“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