Q: My gent and I got engaged in October, a few months after one of our friends proposed to his awesome girlfriend. I felt lucky (and a little sneaky) in that I thought going through all of the planning adventures slightly “behind” this couple would give us a preview of what was in store, and perhaps make our process a little easier. However, it quickly became apparent that we are having very different kinds of weddings—our friends are having two ceremonies and two receptions, one local and one halfway across the US, both financed by family, both shaping up to be huge and loving and very WIC. We are hosting a fairly small and simple shindig for ourselves. This has actually been very freeing, as it’s allowed me to enjoy their preparations for their own sake instead of as a primer for our own celebration; knowing that we will make very different choices (and indeed, have some completely different choices available to make) has meant that I don’t have to mentally compare every step of the way, and that’s great.
So what’s the problem? Well—before we were even officially engaged, the one thing I knew without a doubt was that I wanted my best friend to marry us. This friend has been one of the biggest parts of my life for a dozen years; we’ve seen each other through life changes and hard times, spent holidays together, and basically consider each other to be family. He and my gent have also become close in the seven years we’ve been together, and I couldn’t imagine anyone better able to speak about our relationship and the commitment we’re celebrating.
At a recent outing with our engaged friends, the bride-to-be was venting about their difficulties finding an officiant long-distance for their second ceremony. She asked what our plans were and when I said that my bestie was going to get ordained for ours, she burst out laughing—not in a mean way at all, she just thought I had made a hilarious joke. When I clarified that this was our actual for-real plan, she said that it was a GREAT idea … in fact, “Oh my god! Why don’t we get him to do our fake wedding! How fun! He can do us first for practice, then we don’t have to find someone else and he’ll be all prepared for you guys!”
Immediately, my gut shriveled up and I felt like the worst version of myself. How DARE she take the decision that meant so much to me and tack it on to their second, in her words “fake” wedding as a cute afterthought? It wasn’t enough that they’re already having two of everything, that their families’ budgets far exceed our modest one; they have to take one of the most important parts of our wedding and do it FIRST? Because it might be “FUN”? I knew I was being unfair but in the moment, I couldn’t help feeling absolutely hideous. I changed the subject as gracefully as I possibly could (not very).
Thinking about it afterward, I knew I had two choices (well, three, but the third involved being a total hosebeast, which I strive to avoid in most situations): I could either talk to the couple and explain how much this had inadvertently hurt my feelings, how important this aspect of the wedding was to me and how it felt trivialized somehow by their co-opting of it, and ask them respectfully to find someone else to perform their “fake” ceremony. Or, I could realize that I was the one allowing myself to feel this way, that their wedding(s) are incapable of diminishing our wedding no matter what my lizard brain says, and that the possibility of having the same mutual friend celebrate both our marriages could be an amazing shared experience that binds us all together in a new way. I decided on option number two, and felt really really good about myself for about 2.5 seconds.
Team Practical, here’s where I need your wisdom, your sanity, basically any suggestions you can offer. Having made the decision not to let this bother me, how do I actually… not let it bother me? How do I avoid the ugly feeling of WAAAHHHHHH NOT FAIR that bubbled up immediately and is still struggling to surface? How do I stop myself from spring boarding off this one element we will now have in common into a tailspin of comparing every aspect of our respective celebrations, and go back to my former “they-have-their-wedding-and-we-have-ours-and-it-will-all-be-awesome” zen? Having acknowledged to myself that our dear friends are not actually meanies who are out to ruin All The Things, how do I now internalize that?
Trying Assiduously Not To Resent Unrelated Matrimony
A: Dear TANTRUM,
Well, you sort of did half my job for me, didn’t ya? And honestly, I think you picked the right choice. There are probably times when, “Heyyy—could you not do that?” might be okay. But I think you’re right about this one not being the case.
There’s a whole ton of pressure to make your wedding unique—which I realize isn’t the whole problem here, but hear me out. Having someone else do the exact same thing (with the same person even) doesn’t mean your wedding is any less original, special, or meaningful. So, perhaps your friend is using this person as an officiant without it meaning anything to them. That doesn’t in any way detract from the same exact gesture in your wedding. I mean, think about all of the sham celebrity weddings. The fact that some overrated pop star once wore white and said the same exact vows I said, but didn’t actually mean them and did it all for a gag—that doesn’t at all mean that those vows that made me cry are any less significant for me or my husband.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Wedding comparison is, well. Sort of unavoidable, especially given your situation. But you know how we talk all the time about the details may or may not be important or reflective of what makes a good marriage? That. All of it. This one is a big detail, to be sure. But the meaning of your friend as officiant won’t be harmed (or even touched) by the fact that he’s performing a different wedding in a different way for different motivation.
All of that is the thinky stuff. But, psst. Here’s my sneaky aside. Practically speaking? I think you give your officiant bestie a call and explain all of your feelings and see if maybe he’d gracefully bow out of the other wedding. I mean, it doesn’t sound like the other bride will be too much bothered by it. And your officiant friend will probably be super touched to hear just how much it means to you that he’ll be there.
That said, if sneaky isn’t your style (in which case, my hat is off to you. You’re officially a better person than most of the world), one way to turn this around in your head is to tell yourself that she might actually be doing you a favor after all. I’ve been to weddings where a friend was asked to speak or read something and it was very clear that they’d never practiced, or even if they had, the bigness of speaking at a wedding overcame them and they clammed up (sometimes even with seasoned public speakers). So even if your friend’s actions do smack of a certain level of insensitivity, who knows? Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.
In the meantime, I’m going to repeat what I said above and tell you not to beat yourself up too much. You’ve already done the hard stuff by being the bigger person here. And it sounds like you’re trying really hard to be okay with that. But changing the way you feel about something like this takes time. So you have my permission to give yourself a break for now and just feel what you feel. I mean, c’mon, at this point you’ve earned it.
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! (Nice job TANTRUM!)