(un)convention 2015 recap

Photo by Betty Clicker Early last month I had the honor of attending (un)convention Brooklyn - part business development workshop, part community-building/networking, part inspiration overload, ALL feminist bad-ass wedding vendors. As their site explains it, a "coalition of progressive, equality-minded wedding professionals, who love working with cool, creative, crazy-in-love couples." YES.

I was asked to speak on a panel about "How to be a Wedding Space Disrupter" - an overwhelming, but fab topic near and dear to my heart. I was joined by Kellee Kahlil of Loverly, photographer Oriana Koren, and blogger Kate Schaefer of H&H Weddings.


Photo by Betty Clicker

I struggle with the fact that my seemingly practical and down-to-earth way of doing things - from my website design, marketing, business practices, and actual wedding planning itself - is seen as disruptive or revolutionary. Yes, it felt that way 5 years ago. It sometimes still feels that way when I run into the odd vendor here or there who responds with a thinly veiled reason as to why they don't work with LGBTQ clients. But I couldn't help feeling disbelief that so many of us around the country still feel alone in the industry, feel odd for wanting something new to be reflected, feel scared to express our true feelings. It's like when my roommate and I were called "alternative" by a preppy douche in 2003 for having short hair. Whaaa???

So the room filled of 60 wonderful vendors both gave me hope and inspiration and also made me shake my head in disbelief that it's 2015 and we need a convention to discuss this. But we do. We so obviously do. And I was so glad to be there because it re-inspired me to do more to truly change the industry - while my blog posts and my leading by example are great, I could be doing more. I could be asking those vendors who refuse to work with LGBTQ clients - Why? I could be submitting more of my diverse weddings to blogs (blog submitting in general is something I... just don't do. But now I feel like I have more of a purpose for doing it!). I could be brainstorming and partnering with more like-minded vendors to create new content, new events, and new ideas.

Mostly, I was struck with this idea that actually hit me when I became a new mother. A couple months after having my daughter, I told someone "I could hear 'you're a good mom' every day and it still wouldn't be enough." Now, I'm not saying I actually think I'm a shitty mom. But I was talking about all of the constant jabber in our ears about being the perfect mom, and you have to do this and be this and don't do that and must do that. It's tough. I like to think of myself as a fairly strong person, and those doubts seep in on a daily basis.

Now take that and apply it to the wedding industry. Couples are hearing and seeing a barrage of must-do's, have to look like this, need to do thats. It's endless. And despite way more opportunities to feel supported than we had even five years ago (like Catalyst Wedding Co, A Practical Wedding, and Offbeat Bride, to name a few), I believe those couples need the constant reminders, much like "you're a good mom," except in the form of "you do you" - you have the wedding you want, here's what really matters, stay grounded and stay real and stay you. I used to think I could do just one blog post expressing my discontent or trying to remind couples of what their true motivation should be (um, marriage anyone? That thing that happens after a wedding?). But I'm realizing now I need to consistently disrupt. I and other wedding vendors like me need to consistently add our voices to shout through the wedding industry's incessant drone.

Trying to wrap all these ideas up into a neat little package, I find myself thinking of feminism in general. That at ALL of these big life moments - adolescence, dating, getting engaged, married, buying a house, having children (or none of the above!) - we often doubt ourselves based on what society is telling us we are supposed to do or supposed to be. The only way to combat that is to remind ourselves and each other that we have choices. That you can be childless and blissfully happy. That you can propose to your boyfriend. That you can wear a yellow wedding dress. Seeing and trusting that those choices are available and valid and real are essential to change. It's incredibly hard to trust in yourself without support. If I can help one person feel confident in their choices and supported at a very stressful time of life, I may not start a revolution, but I can at least be part of one.

