I recently wrote about a friend’s potluck wedding reception, where family and friends fed each other, sharing their joy and love with the happy couple. The Fella and I aren’t having a potluck wedding, but for the past few months, I’ve been musing that our DIY wedding feels like a barnraising: our loved ones keep enthusiastically pitching in, lending their strength and talents to help us build something of value.

If you browse wedding forums or advice columns, you’ll soon bump into shrill warnings against this approach. Naysayers dismiss the handmade, homemade, shared nature of the event. It’s tacky, it’s rude, it’s cheap. It’s inconsiderate to expect guests to contribute to Your Special Day.

Of course guests don’t want to do your dirty work, but you can accept loving assistance (and even ask for it) without being rude or demanding. Some thoughts guiding our own requests:

– Our friends miiiiight enjoy showcasing their talents. They would not enjoy predictable drudgery; we’ll pay people for that.
– Any guest’s wedding-day contribution should be brief. Everyone wants to have fun!
– Things will go wrong. It doesn’t matter. If the cake falls over, if the photos don’t come out, if the iPod freezes… we’ll still be married at the end of the day.
-If anyone seems hesitant, for any reason or for no reason at all, we’ll withdraw our request.
If we ask you to consider helping out, it’s because we value your talent and we trust your judgment. That includes the judgment that leads you to say, “No, I’d rather not.”
In fact, we’ve made few requests so far; our family and friends keep amazing us with their offers of help, offers far more generous, creative, and serendipitous than we could have imagined.
Behind the click is a loooooong list of the help being offered, and a few requests we plan to make.

Gaoo quickly informed us that she would give us our wedding cake — a lavish and loving gift, and one that I actually dream about some nights. Sweet dreams indeed! Mmm, cake. Gaoo has also been an invaluable sounding board for menu ideas, and she’ll lend us some kitchen hardware, serving pieces, and the use of an extra freezer for our homemade wedding foods.

My oenophile brother B offered to negotiate with his local wine merchant, saving us trouble and time and giving us the advantage of his expertise. (Update: and now he tells me that he’d like to give us the wedding wine as a gift. Gasp! Do you see what I mean about generosity, creativity, and serendipity?)

The Fella’s sister T beamed with pleasure when she agreed to perform our ceremony. I got all teary-eyed… and I think she may have, too.

Watching me prep crudités before a recent party, Mom offered to do this task on the wedding weekend, so I don’t spend stay up ’til midnight before the wedding cutting up veggies for the mezze. Remembering the artistry of the fruit plates sister-in-law M has assembled at previous gatherings (who knew fruit could look so good? Oh, right — the Dutch Masters), I’m hoping I can persuade her to arrange the cheese & fruit platters for the buffet.

The Fella’s mother handstitched a ring pillow, partly for the pleasure of her granddaughter the ringbearer. I’ll be asking my squadron of nieces and nephews — them what’s willin’, anyhow — for help executing a small silly surprise on the wedding day. (Stay tuned, young’uns.)

A few friends are already excited about making iPod playlists or mix CDs, which we’ll play through the magnificent amplifier provided by brother-in-law J. My mother can’t wait to get her hands on our (few) flowers. Elli offered to design our wedding invitations, and when we decided instead to make casual hand-stamped cards, she cast aside all professional judgment to praise them.

Best woman and accomplished seamstress K offered to make me a dress. I ended up finding something readymade, but one night soon soon K and I will piece together frippery to gussy up my simple sale-rack outfit. I’ll provide the wine, the movie, some snacks, and a pile of organza flowers made with my own two hands. I also haven’t forgotten her offer to help me make honeymoon pajamas, which sounds like an excuse for wine-drinking if ever there was one.

We’re asking a few talented friends if they’re willing to bring their cameras and shoot either a brief list of family photos or a random stream of candid shots, but not both. (Truthfully, this is one request I’m wary of making. I had almost decided against it when, out of the blue, a photographer-friend volunteered enthusiastically and suggested we ask the same of a few others. We will ask… but gingerly.)

Our honeymoon will be a few days at The Fella’s family’s beach cottage. On a recent visit, his mother told me how happy she is that we’re adding to the cottage’s family history, and hinted at preparations to make it even more romantic. Her kindness — and her tacit inclusion of me in the stream of “family history” — brought tears to my eyes.

Let the naysayers call us tacky or cheap. They have no idea what they’re missing. Any big party means plenty of work and some ingenuity, but at every turn, we’re greeted with the support and help of those dearest to us, whose creative energy appears to be as boundless as their love. It makes this celebration feel so meaningful, so drenched in love and kindness, and far more intimate than if we had handed off these elements to paid strangers.

1 thought on “barnraising

  1. For whatever reason, MT ate up Simon’s comment, so I’m reposting it.
    We got a few friends to take all the photos, dividing the day between them so that they all got a chance to put their cameras down, but still for some moments they all took shots, giving us lots of different angles on, for example, the rice-throwing.
    We also organised car-pooling which a) avoided the expense of hiring a coach to get everyone there, and b) forced people to mix up and chat, at least for the duration of the drive to the location.

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