It’s wedding season, and brides, grooms and their photographers are popping up in scenic spots everywhere. What makes a wedding meaningful? Can stressful wedding preparation taint a marriage? What are some of the most special moments — and the biggest flops — of weddings you’ve been to or been in?

We consider weddings — from blowout seven-tier cake affairs to guerrilla weddings where participants illegally descend on a premiere spot for a quickie ceremony.

Weddings: Ecstasy and Agony 15 June,2012forum

Meg Keene, author of "A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration" and publisher and executive editor of the website
Kathryn Storke, founder and editor of, a wedding blog

  • Rhet

    The mantra of the soon to be married so seems to be is: Throw another money log onto the debt pile, we’re gonna burn up our future in a bonfire of overspending and debt.

  • in these economic times – it seems like ecstasy is a luxury.  

  • Czdancer

    Weddings are a lot less stressful when you focus on the big picture: the marriage. If you and your partner surround yourselves with people who agree to focus on the same then everything will be lovely and the things that aren’t won’t matter. If you don’t you may end up like one wedding I was in where the bride sat up crying the night before and wondering if she should back out because she didn’t make welcome kits with mints and towelettes for the reception!!

  • Tripp

    My very minor wedding horror story was that for our very small, intimate wedding, I wanted to invite family and friends to contribute stories about love, my partner and me, weddings, marriage, etc. We told them they could share them during the reception. Well, that sounded good on paper, but somewhere it got lost in translation. People felt they had to tell stories about the two of us, and it was just awkward for everyone. -Fortunately, it lasted only 15 minutes.

  • Noelle

    We separated the wedding itself from the reception. Reception was months later. Looking back I was glad it was not all in one day. We had a quick hall of justice wedding at the last minute and delaying reception made sense. 

  • Lhughes86

    The best thing about our wedding was having friends and family from across the country and around the world in one spot for two days. We were married last August and many of our friends from all over have stayed connected with each other – even visiting each other and hanging out quite without us! It was also pretty great to have six of my best girlfriends–my bridesmaids–wearing my favorite dress all day. It was a cotton summer dress from Anthropolgie. I didn’t think I’d care about that, but it made me happy every time I saw one of them smiling at me and wearing this dress I’d picked out. I guess it’s all the little things people were willing to do for us and help us with that day. That was the best thing.

  • Georgepfau

    Kathryn! What is the most beautifully unorthodox wedding you have come across?

  • Elizabeth

    Worst weddings: When guests don’t know what is coming. For example, let your guests know if it’s a dessert only wedding.  Guests expect to be fed 🙂

  • BJM

    We’re a multiethnic couple. I’m Indian, she’s Korean. In our respective cultures, wedding registries are not necessary, some would even consider it slightly disrespectful to tell people what they should get you.  Our wedding will have many caucasian guests and they all insist, somewhat strongly, that we have a registry. We’re a big fan of repurposed items. We’re really having trouble filling a registry with gifts we don’t want, so some of our caucasian guests will feel more comfortable….Any thoughts, advice??

    • Noelle

       The host did not read your letter right! Really disappointing since I would have liked to hear what the guests would suggest.
      I would recommend you ask for some everyday use dishes.

  • Eddy Allison

    I didn’t get to attend this wedding, and honestly when I got the invite for this ‘pot-luck’ style wedding, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go.  Turns out, this couple made their pot-luck wedding the most memorable wedding experience for their guests.  In addition to the the nicer wines they had available at the bar, they had boxes of Franzia on the tables (who hasn’t had a funny Franzia story?). This also ensured that everyone was a little tipsy which was in their best interest because in order to leave the table to get their dinner, they had to  perform a song, karaoke style for the bride and groom who had the power to send them to the buffet or back to their table to try again.  Every single person who had their doubts in the beginning came back saying it was the absolute BEST wedding they had ever attended.  They exchanged recipes with new people, had only the greatest stories about singing and dancing for the bride and groom…  So sad I missed this one.  

  • Marcia

    One of my favorite weddings was my brother’s who got married at a beach Tomales Bay.  The bride and groom each came to the beach in a canoe rowed by their attendants from different coves not visible to those of us on the beach.  We had champagne in an ice chest on the beach and then went to a very simple hall in San Geronimo.  There we danced to a band and had food- some of which came from a caterer and some came from people bring potluck.  Everyone just had a great time and it fit my outdoor loving brother and sister-in-law.

