Long before I got married I was skeptical, to say the least, of the following ideas people had about weddings:
- The wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life (that’s way too much pressure for one day to carry, and what— is it all downhill from there??)
- It’s all about the bride and what she wants (hello, this is the groom’s wedding too, and if he cares about how things are done, then he gets equal say)
- The invitation list (and who accepts and declines) makes and breaks friendships (sometimes the budget prevents inviting everyone you love, sometimes life circumstances prevent someone coming who is really important to you, and true friendships will survive these limitations)
And don’t get me started on the Wedding Industrial Complex that ropes couples into stopping at nothing to realize all their Pinterest-perfect dreams to have the most unique, most memorable, most envied wedding of all time.
But I, too, had dreams of what I wanted my wedding to be. I’d collected mental images from various weddings I’d been to over the years– things I definitely wanted and things I definitely didn’t.
Some of my dreams didn’t account for marrying someone from another country and neither of us having any money. I sobbed one day after getting off Skype with my guy, lamenting that we couldn’t afford to have one big wedding that included all of the people I loved and all of the people he loved. Step one in my wedding compromise: determining that I’d rather have him than the wedding of my dreams.
Over the next few months I made several more accommodations for my groom’s dreams as he made lots of accommodations for mine. We argued, and we found compromises, some I loved and some I could live with. We cut the guest list to 28 (an introverted wedding!) and simplified as much as we could, but the month (and especially the week) before the wedding we endured more stress than I had in any other time of my life. I asked myself several times why we weren’t eloping instead of busting our asses to try to host these 28 people well, some of whom weren’t really happy for me anyway. Well, because I love them, and because I wanted them to share in my joy that I’d finally found the one my heart loved and who loved me back.
I was anything but joyful the day of the wedding. I won’t tell you the specifics because I don’t want to end up on some Pinterest board of “Disasters to avoid for your wedding.” But suffice to say, I was stressed and angry and embarrassed, and I was trying my darnedest to not have a meltdown (though I failed at least twice). I tried to remember the encouragement from a friend who told me earlier in the week, “The only thing that HAS to happen for your wedding to be a success is that you are married by the end of the day.” And although part of my anger and embarrassment was directed at the man I was about to marry, I walked down the aisle and said my vows to him knowing that we had overcome bad days before, and that we would overcome this one, too.
And there were bright spots. My mother in law gave me a brooch that had been her mother’s, welcoming me into the family as her daughter. My brother (the only man consistently in my life since I was two) walked me down the aisle, and my sister stood by my side as my witness. My mentor/father figure performed the ceremony. My little nephews endeared themselves to me the whole evening. A friend of mine gave the most heart-warming toast. Almost everyone absorbed their irritation at the inconvenience of last-minute cleanup they hadn’t expected to do. My friend who’d encouraged me earlier in the week gave me a high five at the end of the night: “Success! You’re married!”
And that was all that really mattered. Not the centerpieces, not the cake, not the photography, not an epic dance party. It was him, and it was me, and it was us becoming us in a sacred moment of our lives, surrounded by the tightest circle of our American friends and family.
It took me months to be able to see it like that and to let go of my anger and embarrassment. Forgiveness helps. Focusing on the bright spots helps. Watching TV episodes of over-the-top wedding disasters also helps, especially if their disaster is worse than yours. Remembering that in the big scheme of things, your wedding is just one milestone among many and that as you experience more life together, the wedding day disasters will fade in memory and importance.
And in retrospect, you’ll be able to look back on your wedding day with fondness and be able to see the happiness that hid under the surface of all the things that went wrong. Because the happiness is not in all the details working out right. It’s in becoming husband and wife in the company of some of the people who matter most to you.
Photo by maya_7966 on Pixabay.