When Kelly invited me to contribute to her blog, I wondered how my experience might help other brides. At 35, my vision of my perfect wedding day had changed quite dramatically from what I had always dreamed it would be. I grew up in a close-knit cultural community where weddings of up to 15 bridesmaids and 500 guests, including everyone you knew, were considered the norm. It was a celebration after all! So as you can imagine, I felt some pressure to uphold traditions that were passed down from generations for no other reason than, that’s how it had always been done. I was also fearful it might hurt my parent’s feelings. Over the years, propriety for propriety’s sake began to make no sense to me. Finding my soul mate to share all of life’s adventures with meant infinitely more. Our collective vision for our BIG day would reflect the best of both of us, our values, and our love for one another. So, I took a different road when it came to planning my not so big, fat Serbian wedding.
Hurdle #1: Jeff is Roman Catholic. I am Orthodox. While our religions are based in Christianity, we were used to slightly different services in very different languages, with minimal variations in tradition. Because marrying in a church was of particular importance to us, we agreed to marry in my childhood church; a beautifully ornate cathedral with Byzantine architecture, stained-glass windows and hand-painted frescos. We’re respectful of our religious beliefs and honor both together and individually.
Hurdle #2: How many witnesses? It was unheard of not to have your nearest and dearest 15+ girlfriends/sisters/future sister’s-in-law to stand up for you. I chose 1 – my very best childhood girlfriend who has been with me through it all and knows me best. Jeff chose his brother and we were off and running. This wedding was going to be about the two of us. Our closest friends enjoyed witnessing our blessed union, comfortably from their pews. Our witnesses played the most significant roles in our ceremony: Kum and Kuma. Their role is of a spiritual adviser that helps to protect your marriage. We chose them because of who they are and we were honored to have them standing with us.
Hurdle: #3: How many guests to invite? Considering our family tradition and the fact that both my sisters celebrated their weddings with 800 of their “closest” friends combined, we opted for a cool 175. This number represented those who had touched our lives in some significant way, as a couple and individually. It meant a lot to us to celebrate with our nearest and dearest on our wedding day.
Hurdle #4: Where to host the reception? In thinking about the atmosphere we envisioned for our reception, we agreed we wanted to create an elegant, comfortable space that allowed everyone to enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings. The cathedral allows members-only to use the banquet areas that include a large, formal ballroom and a pavilion with a bar. After some consultation with our seasoned and ever so skillful florist, we chose the pavilion for our celebration. This option was not within the normal formula of the church volunteers and on-site coordinator since they were used to extra-large sized wedding receptions using both spaces. We had to devise detailed sketches, timelines and conduct multiple meetings to achieve what we set out to do. Beyond that, we had to think creatively to transform this ordinary space into something extraordinary in my eyes. And that is just what happened.
Uniquely personal touches: from the stunning lime green silk linens, to the gorgeous high and low colorful spring blooms, to our Shutterfly guest book and picture boxes on the tables with images from our travels together to special spaces, my surprisingly sexy and fun orange accent pumps, our entertaining mix of great Serbian folklore music with American tunes, our mouth-watering dessert table filled with delicious home-made pastries and cakes by my mother’s extraordinarily talented friends…this, however, is the norm at our traditional Serbian weddings.
Essentially, this day was a reflection of us and our love for one another, our friends and family and their mutual respect for us and the choices we make together. We were so very lucky to have such talented vendors and friends to guide us and support us in making our ideas come to life. This day was the beginning of our life’s journey as a newly married couple. Our love for one another inspired us, as it should for you.
[top two photos by Sweet Monday Photography]