Not every wedding choice has to “mean something”

Guest post by ohrachael
Sometimes a pretty milk glass vase is just a pretty milk glass vase. (Photo by Jillian West)

Almost as soon as I got engaged, my mother showed me a small collection of assorted milk glass vases she had at her house. “Do you want to use these for decoration at your wedding? Because I can start collecting more if you do. They're usually like two dollars each.” I took a picture and, when I got home, showed it to my fiancé. “Sure, why not,” he said. I texted my mom. “Milk glass sounds good let's do it.”

Milk glass doesn't have any personal significance to us. I have no idea if it's something a lot of people like or not. It was available and inexpensive and I thought it would look cute with some giant brightly colored paper flowers.

I see this attitude a lot, about weddings, where everything is “supposed to mean something.” Though, really, I'm sure we Offbeat Brides do this too, without necessarily meaning to. Example: “I see everyone else doing [wedding trend], but I'm doing it for [REASONS OF PERSONAL SIGNIFICANCE], so my use of [trendy item] is like SOOO much more valid than that wedding on [traditional wedding blog].”

Like I said, probably reading too much between lines. And… okay, yeah, exaggerating a bit. But here on Offbeat Bride, where everyone is doing their own thing, doing what they love, and not giving a flying fuck about trends, it can feel like, “But what if I just… like something?” And, yes, that something can be trendy. And that's okay.

The other day I was at a restaurant where water was placed in frosted clear wine bottles all over the table. I liked it. I thought, “I should start saving clear wine bottles! This is cute!” Not meaningful. Just cute.

Before we got engaged, I had this grand notion that every little choice that we made about our wedding was going to be somehow representative of us. Now I can't imagine doing that without going crazy from the stress.

“Wait, but Mike, these lavender vases are about two shades off from the exact color that represents my love for you! Are they two shades off in the other direction from your love for me? Because then they'll be PERFECT.”

I understand now that what's going to represent us best as a couple will be to not actually care all that much about our centerpieces, the silverware, or chair covers. What will better represent us will be to say, “Hey, does this work for you?” “Sure, why not?” “Okay great done.” And we can save our energy for the things that we do care about, like how many dinosaurs I can fit into our décor and having amazing food and a venue where we feel comfortable.

If some of the easy “Sure, why not?” decisions along the way happen to take us in a trendy direction, I'm okay with that.

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Comments on Not every wedding choice has to “mean something”

  1. I am a wedding planner and I tell brides this all the time. I learned the hard way – I spent 12 hours looking for a cake cutter to match my cake stand which was my grandma’s. When I finally found my “life altering cake cutter” I showed my mom and her response was a simple “That’s nice dear”. Then I pointed out how the leaves on the handle matched the leaves on the plate the response was “Oh thats good”. I think I was expecting fireworks and confetti. Thats 12 hours of my life I will never get back!

    • hahaha I can relate! We had a Game of Thrones cake, so I spent an embarassing amount of time trying to find a cake cutter that looked like a sword. I only found one website that offered them and it’s based in the UK and I live in Canada, so with shipping costs and such it would have been, like, well over $60 to get it. I found a couple others that were kind of sword-ish but they were more samurai in style than medieval/fantasy, so I didn’t think it would fit the theme.

      And finally I was like, holy fuck, who cares, and then we just used the damn cake cutter the venue provides for free. Didn’t “match” the cake but it so, so did not matter. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a reality check.

  2. THANK YOU. We have clear glass bud vases, because they go 1/2 off at Hobby Lobby every other week, and we needed 30. The only thing it means is that I’m cheap, and proud of it!

    • We had copper-tone (like tin with a copper coloring) planters full of supermarket flowers as centerpieces because they were $2 each at Michael’s, and Mom’s garden didn’t bloom so we had to go to Stop & Shop for cheesy bouquets to take apart.

      Aaaaand I was fine with it. Whatevs!

  3. It’s funny. I think this belief that all things have to Mean Something—and the related fear that OMG, my wedding is not offbeat enough!!—is an unintended and unfortunate side effect of resisting the Wedding Industrial Complex. Like we get this idea in our heads that because we don’t like the WIC, we have to do a 180 and be totally different. And then some brides have the same issues they’d have if they were having a WIC-y wedding, trying to attain this “perfect” thing that doesn’t actually exist.

    I definitely went through this. I actually found myself wondering if maybe we shouldn’t get married because we couldn’t build this production where everything had sentimental value. Maybe that meant we didn’t know each other well enough to get married. And I realized that’s crazy.

