So, after a full year of planning, our wedding week was finally here. But let’s back up a minute and briefly talk about how we got here. As I think many newly engaged women do, I went a bit insane right out of the gate in terms of wedding planning. I found it so stressful to make the big decisions. How big would it be? Who would we invite? How much would we spend? And of course the biggest question, where would we have it? We discussed having it in the U.S., having it in Germany, or having it somewhere in between. I won’t go through all the points of why we settled on Germany but mainly we decided it’s where we are going to begin building our life together so it just made sense. Plus my family wanted to visit at some point so what better reason than a wedding? At first we had a list going of about 80 people we wanted to invite. We planned with this number in mind for awhile but I was still stressed and feeling insane. Eventually it all came to a head and I realized that we were planning a wedding that wasn’t really what I wanted. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see all 80 of those people on our list. But with my family being so far away I didn’t want the whole thing to go by in a blur. So there it was, we decided to keep it super small and by keeping our budget the same we were able to plan what I’m calling a “familymoon”. We decided that for us, sharing some of the amazing places we’ve seen with both of our families was just as important as the wedding.
But then we also decided to get married in the States. Confused? Well, we already had a visit planned for early September 2014 and after doing some research we learned that it’s actually quite complicated to do the legal marriage in Germany. America on the other hand was super easy. I mean proof of that is that I actually legally married my best friend to her husband. And all I had to do was register my email address online. In North Carolina, where we were visiting, you can actually get married 24 hours a day. If the local courthouse is closed you can go to the county jail. No joke! We opted for the courthouse. Originally we wanted this to be completely no fuss. Just the two of us. Then we learned we need two witnesses. Then we thought it would be nice to have my brother-in-law photograph us. At that point we realized we might as well have the whole family there, so we told our families the plan and Alex’s sister was able to make the trip over with us to act as Alex’s witness.
But I’m getting off track now and our first wedding deserves its own post, which will come later. So back to our wedding week in Bavaria.
We ended up choosing a location about an hour from us in Samerberg, Germany. We had a lot of checkboxes to fill and Duftbräu filled almost every single one of them. We had turned wedding venue hunting into nice excuses for weekend trips but nothing had really won us over completely until we found Duftbräu. Our vision was to have a nice place in the mountains, on a lake, easily accessible, with good food, beautiful surroundings and a place for everyone to sleep. The only thing we didn’t accomplish was the lake, however there was a natural swimming pool within a short distance and a waterfall just a hike away. Our first visit to check it out was in the fall and we actually couldn’t see what the view looked like at all because it was so foggy. We were won over first by the beautifully renovated but still rustic restaurant and accommodations. Then when we met the owner and his family we were sold. They were so welcoming and we felt like we could trust them to make our day special. We were so right!
We invited our guests to spend the whole weekend with us if they wanted to. My family was getting in earlier in the week so that we could spend some time exploring Munich and they could get over their jetlag. On Friday we packed up a giant van and headed to Duftbräu where Alex’s family would be meeting us. This was the part I probably was most nervous about. It was the first time our parents would be meeting each other which is stressful in itself. But also, they don’t share a language. I really didn’t know how this was going to turn out and had worried about it quite a bit leading up to the moment. However it was only hours after meeting that I spotted our Dads sitting together “chatting” by themselves. I rushed over to try and help translate so it wouldn’t be awkward and found that they were somehow successfully communicating with body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. In that moment I was able to relax and realize everyone was having a great time.
Most of our guests also arrived the day before so we had a really nice time hanging out that evening and everybody got to know each other a bit before the big day. The next morning our guests went out for a hike, a swim or just relaxed while Alex and I got things ready. We still had some things to prepare and decorating to direct (thanks to everyone who helped with that!) before we could go get ready ourselves. I’m pretty sure it was the hottest day of summer (no exagerration!)
I’m lucky to have a hairstylist in the family so Kristin styled my hair while Lauren and Christin were on bouquet duty. This was probably the only frantic part of my day. There were a bunch of loose ends to tie up and it’s hard to do that when your hair is being done and you have to delegate to others. We only had around 30 guests and I honestly cannot imagine planning something bigger. I don’t know how people do it. Alex on the other hand was enjoying beers with his boys while they got ready in his room. Typical!
