Giving her away: one year later

One year ago, I was preparing to give my sister away.

And that’s truly how it felt: giving her away. Three years my junior, Katie has been my partner in crime since the day she was born. We lived under the same roof until the morning of her wedding, just a wall apart for 25 years, and the day she married — though joyous and much-anticipated — was undoubtedly bittersweet.

It’s hard to admit that. I love my brother-in-law and love him for my sister; it’s nothing like that. My fear was purely, purely selfish. I didn’t want to feel anything but happy for her on September 28, but I was so scared and sad for myself. Just weeks from my own wedding in November, the swiftness with which everything changed — a giant rug suddenly torn away — was like being shoved into an icy river. Sans clothing. In January.

But now, a year later, I can reflect on that weekend with happiness. With clarity. So many of the fears I had about us moving forward — that we wouldn’t remain close; that we wouldn’t see our parents often; that everything would be fractured, different — have not come to pass. As always, my imagination is worse than any reality could be . . . and though things have changed, of course, they are not bad.

They are good. Great, even.

I looked through Katie’s wedding photos last night, remembering all the anticipation and excitement and anxiety we experienced in swift tumult leading up to their union. As I walked the aisle as maid of honor, I remember clutching the best man’s arm because I was legitimately afraid I would fall over — because of my high heels, partially, but mostly because “I Won’t Give Up” was playing and everyone was there, watching, and it was really happening.

The moment we’d anticipated since we both got engaged — on the same day — was here.

It was surreal. That’s the best way I can describe the entire day: surreal.

But surreal can be beautiful, too.


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Why I don’t miss wedding planning


Given I devoted all of 2013 to planning, participating in or recovering from my sister’s wedding and my own, I was a little worried I’d find myself totally adrift in the new year. The post-wedding blues, if you will.

I’m not the type of person who likes to sit too long. I think and worry too much — or start over-analyzing, getting anxious. It’s not good. Much of my adult life has been devoted to trying to achieve that elusive sense of “balance,” in fact; I want to be busy without using that go go go spirit as a crutch or an excuse, but still slow down enough to enjoy the simple things in life. (We know they’re really the big things).

A work in progress.

But as our November wedding drew to a close and gave way to a fresh, crisp new year, I don’t find myself waxing philosophical about my spreadsheets or vendor checklists or time wiled away on The Knot. I’ve channeled my creative energy into work and new pursuits, looking for ways to stretch as a writer and a person. Wedding planning proved I could find more hours in the day, and I’ve gotten much better about using my time better for work and play.

And then there’s the whole house-buying thing happening this spring. That’s certainly going to chew up some time.

But for as much as I loved our wedding and (much of) the process leading up to it, I often think back on last year with a feeling of pure relief. We did it, you know? It’s done. It was emotional, stressful, turbulent. I left my childhood home for the first time; I stood at my little sister’s side on her own wedding day; we dealt with illness and death, uncertainty and major upheaval.

For someone who is typically wedged in her tight little shell (very Cancer the crab of me, I’ll note), I sure did some growing.



I don’t miss wedding planning because it was a series of decisions — ones that felt so big and serious and important and really all-consuming at the time, though I realize in hindsight I should have backed down on some issues and simply not worried at all about others. For someone weighed down by the prospect of making the “wrong” choice at any given time (I’m a perfectionist, what can I say?), that was very difficult for me.

And the help! Asking for help was so hard. I don’t miss wedding planning because I usually prefer to just handle things myself . . . out of fear of, you know, inconveniencing anyone. Even my now-husband. Accepting that others wanted to help me with wedding-related tasks was really tough. I just felt like I was bothering them or, worse, was an “overzealous” bride oversharing everything online. The result? I didn’t always invite others into what was really a very happy time.

Mostly, I don’t miss wedding planning because the pressure is now off. The pressure of handling logistics for 150+ people; the pressure of preparing to move; the pressure of knowing these major events were on the horizon and I was supposed to be having the time of my life when, in reality, I did have a great time planning everything with Spence — but it was complicated, too.

When I expressed anxiety over some aspect of the wedding (or just getting married in general), I feared the judgment of my relationship. I worried admitting to being scared of so many changes happening at once was akin to casting doubt on what I have with Spencer, which was the last thing I wanted to do.

So I held back.

