How To Have A Meaningful Wedding

Hey there! How it’s going?! It’s been so long since we’ve made any formal announcements. We do have some exciting news for you! Kathryn recently added baby no.2 to her growing family, so she’s currently soaking in all those newborn moments with little Susanna. So while Kathryn is on maternity leave, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce myself to you, because I don’t think we’ve met! Hi! I’m Christina! Aside from being the Managing Editor here at S&I for the past four and a half years, I’m also a wedding photographer! I actually have been photographing weddings far longer than working at Snippet & Ink, and I’m honored and proud to be doing both because my own personal philosophy on how I photograph and capture those special moments is also what Snippet & Ink is all about— creating weddings with meaning.

For the past several months, we’ve slowly been diving deeper into the meaningful aspects of a wedding by incorporating more ceremony scripts, wedding traditions, personal vows, and ceremony readings— we do this because our hope is that you, our dear readers, not only care about how beautiful your wedding will look, but really focus and hone in on what’s truly important to you and your partner. But putting aside our mission and intent for a minute, I wanna get real here (even though it’s hard!).

I was the bride that “knew it all” and wouldn’t allow anyone’s opinion or suggestions in because I was dead set on getting what I wanted. I was the bride that lived, breathed and obsessed with planning my wedding, and I probably annoyed many along the way. My friends and family were even afraid to have conversations with me about my wedding in fear of what my response would be (red flag anyone?). I was so deep in planning and narrowly focused that I missed all the important cues along the way. So, how do you have a meaningful wedding? The short answer? Don’t do what I did!

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I got married by Elvis. Yep, that’s right. I got married by Elvis, in Las Vegas, and no we didn’t elope, it was planned! I could probably talk about the inner workings of my wedding for hours as I certainly have analyzed my decisions over the past few years, but let’s cut to the point. I want to tell you why I think I missed the mark with my wedding, so you won’t make the same mistakes I did! Let me step back for a second—I did incorporate some meaningful things, for example: my mother-in-law, a jeweler, had my great-grandmother’s wedding ring from the 1930s replicated, my dad, a talented general contractor, built us a 6’x5’ sign that now hangs in our kitchen, it was important I walked down the aisle with my dad, and it was important my nieces were my flower girls. Aside from that, what I believe to be the most important part of the day (albeit entertaining and what we wanted at the time) was overlooked and I regret it.

We married in 2011 and back then ‘being published’ in print or on a blog was the biggest thing. Even though Pinterest and social media weren’t that big of a deal yet, blogs were blowing up! Add that to being a wedding photographer…I felt pressure to create an experience that was beyond magical and memorable for my guests. But my main objective was to get published in a magazine, so my wedding went from being a wedding to being another project. Are you reading this and horrified for me?! I’m embarrassed that I cared about all the wrong things! I put a lot of time and effort into creating the most beautiful details: I loved my stationery, I surprised my guests with heartfelt and thoughtful hand-written letters, I loved my shoes, the custom artwork/match boxes we made, the sign my dad made, my flowers, and most of all the man I was marrying, but 5.5 years later, the photos that mean the most to me and that I care about are the candids because they show the magic of how our wedding felt (which was over the top crazy).

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The one thing I didn’t control at my wedding was our ceremony and that to me was probably my worst regret, ever. I’m not a fan of being the center of attention, and so I thought having this ‘crazy circus’ ceremony (I’m talking laser lights, fog machines, Elvis serenading us, being driven into the chapel in a hot pink cadillac convertible) was going to take the attention off me. I mean, my guests were literally screaming as ‘I walked down’ the aisle (that was fun!). I didn’t want to have any readings because I never really thought about the significance of them, and I was embarrassed/shy to read vows to my groom in front of people (we opted for private love letters that we exchanged the morning of our wedding). I assumed that the vows would be traditional, meaning lines like “with this ring I thee wed” and “till death do us part”. But, to my (totally-really-not-kidding-I-was-freaking-surprised) surprise, Elvis had us say “uh huh” instead of “I do”. In that moment I was mortified. I feel the same today and feel I ruined that traditional experience for us. Although, I/we don’t regret getting married by Elvis (it was thrilling in the moment), if I could do it all over again, I’d really put some thought, time and care into our ceremony. And, I probably should have listened to my husband’s first suggestion to have a low key city hall wedding (we certainly would have saved a lot of money!).