Photo by Betty Clicker

Photo by J McCallum

Photo by Betty Clicker

Guest post on marriage

I got pretty personal over on Capitol Romance today - talking about what Fiji taught me about marriage. Please head on over there and check out my guest post - I hope you like it! Please enjoy my snorkel hair selfie as well. Keepin' it real. And in case it gets you in the marriage mood, a reminder of some past posts from my own blog about marriage and relationships:

Freedom in Commitment

And for you Bachelor fans, a post about The Bachelor (but really about staying firm and confident in your own relationship): When You Don't  Conform




How to Cancel Your Wedding

This July I had the unfortunate experience of helping a bride and her family handle the cancellation of her wedding - 6 days before the date.

It taught me a lot of great lessons - ones which I thought both couples and vendors could learn from - so I wanted to dive into this delicate, but real topic, and share some insight. Obviously one never wants to approach the planning of a wedding thinking about the worst-case scenarios. But whether one calls off a wedding due to cold feet or due to an act of God (hurricane, etc), those instances do sometimes happen - and it helps to be prepared.

The first is to have your contracts and vendor information organized. Have all signed contracts and vendor contact information in one easily accessible place so that you can review them and see what the next steps are - and so that you can easily pass that info on to someone else. Most likely, whatever the reason for the cancellation, you’re going to be dealing with a lot and there will be offers to help. Whether it’s your coordinator/planner, or a family member or friend stepping in to help alert vendors, it will make that transition as smooth as possible.

My main source of awe in this process was how many vendors didn’t have cancellation clauses in their contracts clearly outlining what they were to be paid in case of cancellation. Others had them but they were incredibly vague and confusing. It really surprised me. Because of this, some vendors lost out on the money they were expecting to be paid, while others had to negotiate with me and/or her father to figure out the next steps. Vendors - please oh please add a clear cancellation clause to your contract! And couples - please make sure all of your vendor contracts have a clear cancellation clause. If they don’t, ask for one to be added. The last thing you or your family will want to do if you’re dealing with the emotions of a cancellation is negotiate.

Unbeknownst to me, we also had one vendor who had never received a signed contract. Again, because of this, the vendor completely lost out on his payment (except the non-refundable deposit) - had the contract been signed, the cancellation clause would have been in place. Vendors - insist on receiving fully executed copies of your contracts! Refuse to move forward with a wedding until receiving the contract. Similarly, clients, understand that the reason vendors are asking for copies of these contracts signed is so that things are official and there is a legal document outlining services. Without a signed copy, the contract is worthless.

I also recommend to my clients that they purchase wedding insurance. Though even that may not cover ALL reasons for cancellation, it can help defray some of the costs should you need to delay or cancel your wedding. This could include loss of deposits, vendor no-shows, cancellation due to extreme weather conditions or acts of God, etc. I always tell couples that again - you don’t want to imagine it happening to you, but it does happen. A popular venue (where I actually hosted my husband’s 30th birthday party!) recently gained a lot of press because they shuttered unexpectedly, walking away with couples’ deposits and leaving them in the lurch with no venue. And let’s not forget all of the couples who lost big due to the hurricanes that hit our country recently. Wedding insurance is quite easy to purchase online from various sites such as or (or just through your own insurance company). The couple hundred bucks is worth it for the peace of mind.

Finally, though this is somewhat off-topic, I wanted to mention cooperation clauses. Prior to this wedding, I’d never understood the need for cooperation clauses in contracts. As a planner, I couldn’t wrap my brain around someone who would engage my services and then not show up for meetings, or not respond to emails. But one of the first signs that this wedding was going to be cancelled was that the bride and groom stopped responding to my emails in a timely manner, didn’t show up for meetings, and weren’t available for phone dates we’d scheduled. Had I had the cooperation clause in my contract, I could have rightly ended things right there. Instead, I was forced to continue to TRY and do my job, despite not having any information or details on the wedding. So vendors - add it to your contract. And couples - don’t be offended if you see it in a contract!

No one wants to imagine the worst when you’re imagining one of the happiest days of your life. But as a down-to-earth planner, I’ll be the first to tell you that marriage is all about how you handle the bad and the good times. If you take these small extra precautions, those bad times won't feel quite so bad - and you'll be quickly back on your feet to start working towards the good.

