Category Archives: other weddings

the visual record

Photography is a tricky thing.1

Photography is both art and science. It is record and story. It is truth and fiction.

From the moment we enter the wedding planning world, we start to develop a love-hate relationship with photographs. First, you’re bombarded with brightly saturated, shallow depth-of-field pictures of cute and trendy must-haves. If you’re anything like me, you likely got wide-eyed with the possibilities… and then you got pissed off. This stuff costs how much? Do they think I’m freaking Martha Stewart over here? I don’t have time to make 200 pinwheels by hand! These expectations are ridiculous!

Then, you’re bombarded with photographs of other weddings. At first, they look amazing. Thirty weddings in, you suddenly realize that the joke is on you, because you’ve clearly been looking at different details of the same exact wedding shoot. All the brides and grooms have now blended into one cute, hip, impossibly thin couple with a propensity for adorably mismatched vintage place settings. You gradually realize that the style blogs are full of shit.

Somewhere along the way — probably in self-defense — you begin to scoff at the phrase blog-worthy. Blog-worthy? Whatever. We are real people with real weddings. We come in every size, shape, color, backstory, and age bracket available. We have ugly cries and mountains of stress and poorly-crafted decorations and half-assed centerpieces. Oh, we are worthy in every sense of the word, dammit — we’re just not going to be featured on Style Me Pretty or Snippet & Ink any time soon. As in, like, ever.

So then you switch to only looking at photographs of “real” weddings. Ah, finally, a place to call home. A place where the people look different and the sentiment can’t be faked. But that’s not the best plan, either. Because, oh my god, how do these people still manage to look so amazingly good? They seem so genuine, happy, and emotional. Everyone is so present in their own individual moments. Everything looks like it came together so well, and without a hint of drama. The guests are all smiling and crying. Somehow, all of their outfits are better than the ones you’re considering for your own wedding. All of their details are more poignant than your own. It all looks so effortless. And even while your heartstrings are being tugged, your brain is lamenting the fact that your wedding could never, ever, ever look like this.

Or maybe, after all, it was just me who went through this. The endless cycling between scoff and swoon; covet and resent.

Understandably, I developed a bit of anxiety around wedding photography. Because I understood what it felt like inside the planning of my own wedding, and it did not seem to line up with what I was seeing on my computer screen. I didn’t feel coordinated. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t feel pretty. I didn’t even necessarily feel happy — at least at first. From the outset my wedding seemed like a useless pile of last-minutes, halfhearteds, and coulda-shouldas. I was afraid that I shouldn’t expect very much to come from it.2

Then, just a few weeks after the wedding, I saw the first pictures our photographer Christina Richards posted on her blog. And I thought: Oh, my god. My wedding looks blog-worthy.

And I loved it.

And I was confused as hell about this.

It took me a long time to sort through it. Hell, even now, as I write this, I’m not sure I quite understand. I feel like I spent so long alternately railing against the relentless visual imagery and succumbing to it that I almost feel embarrassed that my wedding photographs look so good. Does this make me fake, too? Am I a style blog waiting to happen?

No. Of course not.

Am I suggesting that the only way to make your wedding look really good is to hire a professional photographer?

No. Of course not. Meaning isn’t generated via photographs. And if professional photography isn’t your bag, don’t do it. Spend your money on something you care about more.

Here I feel the need to wrap this up with some sort of call to action. A proposal to redefine the meaning of blog-worthy, perhaps. A rallying cry to take back our self-worth from the badlands of other-wedding-envy. But no. What we need is some good old-fashioned sense kicked into us. We need to stop listening to others.3 We need to stop caving in so easily to doubt. We need to stop feeding those voices that say I could never look like that or my wedding could never be that nice / pretty / cool / sincere / relaxed.

Because I saw my wedding from the ugly, messy inside. And what came out of it, both on film and in real life, was still beautiful. No, you can’t see the shitty stuff that went on behind the scenes in my photos. You can’t see all the stress and tears and hard work and late nights. You can only  see the beauty of that day, and the love. And what I said up there, that meaning cannot be generated via photography? I mean that. But what’s also true is that a good photographer can take the best parts of your day and make art out of them.

Go. Please go and look at our wedding photos on Christina’s blog. If you like the photos there, please leave her a kind comment. She sure as hell deserves it.

