Each week, as we’ve run our 2012 planning interns’ grad posts (you can read Zen and Madeline’s here and here, respectively), I’ve been eager to see how the weddings themselves turned out. Not so much the visual stuff (though to be clear, I was dying to see Elisabeth’s final choice of wedding outfit), but to see how the big emotional decisions played out. Because in wedding land, we often hear about the complicated decisions made during the wedding planning process (particularly when you’re planning a super long-distance intercultural wedding after having converted to Islam), and rarely hear whether or not those complicated things actually ended up being… important. Which is why I love that Elisabeth’s post explores it all—the unexpected highs and lows, and, perhaps most importantly, the things that were neither high nor low but still contributed to making the day uniquely theirs.
I should tell you now, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past month looking at my wedding photos. Not just because I look good (though I do look good), but because, as Zen pointed out in her grad post , they remind me of how good I felt. And man, did I feel good.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my wedding was the culmination of a weeklong marathon of family togetherness and intense partying. It included, among other things, the civil ceremony, which was my only opportunity to say western-style vows; a henna party where some of the ladies got together to gossip and get our hands painted by an insanely patient and talented henna artist; and a rehearsal dinner where my family had a chance to meet Amin’s extended family for the first time. It was a lot of fun—not only was it amazing finally getting to know Amin’s family, but it’s a rare week where my immediate family is together in the same place. To give you a taste, let me just say that the day after the wedding, my youngest sister flew to Iraq, my middle sister flew to DC, and my mom and dad flew to Philadelphia and Saudi Arabia, respectively. Loud family sing-alongs to “I’m Getting Married in the Morning” will long be one of my favorite wedding memories.
Amin and I had vacillated a lot on whether to have a big wedding or a really really small one. There wasn’t really a good in-between option for us, because his aunts/uncles/cousins number in the hundreds already, so either we left everybody out except immediate family, or we had a couple hundred people. We decided to have a big one for a couple of reasons, but surely one of the major reasons was my insistence that this would be one of my few opportunities to get all of our favorite people together in one place.
We had mixed results. We definitely succeeded in getting many (though not most—who knew flying to London during the Olympics would be expensive?) of our favorite people together, and since we did a rehearsal dinner, and a henna party, and a few other things in the week leading up, Amin and I actually got to spend a bit of time with them (though sometimes not together). But on the wedding day, we didn’t get a chance to speak to anyone more than superficially. Heck, we didn’t get a chance to eat. (I am actually gratified by this, because Amin had long been convinced he was going to get to sit down and have a nice long relaxed meal, and I had repeatedly told him that was a ridiculous fantasy and that we would spend the whole night walking around chatting with our guests. I do love to be right!) Our cheeks were sore from smiling by about the third minute in (you can kind of tell from the panicky look in our eyes in some of the pictures), and by the time we got in the car at the end of the night we were both so happy to finally be alone, and not to have to smile any more. Our caterers had packed us little boxes of leftovers to take to the hotel room (I cannot recommend this highly enough. Do this!) so we sat and had our real dinner together long after the party had ended and we had deconstructed my enormous hairdo, while in the background the Thames was lit up by fireworks in honor of the Paralympics Closing Ceremony. For me, this remains one of my most cherished memories of the night.
The reception, then, is something of a blur of smiling and hugging and shaking hands and taking pictures, but I expected that. I always prefer little groups to big ones, and my wedding was no different. When I think back, though, I am still suffused with joy, and I think what made it such an awesome day was less the grand sweep of the party, etc., and more the little snippets of memory and remembered emotion that still stick with me two months later, and I imagine will stick with me forever.
First of all, our outfits were both so covered in crystals and sequins and whatnot that we regularly got stuck together and had to forcibly separate our clothing, but I know we felt, and looked, like we belonged together. My sister-in-law and I managed to craft an outfit that I am seriously proud of and enormously happy with, and I took the traditional route of not letting my extremely-picky husband see any of it until the day of the wedding. That he was blown away made the whole thing all the more awesome for me. From the moment we were officially married to the end of the night, he barely let go of my hand. I still get the warm fuzzies thinking about it.
Second, even though it took a million years, I really enjoyed the process of getting ready. My mom and sisters and I showed up at the venue at seven in the morning, in our pajamas (getting giddily into a black cab wearing my bright blue bathrobe and carrying my enormous wedding dress is definitely unforgettable). I announced to anybody who looked at me, “I am the bride!” as I swept up the stairs to the room where we got ready. And the stairs are great for sweeping. And although I am not generally particularly eager to have minions to order around, I really enjoyed the few moments after I had my dress on (and could therefore only move with difficulty) that I felt legitimately like things were all about me. Fetch a chair, minion! Take my bathrobe, minion! Pack my perfume, minion! It was very gratifying.
Third, I will never forget the moment of complete overwhelmed-ness as my parents prepared to walk me down the aisle. Amin and his mom walked down first (I could hear, but not see, him ahead of me), followed by his sister and aunt, and then my sisters (who apparently got announced in as the bride, to everyone’s great amusement), and then my parents and me. And honestly I thought I was going to start ugly crying all over the place. I had trouble breathing, I was shaking like a leaf, and I tried really hard not to make eye contact with anyone because I knew if I did then it would all be over. I was in a bit of a daze and calmed down only once Amin and I sat down and the officiant started talking. But it wasn’t until afterwards, when we were actually married, and we walked out of the room and down the stairs, that I really got a chance to look at Amin properly. One of my favorite photos captures I think the exact moment that we looked at each other and allowed ourselves to finally feel something like: “BOOYAH! WE JUST GOT MARRIED, BEYOTCH!”
These are the things I’m going to remember. Not, I think, the things I expected to remember, but they’re what made this our wedding, instead of somebody else’s.
So, what advice would I have given to my pre-married self if I could have? What advice should I give to all of you?
Well, first off, I completely completely agree with Meg that it is important to have somebody there, on the day, that you trust to make sure things go okay. I had my sisters, and Amin’s sister, and Amin’s cousin, and a whole host of other people who were happy to step in and do whatever needed to be done and ensure nothing got forgotten. We also hired a coordinator, although to be honest I’m not sure what exactly he did (which probably means he did a good job). But the key here is that I was never thinking about what to do with the flowers after the party, or whether everybody would get back on the bus to go home, or how we would deal with the gifts we got or the guest book. I let other people figure that stuff out, and I focused on enjoying the heck out of my wedding.
And I guess secondly, I would warn my pre-married self not to worry too much about whether her wedding would be the best wedding of all time ever. It is unfortunately not possible to have your wedding be ALL THE WEDDINGS. We did not get married in a forest on horseback; we did not get married in my backyard with barbeque; we did not get married in Our Favorite Place with all the meaning; we did not write our own vows and cry with love as we read them. But we did get married. And we got married in style, and had people that we love surrounding us. And it is very nice to have a day of such joy to mark the beginning of something wonderful, to remind us of what our relationship means to us, and to our communities.
I’m not sure I can say a lot more than that, yet. Maybe with a bit more distance I can say something more profound. Being married is quite a different beast from getting married, and being married has radically changed the way we see our relationship, and the way our communities see our relationship. I’m going to have to think a bit more about that before I venture to make any conclusions, though. (I also have to spend more time with my husband, because no, my immigration issues are not yet sorted out. We are getting very, very bitter.) At the very least, I can say that both Amin and I can highly recommend getting married, and that being married promises to be a lot of fun once we actually are in the same place and can start doing it for real.