Mitch and I were officially engaged in March of 2008. We had a very tumultuous relationship for the first two years or so, took a break, got back together, took another break, and then got together for dinner one night– I called it our Make It or Break It Night. And I wish I knew the day that happened, because in my heart, that’s really when Mitch and I got married.
I won’t disclose all the juicy tidbits (they weren’t that juicy anyway: we were at Panera. How juicy can things get at Panera?). But I will say that when “IT” happened, we were holding hands across the table and I said, “If we do this…. we are in this for good. I can’t go through another break up with you. I can’t stand to lose you again. So if this is it…. then this is it.” And when I looked up, my wonderful husband had tears in his eyes and told me he loved me for the first time.
But committing to someone and marrying them are not really the same thing, as we found out over the next three years. By the time we became officially engaged (a little over 18 months later), we thought we had everything all set in stone. Small wedding here in Nebraska, one attendant for each of us, an hors douerve reception following.
Let me preface this by again reiterating that “GETTING MARRIED” was never part of my PLAN. And thus, “HAVING A WEDDING” was never part of the PLAN either. I love weddings, I love helping my girlfriends plan them, I love looking at pictures, I love hearing the stories. But OH MY GOD was I dreading my own. For one thing, whenever I am thrust into a social situation, I wish that I could submit a written entry representing myself. Me is not so good at the talkies. For two, I have never felt my best when I’m all dressed up. Some ladies get that extra boost of confidence when they are dressed to the nines. Not this lady. Whenever I am wearing something other than jeans and a black t-shirt, I am positive that 1) Everyone is staring at me and 2) I look exactly like a peacock. Which is fine, if you are a peacock. I am not.
For three, to be honest, the wedding was for Mitch. I wasn’t sure how I felt about weddings. I wanted to marry Mitch– I wanted to make some kind of crazy non-negotiable, permanent and irreversible commitment to him. But to me, saying that we loved each other while eating our broccoli cheddar soup and frontega chicken panini’s was enough. I didn’t need anything more than that.
Mitch, though, is one of the few men in the world who had actually been looking forward to his wedding for some time. I think that part of this is because he is very close with his extended family (which I am not), and having a wedding was just another excuse to get them all together. For two, Mitch comes from a world of conventional thought. Lots of times through pointed discussion and lots of guided questions, I could get him to see how some of his views didn’t even make as much sense as the ones he was prejudice against (such as: okay, so you think that some women getting together and figuring out that if they put this herb and this root together, it makes their headache go away, and they think that is pretty sweet and base a religion off of it, OR millions of people basing their beliefs on a thousand year old conversation had with a flaming shrub. But I digress), the idea of not having a wedding was too out there for him. He understood that saying vows in front of a bunch of people didn’t necessarily make them more valid, more important, or more real, but he still felt that it was necessary.
The first thing that happened is that my hometown has virtually no where to have a reception. There was one reception hall that was currently being built; but neither of us wanted to take a chance on a building that we had never seen, and would never see, until that day. There is a very nice reception hall in town, but I wasn’t able to get a hold of the owner.
The next thing that happened is my home church in Blair said that Mitch’s grandpa, a Lutheran pastor, could not perform the ceremony. Then they also said that I couldn’t have ANY of the songs that I wanted and had to run any readings by them as well– even if they were from the Bible.
THEN I met with my academic adviser, who told me that I was going to graduate in August 2009. The wedding date was August 22, 2009. And we were planning to move to Bemidji, Minnesota (which ended up falling through anyway, but that’s another story for another time). This means I’d be finishing up with student teaching, graduating, getting married, and moving all within the span of about two weeks.
And let me also tell you this, for those of you who are thinking of planning a wedding sometime soon. When you have some idea in your head, and you want to run it past your Mom, or your Pastor, or your Husband To Be, or whatever, and everyone tells you, “Just be straight forward and be very direct and tell them that this is how you want it. They’ll understand.” Just save yourself the time of having THAT conversation by looking the person who told you everything would be fine right in the face and calling them a liar right where they sit. You could punctuate this exchange with some spit in their eye, but that might be taking it too far.
