call it a ritual

Oh, did I say I wasn’t going to write about the wedding for weeks? Well, ok. I lied.

Slogging through the madness that is Google search results for wedding questions, I found eastsidebride pretty early in this crazy process, and was like “Great! I’ll just read this! It’s sane!” You have to understand that I am someone who never “daydreamed” about getting married, absolutely never thought I would, and the first thing my late grandmother said when we told her we were engaged was; “YOU are going to make HER settle down?”

So I was at a loss, a major loss. I knew I didn’t want anything traditional, and wanted to avoid the Martha-madness, but through people wanting to help and sending 239487290 links to “real weddings,” I fell into the sordid world of MAJOR WEDDING BLOG CRAZYTOWN.

These weddings are insane. Insane. They’re huge and expensive and over-planned and crazy and oppressive and weird. It makes me feel panicky to look at them, at rows of banquet tables (which always freak me out anyway,) matched floral arrangements, skinny blonde people in the same somewhat awkward wedding photo poses. The budget ones are not budget, at all. They do not speak to me, or reflect what I want out of a celebration, and yet, it gets under my skin and makes me doubt my own decisions. And it makes me bemoan my inability to wear a Galliano gown to my wedding.

my great great grandparents. what i wouldn't give for THAT dress!
my great great grandparents. that dress!

Luckily in the last week I came across the lovely  blog A Practical Wedding, which is sense making and seems like a nice community of women all in somewhat similar boats.

Which is when I realized: Oh my gosh, I’m part of this THING. There’s something about finding a group of women who are all going through the same nerves and pressures and stress and elation and heart-bursty feelings that I am right now.

Human beings create groups, we create meaning around rituals in our life. As much as the wedding industry exists to Make Money (& mind you, it’s happymaking that tiny studios and artisans are now getting a slice of this pie with the indie wedding trends – if people HAVE the cash to spend, at least they’re going handmade!) it also exists because People Want Ceremony.

my nana's godparents, flapper wedding!
my nana's godparents, flapper wedding!

And if you can get past that pressure to spend, to be blog-perfect, skinny, with everything perfectly matched and letter pressed and in place for your wedding day, there’s something much bigger here, something that isn’t about historical marriage (which makes my skin crawl) or straight marriage or anything related to the social mores or deranged “values” of marriage.

It’s ritual. It’s the need we have, as people, to celebrate the highs of our family-tribe together. When I started seriously thinking about eloping, the one thing I kept coming back to was a mental image of my grandmother sitting at a picnic table in my woods, like she was waiting for me.  I miss her so much every day, and I wish she could be there, so I thought maybe it was just me missing her.

So I thought about eloping, of how it was just about the 2 of us getting married, how we didn’t need a party or some expensive day to make that happen.

What I realized, though, was that with all the death and funerals and low-point-of-the-cycle-of-life ceremonies this year, my family-tribe NEEDS a wedding, needs something bigger than an announcement or an elopement, needs to get together and feel love together and eat and talk and be in my woods, my woods that feels more healing and amazing and magical than almost anywhere I’ve been, and that the image of my grandmother sitting there is almost a beacon or a direction for me.

mama & papa! they are the cutest.

The rituals in modern life have become so entirely hijacked by consumerism that with life, birth, new families, love – these major milestones are marked more by spending than by celebration, true elated celebration. I love the concept of these pregnancy blessing parties where women string beads and think positive thoughts rather than bring diapers in the shape of cakes. And I love the idea of a wedding that knows it’s a ritual, and not a photo shoot, and respects that. I love the idea of reclaiming ritual away from capitalism, and that’s not “indie” or “budget”: it’s primal and true existence.

In a few months I’ll be going home to have a ceremony around my grandmother’s ashes. I’m terrified, in a way, of this ritual, of saying goodbye. But I’ll do this my way as well, howling into the sea, and then carrying the overwhelming love and celebration of her life with me, knowing she will be there in spirit.

And as I continue to mark my life with the rituals & love that we often overlook in favor of “fitting in” or being swayed by capitalism, I’ll remember why.


  1. So beautiful and so true. And I’ll add that weddings and funerals are two of the last remaining collective rituals in a society where rituals no longer exist, exept the ones each of us create for ourselves.
    And about the “blog perfect” thing… If I were to be married someday, I’d very much like (though I know it would be impossible) to have a “no cameras” policy for the event. Because taking pictures, as wonderful as they can be, is preventing the taker to fully live the moment. With all their senses, not only sight. I always wonder why people at concerts are so eager to take pictures: doesn’t it prevent them to loose themselves in the music and the energy?

    1. Exactly! We’re left with funerals and weddings (though I think birth is being reclaimed a little too) & it becomes this consumerist madhouse. Yes senses! Yes experience! Yes ritual!