    So my new wedding motto is “Do You.” Have the wedding that you want. Whether it’s totally by the book, totally different, super meaningful, just random, something you threw together in two weeks (what my parents did!) or whatever. Just Do You.

  4. “But what if I just… like something?” And, yes, that something can be trendy. And that’s okay.

    OMG, thank you. I am using Ball jars for my centerpieces…A) because I’ve always liked them and B) I already own a abajillion of them that I dug out my grandparent’s barn years ago. So duh… instant centerpiece vases… crossed off the list. Boom, done. Why would I do anything else?
    BUT, I did momentarily wonder if this choice would be interpreted as “trendy” and I’d have to justify my use of them by being all “I’ve liked them since BEFORE they were cool… they were my late grandfather’s… its like having him AT the wedding…SO MEANINGFUL!!…see!?? SEE!?!?!”
    Yeah, no. Truth is, I like them and they’re easy and free. That’s all… and that’s ok.

  5. This!!! I am reminded of a conversation Writer Boy and I had with the DJ before our wedding.

    DJ; “okay, you need to pick an entrance song for the reception.”
    me; “I don’t care, you can just pick whatever sounds good.”
    DJ; “Oh, I can’t do that! This is a highly personal choice for you and Writer Boy!”
    me; looks at Writer Boy, wanting to cry because we just spent an hour deciding on ceremony music and I just don’t care what we walk into the hall too.
    Writer Boy to the rescue; “DJ, what are the 5 you play the most?”
    DJ; starts listing songs….gets to Darth Vaders Imperial March…
    Writer Boy; “okay, Imperial March it is.” (he loves Star War anyhow)

    I just DIDN’T CARE! Writer Boy had already made decisions on what mattered to us, and here this guy was telling me I had to make a very personal decision on something I honestly did not care about. If I had made everything “mean something” my mind would have been 110% occupied with the wedding, and I would have had nothing left to give to Writer Boy, my family or friends (some of whom were going through some crazy shit, let me tell you!). I don’t think that would have been healthy.

    Great article!

    • Agreed. We didn’t plan for a last dance, so when the DJ was ready to wrap up he came out to us and asked us what we wanted. We couldn’t think of anything, so my husband said something like “Whatever, like a nice oldie.” Still have no idea what song it was. It was fine.

  6. I was just telling someone last week that I’d make myself crazy if I tried to give significance to all the minutae of this event. I like what I like. That’s it.

  7. THIS! Oh God, this so hard. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past week or so. I think that because we eloped and we’re having “only” a reception/it is my husband’s second marriage, I’m sort of extra-sensitive and want everything to be full of MEAAAANING. My eye-opener happened over the weekend when my mom sent me a picture of some vases she found at this design outlet she always stops at on road trips. They were perfectly good vases and since she couldn’t get in touch with me while at the store, she went ahead and bought them. I had this moment o’panic where I thought, “But..but I didn’t spend hours lovingly scouring thrift stores/the internet/ Grandma’s house for these and now they aren’t special!” Wtf? They are vases. Most people won’t even notice they’re there and most certainly nobody is going to ask, “What emotional significance do those vases have?” I feel sort of terrible when I think about all the time and worry and…emotional currency I have put into this one day when it’s probably not going to mean a thing to anyone but me. I told myself in the beginning that the only things I cared about were having my dress, my guy and our daughter there and I think I sometimes need to be reminded that those are still the important parts.

    • Yep…I had that moment yesterday…I needed to go the post office & figure out what $.66 stamps I wanted for the invitations. I didn’t like the 2 wedding ones & really did like the butterfly ones – and started to question what someone might think if they weren’t wedding ones – they don’t match the medieval theme for goodness sake…and the thought occurred to me – NO ONE will even notice the stamp. Why spend my hard earned money for specialty stamps that I can’t afford – THEY’RE JUST STAMPS. And then I bought the butterfly ones – the end. 🙂 And actually, I have to sometimes remind my FH that not all the music needs to be minstrel or celtic or medieval – we can just “like” it. He was really having issues with my walking down the aisle to Red Hot Chili Peppers. HA!

      • My mom did that! She wanted us to get the custom postage stamps with our faces on them. Sure, they’d be cute, but I think they’re an unnecessary expense as most people just tear the envelope open and don’t pay attention. It has been really strange the things that she has freaked out over being a certain way…never the same things I do.

