My wedding is not a college entrance exam: does every wedding choice have to prove a point?

Guest post by Cat Cenedra
Photo by Anna Hutchison Photography
Photo by Anna Hutchison Photography

Dear Wedding-Planning-Me,

When I embarked on the adventure that is wedding planning I knew right away that I did not want to buy into the idea that weddings should fit a mold. My mother wanted me to do one of those “everything” wedding packages, where I would just tell the venue what my colors are and they would do all the rest. “No!” I protested. I struggled against all the etiquette, and must-dos, and checklists from The Knot.

Three months later, my living room looks like an elementary school art room blew up. DIY magnet favors cover every metallic surface in my house, handmade vintage carnival invitations are piled on my TV set waiting to be assembled, terrarium plants and pebbles are splayed across my dining room table. These are projects that are almost done, with four months left to go. They are messy and hard, and not as cost-efficient as I originally thought. But, you know what? I want MOAR.

I want to sew bunting and sculpt WoW-themed figurines for the groom's cake. I want to make a funny card monster card box and giant lollipops and shoes that are shockingly red. I want to work at this wedding until every piece of it has been touched by me, and my love has been infused into each and every detail.

Why do I want this? I want this because when I went offbeat, when I turned down the one-size-fits-all big white bag of traditional wedding planning, I did it because I wanted this wedding to be “us.” I wanted it to scream, “Cat and Jim were here and LOOK at how AWESOME our love is!” I thought this would be so authentic, that it would be so much easier than trying to fit into the mold.

I was wrong. Somewhere in the wedding planning process I gave birth to a beast: you, Wedding-Planning-Me, you were born. And now we have to have a little talk.

I'm sorry I couldn't find that perfectly rockabilly pin-up dress, but Wedding-Planning-Me, the dress I did find at David's Bridal is perfectly fine, and not some sort of betrayal to your vision of the day. Handmade bunting would be a fun and wonderful aisle runner and it would encapsulate our theme, but, dear Wedding-Planning-Me, you can't sew. Please, Wedding-Planning-Me, just pick and purchase shoes that are adorable and red and won't sink into the ground. No, Wedding-Planning-Me, the shoes do NOT have to embody your entire personality, represent your love for your future husband, or be a statement against animal cruelty. You can do those things later, in other ways.

This is the terrible courage of being offbeat. Every choice that we make that goes against the norm is an exposure, a glimpse into ourselves as a couple, a peek into our lives.

I love being an Offbeat Bride. I love that we are out here, for our own reasons, trying to plan events that are authentic to ourselves. I am also proud of the ways that I am integrating my and my future husband's personalities into our own wedding. But I need to remind myself every day that my wedding is not a college entrance personal statement. No one except me will look at my choice of linens and think, “Hmm, what does this pattern say about their personality as a couple.” I will not be quizzed at the end of the event to see if I correctly guessed the reaction of my guests to my choice of cupcakes over a traditional cake.

This is the terrible courage of being offbeat. Every choice that we make that goes against the norm is an exposure, a glimpse into ourselves as a couple, a peek into our lives. We do not have complete reception packages; we have choices that are limited by budget and skill with sewing machines, but unlimited in the potential to express ourselves creatively. Even our non-choices (yay rainbow weddings!) are expressive. Sometimes it may feel like we're exhibitionists walking down the aisle.

Wedding-Planning-Me, go ahead and infuse the wedding with personality, DIY to your heart's content, be hella courageous — but remember that we are not our wedding. The most spectacular, creative, offbeat, unique, fun, rock ‘n' roll wedding will never be as fantastic and authentic as our love for our future husband. So make an awesome party and save the personal statement for another time.


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Comments on My wedding is not a college entrance exam: does every wedding choice have to prove a point?

  1. Fantastic and personal and SO VERY PERTINENT. Thank you for knocking some sense into me, especially with

    “The most spectacular, creative, offbeat, unique, fun, rock ‘n’ roll wedding will never be as fantastic and authentic as our love for our future husband.”

    Exactly, self, exactly.

  2. Thank you so much for saying this! It’s exactly how I feel…I have to keep reminding myself it’s not an offbeat contest, it’s a celebration of our love..and nothing more.

