In case you didn’t know, the marriage proposal launched by Jodi (asking Jason) and largely organized by Stephanie, has resulted in an answer.

Congratulation Jodi and Jason!

Not long before this internet round robin was launched, Jodi made a limited distribution, organized by Stephanie, of some background on their situation, and a version of this is what you see in the proposal itself.

That prompted me to think about marriage related issues a bit, which in turn prompted me to sit down with Jodi and have a private little talk with the girl. Which, of course, I will now share with the entire internet (I’m sure she won’t mind).

Actually, it was more wedding related issues than marriage related issues I was thinking of.

I have been married N times, and the first N-1 of those involved minimalistic ceremonies that were entirely secular in nature, and that no one but the officiant (and the couple, of course) were present for. But when I proposed to Amanda a few years back (on December 10th, as we are reminded very year by various people) I knew that was not going to happen. The wedding was going to be secular, without a doubt, but it would turn out to be large.

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Wedding dress optional
Amanda has a large yet close extended family. Two or three extended families, actually. When holidays happen, it is normal for thirty or forty people to sit down together to eat. Actually, its way more complicated even than that. There are Jewish holidays in which two subunits of the family get together to obtain a minyan of either 14 or 20, depending on which household hosts. Paternal Christian holidays obtain numbers of about 35, and Maternal Christian holidays of somewhat more but half are in the basement watching the game.

Anyway, Amanda is of the age and position within her larger family that there had not been a wedding in the Paternal Lineage for quite some time. I think the previous wedding may have been well over a decade earlier.

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To be in the wedding party, you had to do this first.
So there were a lot of reasons to have a “big wedding” if we wanted to, but there were also, frankly, a lot of reasons to worry about people trying to make our wedding into their wedding, given the sheer number of people potentially involved.

What we did, very simply, was to let everyone know at the beginning that we were going to carefully review each and every potential traditional and non traditional feature of weddings and pick and chose based on our own reasons which were not necessarily anyone else’s business each item to include in our wedding. Frankly, we wanted certain traditional things to happen simply because we knew everyone else would enjoy them, but we certainly did not want other things no matter what.

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crazy dancers
For instance, dozens of people would love to have a traditional music-blasting drunken dance thing that would go well into the night. The fact that the groom would probably be off doing something sober and quiet certainly did not bother the bride, and the fact that the bride would be dancing her ass off with thirty or forty other crazy people certainly did not bother the groom.

For instance, dozens of people would love to see the bride and groom kneel down and promise to raise the children as Catholics or Lutherans or whatever, but nothing even close to that was going to happen.

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walleye cake by Greg
One way that we asserted our intention to control the wedding and all of its details from the very beginning was this: Within a few days after announcing our engagement to Amanda’s immediate family, we also let them know that I would be making the wedding cake. And that it may or may not look like a traditional wedding cake, depending on what he felt like doing. At the time, no one was aware of the fact that I had years of experience making traditional wedding cakes, as when I was a child that was how we paid some of the bills.

I’m sure that was shocking to some, but getting past that shock was helpful in the rest of our planning, which started (with respect to the ceremony itself) with the core of what wedding is all about: The signing of a legal contract that then allows the married individuals various rights and privileges. So the ceremony featured a bistro table with the contract on it and a pen that we used to sign it. Everything else worked out from there.

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In the traditional wedding, the bride’s prep room is where all the craziness happens.
But even with the best planning, very well intentioned thoughts and actions can … shall we say … happen. We did not broadcast to the 120 or so people who were invited that his was a totally non-religious event. We simply made sure that key people understood that any utterance of religious utterances would get them thrown in the lake, and we included none of that in the ceremonies. Nonetheless, a very well meaning cousin did approach the bride while she was on her way to the ceremony itself to hand her a broach in the shape of a cross that, it turns out, all the women of this lineage had worn during their weddings since 1601. Or something. Just prior to that, another distant cousin showed up in the room where the bridal party was getting done up and decorated my daughter with makeup and “fixed” her hair. First time for that 11 year old ever wearing makeup, but that’s OK if she looked a little …. oh, never mind. And of course, all the distraction that occurred once the unexpected flabbergast of the bridal preparation ceremony, of which I was not aware, caused the entire bridal party to arrive at the ceremony without a copy of the letter that was supposed to be read during the ceremony (this is a well known story, see my old site for details).

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my best man wore a dress
We fixed all of that, of course, and everything was wonderful. My advice to Jodi in this regard is simple: If you don’t plan to make something NOT happen, it then MIGHT happen. Expecting people to not lunge forward with the traditional expectation is like putting the dish of kibble on the floor and expecting the dog to not eat until told to do so.