  • Kaya (like Maya with a “K)

    My husband and I had a wedding for 80 guests for less than $6,000…. after I read that the cheapest possible wedding was $10,000…. it was an amazing day, and many people said it was the BEST wedding they had every been to.  It was STUNNING and totally inline with our values and budget. How we did it?We did an E-Vite & A free wedding website INSTEAD of mailed invites. For relatives without internet, we printed and mailed them the website pages. 

    The WHOLE family and close friends spent about 4 days together cooking, preparing tissue paper flowers, and getting ready

    My mom, I and a few friends did ALL the cooking – vegetarian meditteranean feast for 80

    My mom grew flowers and my bridesmaids and I all arranged them in mason jars that she had in her cabinet

    Our friend is a prof photographer – we paid for his travel and he gifted us the beautiful photographs

    Our friend is a prof musician – we paid for his travel and he gifted us music for the reception

    Our friend is a wine collector – he gifted us wine

    A friend gifted us amazing cupcakes, which was our dessert instead of cake

    I bought my dress online through the Limited’s Wedding line for $300

    My husband and his dad built a wedding canopy

    My sister is an actress and did my hair and makeup

    Our reverend for the ceremony was semi-retired, and only asked that we make a donation to a non-profit organization of her choice. 

    We got married outside, barefoot in a beautiful grassy backed by trees. It was SO fun to bond with family & friends all week while we got ready for the big day. It was truly about the families coming together. Our photographer was amazed and said it didn’t look home-made at all!

  • Lisa

    BEST ADVICE FROM MY UNCLE 20 YEARS AGO – Stop, step back, and look at all the people you love – the day goes by so fast and can be blur. 

  • Beth

    Its so sad to see more effort being put into the wedding day and then the let down when the couple realizes what marriage requires and the end up getting divorced.   We eloped and when my husband died we had been married 38 years.   Marriage was about US not others.

  • Debra Amador Delarosa

    Objects…at our Mexican/Irish wedding on Cinco de Mayo, we created an altar with photos of loved ones who have passed. At first, my husband was afraid he’d be sad to see his mom’s face (and that she wasn’t with us), but he realized before the day that it would be a good thing. It was wonderful and all of our guests commented on how meaningful this and other touches were…focusing on what really matters. 

  • Debra Amador Delarosa

    Objects…at our Mexican/Irish wedding we had an altar with photos of loved ones who have passed. At first, my husband was afraid he’d be sad to see his mom’s face and that she wasn’t with us, but he realized before the day that it would be a good thing. It was wonderful and all of our guests commented on how meaningful this and other touches were…focusing on what really matters. 

  • rachael

    I got married nine years ago and we were able to pull together a really fun, affordable and down to earth ceremony that mixed our Catholic and Jewish traditions but also incorporated readings from friends and family — even a poem written for the occasion.  We kept it affordable by buying my wedding dress on Ebay (it was a beautiful, couture sample dress that cost only $200) and asking some of our friends to donate an hour at a time for taking photos in lieu of a gift (I am a photographer as are lots of my friends). 

    What I took away from that day were great memories and also the following advice:  something will go wrong, expect it and go with it.  In our case one of those misadventures was our cordless microphone picking up a police car radio during the ceremony.  It was so funny that I couldn’t help laughing along with our guests and in retrospect it makes for a really great story and memory.

  • Ami

    My husband and I also had a backyard wedding, and our best friend
    who served as our minister, suggested that we take a few minutes right
    after the ceremony to sit alone and let the experience resonate, and it
    is still one of our most cherished moments 24 years later!  We have
    suggested this to others over the years who have also really appreciated
    this practice of savoring the wedding ceremony when it is most fresh. 
    This does what your guest was suggesting which is setting the memories
    without photographs.

    Thank you for your great program!

    Ami and Lew

  • Kate in Los Altos

    We planned a Fall 2000 wedding in 3 months because it was the only opening at our church for the next 18 months.   It was stressful to say the least.

    The best piece of advice I can give? Worry not about the details. Don’t scour the earth for the most “perfect” dress; get one that is good enough.  Don’t listen to every band and DJ; hire one who is reliable because the music will be fine.  Don’t taste test for 3 months; get food you know and like.  The most important details are not the clothes you wear or the food you serve, but the smiles on your faces, and the visible love between you and your spouse.

    Your guests will remember a bride’s big and perfect smile more than they will remember her dress.  Your photos will capture your happiness more than it will the sheen on your dress or the dew on your flowers.  

  • Ang

    I would love to know of a great inexpensive signature cocktail. Does anyone know about this?

