Today’s wedding graduate post reminds me of two things: One, the fact that it’s easy to get hurt by wedding guests, and that this is valid (I’ve already stated my personal views on the subject, which is that sometimes wedding guests can be jerks… or at least it can really feel like that sometimes). And two, it reminded me of what a family member told us as we were wedding planning, that getting people together is not just for us, it’s for everyone. That there will always be elderly people at a wedding or a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, who know, in their heart of hearts, that this may be their last family party. He told us that a wedding, while yours, is also theirs. So I’m amazed by how well Whitney holds both these ideas at once, that wedding guest behavior can hurt, and that wedding guest behavior can heal, sometimes at the same time.
At first, in the few weeks after my wedding I didn’t love the memories of it. Gasp.
I mean, I loved the details. The stuff I planned out to a T, like the peacock feather pen favors and the ceremony music? That stuff went really, REALLY well. Mostly. With the possible exception of my cake knife, but I’ll get to that.
But the feelings I had right after the wedding? Yeah, not so great. I was, frankly, more than a bit hurt and disappointed. But worse than that, I was hurt and disappointed in ways that it wasn’t okay to talk about and, at the same time, keep myself from appearing like a spoiled post-wedding Bridezilla.
See, lots of people skipped my wedding and just went to the reception without even mentioning it to me. And then 25% of my “confirmed, YES we will be there, can’t wait!!” guest list simply skipped out on both altogether, leaving me paying the caterer an extra $1000 for people who simply decided, the morning of, that they didn’t feel like showing up.
And then my gift table was sadly almost bare. I fought back tears when we came home from our honeymoon and realized that only about 10% of our guests had brought us even a card, much less a gift. And frankly, when you’re crying in your living room because people skipped out on your party and no one bought you a gift, you feel like a real douche. But it hurts. And the worst part about it is that you can’t say anything to anyone without coming across like a spoiled princess. So you don’t say anything, and you write a handful of thank you cards, and you try to move on and not let it change your opinion of your friends too much.
And eventually you do move on. For me, that moment of real healing began when the pictures began to roll in. I was lucky—in this internet day and age, my husband and I were able to check out some of our professional pictures the morning after the wedding as we killed time in the airport on his blackberry.
But it was later, this spring, when people started sending us their personal snapshots of the day, that everything changed. Suddenly, there they were – all the moments I had missed. I didn’t see much of my friends that day in the whirlwind of events, so imagine my surprise when I learned there was a massive gamer’s table going on that I never knew about.
I had believed that my mother spent the entire day frowning, stressing about my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s. But there she was, on the dance floor, doing the twist with my uncle, face lit up like a Christmas tree.
And not only that, but there were the faces of some of our loved ones, my grandmother and my husband’s uncle, who did not survive to see the pictures from that day.
I had spent the day, like most brides, caught in the circle of a new husband and a tight wedding day schedule. But around me, (at the risk of sounding cliché,) there was so much life going on! The feeling of “nobody likes me, wahhh!” began to subside as I realized that damn, I threw a good effing party and people had a blast!
So that story about the cake knife I promised? My husband’s best friend and best man is a Jewish caterer and event organizer from New York. (Did I fail to mention that my wedding could have been the premiere episode of a new reality TV show called “The New York Jews Meet the Alabama Rednecks?” You want to talk stress? Try having those two particular groups meet in my home state of Kentucky. Yeah.)
So the best man, doing his absolute best to compromise the values of the two families, hid what he THOUGHT was a challah knife provided by one of the more traditional Jewish family members. He thought he was protecting us by preventing the battle of the blessings. Instead, he ended up hiding my engraved, sparkly, beautifully-planned-for cake cutting knife. He didn’t realize the mistake until cake cutting time. Oops. He thought a decent alternative would be to have both myself and my husband scrape off some icing and feed it to each other. I thought otherwise, and the best man ended up with a smear of icing down his face from my finger. And then my husband licked it right off of his best friend’s face. And yes, we have pictures of it. And I am so, SO grateful for that.
In the end, I learned that people sometimes just don’t get it. People who think they know you don’t always value traditions the same way, or simply weren’t raised with the same social graces. And it’s okay to be hurt when people blow you off. But I also learned a lot about what I personally hold dear. I cried when I saw the picture of my mother dancing. Her happiness matters so much to me. She has always been my biggest supporter, and proudly walked me down the aisle.
I cried when I saw the pictures of my grandmother smiling. The wedding was the last time she traveled before the Alzheimer’s weakened her and took her from us this winter, as soon after cancer also took my husband’s Uncle Mike. But I also grinned when I realized that people knew my husband and me well enough to play Pirate Dice at our reception. And I teared up again when I saw the pictures of both of our families joyfully joining together in a huge, laughing hurricane of people during our “Hava Nagila.” It is these moments which I grip tighter than any gift.
Like the situation with the cake knife, people sometimes do things for their own reasons, and sometimes there are major miscommunications. Did I really want the nice, formal, cake cutting with a hunk of German chocolate on the side for myself? Hell, yeah! But I wouldn’t trade the moment with the icing, or any of those other moments on that day, for the world.
Photos By: Erin Cook of Erin Takes Pictures and by Courtney Beekman and David Vail, friends extraordinaire