I really just want to “Exactly!” today’s post from Laura Chanoux (who you’ll remember from her brilliant piece on getting engaged out of order last week). It’s about the way we’re trapped into thinking that every single thing matters when wedding planning (which, I can promise you, is a lie). But while I know it’s a lie, I also remember planning my own wedding and feeling like every last detail had to represent who Michael and I were, what our relationship meant, and worrying that we were selling out if we didn’t. And man, it was exhausting. It also made it impossible for me to enjoy my favorite thing in the world: choosing things because I like them. Or, more often than not, because they’re pretty. So while, yes, it can be good to make sure that the important wedding things are representative of you and your partner, let’s take today to free ourselves from expecting that of all the wedding things. Because I like to think that we’re all too busy for that kind of nonsense anyway.
During my senior year of college, I managed a student orchestra and began having concert daydreams. In them, I would forget the keys to the theater or everyone would loiter backstage while I struggled to explain that the concert should have started fifteen minutes ago. These dreams weren’t frequent, but they were memorable. I’ve been engaged since March, have barely started planning, and yet my wedding daydreams have already begun.
In one, I don’t realize until after the reception that none of my friends or extended family came because I scheduled the wedding on a Thursday night and forgot to tell them enough in advance. In another, we hire a DJ/photographer who gives us attitude whenever we ask him to take a photo. I find myself midway through the day wearing a dress that I definitely wouldn’t have picked out on my own, wondering where all our initial ideas went.
I can identify some major causes of these dreams. Most of my friends live in the Midwest and our wedding will be in New England, so I’m worried that they won’t be able to travel to it. Even though my fiancé Eric reassures me that we can have the wedding we want on our budget, everything I find seems expensive. (My first attempt to outline a budget left me curled up in stressball before I even added big costs like food.) Our original plan of an autumn wedding in our college town, Ann Arbor, Michigan, has turned into an autumn in Boston wedding, which could very well turn into a spring in Boston wedding. I keep coming back to the same worry: I’m going to get to our wedding and think, “Wait. Wait, this isn’t what I meant.”
I know that the wedding isn’t about the party. I would be thrilled to grab Eric and run down to city hall. What has always appealed to me about a wedding, though, is that it is one of the few parties where you can invite everyone you love and most of them will fly across the country to be there. I always imagined a sort of “Hey everyone! We love you because you’re the best people we know! Meet all these other cool people we know!” situation, where everyone makes new friends and there is a lot of dancing.
As soon as I started wedding planning, though, it seemed that the way to have a meaningful wedding was to infuse yourselves into every single detail. I’ll admit, I definitely overdosed on the wedding blogs at first. I looked at photos of beautiful events while the articles explained, “Look what she did! Look at the deep meaning behind the flowers! The tables! Every single canapé!” As I searched for venues, I wondered, “But what does this place say about us? Am I really a ‘rustic farm’ girl? Is Eric the kind of guy who would get married in a museum? Or a historic New England estate? Is that ‘us’?” I worried that we wouldn’t be able to find an affordable “us” venue, once I figured out what our relationship looked like when translated into architecture. From there, it just kept going. We love picnic foods, but what would sandwiches at a formal event tell our guests? If Eric doesn’t care about flowers, how do I make them meaningful to both of us? How do I make a centerpiece that represents us as a couple? Every decision felt like it had to become a symbol of who we are, and I felt like I was stuck before I even started. My mom’s semi-serious joke about a drive-through wedding in Vegas sounded more appealing.
I know that centerpieces don’t matter. If I choose blue flowers instead of pink, it will not affect my marriage. But there’s still this nagging fear, saying, “Wait—this isn’t what I meant.” I’m scared that if I don’t care about all the things, I’ll spend the day feeling like I’m at someone else’s party. There are a lot of beautiful venues in Massachusetts, where I grew up, but Eric has little connection to that state. Will we feel like us if I’m walking down an aisle somewhere that we only visited together a couple times before the wedding?
I keep reminding myself that we don’t have to show off at our wedding. Our guests already know us. That’s why they’re invited. We will take care to make a ceremony that reflects our values, and then plan a fun reception. I can invest in the details I’ll enjoy, such as fitting in little lights or naming the tables after our favorite spots in Ann Arbor, but it’s okay if we pick our venue because we think it’s pretty instead of because we have a connection to it. I know that as long as people we love are there—or thinking about us, if they can’t make it—it will feel like us.
Photo of a cafe in Sighisora, Romania from Laura and Eric’s travels. They’ve been collecting wedding inspiration as they go.