Separating The Joy From The Pain


I can’t remember my wedding day without remembering the eight months before it

by Anonymous

Separating The Joy From The Pain | A Practical Wedding

“Well. Hell.” That thought danced around my head regularly for the eight months of my engagement. Six months of indecision, misery, fighting, crying, and panic attacks followed by two months of quick decisions, fighting, ugly cries, guilt, depression, love, and joy.

I don’t regret my wedding. I love my wedding day. I should love it: I fought for it, cherished it, defended it, excused it, explained it, loved it, planned it, and, finally, experienced it. But I’m still resentful. Resentful of how unhappy my husband and I were. How many weeks my husband and his mom went without talking. Resentful of every guilt trip we received and continue to receive. How quickly everyone told us their feelings without asking or listening to ours.

I don’t trust family anymore. I didn’t realize before how manipulative and thoughtless someone you love, that loves you, can be. How cruel someone can act when they think they know what’s best. How bottled up emotions will eventually explode with a cataclysmic shock on the day you’re shopping for your wedding dress. How your memory of finding your wedding dress will always include two hours crying in a corner bakery while the people you’re closest to talk about how your wedding makes them sick. How betrayed my husband and I feel and how unsupported. How guilty I feel now, struggling to forgive.

My mom asked me after the wedding when I felt that “wave of love” that every bride experiences. I still don’t know what she’s talking about. I don’t think she believes me or understands. I didn’t experience a wave of love. I felt loved by individual people, all at different times. But I also caught the looks of annoyance, pity, confusion, and hurt. And I heard, “If only…”

If you look through my wedding photos I look ecstatic in all of them. And I was. Bloody freaking ecstatic. I loved every second of my wedding day; I keep looking through photos reliving the day in my head. Hearing my father-in-law, my dad, and three of my best friends speeches. Belting Broadway songs with my mom. Singing drinking songs with my husband and two of our closest friends. Sniffling with my daddy before the ceremony. Wiping my eyes during the ceremony with my great-grandmother’s handkerchief. Drinking mimosas with my mom, best friend from high school, and best friend from college. It was a wonderful day. One of my best days.

But I can’t remember my wedding day without remembering the eight months before it. I can’t separate them; one made the other. One day I’ll be able to. I’ll come to terms with my engagement and I will forgive. I’ll move on, taking with me the lessons learned. About standing my ground. About showing weakness. About how my new family needs and deserves to be treated. How sometimes hopes get crushed. But most importantly I’ve learned how much love my husband and I have. How there are two of us to protect and support each other. How he’ll hold me when I break down crying yet again. And I’ll support him during a panic attack. How we can be each other’s light in the darkness.

They’re good lessons to have learned. But oh, how I wish I hadn’t had to learn them.

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  • Christen Moynihan

    This. Times a million. I still, three years later, struggle with the guilt that my family, apparently — though they’d never dare say it to my face, only behind my back — didn’t agree with this choice or that. That they didn’t approve. And it’s only made the time since, the year of a bad marriage and the two year thats I’ve spent trying to move on and move upward with my life, that much lonelier. Let your husband love you and support you, and do the same for him. Because you now have a baby family that needs to be nurtured, and that’s the family that really matters.

  • Kathleen

    People spent two hours telling you that your wedding makes them sick, after dress shopping? Man, I might just be nosy, but I just wonder what in the world could lead to such a discussion!

    That being said, I’ve had a somewhat rough time with engagement too. So, I feel ya. I’m mainly just surprised at how very very little other people care. I wish with all my heart that we had just done something spur of the moment with immediate family. Ah, well.

    • Ashley

      I wish that with all my heart. There has been far too much fighting and arguing over silly, meaningless things and so much fighting over big, powerful, important things.

    • Meg Keene

      People being shitty is what leads to discussions like that. I mean… let’s face up to the fact that people can be horrible.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      THAT was the part that surprised me the least. Signed, the girl who got yelled at for not an insignificant amount of time over earrings.

      It’s seldom about the dress.

      • Eh

        I totally agree that’s it’s usually not about the dress, earrings, etc. My husband was yelled at about his bachelor party, a suit, and my planning style (eg giving people notice a head of time instead of at the last possible moment). It turns out that the family members in question had been upset about things for years and decided to take it out on us because we were getting attention because we were getting married.

  • http://www.photobox-blog.com/2013/04/joan-francis-cambridge-ontario-wedding.html JMC

    1 year out and the bad memories prior to the wedding do, for the most part, fade away. Every once in a while I’ll catch myself reminiscing resentfully about family’s ultimatums or unkind comments, marvelling at how clueless some people can be about the feelings of others, but find that those emotions lead me nowhere and try and move on. It did and does take some conscious effort to disconnect the two sets of memories and accompanying emotions, that for sure! And in the end, I wouldn’t choose to change the bad times in the planning, for all the ways it helped us establish our little baby family and taught me a lot about being assertive and claiming what I want. I hope you find your way to bask in the glow of the good moments and learn from, then leave behind the bad, and thanks for sharing!

