My nontraditional, inexpensive, no fuss, very fun wedding
20 guests, flip cup and a Polaroid camera
I realized not long after my husband David and I got engaged that wedding planning wasn’t for me. I didn’t even enjoy the parts that were supposed to be fun — dress shopping, looking at venues, building robust Pinterest boards. Instead, all I felt was, well, nothing. My email inbox was bursting with emails from vendors. My phone was ringing off the hook. And yet I wasn’t really stressed; I simply wanted nothing to do with any of it. Nevertheless, despite my ill will toward the entire process, we finally decided on a wedding venue. Contract in hand, we paused. The venue was beautiful. The price was doable. Why couldn’t we bring ourselves to sign the contract and get on with it?
Weddings are a $50 billion industry in the U.S. alone. We’re spoon fed the idea that you need to drain your savings (or your parents) to achieve some kind of matrimonial nirvana.
Your day will be incomplete without thousands of dollars worth of flowers. A wedding dress must be the most expensive article of clothing you own even though you’ll only wear it once. Invite everyone you know and everyone that those people know.
It wasn’t until we had a contract in hand that we realized we didn’t want any of that. David and I aren’t conventional people, so why were we adhering to the status quo on the most important day of our lives? We tore up the contract and started building our wedding, our way.
We bought a house in the summer of 2020 and decided we’d get married in our backyard. Sitting on nearly half an acre, we had plenty of room and the wooded landscape would be the perfect fall backdrop for an October wedding.
Next came the guest list. Our personalities pulled us toward doing something intimate, and with COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, it was an easy decision. Our guest list was small and thoughtful, comprising just our parents, siblings and a handful of our closest friends. We felt guilty breaking the news to the friends and family members we didn’t invite but were overjoyed by their support and grace.
The rest of the wedding planning was rather seamless: we made our wedding website and invitations on Zola while idly watching The Office one evening. Our photographer came highly recommended from a friend. The caterer was minutes from our home and the top-rated on Google. I ordered a chic, one-shoulder ivory jumpsuit online and David ran to a few stores one afternoon to pick up a suit and a new tie. We bought simple, tasteful decorations and party favors at Michael’s, Target and Five Below.
The day of the wedding was hectic, but exciting. Our tables, chairs and tableware arriving an hour late was the only real stress we felt the entire day. Our lack of a formal wedding party meant it was all hands on deck from our family and friends — they spent the morning hanging lights across trees, creating centerpieces and setting up the open bar (among about a dozen other tasks). David and I left our home in good hands, bouncing around downtown Annapolis with our photographer for our pre-wedding photos. Within two hours, we were back at the house, freshened up, and saying our I-do’s.
The ceremony was captivating, but our reception was pure bliss. We ate, danced and played one too many games of flip cup. We took sweet, silly photos on a Polaroid camera and slid them into a photo album that now sits on our living room ottoman. A fire warmed our bodies while we roasted s’mores, laughing at the marshmallow and chocolate residue left on our smiling faces. I ended the night with a drunken heart-to-heart with my older sister, and a few extra shots of vodka that I probably didn’t need with my younger brother. After nearly ten delightful hours together, we hugged and thanked all of our guests, threw water on the fire and climbed into bed with full hearts.
Our wedding day was the best day of our lives because we made sure of it. We reflected on what and who mattered most and planned our wedding around that vision, never wavering in the face of uncertainty or doubt. I’ve heard and read countless stories of couples who were forced to postpone or cancel their big weddings because of the pandemic, and were happier because of it. Micro-weddings, mini-monies and elopements are no longer taboo. Now, this isn’t an indictment of large, lavish weddings. I love and admire all weddings — big and small, traditional and modern. Instead, this is a former bride suggesting that weddings don’t have to fit into a pre-determined marital mold. I’ll leave you with these three pieces of advice:
- Your wedding is about and for you and your partner, and no one else.
- More doesn’t always mean better.
- Don’t take anything too seriously. Being engaged should be fun. Getting married should be fun.