Upon reflection, I could have opened up more to the people in my life. Worked on releasing some control. Though Spence more than proved himself to be the stable, compassionate and thoughtful support I really needed, I could have simply relaxed a little more.

But that’s life, I know. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that. How many people are stressed leading up to their weddings? (I’m guessing, um, many.) Nothing is perfect . . . we just do the best we can. And I still had a heck of a lot of fun as an engaged lady!

And the main reason I don’t miss wedding planning? Because I really love being married. Love spending so much time with my husband. I love being a team, deepening our bond, making big decisions together — all that mushy stuff. Our little routines and rituals; our shared TV watching and dinner-making. The little things like sharing (and perhaps squabbling over) chores and grocery shopping are still fun for me, and we’re getting into budgeting and prepping and striding into the murky waters of homeownership together.

The wedding was just the beautiful beginning.

All the great stuff comes after.


Photos by Birds of a Feather Photography



A very bookish wedding

Sweetheart fireplace


When Spence and I got engaged, I was overwhelmed by the idea of a “grand vision” for our day. We had no wedding planner, no strict guidance; it was simply yours truly with her Pinterest board of ideas, trying to mold a day that felt both US! and EXCITING! and VINTAGE! and US!

Emphasis on the “us.”

But I’m sure you got that.

Very early on, I mentioned finding a way to combine our mutual passions — science and literature — into an event paying homage to the joining of our lives. My husband and I are both lucky to do what we love for a living, so it was easy incorporating elements of physics and the written word into our wedding. I also love that we’re an example of opposites (on paper) attracting: though we’re similar in all the ways that count, our backgrounds are very different.

Planning a wedding is no joke, and honestly? I look back on so many of the details and smile, because everything over which I fretted and fussed worked out just fine. I give so much credit to Sandy, my dear friend and coworker, who totally manhandled Nov. 10 into a gorgeous vintage-inspired affair far nicer than anything I could have cooked up alone. She took care of all the flowers, bouquets and centerpieces, and really did an outstanding job.

And she didn’t have to. She volunteered. When I walked into our venue the morning of and found Sandy running around in a baseball cap, pearls and cut flowers pouring from her hands, I felt an indescribable rush of gratitude. Combined with the super-human powers of Jen, our on-site coordinator who has become a great friend, I suddenly felt that famed wedding zen. I knew everything was going to be swell.



So how did we bring our books-and-science theme to life? Well, I knew I wanted some kind of book on each table — and got inspiration from other bookish weddings. Spencer and I scoured secondhand shops and library sales for months to collect more than 70 hardcovers in red, black or gray. Three or four novels went on the guest tables to form the base of our centerpieces, which were capped with Erlenmeyer science flasks full of fresh snapdragons.

Concerned the whole thing would look too industrial, I asked Sandy about adding a feminine element atop the books — like lace. Some kind of fabric. But then we worried we’d have a doily-in-a-parlor thing going on, so Sandy thought of the excellent idea to add pearls.


Rowling centerpiece


If you’re budgeting (like I surely was), the used books cost us roughly $1 apiece. We removed the dust jackets and saved them for later. If you’re concerned some novels were harmed in the making of these nuptials, fear not: Spencer and I donated every single book back to the library when we were done. And we even managed to reunite each dust jacket with its rightful owner before then!

The faux pearls were bought in bulk in long strands from Oriental Trading Company, cut in smaller strands to serve our needs, and the flasks purchased from a supply company. The total cost of my glassware order was around $100 with free shipping, including a discount for buying more than 12 at once.

We wanted more than simple flasks and novels, though. Rather than a traditional number, each table was assigned a famous writer or scientist — and we had a ball coming up with our honorees! Mine included Ernest Hemingway, Megan McCafferty, Jhumpa Lahiri, JK Rowling and William Shakespeare, while Spence’s leaned toward the more obscure with Nikola Tesla (his hero), Marie Curie and Robert Oppenheimer. Sheldon Cooper may have made an appearance there, too!

With the help of my good friend Wikipedia, I typed up brief biographies for each person to include on the tables — just in case, say, you had no earthly idea who Schrödinger was. (Cat.) I also tried to make mention of any personal connections to the author or scientist, such as when Spence and I caught a play honoring Curie early in our relationship or I read The Great Gatsby (for Fitzgerald’s table, natch) for the fourth time during our engagement. We printed these at home on heavy cardstock using a free business card template to make table tents — Spencer’s brilliant idea. We did the same with the escort cards.