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1 Okay, this totally goes completely against the tone of this post, but whenever I read over this line I hear it spoken in my head in the same way Rick James said “Cocaine is a hell of a drug” in that one Chappelle Show skit. No? No? Come on.

2 I mean, except the happiness that comes from being married, of course.

3 Easy as pie, non?

hello world

Okay, trust me guys, I have been writing, but lately my main writing technique has consisted of staring at the computer screen for ten minutes debating whether “inconsolable” or “distraught” is just the right word to use in a given sentence, then clicking over to Twitter. Also, my bosses were like, hey, go ahead and lay out the product catalog, but OH YEAH YOU HAVE ONE WEEK TO GET THE FINAL FILES TO THE PRINTER AND THAT DOESN’T COUNT REVIEWS AND PROOFREADING. So, that’s been awesome.

That didn’t stop me from attending yet another wedding here in town yesterday. And let me tell you, the amazingly glorious weather last weekend? That was not the case this weekend. At all. I am talking chilly drizzle, all day long. I am also talking the entire wedding was outside. If that was my wedding, I would have been freaking out. But my bride friend wasn’t phased in the least. And you know what? Us guests weren’t, either. We sat there toasting, eating, and laughing; slowly getting damper. And nobody cared. I think that’s key, somehow. I think that’s something to keep in mind: that when you think the bottom is falling out from under your wedding, when your worst nightmares of cold November rain* (or in this case, October) are actually coming true, all is not lost. Guests are surprisingly resilient creatures. Whatever the circumstances people will still, at bottom, just be happy to be there.

So that was nice. But let me tell you, I get tiny little pangs of wistfulness now when I go to weddings. It’s not that I want to go back through that experience again. It’s that we had that one day, you know? And we won’t have it again. But it’s okay. I can revisit those memories in my head at any time of day. Kind of like Wedding On Demand. Or something.

Anyway, I’m going to go back to trying to finish my other posts. Oh, I mean work on the product catalog. That one. In the meantime, I want to leave you with a hilarious Chicago-area Craigslist ad seeking a wedding band that I found via Gin and Tacos. It was apparently yanked down shortly after being posted, which is unfortunate because this is just too good not to spread around. As a bonus, it also serves as a smug reminder of how our weddings are so much more awesome than the weddings of other schmucks. Right?

Terrible band needed for sham of a wedding. 11/6. No pay (any takers?)

As the musician in our family, my Shylock of a half-brother and his parsimonious fiance have passed off to me the job of finding a band for their wedding. I love the kid, but his unique brand of expectant coercion and astonishingly consistent lack of judgment have left me with no recourse but to literally give him what he wants, a band that can “tear up Skynyrd, and won’t cost nothin'”. Since they think music is spontaneously generated via voodoo magic by assemblies of self-promoting philanthropists, I am now on a quest to find the best working band in Chicago interested in “doing it for the exposure”.

If you are a serious musician that values your craft and earns a living from performance, you’re probably thinking “Fuck you. Do you ask your accountant to do your taxes for the exposure?”. You are not who I am looking for. Thanks for looking.

If however, you and your unemployable band of pothead hobbyists are enticed by the prospect of a free open bar stocked with the finest of suburban banquet hall well-liquor and an opportunity to run a train on the most whorish collection of self-entitled bridesmaids this side of a Sex In The City marathon, please contact me. There’s probably dinner in it for you too, if the starched vagina of a “wedding planner” (bride’s bff) can get her 3rd rung caterer to leave a few sandwiches in a storage closet for you at some point in the evening.

What I need from the band:

I don’t care if you are an original Icelandic thrash-raga act featuring steam calliope and backwards Armageddon poetry, but I need you to be able to train wreck your way through a few requests.

Don’t Stop Believing. You provide the high notes, we’ll provide the smell of wine and cheap perfume.

Free Bird. Go nuts with the solo. Really. If this evening was a never-ending cascade of sonic punishment hailing down on Tom at blaringly inconsiderate volumes, it would only serve as apropos karmic revenge for the afternoons I’ve spent listening to Jillian chatter about OHMYGODIDON’TCAREWHAT.

