As I mentioned last Wednesday, we are trying our hardest to re-focus our content a bit on some more advice-driven pieces that share real, first-hand accounts of wedding planning in and outside of the Washington, DC area. Last week we had a real bride share some post wedding planning reflections (re: regrets) and this week we have a bride to be that is sharing a super personal post on how her and her fiance found themselves planning a wedding they didn’t actually want to have.

I met Laura through my wedding coordination biz – she originally reached out to me for an inquiry into my services. A few weeks later though, her plans had changed and I was really interested in learning why. Not because I no longer had a potential client on my hands (though I did love the sound of her wedding! hah), but because I thought her story and reflection with her fiance was totally worth sharing.

Laura emailed me to let me know things had changed after a lot of soul searching. They decided that their original plan didn’t actually reflect who they were. They scraped the traditional, 200+ wedding and are doing a low-key, chapel ceremony with just immediate family instead.  I thought Laura & her fiance were insanely brave to do this – and even braver still was Laura when she agreed to share the soul searching they did here. I hope you guys read this and share this (if you want), as I think it’s a CRUCIAL part of the wedding planning process. Before you fall head over heels into planning, take some time to really think about AND discuss with your partner what you want for your wedding day … and why.

How We Decided to Put Social Pressures Aside to Plan a Wedding That was True to Who We Are

I’m not much of a writer, but when Bree asked me to write about my recent soul searching with my wedding plans, I couldn’t say no.  I had invested so much time and energy into this process that I thought it would be therapeutic to put it down in words. 

First and foremost, I love weddings.  I love being apart of such a time of love and unity.  I love having such a wonderful excuse to get together with friends and family to celebrate, reminisce, and enjoy each other’s company.  It’s basically a big family reunion.  I love it.

dc courthouse wedding intimate[A DC Courthouse Wedding via Sarah Gormley Photography]

My now-fiancé and I have known each other for some time.  We have been in each other’s lives in some way, shape, or form for over 12 years.  In the last couple of years we realized we were ready for each other and a future together.  We began to talk more openly about getting married.  It became a matter of when, not if. 

As Pinterest began to take over, I got caught up in all its glory.  And as a wedding seemed more and more likely in my future I couldn’t resist browsing the ‘wedding’ category.  Oh was I in trouble.  Gorgeous pin after gorgeous pin; I couldn’t stop!  But I decided to take a step back until I was officially engaged.  Fast forward a few months later and while hiking one of our favorite trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains, my boyfriend (now fiancé) popped the question.  It was perfect!  We spent the recent of our mini-vacation basking in our love and excitement.  It was crazy how nothing had really changed, but everything had changed.  It was wonderful!

[Kirsten & Christian’s Small Budget VA Wedding via Porter Watkins Photography]

Then the reality of wedding planning set in.  Those wonderful photos I had pinned on Pinterest were no longer gorgeous, but daunting.  How do I actually make these ideas happen?  How do I get this fabulous relaxed backyard wedding?  Everyone seems so happy and calm… doubtful!  The more I looked into these ideas, the more I realized they weren’t going to happen.  Not on our budget.  And not on how much time and energy we were willing to put into this event.  Don’t get me wrong.  We want it to be the best day of our lives, and it will be, but it took a lot of soul searching to realize we don’t need to put our (or our family’s) life savings into this one day to make it special.  It’s special because we love each other and we get to show the world how much.  It’s special because we get to have our favorite people in the world around us all at the same time!

So back to the soul searching. And first a few things you need to know about us – our families are HUGE (looking at easily 175 for just aunts, uncles, and first cousins) and we have both lived all over and have some friends that go back to when we were babies.  When all said and done, we had a list of 250 people on our “essential persons” list for the wedding!  We are also both pretty private people and having a traditional ceremony and reception felt a little too overwhelming to us. 

[Ben & Jen’s Super Local, Offbeat DC Wedding via Leslie Maron Photography]

Even knowing this about ourselves, we still began to look for very traditional options: big church ceremony and reception to follow (making each guest on our list suddenly seem very costly).  Simply put, we really couldn’t afford (or didn’t feel comfortable affording) a wedding that fit this bill while still seeming somewhat unique enough to feel true to us as a couple.  But over and over we tried to find a solution.  The love and excitement of the engagement was quickly overtaken by the stress and pressure of creating this wedding that didn’t even seem to match us.  We tried and tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.  We tried to compromise on location, guest list, food, date, cost… but no matter what “solution” we came to, it never sat right with us.  After many a stressful night (and yes some tears), we always came back to the same thing: we just want to be married to each other.  Eloping was making a lot more sense to us as time passed, but that didn’t sit right either.

So back to the drawing board; one night we sat down and made a short list of things that were most important to us about our wedding.  Top things on the list were inclusivity (having all essential persons there), laid back and outdoor celebration, having part or all of it in our neighborhood, making it as convenient as possible to guests, and having an old family friend (a priest) officiate.  Again, not easy to meet this set of criteria either. 

But then one day it just all came together.  If what we really want is to be married without all the fuss, then let’s just start there.  Let’s just start with what this is really all about.  So we approached our family and told them our plan:  we wanted to get married in the small chapel in our neighborhood by our family friend with all of them (our parents and siblings) there to witness it.  It just felt right.  For the first time in weeks, I was happy again about the wedding. 