There were other hand-created elements, too — ones made by Sandy and me, like the paper roses, or a talented Etsy seller. I really utilized my love of the craft site to find special items embodying our wedding, and loved the banners I ordered to hang from Swan Point’s fireplaces. The one behind us at our sweetheart table, pictured at top, was a last-minute purchase.

We had books shaped into our initials, found at a vintage store; a flask for a cake stand; paper hearts as confetti punched out by a friend at work that also adorned the escort cards. I found a book-shaped box with typewriter-style writing that we transformed into a card box, as well as bookmark wedding favors with the e.e. cummings poem my sister read and an Einstein quote shared by our officiant during the ceremony.



Oh! And no science- and literature-themed wedding would be complete without a little “radioactive” liquid, right? Spence had the idea to make the water in our flasks glow — you know, like a science experiment gone terrible awry. Very romantic! — by using submersible LED lights, which we bought in bulk on eBay. They were fantastic! Because the glow was initially more strobe than subtle, though, Spencer used hot glue to dull and scratch the outside so the arrangements would be lit without causing anyone eye damage.

Always a positive.



So there you have it: our very bookish wedding! It was truly a labor of love, and it’s such fun to think back on the multi-layered processes of putting everything together. Though it was an outstanding year, I’m intensely relieved it’s over. Like, sometimes I just look up at the ceiling and think, Thank God it’s done, and everything was awesome.

Beyond the 1,001 other reasons I shed a few tears that day, there were definitely some relieved sniffles for just having that behemoth of a wonderful day complete. Emotions were high . . . and almost as high as my tension level. No more lists; no more contacting vendors; no more frantic runs to Michael’s on my lunch breaks. We got married! We celebrated! It was beautiful!

Thank God is right.



All photos by Birds of a Feather Photography


Two sisters, six weeks: my slightly manic, yet tried-and-true tips for surviving wedding planning


Now that the dust of two spectacular weddings has settled, I feel like I can draw a deep breath of winter air and reenter the land of the living.

Planning one wedding would have been enough to land me in the Nutso Town, but my sister’s nuptials happening just a month and a half before mine added a whole new level of insanity. Sometimes I sit back in my chair, look at the ceiling and think, We did it.

WE DID IT.

I can hardly believe it myself.

The weather cooperated, our families were present, the loves of our lives were waiting with smiles on their faces. For me, my sister’s day passed slowly — and I was so emotional I almost needed to be propped up. My own wedding day was a blur of excitement and joy and tears and dancing (so much dancing), and I know I’ll remember both for the rest of my life.

But how did we get there?

It’s funny now, looking back upon the “wedding planning journey.” One year ago today, I had nothing but a tear-stained face, a sparkly new ring and an image of a man getting down on one wobbly knee to ask me a crucial question — and that was good enough for me. Across town at the very same time, my sister was actually being asked the very same question (by a different man, thank God).

Today marks one year since our collective engagement, and it’s surreal to think that 365 days ago I was in such a different — and exciting — place. We were just getting started. I figured today was a perfect opportunity to reflect on 2013: a year of love . . . and barely-contained insanity.

Before we get there, allow me to paint the complete picture for you:

Two close twenty-something sisters, born almost exactly three years apart . . .
Both living at home with their parents . . .
Getting engaged on the same day . . .
Choosing each other as their maid/matron of honor . . .
And selecting wedding dates for the same season . . . six weeks apart.


Kate and me - my wedding

View More: http://birdsofafeatherphotos.pass.us/katie-and-eric-wedding


The Snider girls didn’t mess around.

In my completely unofficial capacity as both an “event coordinator” for one wedding and a bride for the other, I learned many lessons about planning the “perfect” day.

Many of them involve not sweating the small stuff.

Others require the presence of near-constant spreadsheets and Google Drive on your phone.

As there are entire websites — universes? — dedicated to wedding inspiration, assistance and guidance, I won’t bore you with a rehash of the planning process. I’ll give you my own hard-won tips for surviving the planning process — and hopefully offer some comfort along the way.

Go grab a sample of your signature cocktail, ladies, and let’s do this.


Signature cocktail


First things first

It’s hard to plan a wedding without a venue, and you can’t choose a venue if you don’t have a guest list. Or a date. Or a month, at least.