Macarena/Electric Slide/Chicken Dance. It doesn’t matter which one you play, but there has never been a classy party where one these songs has made an appearance. This will not be a classy party.

Do Not Play:

Jessie’s Girl. I used to play weddings, and if I have to hear this song one more time, I’m going to fucking cut someone.

They said they don’t have any preference’s for attire, so I’ll take that to mean you’re ok in a threadbare Megadeth shirt and black jeans.

I will provide the PA (the band and sound system are my wedding present to them).

This is not a joke. Please shoot me an email if this sounds like something you might be interested in.

 

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* To be sung in your best Axl Rose shriek.

three weeks later: regrets, i’ve had a few

Our friends from the Bay Area are getting married here in Santa Barbara today. This will be our first wedding as a married couple. And let me tell you, what a blessed relief it is to a attend a wedding as a guest. You mean all I have to worry about is what I’m going to wear and what drink I’m having next? Sold.

And yet. I am jealous. Insanely, insanely jealous. And regretful of some of the choices we made for our own wedding.

Let me explain.

Our friends came down this past Tuesday, and have essentially spent the last few days with each other, friends, and family. Their Facebook status updates have essentially been along the lines of where they are going and what they are eating next. Tuesday night they had sushi and wine. Wednesday they walked around downtown with a giant entourage of family members. On Thursday they rented out a boat for a sunset cruise with drinks and appetizers. Last night was the rehearsal dinner and subsequent celebrations.

Okay. So the beau and I didn’t have a budget to rent a boat and ply our peeps with champagne and foie gras.* But you know what? I don’t even envy what they’re doing so much as how they’re doing it. Beau and I essentially spent the last several days before our wedding running around like headless chickens. There was no time for hanging out with our friends and family. There was no time to relax. There was no time for anything. We just spun continually off our axes, chasing one task after another. This is really what kills me, in the end. That we didn’t slow down. That we couldn’t slow down. I wasn’t wasting time on senseless crafts, either. It was just all this Stuff We Had To Do.

I know, I know. I understand that from my outsider’s perspective, I can’t really know what’s going on with them. I cannot see any behind-the-scenes drama or stress. But I can’t shake this feeling of regret for some of the things we did. It kind of hit me unexpectedly. You’re not supposed to regret things about your own wedding, right? But I have. And I sincerely doubt I’m the first.

OH, and their wedding this weekend is perfect. PERFECT. Warm, sunny, clear, no fog. NO FOG. ARRRRGH.

Sigh.

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* YES, really.

the view from the top

Early on in our engagement, we sat down and tried to dial into what we were looking for in a wedding venue. What came out of that session was this list of priorities.

Lately, I remembered this list, and I got curious. How does the venue we chose stack up? Let’s see.

  1. have a space for us to get ready onsite (if not stay there altogether)
    Yeah, hmm, non-applicable. Although this was back when I thought that we’d be getting married hundreds of miles from home, not a mere four blocks.*
  2. feature a gorgeous spot to hold the ceremony in the sun
    Check and mark. Now if only the sun will cooperate.
  3. possess an indoor/outdoor reception space nearby
    Well, there’s nothing indoor about it, but the reception space is indeed just a few steps away.
  4. permit liquor on the premises
    HELL to the YES.
  5. allow us to supply our own booze
    Thank ye gods. Money saver!
  6. agree to let us to select our own caterer
    Not so much. We had to choose a caterer off of a list of approved vendors. Bah. You win this round, venue.
  7. be within reasonable walking distance to a range of hotels and motels
    Fortunately, yes. We really didn’t want to worry about guests getting home safely, because our guests drink like fishes. If fishes drank alcohol.
  8. be within reasonable walking distance to a cool bar for the after party
    Yepper. Score!
  9. be freaking unique and awesome in general
    Sure. I mean, it doesn’t have teams of waterskiing squirrels in the fountains or a human cannonball attraction, but I guess it does all right for itself.
  10. oh yeah, and of course be affordable.
    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA *sob*

Okay then. Seven out of ten. Not bad, not bad.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on just how instrumental our early decisions were in crafting the wedding we’re having now. That list of priorities became the foundation on which the whole house of hitching was built. And after all the months of searching up and down the California coast for the right venue, the list finally helped us know when we’d found it. Not the “perfect” venue, no, because those don’t exist. The venue that matched our priorities the best.

