what I have been calling,
A Team Wedding
I don’t know how to describe this concept to those who weren't there, and even some of those who did attend may still be confused. However, Jason and I were thrilled with how everything turned out and I want to pass along the idea to other couples. So, I am going to try to explain what happened using the 5W1H technique from elementary school.
A Team Wedding. A multi-day celebration that was built by our community of friends and family. A pot-luck lunch. Shared expertise. Friends as vendors. Participation in the ceremony and event in some way by every guest.
Instead of wedding gifts we requested that our wedding guests sign up for a 'participation' component of the wedding. This was an extreme level of the delegating that many wedding websites advocate for to help elevate the stress of planning such a large and complicated event.
It wasn't purely a pot-luck since it was much more involved and complex, also the participation expanded beyond food. It wasn't crowd-sourced in a conventional fund-raising way but the theory is similar.
Firstly, it was truly because we wanted it this way. I had envisioned this type of wedding for most of my adult life - not as extensive in terms of participation but I always liked the idea of involving people close to me to help put the event together.
We had noticed that the best events, especially weddings, in our memories were those that we participated in or helped with. The most personal events were those that had been prepared in love and collaboration. We wanted to re-create that type of occasion.
Secondly, we hoped it would help with cost. It was a rare suggestion, but we had seen 'ask friends and family to offer help and services' on a few 'how to plan a wedding on a budget' lists. Weddings are insanely expensive and we didn't want to cut back our guest list, which is the number one suggestion on all the aforementioned lists. Hiring the various vendors needed to have an event for 150 people, especially in Toronto, adds up quickly and eliminating those costs by having guests fill some roles would really help the bottom line.
Confidence! Courage! Clarity! Consistency! Communication! Conviction!
Wedding planning is challenging. It took a lot of determination to stick with our vision and ignore the confusion, comments or judgement that might come our way. I think if we approached this concept in a questioning or timid manner it might not have turned out as well. But our ideas were met with love and support. We were the champions of our wedding and this concept, our guests were all on board.
As for the logistics, I will try to outline this using the remaining questions - Where, When, and Who.
Online. The choice to invite guests and coordinate the event digitally was partly born out of the desire to cut costs but mainly for the speed and ease of communication. Google Docs and emailing meant people could collaborate easily and having a wedding website allowed us to clarify details, storing important information for guests to reference later.
Also, our choice of venue at a community centre helped project the vibe of cooperation. We were left to our own devices without an event planner or venue manager. This gave us and our guests open access to a large kitchen, bar area, and event necessities like tables and chairs.
We sent out the invitations very early. Our first email contacting our guests was in February, for a late-September event. This was not a 'save the date' we had location and timing details already. We used Google Forms for our invitations, I have made them public so that others can see what they looked like. We sent out an email inviting guests and asking that they complete a survey as their RSVP. There was an ADULT and CHILD survey. The important part of these forms is the bottom section where we provided a list of suggestions as to how guests could participate. We also made sure to mention in this initial email (and frequently reminded people) that we were declining wedding presents.
We sent reminders in April to those who hadn't yet responded. In May we thanked everyone for getting back to us and let them know we would be in touch regarding their possible role at the wedding. We spent the summer reaching out to everyone and asking for their help with various elements of our wedding.
To ease the planning process, and give people an easy contact on the wedding day, we designated leaders for each of the areas that guests were helping with. These close friends or family members then fully arranged a section of the event with people that they may have never met. We had Food Coordinators, Activity Leaders, Decorating Managers, and more. We could direct others to them with questions.
We know our guests well, which is why we wanted them at our wedding, and why we didn't want to have to cut down the guest list. So, we took our knowledge of their skills and interests into consideration when requesting their assistance.
It turned out amazingly! Better then we could have ever imagined. Jason and I are so thankful to everyone who attended and assisted and made the day so special. We hope that our guests enjoyed themselves and felt like this style of Team Wedding, having everyone helping with the event, added to the experience. It was so touching to see what we all built together; it was a fun, beautiful, memorable, and wonderful day.