Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Self-Catered Reception

I'm so excited about the burgeoning conversation on this site! Thanks for your comments.

I wanted to respond to one comment in particular. Meg, from A Practical Wedding (a site I frequent nearly every day), said:

"I think it's important to remember that people can spend different amounts of money (and for different reasons) and still make things work out in a calm simple manner. For us, our parents wanted to feed people a bit more formally then we might have cared about, and have a lot of relatives, and were willing to help pay for that option, so that is fine for us."

I definitely don't ever want to seem dogmatic on 2000dollarwedding. I agree with Meg that different people can spend different amounts. $2000 was a very arbitrary number. It felt like enough to host a big event for our friends and family but not too much to put us in debt, force us to ask our families for money, or detract us from our goal of buying a house four days after our wedding.

I think it's important, though, to be very careful about the influence we let our families have on our weddings. Matt's family was super-eager to help out with our wedding, and I imagine they would have planned something more formal than a self-catered reception. At times, I even doubted that Matt and I could pull it off.

In the end, however, I am so, so glad we followed our own path, independent of our families' preferences. A few hours before the ceremony and the reception, a dozen or more of our closest friends descended upon the kitchen in the main house of Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Kevin was in charge of the bean and corn salad, Andy the salsa, me the guacamole, Brian and Christa the seven-layer dip, and Brent the fajitas. On top of that, we had tons of sous-chefs chopping away. Occasionally, people would wander in and shout, "Who needs help?" One of us would respond with, "Here, chop these onions" or "Please dice these tomatoes!"

At the reception, everyone raved about how fresh and tasty the food was (Editor's Note: I'm particularly skeptical of this kind of feedback because, honestly, are people really going to say, "Wow, Sara, the food isn't that good"?).

But near the end of the reception, into the wee hours of the morning, I wandered into the living room and came upon three of Matt's friends. They all talked about how much they enjoyed the wedding, about how they wanted to take our wedding binder so they could have the exact same wedding. When I assured them that their fiances would want to plan their own weddings, one of them added, "Well, you'll have to work with her to plan it then."

I turned the flattery back on them and thanked them--profusely--for all their help. I explained that we seriously could not have done it without their contributions. One of them said, "We liked the wedding so much because we got to help. We really felt like we were part of it."

It's a moment that will stay with me long after some of the other details fade. It's a moment I wouldn't have had if Matt and I had been afraid of conflict with our family. I think families need to realize that their children's weddings should wholeheartedly reflect their children, not themselves. It's hard because we are extensions of our families, branches that connect to the main trunk. But ultimately, a wedding should be a pure and true expression of the couple getting married.

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Meg said...

And for the record, I totally dig the way you guys did this. It seems like it was so right for you and I love that. It's interesting, I think I want to write a post about family influences in weddings. In some ways I see how it can be a "whoa Nelly!" kind of bad thing, but for us I think it's been a really good thing.

Anyway, I'm loving all this!

kerstin said...

yet another great post! i'd like to get my hands on your wedding binder, too! we're going to self-cater our wedding, much to the shaggrin of our families, and they are very worried that people are going to "go hungry" - although i'm slightly worried about pulling it off, i think it will be fresher and more "us" than a big ol' catered dinner... thanks for the inspiration ;)

mimi said...

i just got back from a wedding where i was a bridesmaid and this post really struck a chord with me. i think i enjoyed the wedding so much partly because i felt like i was behind the scenes and included. (it wasn't really diy but as a bridesmaid i had a bunch of duties.)
and i bet that is how your guests felt: included. especially guys who don't usually get to do these kinds of things and let's face it, like to feel needed.
way to stick it to the wedding machine!

Autumn said...

The last paragraph of your post especially struck me, it was beautifully put. We haven't had many disagreements with our families about the wedding (well, my mom hates everything we're doing and won't say anything nice, but she's not really trying to change my mind). But we're doing a lot of things ourselves and asking friends to help, not what my very traditional future mother in law expects, and that has led to some interesting conversations. My fiance and I have, since the beginning, joined forces to stay true to the wedding we want, not the wedding our parents want. We want to be good hosts, and if something we're doing doesn't match that, we hope someone will point that out, but other than that, we want to be free to have and do things that express us as a couple, not just another cookie cutter wedding.

I originally really wanted a wedding similar to what you had, but our guest list is just too big for it to be practical. We're still asking friends and family to help with a lot of things, though, and hope that way we'll get to spend more time with them and they'll come away having felt like they contributed to a wonderful day.

Unknown said...

I love reading all the ways your family and friends assisting in your wedding and reception.

Jasmine said...

Thank you so much for posting these blogs on self catering. I have decided to self cater for all the same reasons and am getting resistance from all sides, except my fiancee and bridesmaids, they love the idea and are looking forward to spending time in the kitchen with us. Showing these posts to respective mothers should assure them that we are not totally insane and that YES, you can have a wedding without a caterer, YES, people do that!! Thanks again, I love your blog.

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