In the days leading up to our wedding, people kept asking me if I was nervous. I kept saying no, but that wasn’t quite true. I was nervous, just not in a way that I could easily articulate. To be honest, I was just trying very, very hard not to think about the wedding day at all.
I thought about the logistics, of course. Logistics are unavoidable, particularly in the last few days before the wedding. (Nick frequently grumbled, “I don’t feel like I’m planning a wedding. I feel like I’m planning a land invasion.”) Thinking in terms of trolley timelines and seating charts and dietary restrictions was frankly soothing in comparison to the one thought I was desperately trying to suppress: how was I going to feel on our wedding day?
There are many things about a wedding that you can’t control, but you can at least make contingency plans. You can’t predict the weather, but you can proceed with plan B in case of rain. You can’t control traffic or flight delays, but you can make a backup plan for late arrivals. What you cannot do, however hard you may try, is plan out your emotions.
This seemed particularly unfair to me. I wasn’t asking for a lot, right? The wedding was planned to be relatively laid back. I didn’t care if it rained. (Actually, I would have welcomed the opportunity to splurge on a pair of outlandish wedding galoshes.) I wasn’t worried that everyone would forget when to kneel or shout out the wrong responses at our Catholic ceremony; I knew it’d be a funny story later. I wouldn’t be upset if the seating arrangements went awry or if I spilled marinara sauce down the front of my white dress. Really, I felt that I was setting a fairly low bar. In return, shouldn’t I at least be able to schedule my feelings so I’d be in the correct state of mind at the desired moments throughout the day? 8:00 a.m., hair appointment: well rested, calm. 1:00 p.m., walking down the aisle: excited, confident, present. 11:00 p.m., last dance: blissful, grateful, fully satisfied.
Alas, I know all the mental bargaining in the world was not going to allow me to accurately calibrate my wedding day emotions. And since the only thing worse than feeling less than stellar at a particular moment on my wedding day (8:00 a.m., exhausted, frazzled; 1:00 p.m., self-conscious, distracted; 11:00 p.m., overwhelmed, disappointed) would have been to also feel panicked about what I wasn’t feeling at that moment, I immersed myself in spreadsheets and a flurry of vendor emails to avoid setting myself up for disappointment.
In retrospect, though, I am so grateful that I avoided over-thinking my wedding day emotions (even if I did so for the wrong reasons). As each part of the day unfolded, my feelings came as a welcome surprise in ways I never could have expected, even if I hadn’t been actively avoiding making such predictions. I did wake up exhausted and sluggish, having tossed and turned until nearly 3:00 a.m. But as friends started trickling into the suite to get ready and my cell phone started buzzing with well wishes, I was overcome with the kind of energy no coffee could match, restless sleep be damned. I had heard of that supposedly magic moment when I’d lock eyes with Nick waiting at the end of the aisle, but that moment must have been reserved for people with 20/20 vision, because I could barely make out his tuxedoed frame, let alone his eyes, until I was at least halfway down the aisle. But it didn’t matter; I literally gasped as the church doors swung open and I saw the faces of family and friends looking back at me with anticipation and excitement.
I thought my biggest wish for the reception was a packed dance floor and big rowdy dance party. The dance floor was certainly never empty, but as different groups filtered back and forth for their favorite songs and I saw friends old and new clustering in groups around the bar area talking and laughing, I realized everything was going exactly as it should. Toward the end of the night, the remaining group dwindled to a particularly enthusiastic bunch of close friends and family that circled around Nick and I around the dance floor. I remember spinning around and around looking from face to face—grad school friends, mom, college roommates, best friend since kindergarten—all sweaty and joyful (and, okay, tipsy) belting out “Sweet Caroline.” (I am still hoarse, four days later.) It was perfection, and I couldn’t have planned a single second if I tried.
There were moments of mild anxiety throughout the day, to be sure. I somehow left the hotel without seeing myself in my wedding dress, resulting in a brief identity crisis when I walked into the restroom at the church and finally caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror just before the ceremony. I also felt unexpectedly anxious during the toasts. Turns out it is a bit nerve-wracking listening to other people talk about you and your new spouse! But I relaxed almost immediately when my newly minted father-in-law began his speech at conception—I guess there’s something about the word “ovulation,” spoken into a microphone, that breaks the tension. How can you feel tense when an entire barn full of your favorite people is filled with laughter?
Even more surprising, so many of my favorite memories of our wedding are not from the wedding itself, but from the days before and after. On Wednesday, Nick and I giggled uncontrollably as we stood at probate court, with my mom videotaping, and swore that we weren’t drunk, weren’t cousins, and didn’t have syphilis. I will never forget Thursday, as close friends arrived early to help out and crammed into my mother’s hotel room, passing armfuls of bulk flowers down an assembly line, first to be trimmed by my college roommates, then rinsed in the bathroom tub by Nick’s college roommates, and finally arranged into buckets by my sister and brother-in-law.
Friday night, I squealed as friend after friend streamed into the hotel lobby to check in, and my baby sister barreled down the hallway for a hug (light up shoes blinking all the way). I sobbed through our entire rehearsal, ate my weight in chicken wings at the dive bar where we held a welcome party, and gave more hugs than I ever have before in my life. As we went to bed on Friday—the day before the wedding—I proclaimed with disbelief, “If this were it, if this were the wedding, I’d be completely satisfied.”
This feeling of euphoria lasted into the wee hours of Sunday morning at the impromptu after party. Messy ponytail, high heels and shape wear long since abandoned, I sat on the floor, eating Pringles in my wedding dress and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in years. As the night turned into morning, I glimpsed a sneaky kiss between new friends, watched my uncle throw his arm around Nick’s uncle’s shoulders declaring that they were “kindred spirits,” and generally looked around the room with a sense of awe at all the people from all different chapters of our life, celebrating together and celebrating us. As 4:00 approached and Nick and I finally made our way upstairs, I felt content in a way that I would not have thought possible throughout the chaos and anxiety of planning our wedding day.
Had I let myself wonder what the wedding day would feel like, I might have imagined anything ranging from fleeting moments of stress to a total meltdown to complete and utter joy. What I could not have imagined was that everything I would feel that day, for better or for worse, would feel exactly right.