What makes for an awesome wedding?



Here’s what makes for an awesome wedding (in my opinion)

It’s a valid question. What does make for an awesome wedding? As someone who has attended dozens and dozens of weddings over the years both as a guest and as part of the venue staff I know a thing or two about weddings. [I worked for a summer as a prep chef for a catering company, so I really got to see the nitty gritty of wedding events both small and absolutely huge] Over the years I have mentally gathered opinions on both the physical aspects of weddings (such as venue and food) and the emotional aspects of the wedding (such as whether or not the guests are having a good time, whether or not the bride is having a meltdown, and whether or not we can find the groom – and is he sober enough to walk?). Some weddings leave wonderful memories and others aren’t memorable enough to even give a second thought.

In my opinion, if you’re going to spend money on a wedding – make it memorable and in a good way.

In the past, weddings were a place of rumination over my failed relationships. I would sit there awkwardly un-paired with a date and roll my eyes every time the bride, groom, or officiant would say something about “being whole now” or having “another half” as if they were each a bloody, gaping half of a person before they met this other person. Gag me.

I refuse to believe that I am lesser simply because I do not have someone to love me. I refuse to believe that I am a bloody, gaping half.

Girl in a dusty blue dress smiling and looking over her left shoulder. She is wearing a flower crown and looking to the side of the camera.
We bridesmaids got our dresses from a site called Azazie (which I highly recommend). The bride picked the color and then she allowed us to pick our style from 500+ options.

Chip on my shoulder or not, I’ve been looking forward to the marriage of my best friend and her fiancè for over a year now. But when it became apparent in February that I would not be attending this wedding with a significant other by my side I wondered if there would once again be rumination and hints of a pity party at this wedding celebration as well.

It’s no secret that I take issue with almost every wedding. I’m overly vocal about it… Oops. But why spend so much time and effort on something when your wedding is riddled with the traditions of others and the same dress and decorations and wording that everyone else uses? Isn’t your relationship something unique to the two of you? So shouldn’t your wedding be unique, too? I’ve never been married, but I’ve witnessed many a wedding. I could rant for many pages, but I’ll sum up the rant by saying that in my mind a wedding should paint a picture of the couple that you are and the guests there should be people who you see bolstering you and celebrating with you all through your marriage – not simply people whom you felt pressured to invite.

Katie+Charlie 2019

All aspects of this wedding were different from the weddings I have attended in the past. For one thing, this was a wedding weekend. Not just a wedding, but a three-day-long party. If you think this sounds wild – it was but in an amazing way. The bride and groom rented a campground in the forests of New York State. There were cabins, covered pavilions for eating, a gorgeous fire pit area with amphitheater-style seating, a lake for boating and swimming, a stunning dining hall with porches and long dramatic staircases, and plenty of green space for games…oh… and a jaw dropping wedding. Oh. And did I mention that if you stay on this campground there is a yurt village for all the guests. Yes, yurts.

Would you understand what I mean when I say that Katie and Charlie birthed this wedding? They took the time to come together with one vision, one creative purpose, and they put their blood, sweat, and tears into a wedding celebration so uniquely them that no other couple could duplicate what was done. This wedding weekend was their own special creation. They were co-creators in this wedding celebration just as they will be in their marriage.

An overhead look of several floral arrangements.
Katie and Charlie handmade these flower arrangements out of crepe paper and glue. Hand. Made. Flower. Arrangements.
A floral arrangement in a wooden box sitting on the ledge of a porch.
They even made the wooden boxes for the arrangements. They made 18 of these as the centerpieces for the reception.

Have ever attended a wedding where you instantly got the idea that the entire shindig was merely a show? A display of wealth or connections or class? Like, “Look how much money we can spend on hairdos and napkins!”?

This wedding was not a show. It was a communion. One aspect of this wedding that was like soul food to me was the intense overarching theme of community. The guests were there because they actually wanted to be there. The guests were there to serve those that they love AND to celebrate those that they love. You could literally feel the lovingkindness, the unconditional love reverberating through the entire community. It’s difficult to put it all into words, but to me it felt like… openness. Like expansiveness. Like joy filling up and overflowing. Watching over a hundred people come together and pull together to work and celebrate…well, it’s simply magical.