In the end, the wedding became iconic. The hallmark of our wedding was that we made everyone drive between three and four hours to get there, the ceremony being in a remote location up north, even beyond the cabin. We had the ceremony not at a place that does weddings, but at a place that does … VFW clambakes and fishing contests.

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centerpieces based on lures bought on ebay
Between the location of the ceremony, next to the faux covered wagon, and the John Wayne motifed dining hall was a bait shack and a fishing dock. The weather wast deadly stormy into the night before the wedding, but in the morning the sky had cleared, the wind had dropped to nothing, the lake was glass. Boaters passing by noticed a wedding in progress and cut their motors. The sounds of the ceremony were punctuated by nothing other than a brood of squabbling ducklings and a distant yodeling loon. That night, as the revelry progressed, my brother-in-law, a well known amateur astrophotographer, burst into the dance hall and announced “The northern lights are out.” And indeed, the most vibrant display of northern lights in the memory of the people living in that spot had commenced and light up the sky for an hour or so.

So, yea, I’m afraid that the unmarried women in Amanda’s extended family have a tough act to follow. (The one wedding that happened since ours was well done, of course.)

The cake, by the way, helped in establishing the psychology of controlled tradition. It was located in a prominent spot, and it was a three foot long walleye. Word quickly got around that the groom had made it. This made everyone think twice before they made any false moves.

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When my best man got married, I made her cake. This is lizzie, who by chance was at the same wedding, learning the official way to “cut cake.”
But hold on a sec…!!!

When I think about wedding cakes that I’ve made, I think about my friend Lizzie, for reasons that are somewhat obscure unless you read the captions on the photos, and this leads me to remember that I’ve committed to devote several hours of the day today to her, so that will be all the blogging for a while. (Don’t worry, there are things scheduled for posting.)

Lizzie, check your email before you go out tonight!

See you’all on the radio in the morning.

Comments

  1. #1 Jodi
    June 27, 2009

    Aww, thanks Greg!
    This was a lot of really good advice, and I will keep it in mind. I like the idea of making the cake myself… hmm I might just have to steal that!
    We’re going to make sure we take our time and plan things slowly and carefully. We’ll keep you updated along the way :)

  2. #2 Dan J
    June 27, 2009

    My wife and I had a somewhat religious ceremony… a handfasting ceremony of the neo-pagan variety. We were both a bit into the “woo” at the time, but we’re both happy atheists now, and don’t regret our non-traditional wedding in the least. It’s a time of joy and celebration, no matter what your views on religion may be.

  3. #3 Dan!
    June 27, 2009

    Congratulations Jason and Jodi!

    I’m particularly interested in this post, as I just asked my mate to spend the rest of her life with me on memorial day. Also, thanks for the advice, Greg. We’ve already decided to write our own ceremony (since we like that sort of thing) and to do away with the cake entirely (We are more cookivores anyway).

    The only other sound advice that we’ve been offered is to take time to prepare for the marriage, and not get to wrapped up in planning the single biggest party you’ll ever throw. And of course, enjoy it!

    Cheers!
    Dan

  4. #4 Elizabeth
    June 27, 2009

    as I just asked my mate to spend the rest of her life with me on memorial day

    This sentence needs a comma.

  5. #5 Jodi
    June 27, 2009

    Do away with the Cake????????!!!?!?!
    The one thing that will definitely stay for us is the cake. We need cake. I made Jason a ‘Portal Cake’ for his birthday so I imagine our wedding cake will be equally geeky (and awesome of course).

  6. #6 Crystal D.
    June 27, 2009

    This reminds me, Vic and I are getting married in a quite untraditional way… http://victorandcrystal.wordpress.com/

    I have found it is best to decide what you want, and stick to it no matter how much your mother cries.

    I have also found that people get very offended at the idea that we are requesting donations to the local food shelf in lieu of gifts… We are such heartless bastards. :)

    The most important thing to me is to take every wedding tradition, close your eyes, try to picture yourself doing it, and then ask why you would be doing it. If it doesn’t feel right and you don’t want it, then don’t do it.

  7. #7 Jason Thibeault
    June 27, 2009

    Crystal — Jodi loves steampunk, and I’m not adverse to it myself. She says she’s seen your site independently of here at some point in the past, which is an interesting bit of syncronicity.

    There’s a good chance I’ll have tails, a top hat with goggles, and cane. And I already know she wants some sort of Victorian corset. At least, this is a tiny part of the initial conversation. Who knows if it’ll make it into the final ceremony? It’s still quite a ways off yet.

  8. #8 Judaica
    June 28, 2009

    Great post! Very interesting, wonderful cake :)

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