How many people you want to invite will dictate where you can throw this awesome party, so start by drafting up a guest list with your fiancé. Share it with your parents and his — and maybe your grandparents, too, depending on how crazy you want to get! Know your first pass will probably seem gigantic, but you will inevitably narrow it down before building it back up again.

Our initial invited guest list was around 190, but it eventually rose to 220 or so. But our final guest count? About 140. But to be on the safe side, we didn’t look at venues that couldn’t accommodate around 180 or so.

So then you look for venues.

And you experience sickening sticker shock.

But once you recover, you’re ready to start crunching numbers and call upon math skills you haven’t rocked since high school. And you eventually narrow it down to a few locations that are remotely feasible, visit them and make your final call: which is when you can get serious about choosing a date and moving on to any additional vendors you’ll hire (photographer, videographer, baker, etc.).

Everyone organizes their wedding materials differently. I put everything (and I mean everything) on Google Drive, accessible by app on my iPhone when I was on the go; my sister did nothing of the sort, relying on the advice of books like Mindy Weiss’ The Wedding Book. It became her bible — especially the month-by-month, week-by-week checklists at the back.

Figure out what works for you. You’re going to want to be organized to some extent, because you probably will have to refer back to contracts or find contact information for vendors or, honestly, just remember what type of flowers you actually chose in the end. After a while, the details blur together . . . it just happens.

If your phone is constantly linked to your hand and you prefer everything compiled digitally, including contracts, think about keeping everything on Google Drive or on a flash drive. If you’re the pen-and-paper sort, get a binder or a notebook (or both).

I used the spreadsheets created by A Practical Wedding to cobble together my own timeline, which I turned into a Google document, then used the checklists from The Knot to fill in some of the gaps. I know APW — and others! — scoff at The Knot, thinking it’s nothing but the machinations of the Wedding Industrial Complex at work, but honestly? I liked them. They kept me organized and thinking about what I wanted to get done and when, and I could delete any line items I didn’t need (like arranging for wedding day transportation).

I color-coded my Google calendar for the year to add important wedding deadlines, then crafted a separate spreadsheet to keep track of what I’d paid, how I’d paid it and when we needed to pay more. I referred to this list constantly to keep myself on budget and ensure my vendors were being paid promptly.

And as you move forward . . .


Throw ‘perfect’ out the window

Perfection is a fallacy. If there’s one thing I learned from becoming a devotee of A Practical Wedding, there is only perfect for you.

Want your girls to wear slacks, not dresses?
Want pie or cupcakes, no cake?
Not a big fan of the first dance?

Whatever. Do your thing. Interject your personality into anything you like — and don’t be afraid to get crafty. Heck, most people I know — um, all the people I know — were working with tight budgets and other constraints for their weddings, so they got bold and created many elements for their wedding themselves. And the elements they didn’t like? They got rid of.

Calling something “tradition” doesn’t mean it gets an automatic pass into your ceremony or reception. It’s okay to do things differently.

But with that being said . . .


Embrace tradition if it works for you. And talk about stuff.

Leading up to our wedding day, I was dead-set again the garter toss. Having been on the awkward end of a few bouquet tosses and witness to many brawls for the bride’s garter, I found the entire thing uncomfortable. And I nixed both with our DJ . . . before talking to my groom.

Oops.

Unbeknownst to me, my guy was really looking forward to the garter toss. Having been on the “single guys” side many times, Spence was stoked to participate as the married man. It was something that mattered to him that I didn’t know mattered to him — because I didn’t ask.

I didn’t make that mistake again.

So talk about things. Get on the same page. Even if you think your significant other “isn’t interested,” ask anyway. Get other opinions, reach out, be involved.

And no, the garter toss wasn’t nearly as awkward as I was expecting.

Though my face might suggest otherwise.


Garter


Don’t fixate on Pinterest

Everyone’s favorite time-suck is a fabulous way to gather ideas on cakes, centerpieces, dresses — for inspiration. I definitely pulled up hairstyles I liked close to my wedding day, grateful I’d taken the time at some point to assemble a visual aid of styles. By the time we hit the one-month mark, when I started having makeup and hair trials, I was emotionally spent — and done making new decisions. So my Pinterest board? Super helpful.

