (“But I don’t need anything!”), how to find a dress that felt like me — more cynical than Cinderella — or planning a wedding that felt meaningful while remaining true to our relationship. Then I discovered A Practical Wedding, where the tagline reads, “Weddings. Minus the insanity, plus the marriage.” I was hooked.
As such, I’m so very pleased to introduce Meg Keene, the founder and executive editor of A Practical Wedding & Reclaiming Wife, who’s here to share some of her epic wedding wisdom. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was released in January 2012. Here’s Meg.
The thing about getting engaged is that suddenly, inexplicably, everyone around you seems to develop a laser-like focus on The Stuff. From the moment you utter the happy news, the stuff questions commence and will not stop: “What does the ring look like?” “What are you going to wear?” “What are your bridesmaids’ colors?” “What’s your wedding style?” And on and on and on. And the problem is, the stuff is really pretty. The stuff is really fun. And in our quest to find just the right stuff, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that on your wedding day — well, the stuff doesn’t actually matter very much.
I mean, look: I’m not anti-consumer. I don’t think any of us who hang around on Etsy are. I love a well-made dress by an independent designer. I want to gaze at that lovingly handcrafted artisan jewelry. I want to fondle that well-designed letterpress invite, thank you very much. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy stuff for our weddings. I’m not even saying that we should feel guilty buying things for our weddings (No More Guilt! That’s the independent wedding planning woman’s motto!). In fact, during my wedding planning, I had a realization that I was privileged to use my wedding budget as a personal independent-artist-and-business-owner stimulus plan. I realized that how we spend our money is more important than how much we spend.
So I’m not telling you not to buy stuff. (Fact: if you’re inviting more than four people to your wedding, chances are you’re going to have to buy stuff.) What I am saying is that the stuff is not what really matters. Not by a long shot.
When I look back on our wedding day, the first thing I think of is not my (amazing) vintage cocktail dress, or my handmade hair flower, or even our artisan wedding rings. What I think about is the pure overwhelming emotion of the day. I think about the dizzying feeling that accompanied waiting to walk down the aisle. I think of the gritty hyper-present-ness of the ceremony. I think about the joy that radiated from our friends, which felt as though it lifted me off the ground. I think about crying on my husband’s shoulder as we danced. I think about the laughter. And then, when I stop for a minute, I might think about the dress. (Because it was a really great dress.)
So as you dive into shopping for your wedding, focus on what you’ll really remember (and it’s probably not what the wedding industry is selling you). I wrote a sum of of what I learned about money planning my wedding, but these are my very best tips:
- Spend your money to support your values. You might not have a wedding budget amount of cash again for a long time, so support businesses and values that really matter to you. Trust me, it will make a world of difference to those artists and business owners.
- Make it yours, and then let it go. You probably want to make your wedding look and feel like who you both are. But once you’ve achieved that on a basic level, stop stressing. Trust me when I say that no one is going to remember your escort cards and table numbers anyway.
- Spend your money on things you care about, and cut the rest. I remember the potluck wedding with the 1940s-style big band as “the one with the happy couple and the amazing dancing.” I don’t remember what I ate, because it didn’t matter.
And write this on your fridge or hand: “I will not remember what my wedding looked like. I will remember how it felt.” Because at the end of the day, even really cool stuff is just that: stuff. It’s the love you share, the people who hold you up, and those precious moments of bliss and joy that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. And none of that is for sale.