W and I got engaged at the end of a wild summer full of earth-shaking changes. I was a part of three weddings over a few weeks. W’s grandfather and my grandmother died. W and I graduated from college. Many of our friends moved away, and friendships began to shift. I started to experience bizarre physical and neurological symptoms, and I was in and out of hospitals and specialist offices for months. I had to quit my job because I had experienced spells of total loss of eyesight while driving and could no longer handle commuting so far. My boss accused me of trying to scam him somehow and threatened to “send his associates” to my house to talk to me. I insisted I didn’t want or need anything other than to quit. It was a surreal time.
Originally, our short engagement was going to be a five or six months kind of short. I thought a winter wedding would be perfect, so we decided to plan for January 2011. We made a guest list of 175, visited a beautiful mansion venue that had very reasonable off-season rates, and bookmarked DIY projects that would save money. We did our best to stay positive and look forward to the future, even with everything going on.
With bills and health scare fears piling up around me, I remember eating ice cream in early September with my friend Jolynn who had been accompanying me to various doctor visits. She knew W and I were struggling and trying to plan a wedding. “Why don’t you do it soon? Like soon soon? We could do everything ourselves and host it at the Ministry House,” she suggested. The Ministry House was a house leased by our church that rented rooms out to Christian boarders. I think we laughed for a minute or two and then realized how much sense it made. I called W, and he was on board. I’d be under his insurance from his stable software developer job, and we’d have the same home base from which to handle all the things life was throwing our way together. We thought having the big reception sounded nice, but not nice enough to wait for and pay for with money we didn’t have. We just wanted to be married. We set a wedding date for three weeks away: October 2nd.
I remember going to Barnes and Noble and looking through wedding magazines and books with Jolynn after the date had been moved up. You may or may not be surprised to know that the closest applicable book in the wedding planning section was for a three month engagement. I took notes and tried to scale the to do list to three weeks. Turns out that the Three Week Crowd tends to elope, not plan a ceremony and party. Not us! We started our own category, the Crowd That Even The Three Week Crowd Thinks Is Crazy.
Sometimes I’m still not sure how we pulled it all off. The guest list went from 175 to 30, the mansion venue became the Ministry House, and the DIY plan became a DIYAFAYC one. Also known as Do It Yourself As Fast As You Can. I found an off the rack wedding dress, and on the only day I had time to look. I hired two violinists I’d found online, because violin music was the only thing I had always wanted to have as part of my wedding. We managed to book a photographer and a tent guy, and we bought beautiful wedding rings.
While a group of us worked on printing the invitations, my friend Jennie mentioned a beautiful wedding she’d seen in a magazine. It was a sunrise wedding, and the bridesmaids carried lanterns instead of bouquets. I don’t know what came over me, but suddenly this sounded magical and floral cost friendly, and so we had our wedding ceremony at 6:30 AM. Please don’t look at me like that. Trust me, enough people were annoyed about it then. My mother called to say “who’s going to cater your wedding, Dunkin Donuts?” The lanterns were romantic! Let me live!
We cut as many corners as possible. At one point, my friend Ashley called and asked what was left to be taken care of. I told her we had no food, and she asked for a blank check and how much money she had to work with and said she’d handle it. A day or two later, she called to let me know she’d hired a restaurant to cater a lovely breakfast reception for us inside the Ministry House, and did it in-budget! It was only after the wedding that she told me she had told them on the phone that W and I were rushing because we didn’t know if I was dying yet, and the person on the phone happened to be the owner’s daughter who thought our story was beautiful and cried. They agreed even though they didn’t normally do Crazy People Crack Of Dawn Weddings, and they threw in an international coffee bar for free. This explained why the catering staff seemed EXTRA extra nice to me the whole time. They probably thought I was dying! It’s true that I was in the middle of a health scare that involved multiple brain scans and no answers, but I still don’t know whether I think this catering situation is awful or funny. Either way, the food was wonderful.
My favorite detail from our wedding is the grape soda pin W wore on his suit. If you’ve seen Pixar’s Up, you know why. If you haven’t, go watch it. The first 11 minutes will explain it to you.
Everyone went above and beyond to help. Jennie organized and hosted a bridal shower and bachelorette party for me, and she curled my hair the morning of the wedding. She burned my ear a little and felt awful about it but stayed calm to finish my hair, which is more than I would have been able to do! Anthony made trips to Michaels with me and carefully draped tulle around the arch W and I would stand under. Matt wrote our beautiful ceremony and officiated. Bryan and I went to Wegman’s to buy my bouquet of white roses. We weren’t sure how to tell white from off-white, so we ran around holding flowers up to white products in the aisles. Hillary stayed up until 3 in the morning with me the morning of the wedding to help me paint my toenails after I realized I hadn’t made any time for relaxing feel-pretty things like that. Jolynn took me to a mirror at one point during the reception by ourselves and made me look at my reflection and take it in that I looked and felt beautiful. I will never forget all those memories from that crazy time.
My parents had helped my sister pay for a part of her wedding and gifted us the same amount of money. In our case since our wedding was so small, it was enough to cover the whole thing. In the end, our wedding cost $6,000. To us, that was still a lot of money. To someone else, that might be their napkin and tablecloth budget. Weddings are a crazy business!
Years later when someone asks me if I would do things differently now, I say no. Short engagements can be a very good decision. They do not automatically mean someone is pregnant, the couple is immature, or that something else is wrong. It certainly means that a lot of logistical planning and prioritizing have to happen in a very limited amount of time, and a short engagement might mean scaling down the party if you still want to have one. In the end, if you two have thought it through and are prepared to take responsibility for your decision, go for it! If anyone is mad or doesn’t understand, they’ll get over it or they won’t. Even though some people were supportive, there were more who weren’t. People told us that we were wasting our twenties, that we were ruining our lives. My own father warned W not to marry me because he said I was unstable. All kinds of hurtful things were said to us. Here’s the thing though: if these people don’t support you, it’s on them. It’s their responsibility, not yours. No matter what happens, you get a non traditional engagement story to tell for the rest of your lives! We sure have one, and we like it that way.