This weekend, I went to Steve & Lily’s wedding, and it was the most inspiring and unusual affair.
There was no aisle for the bride to walk down.
There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen.
There was no cocktail hour, best man speech, or seated dinner.
People were encouraged to sport outfits that fully expressed themselves — this included one man wearing a skirt.
Most weddings that I’ve attended in the West tend to have the following agenda:
But this wedding didn’t follow that structure at all.
We were dressed and ready to be picked up by a yellow school bus at 1pm sharp.
When we arrived on-site, we were each given a mug that said, This must be the place. That would serve as our party favor and the only thing we’d be drinking from all night long.
When I asked Steve the relevance of the mantra on the cup, he said,
“To me, it represents presence. It means looking around and recognizing that we’re exactly where we belong. This must be the place we’re supposed to be.”
The property was a lakefront home that had been in Lily’s family for multiple generations.
Everyone sprawled across the backyard, on the docks, beneath the trees, in the hammock, and on the porch. There were no tables with numbers on them, assigned seating, or standard centerpieces.
Within a hour or so, the ceremony began. There was no procession. The bride and groom sat next to each other, facing their friends and family. One of their closest friends served as the officiant.
We all watched as Steve and Lily made “promises” to each other. Then, they did something I’d never seen before: they made a promise to all of us.
Today is our opportunity for us to say thank you.
Thank you to those who held us as crying babies through the night.
Thank you to those who shared our teenage angst.
Thank you to the friends who have helped us understand what this love really is.
Now that we’ve made promises to each other, we want to make a promise to you.
We will listen carefully to your dreams,
We will hold space for you to explore your hearts,
We will be the light that shines when you need it most.
And when times are tough between us,
Remind us of this day, of the sound of the lake, and the heat of the sun
Now, everybody close your eyes,
Reach both hands high into the sky,
Feel this vibration, this love that can be seen from space.
Now, tilt your face toward the sun, and on 3, yell “I love you!”
And we all did just that. We collectively shouted I love you to the sky.
After the ceremony, there was a “roaming dinner” where everyone grabbed food from a buffet and, once again, scattered around the property. It was as intimate as it was unstructured, allowing everyone to dive into time with each other and nature.
An hour later, the backyard had been transformed into a zen den covered in blankets, candles, and pillows. Everyone was encouraged to get cozy as the “storytelling” was about to begin.
Steve and Lily had pre-selected ten guests to share inspiring love stories with everyone. One couple who was celebrating their 50th anniversary that same evening shared the things they’d learned on their journey. Another friend performed a rap about Steve and Lily’s relationship. Both sets of parents got up to tell stories of their children. After each story, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
And that’s when the cake was served and the dancing began. A DJ spun until midnight.
After speaking with almost everyone at the wedding, I think the general consensus was that none of us had ever attended a celebration quite like it before. And as I’ve spent the past couple days to reflect upon my experience, I think it’s important to call out why Steve and Lily’s wedding (much like their partnership) was so different than most.
They questioned the defaults and chose with intention.
I’ve noticed that in love — and in life — we tend to accept the defaults without examination. In short, we choose what everyone else is choosing, and in this process, we let go of our power to cultivate what we really want and need.
We tend to enter into committed relationships because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do even when it doesn’t feel totally aligned sometimes, we tend to choose jobs because we’re afraid to pursue what’s actually in our hearts, and we tend to get married in white dresses and black suits because that’s what everyone else is doing.
But when we take just a moment to access our creativity and grant ourselves permission to explore beyond the defaults, we have the ability to create lives, partnerships, and even weddings that fully express how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. Simply, we get to create things that are truly ours.
Additionally, we can serve as inspirations for everyone on the journey or periphery that is either consciously or subconsciously absorbing the vibes we put out into the world.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with choosing the defaults, if they are, in fact, what you choose.
If you’ve considered other possibilities but then decided what’s standard is best for you, then go for it.
Lily and Steve’s wedding represented something sacred to me. It’s what happens when a couple truly chooses all of the things.
By hosting the celebration at home, giving everyone permission to dress as they wish, creating a platform for friends and family to turn their love into performance art, and making promises to each other and their community, they created an experience that changed everyone’s life this weekend.
It’s left me questioning what defaults I am choosing and examining where I can engage my creativity to customize my world a little bit more.
What defaults are you choosing in your life today?
Where can you question and choose differently?
It’s something to think about it.
Lots of love.
Here. We. Go.
My name is Jared. I believe that self-expression is the key to freedom. So I’ve spent my life building things that give people a voice. I ask a lot of questions, I’m always in overalls, and I live with my dog, Koj, in New York City.
For more info about my work, talks, and all the things, check out lovejmw.com.