Yet even within those parameters we could have had it a hundred thousand ways. A cabin-in-the-woods wedding. A retro lounge-style wedding. A backyard picnic wedding. A city rooftop wedding. I think I was in love with all of these places a hundred times over, but none of them met enough of our needs, or our guests’ needs for that matter. And so our museum courtyard wedding is what we got. I don’t regret that, but I still wonder what could have been.**

What were your priorities when choosing your venue? What was non-negotiable, and what did you compromise on?

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* Sidebar: Funny thing is, even after we finally booked our venue here in town — months after I made this list — I clung to the idea of staying in a hotel the night before the wedding for a while. I was worried the wedding day would feel less than monumental if I woke up in my own bed, in my (presumably) messy, disorganized house the morning that I got married. And um, I finally decided that answer is: No.

** Will this ever stop? Hopefully after the wedding? Please tell me it stops after the wedding. Please also tell me that after the wedding I will never have to think or talk about weddings ever again. Please?

our wedding role model

For most of my life I assumed that if I got married, certain things would happen a certain way. I assumed I’d get married in a church. I assumed I wouldn’t see my partner on the wedding day before the ceremony. I also assumed my partner wouldn’t see my dress until the moment I walked down the aisle. I assumed I wouldn’t talk to our guests before the ceremony. I held all these assumptions because I’d never seen a wedding done any differently.

Then, a year before we got engaged, the beau and I went to the wedding of two old friends. It was held in the backyard of an uncle’s house. Our friends hung out in the yard with us before the ceremony. There was a root beer float table. During the ceremony, us guests all held aloft our wine and champagne glasses, whooping and hollering our support. The catered dinner was all vegetarian, and it was one of the most delicious meals I had that year. During dinner there was an open mic, and people — in various states of drunkenness — wandered up to deliver spontaneous, teary speeches of love. After dinner there was tiramisu, lovingly made by an aunt, and a mariachi band played and we danced until our feet fell off. After we shut the backyard down, we hobbled (and wobbled) to a nearby bar and continued celebrating deep into the night.

Yeah. This was my wedding blog inspiration before I even knew there were wedding blogs.

But it wasn’t the little details that got me about this wedding, because I can’t even recall how it was decorated. And it wasn’t their deviance from wedding tradition that made it cool and fun. It was just them. Our friends managed to remain true to themselves, and that was reflected throughout the entire day. They felt comfortable and relaxed, so we felt comfortable and relaxed. If I squeeze my eyes shut and think really hard, I can recall that there were challenges that day — the disruption of the ceremony by a squalling child, the overbearing heat that made sweat trickle down my back, the raining ash from a nearby wildfire.* But when I think of their wedding, I don’t think of any of that. I just remember all the love.

The beau and I still remark to each other that that was the best wedding we’ve ever been too. The experience was like a lightbulb flickering on. It was a rebuttal to my assumptions about how to go about my wedding. It was a challenge to validate my reasoning for keeping or ditching certain traditions. And most importantly, it was a permission slip to do things the way that felt right to me, even if I’d never seen them done at a wedding before. It was permission to just be us, whatever that involved.

Since we got engaged, this has been the wedding we return to every time we’re trying to clarify our goals. This is the wedding we reference every time we’re trying to find the words to describe a specific feeling. And I feel so fortunate that we have our friends’ wedding to look up to as we go through the planning process — we’d feel adrift without it.

Do you have a wedding role model?

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* YES. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? What a nightmare.

in which i try not to care so hard

This weekend a friend who’s getting married in November told me he hasn’t actually seen the venue yet, even though it’s nearby. In fact, outside of the date he knows absolutely nothing about the wedding. His fiancée and her mother are planning the whole thing without him.

My jaw dropped. I was flabbergasted. Flummoxed. Perplexed. How can he go all these months without being involved in his OWN WEDDING, I scoffed to myself? How could he just blatantly NOT CARE?

I managed sputter back, “But… but don’t you feel like you’re missing out on the chance to personalize your wedding? Aren’t you afraid that it isn’t going to reflect you?”

