Gloria weddings | Blazing their own trail | (1/26/2012)

Everyone seems to have an opinion aboutthe “proper” time to get married. Generally, a couple dates for a fewyears, gets engaged and gets married about a year later. For Mandy andRyan Starski, that wasn’t the case.

The couple met at Michigan StateUniversity and dated for three whole days before agreeing to getmarried, Mandy Starski said. Four months later, the couple held a smallceremony at a local church for family and close friends. The bride was20 and the groom was 22. Both were still enrolled in college.

Almost two years later, they are stilltogether and happily planning the rest of their lives. Ryan graduatedfrom MSU last spring, and Mandy will complete her degree in May beforethe couple moves to Ryan’s hometown of Goodrich, where he iscampaigning to be a state representative.

“It made more sense to start off ourreal-world lives as a unit rather than separate,” Mandy Starski saidabout their decision to marry while still in school.

Ryan Starski said that starting theirlives together as a couple would make it easier to decide what wouldcome next, such as where they would live or what jobs they would have,because they had already made the decision to put the relationshipfirst before anything else: “It’s stronger for two trees to be knottedtogether from the bottom than it is for them to grow separately andindependent and then, halfway up, decide to come together.” 

Mandy Starski said the entire celebration cost less than $1,000, dress included.

Her secret? eBay. She ordered her dress online for less than $200.

“Money should never be an issue forgetting married because if you’re thinking that way then you’re notreally ready to get married,” Ryan Starski said.

“It should be about you and the other person, not about what’s in your pockets,” Mandy Starski agreed.

Even though Mandy is a practicing Pagan,the couple held their ceremony in a local Catholic church to honorRyan’s faith. That meant taking marriage prep classes, butsurprisingly, both the Starskis recommend similar classes to any couplelooking to get married.

“In the classes, they stress thatcommunication is key,” Ryan Starski said. “Most divorces happen becausethe parties won’t talk to each other.”

Mandy Starski said the classes had aCatholic slant to them, but she never felt pressured by the church togive up her faith and convert. Instead, the classes taught them abouteffective conflict resolution, got them to talk about big issues (likechildren and money) and paired them with a married couple with similarbeliefs to help coach them.

“The communication thing is vital,”Mandy Starski said. “(The class) wasn’t about being married Catholicsso much as it was about being married.”

Despite disapproval from some corners,the couple moved forward with their ceremony. Mandy Starski said thehardest part of getting married was the external forces — the friendswho criticized them for moving too quickly, or an ex-boyfriend and amother who jokingly asked if she was sure she wanted to go through withit.

“You brush it off as best you can and move on because it’s your wedding,” Mandy Starski said. “They can have their own wedding.”

Her biggest tip for brides, especially on the big day, is simple — breathe.

“Don’t stress about every tiny detailbeing perfect because you know its not going to be,” she said.“Something’s going to go wrong no matter how well you plan it, butthat’s OK. It just makes your day that much more unique.”

She said “exploiting the talents of yourfriends” and doing things yourself are good ways to help keep costs lowand involve more people in the event. She printed her own invitationsand programs and made her own garter for her wedding. A friend servedas the photography.

In lieu of a wedding cake, her grandmother made two pan cakes and put a wedding topper on one of them.

Following the wedding, the couple andsome wedding attendees headed to Olive Garden for dinner, skipping thebig reception where many brides shell out thousands of dollars on food,music and drinks.

“I would suggest, if you’re worriedabout a budget, having a small wedding and then a bigger reception foryour extended family and friends at a later date,” Ryan Starski said.

The couple stressed that spendingthousands on a wedding was not worth it, saying the money could bebetter spent on the down payment on a house.

“Your wedding is important, yes, butit’s one day,” Mandy Starski said. “It’s the rest of what comes afterthat’s the important part.”

The Starskis

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