But don’t get stuck on an idea of “Pinterest perfection” that is impossible to achieve — unless you’re comfortable hiring professionals and/or are ridiculously crafty. As I couldn’t foot the bill for pros nor create many visions myself, I relied on the advice of my good friend and venue coordinator, Jen, as well as the kind assistance of one of the most spectacular ladies I know: my coworker and officemate, Sandy. Sandy volunteered to help choose and deliver the flowers and put together the centerpieces, bouquets and more for our wedding. The results. were. amazing.

Which brings me to my next point . . .


Kissing balls


Get by with a little help from your friends

Unless money is no object (and is that ever really the case?), you’re going to need the assistance of your buddies — and not just bridal party — to pull this thing together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because, more often than not, your friends will be there will bells on. Even if they’re not crafting bows or folding favor boxes, you’re going to want their moral support in the days leading up to your wedding and beyond.

Reach out while being mindful of others’ time and talents, and remember you’ll be paying it forward someday! (If, you know, you haven’t already. We’re all in this together.)


Dancing


Make a decision and stick with it

Second-guessing every move you make will leave you standing perfectly still. Because some of us had wedding-themed Pinterest boards before we even had boyfriends, it’s so tempting to become obsessed with the many options available. Who hasn’t thought, “When I get married . . .” or “I’d love to do that, too!” at others’ events?

But the options only matter if the options work for you. Don’t buy into the hype. Once I had my dress, shoes and jewelry, I started deleting those pins and bookmarks. Wiping the slate clean. I didn’t look at more ideas, more choices, because the choices were made. I knew I’d make myself bonkers agonizing over whether everything I’d done was the “right” thing to do.

My mom is a font of knowledge and comfort, and she says it best: “We make the best decisions we can with the information that we have.”

And then we move forward.


Book centerpiece


Is ‘mistakes’ happen, they just make life colorful

So much will come to a head just before your wedding. For as organized as I felt I was, many last-minute decisions — and options — came down to the wire. For a type-A control freak like me, relinquishing control of the event was very hard to do . . . but I knew I was leaving “my baby” in capable hands, and I had to let it go. (Even if it almost gave me a nervous breakdown in the process.)

If the flowers are a different shade or the DJ flubs a favorite song or you stumble a bit leaving the ceremony, it just adds color to your colorful day. The little things I worried I’d agonize about during our wedding did not even enter my mind. At all.

Everything might not be “picture perfect,” but you’ll remember it that way.


Picture perfect couple


Just enjoy the time . . .

Many friends told me to focus on simply living in the lovely engaged state after Spencer proposed, and I’ll admit to not quite getting it.

Right after the proposal, I was in a dreamland leading into Christmas and New Year’s — but once January hit? I was a machine. I don’t regret throwing myself heartily into wedding planning because I got stuff done, but it’s never a bad thing to just enjoy the current phase before moving into the next one, you know?

And I don’t get to say “fiancé” anymore. Husband is awesome, too, but fiancé? Fiancé was special. Soak it up.


. . . And let yourself be emotional.

Wedding planning is stressful. It can be hard. It is often simple, too, but never without a torrent of feelings — some of which may make you feel like you’re going crazy. (And they will. I had a little breakdown the day before the wedding because I was really, really overwhelmed, but you-know-who got me down off that cliff.)

Regardless of whether you’re high school sweethearts, have been living together for years or have known each other a few months, a wedding marks a new chapter — a major transition — and could stir up all sorts of crazy, conflicting emotions. It certainly did for me. But guess what? You’re not crazy.

Being upset or emotional or anxious doesn’t mean you’re not making the right decision — or have “cold feet.” You’re just dealing with a ton of freakin’ stuff right now. Planning an event bringing together family and friends from every aspect of your collective lives is no small feat, so be gentle with yourself.

Whether you’re working with a tiny budget or a grander one, are getting married quickly or after a long engagement, have a “vision” for the day or are just showing up to have fun, well . . . I can promise you one thing: your wedding will be awesome.

Because it will be yours.


Walking with quilt


All photos by Birds of a Feather Photography


The time we got married

Wedding portrait


Driving home in two vehicles from visiting my parents this week, I looked at a passing car — a very familiar passing car — and thought, That’s my husband.

I have a husband.

I wouldn’t say it was the first time I’d paused to consider that, but it was still one of those existential lightning-bolt moments. I realized Spencer and I got married, of course, but it’s only been two weeks. Little experiences — like changing my name at work — keep bringing it back to me, taking me back to that one gorgeous day.

It’s a great one to remember.