  8. People took the vases home from my wedding centerpieces (without asking me, and I wasn’t necessarily OK with it). But I am SUPER glad that they weren’t family heirlooms or super meaningful to me.

    I just wanted the option of reselling them…. to recover some of the funds.

    • THIS! My Dad has been a collector of Mason Jars & Bell Jars and many other vintage glass pieces for YEARS… I’m glad, now, that he DOESN’T want me to borrow them for the wedding, he might not get them back if people take off with them!

  9. I’ve run into this allllll over the place! My dress has gold embroidery instead of silver – why, you ask? I LIKE IT! I’m wearing purple shoes. Why? It’s my favorite color! We’re DiY’in the apple topiary centerpieces…because that’s what we want.
    What’s meaningful to me is simply that I get to marry my best friend and our wedding reflects what we like. I don’t care if I’m following a “trend”!

  10. Yep. You can stay true to yourself without every choice being deeply meaningful.

    Most of my wedding choices came down to, “Ooh, this is on clearance for 80% off, and it’s pretty!” which is how I buy/choose most things. Most of my fiance’s choices came down to “what is the simplest possible solution to this problem.”

    The end result totally reflected both of us, and did not stress us out.

  11. So true!! My guy and I were trying to keep the party vibe in our somewhat traditional, slightly offbeat wedding but I kept finding myself being sucked into “must-haves” and “statement” pieces, of being obsessed with choosing a theme and conveying it properly. Then I worried my choices would be viewed as “trendy” and I would have to accept my part in contributing to the great WIC. Eventually I realized, it didn’t matter. Wedding can be a theme and the more relaxed “We like it, it fits our budget and it works with what we’ve got” attitude is more accurate and truthful representation of who we are as a couple than any place card or centerpiece ever could be.

  12. And honestly, years later, you will not remember most of those “special details” of the wedding day anyhow. I recall that we had a great party with lots of dancing & my sweetie & I wore awesome outfits (that we’ve worn several times since). The stuff on the tables, the favors, the flowers, what our attendants wore (other than it was black), blah blah blah, it’s all a blur unless I go dig out the photo albums.

  13. The answer to the question of dinosaurs is “quite a few.” They play a central role in our own wedding thematic hodge-podge, which is best described as “stuff probably one or both of us likes or at least it’s easy and neutral.” Dinosaur invitations and dino toys on the tables? Check. Pinwheels that will stand in for flowers if we can’t get our DIY s*** together the day before the wedding? Check. Our outfits and rings don’t match each other’s or have any correlation to the color scheme(s). None of the above is laden with personal or familial significance. We just liked what we liked. Maybe few guests will judge, but whatever. We’re going to have a really fun party and also be married.

  14. Ok, so Janny liked this on facebook so I clicked on the article to read seeing the milk glass. I think OMG this is exactly what happened with Rachael. I read further, Duh, it is Rachael. Your wedding will be beautiful and fun. It will all be meaningful just because you and Mike are getting married because you love each other and want to share your lives with each other. And Um well, I’ve collected a few dinosaurs for you, I can’t help myself, I have no idea if you can use them but the little boy at the yard sale was thrilled with the $5.00 for his old dinosaurs. Love, Mom

    • “I have no idea if you can use them”–when have you known me to NOT be able to use a dinosaur?

      Thanks Mom!

  15. Haha this is a very spot-on article. Our grooms cake was a tree trunk…because we liked it. and it was easy to make out of chocolate. But this particular thing, out of everything at the wedding, had people so anxious about WHAT IT MEANT. It means…we like trees? Trees are brown? I don’t know, just shut up and eat the damn cake! There are other things here that are meaningful, ask about those!

  16. “And we can save our energy for the things that we do care about, like how many dinosaurs I can fit into our décor and having amazing food and a venue where we feel comfortable.”

    Really, these are the things you should put your effort toward. Dinosaurs, like in the wedding favors that we gave out, and the dinosaur pinata with the adult treats (plastic liquor bottles, condoms, glow sticks, candy, stick on tattoos…I think there were other things but I didn’t get to witness that part of my wedding), and the dinosaur figures with rings in their mouths…….. That’s what’s important, IF it’s important to you.

    • There’s an adorable little dinosaur piñata at Target that I’ve been eyeing, AND I saw this super cute photo shoot on Pinterest last night that was a couple all dressed up in their wedding clothes beating up an piñata and having CONFETTI fall all over them! I thought, yes, a use for the dino piñata! I don’t know where I’d find one big enough for liquor bottles.

