As a photographer one of the most common question I am asked from couples about to get married is: “What do people normally do?”. As I reply: “You can do whatever you want.” I can hear both their frustration and feelings of relief in the sound of their sighs.
As an example of what this can look like I am sharing what I did for my wedding just so you can see how backwards things can get. I understand there are steps people come to expect at a wedding and mine definitely caused some confusion at times, but it is what made us happy and once people understood that, nothing else really mattered.
What is really important about this day?
After I explain to couples that they can do whatever they want I follow with this: “I encourage you to really think about what is important to you.” It is easy to get caught up with what you have seen at other weddings but just like comparing yourself to anyone on any given day is a bad idea, the same applies here.
Here is what was important to us:
1 We wanted to start our marriage off with an adventure.
2 We wanted our vows to be shared between just the two of us.
3 We wanted photographs and video that felt like true pieces of art.
4 We wanted to celebrate with others—eventually.
5 This was important to us because,
a. We want our families to get to know one another.
b. We want to share something special with our immediate family and close friends.
c. We wanted to celebrate with food/drinks/dancing with the people who have been part of our lives through the decades.
(It is a tall order, I know.)
How we made it happen:
With two weeks of travel available, we knew we wanted to go somewhere where we could both relax and explore. We thought about Shri Lanka, New Zealand/Australia and Namibia. After countless pro/con lists we settled on a country both of us have wanted to visit for years: Greece.
No, neither Jim nor I are Greek. But there was just something about the idea of starting this new phase in our lives in a country that mixes history with mythology, philosophy with the birth of democracy and people from all over the world coming together to experience that kind of larger than life feeling.
So after landing in Athens, we headed straight to Mykonos for three nights then we were off to Santorini for a week (where we would exchange our vows) then to Crete for four nights to explore the largest of the Greek Islands before heading back to Athens for a few nights before heading back to the states.
Now you might be wondering if it is hard to plan a wedding from another country. It is. So we opted out of hiring an officiant in Greece (see No. 2 on list of important things to us) and saved all the formalities for when we got back to the states which looked something like this:
Noon to 4:00 p.m. — Brunch with 83 of our closest family members on the second floor of Bravos. Jim’s dad gave a speech, we cut our beautiful cake Jim’s mom made and we worked in some family photos with people I haven’t seen in over 15 years.
4:30 to 5:30 p.m. — Immediate family met at our house/construction site (@barebonesreno) for our ceremony. My dad got to walk me down the aisle steps, my sister got to help me put on my dress, my mom got to happy cry while recording the whole thing on her iPhone and one of our best friends made it official before we all cheersed with some Uzo.
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. — Some close friends met us at our place to see what we have been doing to make our house a home since last October. We got to spend some quality time together before walking over to our venue for the night.
7:30 – 2:00 a.m. – Party at Beer Barrel. Simple + fun.
Lessons learned from the experience:
Reading back over all this it sounds easy breezy but of course I gave you the highlight reel of a decision that had its lows too. So here are some lessons learned (which I think deserve their own post at some point—stay tuned).
- Telling your family they won’t be at your wedding kinda sucks. Our moms were sad. My Dad questioned my whys. My sister, which was the hardest person to tell, felt rightfully excluded.
But just like anything, you have to stay true to what makes you happy. So we did just that and we made sure to include our loved ones in other ways. And surprisingly, they all came around! Eventually they understood why we were doing it our way and became very excited for us and that still makes me smile.
- When people have come to expect a certain agenda, doing something different can throw them off. If you go off the beaten path expect that some people are just simply not going to totally like or understand it. All you can do is explain yourself and your idea the best you can and be compassionate in the fact that for whatever reason not everyone is going to be on board. However, the people who love you and have always shown up in your life will show up for this and that is an amazing moment.
- Whether you have an extravagant traditional wedding or show up on an island without a plan, remember why you are doing what your doing. Deciding to get married is way bigger than all of it so try to let that love lead the way and everything will work out.
So when you ask me as your wedding photographer what is normal, I will be happy to share what works logistically or really lovely things I have seen in the past but I will always lead you down the path of making decisions based on what is right for you and your partner. Because when you look back at your photographs months or even years later you will be able to confidently say that day was really about celebrating our love for one another and that is what really matters.
Author: Morgan Whitney
Author Bio: Morgan Whitney is a Columbus, Ohio based photographer and owner of a social enterprise, RATIO (ratiogivesback.org). She believes that human connection is what makes the world go round. Photographing passionate individuals, creatives and small business owners is her way of bringing that connection to life.
Link to social media or website: http://www.morganwhitneyphotography.com