He shrugged. “Nah. All that stuff is just stuff,” he said. He explained that his fiancée’s family is paying, and they’re really committed to the idea of the wedding being a certain way, so he’s OK with letting them make those decisions. In the end, he’s still getting married, and that’s what matters. Right?

Oh. Right. Okay. Cool.

Later, I found myself turning over our exchange in my head. As much as I’d like to believe I wouldn’t judge someone just because they have a different approach to weddings than my partner and I do, my reaction proves otherwise. I reacted to the concept of their traditional wedding. I reacted to my own concepts of money, class, privilege, and gender roles. And I reacted to the slippery concept of personalization — which is really just another way to say details. And details are just another way to divert our attention away from what’s really going on, which is: We are getting married. MARRIED, people.

Did I ever tell you about this dream I had? One night early in our engagement I dreamt that the beau had organized a surprise wedding for us, on a cruise ship. In the dream I woke up and he was like, SURPRISE! WEDDING! We rode in a limo to a pier where the ship was docked and our friends were already lining up to board. As we walked up the beau was telling me excitedly about how the cruise ship was taking care of everything, right down to the decorations. And I started crying, crying, right there in the line with our guests because OMG, the cruise ship flowers were probably going to be ugly and I hadn’t had time to pick out a proper dress and what did the chairs even look like and OMG, the wedding wasn’t going to reflect meeeeeeee. Seriously.

Why do we have customized email themes and avatars? 15 cell phone colors to choose from? Hell, why does Formspring exist? We like to express ourselves to others. We believe the objects we choose to use informs our meaning as individuals. We don’t want what everybody else has; we want to be unique. The wedding industry didn’t teach us to be like this in an effort to get us to buy more stuff. We have always been like this. It’s no wonder we carry it over into our weddings.

And so in quicker than a minute, my friend — the same dude that was once nearly thrown out of Medieval Times for trying to steal the king’s sword during an epic birthday rager — had schooled me in wedding philosophy. He reminded me that the wedding details we choose may reflect us, but they don’t give our weddings meaning. Only we can do that.

Not caring about the details isn’t the same as not caring about the marriage. Not caring about the details doesn’t make the emotion of the day any less real.*

My friend got that. And I got a chance to relearn it.

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* Turns out that Becca posted earlier today along this same topic, and as usual she put it a lot better than I did.

when cynicism attacks

I’m tired of the internet. No, scratch that. I’m tired of looking at weddings on the internet. Lately it seems like every “real wedding” post I read kicks off with the same breathlessly gushy introduction about how this wedding is simply so sweet and airy it will just make you want to grin so hard your cheeks will hurt, and your toes will feel fluttery and you’ll want to do a little dance and shout “yay!” And I have to fight the urge to roll my eyes so hard they shoot out of their sockets.

I know. I’m a bitter, heartless, unsentimental bastard.

Here’s something else I want to know: Why is everything on the internet so perfect and twee? I click one link, and it is like “Look! Look at this cute thing! You know you want this cute thing so bad you could just keel over and DIE!!” And I click away and onto the next, and all of a sudden it’s “THING THING THING! CUTE CUTE CUTE!” all up in my face.

I am tired, tired, tired.

All this stuff is just stuff. Stuff that will be forgotten or sold or sent to a landfill.* I can’t muster the energy to care about it so. Damn. Hard.

Finally, I just want to say a big special EFF YOU to all those impeccably designed invitation suites out there. Seriously. You know who you are.

Well, that’s our show for today! Thank you. Thanks for comin’ out, folks! Have a safe drive home. I’ll be here all week.

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* Davanie of A Paler Shade of White posted about stuff a couple weeks ago, and it’s been kicking around in my head ever since. Where does it come from? Where will it end up? Can I repurpose most of the stuff I use for the wedding? The stuff I use for my life? Go read if you haven’t.

i’m keeping this in mind

When I start to feel overwhelmed by the planning process, I try to think of the beau’s parents.

At the time they decided to get married, the beau’s mom was working in the Bay Area while his dad was stationed upstate as a firefighter with the park service. His dad only got one day off per week — if at all — and that day was Sunday.

One late Saturday night after his shift ended, his dad drove down to the Bay to pick up the beau’s mom. On Sunday, they drove out to Carson City, because there was no waiting period for a marriage license in Nevada like there was in California. His mom wore her nicest dress; his dad donned a tie. They said their vows in a chapel they can’t even remember the name of anymore. Only their parents and a couple of close friends were in attendance. Afterwards, everyone went out for dinner, and then drove back home. Monday came and it was back to work as usual.

