Remember when APW got mentioned in Ready Made, and I was over the moon because Ready Made is one of the last magazines in print worthy of a spot on my bedside table? Well, today’s wedding is from Brianne, the wonderful lady who mentioned APW. Hooray! But, that’s not what makes this wedding graduate post amazing. Brianne is a journalist, so obviously the girl can write. But what she wrote about? Let’s just say it’s the gritty truth of how hard wedding planning can be on a family, and why it’s worth it in the end. I haven’t really lost it reading a wedding graduate post in a while, but halfway through Brianne’s I was crying. It’s not that it’s sad, it’s just that it’s TRUE. And that gets me every time. So without further ado, the lady herself.
Joe and I got engaged last September on a canoe, in the middle of the lake just south of downtown Des Moines. It was after work and my pant leg was still rolled up from riding my bike to meet him and the sun was setting and I thought he’d packed cheese sticks in our lunchbox, but it turned out to be an engagement ring. The boat rocked as he got down on one knee. It was just the two of us and it was awesome. We hadn’t rowed ashore yet before I’d pulled out my cell phone and called my mom to share the news.
Joe and I were married on July 3rd, and at the last minute when my grandpa and I reached the end of the aisle my mom jumped up and stood with him as Joe and I joined hands. Everything about the day felt right and, miraculously, things fell into place for an experience that exceeded the wildest dreams I didn’t even want to let myself have.
I would like to say that being engaged was blissful and that the nine months between our moment on the lake and our vows were an easy transition between my mom being my best friend and my husband being my partner, but during weddings, emotions run high.
After taking a college class (“Sociology of the Family”) that dealt a lot with the WIC and gender roles, I felt like I really didn’t know how to be a bride. I knew what I didn’t want (trying on gowns in a bridal salon while everyone offered their two cents, a wedding shower that involved material gifts, matching bridesmaids dresses, a bachelorette party, fondant and breaking the bank — to name a few.) I knew how I wanted to feel, but I wasn’t sure how to simultaneously express the joy of being engaged to a man I loved while rejecting the expected tropes of bride-to-be-dom. (My pearl engagement ring steered the conversation a little.)
I knew what Joe wanted (me, his whole giant family there, to wear a suit and do shots of whiskey at the end of “The Grand March,” a Polish tradition.) I knew what my pretty traditional family wanted (a Catholic ceremony, to dance at an event they would recognize as a wedding, for me to be happy.) I see all of this in retrospect. I probably should have just made a Venn diagram (nerd alert!) of what was important to us all instead of getting a throwup-y feeling everytime I got a notice of the three thousand or so things that were apparently overdue on my wedding checklist. I was the first cousin and first person in my core high school friend group to get married, so I was in uncharted territory.
Here’s what it took me a long time to realize: I considered planning our wedding the first endeavor of Joe and mine as new family. My mom considered the wedding the last thing a mother and a daughter do together. We were coming from different places and I didn’t want to choose sides. Joe works nights and weekends and my mom lives five hours away in Chicago, so neither was particularly easy. I felt like I could do everything and nothing by myself.
My dad died the week after I graduated high school and since then, I feel like even though I haven’t spent a lot of time home and bought a house in Iowa, I’ve been a partner for my mom. We’ve talk almost nightly on the phone since I went away to college. We’re close. But the wedding and our different perspectives on who was planning/what was important created a giant rift between us. I closed in on myself because I felt like it was harder to translate what I wanted and why I felt strongly about not having certain things than to just not do anything at all or preach to people or argue.
When I was crying and pleading with her to lay off because we didn’t want a DJ and could totally handle our wedding music, she said words like “BUT THIS IS MY LAST CHANCE!” Words that really meant “This is the ultimate day for me to show my love for you in front of everyone we know before you start a new family” but that I dismissed my calling her a “momzilla” and passing the phone to my much more patient fiancé who my mom couldn’t carry on at in quite the same way. I know every worry of hers and every detail she fretted over was because she cared.
At first, having friends and family bring cakes and desserts for a cake table instead of buying one big cake and making my bridal bouquets with flowers from Trader Joe’s and the farmer’s market threw her for a loop. Lesson: “It’ll be fine!” is not a solid gameplan for many of the people who aren’t me and Joe. I had to understand that while my first serious ideas about weddings were formed by “indie” ladies and sites like APW, my mom’s point of reference was framed by decades of more traditional affairs. Every detail she fretted over was because she didn’t really have proof that it would be OK and she didn’t want a shitty sound system to ruin the wedding we’d worked so hard to plan.
In the end, it was the kind of crafts and champagne filled day that carried a spirit of community and joy. A bunch of my friends and cousins helped decorate, the bouquets were whipped together between turns getting our hair done and the dance floor was insane. It was the culmination of the whole “it takes a village” ethos of my childhood.
I’m also really glad I had a Catholic ceremony. Although when I used to daydream about my wedding it was always a barefoot affair, I knew I wouldn’t really “feel married” unless our ceremony truly reflected the culture I was raised in. It wasn’t easy, but I don’t think getting married should be TOO easy, right? (Joe gently reminded me of these words after I literally threw up following our first pre-Cana meeting with a priest whose attitude terribly upset us after our first marriage prep session. It was also our last with him.) Joe’s grandpa is a deacon and he married us along with the Benedictine president of my high school. It was special to have people we love and respect celebrate our wedding Mass.
With all the work and high emotion that went into wedding planning, I told myself I wasn’t going to feel 100 percent excited or ready to go until I put on my dress. (I thrive on up-to-the-deadline work, then, oh yeah, I accidentally deleted our wedding playlist at 1 a.m. on wedding eve and stayed up ‘till 2 frantically rebuilding it.)
Some power other than my Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (pure joy?) coursed through my veins because I’ve never felt more beautiful or loved than I did on our wedding day. I slipped on my dress and that was when it clicked. All of a sudden, I really was a bride and this wedding, this coming together of two families, this day I would share with no one else but Joe, was for real. It wasn’t some abstract to-do list, or a murky thing that was getting in the way of me and my mom (and my godmothers) being totally sane with each other. It was a moment in time that I want to rewind in my mind always so I can again see the huge smiles faces in the chapel, hold my grandpa’s arm, kiss Joe, pop champagne and bacon-wrapped dates, watch the sunset and skip through a sparkler parade hand in hand with my husband in slow motion.
Photos: Laura Wehde of Shutterscapes, based in Sioux City Iowa