  17. I’ve found this a bit with some people’s reactions to our theme (birds). It generally goes like this:
    “So what’s your theme? ”
    “oh why birds?”
    “Because they are cool”
    “Oh… *weird look*

    • Our theme is 90s music and movies. I’m gonna have a hard time explaining why I’m walking down the aisle to the Forrest Gump theme song.

  18. We’re in the same boat on this one, totally. If every little thing has meaning, I would be out of spoons so fast I’d never be able to wake up from a long night’s sleep again.

    Some decisions we’ve made are because we just LIKE them. We put “meaning” significance into some aspects, but not others. To be able to make just dry decisions using logic and some harsh reasoning has saved us many stupid fights over petty crap that, in the end, won’t matter.

    I think that what’s really come through for me, though, is that even in these decisions it’s really shown me what I feel to be important about even those “unimportant” things. Like, for decor, I want everything to be reuseable. Whether that means we’re repurposing something for the tablescape (did I just say tablescape? oh, totally did.) or buying a lot of our decor second hand, I want to make sure that whatever we consume for the wedding, as much as I can, will be able to live on in some way — whether in our home or someone else’s.

  19. Sadly, I think this over-emphasis on “meaning” is the dark side of trying to have a wedding that’s an authentic reflection of you and your partner. For some of us, the pursuit for authenticity (WHAT DOES IT MEEEEAN) can feel like just as much pressure as the pursuit of a big white expensive wedding day.

    As other commenters have pointed out, “what does it mean” can be as simple as “it means I didn’t have to worry about it too much,” which is an awesome value to authentically reflect!

  20. hehehe, my thing that I really wanted that had no meaning whatsoever was blue water glasses on the reception tables. I have no idea why, but in my mind blue water glasses made it fancy (also, I just like the color blue). Thankfully, the restaurant of the hotel where we held our wedding had blue wine glasses -though they didn’t normally use them for catering- and were cool with ordering extras just so that we could have them at our reception and then they’d have extra backup glasses.

    We also wanted bananas foster, we lit that shit on fire instead of cutting a cake! No real reason other than I have major nut allergies and was terrified of being accidentally poisoned at a cake tasting. No real significance to us in bananas foster other than who doesn’t love ice cream and flambeed bananas in butter and rum?

  21. Crud. Everything we picked just happened to be something s personal. Now it feels like of embarrassing…like it’s over the top and “me me me” 🙁 I think we just picked everything based on how good it made us feel.

    The colors, the invitations(hand drawn because we’re artnerds) the decorations are stuff we own and hold memories. The ceremony pieces are all things we made together. The date itself is the day we finally stopped being a long distance couple. The music consists entirely of songs he used for Valentines day mixes for me(Happy Hardcore, yeah!) the favors are a part of our rave-y culture. The freaking cake toppers are baby seals because we’re passionate about baby harp seals(and own two stuffed ones that live on our bed)

    No…wait…wait…the food. No emotional attachment to the food. We’re cooking it ourselves but the menu isn’t a throwback to our first date or anything…yes, we’re normal! and…candles, I guess? Candles just make me think of hot sex, that’s a personal detail maybe.

    • Nah, the point isn’t to feel bad! The point is that doing what’s right for you might mean some things have personal significance, and other things might not, and that’s it really doesn’t matter either way. And as Ariel said upthread, that the pursuit of authenticity, while worthwhile, doesn’t need to make you crazy.

    • Like Megs said: Don’t feel bad because you’re personalizing everything! You’re getting WIC whiplash!

      I have a couple of things that aren’t significant to me… the food, my shoes (they go with the dress, and this is all), my fiance’s suit (yet to be decided–the cheapest one they have in black at the rental place), a few other things. But most of it SCREAMS the manchild and me as a couple, and as individuals. And that’s fine.

      Cheap plastic cups–completely nonrepresentative of anything I am. They’re just cups. On the other hand, my mom’s making my dress, and making it highly personal–there will be a hidden kraken.

      The goal here is to do what makes YOU feel best. If that’s oh-that’s-cute-let’s-do-it, great. If it’s metaphor and allusion and everything referring to you, that’s great too.

      That’s what OBB is all about. Do you. Give zero fucks about what anyone else thinks.

      • Love your hidden kraken. I am totally borrowing this idea to have a hidden “something comforting” also.