      I admire your no cameras idea! I’ve already talked to the Professor about how much I’m going to be itching to be taking shots, though, and he laughed at me. But I do this ALWAYS, I’m always framing a shot or wishing I had a camera or could capture something EXACTLY as I see it, that’s not about the wedding! Just my own neurosis. At least there’s no cell reception there. ;D

      This entire process has been & will be a lesson in LOSING CONTROL (I am a total control freak) & letting life go where it will…

  2. Oh, thank you! So I am NOT mad, after all! I’m getting married this July and my whole point from the very beginning was to make the whole wedding as low-key as possible, because I wanted to make people think about the ritual, about what is happening, not how it is happening. So I was thinking: no traditional Polish wedding, just a dinner with closest family and friends, where everyone can talk and share joy; simple dress, perhaps even made by me, with a help of my Mom and Grandmother (wouldn’t it be lovely? three generations of women preparing the dress and talking). Don’t get me wrong, I am somewhat a perfectionist. I would obsess over my invitations, probably, because I love paper and there are so many beautiful possibilities. I would take care to, I don’t know, match the color of my bouquet to the flower decorations on the table, because – seriously – how much work is that? But I didn’t want anything expensive or time-consuming, or nerves-wretching. I just wanted everyone to be together and share this day with me.

    But there is one aspect you didn’t touch in your post – perhaps you don’t have this problem. As you said, the ritual is not for the couple only, as all rituals it is also for the community. And comunnity (family) expects certain elements to be a part of the ritual. Otherwise, I’m afraid, they might not think the ritual to be proper, might not… I don’t know how to put it… accept it? think it true?

    My Mother doesn’t know about Martha Stuart’s existence (she’s not well known in Poland) but I guess if she knew, she would probably make her god. I want her to take part in wedding preparations, and I know she wants to, too. But she’s trying to create a princess in a long gown with a train, getting married while a string quartet plays Ave Maria. And I wanted minimal, simple short dress and was thinking that maybe a friend can sing a song or two. I seriously don’t know how to compromise with her.

    Keep your fingers crossed for me.

    1. Ohhh, well. My family is just excited that my dad will be walking me down the aisle, I think. I haven’t lived at home for 17 years, so I’m a bit older than the average “new bride” in the world & my family respects my decisions. However, I think that having family be a part of the creation is a part of the ritual – like making the dress, as you mentioned, or food, especially traditional wedding foods for your culture?

      My great grandfather was Polish, but I don’t know any of the traditions! I just googled and some are really cute, like the hair braiding, and hand-tying!!

      I think you MUST not compromise on the dress. You must wear what makes you feel happy and beautiful, and talk to your mother about making it with you and how important it is. Also, having a friend SING Ave Maria makes me cry just thinking about it – 100 times more beautiful and touching and meaningful than having a string quartet. So yes, I think finding intersections where you can reinterpret traditions to make your own ritual but keep your family feeling involved and proper is the perfect compromise.

      1. I don’t know why but every blog I read and love always turns out to be written by a person with some Polish origins. Maybe it’s because Poles are everywhere;) [I need to ask Angeliska, her surname means “little Pole” in Polish].
        Polish traditions are indeed beautiful – as most of the traditions, really. The only problem is that they sink in the sea of vodka. Nowadays “Polish traditional wedding” means usually “let’s get drunk as fast as possible”. Since I got engaged noone asked me if I’m having a religious ceremony or which church I chose – everyone asked where the party is going to be. And seriously, dancing all night to a bad music (it’s _always_ bad music) with one drunken uncle or another isn’t my definition of a special, magical, important day. So there’s no party. But! If you’d like me to tell you more about some of the traditions, I know them all pretty well:)

  3. ” I love the idea of reclaiming ritual away from capitalism, and that’s not “indie” or “budget”: it’s primal and true existence.”

    Beautiful and true. I absolutely love this.

    1. I’ve checked that one out but it’s a little gothy without the kind of advice and community that ESB or A Practical Wedding seem to have? I think what I like best is less “real wedding” and more “this is how it feels to go through all this nonsense.”

  4. I totally feel you on this. My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 7 years now, and we have friends who ask when we’re getting married. (Never mind that the most adamant friend just happens to be a florist who is dying to do our flowers.) We’re totally committed to each other, but have no desire to buy into all of the wedding hoopla. Sometimes it crosses my mind and I think it would be nice, but I think the ordeal of a wedding, and planning it, is almost part of the reason I’ve always shied away.

    My younger sister got married last summer, in a pretty simple ceremony in my mom’s backyard. While they were trying to think of where to have it, I had an idea for a wedding on Mardi Gras day, in the middle of the streets of the French Quarter. No space to rent, just tell everyone a corner where we’d be at a certain time, and if they show up they can see the ceremony and that’s it. And then you’ve got the biggest wedding reception in the world, with a city full of people to celebrate with. I like the idea of finding a wagon to haul around, filling it with booze and cupcakes and just having a big party that way. We could both wear whatever we wanted (he could dress as Darth Vader and I could still look cute in hot pink)… I don’t know… I honestly think if we ever decide to get married, that might be the plan.

  5. You know what? You are really cool. And smart. Isn’t it nuts that “blog perfect” is a *thing*? Glad you’re finding something to help keep you grounded, and thanks for being so honest. Love from Vermont!