  3. Thank you for saying this. It’s hard to let go of details and admit that one’s time would be better spent on ones that we can 1. actually execute well ourselves, and 2. that have a special place in our hearts. I feel naked, making these decisions that will be outre for the guests, but are authentic to us. In the middle of the hot gluing and crafting and choosing, there’s a lot of doubt, a lot of pressure (mostly from myself), and a definite lack of perspective. Thanks for helping with that last one!

  4. Wonderful!

    It sucks to have to choose between This and That, instead of Having it All or
    Having All that is Significant to Me be Significant to Everyone.

    But that is life, yes?

    Way to be gracious to yourself, lady. 🙂

  5. My beast purrs contentedly reading this. DIY is massive fun, but it is always good to remember that really, nobody is going to care whether I do scrollwork or clean modern lines on my invitations. Not an excuse for half-assing things, more a reminder that it’s not as important as I perceive it. I’m also glad to see someone else has a living room exploding with feathers and scraps, though admittedly not all of mine is wedding related flotsam, I DIY everything.

  6. So true! My moment of clarity came when I was hollering at Mr. Ninja about how something had to be done JUST SO or that was it!! He looked at me all confused and said something like “So when did we decide that a glue gun had input into our marriage?” And then I managed to wrestle Crazy KC into submission and get back to being fun, happy-to-be-marrying-him KC (who didn’t give a f*ck about glue guns).

  7. I just sighed in relief.

    Our wedding plans just changed drastically – now that gay marriage is legal in New York, we’re looking at getting married near where I grew up, rather than in Maryland (where we live now).

    I found a beautiful venue in New York – it’s our style, it’s in our price range, the food is delicious, and it just feels right. And I was resisting committing to it, because it didn’t seem offbeat enough.

    It’s hard to make any choices when you feel like everything has to communicate your personality to your guests, and to the internet at large. But it’s your wedding – you will be in the room. Ta Da! Personality present.

  8. Oh man, I wish I would have seen this a month ago. I almost went crazy during the planning phase. Very well put, hope this helps others.

  9. THANK YOU for posting this! As I sit on my living room floor that is littered with various craft materials I realize now that with 65 days left until the big day wedding-planning-me and I NEED to talk! It will be ok if I don’t make ALL the decorations for the ceremony, MOST is enough. It will be ok if the I buy my jewelry instead of make it, and its ok that I got a dress from David’s Bridal and not Unique Vintage. I wish this post had been here when I started to birth my wedding-planning me. Thank you!

  10. OMG. I can NOT love this enough! I wanted everything DIY too, but luckily, my hubby reigned me in and said no to a lot of things. It ended up being more offbeat-lite than offbeat as I wanted it, but it was still beautiful and “us” – Go you for writing this!

    • Frogskilly, I know exactly how you feel, and am indebted to my chap as well. And it probably wasn’t quite as “lite” as you think – at least I bet your guests didn’t think so. It’s nice to have a reminder that beautiful and meaningful things don’t have to be crazy-offbeat. I recently wrote a post on this in the Tribe:

      • This is true! My guests were blown away that I wore red instead of white… which I thought was pretty standard “boring” stuff (compared to some Offbeat Bride weddings anyway!) and just “me” but they were all pretty impressed by it 🙂 Sadly, I can’t remember my login to the tribe :O ! so can’t read your post 🙁

  11. Oh my, I needed this. Even after my wedding, I am still thinking about more that we could have done to show off our love for video games or books or more that I could have done to be green (even though we had NO time and NO more budget and had way too much stress as it was), so this was a refreshing reminder to tell my wedding-beast self that it’s time is done, it was awesome, and now I can move on to making those statements in decorating our home, in our everyday choices, etc. My wedding was an awesome party, and our love and marriage continues beyond that, forever. Thank you for reminding us all!

    • It’s so easy to get carried away by wanting to show the REAL you, but a wedding isn’t about all the other things you’re passionate about, so much as about your love for each other. That’s what people are coming to celebrate. Frankly, your guests generally don’t want to be lectured about your ‘other passions’ even in a passive way…….. Just let your love – and yourselves – be the star of the occasion that is your wedding.

