Today’s post is about balancing tradition and feminism. It’s about finding your voice when you think you have nothing new to say about weddings (I think you’ll agree that Colleen has plenty of cuttingly smart to say). It’s about finding a way to honor all the different things that we are on a day that we celebrate the life that we’re building. It’s wise and smart (and pretty too).
It took forever for me to figure out what to write in a wedding graduate post. You see, we got married in October 2010 and I was happily collecting thoughts about what to write when my aunt died. So December became about holding my mother up. In January, my brother got married. In February, my uncle died. And I was so emotionally exhausted that putting my thoughts into what went into my wedding seemed like an insurmountable task and irrelevant when I kept reading grad posts that already sounded like what I wanted to say. And then I remembered that every wedding is different, every family is different and no matter what, we’re going to learn from each other. So with that, here goes:
My now husband was given his grandmother’s rings to give to me before he told me he loved me for the first time. He carried them through a long distance relationship and a move before he finally gave them to me. We got engaged at Fallingwater, an iconic Pittsburgh landmark, designed by the famous Frank Lloyd Wright. It was beautiful and snowy and cold and perfect. The only people who knew we were engaged for about two hours immediately afterwards were two strangers who had come down the hill, because my husband chose the spot specifically because he knew we wouldn’t have cellphone service.
My wedding planning started on The Kn*t. Mostly looking at pretty pictures and lurking on the Etiquette board, reading about crazy mother-in-laws and bridesmaids from hell, thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t have any of those problems. And then I lost my job. I spent that summer in my friend’s house working out, cooking and sending resumes and cover letters to any higher ed job that looked feasible in the New England area. In the meantime, I found a wedding dress and continued to lurk on The Kn*t with no clue how I was going to honor my relationship in a wedding that I didn’t feel like I could control when the rest of my life was out of control.
Finding APW was a breath of fresh air. Reading about others who were struggling to create a wedding that honored them and their families and not what the WIC declared was “right” was the shot of confidence I needed to plan what we wanted, not what my mother wanted and not what my friends and families planned in the four weddings leading up to ours. We chose a theme (Frank Lloyd Wright), we chose to arrange our own flowers, my mother chose to bake the cake, I chose to make over 1000 cookies for a Pittsburgh cookie table and in the end, chose to hire a Wedding Coordinator to handle the rest.
I think the hardest part of wedding planning for me was reconciling my feminist self with my girly self. Yes, I know you can be both. But my Catholic schoolgirl, must have white dress, must have a garter, and a shower, and a bachelorette party, and a registry filled with cooking supplies, and my father must walk me down the aisle self was being shamed to death by my “don’t buy into the WIC,” why can’t my gay friends get married, I am not a person to be “given away,” I’m not buying into the patriarchy self. And that shame was hard to deal with when I was obsessing over the perfect escort card during work, then doing a program that night in the Women’s Center about the proliferation of the WIC in shows like “Bridezillas.” As a role model for college women, I felt it was my duty to not be swept up in the magic of trying on my wedding dress for my grandmother because it was one day and one dress and it’s just encouraging the WIC.
And finally, I said, f*ck it.
I could still be a good role model/feminist and cry over the proofs of my invitations because they were freakin’ gorgeous. I could try on my dress and get giddy. Because at the end of the day, I don’t want them to aspire to be good brides, I want them to aspire to be good women. And I was doing that already.
That burden gone, it made it okay to gush over how beautiful my bridesmaids looked that day. It was worth it to stand on that altar with my husband (who I made wait twenty minutes, by the way) and say vows that our parents said and our parents before that. There was power in that tradition, and it was okay. It was okay to sob when my father danced with me because five years ago we did not think he was going to make it. And it was okay, that at the end of the night, his parents drove us back to the hotel and Matt brought the wrong bag up to the hotel room.
We chose to support young businesses for our wedding, hiring my friends from college that had just started a photography business and event planning business respectively. We bought our flowers wholesale from Blooms by the Box (thanks APW!), and I bought my dress from a woman who was selling her inventory out of her basement. Our guest list rule: the person needed to have stood in the kitchen in either our home or our parents’ homes. Guests went home with tons of cookies in white paper bags stamped with a claddaugh and thank you. We sat with our siblings at a table of ten and our centerpiece was a lego version of Fallingwater.
And we chose to keep some of the traditional as well. We were married with a full Mass in the Catholic church my parents were married in. My father walked me down the aisle and we had a receiving line. We did toasts, parent dances and garter and bouquet tosses. We did a dollar dance and the Electric Slide. We drank Bud Light, Coors Light and our local favorite, Yuengling. We took a picture with all the Dickinson alumni in attendance.
In the end, the wedding wasn’t feminist or girly or WIC. It was just us, and that was all that mattered.
The Info — Photographer: Lauren Liese Photography / Ceremony Venue: St. John’s Roman Catholic Church / Reception Venue: Montdale Country Club / Wedding Coordinator: Natalie Diener Wedding and Events / Flowers: Blooms by the Box (APW Sponsor)/ Cake: Nancy, Colleen’s mom (aw)