Today’s wedding is, in a sense, about getting married young (and it gives me such a funny feeling about being thirty-two and remembering twenty-one, which seems like seconds ago). But really, Laura’s story is about being present in the moment, accepting ourselves for exactly who we are, turning off that voice that tells us that our wedding has to be like the other weddings and that we’ll never be good enough. Laura’s letter to herself back at the beginning of planning is the best advice we could ever hope for. Listen:
First step: breathe. Second step: smile. Third step: Let your inner-child shine!
Tim, your boyfriend of four years, has just proposed and you are already set on the theme of your wedding. You want it to be homegrown, because that is what the two of you are, homegrown. Family is the most important thing, so you both choose your aunt’s house as the location. You were blessed to be able to fit into your mother’s fabulous 70s wedding dress. Food comes next, so you plan menus with your mom and dream up wonderful ideas involving farmers markets and family reunions. Then you go back to college for your last semester.
You’re sitting in your dorm room, looking at some Etsy page for customized wedding hangers (something you don’t want and you really don’t need), worrying about whether your wedding will be the “right kind” of wedding instead of finishing your sixty-page senior research paper. Don’t you remember, Laura? This is a paper you’ve wanted to write since you started college, and it’s here. So stop looking up how to make felt balls or what song is best for your bridal entrance and instead write that awesome paper, screw around with your friends, sleep in hammocks outside, and stay out all night having a blast and doing cartwheels on the lawns of your college with your fiancé. That is what matters most, that you always find true Joy in life.
But okay, I know, it took a while to learn that lesson. You graduate and come home with your fiancé to live with your parents while you plan your wedding. Now you are sleeping in your bed from eighth grade while your soon-to-be groom is sleeping on the futon couch in the office. In your eyes, you went from badass college graduate to “tween” bride-to-be in one week. You tried to plan the perfect wedding, but everywhere you looked, all the photos, blogs, websites, albums were about “women” getting married. Not twenty-one-year-old post-college chicks, but thirty-two-year-olds, with savvy jobs, awesome vacation spots, who are always photographed looking sexy and pulled-together while holding some cocktail that’s pink or orange and has a flirty name like “Between the Sheets.”
The problem was that you were stuck in a cycle you knew too well, where you kept comparing yourself to others and feeling nothing but guilt. You looked at other weddings and wondered if you measured up, if you were confident and capable of being a perfect “grown-up” bride. You saw the photographers, the chefs, the table settings, the whimsical decorations that look hand-done yet professional at the same time. You told yourself you had the skills to do everything DIY even though your last craft project resulted in a C- and a disappointed sigh from your teacher. You decide to go to an event rental place called “Chic” and felt small and awkward while standing in their showroom instead of feeling, well, chic. You didn’t know what was wrong and why you felt so unaccomplished, when you should have felt amazing.
Well guess what. I can tell you exactly what was wrong. You were feeling guilty about your age, your youthfulness, your child-like pizzazz. You looked to your peers who were also getting married that summer for support, and instead of seeing weddings like the one you wanted, you saw thirty-two-year-old-inspired weddings with three photographers, a castle location, and pashiminas for every guest. You panicked and felt unsuccessful in all your ideas and plans. You didn’t know what to do.
But Laura, I am so proud of you, because you figured it out! Didn’t it feel freaking awesome once you did realize it was ageism you were dealing with? You understood the most important concept of your life that summer: that you are a kid-at-heart and you love your husband because he is a kid-at-heart too. No matter what age you get married at, it will never be the “grown-up” wedding that you see in magazine spreads, because that is not you. You are youthful, you are joyful, you are free and bright and you want to dress only in flowers.
So know what you did? You turned your thought around, you blessed everyone in your family that had supported you with suggestions and ideas, and you grabbed your groom’s hand and created the wedding of your dreams. Bridesmaid dresses being all floral: check. Pluot pie instead of wedding cake: check. Gift bags for all the kids attending the wedding: check. You let go of ideas that weren’t harmoniously coming into place, and instead of mourning you turned around and let all of the new ones come into your life, and you cheered and smiled like the child you reflect.
Here’s your wedding day recap: Both your and Tim’s families came together and made all your dreams come true. Your wedding favor was homemade paper filled with the seeds of your favorite herbs; the food was from your favorite restaurant and absolutely scrumptious. Your sisters did you hair and makeup and your mother’s dress was stunning on you. Your groom got ready in the room next to you, and you both drove to your wedding together. The tables were covered in flowers from the farmers markets and your napkins where made by your talented aunt out of vintage floral tablecloths. The decorations were tissue paper flowers you made with Tim’s youngest sister and Nepalese prayer flags. You made a wedding sign out of a wobbly painting, and your guestbook was a pile of Bananagram pieces. Your cousins were called your “flower cousins” and all seven of them pranced down the aisle only to dump all the flower petals on the altar. Your and Tim’s sisters were your beautiful wedding party and both of your parents walked you both down the aisle. Your bouquet was vegetables and herbs and you had flowers in your hair. You’ll remember very little from the ceremony except that it was full of light and love and you couldn’t stop smiling. Your close friend was your photographer, and your mother made every pluot pie with love and care. Your little cousins stole the dance floor, and you made your debut as a singer by singing duets with Tim to your small gathering of friends and family. Best of all, dear Laura, you were deliriously happy and full of love.
The best part is you are still deliriously happy. Your life will always be full of love and joy, and your inner-child will never dim, no matter what age you are.
Laura (the twenty-one-year-old wife who still does cartwheels with her husband)
Photos by Fiona Holden