Our wedding day, November 10, was definitely one the happiest — perhaps the happiest — of my life. In the weeks and days leading up to the main event, I worried I’d be too “in my own head” to really enjoy the moment. I was so fixated on making sure my sister’s September wedding was perfect that I didn’t actually process my little sister was tying the knot until I walked down the aisle at her ceremony.

I didn’t want to do that, I knew. I wanted to be emotionally present. But there were lists to check, bills to pay, vendors to contact, guests to coordinate . . . I turned into a machine during that final push, honestly. I didn’t think or feel; I just did. A spreadsheet marked “THINGS TO DO” taunted me as I updated it every single morning.

It was daunting, honestly. And though I never quite approached a full-blown wedding freak-out, there were some tense moments. I never got cold feet, but I did feel overwhelmed by my two full-time jobs: the newspaper and the wedding. The stress got intense sometimes . . . particularly for a type-A worrier like me.

But by that Sunday, it had melted away. Dissolved. Evaporated. Disappeared.

One of my happiest moments the day of the wedding was actually after the salon, where my hair had been pulled into a side twist by a longtime friend. I was alone, driving myself from my parents’ house back to our apartment. I hadn’t been “home” in days. My brother-in-law was there, waiting to take me to the venue.

It was warm. The sun was miraculously shining. I was in my own car, manning my own vehicle — and though cheesy, it felt like I was truly directing my own fate. It was a moment of calm in an otherwise whirlwind of a day, and I will always treasure that quiet 20 minutes playing Ingrid Michaelson as loud as it would go with the windows cracked (can’t mess up the hair!), just singing and breathing.

I was getting married.

As I searched for the perfect red lipstick (L’Oreal Infallible in Garnet, by the way) at a drugstore earlier in the week, I struck up a conversation with a kind cashier. When I told her why I needed such a specific and long-lasting color, she leaned back and fixed me with a dazzling smile.

“Lady, you’re getting married!” she squealed, this woman with a face as open as the moon. “That must be a great feeling. Someone wants to marry you!”

It really was.


Wedding makeup

Spence with father

With bridesmaids

Tying shoes


After a morning of getting ready in our respective suites (hours that truly flew by), it was suddenly time for the Big Reveal. Spencer and I did a “first look” with our photographers, choosing to see each other for the first time in a private moment before the ceremony. It was one of the best decisions we made. Though I was actually pretty calm that morning, seeing my guy before 140 guests did immediately soothed any frazzled nerves.

And I didn’t even cry!

(That much.)


First look 1

First look 2


To get to our portrait location before the ceremony, we rode in a golf cart manned by our event-coordinator-turned-awesome-friend Jen — which felt a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride! We waved to golfers on the course at Swan Point, our venue, and thanked them for their well wishes.

As we flew along the path with the wind threatening to whip up my fluffy dress, we laughed and laughed. I felt invincible. There was nothing I could not love about that moment.


Golf cart


The ceremony itself was perfect. The sky was crystal blue. I seemed to float out on my father’s arm, amazed that everything was happening so quickly, and barely registered the faces of friends and family around us. Spencer stood at the end of the aisle with a look of utter contentment on his face, and I had a flashback to the pair of us sitting at Panera years ago. The wind had whipped our hair then, too.

If I’d had to pinpoint something about which I was anxious before the ceremony, I probably would have said standing before a group to utter words precious, personal and dear. Despite the fact that I live a somewhat public life, I still consider myself a private person — and honestly, making declarations of public love made me feel a little queasy.

But at the right time, the right moment, I didn’t even think about that. So swept up in the moment with my hands clutching Spencer’s, I repeated the words and I felt them to the tips of my cherry-red toes. I could have shouted them. And I’ve only had tunnel vision a few times in my life . . . but this was one of them. It felt like minutes, but our officiant assured us the ceremony was, in fact, a half hour.

Fastest half hour of my life.


Ceremony entrance

Vows

Tear during ceremony

First kiss


Our reception was everything I’d hoped it would be and more: exciting, lively, energetic, fun. Before the wedding, many people reminded me to keep looking around to soak up the sensation of having so many people I love together in one room — and they were absolutely right. Spence and I ate dinner quickly so we could start to dance and circulate, and I’m proud to say we spoke to nearly everyone in the room. (We did miss a few folks, and I feel terrible about that!)

