When Brian proposed ten months ago, I was just beginning the final semester of my MA, which included writing a master’s thesis and taking a grueling literature survey to prepare me for my first PhD preliminary exam in the fall. Brian was months away from his PhD program’s next requirement, the equally demanding presentation known as the “literature review.” In short, we did not have a lot of spare time to devote to wedding planning. Practically the moment we got engaged we were ready to move past engagement and get to marriage. (Our decision not to live or sleep together until then may have influenced this attitude a teeny bit.) We scheduled a date the following January, hoping that in the summer months, our respective degree requirements completed, we could get the major wedding details pinned down.
We chose to get married in Pennsylvania, halfway across the country from our school, because my fiancé’s family was all there, and mine was spread out across the country (and world). During the spring Brian and I explored our options online, found a few places we might like for the reception, and started working out the details of the ceremony with Brian’s family parish. As school demanded more and more of my time, and Pinterest images started all looking the same to me, I came to the realization that only a select few things about the wedding mattered to me. The groom—that I had taken care of; the dress—I found a beautiful one, in my price range, within a month of our engagement; the music—our college choir will be providing music for the Mass; and the presence of family and friends. “As long as everyone’s there celebrating with us, I couldn’t care less,” became my mantra for bouquets, centerpieces, and the other seemingly endless details of planning. Brian, who I think I could fairly say is much less interested in any of this than I am, was of the same mindset.
I don’t mean to diminish the importance of some details—a table can look kind of weird without a centerpiece, after all, and flowers are beautiful. It’s just that I discovered I wasn’t that interested in what kind of flowers were used, or what exactly decorated the empty center of tables, as long as it was there. Luckily for us, Brian’s mother was and is a huge help when it comes to these things. She looked up florists, made mock-ups of centerpieces, put together spreadsheets for costs, set up meetings with venues and vendors for a week in the summer when we could visit, and generally made the planning process run smoothly while still deferring all big decisions to me and Brian. We made decisions, but largely without any stress or tension because we had already decided what mattered to us. “We’ll be there, and our family and friends will be there, so it will be perfect.”
Then the RSVPs started coming.
Brian’s family, as anticipated, will arrive in full force. As of now we have received only one “regrets” response from a cousin who moved out of state. My family, however, is a different story. Aside from my parents and siblings, turnout will be sparse to say the least. Some people I knew could not come—my housebound grandmother, more distant relatives whom I barely know. Others came as a surprise—the uncle who, it turns out, “isn’t a wedding person,” the cousin who can’t miss classes, the many “regrets” with no explanation. As of now, from my rather large extended family I know of two people who can come. About thirty have sent their regrets.
I imagine among the RSVPs still at large I will get a few positive responses, but the results so far have shaken me. Thinking back to my older brother’s wedding four years ago, I remember a full-fledged family reunion. All the grandparents came, most of the aunts and uncles, and a good number of cousins. It had never crossed my mind that that wouldn’t be the case for mine. The last week has found me in tears several times over my family’s responses, and no wonder. I see one of my biggest requirements for “perfect wedding day” crumbling, and no way to fix it. Pointless thoughts of regret cross my mind—”If only we’d held the wedding sooner, or in my hometown, things would have been different.” “Should I have sent out save-the-dates sooner?” “What if it’s because it’s a church wedding?” And yes, maybe things could have turned out differently. But maybe not. And that’s not something I could have foreseen.
In the end, the only way out of this will be to adjust my definition of “perfect wedding day” to “one where Brian and I end up married.” After all, that’s what we have a running countdown for on his fridge. Not for seeing our families, though seeing them would be very nice indeed, but for the day we can finally start our marriage. I know this to be the case, but it’s taking some time to adjust to the full weight of that sentiment. I am sure I’ll shed a few more tears over “regrets” from my family, and if I had a magic wand I would bring them all whether they liked it or not. Still, as I keep reminding myself, the wedding day will happen regardless. So, with just over a month to go before the wedding, I’m trying to focus on that top priority. The centerpieces can wait.
Photo by Mary Clare’s awesome friend Katie