Andrejs and I got engaged back in May, in Melbourne, Australia. Then we slowly made our way back to Europe, picking up wedding-related objects along the way: rings in Sydney, a dress in Perth, wedding shoes in Tokyo. We finally returned to Europe in mid-July after eight-and-a-half months of travel.
We slowly got used to being in one place for more than a week and to not constantly checking out from somewhere. More importantly, however, after almost five months of being fiancés, we are are now getting used to calling each other husband and wife!
Yes, we are married!
On the 21st of September, our close friends and family gathered in Riga to celebrate… us! Sitting now in our apartment that is still full of flowers, having had a week to digest it all and reflect, I can say I am very happy with our wedding day.
Here is some insight I have gained in this process of planning and executing a wedding celebration.
Firstly, diverging from wedding paraphernalia norms was an excellent choice. My fears of not looking bridal enough in my bright blue dress were unfounded. I even had tourists photograph me in the Latvian Museum of Art and in Riga’s old town. Maybe a Chinese tourist is now back at home telling her friends: “Look! In Latvia the bride wears blue!”. Also, fun fact: if you wear a floor-length dress, most people won’t even notice if you don’t wear heels. I was an unusual, but unique and comfortable bride. I recommend it to everyone.
Our non-comformity didn’t end with what we chose to wear. We chose to create a custom ceremony officiated by a friend, with readings in each of our four native languages (Russian, Latvian, Swedish and English) and personalised vows. I walked down the aisle to Abba’s ‘I Have a Dream’. I realised that by making the ceremony personally meaningful to us, we made it meaningful to our guests.
My second insight results in this advice: do not aim for perfection. If you accept from the start that this one day will not be perfect, then you save yourself a lot of stress and misery. I concluded that many thought I would become a bridezilla, based on how many times people commented that I was much calmer than they expected me to be. I think it was just a matter of not putting excessive expectations on that one day. Sure, I wanted a nice wedding day, but when you understand that it doesn’t have to be the best day of your life, then you are more aligned to appreciate what goes right, and let go of what doesn’t.
In fact, lack of perfection sometimes creates the best moments. Here’s an example. My flower-girl was my adorable, two-year-old niece, Isabelle. After we had finally coaxed her into wearing flowers in her hair so she could look like her auntie, we were ready to go. But, a room full of people was quite intimidating to this beautifully-dressed little girl. Only when she spotted mummy at the other end of the aisle did she stop resisting and agree to walk down it. The petals ended up getting dumped in two big piles. My conclusion: she was the best flower-girl I could have asked for.
My third insight is that wedding planning as such can be a bonding experience. When done together, it can be an amazing time of learning. Neither of us really knew what we were doing. There were so many firsts for both of us — from manicures, to thinking about wedding arches, to booking musicians. We pulled it off in the end, together. Time and time again, I tried to not lose sight of that this day was for us and not just for me. I picked all the songs I wanted, but Andrejs also got to pick all those songs he wanted. The result was a delighted Andrejs returning to the dancefloor, seeking me out to dance to a Latvian song about airplanes. Equality pays off.
Aside from being moved to tears by Andrejs’ vows, a highlight for me was watching people get to know each other. My family met my new in-laws. My friends from the US met my friends from London. Andrejs’ friends introduced mine to Latvian balsams (a herbal liqueur). A few of my friends practised their Russian on Andrejs’ friends. One of my few regrets is not devoting more time to introducing more people to each other.
But, what I definitely do not regret is marrying Andrejs. It sounds sappy, but it’s true: the best way to make a wedding great is to feel that the person you chose was a great choice, because that choice is why you are there celebrating in the first place.
I’m sharing a few photos here, as we wait for the full gallery from our photographer later this year. If you are reading this and have more photos that you haven’t shared with us, please do! They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.