Keep the YOU in YOUR Wedding

Tattooed Bride by Allebach Photography

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard brides-to-be say things like “I’d do X if it weren’t for Y.” Usually, the X is something like “wear a wedding dress that shows off my killer tattoos” or “serve a gluten-free vegan reception dinner” or “hire a bouncy castle for my adults-only wedding.” The Y is most often “my family,” though it is occasionally “society’s expectations.”

Every bride-to-be and groom-to-be… okay, almost every bride and groom… pays tribute to the conventions laid out by culture and religion and familial traditions, even if they don’t realize it. Social expectations are like advertising — we’re exposed to them our entire lives, in the conversations we hear and the media we see and the stories we’re told. Unless one lives the extremely examined life, it can be difficult to know where societal conventions end and where one’s own desires begin.

There are two ways to get around this, however. The first is to ask yourself why you want what you want. Here’s the disclaimer: There’s nothing wrong with wanting the big white princess dress to your wedding ceremony any more than there’s anything wrong with wanting to wear a neon green sailor suit to your wedding ceremony. Whether you want to wear the gown or the suit, consider your motivations. Maybe you’re leaning toward the gown because you’ve been taught that brides wear wedding gowns. Maybe you’re leaning toward the suit because you want to show everyone how truly anti-establishment you truly are. White dresses or sailor suits might just be your thing, you may discover that your true tastes lie somewhere in between. Lime green wedding gown, anyone?

The second way to get around the influence of convention is to seriously consider the random ideas that pop into your head when planning your wedding. Let’s say your brain says “How about a groom’s ‘cake’ made of your fiancé’s favorite candy bars!” Before you write that idea off as silly, consider whether it might be a fun addition to your dessert table. Maybe your brain says something like “I want to do the hokey-pokey as my first dance!” Think about it — do you really? If you do, stop worrying that your wedding guests will think it’s weird. First dances can be pretty boring, honestly, and I’d love it if the bride and groom started shaking it all about on the dance floor.

Just recently, I’ve read about a Halo-themed wedding, an all-black pagan wedding, and musical underwear for brides-to-be from Syria. Manolo for the Brides has featured sushi wedding cake and cheese wedding cakes. I’ve seen blue-haired brides, seriously tattooed brides, and brides on bikes (motor and otherwise). I have to assume that these brides faced at least some opposition to their choices, whether in the form of outright disapproval or quiet tsks from well-meaning relatives thinking “But she’s so pretty, if only she would…”

Yeah, well, I hate the break it to the detractors, but she, i.e., the bride-to-be, is so pretty anyway, whether she decides to drive a tractor to the ceremony or dye her hair to match her shockingly pink bridesmaids’ dresses. Keep that in mind if you’re planning your wedding and you’ve found yourself thinking “I’d do X if it weren’t for Y.” Heck, keep it in mind for the rest of your life! Sometimes doing X just isn’t feasible, but sometimes the only thing keeping you from doing X is that pesky Y.

Want to keep more YOU in YOUR wedding? Remember that when it comes to choosing a wedding dress or ceremony accessories or vows or reception venue or transport or most of the other stuff associated with weddings, it’s more often than not perfectly appropriate to say “I respect your opinion Y, but I’m still going to do X.”

(Note: The pic above came from Allebach Photography in Philly. Call 610.539.6920 if you’re interested in wedding photography or a trash the dress session.)

15 Responses to “Keep the YOU in YOUR Wedding”

  1. blablover5 says:

    We’re pretty sure that most of my Mom’s side of the family didn’t show up because they viewed a Halloween reception as too pagan never mind the fact the ceremony was held in a Methodist church (though we are pretty big into pot lucks and grape juice, so maybe that makes it pagan).

    But at least it meant that we didn’t have to pay for a bunch of people to be there that would have looked down or poopooed our wedding.

  2. Because my husband and I met in Casablanca, Morocco we wanted to bring a touch of Moroccan flavor to our wedding. So I I paid a henna artist to do tatoos on the plams of my hands, my feet and on all the feet of my BMs, the flower girl, my mom and my MIL. We also used a henna-like pattern to accent our invites, place cards, and the cake.

    When the priest (not one of my favorite people….LONG story) saw my henna at the rehearsal the day before he made a snide comment to the effect of “Dear God I hope you plan on washing that off!” I told him I had no intention to and that I had, in fact, paid someone to put it there. He said something else snide in return which I promptly ignored. Several of our wedding guests commented on the henna and I’m pretty sure some of them thought it was weird to have an entire wedding party of white girls (except my lovely bi-racial SIL) with henna tatoos but it was one of my favorite things about our otherwise traditional wedding.