In the past I have seen painted wedding guests sitting passively on their behinds waiting for the moment to eat cake, say a few kind words, and then go home. But this… This was something different. This was togetherness. This was community at its finest.

When you invited guests to your wedding did you express to them that they were specifically chosen to be a hand to hold in times of need, a laugh in times of joy, and a bolster in times of storms right alongside your life partner? Did you speak with them so they knew that they were a part of your God-designed loving, supportive community? Or were they merely cake eaters in high heels?

Three girls side by side wearing dusty blue dresses. They have their arms around each other and are all wearing flower crowns.
Did I also mention that we got to make flower crowns at the reception? We got to make flower crowns. I was in heaven.

“Are we crazy?”

This is the question that both Katie and Charlie asked themselves many, many times while planning their weekend extravaganza of a wedding. Maybe just a little bit? Haha. But I’m so glad they were “all in.” One full weekend of BBQ’s, bonfires, square dances, outdoor games, hiking, boating, yoga, staying in cabins, getting married, celebrating, and lots and lots of eating.

I have heard of wedding weekends before, but never in my life had I experienced one or heard of one of this magnitude. I arrived in Manhatten on a Wednesday afternoon and the bride, a couple of bridesmaids, and I treated ourselves to mani/pedi sets, strolled the streets in the sunshine, and then tag-teamed a delish dinner party of salmon, asparagus, salad, and a meringue all fluffy with cream and speckled with chocolate shavings. It was wonderful to chill and enjoy each other’s company before all the craziness of the weekend started.

I wouldn’t realize this until everything was over, but to me arriving a few days early to help prep enriched the experience of the whole wedding. It was quite a bonding experience to be a part of the wedding celebration from the very beginning to the very end when we were hauling all the wedding supplies up three flights of stairs. I’ve heard so many stories about friends and couples that get really pissed off at each other when they have to complete some massive and slightly stressful task as a team but… Honestly, I felt as if working AND playing harder than I have in a long time brought me closer to my friends than I could have imagined.

Work hard. Play harder.

All awesome weddings start with a brilliant vision…

Their vision was this: Host a wedding weekend at a state park in New York for friends and family to celebrate. Host a square dance and BBQ one night and eat many meals together at the park’s outdoor venue. Host outdoor games, hikes, boat rides, and give many many opportunities to play and exercise throughout the weekend. The wedding will be held outdoors on the lawn. The reception will be indoors at the venue. There will be a farewell meal on the last day.

The overall flow of the weekend was this:

  • Thursday: Drive upstate to state park. Shop at Costco for food for the weekend. Prep. Prep. Prep. Prep.
  • Friday: Prep. Prep. Prep. Prep. Wedding rehearsal. BBQ catered dinner. Massive square dance on the lawn. Bonfire.
  • Saturday: Outdoor activities including swimming, hiking, yoga, and a make your own trail mix station. Wedding of the century. Reception of the century. Psycadelic glowstick-infused bonfire for those who had the energy to celebrate for a few hours more.
  • Sunday: Farewell catered brunch
Three girls sitting side by side making silly faces at the camera.
A little bit of BBQ silliness

We legit made our own bouquets:

People kept asking me if my friend who was getting married was a bridezilla. HA. NO. She was the polar opposite of that. Among other things, she let us make our own bouquets. And they were all different. And they each displayed our unique personalities.

Dancing on my own:

A picture of all the wedding guests dancing in low light at the wedding reception.
The venue had florescent lighting, but we transformed the space with strings of globe lights.

Not that you can’t dance wit yo own bad self and feel perfectly beautiful, but sometimes dancing has a way of reminding you of your aloneness. Maybe you haven’t caught onto this yet, but regardless of everything happening in my life I felt wonderfully loved and connected during this wedding celebration even though I didn’t get to share it with a significant other.