And the dancing. The dancing. If you’d told me I would spend most of my wedding reception kicking up my heels on a wooden floor, grooving to everything from “YMCA” to “MMMBop” to “The Chicken Polka” (which took the place of a traditional father/daughter dance), I definitely would have pictured myself cowering in a corner somewhere instead.

But our wedding . . . well, it did something to me. Made me stronger. Bolder. More confident. Super happy. I didn’t care if I looked silly or robotic or weird rocking one of the three dance moves I know and can successfully(-ish) execute; I was seriously just having the time of my life.

I was in a bubble. A very, very sparkly bubble.

Color my husband impressed, friends, because we’d talked for months about how I “wasn’t going to be dancing that much,” and he would basically have to live with it. Me? Not a dancer.

But I was that night . . . we all were.


First dance

Angry chickens

YMCA

Boys dancing


. . . So was it everything we dreamed of?

Yes.

Surrounded by friends and family from near and far, some from Florida and North Carolina and New York and even one special guest from Sweden, I’ve never felt so happy, loved and content. I looked at the dance floor at one point, so happy and shocked to see my coworkers breaking it down with Spencer’s friends alongside our families and our parents’ friends, and it was just such an awesome feeling. A feeling I will hold close forever.

That very evening some friends had to get back on the road, returning to their corners of the universe apart from ours. We gave them hugs. We thanked them for coming. We wanted to wrap ourselves up in their good wishes for as long as possible, but most of our guests were on planes or in cars by the following evening.

We were all together for one day — one perfect, crystallized moment in time. For the only time.

That’s why photography is so important . . . but that’s another post.

Spencer and I spent the whole day in a deliriously happy cloud, marveling at our good fortune to have the warmest, prettiest day in November for our wedding day . . . but more than that, just so happy to pledge our lives to each other. It’s been a journey — one y’all have taken with me! — but it was more than worth the planning, time, energy and . . . well, the money.

You can’t put a price on that kind of happiness.

I won’t even try.


Family

Cake tasting

Bridal party

Groom and shoes

Portrait bokeh

End of the night


I’ll be share the details — and decor! — in future posts, but just wanted to focus on the memories today. (This article on that very subject is a great read.)


All photos by Birds of a Feather Photography


That crazy name-change issue

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In the past nine days, I’ve slowly started becoming a Johnson. It’s exciting, scary — and everything in between.

In the months leading up to the wedding, I toyed with the idea of . . .

Keeping my maiden name;
Hyphenating my last name;
Legally changing my last name, but keeping my maiden name professionally;
Just straight-up changing my last name and rolling with it.

It took me a while — and a bit of soul-searching — but I’ve ultimately decided to take Spencer’s last name. The choice is very personal, of course, and feels “right” to me. My husband has been very supportive of whatever I want to do, and I’ve been uncertain about it — but at the end of the day, my marriage marks a great change. A step into the future. And I feel like Johnson is that refresh I’ve been wanting.

I’m still me, of course. But I’m married me. And it will feel good — albeit scary — to take a new name.

Of course, these are all just words floating around the universe right now . . . I haven’t taken any legal steps to change just yet. Honestly, the idea of changing my entire identity makes me want to cower under a table fort made of old sheets at my grandparents’ house (which everyone knows is awesome). My younger sister has started the process, as has a newlywed coworker, so I’m relying on them for help and advice.

But I did make one big alteration: I changed my name on Facebook. That might as well be legal, right?

So it’s all fine and good to become Megan Johnson on a screen, friends, but that left me with another decision to make: what to do at work. Regardless of what I chose legally, I always thought I’d keep Snider somewhere in my moniker — either as a middle name or hyphenated part of Johnson. Since I write for a newspaper, I considered it a pen name. I thought it would be a nice homage to my roots.

Then I panicked.

Whatever I put with my column on Wednesday would set the tone for everything to come. If I’m Snider-Johnson now, even just professionally, that’s how I’ll be addressed by friends and readers alike. Staring at a computer screen on Monday morning, I realized I had to make a decision. A real decision.

Am I changing my name — or not?

It suddenly seemed strange to go halfsies . . . to be Snider-Johnson some places, Johnson or Snider in others. Which is it? Who am I?

Can I be both?

Caught up in the excitement of the wedding, I avoided the name-change issue. Friends have already started calling me Mrs. Johnson, and I love the way it sounds . . . but it’s still so foreign. But like all things surrounding my nuptials, both large and small, I’m sure it’s just a shift to which I’ll have to grow accustomed. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to look around in confusion when the doctor beckons “Mrs. So-and-so” out of the waiting room. (Who? Me?)

