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Madeline: Wedding Dreams


Madeline: Wedding Dreams | A Practical Wedding

“Dream wedding” is a loaded phrase, redolent with the expectations of the WIC. But for the past few months, I’ve also been experiencing something married friends tell me is a hallmark of tying the knot—dreams about weddings.

I dreamed I was marrying the boy from middle school whose name I can’t remember. Then it was a friend of a friend from college. Then a doorman in my old office building. It wasn’t that my dream-self was unhappy about these impending weddings exactly. But they were characterized by a feeling of constriction bordering on panic. Dream Madeline was pretending to be happy, but she wasn’t. I would wake in the night, realize with relief that I was marrying Brandon after all, and each time it felt like a reprieve.

I dreamed I was running late—really late—for the reception. It was 9:40 and the event was due to end at 10. I wasn’t dressed yet! In the miserable logic of dreams, I wasn’t able to shrug my shoulders and give up, or reschedule, or even hurry. I was stuck, desperate to be on time, unable to make it happen.

In the midst of all this subconscious activity came our seating plan, which felt like a dream, but wasn’t. When else but at a wedding do you wonder if your best friend from high school will be chums with your boss’s wife, or if it’s wise to mix liberal-leaning in-laws with conservative colleagues? (I wonder how long it will be before someone markets an algorithm for this?)

The dreams, and the surreal act of rearranging friends and family in endless combinations, reminded me of people I won’t be asking to the wedding. Ex-partners, neglected friends, or old teachers—people who feature in my mental community but have long since fallen off the real-life radar. What would it be like if our guests were chosen on the basis of how much space they occupy on our mental hard drive, as opposed to where they live, or how often we’ve seen them in the past twenty years?

Every person on the guest list also brings their own ghosts. We all share memories, some happy, some sad, angry or confused. Those things don’t feature much in the traditional dream wedding. But I think this is what my brain is doing while I’m asleep: processing the past and my hopes and fears for the future in bizarre, wedding-themed mash-up. It’s preparing me for the bizarre, wedding-themed collection of my nearest and dearest I’m calling a reception. I’ve given up on the dream wedding idea—the expectation of perfection is too stressful. Luckily, I’ve still got time for plenty of wedding dreams.

Image credit: Emily Takes Photos

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  • Rowany

    “What would it be like if our guests were chosen on the basis of how much space they occupy on our mental hard drive, as opposed to where they live, or how often we’ve seen them in the past twenty years?” This is definitely a big conundrum for me as we begin our planning–it’s hard to wrap my head around deciding whether large figures in my life will take part in such a monumentous occasion when I haven’t seen them in years.

    Also, don’t be surprised if you ask a question with the words “wedding” and “market” that a product already exists: http://www.perfecttableplan.com/html/weddings_and_celebrations.html

  • Jashshea

    I’m always marrying the same person, but I’m usually late getting ready, or trying to sort out a last minute detail, etc etc, without missing the actual party.

    The latest dream was after our ceremony we discovered that guests cars had been stolen. Dream me was upset about this, but was like, hey, groom, we gotta get to this party that’s in our honor. Dream Groom refused, saying that he should stay behind and sort out the situation with the police and that the guests and I should head over to the party. I was so dream pissed off that I woke up pissed off IRL.

    Regarding table assignments – I know a guy that could do this for us. Who has some start up capital?

  • Katie

    Oh the wedding dreams. My wedding is a little over 2 months away and just the other night I dreamed I went to my reception to find the guests had left! The came ate, drank, danced, had a good time and then went home before I got there. I missed the party! Too funny.

  • AnotherCourtney

    Oh, boy do I remember the wedding dreams. I had no idea they were so common! My most frequent ones involved the wedding sneaking up on me, so TA-DA the wedding day was here, and I hadn’t even begun planning it yet. But the most frightening dreams were the ones where I couldn’t fit into my dress because I was visibly pregnant at my wedding. Even now, months after my wedding, I am nowhere near ready to be a mom, so the idea of being pregnant before even being able to enjoy being married without a kid was not a part of my plan. Apparently that was something I worried about, so my subconscious was trying to deal.

