Rachel: We met when I was 14, and Luke was 16, at a ballet summer intensive (read: camp for people who aspire to be professional dancers) in Massachusetts; a state in which neither of us lived. (Incidentally, this is also when/where I met my maid of honor). In our first partnering class, everyone was assigned a dance partner as per height, and I fudged my way into the "taller" group so I would get paired with Luke because I thought he was cute, and strong enough not to drop me! After that summer, we kept in touch on AOL instant messenger for two years before we saw each other again. Luke came to my hometown to see a dance company perform, and stayed with my family for the weekend. This is where you could say "the rest was history."
We dated long distance for the next five years as we went to study dance at different colleges, and moved several more times together as a couple. Life happened, and we suffered losses of loved ones and battled personal struggles, growing and supporting each other throughout. A couple of months after our ninth anniversary as a couple, Luke proposed at a gorgeous park by a river near our home, with a beautiful custom ring featuring a family heirloom stone. We love movies, books, science, art, and geeking out over whatever we find most interesting on that given week; visiting beautiful places; and always, staying in for board games and Harry Potter movie nights.
We wanted a beautiful day that reflected what we love. We aren't big "party" people, and our favorite meal is brunch, so that was the first thing we agreed on: calm, daytime, brunch. Aside from the eggs and French toast, we wanted a day that was filled with meaningful details and people. I love crafts, and wanted to DIY as many elements as I could to make everything very special and personal. Particularly, we drew a lot of inspiration from the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright - it's the only film I've ever heard Luke call "a perfect movie." I made our centerpieces: paper flowers crafted from used copies of Pride and Prejudice, mounted on vintage brass candlesticks. Our first dance was the dance Elizabeth and Darcy do together at Mr. Bingley's ball in the 2005 movie, as best we could reconstruct! We even worked in a quote from the movie into our personal vows: "I love you, and never wish to be parted from you from this day forth."
Other DIY included my veil, which cost about $20 altogether, and had pieces of lace from my grandmother's wedding dress around the edges. I practiced calligraphy and did all of our signage, seating chart display, place cards, table numbers, envelope addressing, and other decor myself. I made our invitations by painting water colors and scanning the paintings to photo editing software, and printed through Shutterfly! My bridesmaids helped me make flower arrangements to line the aisle.
For favors, we managed to work in a tribute to Luke's home state, New Mexico, by giving each guest a serving of New Mexico Pinon coffee - it's also the only coffee we keep in our home, and drink every day, so that was a fun thing to share with our favorite people!
Another thing I loved was having my orchestra teachers from middle school and high school, and one of my best friends who I met through orchestra, play the music for our ceremony! In addition to being my teachers, they all knew my late father very well, so it was very special to have them play.
We wrote our ceremony ourselves - about three days before our wedding - because we continued to want to make our ceremony as reflective of us as a couple as possible. Ultimately, it was only ten minutes long, but it felt like time stood still. Our officiant read one of my favorite poems - Desiderata by Max Ehrman - and we said our own vows to each other, which we actually wrote at 11:00pm the night before our wedding, by leafing through the giant scrapbook of love letters collected from when we were a long distance couple! We put together lines from our favorite letters to form our vows; it felt so full circle to read things I'd written to or received from Luke as a 16 year old, and then hear bits of these at our wedding ten years later! We've loved each other a lot, for a long time, and it was just amazing to have a whole day spent celebrating that.
Worrying that people would be disappointed or bored at the reception. We didn't serve alcohol (we don't really drink, and it's so expensive) or have a DJ (don't like them/couldn't afford one), so we were a little unsure of how our reception would go. Music played from my iPad; when Luke and I wanted to dance, we went over and picked out our favorite songs. Our best friends danced with us a little; it was nice! Mostly everyone was just happy to see everyone else, had a blast chatting, and no one breathed a word about the drinks or the lack of "party."
DJ, alcohol, garter toss, bouquet toss (mostly by default because I forgot, but it wasn't really important), "symmetry" in bridal parties (I had 6 maids, he had a best man), save the dates, bachelor/bachelorette parties, bridesmaids luncheon, fancy transportation (drove our own cars), fancy exit/sendoff (just hung out and then went and took more photos outside), matching "getting ready" robes/outfits, and most of all, patriarchal traditions and wording in the ceremony that we didn't like.
Put your relationship first. If the wedding planning is driving you apart or causing tension, try to figure out what might be under the surface and give that tension the care it deserves. Also, self care helps your partner as much as it helps you.
Also, mix-matched bridesmaids dresses! Everyone should get to like their dress, and here's another bonus: my sister forgot her dress. She lives a state away. She bought a new dress off the rack in a similar color the day before the wedding. Since everyone's dresses were different, there was no issue.
I found Bridechilla at the perfect time in my planning, about four months until the wedding. All of the major vendors had been booked; work was getting very busy for me, and I was on the verge of what I would now call "losing my chilla." I was neglecting self care, I was pouring all of my free hours into wedding stuff to my own detriment. The first episode I listened to was the one about self care, anxiety and depression with Dr. Lindsay Bira. It was so liberating and soothing to hear someone else talk about the need to acknowledge that even when you are engaged and planning the "Happiest Day of Your Life," anxiety, depression, all the things you deal with on a regular basis will still be there. I was happy with decisions I had made and glad for the planning I had done, but was able to enter in to the "home stretch" of the process with a much more healthy attitude towards the details, and with much more compassion for myself. It was like having another bridesmaid with me in the car all the time! Listening to the podcast also opened my eyes to how much the Wedding Industry convinces this very small market is "necessary," and really none of it is necessary at all. I felt more empowered to continue with my wedding vision, take care of myself, and enjoy the last few months of being engaged. The Facebook community is incredible; I asked several questions, and had somewhere to go when I just wanted to share a small (or big!) "wedding win." I added my MOH to the group as well, and it was such a supportive resource!
Photography: Chris Westbrook - Eastcreek Photography
Catering: Talk of the Town Catering
Rachel's Gown: Wedding Angels Bridal Boutique
Hair & Makeup: Pure Airbrush Makeup and Tanning/Beautiful Atlanta Brides
Floral Design: Nanci Altman, Atlanta Wedding Florals
Dessert: The Patio Bakery and Cafe
Officiant: Kristina Green, My Solemn Vow
Videography: COMPLETE Weddings Atlanta Videography