  • Gina

    Can I ask something? What, exactly, is the background situation that all your family and friends made you and your husband feel betrayed and unsupported at every turn? I’m a little confused by this article, and maybe it’s because I just don’t understand the situation. Were they unsupportive of your marriage for some reason? Or are all of them really selfish? Why did you have to fight for, make excuses for, and defend having a wedding? I get that there are always people who don’t react appropriately, or who make it about them, or who want things a certain way. But it is somewhat concerning that you felt this from (from my read of it) ALL your people.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      not that it’s any of my business (it’s not) but I’m curious about this too.

    • Cleo

      Yes, Gina. I’m curious about that too. It’s terrible that all the author’s people seemed to have a 180 in personality (which is how I interpreted the article), but why? Do weddings just bring out the crazy?

      • Rowany

        In a word, yes. If you don’t understand the article, you may be lucky enough to not have to deal with family members who haven’t gotten the “your wedding is not an imposition” memo. Also there’s a lot of cultural baggage associated with weddings and for people who don’t read wedding blogs, unexpected and non-traditional elements can make normally supportive people…uneasy and not sure how to respond. So then their response sometimes turns to becoming inconsiderate or selfish. Sometimes they recognize it and apologize, and sometimes they double-down; and if many family members are like that, it can end up feeling overwhelming. I can understand why the OP has some issues compartmentalizing 8 months of negative emotion from a single wonderful day. It definitely hit home for me without specific context, that’s for sure.

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          Also, man, how easy it is in weddings for a whole LOT to be wrapped up in a single outburst. I know that certain parts of my engagement weren’t about the wedding at all, but were rather ten years of pent-up issues exploding over something stupid like an engagement party. I find weddings have a way of crystallizing issues that have been building over time.

        • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

          um yes to what you said about people who don’t read wedding blogs. APW and all of the other modern-day wedding/ alternative sites, blogs whatever have totally shaped the lens through which i see weddings (and all that comes along with them). i have to remind myself that my family does not read A Practical Wedding. At the end of the day, we are still kind of a minority and it’s a hard pill to have to swallow sometimes. I just want to be like “um, people, HELLO that was covered in APW three years ago!!”

        • Meg Keene

          Yeah, Rowany. I’m with you. Everyone who doesn’t get this, is super lucky.

          Do wedding’s bring out 180s in people’s personalities vs. how we previously perceived them? Sadly, yes. A very big yes. And I’m SUPER glad for everyone who hasn’t lived that.

    • Anon

      Agreed. It’s tough to make heads or tails of this essay without some context.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I think that kind of misses the point. To me (who personally related to this post a lot), this piece is about the emotional process of trying to separate out really painful experiences from really positive ones, when those experiences are inextricably connected. I understand the knee-jerk desire to want more details (it’s the gossip in me), but this isn’t an advice post, and you don’t have to know the full story to relate to the emotion of it. If you’ve been there, you get it. That said, it is always our position that not every post is going to resonate with every reader, so this just might not be one that speaks to you. And that’s totally fine. But digging for information beyond what the author felt comfortable sharing is usually discouraged across the board here.

      • Alison O

        On Joy and Sorrow
        from The Prophet
        by Khalil Gibran

        Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
        And he answered:

        Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
        And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
        And how else can it be?
        The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
        Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
        And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
        When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
        When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

        Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the
        greater.”
        But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

        Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

        Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
        Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
        When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy
        or your sorrow rise or fall.

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          This is beautiful.

        • Meg Keene

          Lovely. Perfect.

      • Amy March

        I don’t think needing more context to relate to this piece is primarily gossipy. I don’t understand what the take away is here or how to engage with this post at all. If the answer is you’ll only get it if you’ve been there, then for the rest of us I don’t see the value in this. It’s anonymous vague booking.

        • M

          Yes, exactly. I also can’t help but wonder if the writer’s family and friends are concerned for her well-being and there’s something here we’re missing. She says she got looks of “pity, confusion, and hurt” on her wedding day and that her friends told her that her wedding made them feel sick… Um….

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          I think the only answer to that is that there is a ton of content on APW that I don’t relate to. If it doesn’t have value for you, that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean it has no value. Personally, I think more context would only give people an opportunity to debate the merit of the author’s feelings, which is great for people who want to talk about the post, but does less to help her process her feelings than we might think. I know personally, if I say “I’m frustrated with X person,” sometimes I just want you to say, “I understand.” If I give you details, it gives you the opportunity to defend the person I’ve been hurt by, and there’s a time when that’s helpful and a time when that just adds to the pain. It’s a process, and I think it’s important to respect the point in that process where she’s at right now.

          • Amy March

            Sure I completely hear you on helping her process her feelings. But I typically view blog posts as an opportunity to talk about the post. Isn’t that the point of sharing a story on a platform with comments?

            Regardless, if anon is reading, my critique is of the editing choices made about this work. Not your feelings. And I very much hope that you will find peace.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            I’d call comments an aspect of writing on the internet, not necessarily the point (a valuable aspect on a site like APW, sure. But a small part of what we do.) Which is probably where we don’t see eye to eye. If a post gives us the opportunity to talk about something, great. But not being able to have a conversation about a piece of writing doesn’t mean it’s without merit. Sometimes I just want to read something and let it soak in without comment. And sometimes that’s the point of the pieces we publish. (This is partly how I feel about the internet in general, but that’s a larger conversation for another time.)