When the time came to put my byline on tomorrow’s column, I made a decision I didn’t expect.

I just went with Johnson. Plain ol’ Johnson.

So far, being Megan Johnson — at least in spirit — is pretty similar to being Megan Snider: both women are readers and writers, photographers and dreamers, daughters and sisters and friends. But the former gets to be part of my refresh, my reboot: my big, bold steps into whatever comes next with my husband.

Scary and good.

—–

If you’ve changed your name, how did it make you feel?
Did you ever feel uncertain about your decision?
Are you happy with the choice you ultimately made?


State of the wedding, vol. 3

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Outtake from our makeup trial “photo shoot.” I actually do like the makeup!


Well, friends, we’re a little over two weeks out. Sixteen days, to be precise.

Sixteen. Days.

I’ve stopped looking at my checklist on The Knot; it scares me. I’ve made my own “to-do” list in Google Docs, otherwise known as my Bible, and refer to that on a daily — er, hourly — basis.

I feel like I should be panicking or something . . . but I’m not. I’ve crossed from anxiety around the three-month mark to the wedding zen so many promise. I’m sure I’ll have a freak-out or two in the next week or so, just trying to make sure everything gets organized, but I’m pretty positive it will pass.

Honestly, in many ways, I was more anxious about moving out of my parents’ house than I ever have been about getting married. I take that is a good sign: the prospect of life with Spencer is decidedly not terrifying (always a good thing to realize two weeks from your wedding), and we’re settling into our new lives as a couple who also share a residence.

I feel like a real-deal, seriously serious grown-up. And that’s fun, too.

My bachelorette party is this weekend (woo!). My sister and friends are showing up at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow to whisk me off to an unknown locale, something I am ridiculously excited about, and the idea of spending two days with them just doing whatever has been the bright light at the end of a busy week.

It’s funny to read my post from July — back when I was really nervous about corralling a large group of people. Of 227 invited guests, our guest list has been pared down to roughly 150 — something that surprises me, honestly, but is understandable. We’re getting married on a holiday weekend, which is helpful for some and not for others; it’s November, so kids are in school; finances could be a concern, weather is a factor. I’m just thankful so much of our extended family is making the trip and really can’t wait to see everyone!

And speaking of “everyone,” they’ll start arriving in a week and a half. Which means we really need to get our place in tip-top shape. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit we still have a few bridal shower gifts boxed in the living room . . . just from lack of space. After I took over several of the bookcases with my massive library, we’ve had to get creative with storing and moving items around. It’s been . . . interesting! Heh. But we’re working on it. A work in progress, indeed.

So what’s left to do? Well . . .

• Finalize the seating chart.
• Create all escort cards for said seating chart.
• Finish the table frames for our writer/scientist theme.
• Box up all decor and get that ready to take to the venue.
• Stuff welcome bags (when Spencer’s family arrives).
• Finish paying everyone. I hear $$$$ is a good thing.

There’s more, of course . . . but I won’t bore you with the tedious ramblings of an OCD bride! And they’re little things.

I’ve had my hair and makeup trials (pictured at top), my dress is taken in and ready, jewelry has been selected or borrowed. Our menu is done, headcount almost final, signature cocktails chosen (that was one delicious taste test). Everyone knows where to be and when — partially thanks to my always-updated timeline. I need to send that to all the vendors, actually . . .

I’ve also started weaning myself from wedding websites and bridal newsletters in general. While I definitely have favorites, spending too much time looking at others’ celebrations is starting to make me feel anxious. With so little time left, I don’t have the inclination, energy or funds to design quirky new decor, order funky colored straws or any of the other “Pinterest-able” elements I’ve loved looking at for so long. We’ve planned, and the plan is in place. Basically: it is what it is. What’s done is done.

But what’s done? Well, it will be awesome. For the most part I do feel good, calm. I’m getting thank-you notes out quickly and am sort of slipping into that introverted time of reflection, you know? It’s been so BUSY BUSY BUSY DOING ALL THE THINGS that I haven’t really allowed myself to consider the fact that I’m getting married, especially when so much energy was poured into my sister’s big day in September.

But now it’s our turn. We’re really doing this!

Sixteen days.

I can’t wait.