    I haven’t had a single pregnancy dream in the eight months since my wedding, though. I guess it’s not such a scary idea anymore!

    • Darcy

      Ah, the pregnancy dream. For me pregnancy dreams happen whenever there is big personal change- changing schools, apartments or jobs- so I was ready when they also happened around the wedding. At first it freaked my husband out but now he is used to it and is trying to wrap his head around what it means if I dream I change jobs.

      • Class of 1980

        I don’t recall ever having a pregnancy dream. From my twenties on, I’ve had a worse version.

        I would dream that I HAD a baby, and that I’d FORGOTTEN about it! All of a sudden I remember this baby and I wonder how long it’s been since I fed it or did anything for it.

        Sometimes it’s a pet instead of a baby. And I’m always terrified at what I’m going to find when I go to look for it. Will it be starved? Will it be suffering? Will it be dead? Will I get to it in time?

        I never know the answer because I never know HOW LONG it’s been since I forgot about the baby/pet. Hours? Days? Months?

        I don’t know what the hell it means. It’s crazy. ;)

        • p.

          I’ve had that dream, too!

          • Class of 1980

            I guess I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility for small helpless things … and anxiety about it?

        • Calon

          I have that dream too. I always take it to mean that I’m neglecting a part of myself. In my dreams the baby (when I go back and find it) is sometimes tiny and shrivelled, or made of shell or wax – amazing images the mind conjures! It usually relates to what is happening in my life at the time. – i.e. not actually about babies.

      • Madeline

        Hahaha, amazing. Look forward to hearing how the “changing job” dream discussion goes! ;)

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      Mine were similar, and they got progressively less awful as I approached the wedding. In the beginning, the wedding was here (Ta DA) and I had done NOTHING so it was in my parents’ driveway. Later, we had a venue but no caterer, so I had to go get subway to serve. Finally, I didn’t have my dress ready, so I had to buy a sundress at Old Navy or something.

      MAN I hated those dreams!

      • AnotherCourtney

        Yes! Mine did that, too. Although the one at my parents’ house did make me realize that my worst case scenario wasn’t THAT bad (just not what I was hoping for).

      • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

        Yes! Mine are exactly like this! At the beginning, I dreamed that people showed up and we had nothing. Right before I went dress shopping, I dreamed that I had no dress. Then once I bought the dress, I dreamed I had no veil or shoes or jewelry. Now, we’re 3.5 months out and starting to work on a timeline, so my dreams are that we’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off all day. It’s funny how I keep finding things to stress about (therefore dream about) even though most of the plans are made.

      • Alyssa

        Mine went exactly the same (but dream opted for pizza, and it was awful chain pizza for some reason). The dreams did get less horrible as time went on, and I think they really did come from a place of guilt/dread because I was pretty darn lazy in planning the wedding.

    • Claire

      About a month before my wedding I had this recurring dream that my wedding day was also my due date and I somehow had not yet told my parents I was expecting. I am nowhere near ready for childbirth either. Also in the dream, I had hired a wedding photographer to do double-duty as a birth videographer. So thrifty! So APW! So completely insane!

      • Anna

        OMG BIRTH videographer…lolz

      • Class of 1980

        I kind of love your dream. ;)

    • J

      My sister dreamt that she was suddenly really pregnant on the morning of her wedding and her dress didn’t fit over her bump so between the two of us we apparently cut a hole in the dress for her bump and painted her stomach white!!
      Now that’s a practical wedding…

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        That’s hilarious. I love it.

  • Rachel M

    “Ex-partners, neglected friends, or old teachers—people who feature in my mental community but have long since fallen off the real-life radar. What would it be like if our guests were chosen on the basis of how much space they occupy on our mental hard drive, as opposed to where they live, or how often we’ve seen them in the past twenty years?”

    I love this. Wonderfully said! I would prefer to invite my third grade teacher, my boss from 5 years ago, and my yoga instructor to my wedding over some of the guests I’ll end up inviting. Those people have had a lasting effect on my life and they may not even know it! The other people just happen to be in the picture more often. Sigh.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      You can invite them! We had all three (ex-partners, neglected friends, and old teachers) at our wedding. Or maybe just drop them a note to let them know that you’re thinking about them. I bet your third grade teacher would love to hear about how s/he impacted your life.

