Looking Back: Courtney + Tom: October 2008

I love what I do and getting to hear all the stories that my couples have. Many of these stories involve the planning process, and I find it oh-so-interesting how each couple approaches planning a wedding and how they execute said plan. It’s fascinating, really, how each couple is so different in what they find to be important and what they could do without.

With this in mind, I asked a few of my brides who are at their one year anniversary to take a look back- to reflect on the process and let my current couples who read my blog get some insight and maybe even some advice. I’m looking forward to doing more of these, and anyone who would like to do one is more than welcome!

My first couple is one of my favorites- Courtney and Tom. Their wedding last October at Glen Echo was so them- the whole day reflected who they are as a couple, and I loved that.

Using my pictures and Courtney’s words… here we go!

I was never that girl that dreamed about my wedding. And this is not a story about how I got engaged, and became that girl who dreamed about her wedding. I got engaged, planned a wedding, and hated every second of the process. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited for the marriage. The wedding? Eh.

That being said, I did want a wedding. It was important to us for our families and friends to witness our commitment to each other, and to have their support and love as we embarked upon our life together. I wanted to celebrate what we had found in each other – a best friend, a deep love, an abiding sense of contentment. And who doesn’t love a party?

Being engaged was like all of a sudden finding myself indoctrinated into a secret society of which I wanted no part. It led to questions about things like my colors, my theme, my favors, and various other things I could not have cared less about. People didn’t quite know how to react to a bride like me.

I can’t really say there was a rhyme or reason to our wedding planning. It was done very fitfully, in stops and starts, as my motivation waxed or waned. We’d make a bunch of decisions at once, then do nothing for months on end. We were lucky in that our parents were perhaps even less interested than we were, so we really were free to do whatever we wanted, and didn’t have to worry about appeasing family or making anyone else happy.

We decided from the start that we weren’t interested in spending a lot of money, and so we identified our priorities accordingly. We knew we wanted a memorable location, as many people would be traveling to DC for the wedding, and we didn’t want them to end up in a hotel ballroom that could have been anywhere. And we knew we wanted a great photographer, one who could really capture the day. Other than that, we didn’t care about much.

In making our decisions, we’d think about what stood out to us about weddings we’d attended. And what we remembered was the feeling of the day, not the trappings of it. We couldn’t remember a single meal we’d ever eaten at a wedding, but we did recall how much fun it was to joyfully dance with the bride or groom. We couldn’t remember centerpieces, but we did remember the look of bliss on the bride and groom’s faces as they were pronounced husband and wife. And so on. It was a good lesson about why people come to your wedding, and what they take from the experience. We firmly felt that the wedding was not “our special day”, it was a special day that we were sharing with our friends and family, and we wanted them to feel welcomed and comfortable. A friend told me recently, “You had the best wedding ever. So much fun.” I was so pleased because that’s exactly what I wanted our guests to take from the day – fun.

However, seeing as many other people don’t subscribe to this particular mindset, and push the idea that your wedding must be your personal style statement, must be this and have that, our engagement was a long 18 months. I hated telling people I was getting married, because they wanted to talk about weddings, and I did not. People found my lack of enthusiasm about the wedding to be odd. I’d tell anyone who asked that I didn’t care if the save the date matched the linens matched the flowers matched the bridesmaid dresses. That at 32, I felt a bit too old to have a parade of friends precede me down the aisle, and I definitely had no interest in telling my friends what to wear and how to do their hair.

Of course, by rejecting most traditional wedding planning and accoutrements, we did end up with a wedding that reflected the two of us. We involved our friends by having them help design the invitations, perform the music, and do the readings, not by conscripting them as bridesmaids and groomsman. We had great, non-traditional wedding food, because we picked stuff we like to eat. We had our guests develop our playlist, but having them RSVP with songs they’d like to hear at the reception.

What we did put our time and effort into was what we felt was most important, the reason we were there – the ceremony. We really reflected on the commitment we were making, what marriage meant to us, and crafted a ceremony to reflect this. We researched and read and read until we found readings and music that we related to, that contained words of wisdom for the step we were about to take. Marriage is meaningful and special and hard, and a cookie cutter ceremony was not the way we wanted to start it off.

Mary Kate kept telling us, “I’ve never seen a bride and groom as relaxed as you two.” Because all that mattered to us was that we were getting married that day. Barring Tom not showing up, there is nothing that could have freaked me out or “ruined” the day. We’d have found a way to deal with anything. Though, having a day of coordinator was one of the best decisions we made. It was a luxury to be able to outsource any issues that did crop up, and not have to deal with anything all day.

Looking back a year later, I see we were right. What we remember about the day is the pure, unadulterated joy of getting married. Tom’s sweaty palm gripping mine as we stood in front of the minister. How special it was to have so many of our friends and family gathered together, an all too rare occasion as an adult. Kicking up our heels and dancing the night away. Meeting both our three week old and three year old nephews for the first time. Ending the night singing “Sweet Caroline” with my family. The details have faded away, but the impression of the day remains. It was lovely.
Thanks, Courtney!
(photo of me, Courtney, Tom, and Jessi-
and yes, I *love* Courtney’s silly family in the background!)
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    About Mary Kate

    Mary Kate McKenna Photography is located in Downtown Frederick, Maryland. MK specializes in documenting families, business and events. This could mean a lifestyle session with your newborn, documenting a birthday party, or editorial photos of your business, including custom stock imagery or headshots. Our strength is in highlighting people and places in a natural, unposed way. Send a note to chat about how we can help with your photography needs.