            To put it into context: comments on APW represent maybe 1-10% of our readership, depending on the post. So only ever catering specifically to that need doesn’t answer to the majority of our community. Certainly there are plenty of places on this site where that’s the primary focus, but we aim for balance.

          • Meg Keene

            Commenters on APW, to be clear, represent about 0.1% of our total readership, which is (interestingly) a number that’s been true since about the beginning. Though, the bigger you get, the lower that number goes, so maybe now it’s more like 0.05%?

            Anyway, we love comments, we love commenters, we think what happens here is of great value. It’s not why we publish things. (Well, SOME things. It’s obviously why we publish open threads :)

          • http://www.pinterest.com/katerees711 kater711

            This is fascinating. I was thinking about this comment thread yesterday and thought that one of the reasons why maybe we all wanted to know more and comment is that we want you (Meg, APW) to know that we are reading and valuing the content. Obviously, commenters are a much smaller part of this space than I realized.

            These pieces are hard to comment on beyond fist bumps and hugs but again, I am so glad there is a place for them here.

          • Meg Keene

            Awwwww. Don’t worry, you guys are still a big EMOTIONAL part, and you can totally make or break the staff’s day. And a big business part too.

            But yeah, those numbers have always been so crazy. And I always have to work to keep them in mind. Sometimes posts that are low comment are REALLY beloved but other sections of the readership. (In fact, low comment posts will often be the most liked on Facebook, which I find so interesting.) Anyway, I just work to keep everyone in mind.

          • Anonymous

            I’m befuddled by these two seemingly contradictory statements: “End of the day? I don’t particularly care if this didn’t speak to people not going through it. ” and “Anyway, I just work to keep everyone in mind.” Please know that the first statement comes across as unnecessarily harsh to me. I have loved APW for a long time and am incredibly thankful to have found it, both during my wedding planning and now afterwards as a source of insightful and meaningful posts and dialogue. This is not the first time I’ve been turned off by a comment from you, Meg. Perhaps you won’t care about that either, but I hope you do. If you truly do work to keep everyone in mind, then those who made comments about this post not resonating and wishing for additional context should be treated with more respect and tact.

          • Meg Keene

            By which I mean, keeping everyone in mind very specifically means working to publish things that don’t speak to everyone. It’s something we actually work at. It’s not all supposed to speak to you (or me!).

            I’m blunt, loving but blunt. That’s me. Totally get if that turns you off, hat tip, respect, move on, done.

            This post hit where it was needed. I’m the case of this particular post, that’s what I care about, because that was the goal. For the rest of you, there are new posts today, if you want them!

          • Anon

            I am an analyst by nature and an English professor, so take this with a grain of salt if you wish, but to me what this back-and-forth illustrates more than anything is the difficulty of conveying tone on the Internet. I won’t bother presenting my full analysis here as this is already an old thread. I do want to say, Meg, that I appreciate the ethos of the APW comment thread tremendously. I don’t comment all that often, but I do often read the comments, whereas in general, I simply cannot stand comment threads. They are either completely, overtly obnoxious or get bogged down by the kind of well-meaning but unproductive, hurt-feeling- filled conversation that makes me want to remind people that everything in the big wide Internet is not for the,.

            My thought on is particular discussion, though, is that the “you shouldn’t have wondered about context” idea comes across as aggressive because the possibility for a kind tone is lost in the internet format, and because it makes negative assumptions about the commenter.

          • Anon

            I am Anon above and posting to clarify as I cant edit: I referring to Maddie’s original reply to Gina as aggressive, though I think the intent was simply to try to keep the comments from veering into potentially problematic territory.

        • Meg Keene

          To be honest, lots of stuff we publish just doesn’t speak to me, and I don’t engage with it much, other than as my job. I haven’t been there, I know other’s have. Next! This sure as shit hits the nail on the head for me. No context needed. Why? I have my own context.

          The post writer wasn’t asking for advice, so for those of you who want context to figure out “what you’re missing” are missing the point. The point is the emotions. Not for us to have enough context to judge what happened and offer the poster their advice on a way forward.

          That said, for all of you that don’t get this piece? I’m actually really pleased for you. Hooray. Go pour you and your partner a drink of gratitude tonight, and stop worrying about this post. I’m TOTALLY TOTALLY SERIOUS.

          • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

            yes exactly, it’s about capturing a blip of her feeling-world. it doesn’t have to be some thoroughly written plot line for people to follow. just like you don’t need context for poetry…which is one of the reasons i love what APW publishes. if it can trigger anything inside of you, emotionally or what have you, it’s perfect for publishing (not that i know anything about the behind the scenes publishing). when we hear songs or read poems or see paintings we don’t need context.

          • Katherine

            I don’t think it’s fair to say “if you don’t relate, ignore the post & move on.” Or to say that people only want details as a form of gossip. Sometimes we read to see our own thoughts put into words. But we also read to better understand other people’s situations & thoughts. As someone who totally cannot relate to this post, I am incredibly grateful for my own situation. At the same time, I wish that this post had been better able to help me understand what it’s like to be in that position, and perhaps more specifics might have helped. Why do I want to understand? Not because I want to judge or give advice, but because I believe that the ability to feel empathy makes us better people.