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone involved with our wedding was extremely helpful. But to say that everyone was gung-ho with whatever plans I had in my head is such a vast and complicated Desert of Untruthiness that it makes me shake my head all over again.
The thing is, weddings are really emotional for everyone involved. For your parents: (especially in my case) they’d been thinking about this day a LOT longer than I had. Even though my parents are very unconventional, and eloped themselves, I know that when my mom first met me on November 25, 1983, in the back of her head there were some thoughts about when I would grow up and fall in love. I know this, because I am currently carrying a little girl, and Mitch and I have all ready talked about her growing up and falling in love. And Mitch has all ready gotten emotional about it. I love him, he’s so silly.
For your Pastor (especially in our case, since he was also Mitch’s grandpa), she/he has some definite plans on what constitutes A WEDDING and what does not. And for him, the implications go beyond just that day and hour. Mitch and I both wanted a wedding that was very spiritual and meaningful, but not necessarily RELIGIOUS. This is because most of my family and at least 98% of my friends are not religious. Some of them are anti-religious. And I knew it would be uncomfortable for them, and to be honest, weird for me, to have a religious ceremony. Also, we were having a really hard time finding music and readings that were religious and that also encompassed what we were going for.
Your attendants, even though they love you dearly, are also in kind of a weird spot. It’s not THEIR wedding, so technically, they kind of have no say over what they do and what they wear and all that. But they are also about to be standing up in front of 100+ people– I put my bridesmaids in halter top, tea length dresses, in May, in Minnesota. It ended up working out, but only because we were given the ONE Memorial Day weekend in remembered history that had a temperature of over 50. And I also roped my brother-in-law into singing our processional kind of at the last minute. And I also thought it would be super cute to have my 6 year old nephew walk his mom (my maid of honor) down the aisle and then stand with her during the ceremony (and it was super cute, but probably pretty stressful for them. Have you ever seen a 6 year old boy try to stand still for 45 minutes?)
Before anyone is a bride, they should have to serve time as a bridesmaid. I’ve never been a bridesmaid, myself, or I might have realized all the Emotional Crazies that go into weddings. By the time we actually got to the ceremony, I was literally begging Mitch to call it off. And not because I was particularly upset about anything specifically, just because the Emotional Crazies were so high that I thought I was going to suffocate.
Here is some more advice. If you are one of those really laid back ladies who thinks that you can plan a wedding and it will all be okay and no problem, and you won’t let yourself get sucked into the Crazies, just go ahead and let go of that dream right now. It was literally shocking how invested I became in my wedding. How the littlest thing suddenly became super important– how I could not compromise on some things and wouldn’t discuss some things. I vaguely remember actually stamping my foot at Mitch and saying, “BECAUSE. JUST…. BECAUSE.” And I remember my brother having to smooth things over between myself and other family members by saying, “Dude, it’s her day. Just let her have this one day. Please. I promise she will go back to normal on Sunday. For now, whatever she says goes.”
And also, this is a fact. One of my mottoes in life is that a woman’s life is about 8 parts mess to 2 parts magical. That magic is definitely enough to make all the mess worth it, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. Most of planning the wedding was stressful and disappointing. Even parts of that day were stressful and disappointing.
But in the end…. we did fulfill priority number one.
Someday, Skirty will look through all of our wedding photos, her eyes agleam. She might want to try on my dress, although I am hoping that my daughter won’t be cursed with my figure, and maybe she’ll get all starry eyed at the thought of THE DRESS, THE KISS, THE DANCE– or maybe she won’t. Maybe she’ll be more like me, and won’t give it much thought until it is right there in front of her.
Either way, I hope that she comes out of it with the best thing that comes out of weddings. Lots of happiness, and lots of love.