  22. I think “I like it” is meaningful enough, honestly. I would try to cram everything I love–peaches, cats, purple things, Vulpix–into the wedding if my partner would let me XD

  23. Reminded me of this:, and Gretchen Rubin’s concept of sufficers vs maximisers. I’m usually a sufficer – evidence: I just got a new cell phone, because my contract hit an end and they offered me a cell phone with the new contract, free. The guy wanted to talk me through allllll of the darn cell phones and I said, look, does this one take pictures? Good, I’ll take it.

    But, I still get all maximiser about the odd thing – like, say, the cake. Have I checked every baker in town? Have I tried all the flavours? Am I sure about this frosting? When actually: this cake is lovely, I’ll take it.

    On the other hand – trying cakes at every bakery in town has its upside…

  24. Our Save the Dates will have a TARDIS on them, and the invitations will be Harry Potter themed. I keep having moments of “what will our families think when they get this?” and my fiancé just tells me “So what? we like it. thats all that matters.” Is our wedding Doctor Who themed? not really. Does Harry Potter hold some significance to us as a couple? nope. We just like them, and we want our wedding to reflect what we like. Honestly, I can’t think of any reception detail yet that has any real personal meaning to us. Its really just a mix of stuff we like and things that we thought looked nice and they were cheap or free, so we said “cool, we’ll use that!” For me, the ceremony is where I feel I should spend my energy picking things that have meaning. Not the chair covers or programs or whatever, but the words we will be saying to each other. The things we will say and do to express our commitment to each other are the things that should be meaningful, not what kind of decorations we choose for the party afterwards.

  25. Ugh, yes. I am getting married in a month, and our wedding will have TONS of meaningful details……aaaaand just as many non-meaningful ones.

    I always find it awkward when people ask me questions about details, because the conversation always goes like:

    Curious Guest: Soooo, I hear you’re wearing green? Is there a reason for that?

    Me: YES, I’m wearing green because I have synesthesia and associate that colour to myself. My partner is wearing the shade of blue that I associate to him 😀

    CG: So I guess those are your wedding colours?

    Me: Welll….uh, not exactly. There are also a lot of multicoloured rainbow things. Rainbows are AWESOME 😀

    CG: I guess rainbows are really MEANINGFUL to you?

    Me: Uh, no, not really, I just couldn’t stick to just a few colours. I hope it doesn’t look cluttered 🙁

    CG: Oh…that’s cool, I guess. Also, what is with the coat of arms on my invitation

    Me: OH, YEAH. That’s another really meaningful detail – we do a lot of medieval roleplaying and we made a whole coat of arms that represents us! It’ll be all over the wedding, and there will be foam swords and we’re serving mead. Isn’t that great!?

    CG: Wow, that is super-meaningful. What are you doing for centrepieces?

    Me: Oh, I’m growing fresh herbs in pretty planters! They’re doing great 😀

    CG: What’s the meaning of the herbs?

    Me: They’re cheap, easy, pretty and delicious? I guess it’s weird they don’t really match anything else there 🙁

    And at the end, even though I KNOW that my wedding will be beautiful and meaningful and all that jazz, I’m left questioning whether I should have found MORE meaningful details and kept things more cohesive somehow.

  26. I agree. I also think that these things are made meaningful simply BECAUSE they were in your wedding, and the memory is tied with them.

    I mostly see this attitude on wedding pins on Pinterest. All that sap has gotta make you gag after awhile!

  27. This is great and the comments are even better.

    There are so many details I don’t care about (what the tables, place settings, or tent look like), some that are just fun (the treasure chest ring box I made, plastic animal escort cards I made, koozies we ordered just cause, etc), and very few I actually care about (which are more about things I don’t want like cake, a first dance, father/mother dances, walking down an isle, or “being given away”). The only truly meaningful thing I’m doing is using my grandmother’s tablecloths and that is honestly more because I hate matchy-matchy and I like the family table look.

    I personally love when I see something online that I planned on doing and thought was original (like putting chalkboard doorknob hangers, on the inn doors, with personalized messages for our guests). Every time in my head I say “hey! that’s my idea.” Then I laugh a little because none of us are as original as we think we are. In the end it’s just about having a little fun with a day that is meaningful all by itself.

  28. Wow, am I late to this party! I just wanted to drop my two pennies here. I’ve been slowly collecting glass jars after we finish eating their contents, instead of tossing them in recycling. I can imagine the projected meaning behind them: “OMG, Ash lurves pickles, and Mr. Ash lurves peanut butter! It’s so meaningful!” Nope, I just like the idea of free vases, and jars will look just fine.

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