Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wedding, Survival, Planning: What I've Learned & Hope To Pass Onto Others

It was a miracle. Miraculous. It was truly remarkable. We survived the wedding process. On October 3 we marched right down that grass-laden Virginian countryside aisle and got ourselves hitched. And the best part? It wasn't a total disaster. In fact, it was downright beautiful.

I was worried there for a while, the way all brides worry, but despite all the hiccups--of which there were many (too many to count)--it was a wonderful day.

There is so much I could write here, so much advice I could pass along to all the brides-to be out there. I could write about any number of things, like the myths of engagement as "the happiest time of your life" or the challenges in navigating new family dynamics or even the surprising grieving period a bride goes through when she says goodbye to her single life. There is so much here--a minefield of nuances and moments--but in the end, if I could only dispense a single piece of advice, it would simply be this: the only person you can ever please is yourself.

1. You will, at least once in this process, feel like the biggest disappointment to everyone around you. You and your fiance want to be married outdoors. Your future in-laws prefer the church. You and your fiance want to hire a photojournalist. Your parents say she costs too much money. You and your fiance want to keep the guest list small. Everyone and their mother wants to invite everyone and their mother and their mother's friend's cousin's sister. You and your fiance want candid photos. Your future in-laws want formal family photos. You want a reception in a barn with quirk and character. Your dad prefers a hotel ballroom. You and your fiance want a Christian service. Your atheist, agnostic, or otherwise religiously unattached guests ask if there's anyway the officiant could refrain from mentioning "God" in your ceremony. You want to wear your hair up and windswept. One of your friends says down is the way to go, no questions asked. At every turn, someone is flabbergasted. So what do you do? Follow your own vision, because at the very least you and your fiance will be happy with the result.

2. You will feel that your wedding, at least once, is an inconvenience to everyone's lives. It's a common truth that the only constant is change, and that maxim will never be as true as when you're in the midst of planning a wedding. Relatives on your guest list will get sick, move, or god forbid pass away. The women in your lives will get pregnant, divorced, break-up, or find a new love and want to bring him to your wedding and then not want to bring him to your wedding because they had a fight. Still others will get engaged at the same time as you, and may negotiate when your wedding date should be, ideally, to suit their wedding dreams. And others, including friends, family, guests you barely know, will tell you that a year-long engagement is too long, too faraway, and that it's just one more thing they'll have to put on their already too-busy calendars. So what do you do? Just this: schedule your wedding around any foreseeable events, set the date, and then move on. Say that you're terribly sorry, but you're not Jesus, Gandolf, or a fortune teller and are unable to coordinate the unpredictable lives of everyone on your guest list.

3. Guests will suddenly develop a grand sense of entitlement that will put JoLo to shame. It's true. There's something about weddings that brings out the inner diva in everyone. Guests spontaneously forget how to use MapQuest to locate your wedding venue. Many refuse, for whatever reason, to write down the time of your ceremony and/or rehearsal dinner into their personal calendars and expect you to remind them on a weekly basis of when such-and-such starts and ends. Many will develop a severe phobia of all things computer-related and can't seem to type in the URL of your carefully-constructed and oh-so-informative website that would answer all of their millions of questions about your registry, dress code, and ceremony location. A few intrepid guests may even ask if they can invite the new guy they're sort-of, kind-of seeing or every friend they can possibly think of. And some may even inquire why you, your fiance, or your parents are not paying for their gas, hotel, or other expenses to your attend your wedding. What's a bride to do? Provide every courtesy to your guests within reason, commit yourself to answering at least two stupid questions from every guest, and then practice this simple refrain, "You can find everything you need on our website."

4. You will feel, after it's over, that no one noticed all of the details you worked so hard on, cared so deeply for, and spent so much time on.
The bridal industry will delight you with full-page glossy ads for the perfect flower centerpieces, the peacock-themed reception, the perfect color of a signature wedding punch that all the in-vogue brides are serving--or didn't you know? These magazines will leave you salivating, panicked, ambitious to create the most elegant wedding you can dream of. You will become a collage artist, a pack rat, assembling and pasting and coordinating palettes and always on the look out for that just-right addition to your bridal decor. You may have fun doing this--and well you should-- dreaming of the perfect day that expresses your love for your fiance and who you are as a couple.

But then, when the big day arrives, and all is a blur, you'll realize that no one, at least no one that you've heard between all the chaos of the moment, has said anything about all the details you've spent months creating. The perfectly tied bows on your lace votives. The carefully selected flowers to evoke a mood. The 19th-century typewriter keys you glued and centered with razor-sharp precision on 100% recycled escort cards for each and every guest. All of this will be in the shadows, never mentioned, and you'll wonder to yourself, "why did I spend all this time when no one even cares?"

The thing is, and this is my advice to all brides out there: follow and remain true to your vision. If you are enthralled with your concept, it doesn't matter if anyone notices, compliments, or remarks upon all of your artistry. Be proud of what you've accomplished, every decision you've made along this wild and crazy journey--from cake flavor to shades of flowers--because every decision was, and is, a beautiful reflection, however subconscious, of you and of your relationship with your husband-to-be.