    1. Thank you!

      My main stress now is that EVERY b&b and vacation home in Vermont seems to be rented for that weekend! panic!!! know anything closer to Tunbridge?

  6. Yesss. And it so is for the tribe & family. Someone explained it to me as, “It’s just your turn to host,” and then I got it.

    It’s funny that the little tribe around APW is still alive and kicking, because dealing with ‘the deranged values of marriage’ is just as hard as the deranged values of weddings.

    And yeah. I like artists getting a piece of the pie. We all have to eat, so, pie it is.

  7. Oh. And I picked up a major wedding magazine (sometimes I feel like I should scope out the industry, and then I just regret it)… and their “crafty” “indie” wedding? F*CK ME. Not only could I price it as WAY over $100 grand, I could spot names of uber-wealthy locals all over the “seated at table #” board.

    And who the eff needs someone dressed in a costume pouring your drinks? I mean, WHAT?

    (Ok, finally got THAT out of my system).

    1. Uh, yes. That one totally got under my skin as well. Plus, are we really expected to believe that the bride made every detail they credited to her making by hand? I doubt it. ANYWAY. I’m a crafty person, but geez.

  8. You are awesome.
    Thank you so much for all of this!!!!
    I just came across this Via
    and I am not usually one to leave comments,
    but I really wanted to just say that this was
    what I needed to hear right now!!!
    I am planning my wedding for this August and
    it is all very last minute, which is great, but
    I was starting to stress and that is the last thing
    I want and this has all certainly calmed me down!
    Thank you for reminding me that my family is my tribe.
    That these ‘indie’ weddings arn’t low budget.
    That it’s ok to want ritual.
    That it is more then a photo.
    I think You kind of brought me back down to earth when
    I was starting to get caught up and remind me of the
    things I already know.
    You are a gem.
    PS. I was just at my sisters blessing way (women gathered
    stringing beads, etc, for the mama to me) and it was such
    a powerful time, so beautiful. I was imagining our wedding
    to be something like that. And now I am back on the path
    to manifesting it!!!!!

  9. Hi, I’m unlurking to say congratulations! How fun & exciting!
    You have such a beautiful aesthetic, I know your wedding will be awesome!
    I’m sorry you didn’t get more out of Offbeat Bride. Have you read the book? It was very helpful for me. The site is just eye candy.

    You are probably so sick of advice, but if I may:
    I think the most important thing is to not think of it as a wedding at all- just as an amazing party with all your closest folks there.
    Accept offers of help. People will really come through. That was the best part for me- knowing that my friends and family made it possible.

    Have fun. Allow yourself to stress, but not to the point of insanity. It will all work out!

  10. Guh. I loved this post, for so many reasons, and I think that it really epitomizes so much of WHY I want to get married– not for the pomp & circumstance, but for the ritual (and especially what it means to me, as the child of a messy divorce to put myself in to that kind of commitment, ritual, ceremony). It’s not about fancy flowers or hor’s douevres or lots of gifts.

    Also, on my frivlous-no-lie-side, I DO want an excuse for someone to buy me a Kitchenaid mixer.

  11. I love this. I love it because I am getting married next year and still can’t get used to having a ring on my hand. I love it because I never dreamed of getting married either — my Barbies lived in a loft (my desk chair) and went clubbing — they never got married, in fact they didn’t give a shit about Ken.

    Our wedding is definitely going to be different from all of our friends’ weddings of the last two years. But I think it’s going to be “us” and it’s going to rule.

    Congrats and all the best, pomp and ceremony and all. :)

  12. Isn’t it great to find a community that makes you feel sane AND supported. I also found ESB and APW soon after I got engaged… but NOT before I found Oncewed and Stylemepretty. (Not to say those are horrible sites, but they drove me nuts. Still do… but they’re so pretty to look at.) Anyways ESB is a hero and Meg at APW is too. Definitely a great way to start your “sane” wedding planning. (Congrats on the link-to on APW! That’s how I found you!)

  13. Verhext,

    Just found your blog and love it. I saw a picture of a Luna Moth Lantern in one of your earlier posts. Any idea where to get it? Thanks.

  14. Well then. No wonder I thought it was so marvelous. Yes. There is a market for Luna Moth Lanterns. ME. I’d buy them all. 😉

  15. This is a beautiful post.

    Wedding planning is a strange beast, but we do it for a reason. Every time we thought about eloping, we balked because we wanted to share the celebration.

    I’m sorry for your loss. My grandmother passed away several years ago and I still miss her acutely some days. It’s hard having these celebrations without her.

  16. I’m so happy I found your blog. I’m just beginning this crazy wedding planning journey, and like you, NEVER daydreamed about a wedding…so I’m totally at a loss. Reading through your experience navigating this process has been such a relief! This post in particular, truly articulates how I’ve been feeling.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and reminding me (with your parents wedding photos especially) that a wedding day isn’t a photo shoot, but a celebration, which can manifest itself in many different ways.

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