P.S. In case you’re wondering — our wedding did get published in Destination I Do magazine. Not related: I had my hubby read this before publishing today and he said “I loved our ceremony, it was rock ‘n’ roll” (which is very much us, and I think it’s sweet that he makes me feel better about it). Speaking of “rock ‘n’ roll,” because our Elvis wasn’t officially ordained by the state of Nevada, we were ushered into this windowless, dark basement-like room where a real ordained ‘minister’ asked us if we take each other to be husband and wife. We didn’t say “I do” then, but that ‘unofficial’ part of the ceremony (because it was spontaneous and I didn’t expect it) was more real then the circus of a ceremony we had. 


So here are my tips for having a meaningful wedding:

1. Talk to your fiancé about what’s most important to both of you. Lay down your negotiable and non-negotiables from the start.

2. Include your family as much as you possibly can. My mom really wanted to be included in more things and I didn’t let her. I should have given her a special dance between us like she wanted. I should have had her there with me getting ready. I don’t know why I didn’t ask to wear my grandmother’s wedding veil. All these things I would take back in a heartbeat.

3. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to have your wedding. Do whatever you want! I had two best friends and I wish I knew that I could have two maids of honor. I’m really not sure why I thought I could only have one. 

4. CARE about your ceremony. I don’t like to be the center of attention, so saying personal vows in front of people is not my jam, but not getting to say “I DO” was a big regret. Care about the words and intentions of your ceremony because you only get one! Think about readings that hold true to you and your partner. What are words that really speak to you? And, who are some important people who should read them? My best friend recently got married and I made sure that she really was thoughtful with her wedding ceremony. Her groom surprised her by belting out a 5-song medley as his vows. And, her surprise to him was having her best friends (me included) recite some of her journal entries about how they first met, their courtship, and her gushing about how much she was into him. Their ceremony was the most meaningful and magical I have ever witnessed. 

5. Learn to let things go. The most amazing moments happen when you least expect them! Be present and just feel the day. A few things won’t go according to plan, so give yourself permission to let it go! When I arrived to “the chapel” all my 90 guests were waiting outside to be let in. I had a panic attack and wouldn’t get out of the limo because I didn’t want anyone to see me before the ceremony. I remember demanding my mom to come and help so she could convince the limo driver to drive around the block because I wouldn’t get out, but instead she just pushed all my 90 guests back so they wouldn’t see me. Thinking back on this, I wish I would have just embraced saying hello to all my guests! How magical would that have been? Things not going in order of how I planned caused unnecessary anxiety for me (someone should have given me a xanax!), and I wish I knew in that moment to “just let it go”.  

6. Don’t feel pressure to spend more then you have. Sticker shock is real—especially when it comes to the cost of weddings. And it’s not worth starting your marriage off in debt! If you can’t afford something, think outside the box, and be okay with the plan slightly changing course. There were a few leading factors as to why we married in Vegas, but one of them was budget. I knew we couldn’t afford the wedding we wanted in San Francisco, where we live. My dream venue was actually Bimbo’s 365 Club, but almost our whole budget would have been getting in the door and feeding everyone! It wouldn’t leave anything else for photos, event coordination, and all the other fun things I loved so much. Of course in retrospect, we could have married in SF, but on a much smaller scale and with only immediate family, but I was so focused on “getting published” that I couldn’t allow myself to get creative and think outside the box.

7. Speaking of immediate family—make space to have time and experiences with them! I wish I had more time with them at my wedding. The whole weekend flew by too fast and I wish I could go back and savor those moments.

8. Research your family history. See if there’s anything interesting to you that’s part of your culture, upbringing, or traditions that mean something to you! My husband is from Hawaii and we didn’t really incorporate many Hawaiian traditions that were meaningful to him, though to be fair, we did have a Kalua Pig for dinner. But why didn’t we have leis at the very least? It’s not like they would clash with Vegas!


Photography by Sonya Yruel.


Whether you’re already married, or in the thick of wedding planning, what are some meaningful aspects you’re incorporating into your day? Or, do you have any regrets you want to share? Join the conversation!

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  • Thanks for this! I’m getting married in July and have been going through these thoughts myself since I’m also a wedding vendor! It’s important to me to highlight my skills and my professional contribution to my wedding, but not at the expense of having the event itself be truly meaningful. It was really helpful to go through your list and compare that to my own!

  • Erin says:

    Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story with us! It was wonderful to read!

  • Love this advice! These are great actionable steps for engaged couples. I especially love number seven about making space for family during your engagement.

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