A few years ago, when the idea marriage was just a twinkle in my eye, I started reading the blog A Practical Wedding. I was sucked in immediately: the site was filled with solid writing, readers' essays about their own weddings, gorgeous photos, and lively discussions about how we can reclaim what weddings and marriages mean in our complicated, messy, and modern lives. Nearly every post I read on APW made me laugh, cry, and ultimately think, "Maybe there's something to this marriage thing after all. Maybe I - an independent, feminist, nontraditional lady - could give a wedding a whirl."
A few months ago Meg Keene, the founder of APW, published a book, also called A Practical Wedding. And so, when Nathan and I decided to get engaged (side note: I still refer to him as "boyfriend" or "partner," because "fiance" is just too weird) I knew exactly what wedding book I would read. I put it on the top of my Christmas list and my mother was too happy to wrap that sucker up and put it under the tree. I finally finished reading it this week (three cheers for spring break!) and I had to share my thoughts.
Short version: If you are engaged, READ THIS BOOK.
Long version: Often, when a blogger publishes a book on the same subject as their blog, I think it's a little silly. Why buy a book when they've been providing all that content, at no charge, for years on the Internet? And usually, I think I'm right. A Practical Wedding is the exception to that rule. While the book has the same conversational tone as the blog, the same make-you-laugh-and-cry effect, and quotes from the same readers who have helped build such a wonderful and loving community, the book goes beyond what the blog is capable of. The book is an honest-to-god wedding planner, and the chapters take you step-by-step through the wedding planning process. With chapters like, "Battling the Myth of 'Tradition,'" "The Budget," "The Planning - In the Party Trenches," and "The Ceremony," Meg Keene has got you covered. Her message, above all else, is that no matter what happens on your wedding day, you end up married at the end of it, and that is the most important thing to remember. If your parents hated the chairs, if the food wasn't the perfect temperature, if your creepy uncle hit on all your bridesmaids, if the DIY favors drove you crazy, if the photos were terrible - it doesn't matter. The wedding is a stepping stone to your married life. A big, fun, messy, silly, celebratory, expensive, emotional stepping stone, yes. But a stepping stone nevertheless.
Unlike some women (and men!), I did not spend my youth fantasizing about my wedding, nor have I been secretly reading wedding magazines and blogs since Nathan and I started dating. We never really expected to get married, and so we have no idea how to plan something like this. After reading A Practical Wedding (and reading passages out loud to Nathan, and marking chapters that he needs to read as well, so we're on the same planning page) I feel more capable, more relaxed, and more excited about our wedding than ever before. I want to have the best practical wedding that I can, but more than that I want a great marriage. And as far as I can tell, we're on the right track for both.