Once ready we chose to do what the photographers call a first look. This means our first look at each other is before the ceremony and is captured by the photographers. I really liked this as it wasn’t as nerve-wracking having everyone witness that moment. Our guests had a cocktail hour while we had our photo session and then we headed over to the ceremony site to wait for our guests. We had asked my brother-in-law, Jeff, and Alex’s sister Christin to perform the ceremony. We knew they would both do an excellent job and we wanted to be able to have the ceremony in both English and German so it worked really well. Instead of walking down the “aisle” – which honestly has always been a nightmare for me when I think about my wedding – we decided to have our guests walk to us. We had hung some streamers from a tree branch and we hid behind them with our two officiants and my nephew Brayden, the ring bearer waiting in front. We chose an instrumental version of Sigur Ros’ Hoppipolla by Vitamin String Quartet as the entrance music. Once our guests arrived we had a ring ceremony. Brayden handed out one long string of ribbon among all of our guests. At the end of the string were our rings and they were passed along our guests, one by one, where people were invited to send us blessings, prayers, good thoughts, whatever you would like to call them onto our rings. Alex and I had some fun peeking out at our guests during this. I later found out that some of them didn’t even know we were back there until we came out.
The ceremony was beautiful. I don’t know how to put it into words how meaningful it was to us but I’m sure everyone realized when I started sobbing in the middle of it. I really really did not think I would cry. But in the moment all the emotion came rushing in and this ceremony honestly felt much more official than the one in the courthouse almost a year prior. With everyone standing there witnessing it, and being married by two people we love instead of a complete stranger, it felt totally different. It felt more like we were getting married for the first time.
When the ceremony ended I finally looked out to our guests for the first time. While there were many people’s faces missing from that crowd I was so happy and grateful for the ones who were there.
The first thing I did once we were back at the reception area was run to the bathroom and hold my dress up over my head. It was soooo hot!! My sister kindly wiped me down with a cold towel. I ended up having to do that a few times before the sun finally set. But honestly nothing was going to really bother me on this day. Everything was perfect.
We had a lovely dinner served in the gazebo. The staff there did an amazing job setting up all the decorations we had made. They even built a signpost for the wayfinding sign Alex and I made with all of our favorite locations on it. And a local florist made little wildflower bouquets to put in our vases. Outside we had setup some giant jenga and cornhole games. We planned on games instead of dancing because, well, actually we’ve never really even danced together. All the traditions of the first dance, father/daughter dance weren’t really our thing so we thought games would be a better fit. We totally underestimated our guests. Once dinner was over a few games were played including a surprise game from two friends. Since it was July 4th we lit some sparklers in honor of the holiday. And then, to our surprise, a serious dance party broke out and continued until the staff was telling us it was time to go to bed. Somewhere in there the cake and cupcakes were served. Made by an American friend I’d met in Munich they were called “the best thing I’ve ever eaten!” by one of our guests. Shortly after cake, a mosh pit broke out. It was the most unexpected and hilarious thing of the night and it was thoroughly entertaining to watch. I decided to exit at some point to avoid witnessing any damages. Luckily everyone survived and the gazebo was unharmed. Even with only 30 guests the night went by too quickly. I was really happy we had decided to make a weekend of it, otherwise I would have felt like I didn’t get enough time with everyone.
The next morning people trickled down to breakfast a little at a time and we reminisced about the previous evenings shenanigans and said our goodbyes. But the events weren’t over yet. Next up was our planned “familymoon” in Austria. What the hell is a familymoon you might ask? I think I made it up. Essentially we decided that instead of taking a honeymoon right after the wedding we would ask our families to join us on a trip so we could take advantage of my family finally being in Europe. For our actual honeymoon we are planning to take a road trip in 2016 and try and visit many of the people we would’ve loved to invite to our wedding but weren’t able to.
What follows on the next two pages are first, the photos my brother-in-law of Jeff Massey Photography took of the day preceding and the day following our wedding. He captures things better than I ever could. On our wedding day he was on duty as officiant and we wanted him as a guest at our reception so we had some amazing photographers handle that day for us. I can’t explain how lucky I feel to have found Urška Majer and Domen Kolšek of Urška & Domen Photography. They were a perfect fit and captured our wedding day like the fairytale that it was to us. I didn’t know how important wedding photos would be to me until we got these back from them. If you’re reading this and looking for a photographer I would highly recommend them. They’re willing to travel!