It’s Not Me – It’s You…. – An (almost) Wedding Story

“Until the Lion Learns How to Write, Every Story will Glorify the Hunter”

-African Proverb

I started writing this blog post back in February and I decided against posting it in order to prevent any further agitation to an already unstable situation.  But, I have since decided to finish and post this in order to vent and also to let any others going through similar situations know that they aren’t alone.  Be true to yourself and do what works for you.  This is my story.

Most girls grow up dreaming of the perfect wedding – from what kind of dress they will wear to the decor that will adorn the room.  While I did look forward to meeting someone someday that I could share common interests with, I never felt the need to find Prince Charming.  As a matter of fact, as I got older I learned to enjoy my freedom more and more.  And after every heartbreak, I found myself more self-reliant than before.  All I really wanted to do was see the world and take photos of it in the process.

As I grew older, my passion for photography led me into capturing other people’s most intimate moments and memories.  From boudoir sessions to portraiture and weddings – I have been a part of them all.  Weddings are what I found to be most challenging but I also used them as an opportunity to discover my own style.  With every wedding I did, I found myself dissecting it – what I liked about it, what I didn’t like about it, and what I would do differently at my own.  Eventually, I knew what would or wouldn’t make me happy in a wedding.  What I didn’t know was what that actually entailed.

Brandon and I had been dating off and on for over 10 years the day we got engaged.  We had talked about it a few times and I had already picked out the perfect ring – a shimmering light pink morganite cushion set on a shiny rose gold band endowed with a few tiny diamonds.  The day he got down on one knee, my whole immediate family got to be there to witness the event, which was incredible in itself considering they came from multiple states.  It was one of the most amazing days of my life.  What made it even more special was that they could all be there to help us decorate our Christmas tree afterwards.

Our Holiday EngagementI expected wedding planning to be fun and exciting!  I couldn’t wait to have my best friends flanked at my side as we said our vows in front of our closest friends and family.  Almost immediately, we found some beautiful venues and visited a few of them.  We couldn’t wait to book one and then the remaining details could fall into place.  There was only one problem we soon noticed – everything about a wedding is insanely expensive.

I started looking at all of the options while trying to hold onto the visions we hoped our wedding would be.  Something a little rustic, preferably indoor and outdoor capabilities, and a travel theme.  Then we added the costs.  DJ, catering, dress, rings, rehearsal dinner, gifts for the bridal party…… ALL just kept adding up, quickly hitting thousands upon thousands of dollars.  It became daunting and depressing.  I felt utterly heartbroken.  The process opened my eyes to something I never really understood as I was dissecting people’s weddings in the past.  How does ANYONE afford this?  I became completely disheartened and even joked about eloping.  Even with the little bit of help we would get financially, it wasn’t going to be enough to have a “real” wedding.  I was overcome with emotion.  I felt lost.  I really wanted a wedding I could be proud of.  Not over the top, just something that would be beautiful with my close family and friends, which we have a lot of.

It wasn’t until I really looked into the concept of an elopement that I realized how ridiculous it was to pay massive amounts of money for a single day of celebrating – especially when you don’t have thousands of dollars lying around.  I spoke with numerous friends for opinions, just about all of whom wished they never had a big wedding.  They would rather have eloped for one reason or another and maybe this helped influence our controversial decision.  I never really took the elopement option seriously as I knew I wanted a wedding with everyone important to me there….but it was seemingly impossible without “settling” for things we weren’t happy with.  After speaking more with Brandon, he admit that if he had it his way, he wouldn’t have a wedding at all.  He hates the anxiety of being the center of attention.

To everyone’s surprise – including my own – after a ton of research and deliberation, Brandon and I decided to get married, just the 2 of us – in Iceland.  No more sweating over the details.  No more wondering how we can get everyone in one room together.  No more trying to figure out when we’ll ever have that kind of money.  We’ll just combine our ceremony and honeymoon and when we return we’ll have a big celebration with everyone – not having to limit our guests.  This way, it was a level playing field.  This meant we weren’t excluding specific people.  Neither one of us wanted to tell certain loved ones they could make it – but others couldn’t.  It was the perfect compromise for two people who love travel, get nervous in front of crowds and have very little money.  It was an instant relief just to finally make a decision.

Neither one of us ever wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings but considering our lack of funds and our natural sense of adventure, this decision suited us.  Not all of our family would have been able to make it for various reasons so we decided we should keep it as an “us only” event.  And rather than running off without telling anyone, we figured we would give everyone the benefit of knowing our plans since everyone was asking.  We expected everyone to be understanding and supportive of our decision.  When we broke it to our families it went surprisingly well…….until it didn’t.  It wasn’t until I was midway through the process of planning (and now super excited about our ‘elopement’) that our happiness crumbled.  Somehow, I was pinned as being a terrible person on a mission to hurt certain members of the family.

engage121116_35_web2We found out that wedding planning is the ONE time that EVERYONE has an opinion.  I was made to feel like less of a person.  I was treated as if I didn’t care about my family.  Fact of the matter is, I care a LOT about my family.  We both do.  But there is no changing the fact that we don’t have the finances for a nice wedding.  No – I don’t mean it has to be some spectacularly pricey event.  But every little thing becomes expensive when you drop the word “wedding”.   It’s like everyone at that moment expects you to open up your wallet and charge a never-ending credit card.  Shouldn’t our happiness be the only thing matters?

It wasn’t just the money (although that was the biggest reason) – it was the stage fright.  It was the fact that we were unable to make everyone happy.  I come from a broken family, so there are a lot of moving parts to figure out.  From family that doesn’t get along to family living all over the U.S.  Neither one of us were handed everything on a silver platter.  We’ve worked hard for what we have.

Quite frankly, there were SO many reasons why a traditional wedding didn’t make sense for us.  It was seemingly impossible.

17498934_10210774043499531_3895190467305039744_nMost people were incredibly supportive of our decision but the few that weren’t were making things a nightmare.  Prior to the explosion of drama, I had already set our wedding date with an officiant/planner in Iceland  – now what?  Some of the funding we were depending on had fallen through.  I became depressed.  I had days where I didn’t want to leave the couch and days when I would just cry.  I was angry and upset.  While I assumed there would be some hurt feelings, I didn’t think it would be like this.  I always thought my family and friends would support me no matter what, and better yet, understand where this decision came from.  It was like a bullet to the heart.

It has been a few months since we made this decision and while we’ve received a ton of support from people – we still receive backlash as well.  We’ve saved as much as possible and have officially started putting plans in place.  Many of my loved ones that I pictured being around for some of the huge milestones in this process, have completely betrayed me…..and it isn’t fair.  But we’re somehow making it work.  In the end, the result is what matters.  Our money will be going toward something my fiancé and I will never forget….and it is WAY less expensive than a traditional wedding.  This Fall, I will be a wife.  While I’ve always been hesitant about changing my last name because of my attachment to it, a part of me wants to change it in order to have a clean slate from my “old” life.  A life where I’m only as important as the money I make.  I’m not sure I believe in what it represents anymore.

Thank you to the friends and family that have taken the time to consider our decision before judging it wrongly.  Thank you to those that came out with me in search of the perfect dress.  Seriously – just thank you.  It has meant more than you can even know.

It has taken a little bit of time but I can comfortably say now that I’m not the “bad” one here, although I have been made to look and feel that way.  In the midst of all the lies going around about me – this is the truth.  After the tears and gut wrenching sadness, I can tell the people who have actively been ruining this for us……

It‘s not me, it’s you.  


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My name is Jennifer and I am an artist/photographer/designer/traveler.

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