  3. Twistie says:

    I well remember when I proudly showed off my brand-spanking-new silver frog prince engagement ring to a casual acquaintence. He absolutely refused to believe it was an engagement ring because engagement rings are diamonds and they couldn’t possibly be anything else. His trump argument was that diamonds last forever. My reply was: “Great. Then he pays a bundle he doesn’t have and I’m stuck for the rest of my life with a ring I don’t like that I have to wear every day.”

    No thanks! As it is, Mr. Twistie paid less than a hundred dollars on a ring that makes me smile every single day, delights small children, and makes grown women melt into puddles of romantic goo.

    If I’d wanted a diamond, Mr. Twistie would have gotten me one. Diamonds just aren’t my style.

    Oh, and seventeen years after I got it, my silver frog is lasting just fine, thanks, as is my mother’s silver wedding ring which I now wear with it.

  4. daisyj says:

    Okay, so what if X= Include a detailed description of the couples sex life in the vows and Y= Would humiliate my grandmother and cause discomfort to the guests? Or X= Having a cake made entirely out of durian and Y= You’re the only person you know who enjoys that fruit’s distinctive flavor (no one likes the smell)?

    I’m being silly here, but I do think that too much thinking along those lines can lead to the “It’s all about me!” bridal attitude we all love so much. I’m of the opinion that a wedding isn’t just one person’s special day, it’s a social event and the ceremony, religious or not, is something to be taken seriously, even if you do decorate it with moments of whimsy. After all, your guests are basically setting aside an entire day to celebrate you at a major moment in your life, not to sit around and watch you indulge yourself.

  5. Toni says:

    I think daisyj makes some good point, and it’s all part and parcel of being a good host. And just as it doesn’t make any sense to be traditional just for tradition’s sake, I think it makes equally little sense to buck tradition “just because.” If you forge ahead with the intent to shock, then you can’t be huffy if you draw reactions.

    (And just so it’s clear, I don’t find any particular days of the year, henna, or silver frogs shocking.)

  6. La BellaDonna says:

    I am very grateful to my family, who had NO problem with dressing up for mine – the only regret was that I didn’t have time to make my Dad’s outfit, and he had to rent!

    As long as no one’s at hazard from your choices, surely if they care enough to come to your wedding, they have some appreciation for the quirks that make you who you are? Silver frogs, henna, dressing up, special calendar days – if it’s a celebration for individuals, let there be individuality in the celebration! As long as there’s another cake in addition to the durian one, why shouldn’t there be a durian cake (under a smell forcefield, apparently). I get really distressed on behalf of the bride and/or groom who says wistfully, “I really wanted …. but ….”

    If not for your wedding, when CAN you celebrate in a way which reflects you?

  7. Melissa B. says:

    I think the trick is to distinguish between things that will make your guests unhappy or uncomfortable (such as, say, not renting enough chairs so you can afford a Vera Wang gown) and things that might just seem a little odd to people. If you’re not doing X because you think X will make people enjoy your wedding less, that’s a valid consideration. But if you’re not doing X because you think people will laugh at you or think you’re weird … well, so what if they do? (And why bother inviting those people?)

    For the love of all things cute and fluffy, though, if you’re going to get married in a hot tub full of Jell-O, warn your officiant ahead of time.

  8. blablover5: What a weird thing to skip a wedding over! Unless that side of your family is made up of the sorts of Christians who eschew all holidays (Halloween being one in this part of the world) I have to wonder why a Halloween reception would be such a big deal.

    casablancabride: Oh, how terrible! And this out of the mouth of a man of the cloth! Personally, I think henna is lovely.

    Twistie: I like to tell people that diamonds, as far as I’ve been led to believe, are not actually forever. It may take billions of years, but they will eventually degrade into graphite, i.e., pencil “lead.”

    daisyj: I see where you’re coming from, but I certainly hope that no one reading the post would think X could refer to something outside of the range of good manners. We’re pretty obsessive about that sort of thing here! I will say, however, that while the formation of a marriage partnership is certainly a serious business, not everyone treats it as a solemn one. Some people are more whimsical than others 🙂 When it comes to etiquette-appropriate wedding silliness, there’s always the chance that one or two guests might be made uncomfortable by it (where “it” is a cake shaped like the Empire State Building or an electric purple wedding gown or an Elvis impersonator officiant)… well, you can’t please everyone.