            Not every post has to speak to me, and that’s fine. Clearly this post was very meaningful to some readers, and that’s important and worthwhile. I would never want to push someone to share more than they feel comfortable. At the same time, some posts that don’t directly relate to my own experience can be very meaningful to me, and I think it’s okay to express regret that this post was difficult for some to understand.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            I can’t relate to the post from my own experience, but I have friends who probably can, and it can help me relate to them. To throw out some examples where I think feelings like these can arise – very religious family with a non-religious wedding or wedding in a different religion, race/ethnic bias issues, and sometimes the decision to have a wedding where a lot of people will have to travel is very fraught.

            I think similar feelings can come up outside the wedding context – for example, with someone enlisting in the armed forces or doing political or volunteer work with which their families disagree.

            Lots of situations where families deeply disagree with your choices but also are showing up to either pretend to provide support or to actually provide support.

          • Meg Keene

            I get that. But at the end of the day, this was not a post that was for the people not going through it. Some posts ARE like that. They’re super helpful and informative posts for those of us coming from different perspectives.

            And some posts are a fist bump to the people going through the shitty situations. This is one of those.

            End of the day? I don’t particularly care if this didn’t speak to people not going through it. It wasn’t for you. (Said with love. Plenty of other posts are for you.) It was for the people going through shitty shitty stuff, that need a life line. If you’re in it, a post like this IS that life line. You don’t need someone else’s context, you need something simpler, you need to know you’re not alone.

          • Regina Chiuminatto

            “Sometimes we read to see our own thoughts put into words” – what a concept! I spend a great deal of time reading, and have yet to experience such a thing. I hope I do someday, too.

          • SLG

            Agreed.

          • http://www.pinterest.com/katerees711 kater711

            “At the same time, I wish that this post had been better able to help me
            understand what it’s like to be in that position…” Yes, half of me me totally agrees with this.

            The other half of me is grateful that there’s a place for writing like on this on the web and on APW. It doesn’t have to be the whole story to feel her pain and the joy that intertwined with it.

          • Emma Klues

            Truth bomb!

      • SLG

        As a very private person whose engagement just happened to coincide with the meltdown of my community, I totally support not pressuring people to share more than they want to. And I can so relate to the intense emotions that go along with a painful engagement, broken promises, and loss of trust.

        But as someone who relates to these emotions, I still felt a little confused by this essay. It sounds like this was a situation with a lot of extremes, and the accompanying emotions are (naturally) extreme too. But “I don’t trust family anymore” is also extreme. It makes me want to ask, does the (yes, extremely painful) failure of some family members validate writing off all family? When I got married I formed a new family — and I trust that family. I hope that if I have any daughters who someday get married, I can maintain trust with them when the time comes. It’s sometimes even possible to slowly, carefully rebuild trust with people who failed us, during engagement or other times. I hope we’re staying open to that possibility, while we process the pain we’re experiencing now.

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          I think that part takes time. I have much less extreme feelings about our wedding than I did even a year after it happened. I was actually surprised by how long it took me to get over it.

          That said, I think the author is actually very much on the same page as you. The last paragraph suggest she trusts the new family she’s building and that her relationships with her family of origin will likely mend. But as I’m sure you know, that’s the logical part which can be hard to separate out from the emotional part. The emotional part can exist in extremes long after your brain has worked out the logic of moving on.

        • Meg Keene

          I think that’s wonderful, that you’re able to trust the family that you married into (which I think is what you’re saying here) or the bigger family your wedding created. But we need to respect the fact that not everyone CAN trust their families, or portions of their families, and I think pressuring people to re-build trust just isn’t our place. One always hopes that people are in a situation where trust can be re-built, but we also have to realize that sometimes hope springs from acknowledging painful realities, and learning to live with them.

          I totally respect that you were confused by this essay, it sounds like it’s not exactly a match with your experiences. I think for those of us who do relate to it, no questions are needed, no pressure needs to be placed. Sometimes you just have to be IN the emotions. You’ll find your through.

        • Rowany

          Not trusting family doesn’t mean writing them off. I had a similar experience planning, and something I read that helped was that “having grudges are OK.” It doesn’t mean you won’t have a relationship, even a pretty good relationship with that person. But it does mean that you remember to keep a wall, one that requires time and effort on their part to break down and earn that trust back. Do I still love those people? Yes. Do I now, after those past experiences, trust them to act graciously, with respect towards me and my husband? No. While I wouldn’t say that everything’s “okay” this way, I think sometimes it’s just the healthiest option for the situation.

          • SLG

            Good point, Rowany.

      • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

        yes i agree, i wanted to make clear that i don’t “expect” anything from the writer, I was just curious if she was willing to share, that’s all. when you read something like that, it’s hard to not what to know more. that’s all i meant. no disrespect to the writing at all!

      • H

        ^This. “Beyond what the author felt comfortable sharing” is the key here. If she wanted to give us context she could have, but sometimes it’s the feelings we want to share more than the details of who did what exactly. As someone who had a rather rocky engagement, I really sympathized with feeling let down by family who couldn’t really be happy for me because of their own baggage. But do I want to forgo a certain level of anonymity and give you a detailed breakdown complete with names and the instances in which they hurt me? Not really.

