Weddings are about two things: a sacred commitment between two people and cherished time spent with friends and family. Everything else is incidental. In the whirlwind of wedding planning in today’s society, fraught with expectations of Pinterest perfection, Say Yes To The Dress marathons with sky’s-the-limit budgets, and a torrent of details—who even knew chair sashes were a thing?—two brides managed to keep their hearts focused on what’s important and also their sanity.
“He’s your type,” her friend had told her. Audra Repass Lucas, 31, was unconvinced. Nevertheless, she agreed to a date in July 2013—July 14 to be exact—at the Pulaski Mariners game. Two, three dates later, she said, she knew he was the man she wanted to marry. She and her now-husband Jeff, 43, were engaged less than a year later.
“We were both ready,” she said. “We were both ready for a commitment.”
They were married at an intimate ceremony on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in October of that same year.
“[Small destination weddings] are not for everybody,” Audra conceded. “It’s just what worked for us.”
Knowing what was important to both her and Jeff—and sticking to it—helped keep her focused through her short engagement. They wanted to keep everything simple. Although their guest list could have easily exceeded a few hundred people had they held a hometown Wytheville wedding, they elected to keep it extremely small, with only 34 of their absolute closest family and friends. “You have to make hard decisions when it’s that small.”
One of the biggest issues brides often run into, she explained, is that people expect to be invited.
It would be a relief if people could say, “We’re happy for you,” she said, regardless of whether or not they receive an invitation. Marriage is a big enough relationship transition as it is without having to worry about friendships that reveal themselves as fragile because someone wasn’t included on the guest list.
Rachel Crowgey Wilson, 31, married just the day before Audra, ran into that same issue.
Even with a final guest list of about 300 people, Rachel said she and her husband, Hunter, still had a difficult time narrowing that number down since both of their very large extended families are from the area. “It’s nothing against those people; it’s just that somewhere you have to draw the line.”
Sure, they could have done ham biscuits and mints, Rachel said, and invited every single person they wanted, but that’s not what they wanted to do for their wedding. “Weddings nowadays are very different than they were 20 years ago,” she said. “It’s almost expected that you serve a meal.”
While planning her wedding, Rachel and her mom pulled out her mom’s wedding planning book. It was amazing to see how little things cost, and what was socially expected then, in comparison to today, she noted. Making a dollar stretch takes time and effort.
“People think that money just shows up,” Audra said, which is why she and Rachel both mentioned that people should respect a family’s budget and be understanding of the choices brides and their families make.
Despite the challenges of planning a wedding on a short timeline with common frustrations that crop up along the way, both women said they really enjoyed the process. They wouldn’t change much and they things they might have changed weren’t in their control anyway.
Mostly, though, they treasured the quality time they had with the people they love most.
For Rachel, perusing the aisles of Hobby Lobby looking for ribbon with her mom, spending time with her bridesmaids, having her uncle marry her, punching tin lanterns with her fiancé, and carving pumpkins with her dance students are among some of the memories she holds dear. And since so much of her wedding was done by hand, she and her fiancé were able to spend extra time with family and friends taking care of all the arrangements—even if it meant the less glamorous jobs of running electrical wires in the barn or bundling fodder shock against the fence. The happiness of these small moments with her favorite people far outweighed any stress or emotional meltdowns she might have had along the way.
Audra agreed. In her case, having a very small wedding allowed both sets of family to get to know one another on a much deeper level. “We got to spend time with everyone there. It was so nice…. We know we could call on any one person that was there and they’d be there.”
It was a humbling experience, she reflected, to realize “all the people you love most in the world now know each other.”
In the end, being surrounded by the love and genuine support of friends and family, regardless of the carefully-laid plans, is what carried the girls through any bumps along the way, again on their wedding day, and will continue to sustain them in the years to come.
Advice for families and friends:
• Do not expect to be invited.
• Do not ask to be invited.
• Do not say you haven’t received your invitation yet a few weeks before the wedding.
• Do not say you’ll be watching the mail for your invitation.
• Respect the couple’s wishes for their day, whatever they may be.
• Offer to help throughout the planning process with whatever the couple might need. It may be as simple as taking care of an errand the week before or as monumental as helping them move into a new home. Sometimes a steady, friendly presence is the most helpful thing of all.
• If you’re involved in helping the couple plan, be prompt when the bride asks for something to be done.
• If the couple has created a wedding website, use it as a resource before contacting them with questions.
• Bridesmaids or close friends should offer to be the point of contact so the bride and groom can focus on the wedding that day.
• Pay attention to the gift registry. Couples know the items they need and what they don’t.
• Continue to be supportive of the newlyweds, even after the wedding day. Send cards, offer encouragement, respect their wishes to stay in on Friday night and binge-watch Netflix together with pizza instead of going out.
• Above all, be happy for the couple—no strings, no expectations, no assumptions attached.
Advice for brides:
• Enjoy the quality time you have with the people you love most.
• Have fun. Wedding planning shouldn’t be stressful. If you’re not having fun, take a break for a little while.
• Know what your priorities are—financial or otherwise. Stay true to your “non-negotiables” and work around the rest.
• Communicate your expectations for everything with both sets of families. This includes everything—finances, guest list, potential showers, décor, attire, etc.
• Make a list of must-have shots for the photographer.
• Remember that this whole ordeal is also about your groom.
• Try to set aside quality time with your fiancé, especially time when the conversation doesn’t revolve around flowers and tulle and bridesmaid drama. The fellas want to be supportive listeners, but there’s only so much they can take. The transformation from girlfriend to bride-to-be can be pretty dramatic, so be sure your guy still gets to be with the real you.
• Make sure your Maid of Honor has tissues.
• Wear comfortable, pretty shoes.
• Number the RSVPs to correspond with the invitations. It makes organizing who has responded much easier, since guests often forget to write their names on the RVSP.
• Pause, focus and appreciate being surrounded by love and friendship that day. Take a moment to take it all in.