Wedding week: Unique traditions.

This is the one post I knew I had to write.

You're in a white dress. You're eating cake and dancing with your father. Six of your friends are wearing matching dresses. Welcome to the complex tradition of a wedding, one that is both thrilling and identity-stealing. Because finally, you are a bride! And well all know what brides are like, right? RIGHT?

WRONG-O. Our wedding was our wedding. So we got inventive and stopped thinking of it as a wedding and more an opportunity to create ceremony, tradition and meaning with our friends and family.

These are the things that made our wedding unique... and now I invite you to steal. Steal away, wedding-planning friends!

Nana's violets.
My Nana had a green thumb. She had a sun room with loads of plants, but the ones I remember the most are the African violets. When she died she'd been in a nursing home for a while and all of the plants in her sun room were dead. Well, all except one. A pink violet plant remained, in bad shape though, and I brought it home with me. (I wrote about that here.)

It lived. It lived and I made lots of baby violet plants out of it. And then when we got engaged, I knew that I wanted to look out across the tent and see lots of violet plants that came from her original one. So a million months before the wedding, I started growing babies.

We put one on each table, stuck a table number in them and invited guests to take them home to continue their lives. I absolutely love the heritage of plants... and that day Nana's violets filled the place with her spirit.

Personalized guest book
This one took a mere afternoon. The idea was that I didn't want 47 half-filled guest books. I didn't want one per table... when you live in Brooklyn, you have no storage for that kind of thing! We liked the idea of something our guests could flip through, something more interactive than a blank page.

So I took a bunch of pictures of us and made a hardcover Shutterfly book. I added a few extra pages and left white space around the photos. Not only is it meaningful for the words scrawled across its pages, but it's also like a little Yearbook. (Also, like 30 bucks. Sweet.)

The Blue Cards.
Sometimes I get very overwhelmed by community. I remember riding the 4 train home one day, thinking how much I wished I could wear something from every married woman I knew. I felt as though I was joining their club, this group of people who had crossed to the other side. What did they know that I didn't? I wanted their knowledge to be somehow manifested in what I walked down the aisle with that day.

But I was not exactly in the market to wear 50 bracelets from different women. Then it occurred to me that I was focusing on the wrong part of the poem. Instead of something borrowed, I still needed something blue. And then my wheels got turning.

I bought light blue cardstock and chopped it into little rectangles. I included one in the invitation of any woman who had been married (whether she was now still married, divorced or widowed). I asked the women to return the blue card with their RSVPs and to write a blessing or a few words of advice on the card.

As the RSVPs came in this was one of the most exciting parts to see. I learned a lot about how people approached their relationships by the advice they gave. The day of the wedding, I tucked them all in a tiny satin bag and we pinned it inside my dress. When I walked down the aisle, I went with the wisdom of the married women in my circle.

This was one of my favorite things about the wedding, which again, wasn't about the wedding. It was about the experience of committing and finding meaning in a day dedicated to that act.

The placecards.
We had been to so many weddings where the only people we talked to were the ones we knew before we got there. I'm sure it was meaningful for the couple to look out and see all the diverse people... but as participants, we always felt like something was missing. We were missing out on the magic. Grandparents never mixed with High School friends.

So we decided that everyone at our wedding would have a secret meet-up buddy. We spent hours figuring out who each person should meet... sometimes it was based on a common profession, a common hobby or just a gut feel about personality. On one side of the placecard was your name and table number. When you flipped the card open, there was the name of your secret buddy and his/her table number. Odds were that one of the pair would cross the room to say hello!

This, I believe, is a key social dynamic to understand. People want to meet each other! They are lonely and they want to chat. But often they don't feel like they have a socially acceptable reason to approach someone else. In the secret buddy system, there was now a real reason to have the confidence to cross the room.

And I gotta tell you, it was a TRIP looking out and seeing people talking who did not know each other before that night. It was so awesome. Some people even became such good buddies that they routinely hang out in foreign countries. Gah. So awesome.

The Mix CDs.
I don't know. I don't like those Italian almonds. We threw out every other wedding favor we ever brought home. And who doesn't like a Mix CD?

So Chris and I put together a mix based on the songs that had affected us in growing up separately and then growing together. We left one CD per household (couples got one, for example) on the tables where people would sit. And if they threw them out, then I wouldn't feel too bad.

There was also a great symmetry here because we asked guests to make US mix CDs for our roadtrip honeymoon. Our friend Courtney made a big pretty box with a slit in it and people put cards and CDs in it. As we drove down the Pacific Coast we popped them in and had a great time thinking about whoever had made them for us. Hooray for music!

P.S. On a side note, we left all of the mix CDs in the rental car when we dropped it off in Palm Springs. THE WORST FAIL EVER! Then two weeks later we got a little box in the mail. The man who cleans out the rental cars at the Palm Springs airport found them, tracked down our address in the system and mailed them to us. He wrote that he was getting married soon and thought they looked like they would be important to us... so we paid back the favor and sent him an Amazon gift card for his wedding. UMMM HUMANS RULE!

I think I have to stop here. I mean, is there anywhere MORE positive this post could go? Maybe only if Mother Teresa and Oprah crashed our wedding with baby St. Bernards. That didn't happen.

But all that other stuff did! So go steal these ideas! Steal away! xo


EricaRW said...

Jesus woman. What's it like being so awesome? ahahaha these are so cool, I love the blue cards!!!

Also - reply to your most recent DT post... HOCKEYHOCKEYHOCKEY!!!! xo

Jen said...

@E Hahaha. All I can say is that I'm so glad we're not planning a wedding anymore. PROJECT-A-HOLIC, right over here. ;)

Also, what is a DT post?! xo

Abby said...

This is all just so beautiful! The African violets and the blue cards and the mixed cds getting mailed back to you: I guess I just needed a little teary start to the workday.

Jessica said...

Just popped in to say that the CD thing made me cry, what is wrong with me, but I see I'm not the only one! :*)

Rebecca said...

I teared up reading about your flower idea ("babies"). So special--I love it.

kck said...

LOVE the blue card idea! Probably won't be getting married til I'm 45, but I am going to slip that idea in my back pocket.

Leigh Somerville said...

Those place cards were amazing and so you. I thought of them as I was walking around the Tate Modern with Maddy- my place card person!