I like that little story because the lack of fanfare and spectacle speaks of their deep, quiet commitment. Planning a big wedding wasn’t in the cards for them. They just wanted to be married already. Period. So, they winged it.

Like all of us have before, sometimes I wonder about that a little bit — why go through the stress of planning a full balls-out wedding when the beau and I could just wing it? Why do any of us bother to spend months or years plotting the logistics of moving a horde of people to one place for one day of love and food and drink, when we could just go right out tomorrow, get hitched, and be done with it? The end game is the same, right?

It boils down to choice. And reflecting on the beau’s parents’ marriage choices helps me reaffirm our own.

Their story reminds me that we could have this wedding any other way, and it would still be just as awesome and sweet. But we wanted to throw a giant party for a bunch of our friends and family. We wanted this wedding we’re planning. Remembering that it was a choice makes it less of a burden.

We’re very fortunate to be able to choose to have our wedding this way — some couples experience far less control over their circumstances. And although I’m prone to cynicism, I can also make a choice not to be overpowered by negativity.

Yes, the planning process is going to be stressful at times. But when else in my life am I going to be ordering save-the-date magnets, or figuring out seating arrangements for over 100 people? Never. Praise the giant inflated head of Kanye West, I will never have to do this again. Why not have a little fun with it?

Maybe “fun” and “wedding planning” sound weird together, but you know what? The wedding industry is weird. Getting married is weird. I’m weird.

I’m gonna try to embrace the weirdness with open arms.

secret confessions

Dude.

I like you, Offbeat Bride, I really do. But sometimes I feel like, if I see another wedding post title that reads something like “Tammy and Wynette’s Burton-esque Voodoo Pirate Steampunk Neo-Victorian Goth Mustachioed Rockabilly Anime Tetrus Folk Freak Festival!”* I will scream.

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* Yeah, I know, coming on the heels of the “everyone is OK” post? But all this stuff truly is OK. It’s just that sometimes these descriptions get a bit …much. You know? Or am I just going crazy over here?

i told him a million times, our colors are blush and bashful

The beau recently joined a couple of fellow teammates to discuss the goals of the upcoming rugby season. Being ruggers, nature dictated that they meet at a bar. What nature got blindsided by was: Weddings.

“They asked me if we had picked our colors yet,” he confessed to me, afterward.

Full disclosure: the two guys he met with just happen to be getting married next year, too. One in January, one in June. But back to the story.

“What did you say?” I asked incredulously. I mean, these are guys. Who play rugby.

“I said, well, I don’t think we’re having any colors. And they were like, why? It’s not hard to pick out colors. And I said, we thought we’d just go with whatever we like, and it would work out. We figure we don’t need to worry about matching things to everything else.”

He started munching on a piece of smoked gouda, leaving me trying to stare the rest of the story out of him. There was a punchline coming, I knew it.

“And S. said, please have your fiancée call my fiancée and tell her this. Really. Please.”

HA.

“What else did you talk about?” I asked, still slightly dubious.

“Oh, you know,” he said airily. “We talked about where we were getting married, and our caterers. Oh, and paper samples. For invitations.”

These are guys. Who play rugby.

Of course, they weren’t necessarily talking about all this wedding crap with dead sincerity. The beau’s teammates also shared a couple of eye-rolling anecdotes about their fiancées’ impossible dedication to trivial wedding details. You know, the kind of jokes you hear delivered on your average cable sitcom. Just another obsessed, irrational bride! Just another beleaguered, estranged groom. Cue the canned laughter.

He smiled at me. “All that stuff they were saying made me realize how lucky I am to have you for my fiancée.” Meaning, I am so glad you don’t fret over paper weight and agonize over color schemes.

I looked at him, thinking about his enthusiasm and excitement for the wedding planning process thus far. Thinking of how we’re both putting in equal amounts of effort and getting all geeked up about ideas (me: “what if we had a TRAMPOLINE” him: “AWESOME”). Meaning, I am so glad you’re not disinterested and remote.

I smiled back. Me, too. Me, too.