The Bachelor: when you don't conform

I have a confession to make. I watch The Bachelor. And The Bachelorette. I think it might be my guiltiest pleasure, but I just can't help myself. Mindless, crazy, reality television is sometimes awesome. Glad I got that off my chest.

This season of the Bachelor was one of the most controversial. Juan Pablo is pretty much a d*ck. I won't go into all the details, but over the course of the show he's shamed the women he hooked up with, repeatedly used his daughter for questionable decisions and behavior, said "vulgar" things to women, and generally came across as an emotionally stunted boy-man.

All that being said, the finale really struck me (I swear this is going somewhere). For those of you that missed it, he didn't propose. He gave the woman who had professed her love for him the rose, and told her he liked her a lot. On the "After the Final Rose" he was repeatedly pressured to tell his girlfriend that he loved her - questioned over and over about what his real feelings for her are, whether he loves her, why can't he just TELL HER THAT HE LOVES HER?? The hysteria and panic that accompanied this obsession with love really creeped me out.

Here's the thing: he was a d*ck. He wasn't a great man. He used the excuse "I'm just being honest" way too often to excuse bad behavior and mean comments. BUT. Can we stop for a moment and respect the fact that he didn't succumb to the pressure to propose? That sometimes real love stories take years to develop? That it's actually way more offensive for a man to propose because he's "supposed to"?

I love The Bachelor. It's ridiculous. But the extent to which the producers cling to this fairytale, this quest for love, this perfect ending is really quite frightening to me. Hopefully audiences know better than to trust in it. But when a host is looking at a couple who are dating, with one person who has said "I love you" and the other who hasn't and says in all seriousness "I don't know what I'm looking at!!" - what does that tell people? Are you kidding?? There are probably thousands of couples around the world experiencing and living that situation. Relationships are very often unbalanced. They continue to function. They continue to be happy. They're valid.

I guess where I'm going here is that I get really sad when the wedding industry (including wedding reality shows) so strongly perpetuates this fairy tale. That things have to be a certain way. That love looks a certain way. That love has to be clean, black & white, in love or not in love. I think it makes those in uncertain situations feel even worse, or doubt themselves. It makes the people who want a proposal from their partner anxious. It makes the person about to say "I love you" even more fearful that it might not be returned. More broadly, it plays into all these notions of perfection when it comes to weddings - the perfect day, the perfect dress, the perfect ring. I'm so tired of it.

I get that I'm talking about a really silly reality show. But it's on national television. And I think even ridiculous shows should draw the line somewhere and recognize that the world (and your crazy show) won't and doesn't fall apart when relationships are messy, unbalanced, and imperfect.

Juan Pablo, you're quite the d*ck, but I'm glad you didn't propose if you weren't feeling it.

Why non traditional weddings matter (a.k.a. what zombies can teach us all)

My sister recently participated in a very non-traditional wedding. Before I share the details (which are ridiculously amazing, FYI), I wanted to talk about why I think non-traditional weddings are so important - for everyone. Even those who don’t consider themselves “off-beat.”

Here’s the thing: I think when making major life decisions - marriage, kids, career - it’s important to question. Why do you want to do something in a particular way? What might it look like? What are the other options? And beyond the questions, perspective is key. Understanding where your point of view is coming from, what traditions you’re drawing from, why you envision something a certain way is important.

People who break from tradition make us think. They make us question. Would I ever want a wedding like that? A marriage like that? A job like that? Seeing non-traditional choices reminds us that the choices are there. That choices do exist in this world - a world that often makes us feel like we have none or that things have to be done a certain way. They let us take a step back and realize how many creative, crazy, fun options there are in life.