    • jashshea

      I think what actually resonated most with me is this passage:

      “My mom asked me after the wedding when I felt that “wave of love” that every bride experiences. I still don’t know what she’s talking about. I don’t think she believes me or understands. I didn’t experience a wave of love.”

      In the first few paragraphs, sure, I wanted more details about exactly what went down, but those lines really clarified for me that for the OP (and more commonly/universally) there’s a nasty juxtaposition between expecting joy and getting, at best, struggle (or at worst sadness/grief). At the end of the day, specific details don’t matter as much because there’s common experience there: We’ve all dealt with being disappointed by something. Stakes are higher with a wedding because there’s inherent drama (money+family+establishing your own adulthood) all stacked up against “best day EVAR!” expectations.

      Not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth, but that’s my $.02.

    • http://www.pinterest.com/katerees711 kater711

      I think this one of the things that makes the post so heart-aching. We can apply only our own circumstances and if she had shared her specific experiences how we would have handled the situation, but we can’t here, we only have her words. And it’s painful.

    • anon today

      My initial reaction also was about the lack of context, but as I digested this piece I remembered the fact that *I cried* last night because my mom emailed me saying she wanted to call and confirm her lodging reservations for the wedding weekend (which sounds like a totally reasonable thing for her to do, except in context: between the sweet host whose English skills are minimal and my mom’s inexplicable insistence on making the whole thing as completely fucking complicated as it could possibly be for him, making those reservations was one of the most stressful processes of my entire engagement). et cetera. even though my engagement has generally been happy and wonderful, there are some things that have been so effing weird that i never expected and still don’t understand why, for that random topic, my family was replaced by aliens.

  • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison Toback

    My husband and I had a rough engagement period, too, largely due to family being stupid or immature or some horrid combination of both. I loved this line of your post:

    “But I can’t remember my wedding day without remembering the eight months before it. I can’t separate them; one made the other.”

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been trying to say for over a year.

  • kmw2114

    Without context, it’s very difficult to understand this post! It’s so terribly negative with a real lack of specificity. I feel badly for the author that she perceives her engagement and wedding planning in this horrible way.

    I do wonder, however, if given the all-encompassing feelings of betrayal and lack of support, the poster should focus on mending her perception as opposed to continuing to dwell on seemingly isolated episodes that are tainting her whole lens of her wedding.

    The best friend toasts, the Broadway singing, the mimosa drinking…that all sounds super. The poster said it was her best day ever. I don’t know what happened on the day she bought your wedding dress, but it sounds like it would be best to let the perceived issues with wedding planning go. Focus on the positive (fabulous wedding, eternal partnership with the love of your life) and move on.

    • CB

      Isn’t that what this post is about? Focusing on the positive, the fabulous wedding, the eternal partnership, and moving on. Seeing the negative things that happened as connected to the great good that happened, thereby elevating them.

      • kmw2114

        I hope so, for the poster’s sake! But – for now – it’s a 6 paragraph piece. One paragraph discusses the joys of the wedding and five paragraphs discuss the pain. I think there’s still some work to be done in processing and healing from whatever the perceived pain points were in planning.

        • Amanda

          I think that it’s great that she was brave enough to write a post on the painfulness of the process. I wrote a post a few years ago that glossed over the painfulness of our wedding (http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/11/self-catered-winter-wedding/) and that, frankly, said some things about forgiveness that I now realise are not true. I know that I could not have written a post that dealt with the painful aspects with any specificity. It would have decimated the possibility of having a positive relationship with certain people.

          On the other hand, writing about the wedding in a more positive way was good for me. Before writing, it had gotten to the point that thinking about the wedding caused me to access some deep well of rage and sadness. The process of writing about it in a positive way allowed me to reclaim very real joys of the wedding and to separate it somewhat from the lunacy.

          I think that this was a great, brave piece of writing. And my hope for the author is that the painful aspects lose their rawness over time, and simply become part of your new, slightly more jaded, assessment of your family. And I hope that, as you come to accept this new reality, the parts of the wedding that are really yours overshadow this harshness.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I think the whole point of the post is about how hard it is to do what you’re suggesting here. Having a great wedding doesn’t negate a shitty engagement period, and
      it’s very possible for people to hurt you in the process and then be
      really great on the day-of (thanks families for being complicated like
      that!) Pretending things didn’t happen for the sake of changing your perception of an event doesn’t necessarily fix the underlying issues that caused them to begin with. Rather, I think it’s important to acknowledge that these feelings can simultaneously exist, so that you can GET TO the important work of getting over it, which is where the author seems to be coming from here. There’s a lot of guilt around not loving your wedding, and I don’t think it’s necessarily helpful to minimize the author’s experience by suggesting that she adopt a different attitude.

      • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

        agreed. engagements aren’t all sunshine and roses. i think it’s important to present the various shades of realities that exist during times like these.

    • Alison O

      I see this as more of a single reflection than necessarily evidence that the author is “dwell[ing]” in an unhealthy way. Maybe she does dwell on it in everyday life, maybe not; I don’t think we can know. Also, compartmentalizing could be seen as good or bad depending on your personal coping style. Re: the Khalil Gibran piece I posted under Maddie’s other comment, I see joy and sorrow as inextricable. Two sides of the same coin. Very much not a compartmentalizer. Some people might even see compartmentalizing as denial (which is undesirable). But it can go the other way. Some couples hash out everything, some sweep things under the rug and get along fine that way.

