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July 04, 2016

Throw wedding tradition out the window

How mindfulness can help you to be yourself and have fun

Mindful Mondays Weddings
Christie_Honigman_Wedding1 Amanda Onorato/for PhillyVoice

Christie and Brandon Mandia after exchanging vows at The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

It may seem at first glance that mindfulness and weddings are two concepts that do not go together but I have to tell you that some of the key skills that I learned in my mindfulness practice are the very same skills that I employed on my wedding day and in making all of the decisions that led up to it.

When learning about mindfulness, the concept of having a “beginner’s mind” is introduced. A beginner’s mind is a clean palette, like a child’s, innocently experiencing and exploring. As adults, our brains naturally want to categorize things based on our past experiences; we see things, we judge them – consciously or sub-consciously.

I distinctly remember, on multiple occasions, stopping to look around and remind myself how lucky and grateful I was to be there, in that moment, with everyone I love, appreciative of everyone who made the day possible.

For our wedding, we tried to come to the planning process with beginner’s minds. We asked questions openly and weighed the drawbacks and benefits of each decision, attempting to do so barring any preconceived notions. I must say, it is difficult to forget what you’ve already seen; it feels more natural to conform to what you know. In fact, I almost gave in along the way and sold myself out by being too traditional. In the end, I went back to my original plan of being non-traditional and it felt so right, I didn’t care who thought it was wrong. Moral of the story, forget what you know about weddings and what other people have done. Ask yourself instead, ‘what do you want?’

In doing so, I realized what was really important to me was the marriage, not the wedding. First and foremost, the wedding is just a party. Don’t lose focus of that. In terms of the details, do what feels right to you. If you want to get married at City Hall or if you want to elope-do it! If you want candles instead of flowers, or if you want your dog to walk you down the aisle- knock yourself out. Staying true to what brings you joy is what will make the day memorable for you and your guests.

Here are a few examples of decisions that we made to try to stay true to ourselves throughout our wedding:

1) We chose to have a smaller wedding in Stone Harbor, New Jersey at The Reeds at Shelter Haven rather than a larger traditional wedding in Philadelphia because that is our favorite local getaway and where we started dating.

2) We chose not to register or have a bridal shower because we both had fully stocked apartments, complete with dishes, silverware, pots and pans. Living in the city, we have limited space and didn’t want our friends and family to waste money on things that would ultimately have to be put in storage.

3) We chose not to have bridal parties. I have one sibling, a brother, C.J. and Brandon has one sibling, a sister, Fara. C.J. stood for me as witness to our vows and Fara stood for Brandon. It was so special to have them on either side of us, as we became husband and wife. Also, our three nieces, Kendall, Reese and Reagan were honorary bridesmaids.

4) My “bachelorette” celebration started with a very civilized dinner at Barclay Prime organized by the fabulous Justin Pizzi. The guest list was comprised of two couples, two single guys and three single girls. Not all girls, just all friends celebrating over dirty martinis and Kobe beef. And of course, no bachelorette would be complete without a little after dinner dancing in the Gayborhood at Woody’s Bar

5) Our actual wedding ceremony was probably the most special piece of the entire experience. We chose the readings ourselves which included one Catholic reading read by our brother in law Greg Skalicky, Romans 12: 9-16, “The Hands” reading and a Buddhist reading about the Four Elements of Love read by my Aunt Nancy Connor.

6) Our music during the ceremony also made the wedding feel really personal to us. For procession, recession and other interludes we had selections from Coldplay (The Scientist), The Roots (You Got Me), Bob Marley (Could You Be Loved) & The Beatles (Here Comes the Sun) all accompanied by electric violin. Our music director for the wedding was the amazing Eddie Tully who walked us through the entire process, listening to our every request and even had the instrumentalist learn Jay Z & B’s Bonnie & Clyde on the violin

7) We really didn’t want to waste money on flowers. We met Nancy of Coventry Crossing Florist and Michael from Weddings Down the Shore and they put together the most beautiful tablescape. We decided to skip boutonnieres altogether for fear of looking “prom-y” and also opted for the girls to carry preserved lavender, so they can keep it forever.

8) We kept the dress code relaxed, and didn’t require men to wear ties. Perhaps in Philadelphia, we couldn’t have got away with this but seeing as we were making people drive to the shore after a long week of work, we wanted guests to be as comfortable as possible. In fact, Brandon took his tie off for most of the reception so he felt comfortable and I was happy he was because he supported me in being comfortable in what I was wearing as well which was a nontraditional dress.

Amanda Onorato/for PhillyVoice

Christie and Brandon Mandia shortly after becoming husband and wife.

9) Another thing we opted to do was have one speech, my father’s. It was so memorable, both heartfelt and hilarious. I am so glad that we decided to have just one speech, right before dinner as salads were served. He welcomed everyone so graciously and got the night started off on the right note.

10) Lastly, we skipped the elaborate dessert display. We had only our wedding cake which was delicious buttercream cake with buttercream icing, that I copied from Jackie Kennedy’s cake. To supplement, we had sweet favors made by Johnson’s Popcorn. They were such a hit and Johnson’s was so great to work with. It gave people something fun to take away and honestly, I wouldn’t do a favor that wasn’t edible because they just get thrown away. It gave us a chance to thank guests for “popping in!”

The general theme here is to be aware of what you want. The skill of being self-aware has really been transformative for me. I believe some of this comes with maturation and experience but there is certainly a piece of this that is enhanced by the practice of mindfulness. Simply being in touch with what you want, what makes you happy, and what makes you feel comfortable are things worth knowing, always, and especially as you get married. Worry less about what others think, focus instead on what is important to you.

Finally, the skill of being able to be in the moment, with gratitude made my wedding unforgettable for me. I distinctly remember, on multiple occasions, stopping to look around and remind myself how lucky and grateful I was to be there, in that moment, with everyone I love, appreciative of everyone who made the day possible. I will forever cherish that day and will continue to move through life’s journey, mindfully.