Friday night of the wedding weekend the rehearsal was followed by a massive BBQ dinner followed by the most inspiring square dance I have ever experienced. Back when I lived in Tennessee I attended as many contra dance events (which is similar to square dancing) as I could. I don’t know if you have ever attended a massive square dance full of people who have massive amounts of love and respect for each other, but… it’s quite an experience. If you’re not familiar, the gist is a large group of people in pairs who dance steps according to a leader’s (the dance’s “caller”) directions. You step and twirl and run and yell. And it’s mad fun. It’s even more fun when the caller puts in the effort to make the special guests feel loved and connected to their community. The caller did all sorts of special little “additions” to the dances that included group hugs and making the bride and groom the center of attention.

And I didn’t take one single picture of the dancing because… well… I was having too much fun dancing. Also, running around like that is quite a workout! I’m hoping that someone took some video and it’ll show up at some point.

A polaroid picture of wedding guests dancing and getting really "low".
I’m glad this polaroid got captured at the reception. It was so funny!

The bride and groom hired a DJ for the reception, but they also took the time to put together a solid dance playlist. The moment the music started I don’t believe the bride left the dance floor for the rest of the night. People crowded in everywhere giving the groove their all, haha. Have you ever attended a wedding where people tended to dance in “cliques”? Like they had their select group of friends and those were the people they intended to dance with? Well this wedding reception was nothing like that. People were traveling around the dance floor looking for new groups to join and all through the night there were impromptu dance circles forming so that we could invite each member of the circle to become the new center of attention. At one point we were even throwing down our new-found square dancing skills and forming lines for the Virginia Reel. It was rad.

So… what really makes for an awesome wedding?

A picture of a table covered in silver buckets full of flowers. Wedding guests are reaching into the buckets.
Flower crown making station

I think the answer lies within the couple in question.

I think if the couple prioritizes fun and community in their lives then they will attract (invite) people who feel the same way. Their wedding guests were from all over the US and had vastly varying educations, careers, and backgrounds, but in the end we all pulled together to create one cohesive group of loving, fun humans that truly wished the best for this couple.

I have witnessed some extremely stressful weddings and some extremely unhappy brides at their wedding. And it’s such a shame because it doesn’t need to be that way! If there is anything to be learned from this weekend wedding is that anything is possible and even if there is a lot of work to be done you can do it with a smile and have a blast.

The bride and groom are sitting at a table smiling at each other. They are both wearing flower crowns.
Bride and Groom. Flower crowns all around!!!
A picture of a white wedding cake with a twisting sash of carnations, spray roses, and eucalyptus. The sign beside the cake says "Lemon Coconut + Almond Buttercream"
I’m still dreaming about this cake. It rocked my tastebuds! There were two other cakes as well, but… man…this one takes the cake, haha.

Might it also be noted that the guest list contained fascinating people. I noticed on our Saturday morning hike that people weren’t discussing their latest IG post or how many inches of muscle they gained at the gym. There was a discussion of recent foreign medical missions in front of me, a theological discussion behind me, and a discussion on the environmental effect of fast fashion in my group in the middle. How refreshing!

I was blissed out for the entire trip. I slept well even though I was sleeping in different places almost every night. And I felt amazing the whole time. And even though I was working my butt off I never felt stressed out. Honestly I was bursting with gratitude that I got to be a part of it all. We worked hard, but we played harder.

And when it comes to bridesmaids, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of women to work with and play with during this wedding. We meshed and melded. We were an incredible team and we really really enjoyed ourselves.

And that, my friends, is what makes for an awesome wedding: love + friends + fun = loving friends having fun. All the rest is icing on the delicious cake of life.

And if you’ve made it this far in this post and you’re still having fun then you’ll enjoy this lovely wedding highlight video filmed by the bride’s cousin. It perfectly paints a picture of all the fun we had!

Cheers, my loves! May you live a life full of friendship and strong community with others!

A picture of the bride surrounded by her five bridesmaids. All carrying bouquets.
The bride and her besties

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