Paper. Cotton. Wood. Whatever! Throw out everything you think you know about wedding anniversary traditions (and the gifts that go with them), and take a few pointers from Emily and Michael Rand's method of annual love-and-marriage celebration!
photos: Isaac Haaland Studios
A little background: Taylor and I are members of a Bible study group led by the Rands. A few months ago Emily started asking the married members of our group if we had our wedding gowns with us on Maui, then requested that we save the date for their anniversary in November. Rather than toasting their nuptials solo each year, Michael and Emily invite their married friends to dress up in their wedding attire and join them in hitting the town for an evening of celebration. It's a tradition they started on their first anniversary and they've upheld it every year since!
Getting to wear "the dress" again is only part of the fun. Dinner follows—always at a Thai restaurant—and a fun activity concludes the evening. This year (their sixth anniversary) we were treated to a fun sunset photoshoot on the beach and we also went to a trampoline park together! SO much fun. People were smiling, clapping, and taking selfies with us all evening. Oh, and the service at the restaurant we went to was impeccable...super speedy. There really is something special about a wedding dress!
After experiencing this unique tradition for myself, I had to interview Emily and get the scoop on how it all began. Read on to learn more about the Rands' short 4-month engagement, DIY wedding, and the origins of what seriously might be the coolest anniversary tradition of all time!
Emily + Michael's Short Engagement and Amazing Anniversary Tradition
Karley: You guys were only engaged for 4 months. What made you decide on a short engagement?
Emily: "We actually wanted to have an even shorter engagement but none of our family could make it in time, so four months was the earliest we could make it happen. We knew we wanted to get married and had known for a while, but I was trying to make the Olympics that year (Karley's note: Casual, right? Emily is a talented runner.) and I didn’t want to get distracted from planning. I got injured that year though so my season ended early, and Michael proposed literally the last day I had practice. We had a lot of resources around us—people who planned events for a living or were involved in the wedding industry somehow—so I wasn’t worried about pulling it off quickly. In hindsight, I’m glad we had the four months because it was a really fun time. I was actually a little sad after it was done because I wanted to keep doing crafts and planning things!"
K: How much of your wedding did you DIY and how much did you delegate?
E: "I pretty much did it all, but since I was doing college ministry at the time, I also had a lot of college girls who always wanted to help me. Instead of going to get coffee I would say, 'We’re going to do this craft' and have my 'minions' do things. I went dumpster diving a lot and found a ton of wine bottles and beer bottles and other random stuff, so the majority of our decorations were free things that I turned into decor. We knew a person who owned a dahlia farm, and since most of the blooms were on their way out in November, they let us come and pick what was left for free to use as our flowers. We didn't do a meal, just dessert. I made a bunch of Oreo truffle balls and some of the college girls also wanted to help, so I gave them suggestions and money to cover the cost of food and they just went crazy. For drinks, we went around town and asked random people with apple trees if we could have them, then pressed them ourselves with friends so that we could serve fresh-pressed apple cider and carbonated apple cider at our wedding."
K: What about your wedding venue and bigger rental items?
E: "The venue was our church's camp, so we got a really good deal on that. We built a wooden pergola for the ceremony that we added fabric to, and we also created some of the other items featured at the ceremony and reception. Michael’s parents brought their sailboat in as part of our decorations and we used that to hold gifts. Also, three of our friends had weddings leading up to ours, so they gave us a lot of tablecloths and things they had purchased. When creating the DIY decor, I really tried to make things that we could use to decorate our house with later so it wasn’t just a one and done thing after the wedding."
K: That's so cool, and it's also so reflective of your anniversary tradition! Most brides only wear their dress once, but you've worn yours seven times to date. Where did that idea come from?
E: "Our first anniversary was approaching, and we had a couple other friends who had gotten married around the same time as us. We were all talking about how we wanted to wear our wedding dresses again and tossed around the idea of going out on the town in our gowns. Michael really wanted to plan our first anniversary, so he talked to them without me knowing it. I came home on our anniversary and he said, 'Get in your dress—that’s all you need to know.' He surprised me by driving to our friend's apartment, where all of our friends were waiting in their wedding attire! We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner and went bowling afterward. Michael also invited our bridal party and they all came in their wedding attire too.”
The Rands' first wedding anniversary—where the tradition first began!
K: Since starting this tradition have you ever skipped a year?
E: "We have never missed a year. For the first four years we always had one of the 'original' couples coming with us. On our fifth anniversary one of the couples had just had a baby so they couldn’t come out, but we went to their house in our wedding attire so they could have a mini celebration and be a part of it."
K: This year marked your first anniversary celebration in Hawaii. How did it compare?
E: "It was still just as fun and exciting with all new couples. In the past we've only had three other couples participate, so to have seven couples was amazing. My goal is to have it grow every year, but it never really worked out that way, so to have six other couples on our sixth anniversary was like a dream come true!"
K: Is this tradition a forever thing, or do you have an end date in mind?
E: "We will keep doing it until I can’t fit in the dress or it falls apart. I would like to at least make it to year ten. The biggest thing is that I'm having trouble trying to think of other new activities—so far we've done bowling, mini golf, an arcade, desserts, laser tag, and a trampoline park!"
At the arcade celebrating year three!
K: What advice would you give to other brides interested in replicating this tradition?
E: "Have fun with it! If you’re super concerned with preserving your dress you’re probably not going to have a good time. Also, don’t be embarrassed to go out in your wedding dress. The thing I love is that it's not only fun for me, but it makes everybody else’s day too. One year a little girl came up and asked if I was a princess. The reactions that you get are so good—seeing multiple brides is such a cool thing, they just love it. You pay so much for your dress, and you’re not going to make that much money selling it back, but if you can continue to get more use out of it it’s so much more fun. There are so many more memories you can make in your dress other than on that one special day!"
Based on my experience as a guest bride, I would also suggest hiring a photographer and maybe even a videographer for the day! It was such a treat to get photos back from Isaac Haaland Studios and relive the entire experience. I've included one of my favorites of Taylor and me below, and you can also catch a behind-the-scenes look at the day on film courtesy of my friend Jenn Rogers' amazing YouTube channel, Above the Waves!
Thank you, Rands, for blessing us with this unforgettable experience. We treasure your friendship and loved celebrating you—cheers to wearing out our wedding gowns with love and memories!
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