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The first time I googled “small weddings” the top response was “cheap weddings”.  In disgust, I clicked off the computer and walked out of the room. Perhaps a bit of an overreaction on my part, handling frustration isn’t always my long suit.

At the first announcement that I was getting married, my best-friend gave  me a congratulations card and one of those bridal magazines. It’s incredible what you can learn in those magazines. I learned that I  had an official title –  encore bride. I wasn’t even struggling with the whole second marriage label but it was exciting to discover there was an official title for my new role.  What was even more incredible was the overwhelming number of options available to brides who were in the midst of planning a wedding.

For  a week, I poured over every page of that magazine,  ooohing and ahhhing over the beautifully set reception tables, the magnificent bridal bouquets, and the heavily adorned wedding dresses. It was all very beautiful,  my inner princess was delighted, but very little of what I saw in those elaborate magazines was what my fiancé, Greg, and I really wanted for our wedding. We were both “encores”( assuming encore isn’t gender specific),  in our 50s, and dealing with a limited budget.  I had perused the bookstores and purchased additional magazines. But by the time I got the “cheap wedding” response, on the computer,  I was at my wits end.

One afternoon,  Greg, recognizing my continued frustration, came home with one more book. It was entitled Intimate Weddings.  I was touched by his thoughtfulness. The book’s relatively small size (for a wedding book) and its soft yellow colored cover encouraged me to let down my guard long enough to flip through the pages.  I was instantly charmed. I loved the author’s use of words and her delightful description of possibilities.  I realized that I had been focusing on what I couldn’t have, with our limited budget, instead of all of the possibilities I could explore with a small wedding. It was the turning point in my own wedding planning.  

In the months that followed, as we made the decisions that are typically associated with wedding planning, we consciously tried to think of ways to infuse the ceremony and reception with personal touches. I now realize that the road to our wedding day was filled with more than schedules to keep and choices to make. It was filled with affirmations of long held values, and a few personal insights, as well.

My Uncle Leonard, my father’s youngest brother, married us. I can see a bit of my father in his face and in his demeanor. My father was a much younger man when he passed away but I can still see the family resemblance. My father would be so proud of him….and of me.

Alexandra, my best friend’s daughter, was my bridesmaid. I am an only child but she is still my “niece.” Family bonds are as much a matter of the heart as they are about genetics, for me. On the day of the wedding, Alex wore, around her neck, a strand of my mother’s pearls. I still miss my mom. Although she never knew Alex as a young woman, she had loved her as a child and young teen. It was a sentimental reminder of the love we all had shared.

Greg and I purchased pocket watches, as gifts, for his parents. Time is the ultimate gift. The watches symbolized all the time his parents had spent caring for him, loving him, supporting him…helping to form him into the man that I love. The watches also stood for that precious portion of time – the future – that stood ahead of all of us. We tucked a picture of ourselves, in the case, to remind them of this particularly special moment in time.

In the middle of our reception, we took a small break for a photo montage. I’ll always remember how I felt, standing with Greg by my side, as we watched the images flash before us. The montage began with a short tribute to the memory of my loving parents. But instead of moving on to pictures of Greg and me, the images transitioned to pictures of our guests. Secretly, we’d chosen a few pictures of each of our guests and their families.  Those photos and some  favorite music selections were handed over to a videographer.  The finished product was our way of saying – Your lives are important to us. Without all of you and the influence of your love and friendship, we couldn’t be all that we are…we wouldn’t be here.

The personal touches weren’t all  the results of such serious thought. We definitely left room for the expression of those  individual  personal characteristics that help define us. There is a part of me that has never outgrown the love of all things frilly or sparkly. She’s the inner princess that loved everything in that original bridal magazine. I chose my wedding shoes in honor of her.

Our wedding day had been designed to reflect the things that were of value to us.  It was filled with friends and family and a reminder of the way they had enriched our lives. It was filled with the traditions of marriage that were close to our heart. It was filled with personal touches that made our wedding day “uniquely ours.” Our wedding was small… but only in size.

Intimate Weddings was published in 2004. The blog, Intimate Weddings, was started four years later.