      Overall it sounds to me like the author has a very healthy, mature way of relating to an important event that was characterized both by ecstatic joy and real strife.

    • Meg Keene

      Whew. I do NOT think that focusing on “mending your perception” after really painful wedding planning experiences is good advice, nor do I think “letting things go” or “focusing on the positive” are at all helpful either. I do think it’s really common advice, and really terrible advice in practice.

      I think what is good advice is to honor your experiences, and start to work to face a sometimes somewhat changed reality. It’s also important to try to find a way to marry (ha) the good and the awful, which weddings are damn good at juxtaposing. You can have the best day ever, and have that exist with terrible planning experiences, and broken relationships. Pretending only the good stuff happened is setting a trap for yourself down the line. A huge and horrible trap.

  • KT

    i’m glad your day was great and i hope you can forgive your families for their behaviour during the engagement. i have had my mother-in-law tell me ‘no wonder i’m ill and stressed thanks to your wedding’ so i know how unpleasant it can be. people are odd.

  • Sarah

    Oh dear. I’m so sorry you had such a difficult engagement. I know people have cutural expectations around weddings but honestly, it can’t be worth all that pain. I’m not sure how old you are but I feel like me getting married in my mid-thirties was a huge help in this department. Our families just supported what we wanted and we were so grateful. Of course, most of this site is about how our journeys through engagement, marriage, and family aren’t the fairytale we’re told they are. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Meg Keene

      Oh, I don’t think age has anything to do with how the people around us react.

      I mean, plenty of them are old enough to know better already.

      • Katherine

        Having gotten married in my mid-thirties to someone in his early forties, I could see how the reaction might depend on age. I think our families were just happy we were each getting married to a decent person, and the details of the actual wedding weren’t particularly important in the midst of that.

        On the other hand, I could have no idea what I’m talking about, as I have just about the most supportive, lowest drama family ever. (Yesterday, on their way home from helping my 92 year old grandmother move into assisted living, my 17 year old cousin asked his mom if we have the most awesome family in the universe. What 17 year old boy thinks stuff like that? Clearly, I really do have an awesome family, and it’s hard for me to know what’s going on I other families.)

        • Leigh

          I really needed this post after trying to be the peacemaker between my parents and my fiance this weekend….sometimes the best events of our lives, the days leading up to the the best days of our lives can also bring up how we move from childhood to adulthood and how to balance between our old family’s wishes and our new one.At times that makes things dramatic and messy. I really appericated this post today becuase it reminded me that getting to my happily ever after I will have to stand up and fight for what my fiance and I want…but that doesn’t mean that I have to lose the magic moments with my parents…but it might cause drama getting there…becuase all of our visons of the wedding weekend are different.

        • Rowany

          I can’t be sure, but I would bet that you just have an awesome family that would have been just as awesome if you were younger. After all, a wedding in your mid-thirties with a more negative family could just mean that there are more people who’ve gotten married now with Opinions on How It’s Done.

      • Emily

        I don’t think Sarah was talking about the age of the people around her acting horribly, but rather her age as a bride in her mid-30s. People feel a little less presumptuous about getting all over your wedding plans when you demonstrate the maturity is sometimes lacking at a younger age.

        • Meg Keene

          Indeed. And as a mid-30 some, I was flat out disagreeing. People acting horrible has nothing to do with your age. (In fact, I was pointing out that whether you are 20 or 50, your parents are old enough to know better and act better.)

          I’ve noticed a bit of victim blaming in the comments, which I think is super unintentional, but I also think is common and problematic. People dealing with difficult family situations do a LOT of self blaming, because that’s what they’re taught to do. What’s happening in the comments is unintentional piling on, and I want to take a time out for the people actually dealing with shitty family comments, and shitty family behavior. If your parents or other family members act horribly during wedding planning, PLEASE don’t blame yourself. It wouldn’t be better if you were just in your mid-30s, or if you just knew the right thing to say, or if you just had been a better daughter, or you just hadn’t made that one mistake, or any of the huge number of things you tell yourself. You don’t have control over your family’s behavior, and facing it for what it is, and working to deal with it, makes you an awesome and strong person.

    • Anon

      I’m getting married in my mid-thirties, and I’m exactly here right now. Things were said, I made apologies (because I thought that was what I was raised to do), there were none in response. I have communicated, as calmly as I could, what the hurt was and why I felt judged and what I needed, and have been repeatedly met with “get over it”. I have lived away from my family for longer than I lived with them now, and I guess that distance allowed me to put a rosy glow over dysfunction that I honestly didn’t remember. A lot of the things I most value about myself (that I feel most valued when I am being of service, that I willingly offer sincere apology when I realize I have done wrong, that asking community for support isn’t a “burden” but a chance to reinforce existing relationships, that we don’t have to do fancy things or have fancy stuff to impress people because we are good enough, goddammit!) and that I thought came from my family I am now…lost about? I don’t know what the magic key to a fun engagement that doesn’t involve panic attacks or burning tears until you feel like a husk, but age isn’t it.