  12. This post came like the angel Gabriel in my time of need! I spent yesterday crying over tiny details that no guest will ever notice. It’s time to LET GO…


  13. Can I introduce a concept to all the DIYers out there from an over-obsessive quilter:

    Done Is Good.

    Not to be confused with compromise, but done is good.

    Congrats to all of you who are looking forward to one of the most single life-changing events of your lives! May you concentrate on Day Two more than The Big Day and embrace what The Wedding should be all about! Best Wishes to All…

    • “Better is the enemy of good.”

      This is the mantra all aspiring art conservators are taught, and it is so true in so many ways. It also works excellently with what Gina said, so if done is good, better is also the enemy of done.

      For your wedding, if you have a design all picked out, or you have found an acceptable venue in your price range, or you have found a dress you are happy with, or your invitations look just fine before the bedazzling you were planning to include but you’re running out of time, STOP! Don’t second-guess, don’t look at the return policy on that dress, don’t peel up the accent papers you just glued in so you can add a thin stripe of gold foil.

      Just be confident that your careful efforts the first time around are perfectly good, and you will be happy with the way it all comes together at the end.

  14. This! Totally totally totally this. We are 1 month away from the wedding and I have been feeling so guilty. Guilty that we’re using fresh cut flowers instead of living centerpieces. Guilty that I didn’t spend the time searching for an affordable caterer who specialized in using local foods and supporting sustainable agriculture. Guilty that I probably won’t have the time to make a cute and clever card box monster and I might have to settle for a regular old box. Finally, the other day, I told myself, “the wedding is not a platform for my socio-political values. Or even my creativity.” It’s a way for us to celebrate our love and devotion to each other with our family and friends, and do it our way. Even if that sometimes means we take the cheaper, easier, or less time-consuming way out. It’s still us–low budget, stressed out, lazy, awesome us!

    • I ended up buying a polka dot hat box-esque box from the Container Store as our card box. It now sits in my closet and holds all my stockings. In the long run, it was not only faster and simpler than any DIY idea I had, but it has proven far more practical.

      I think it’s important, when actually having a lot of DIY and personal stuff at your wedding (as opposed to flowers that will only last a day, or stuff provided by the venue) that you think about where those items will live after the wedding. How will you incorporate them into your future home and lives together? Sometimes what might seem like a compromise or settling for the wedding is actually the best choice for your *life*.

  15. Your letter made me remember that there are also times to compromise between what can and can’t be at my wedding. I hope the wedding-planner-me takes these things to heart as well, so that they will not be forgotten. You expressed your feelings perfectly-they will be as equally expressive for the love you share on your wedding day.

  16. I love this. I am having to forever remind myself that I don’t NEED *insert-whatever-must-have-item-I’ve-just-seen*

  17. This!!! Definatley, absolutley, 100% This!

    Thank you!

    And yes, yay for rainbow weddings! 😀

  18. Thank you! I have 21 days left to the big day! As I am finishing my very simple offbeat craft projects saying to myself and my FH will our guests really care about this the way we do? Will my family think I am insane? His answer is WHO CARES! As long as it makes us happy! Now to figure out the card box with out all that frilly yucky stuff. So thank you again. It really helps to see that I am not the only one that struggles with accepting what I can and cannot control.

  19. Perfectly written! THANK YOU!!!! Now to calm down the whirling dervish beast in me!

    From the bottom of my Whonavers heart!
    Wedding planner me found out how to do a DIY wedding and since then has been frothing at the mouth to do EVERYTHING. Your sincere, real, and perfectly HEARTFELT letter helped me relies that it really DOS NOT MATTER if I’ve touched everything that gos into my wedding, or if all the things i put in it are “Dr.Who matching”. All that really matters is that both the HTB and I are HAPPY.
    thanks SO MUCH!

  21. As I was reading this I was making the boutonnieres and thinking to myself, “Wow. You are in over your head little miss.” (As my mother used to say.) But your letter was exactly what I needed to motivate me to further my endeavors in the DIY portion of my wedding, because it had just enough humor and reality to make me think of how silly a DIY bride can be at times.

