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My journey to this place of truth began with a surprise trip to Stockholm, where my now-husband proposed with a stand-in pawnshop ring because he knew my jewelry tastes skew Mr. T and that I would want to pick something out myself from whatever the opposite of Tiffany is.
I became obsessed with making the wedding "perfect" and "us" and "perfectly us."
I'd turned off my data over there, so I couldn't announce my #blessed status by posting a shot of my newly sparkly hand lifting gravlax-laden crispbread to my smiling mouth. But I did put a literal custom-made stamp on our Save the Dates, which informed our guests that our wedding would be in hipster haven Brooklyn, a few blocks from our apartment in a funky old building that served as a Zumba studio, preschool, and meeting place for people who believe morality is independent of theology. The man who runs the place rides a recumbent bicycle.
I became obsessed with making the wedding "perfect" and "us" and "perfectly us." I dyed doilies in my tiny kitchen using special-order food gels. I enlisted my future mother-in-law to cut hundreds of circles out of paper and string them onto twine to make garlands. I cut and glued tiny gingham cupcake flags onto toothpicks and made an accompanying color-coded key so no one would confuse the espresso cupcakes with the salted-caramel ones. Using the laser-cut stencil my husband made, I chalk-painted our seating chart onto the old-timey window I dragged off the street to our third-floor walk-up. Usually Etsy gives me hives, but I'd become a full-on crafter.
I went the DIY route for two reasons. First, I liked having complete creative control of our wedding. But also, I'm the type of person who refuses to pay for water or parking. I've never bought a bouquet that costs more than $15, so instead of hiring a florist, I went to the flower market myself, hauling massive sheaves of Queen Ann's Lace and bells of Ireland home in a cab from Manhattan.
I bought serving utensils and napkins online, plus baker's twine to bundle them in all five of our five wedding colors (a quintet that caused a coworker to declare our theme "Mexican circus.") I even thought about making my own cake, but instead found a baker who offered both French- and American-style buttercream. We worked together to come up with a dozen innovative flavor combos that were carefully stacked on something I learned is called a cupcake tower.
Here's the thing: Besides driving you bonkers, I'm pretty sure a homemade, rustic-chic wedding costs more than a generic "fancy" one, because you end up renting vintage velvet settees and suitcases from prop companies and buying 100 overpriced heritage Mason jars on the Internet.When my parents got married, they had their wedding reception in my aunt's back yard. There was barbecue and maybe wontons. I want to say my dad ended up in tuxedo boxer shorts by the end of the night, but I'm too embarrassed to ask. While that kind of DIY wedding is inexpensive, today's—mine and the ones I've gone too, at least—seem cheap but cost a lot, like Moschino.
The Mexican-barbecue food truck we hired ran us about $70 a person. For tacos. Those cupcakes cost nearly $500. I balked at the cost of bridal gowns, then spent almost $1,000 on a dress from Nicole Miller, plus another $350 changing the neckline and getting a fancy bustle sewn in—alterations that are usually included at a chain bridal store. While catering halls have roofs, our venue had a charming garden we paid nearly $2,000 to tent in case it rained. We had to buy hand soap for the bathrooms, lights to string from the rafters, and bar equipment for the guys who made our agave and fresh lime juice margaritas, all because our cool venue wasn't really set up for something as uncool as a wedding.
If you want to preserve your sanity, get off of Style Me Pretty.
One of the most awesome girls I know, someone who makes oversize white v-neck t-shirts look really good, got married at a cheesy place on the water that she refers to as "a wedding factory." She could have mega fun at her own wedding because she didn't drive herself to the brink beforehand spending a zillion hours planning what is essentially a get-together. I'm not sure what she spent the time on instead—blowing glass eyes for pit bulls saved from dog-fighting rings, probably—but it was not researching the care of cut dwarf hydrangea. Which, I should note, wilted the second it left our air-conditioned apartment to sit on the outdoor tables on a sweltering day.
I loved my wedding. LOVED IT. My friends and family won't come together like that again until I die, and for them to all still be around, I'd have to die young. I will never again slow-dance with my husband while everyone looks on, or hang out in a hotel room with my sisters while someone does our hair and makeup, or watch my friends get teary-eyed as I solemnly vow not to rearrange the toiletries under the sink more than once a month. But it was those moments that made it amazing, not the 12 kinds of hot sauce I collected over the course of a year or the dozens of retro hairstyles I Pinned.
If you want to preserve your sanity, get off of Style Me Pretty. You don't need a flower crown or spray-painted succulent escort card holders. I went to a wedding where they gave us tiny bags of homemade granola, and it was sweet, but I left mine in the hotel room by accident. What I did appreciate was the late-night greasy pizza delivery that fueled us up for another hour on the dance floor.
As long as you embrace your guests during dinner and smack their asses on the dance floor, I promise, they won't give a damn about how hands-on you were about your wedding. What they will appreciate is a bride who's not so frazzled by finding the perfect chevron ribbon for the boutonnieres that she snaps when you step on her train, a bride with the bandwidth to listen and laugh. If the devil is in the details, and I think it is, the divine surely must be in the big, impressionistic picture.