[Charles & Scott’s Offbeat, DC Wedding via Red Shoes Photography]

But we also knew that we would want an opportunity to celebrate our new marriage with those other 250 essential persons.  We figured this would be the chance to still have that laid-back celebration we also wanted; the backyard family reunion style BBQ.  Somehow I happened upon a farm outside of DC that provides just that.  We could have a whole day completely catered of BBQ, booze, lawn games, dancing, and most importantly, quality time with the ones we love most. 

For us, separating these two events was most essential to our happiness.  We could then keep the ceremony intimate and stress-free and truly about the joining of our lives together surrounded by the essential of essentials.  We could also get the most intimate celebration possible with 250 people by having the all-day event at the farm.  This would allow everyone to gather under the pretense of our love and new marriage but wouldn’t completely focus on us the whole time.  Without all the fuss of a traditional reception, we would be able to mix and mingle freely with our guests giving them the quality time they deserved for making the effort to be with us at such an important moment in our lives.  

[Cecelia & Wasim’s Modern, Hip DC Wedding via Megan Noonan Photography]

For us, this wedding is less about a day and more about a lifetime.  We want to start our marriage off right.  And for us, it is about being true to ourselves and who we are as a couple.  We are both genuine and private, but completely and utterly thankful that we have so many people that love us.  They understand us enough to know that we will get more from spending a relaxing day on a farm with them rather than a formal evening in a banquet hall.

I can’t thank Laura enough for sharing this personal piece with me and my readers! There is SO MUCH of this post that I wish I could just plaster all over Pinterest, Big Wedding Blogs & Facebook. I hope everyone that is planning a wedding finds something in here that rings true to them. Thanks for reading everyone one!




  1. Bree – I can’t thank you enough for this post. I’m sitting fighting back tears knowing that I am not alone. My wedding is next month. Originally, much like Laura, my fiance and I had planned the wedding we “were supposed to have.” A formal ceremony, followed by cocktail hour, and then a seated dinner, and then of course the cake cutting and dancing the night away. We were footing a majority of the bill and our costs were adding up quickly. I wanted to make the day feel less cookie cutter, so I kept asking for small tweaks to menus or set up. Each of these tweaks equated to more and more money.

    About three months into the planning process, I lost it. My fiance came home to me in hysterics with a spreadsheet in my hand. Our wedding had quickly reached over $45K and we still had more expenses to incur (like a honeymoon and wedding bands). He poured some wine and we had a big heart to heart. Who were we doing this for? What was most important to us? Again, like Laura, we seriously discussed eloping. While my fiance was comfortable with the idea, I wasn’t. So we compromised. We decided that the most important things for us were to a) be married and b) have a really great time celebrating with our friends and family. And that’s what we’re doing.

    Next month (32 days actually), we’re going to have about 100 of our friends and family at Sonoma Restaurant on Capitol Hill where we’ll have a short, but very intimate ceremony, followed by a kick a$$ cocktail party. We’re having a dj, and a photographer, and appetizers and cupcakes and we get to have all the little decorating details that will personalize the space. My parents have been super supportive of our somewhat untraditional wedding, which has helped immensely. And most importantly, we’re really excited for the party we have planned — even more than our friends are (and they are excited with multiple exclamation points).

    When it comes down to it, the formal reception works for some people, for us it didn’t. It is so easy to get caught up in everything on Pinterest and in the bridal magazines, but at the end of the day, it’s a day to celebrate how much you and your fiance love each other. And we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate that then toasting with our friends. Cheers!

    1. Jacki!! Thank YOU for sharing YOUR thoughts on this too. I must admit that I am now the one fighting back tears reading your post!!!! It’s so so important for wedding planning couples to know they don’t have to plan a crazy expensive “wedding” – they can do whatever they want/whatever works for them. Can’t wait to see the pictures of yours – would love to hear how it goes :) best of luck!

  2. Such a great post, Bree. And Jacki – the scene you painted of your supportive fiance pouring out some wine and talking through this with you almost brought me to tears also. Congratulations on making what sounds like a really brave and wonderful decision :)

  3. Great post! I too broke down in tears many times during the wedding planning process. In the end, my husband and I were married in our neighborhood on a pier (also very important to us), with 65 of our closest family and friends there to celebrate with us. My mom grew sunflowers in her backyard to use as centerpieces. No cake cut, no bouquet toss, no dances with parents. Just a beautiful ceremony and laid back reception.

  4. Hi Bree! Thanks for posting my thoughts. And thanks for those that commented. It’s really nice to know that we weren’t the only ones struggling with this process. As we start to share our idea with friends and extended family, we have gotten nothing but positive feedback. Everyone is super excited and those that know us best say they think this is SO us. Perfect! :)

  5. Do you mind sharing the name/location of the farm outside of D.C. where you’re having the larger celebration? Thank you so much!

  6. Hi Brenan — Happy to to share! It’s called Smokey Glen Farm and it’s out in Gaithersburg, MD. We’ve only just begun working with them, but they have been really wonderful. If you google the farm plus weddings you can see some beautiful events that have happened there. Hope this helps!

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