Brave New Wedding World by Natalie Polak.
Firstly, I would like to premise this article with the four wise words of acceptance I used as a northern star while planning my nuptials – ‘each to their own.’
Free from judgement, the following words pertain simply to my views, beliefs and experiences on orchestrating a contemporary wedding.
If I have learnt anything about planning a wedding is that people have strong emotions on this subject.
I seek not to offend, but only ask for consideration.
And maybe on some level dare to hope that in sharing my paradigm on a modern wedding, it may inspire or liberate others to experience immense happiness on their special day by doing it their way, not the ‘only’ way.
Who am I? Well, quite the paradox it would seem.
I am an eternal romantic who managed to go 29 years before ever considering a single detail of my future wedding.
I was blessed enough to meet a man to love, that frankly made my childhood dreams seem rather lack lustre in hindsight.
When Matt asked me to spend the rest of our lives together I was astonished.
Without so much as an overtly circled jewellery catalogue left strategically on the coffee table, and in the absence of any premeditated not so subtle winks, nudges, or ultimatum based conversations, I was truly taken by surprise.
The romantic in me adored it.
As soon as he slipped the ring on my finger I wanted to celebrate this spectacular milestone in my life. I was getting married to my best friend.
The elation was, however, short lived.
The fine print revealed that when I adorned that symbolic piece of jewelry I automatically entered ‘wedding world’ and there was not turning back.
Rather than morph into Gollum’s “my precious” spiels on the way to becoming a bridezilla, to be honest I felt more like Alice down the rabbit hole.
It has been an illuminating journey.
At many times I regretted not eloping in St Petersburg on Christmas Day when were it was just the two of us on our ‘European Trip of a Lifetime.’
But I am glad now we didn’t.
Having experienced a magical wedding day, I am thankful that we chose to take the road less traveled there.
When Matt and I decided we would like to celebrate our love with our loved ones as witnesses, we made a solemn promise to ourselves that we would ‘do it our way.’
What we love most about ourselves, each other, our relationship and way of life was that we know who really are and what we really value.
We approached the planning of our wedding with the same approach we do everyday – A BIG picture approach. What really matters here? How do we want to profess and celebrate our union as man and wife?
Crafting a contemporary wedding certainly boiled down to a process of curiosity, at times courage, and of course creativity.
“Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.” – Lemony Snicket, the Blank Book.
It’s the History teacher in me that instinctively makes me question the purpose of archaic practices.
I fathom to think of the world we would be living in, if no one took it upon himself or herself to question the traditions of slavery or gender discrimination.
Time stand still for no one and yet the progressive clock seems to have stopped when it comes to wedding traditions.
So before making some important decisions I decided to do my research.
These are a few interesting wedding facts I discovered along the way.
Current definition of Husband: n. – a male partner in a marriage.
Original meaning: More to do with real estate than matrimony, husband is the fusion of old German words hus and bunda, and once referred to a house owner.
Bride’s bouquet originally comprised of garlic and dill. During the time of the plague when people clutched herbs over their noses and mouths in a desperate effort to survive.
Throwing the garter as it turned out, was devised as a way to actually physically protect the bride from the wedding guests. It derives from a tradition in medieval England and France called “fingering the stocking.” Guests would actually go into the wedding chamber and check the bride’s stockings for signs that the marriage had been consummated. Further, in France, the bride would shudder with terror at the end of the wedding ceremony because guests would actually rush her at the altar to snag a piece of her dress, which was considered a piece of good luck.
The Veil of the bride has origins in the idea that she’s vulnerable to enchantment, so she must be hidden from evil spirits. The Romans veiled brides in flame-coloured veils to actually scare off those spirits.
I rest my case … oh how times have changed between yesteryear and today.
Sticklers for tradition were upset that I didn’t have a flower-based bouquet, didn’t wear a garter to throw and also didn’t have a veil. However, in the end ‘tradition’ was not in these instances a compelling enough reason for me.
We certainly took the parts of the iconic wedding that we liked. I wore a stunning white couture Italian silk and French lace dress, beautifully handmade for me by my sister Michelle Kent, fashion designer and owner of the ethically accredited label So Stella, and Matt wore a handsome suit.
