To me, Anna sums up one of the whole philosophical messages of APW in the first line of her wedding graduate post. I read it, my mouth drooped open, and I nodded, wide eyed. “Yes,” I said, “This.” So what are we waiting for? Here is Anna’s beautiful, wise, and funny wedding grad post, along with tips for DJing your wedding with an iPod (girlfriend gives you a little practical to go with her excellent philosophical, thank you very much.)
After becoming engaged, my mother told me, “You know, you can be an adult without being married, but you can’t be married and not be an adult.” At the time, I agreed but didn’t think much about it. Now, six months after our wedding, her words keep coming back to me, ringing as one of the truest characterizations of my own process of getting married. Planning this wedding basically forced my husband and I to confront and negotiate with all the people in our lives at once, and I’ve come to see the pain and frustration that comes with going through all of that as a necessary catalyst for growing up and for carving out a place for our new family within the existing ones.
Throughout the planning, I grappled with issues so many of us do: guilt for asking so much of people to be a part of our wedding day (both in planning and attending), frustration at family whose assumptions conflicted with our own, and the immense challenge of planning a ceremony and celebration that artfully reflected and honored both of our families’, cultural backgrounds, traditions, and expectations, to mention a few.
Admittedly, I tend to take a lot on in all areas of my life: everything from work projects to parties. This is partially because I don’t want to “burden” others with my own projects/needs, but also because I often (wrongly) think I can do it best myself without others slowing me down. I started off the planning process fantasizing about a fairly traditional, yet crafty, casual, rustic, laid-back, and charming wedding day that came together seemingly effortlessly (that’s all!). We strove to create an honest ceremony that reflected both of us and planned a big, fun celebration, prioritizing food, music, and dancing. But nowhere in this dream did I picture the wants and needs of others. I was determined to pull this off without the pressure and fuss of mainstream expectations or the wedding-industrial complex, and particularly without the burden and pressure of input from in-laws, my family, or friends. I was excited to plan the wedding we wanted, all on our own.
Well I can now tell you that my original fantasy was unattainable. I learned that an effortless, meaningful, laid-back wedding managed entirely on your own cannot not exist when you’re dealing with a 250-person guest list, tight budget constraints, plus the inevitable tension resulting from a union between two people with different religious backgrounds and entirely different family situations (my parents are happily married, while his are recently divorced with his father remarried, and the dust hasn’t quite settled yet). I felt totally overwhelmed throughout most of the planning process.
I was not the island I thought I would be. A mother-in-law will desperately want the Mother/Son dance you equally as desperately don’t want. A father-in-law will insist on inviting distant cousins and work colleagues you’ve never met. Your husband’s Jewish family will want to feel honored in your Christian ceremony, but your family will also expect the integrity of a Christian service to be uncompromised. Some very important family members may even threaten to not attend because you won’t comply with their requests…
It was easy to disregard these demands as totally unfair and focus on my own hurt feelings, but I slowly came to realize that all of these people deserve respect for their expectations and input. Being a part of a family and then starting your own requires compromise and will inevitably result in growing pains.
I figured out that it was OK to skip the Mother/Son dance I didn’t want as long as we picked a designated song ahead of time that she and my husband would dance together to during the reception. I also realized that adding a dozen additional couples to the guest list went a long way to making his dad feel honored, and that his request wasn’t selfish — he was proud and wanted to share his joy with the people who were important to him. We followed a Lutheran service but asked a friend to read our Old Testament reading in Hebrew and English, sang a Christian hymn with a Hebrew melody, and my husband broke a glass when it was all done.
I see the whole engagement and wedding process as a struggle, and our wedding day was our reward in the end. We didn’t get the wedding I originally planned to have, but the one we got was better. The plan evolved as we managed people and the complications they brought. I slowly figured out that letting people help me with the setting up and logistics (diy-ing our flowers, invitations, programs, centerpieces, music, decorations etc.) kept me sane, but I also realized they were so happy to help.
My sister and I spent countless hours on the button boutonnieres, fabric corsages, and bridesmaid gifts. My friends came over for a night of wine, cheese, and invitation assembly, and my cousins and dear friends arrived early in the day to cut flowers, arrange centerpieces, string lights, and hang lanterns, and somehow I allowed them to help me. My mom didn’t resent the three days she spent prior to the wedding running errands and helping with my inane projects she would never otherwise entertain. She told me that seeing my happiness on my wedding day brought her true joy.
I’m not saying I wasn’t an adult before, but I certainly feel more grown up now. I more clearly see my place within my own communities, and I’m really happy with where that is. I want to be as much of a blessing to them, as they have been to me.
On a practical note, I have advice for anyone thinking of forgoing a band/DJ for an iPod playlist. DO it. Music was a top priority for us, and we could not have been happier with how it all went down. A few of my most important tips:
- Read about it beforehand to see how others have done it and for playlist suggestions. Meg’s guide was particularly helpful.
- Enlist an iPod bouncer (or two). We had someone who thought he knew better than us about the flow of music and tried to adjust our PERFECTLY CRAFTED playlist midstream. I was FUMING, but somehow calmly managed to say, “We worked really hard on this playlist, so please back off.” In hindsight, I hated being in that position, so a wedding playlist bouncer is an excellent idea. Make sure it’s your biggest, most intimidating friend, too.
- If possible shorten the songs, which you can do through iTunes. Because, come on, do we really need to hear the entirety of Dancing Queen to be emotionally satisfied? 2 minutes and 30 seconds did the trick for me! This allows you to get the maximum number of songs into the shortest amount of time and keeps the party moving. We cut down a majority of our songs, and no one noticed a thing. (Note: We’re both from NJ, as were most of our guests, and the wedding was held at Rutgers University. This was A Very Jersey Wedding, and we did NOT shorten Livin’ on a Prayer.)