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Wednesday, January 11,2012

Blazing their own trail

Ryan and Mandy Starski didn’t listen to the naysayers — and they’re glad

by Nyssa Rabinowitz
Everyone seems to have an opinion about the “proper” time to get married. Generally, a couple dates for a few years, gets engaged and gets married about a year later. For Mandy and Ryan Starski, that wasn’t the case.

The couple met at Michigan State University and dated for three whole days before agreeing to get married, Mandy Starski said. Four months later, the couple held a small ceremony at a local church for family and close friends. The bride was 20 and the groom was 22. Both were still enrolled in college.

Almost two years later, they are still together and happily planning the rest of their lives. Ryan graduated from MSU last spring, and Mandy will complete her degree in May before the couple moves to Ryan’s hometown of Goodrich, where he is campaigning to be a state representative.

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

Ryan Starski said that starting their lives together as a couple would make it easier to decide what would come next, such as where they would live or what jobs they would have, because they had already made the decision to put the relationship first before anything else: “It’s stronger for two trees to be knotted together from the bottom than it is for them to grow separately and independent 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 for getting married because if you’re thinking that way then you’re not really 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 honor Ryan’s faith. That meant taking marriage prep classes, but surprisingly, both the Starskis recommend similar classes to any couple looking to get married.

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

Mandy Starski said the classes had a Catholic slant to them, but she never felt pressured by the church to give up her faith and convert. Instead, the classes taught them about effective conflict resolution, got them to talk about big issues (like children and money) and paired them with a married couple with similar beliefs to help coach them.

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

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

“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 detail being perfect because you know its not going to be,” she said. “Something’s going to go wrong no matter how well you plan it, but that’s OK. It just makes your day that much more unique.”

She said “exploiting the talents of your friends” and doing things yourself are good ways to help keep costs low and involve more people in the event. She printed her own invitations and programs and made her own garter for her wedding. A friend served as 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 and some wedding attendees headed to Olive Garden for dinner, skipping the big reception where many brides shell out thousands of dollars on food, music and drinks.

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

The couple stressed that spending thousands on a wedding was not worth it, saying the money could be better spent on the down payment on a house.

“Your wedding is important, yes, but it’s one day,” Mandy Starski said. “It’s the rest of what comes after that’s the important part.”

The Starskis´ strongest advice to couples is to be true to themselves and do what is best for them, no matter who disapproves.

“It wasn’t just a feeling — for us it was about knowing,” Ryan Starski said of their decision to get married so quickly. “It’s about being prepared to be with that person for the rest of your life.”

He said their ramped-up timeline just made their wedding unique.

“It’s based on you and your partner,” Mandy Starski added. “Whatever they say, don’t listen. It’s about you two, and you have to make sure they realize that, too.

“There are things that we’ve always wanted since we were little girls, and sometimes that doesn’t happen and it’s a better story because of it. It’s not necessarily things that you do differently — it’s just things that are different.”

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