      • Heather

        So many hugs. I wish I could hug you in real life.

  • Sarah T

    THIS. Right in the feels. I am still struggling with my in-laws over how they treated us in the run up to the wedding. Contrary to other commentors, I actually wish there was less detail in this post. The “your wedding makes me sick” comments didn’t happen to me (at least not that I know about!) and make me distance myself from the post when all the emotional impact is spot on.

    • Meg Keene

      Bing!

    • Jenny

      Agree. My husband and I just talked about how some family members behavior about our wedding has permanently changed our view of them. Not to the extent that the author felt, but certainly in a way that makes the feelings I have about the wedding more complicated. Some things were silly, or that I can rationalize as coming from a helpful but misguided place and I can let go of them. But there are other things, like this post talked about that make you change your views of people, or groups of people. And sometimes in life that just happens, but when it happens because of, or is brought up because of something that is suppose to be happy, it’s hard to deal with that. I thought the author summed up her feelings well. Being left wanting more is an OK thing.

  • http://twitter.com/mollyepollard Molly Pollard

    This post. My fiance and I have relatively supportive families (or at least it could be a lot worse, given the cross-cultural nature of our relationship) but we still have moments where people are not at all supportive. My fiance’s dad has said he will not come to the (Western/Christian) wedding (he wasn’t going to come to the courthouse either, when we thought that was what we were doing). He disapproves openly of my fiance’s choice to marry an American woman. But again, it could be a lot worse. It’s sometimes a struggle just because people’s expectations are all over the map with our wedding. In an effort to please everyone, we’re winding up having an entire weekend of parties and celebrations just so that they can all have some of what they expect a “wedding” to be. This isn’t what you’re going through, but aside from not being a party planner and being 100% disinterested in wedding planning, this is my experience. It’s not necessarily specific scathing remarks, but just a general attitude. And in that way, I can relate to you.

    It makes me wish we had just eloped. I’m going to try not to let it color the memories of my wedding, though. I’m sorry that you have associated these memories so negatively, and I hope you can move past it eventually and find peace in your relationship.

  • HannahESmith

    I relate to this post. While I was fortunate to have amazing families (on both sides), I did have a bridesmaid who acted terribly. I still am having trouble trusting this person. It’s been six months, and I don’t think she has any idea how much her behavior at several key moments really hurt me. I have pulled away in this friendship, but I debate on whether or not to end it completely. The way people act around your wedding really can make you question whether you can trust them. The stakes are so high.

    • p.

      I’ve been on the opposite side of your experience. I was a bridesmaid in a friends wedding and that experience really changed how I felt about the bride and her sister. We are relatives so we still see each other a few times a year, but we aren’t close in the same way we were before the wedding. Initially, I felt really sad about how these friendships had changed, but with the benefit of time (it’s been 10 years now!), I can see that my friendships with them would have changed eventually, regardless of the wedding. Sometimes our weddings are the first time we notice or start to see the signs that something isn’t working between us and our friends or our families.

      • anon

        I can relate to this too. A good friend got married last year, and that experience changed how I felt about her. I experienced behavior that I can’t forget, and was treated rather poorly and talked to as though I were disposable. We’re still friends, but I have a hard time going the extra mile for her anymore. The behavior didn’t end with the wedding. I told another friend that if I started acting like the world revolved around me when wedding planning, she needs to tell me. It’s one of my worst nightmares to turn into that.

  • TS

    So that’s what I’ve been feeling.
    As we come up on our first Easter since the wedding I’ve found myself in unexpected pain. Hurt by the unstated expectations. Why should I join their family traditions at the cost of my own? Why should I go to a church I don’t fit in? Why should I continue to try to join their family and miss out on my own.
    When will it be enough that I had a church wedding because nothing else would work for them. That I sat through months of disapproval and judgement and well meant suggestions that implied I had no idea what I was doing?

    Because I don’t trust my new family any more.
    They are welcoming. They invite my family to every family event. They are very friendly.
    But I’ve seen their other face and I don’t trust them.
    The wedding day was spectacular. So was the pain of creating it.

    • Eh

      I struggle with this too. My family lives 8 hours from where we live and my inlaws live an hour from us so we spend a lot of time with them and they try to make me feel bad when I go spend time with my family. It was particularly difficult when I had to sit through family feuds instead of being home with my family. I haven’t been “home” since August and I haven’t seen my family since October. It’s hard enough for me be away from my family, I don’t need to be guilt-tripped about it and I don’t need to deal with their family drama.

  • Eh

    This part really spoke to me: “I didn’t realize before how manipulative and thoughtless someone you love, that loves you, can be. How cruel someone can act when they think they know what’s best. How bottled up emotions will eventually explode… How betrayed my husband and I feel and how unsupported. How guilty I feel now, struggling to forgive.”

    My BIL and his wife caused a lot of drama around our wedding. I have separated that drama from our wedding. We had an awesome day and that’s what I remember. I don’t associate the horrible stress before our wedding with planning or our wedding. There was also little drama the day of our wedding as we hoped they would come but had plans if they didn’t. My BIL did come but only to the ceremony and he stayed for a few family pictures.