But we left more than we took.
There was no obvious theme.
My mother, on my insistence, wore a gorgeous white cocktail dress because it was the perfect dress for her.
My bridesmaid sisters did not wear matching coloured dresses; one didn’t even wear a dress. They both surprised me with the unveiling of their outfits on the wedding day (and who doesn’t love surprises!). They looked amazingly beautiful because their personality, the very thing I love the most about them, was able to shine in their individually unique attire. And we had to laugh that the phrase, ‘you can wear it again and again’ might actually apply since they pick the garments themselves.
I always thought there was a lot of courage in the act of marriage. Love’s ultimate leap of faith.
As a young teenager I remembered thinking I couldn’t even commit to the thought a tattoo because it was so permanent, let alone choosing a single person to spend the rest of my life with.
In the end that choice was easy. It always is when it’s the right one.
Overcoming the plethora of superstitious rituals surrounding the wedding ceremony was another story.
Matt indeed saw me on our wedding day before the ceremony. We awoke together with great excitement and anticipation of the day ahead. Bad luck? Why?
Considering approximately 50% of first marriages don’t last and I imagine the majority of those couples abide by these ‘rules’ I think we are safe in assuming not seeing each other till the wedding, isn’t completely good luck either.
In our minds this was a wonderful day for the two of us, why not spend as much of it as possible together – so we did.
While I loved getting ready with my family, and Matt with his, one of our favourite moments was seeing each other dressed as bride and groom for the first time in our home.
Our photographer James Day captured these intimate moments at our home so spectacularly. The images look every bit as private and exultant as they felt.
For humble people who do not seek the limelight this was the perfect way for us to set eyes on each other. I will cherish these private memories always.
By each other’s sides and surrounded by our bridal party of close friends and family, we spent the hours before the ceremony enjoying delicious food, drinks and each other’s company while taking some incredible photographs around the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Giving James Day time without an urgent deadline of ‘we need to get back’ allowed him to really work his creative magic. Everyone was in the moment and the photographs tell the story of our collective stress-free, anticipation fueled happiness.
Taking our bridal party photos prior to the ceremony also allowed us to spend more time with the people who had made a special effort to join us on our special day.
Lastly, the single best courageous decision we made was to have an interruption-free reception. We wanted a celebration not a theatre production. We had said our personal vows for each other in front of all – now as far as we were concerned the show was over, and the fun could begin for all.
There was no MC, no throwing of the garter or bouquet, no stopping for the first dance or the cutting of the cake, and the big one … no speeches.
It was bliss. Guests had a wonderful time conversing amongst themselves and Matt and I were able to move around freely.
The rules were there were no rules and the only person more happy about this than us, was James Day.
He had complete creative freedom to choose the best time take the amazing photographs for us. Our time at sunset was simply enchanting. Thank you James!
While some thought we were missing key moments, our logic was by not having the ceremonial moments stilting the reception we, along with all our guests got to be in the moment. What could be more important than this?
The cookie-cutter wedding is easily accessible. It’s everywhere in ‘wedding world.’ It’s part of a money-making industry that sells an image of the perfect day to the masses. But what’s special about that?
The challenge is crafting a wedding that is perfect for you as a couple. My advice is throw caution into the wind. Go with your gut. Choose things you like solely because you like them, not because tradition dictates.
My remarkably talented designer sister Michelle taught me so much as we planned our wedding’s aesthetics. She inspired me to embrace diversity and simplicity, rather than succumbing to conformity and ostentatiousness.
As a surprise Michelle had arranged for Fiona Schofield to handcraft a gorgeous bouquet made from the silk and lace remnants of my dress, adorned with vintage broaches. It was an incredible gift, the perfect enduring memento of the day, and will no doubt become a family treasure for many weddings to come.
In the end I wouldn’t have changed a thing on my wedding day. The decisions that were the hardest to make, and at times to defend, were the ones we were most thankful for.
So if nothing else, may future brides and grooms realise they can break free of the shackles of tradition and embrace tremendous freedom to celebrate their unique love in their own way.
There is a lot to be gained by being the exception not the rule on your own wedding day.
Viva the contemporary wedding revolution!
/ See Matt & Natalie’s Wedding here.