  • Gary

    In 1971 after living together for nearly 4 years we decided to get married. My wife’s parents offered to pay for a big wedding or give us the money t what we wanted. We decided we’d go to Europe, buy a used van and travel for 6 months (which became 53 weeks). They still wanted us to have a wedding so we had a small, close family only dinner and ceremony. Friends were promised a party of our return and anniversary parties every ten years (40th last year).

    The following week my grandmother asked if we would approve of her diary entry about the wedding. She warned us that she embellished a bit. Though we were the last people to leave (going to work the next morning) she chronicled that we left for our honeymoon and the large party danced to the band into the night.

    Our daughter got married last summer and she made the very wise decision to have no bridesmaids or “best men”, resulting in a great lack of tension and saving a lot of money of special clothes. Reports all around were raves. It was a larger wedding than ours mixing traditional wedding expectations with a relaxed attitude.

    You are discussing flowers. My daughter and son-in-law went to the Flower Mart in San Francisco and bought their own flowers and as vases there is a beautifully shaped Trader Joe’s soup can that were pained and looked great.

    • Rhet

      Congrats on your 53 week journey.

  • Rhonda

    Our wedding was my best to me. We’ve been married for 19 years. Second wedding for me. First for him. It was outside at park on hill. No cost for that. We invited everyone who wanted to come. We had an African wedding. We wanted everyone to have fun. People still tell us that it was the best wedding they ever attended. Many folks donated and we ended oweing no one.
    Worst wedding, my friend got married on her birthday. Her father and brother got in fight at reception and brother stabbed father. Father died next day. This really happened!

  • Jeffreyszilagyi

    My experience is the hard work of preparing for our wedding was the primer for us to just let go on the day of. We had a fantastic ceremony in the redwoods in Mendocino. We rented a nice hall that was wonderfully decorated in the Town of Mendocino. The whales showed up and played in the sea. It was the best day of our lives, to create so much beauty with so many that came from so far to be with us. We honeymooned in the Cook Islands, straight after. It was fantastic. Everything included, it was under 17k.  We were creative and spirited. Many said it was their second favorite wedding beside their own.

  • Arpi Siyahian

    I am getting married on July 27th and I wish I had become aware of “A Practical Wedding” much earlier. It would have done a lot to help me combat the pressures of the wedding industry. I have been reading the articles on APB and they are like a breath of fresh air. They take into account the relationship and personal story of the couple rather than focus onto the favors, flowers and food. After reading the blog, I feel that my choices of having our favors come from my fiance’s birthplace of Jerusalem, and my jewelry is going to be symbolic pieces from my mother and my fiance’s father’s work.

  • We got married on 4 July 2000.  It was his first and my second.  We had too much stuff already – what we needed was time to enjoy our family and friends and the event.  So, we outsourced.  We asked close friends to each take on a big task (the dress, the cake, flowers, music, wine, catering, whatever) instead of giving a gift. We paid for everything and promised not to micromanage. We are blessed in having organized friends so everything went perfectly. For guests who simply had to give us something, we collected money for shares in a very comfortable Morris chair – that they can come and sit in when they visit.  We got married in our backyard and had a wonderful time!

  • Rosehipsdancer

    Through the process of planning our wedding we kept coming back to “why are we doing this?” for us it was the desire to bring our wide spread comunity together for a few days and celebrate our love for each other. We let that guide our decisions about planning. As a result we had a wonderful memorable DIY backyard wedding and entertained 300 people for a very low price…

  • Ang

    Thank you for sharing this it was very nice!

  • Drvonbloom

    I have participated in several DYI weddings and for a few close friend’s wedding I played the role of wedding “boss”. I knew most of the helpers and the families and I became the person that would talk/deal with the band, drunk uncle charlie. The day of the wedding has a 1001 details and having someone who can manage the crew and insulate the couple is a easy way to “help” and make their day better

  • cindy

    My husband and I got married about 10 years ago.  It was my second and it was his first.  Being older, I was 40 and he was 50, we had a much more relaxed approach to our wedding.  Ultimately, the most important thing about a wedding is to be married (legally or spiritually) at the end of the day.  Everything else is not as important.  We had our friend marry us, another planned the music and we just had a great time with our family and friends. All who attended signed out “marriage certificate” and looking back, the wedding was a moment to celebrate.  It didn’t define our marriage or our lives.  Our informal, fun, relaxed, loving wedding just was the start of our informal, fun, relaxed, loving life together.

  • maximem

    That was such a great discussion!!

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