Nothing new under the (wedding) sun

creative simplicity

Last week, I wrote about DIY illusions, and I feel like I have to come clean. Roxanne’s comment reminded me that it’s nearly impossible to discuss DIY culture and not mention weddings. I did it, though—I churned out the whole piece without mentioning the “W” word once. As it turns out, my fiancé and I are awash in the final weeks of planning our wedding. Although the topic is at the forefront of my mind, I thought I’d do this space a favor and leave all of that wedding business out. I figured there’s already enough (and perhaps too much) internet real estate devoted to the chiffon/taffeta/burlap/mason jar dream of getting hitched with all the trimmings.

If you’ll allow me, though, I’d like to reflect a bit further on DIY culture, a trend that has both fascinated and bewildered me as we’ve navigated the wedding planning process since our engagement in March. Much of our wedding is “DIY,” in the sense that we’re doing it ourselves. The only professional we’ve hired is a photographer, so many of the logistical and material aspects of the day will be created and executed by ourselves or our loved ones. But this isn’t what I mean at all when I use the letters “D-I-Y.”

DIY culture, I think, is a pervasive sense that the material aspects of a wedding, or a home, or a life, for that matter, are only special and meaningful when they are crafted and personalized and customized by oneself, for oneself. There's certainly something special about the things we make ourselves, but the pressure to create-your-own everything can sometimes be overwhelming. Perhaps this anxiety is fueled by our overexposure to the intimate details of the lives of others and a resulting desire to differentiate ourselves.

Weddings are such a common life cycle event, but after you’ve ogled wedding blog photos from around the world, followed by a healthy dose of your 500 favorite Facebook friends’ weddings, “common” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s hard not to wonder whether there is anything new under the sun.

I went to a talk this weekend by Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, and I couldn’t help but apply his perspective on creativity more broadly to weddings and other aspects of life too (I hope he doesn’t mind!). The idea is simply to get comfortable with the idea that nothing is completely original. Our creative works (and our homes and our weddings) are composites of the objects and the people and the ideas that have come before us.

This approach isn’t meant to be depressing, but rather freeing. What’s different and special each time a new poem is written, or a new couple gets married, is simply the remix of influences and the presence of the individuals themselves who are creating or transitioning or moving through life, like those who’ve gone before them. That’s all, and that’s enough.

Sometimes I’ve wondered in the past few months whether we’re doing enough to make our wedding feel personal or unique. We haven’t managed to cover anything in burlap or chalkboard paint (yet?), because we’re too busy arranging basic things, like matching up the number of chairs with the number of tushes. I’m relieved to be reminded, though, that everything we’re doing has been done before. What’s different this time is simply that we’re the ones doing it, together.