We’ve talked about the blasting the shame around second weddings before on APW, back when Brandi wrote, “This isn’t your second wedding, it’s your last. Should I have the honor of receiving an invitation, I’ll be there with bells on and help you celebrate, in the fullest manner possible.” So today, we’re lucky to get Karen’s wise, honest, and beautifully written perspective on planning a wedding that is her first, and her partner’s last.
The nightmare daydream is this:
We’re on the beach at our wedding. It’s pissing down rain, and it’s windy and cold. We have food and drink and cake for 150 people, but not nearly that many people have shown up—or maybe they’ve just left early; the dream is not specific. I’m standing there in my fancy wedding dress, trying to recapture the magic I envisioned when planning this big party, but all I feel is foolish. I’m a month away from turning 45, ten years (if not twenty) older than is really appropriate for this type of wedding, and I should have known better. Brian is there, and I know he’s hurting for me, but he doesn’t know how to fix it. He tried to give me the wedding I wanted, but it’s my fault for wanting it, and we both know that. Everyone knows that.
Another snapshot, now this one real: We’re at Brian’s grandmother’s house; it’s been a year since she died, and the family is just now getting around to sorting through stuff and getting the house ready for sale. We’re packing the car with the things we’ve taken, when the girl child comes bouncing up to us, holding a picture in a frame.
“Look, Daddy,” she says, “it’s your wedding picture!”
Brian freezes. I freeze.
Somehow he manages to tell her he doesn’t want it; somehow he manages to tell her it’s okay if she does want it. As long as she doesn’t try to put it up in our apartment, I think, but don’t say. Your wedding pictures haven’t been taken yet, I think, but don’t say.
Of course, the reality is this: Our wedding pictures haven’t been taken yet. Our wedding hasn’t happened yet. But Brian has been married before, and no amount of putting my fingers in my ears and scrunching my eyes shut refusing to acknowledge that can make it any less true. Brian has been married before, and he’s planned a wedding before, and I’m starting to realize that I’m being unfair to him when I insist he join me in pretending it never happened.
But then why are we having this wedding? For me? Everyone knows you don’t have this kind of wedding for a second marriage. You don’t have this kind of wedding when you’ve already thrown one kid’s bat mitzvah and are a year away from throwing the next kid’s bar mitzvah. It’s unseemly. It’s irresponsible. It’s misplaced priorities. And since it’s my first marriage, it’s my fault. He’s just going along with it all because he loves me.
Right? Maybe…and maybe not.
“I know you don’t like to hear about my other wedding…” Long pause while he gauges my reaction. We’re lying in the dark, so he can’t really see me, but he can hear the change in my breathing and feel me tense beside him. He continues anyway. “I planned the whole thing by myself, and when things went wrong, I was told that it was all my fault.” And finally, I get it—I get why up to now he’s insisted that this be my wedding. He wants to be the cause of my joy, not the cause of my disappointment. It’s not that he doesn’t want to take ownership of this event; it’s that, like me, he’s afraid of being responsible for the choices that go wrong.
So where do we stand? That conversation did a lot for us. We’ve agreed that we are a team. We’ve agreed that even when one of us is making a decision solo, it is our decision. If I design our centerpieces because the thought of designing centerpieces makes Brian’s brain turn to mush, his sign-off on the idea makes it his idea, and therefore his responsibility, as well. Together and separately, we are creating the wedding we want, just as we are creating the marriage we want.
It’s true—you don’t have this kind of wedding for a second marriage. But this isn’t a second marriage. This is our first marriage, and our first wedding. And we’re throwing a party.