    Toni: That’s why it’s so important to decide what you like and why. I say one can’t be huffy if one draws a reaction no matter what one chooses (traditional or non or some mix of both) because critical people will always find something to criticize.

    La BellaDonna: Hear, hear! (Though I would definitely sequester the durian cake. Whoa, stinky!)

    Melissa B.: It just struck me that if you’re worried that people will think you’re weird because you want to do X at your wedding, all those people probably already think you’re pretty darn weird. Even if you don’t let your freak flag fly all that often, the important people in your life likely know all about your sci-fi/roleplaying/ren-fair/fire spinning/Jell-O obsession!

  9. Stephanie says:

    We had a gluten-free dinner and cake. My brother and I both have to eat gluten-free, and catered events usually screw up our “special meals.” My own wedding was one event where I didn’t want the meal screwed up. Our caterer was great, we shopped around until we found someone who knew exactly what gluten was. The food was so fantastic that no one noticed it was all gluten-free.

    The one thing some people thought was absolutely “wrong” was to serve milk to drink with the flourless chocolate cake. But we like milk with chocolate cake, plus there was coffee and the bar was still open. No one was forced to drink milk, and many people really appreciated it.

  10. Nat says:

    Hey I’m wearing a red kimono for my wedding, and i must say my family has been pretty good about. My mum is being really supportive about it because she didnt get to do what she wanted for her wedding. But whenever i tell people I’m wearing a red kimono they ask”why”. Why? Because i look good in red and i think kimonos are so beautiful. Some are works of art.

  11. JR says:

    My friend is currently dealing with a similar problem regarding her upcoming wedding. She and her fiance love Renaissance fairs. She wants to wear a Renfair style dress for her wedding with her fiance in his kilt. Her parents have refused to help pay for the wedding if she won’t agree to wear a traditional wedding dress with the groom in a tux.

    They are currently looking into making a deal with the local Renfair to have their wedding during the next season, but they aren’t sure if they’ll be able to come up with the money on their own. (Groom’s parents aren’t able to help financially.)

  12. tim says:

    It’s great to remember who your wedding is for…and that person is you.

    Stick to a style and theme that suites your needs and that will make you happy on your wedding day. It’s a day of celebration and a time to really enjoy all that is taking place, as well as being able to share the moment with all of your family and friends. You want to remember it as the best day of your life….so just do your thang and plan a wedding that’s right for you!

  13. La BellaDonna says:

    JR, autonomy is the very best reason for a bride and groom to pay for their own wedding. I paid for mine; it never occurred to me, honestly, that anyone else would. Good thing, too, because no one else offered! It’s better to wait, and do-it-yourself, then star in someone else’s show. I loved the church where I got married, in my Cavalier-style wedding, but that was many years ago, and I would also love a Ren Faire wedding. If I were in your friend’s position, I’d rather hold out for an extra year, do it right, and do it myself, than forego what I want in order for someone else, parents or no, to pay for what THEY want. They had their turn. As long as your friend and her husband to be pay the piper, they can call the tune – and they can actually HAVE a piper!

  14. Twistie says:

    JR, I’m absolutely with La Bella Donna on this one. If the only way to get financing from family for a wedding is to have a celebration that entirely fails to reflect the bride and groom, it’s much better to wait, save up, and self-finance.

    OTOH, I’ve seen several lovely weddings happen at Renaissance Faires. It’s a way to save money, it’s good publicity for the faire, and it might well be the perfect way for your friends to have the wedding they want. I wish them nothing but the best.

  15. Stephanie says:

    My parents were married in the 80s and looking at pictures I can tell that may parents followed quite a few of societies expectations. My mom had hair down to her waist (she always did though) and wore a long while gown with train and sleeves. They were married in a church and had a small and simple reception.

    However, my mom wore her hair down, making it longer than her veil. My dad wore a white tux instead of a black one (he doesn’t like the way black looks on him) and their first dance as a married couple was, and I kid you not, skinny marinky dinky doo. Growing up I always laughed and thought it was awesome that my parents did something so different.

    I plan when I get married to skip the cake (no one eats it anyway) and do cookies instead. I refuse to walk down the aisle to ‘here comes the bride’ instead I’ll be playing ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ by Guns and Roses. How’s that for staying true to yourself 😉