Long story short, I find weddings like the one my sister participated in to be really refreshing and a helpful way to blow your mind while also establishing your own opinions. You can’t know what you like and what you don’t unless you actually ask the question. Until you consider other possibilities. And hell, this wedding is NOT for everyone. In fact, one might argue this wedding was truly for this couple and this couple only. But it definitely made me think. And more importantly - smile.

So - speaking of things that inspire and make you question - my sister has always done that for me. She’s always pushing herself to try new things - rollerderby, rock climbing, and she recently did some aerial classes. One of her friends from that class asked her if she’d be interested in being a zombie at a wedding. You read that right. A zombie wedding.

Here’s the deal - the bride and groom staged a fairly traditional-looking ceremony. They wore a white dress and a suit, and an officiant began with some traditional (but funny) vows. Halfway through the ceremony, zombies emerged from the sides and started attacking the bride and groom. The bride and groom tore off their costumes (yes, these were tear-away bride and groom wear), to reveal zentai suits and starting battling the zombies. I’m sorry, but that just makes my day.

And that was only the beginning. My sister had this to say about the whole experience: “It was very fun, liberating (I got to look ugly at a wedding!), fun for the guests (many people asked if they could have their pictures taken with us afterwards), and probably the most individualized commitment ceremony ever (aerialist performances, videos of the couple, their favorite band played, and both the bride and the groom wore fabulous evening gowns for the dinner and dancing)” - I told you this was non-traditional!

I don’t have photos of the whole shebang (yet! hope to share some once they're available), but thought I’d leave you with pics of my sister as a kick-ass (and really scary) zombie as well as this final thought: this wedding was pretty extreme - but whether you’re considering zombies, or just considering non traditional centerpieces - remember to entertain the possibilities and ask the questions that will lead you towards a wedding that is truly yours. Sometimes exploring non-traditional paths can lead you towards your own path. That's true for weddings, and for life.

Here's to my anniversary

Today is my wedding anniversary.

It’s been a crazy year with lots of highs and lots of lows and I couldn’t have gotten through the hard and enjoyed the good without him.

So here’s to him. Here’s to my rock. Here’s to my favorite thing. Here’s to the best home chef I know. Here’s to the arms that make me feel safe. Here’s to the man who serenaded me on our wedding day and got the entire crowd to sing with him. Here’s to my adventurer. Here's to my laughter. Here's to watching in awe and ecstasy on your wedding day as your guy crushes his 80's dance moves to Poison. Here's to the man who made October 23rd my most favorite day. Here’s to my husband.

Happy anniversary from your Katie May

getting ready

our adventure book - UP!

Mom-made boutonnierres

personalized cake toppers by sister

Freedom in Commitment

The Atlantic published a wisdom-filled letter-to-the-editor a couple days ago from a gentleman describing what he'd learned in four decades of marriage. I encourage you to read his letter in full, as well as the article it was in response to. I was especially moved by his third piece of advice, "Freedom in Commitment"

"Most successful art or invention is born inside constraint.  What is beautiful or functional is shaped by boundaries. They say "here, but not there." Commitment is a sorting hat that crisply defines what belongs and what doesn't. Those edges are a source of freedom: they declare that you don't have to worry or consider what's outside of them." 

I enjoyed this bit of advice for two reasons. The first is that when asked why I liked producing theatre, I'd often quote a similar line - that most successful art develops within some kind of structure and order. As producer, I enjoyed being the one to create and maintain that structure and order while the artists created their art, and I truly do think it's an essential part of the creative process and I liked being part of that. What's funny is that until I myself got married, I didn't realize it also applied to marriage.

When people ask what surprised me most about marriage I always say that I was surprised by the sense of freedom. Before getting married, I feared that I'd one day feel trapped - that despite the fact that I was marrying someone amazing and perfect for me, somehow the institution of marriage would undoubtedly bound me and I'd lose my independence. But it was the complete opposite. For the first time in years and years and years I felt truly free. It's a beautiful feeling. So though it may not ring true for everyone, I love that this writer finally described what I've always been unable to explain - and did it so well and so wisely.