My fiancé and I are in a weird stage of our lives right now. We moved across the country last year so I could continue my schooling, and haven’t really made any good friends in the area. We’ve outgrown or drifted apart from a lot of our high school and college friends, but haven’t yet made our “adult” friends. And that’s okay—it’s a thing that happens, the situation will improve when we have more time and are settled down somewhere, I know it’s just circumstances, etc. We have each other and we are mostly happy.
However, we are three months out from our wedding, and I feel incredibly lonely. My sister is probably my best friend, and I could really use her support and enthusiasm. Unfortunately she is going through a really difficult period of her life and has no energy for me. Plus, weddings aren’t really her thing. So I can’t even talk to her, and I feel like I am doing this all by myself.
We have no bridal party. There will be no bachelorette parties or bridal showers. We didn’t have an engagement party. I have no friends I feel comfortable dishing about wedding planning with, and none of them have ever asked for details, although a few texted to say they’re excited after receiving their save-the-dates. I’m not close to any of my extended family members. We’ll only have about thirty or forty guests, and although I’m happy with our intimate wedding, the truth is there’s no one else to invite anyway.
I am realizing that we are missing out on all the special little events and traditions that go along with planning a wedding and celebrating our marriage. This is our one and only chance to experience that, and we’ll never get it. I read posts on APW about how a wedding is a community event, and how your friends and family come together to help you pull it off and how special and meaningful that is. That’s not my experience at all. I am doing everything on my own, and I feel like no one even cares.
We are also a same-sex couple, so sometimes the paranoia eats at me and I feel like we are having this experience because it is not a “real” wedding, so it is not as important to people. In some cases that may be true but in other cases I doubt anything would be different if I were marrying a man. But it still hurts me since I already generally feel like my relationship isn’t valued and like I am excluded from all the traditions and narratives surrounding weddings and marriages.
I don’t want this to ruin my wedding day. I don’t want to spend time or energy resenting my friends and family members and feeling alone and hurt. Ideally everyone would come together and I would feel special, loved and supported, but I can’t make that happen. So how do I cope? How do I stop feeling like this whole wedding is a big waste of time and money when no one seems to care and it’s not even legally recognized in the first place?
Your letter hit home for me. It’s really, really hard to face the major life changes without feeling supported by people around you, and I wonder if it hasn’t happened to all of us at least once. I felt really lonely when no one visited me in the days following giving birth. But, I’ve also been the jerk who mistakenly skipped a friend’s funeral for her father because I had an exam the next day (seriously, Self?). Sometimes the big stuff happens, and your community drops the ball. Other times, the big stuff happens before you’ve even met the folks who will go on to be your lasting support. It doesn’t always bear a reflection on you so much as it does on your loved ones being fallible people who, you know, make mistakes sometimes.
You’re partially right about one thing. Weddings are community events in a bunch of different ways. They’re a way to celebrate your marriage with the folks around you, a way to publicly make a statement to everyone about your marriage, and sometimes (but as you’ve found, not always) a way to involve your friends and family in the process of becoming married. But notice, in each of those three points, the main thrust is still marriage. Marriage (meaning that whole promise between two people thing) is the meat of it all, and the wedding is the extra stuff (I mean, just think about elopements). Whether or not your community chips in and supports you (or if you even have one) doesn’t invalidate your promise. It’s the marriage that gives meaning to the wedding, not the other way around.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that it hurts for its own reasons, but you don’t need to let that impact your perception of your wedding, or subsequently, your relationship. Your marriage sounds like it’s still right in place. Don’t confuse that lack of support with being off-track. You’re solidifying a commitment to your partner, and hopefully, you will have time to build a community of support around you after.
We can do away with the “WIC” and the accompanying expectations to have elaborate, expensive weddings, but self-imposed pressure to have an “indie enough” wedding, or a “zen enough” wedding, or a “community driven” wedding is bad enough. Often, these expectations are just as unrealistic. In the same way that not everyone is able to have a lavish ballroom wedding, not everyone is able to have over a hundred friends show up the day of the wedding and set up folding chairs. And with that, even folks who have the parties and folding chair help can still sometimes feel unsupported in the way that you do. I’d go so far as to bet all of my son’s Halloween candy (including Reese’s Cups) that everyone has felt a bit of loneliness or disappointment in their friends around big life-change events. It’s hard to know why this friend isn’t involved or that one doesn’t plan to come. Motivations are tricky. And because we can’t know for sure, it’s better for everyone’s sanity not to assume that it’s because they don’t think your wedding is “real” because it’s a same sex wedding, or you’re marrying young, or it’s a short engagement, or it’s an elopement, or whatever else it may be.
While all of that is true, it still may not change the fact that you’d like a few parties (and really, who wouldn’t). It may not help you feel better about the now, but there’s always time for some of that other celebratory stuff later. Just because the wedding is happening now doesn’t mean that this is the last time to celebrate your marriage. Though it may not be a bachelorette party, there’ll probably be time in the future to go have a crazy night out with pals. There might be housewarming parties at which you can open blenders and toasters. My own parents couldn’t afford a “real” wedding, and recently had their “first dance” at their twenty-fifth anniversary party. It makes their story different, but not less meaningful. The point is, there will always be different times and different ways to celebrate your marriage. The beginning is exciting, but it’s not your last chance.
But, you know what? Your wedding may totally surprise you. You have friends texting you about their excitement? That’s awesome! So many of us face one kind of struggle during planning and anticipate that it’ll spill over into the wedding day, but sometimes it just doesn’t. Here’s hoping that your friends who may not know how to support you now, come through for you on the actual day, and more importantly, beyond. Because the wedding itself is sort of inconsequential. It’s the marriage that really matters.
Team Practical, have you felt lonely or unsupported in planning your wedding? How have you coped? What do you do when your wedding feels less-than or invalid?
Photo by APW sponsor Corinne Krogh Photography.
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!