I have not had one moment of fear or regret about my choice of partner since the day I met my Caroline. Not one. I do not know what our future holds but I do know that I want us to be together every day for the rest of my life. Without a doubt.
It’s the wedding that petrifies me.
I didn’t even want a wedding. Not for my own enjoyment at least.
My decision to have a ceremony is totally my brothers’ fault.
My older brother, Nick, married Valerie after they had been together for three or four years. When I first met Valerie, I immediately liked her and they’ve been good for each other from the start. They were instantly inseparable. After several years of them dating and then living together, I didn’t really think that their marriage would change anything.
I was wrong. I watched while, for some people, it appeared that a switch had flipped. It was more a collection of small things, really. Valerie was more integrated into the family during email and text conversations, and suddenly “they couldn’t make dinner” rather than “Valerie had somewhere else she needed to be.” The last may seem tiny, but is a big thing for us: it’s hard for some members of my family not to feel a little resentful when someone is “taken away” at Thanksgiving, even if people know that it’s not fair to feel that way. In the beginning, their language choices often showed that they put some blame on her whenever Valerie and my brother were unavailable. That has all but disappeared since the wedding.
This ‘switch flip’ phenomena was even more apparent with my little brother, Matt, and his wife, Julie. Matt and Julie moved in together about six months into their relationship, were engaged four months later, and married a year after that. The family had met Julie several times and liked her but was very nervous when they got engaged. Julie is awesome but Matt had a previous, very brief marriage to someone we didn’t even know and the family was concerned that he was jumping the gun again (he has a tendency to do that). However, by the time they were married, all thoughts of whether they had rushed things were put aside. It was clear that they are in love, are good for each other, and have a great shot at making this marriage last.
My family loves Caroline. But, I do think that we have to consider that people may need a bit of formality in order to regard us as a lasting partnership. Caroline and I have had a fairly fast relationship track, too. We announced our engagement exactly one year after our first date. It didn’t feel fast to me: I started falling in love with her ten days after I met her and the first time she “proposed” marriage, we’d been together less than two months. It took everything in me to wait as long as I did before making it official. But, when you consider the speed of our courtship and compound it with the fact that we’re both women… let’s just say that I worry a bit about making sure that people recognize the legitimacy of our commitment.
I’m not the type of person to get married just because Cinderella did it. I loved Caroline before we gave each other diamond rings and I would love her fifty years from now even without a marriage certificate. I’m getting married because I want to announce our commitment as well as receive federal and state marriage benefits.
And, therein lies the wedding. We could have been married at the courthouse. But, we decided that that’s not enough. There needs to be a ceremony. The wedding is an opportunity to show our closest friends and family how committed we really are.
I really wanted a platform to look her parents in the eye and say, “Thank you. She is the very best person I will ever meet and I’m going to take such good care of her.”
I should have just taken them out to dinner.
I’m realizing now that I bit off more than I expected to. It may not be possible for us to have “just a nice, casual ceremony.” Or, rather, we could (and other people do) but our particular guests expect it to look like what they think a wedding should look like. Not only will some people be disappointed if it doesn’t, a few of our guests will actually be angry.
Caroline and I have talked about this quite a bit and are trying hard to keep the people we care about happy without compromising our own happiness in the process. But, this means that we have to do many of the things that we originally scoffed at doing: dressing up, dealing with a photographer, etc. I was so naive in thinking that we might be allowed to skirt around all that stuff.
Here’s a brief sketch of our fantasy wedding:
- Find an affordable, beautiful venue on the water with grass and trees (i.e., not sand).
- Done! We found a lovely waterfront B&B in the middle of nowhere and booked the entire property for the weekend of our wedding.
- Invite no more than 30 of our very closest friends and family.
- Create a relaxing weekend getaway rather than a one-off event.
- Don’t overdo it, stay true to our casual but frugal natures.
- Plan a fun, uncluttered schedule:
- Friday- Restaurant dinner followed by game night with beer and chips and raucous fun.
- Saturday- Everyone is on their own until late afternoon. Guests are invited to go on golfing, fishing, boating, shopping, etc. adventures or to relax by our pool to read. Ceremony starts around 6pm, followed by dinner, then a bonfire party starts at sunset (Caroline promised me that we could have s’mores).
- Sunday- Goodbye brunch.
What’s missing from this list? Dresses, party favors, live music, flowers, and more. At first, we looked at the list of traditional wedding frippery and said, “no thanks.” We wanted the wedding to be small, casual, inexpensive, and fun. Now, we are in danger of losing at least three of our original goals, which makes me wonder if we’ll be able to hold onto the most important goal: fun.
We are squarely in the wedding trap and our original vision is slowly blowing up. We’re nine months out and people are already complaining that the guest list is too small, wondering at the decision to forgo live music, and trying to insert others into a wedding party that doesn’t exist. There are no bridal attendants planned because we didn’t want the formality. Though, now that the preparations are getting more extensive, I’m starting to consider designating bridesmaids so that we can get some help executing tasks.
I wanted a hootenanny.
I will settle for a shindig or a partayyy. But, if this turns into a fancy celebration or an Event, I will be a little disappointed. I keep telling myself that it’s not a huge deal. It’s still just one weekend in a much larger life. But, it would be so cool if it was both perfect and perfectly us.
We’re still trying to keep things the way that we originally intended but it’s not easy. I feel sort of guilty and silly at standing firm on some of the lines that we drew early on but I also believe that every inch we give to those that want a more traditional set up will cause a lack of cohesion during our wedding experience.
For example, our parents really want to host lovely, fancy dinners for us. The fact that we’re having such a small wedding makes it relatively easy for them to pay for some pretty fancy setups. That’s a wonderful gift and I’m very appreciative of their generosity. But, that generosity also inadvertently pushes us further from the goal of keeping things casual, making our contribution as a couple more expensive. I know how it sounds for me to complain about this but, we’ll have these fancy meals and…then what? It’s a little hard to transition from a very classy restaurant to game night at our B&B or from a catered dinner with servers in tuxedos to a bonfire party just twenty yards away. Of course, we’ll figure it out but, at some point, if we change the tone of the wedding too much it won’t resemble our wants and needs at all.
Talk about first-world problems, right?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not torture and I do like the idea of the wedding that we’re starting to create, despite the departure from our original vision. It’s just that I really didn’t want to spend a year planning this one day. And, if I have to spend a year planning it, I feel like I should be planning the day I want rather than the day that other people want. Also, now that we’re investing so much in this party, it feels even more crucial to pull it off without a hitch. I’m so nervous that it won’t be a success. That all the time and money and debate won’t be worth it. That people will come to the most important party I’ve ever thrown and think that it’s lame.
Suddenly, it feels like my 10th birthday all over again.
Tell me about your wedding. Did you get what you wanted?