    My motto: If it’s stressful, throw it out. It’s not worth it. (Just yesterday my fiance and I threw out the plans for the flowergirls and ringbears. IT. FELT. SO. GOOD!!!) 🙂

  22. Just wanted to say Thank You for this post. The first time i found OBB website, your post was front and center, and it liberated me to the point of tears, tears of relief, and is ultimately why i chose to be a member during my planning process -a process that is now more FUN than stressful, more personal and free, has given me the courage to stand up for the fact that it’s OUR wedding, not anyone else’s and if we stay true to us, then no matter what others would have done, they’ll love it because it’s us, and we don’t have to go crazy….

  23. Thanks for the reminder! With less than 4 months to go I’ve also got a massive stack of games, decoration and stationery waiting to be assembled. I love that most things have our mark on it, but knowing when I’m going over-the-top is proving difficult :-/. We do not need to prove anything to anyone! So what if my family laugh at our choices. It’s our life and our taste!

  24. I like that some of the OBB “classics” are getting a highlight!

    I wanted so badly to make my hairpiece. However, I was running out of time and there was a beautiful comb on eBay. So I put my offbeat stubbornness aside and bought it. In the end it did reflect me, because I chose it and wore it like a queen.

  25. Was I sleep typing? This sounds like me and my wedding. I had my 1950’s theme wedding dress picked out and all the plans. Then I ran into a David’s Bridal dress that someone was selling and it fit both my body and my budget perfectly. I made dome changes to the wedding plan and still got to have the perfect ceremony and reception that was a mix of my style and likes and the grooms. By the grooms likes, I mean beer and plenty of food. Lol. He is a simple man and I even got him to wear purple.

  26. Oh hell yes! We decided in the beginning not to tell anyone anything (we made it a scavenger hunt) and then just decided to plan a larger version of our favorite dinner party. Since no one knows the details (…cause lets face it when you have a dinner party no one said “are you realllllllllllllllyyyyyyyy wearing that?”) the drama is less and my bridezilla is at bay.

  27. We’ve been bit by that a little bit too. We tried to go for a wedding that was minimalist to reduce stress, but still DIY. We didn’t “pick a theme” so much as we knew we both wanted a Scottish wedding, sort of, at least in the sense of my partner wearing a kilt & me possibly wearing a tartan sash. However, a theme emerged from our decisions and I’m grateful for it! We have a Pirate Crew (friend staffing)–and all of those related items are pirate related. Our wedding party/ceremony is Scottish themed with a few pirate elements thrown in. Our reception decor has kind of turned into a picnic theme, by sheer happenstance, just by having beer in ice buckets & a bunch of wicker baskets & mis-matchy-but-coordinating tablecloths.

    I made the realization early on that I had about 12 awesome, but completely different, complete wedding ideas in my head. It made it easy to let go of the decisions that I didn’t make–because it doesn’t mean the decision I made was wrong, even if the choice I opted out of would have been right. I’m going with option 13: Not what I envisioned at first, but happy with the results.

    The thing is, every decision is very much US. Even the US that is tired of making decisions and just wants one made so we can MOVE THE FUCK ON. Because that’s US too ;).

  28. I really appreciate this article, especially the part about the dress. I had grand ideas about a colorful offbeat wedding dress but I could never find the one I loved and in the end I went with a still gorgeous, but more traditional wedding dress from a little local shop that I loved. I sometimes still wish I could have had the crazy colorful dress but in the end money, time, and the amount of energy I could put into finding the dress made me a little more realistic. That being said. I still love my dress. It was everything I thought I didn’t want but in the end is was perfect for me.

    Thank you for this article.

  29. I just got chills reading this! Thank you so much for the good laugh at myself. I have definitely made myself twitchy multiple times already thinking that I wasn’t being “offbeat enough” or that I wasn’t making it “us enough”. And I still have 7 months to go in planning. I’m sure I’ll will be coming back to read this again and again to remind myself that the wedding is just supposed to be a celebration and fun, that it doesn’t have to be a huge, declarative statement about who we are and what our lives will be. This is the best. Thanks!

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