How I Took Back My Wedding

It's amazing how much less concern there is when you take the getting married part out of the wedding and just have a party.
08/01/2012 01:18 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2012

Chris and I had been dating for over five years when he proposed on Thanksgiving in 2010. I was elated!! We both had dreams of an amazing weekend-long wedding with family and friends that would be super-tailored to our personalities while keeping in mind that this was about a marriage, not just a wedding. I am an industry professional and both of us have backgrounds in theatre (and love the theatricality of entertaining), so we knew this would difficult -- but we just didn't know how bad it would get.

We picked a date pretty quickly -- the weekend of July 27th-28th, 2012. Chris and I both have family up and down the east coast, with the majority of people living in New England, but we live in Richmond, VA (as does Chris' family). We ran into guest list issues from the get-go -- I really didn't feel comfortable having my marriage witnessed by people I had never met before, but both of our families had LOTS of people they wanted to invite. So, to bridge the gap, we decided to have a small, intimate ceremony and dinner party of 20 people (us, grandparents and immediate family) in Washington, DC on Friday night, then have a large reception the following day in Richmond, VA. Problem solved, right? Not so much.

As the months moved forward and we began planning, things just got crazier. We hired a wonderful planning team at Fete Studio, and an amazing photographer -- Don Mears Photography. Other than that, we were at a loss, because things kept changing! Chris and I are both the first people in our families to get married (we're both the oldest children/grandchildren), and everyone had something "helpful" to contribute: "You HAVE to invite Great Aunt Mabel!" "It would be rude to invite people from out of town and not serve them a sit-down dinner!" "Why do you have to have two parties? Can't you just get married in front of everyone?" "Why aren't you getting married in a church?" Being in the industry didn't help, either, as I often felt "wedding-ed" out. Coordinating schedules became a nightmare, and the final straw came when we were told that our date may not work for some of the 20 people we had on the short list for the most important part of the weekend -- the ceremony.

So, one Friday night, late in July 2011, Chris and I sat down and had a heart to heart. Here we were, a whole year out from what was supposed to be the happiest day in our lives... and it was making us miserable. I was crying, we were stressed, and we felt like we were letting people down. As we talked, it became clear that most of the issues stemmed from the wedding part of things, not the actual getting married part -- the part that was most important to us. What if... we thought... what if we could have a wedding without getting married? And a plan was born.

After making two phone calls (one to Chris' boss to ensure he could take the time off, and one to my dad since he was gracious enough to be paying for the wedding), Chris and I booked a weeklong getaway for just the two of us to Guana Island (a private, 850 acre island in the BVI that holds no more than 36 guests). Our families both have history in the Virgin Islands, but Guana was a place that no one we knew had ever been -- it would be our special place. Once the plane tickets and resort were booked, we broke the news to our immediate families: Getting married to each other is the most important thing we will do in our lives thus far, and not something we take lightly. Everything in July 2012 has become about a wedding, not about a marriage, and that's not how we want it to be, so we are getting married on our terms, in a beautiful place, just the two of us. We will still have a wedding next July, with all the theatricality and fanfare you would expect, just without the actual getting married part. We understand that this may not be what you expected or necessarily wanted, but we hope you will be able to be happy for us.

The responses from our families were amazing -- we toasted with champagne, we gushed about the island, and while people were still a bit bummed about not seeing the ceremony, they were happy to know they would still be involved with wedding traditions -- my Mom and Gram helped me find a dress, Chris and I will cut a cake, I will dance with my Dad and he will dance with his Mom.

And on August 19th, 2011, on a beautiful day, Chris and I got married on Guana Island -- on our terms.

Chris and I have now been married for a little less than a year, and this Saturday, July 28th, 2012, we are hosting the blowout of the year for our family and friends.

Now don't get me wrong -- planning was still stressful -- there were still invite lists to be hashed out, entertainment decisions to be made, family squabbles to settle. But it's amazing how much less concern there is when you take the getting married part out of the wedding and just have a party.

And when 100 people arrive from out of town this weekend and join the 40 already here, Chris and I will be able to enjoy every minute of it with our guests -- barbecue on Friday night, kick-ass party on Saturday, brunch on Sunday and all the shenanigans in between -- and we'll do it all together, as husband and wife, on our terms.

Photos by Rainbow Visions Photography

How I Took Back My Wedding