      • Madeline

        That’s a great idea!

  • http://hodoeporicon.blogspot.com Stacey

    Our seating chart was surprisingly less stressful than we expected, despite having to seat separate factions of my husband’s family tables and tables away from each other. In the beginning, PURELY for fun, we put the whole list in alphabetical order and divided it into tables of eight, going right down the list. I’m pretty sure my rather uptight Southern great-aunt ended up next to my freewheeling, heavy-drinking friend from Canada and my lesbian couple friends ended up at the table with my husband’s very conservative grandparents. It was a hoot. :)

    Then, we got real and shuffled everybody around until the tables made sense. In the end, we separated the folks who were guaranteed to get in an argument and left the rest to their own devices. “They can always eat quickly and/or move to another table,” we reasoned, “and we’re not going to worry about it any more than that.” :)

  • KatieBeth

    “I dreamed I was running late—really late—for the reception. It was 9:40 and the event was due to end at 10. I wasn’t dressed yet! In the miserable logic of dreams, I wasn’t able to shrug my shoulders and give up, or reschedule, or even hurry. I was stuck, desperate to be on time, unable to make it happen.”

    I have this anxiety dream ALL THE TIME!! Not necessarily the wedding reception part, but the “I’m-late-for-something-and-I-can’t-just-say-eff-it” dream. And usually my bag breaks and I have to gather all of my things in my arms, but I keep dropping them and I’m still late.

  • youlovelucy

    I think the best one I had was back in March. I dreamed the wedding was suddenly on that day in March, and we were at the venue, but we hadn’t brought anything with us. No dress, no decorations, no caterer, nothing. Everyone around me kept asking me questions that all started out about the same, “but where is x and who’s doing y and z???”

    The dream felt like it lasted hours, with nothing really getting done and everyone running around frantically, and I just kept saying over and over again, “but it’s March!”

  • J

    I had two wedding-anxiety dreams, one was awful and happened years before we got engaged – I dreamt that H had proposed and I was really miserable but had to go around pretending to be happy, including resignedly agreeing for a work friend to arrange an engagement party for us and then going home and crying. This had absolutely NOTHING to do with reality but it felt so upsetting and unnerving at the time.
    The other dream was similar to all the others – that it was suddenly the day of the wedding and I didn’t have time to wash my hair because we were already at the venue and my hair was really dirty! (and my aunt forgot to bring my dress so I had to get married in scruffier clothes than all the guests but that was nothing compared to the DIRTY HAIR..)

  • Sara

    Ohhh man…I have a recurring dream that I decided not to get my hair done and I have to do it myself, and of course it’s a giant ball of frizz so all I can think to do is put it in a ponytail. I also have a similair “being late” anxiety dream in which I get to the venue, but have forgotten something–my dress, my shoes, etc., and it’s too late to go back and get them, or sometimes I haven’t left the house yet but nothing is together and I’m running around like crazy trying to gather all of the things I need to take, but I can’t find any of them. I will be soooo glad to be done with the wedding to 1) think about something else all day every day and 2) stop having these insane dreams!

  • kate

    This is too funny! I’m about a year away from my wedding and the dreams just started. I thought I was the only one! Thank goodness for APW! Mine involves some realization that I never found anyone to do my hair or makeup and I’m stuck trying to figure out some way to make my hair look presentable in a matter of seconds. Sheesh! Ok, I get it, hair and makeup people are moving to the top of the priority list ….

  • Moz

    Fantastic post, and genuinely original. Love Madeline’s stuff.

  • L

    The craziest dream I’ve had thus far is
    a. The wedding is today and we haven’t written our vows or arranged a single thing.
    b. In the middle of the ceremony we ask everyone to move their chairs to the other side of us for some reason.
    c. In the middle of all the chair moving my cousin goes into labor and no one else notices so I have to deliver her baby while everyone else just mills around.
    d. When the baby comes out it’s head looks a little funny so I just hand it to her and say, “Here. It’s not my fault.”

    PS – My cousin actually did have a healthy baby a few months after this dream.

    • Seraphine

      L, I wanted to say that your dream made me laugh out loud. :)