    We are working things out with my BIL and his wife. It’s going slowly but we are making progress. We are struggling to forgive.

    One thing that is leading to guilt is that my BIL and his wife have pointed out that we don’t have many pictures of their kids around our house (especially compared to my brother’s kids). We’ve pointed out that my brother and his wife give us pictures so that’s why we have so many, and they have never given us any.

    We spent a lot of money on photography at our wedding so we have lots of pictures from our wedding around our house. This exacerbates the picture issue since my brother’s kids were there and they are in many pictures. We also have family picture wall that consists of wedding pictures of our siblings, parents, and grandparents, plus the family pictures from our wedding. Since my BIL’s kids and wife weren’t at our wedding they are not in the family pictures (we did use a picture of my BIL, his wife and their three kids from their wedding – so there is a picture of the kids on the wall). My MIL wants us to have a new family picture taken with everyone (she requested that they come to our wedding to have a family picture taken, and since our wedding she is always asking for us to have a family picture taken – she wanted one for Christmas which was two months after our wedding). My original stance was that they chose not to come to our wedding (I’m not holding it against them, I’m saying the picture is an accurate reflection of our wedding) and they choose to not give us pictures but I am worried about how that will affect our relationship. We saw them over the weekend and I took some pictures of the kids so I can print them and put them up around the house.

    This was really on my mind today as I had to deal with the family feud bubbling up today.

  • Lian

    I read the post this morning and couldn’t really do anything with it – I did not connect to it as it does not correspond to my experience at all. As an eternally curious person I also admit to wanting to know more about the situation.

    This evening I returned and read all the comments of people connecting to this piece SO MUCH, and it showed me how different people’s experiences are and how lucky I am. So thank you – for this piece, and especially for the comments.

  • anonnytoday

    Oof. Right to the gut. Not much to add, as I’m still in the swirl of not trusting family and not being able to look at my wedding photos (one year out) without feeling a lot of sorrow for the hurtful events surrounding that day.

    I guess I figured that the hurtful drama that ensued only coincidentally occurred around my wedding, but from this post and the comments, I have to realize that weddings can be an unfortunate catalyst for crappy behavior.

    A positive: even with all the hurt, my wedding was the start to my wonderful marriage. And also, the day was absolutely perfect and wonderful regarding 99% of our beloved guests. No amount of hurtful people/actions/events can take that away!

    • Eh

      Catalyst for crappy behaviour – exactly! The drama around our wedding had nothing to do with our wedding.

  • M2014

    I think one really important elements the more critical commenters are missing is the tendency of weddings (as big, emotional, expectation filled events) to magnify history and sides of people that we’d rather forget and overlook. Speaking from the wedding planning experience my fiancée and I have had, it is completely possible to have worked hard to process and and preserve and protect relationships for years, only to have that carefully cultivated facade crumble in the face of some particularly bad behavior and unconscionably unkind comments. It is miserable timing, and I think it makes it that much more important not to place the onus on the marrying couple to reframe the situation and make it okay. You don’t reach the feeling of betrayal and the inability to trust alluded to in this post without having put some of your heart out there already.

  • Violet

    OP, I don’t have anything deep or insightful to say, but I *can* say I Hear Your Pain. It is real. I don’t care how it came about, who caused what, how you responded in the moment, how you responded later, who could have done what differently or how you’re processing or anything. Keep sharing your pain with whomever you feel you can trust. It’s your pain; you are allowed. You don’t need to move on or re-frame or do Anything you don’t want to do.
    Very brave piece. I hear you, loud and clear.

  • Guest

    So, I’m clearly late to the party but reading the comments I’m really shocked by how quickly this went in a bad direction. It’s really a shame, I feel like this clearly touched raw nerves for a lot of people and it’s led to quite an unpleasant and defensive discussion. I feel quite disappointed with APW really.

    • Guest

      To be clear, I love the post, it’s heartfelt and honest, I just think it’s a shame everyone went a bit off the deepend in the comments.

  • Stefan Salvatore

    I am very glad to read this blog. And thanks for sharing your experience about your wedding. Wedding in Hawaii

  • AG

    The trust thing hits home for me. We are very lucky to have wonderful, supportive families, but there have been some rough patches too. My MIL has been pretty judgmental and manipulative (in addition to being ecstatic and helpful!) throughout the planning process. Because it’s a wedding, the drama is always about something utterly trivial, and therefore I usually end up making a joke of it. However, the underlying issue – the fact that she will lie to us to get her way, or that she cares more about impressing her friends than respecting our wishes – really hurts me, and I can’t look at her in the same light I did before our engagement. Our relationship is not ruined, nor is it even really hurt, but I now know something about her I didn’t know before. Good lessons indeed, but tough.

  • Anonymous Kat

    I tend to follow APW comments – though hardly ever join in the discussion. I was shocked after reading all the comments. I anticipated internet hugs, love, and overall support. Particularly because this is exactly how I felt during my engagement and what prompted us to cancel our entire wedding and change it. I would want that sort of reaction from those with an outsider perspective. Those who weren’t my biased family members to just get it, without hearing all the gritty details.

    I couldn’t take the family emotional part. I hated the way I was feeling and I was tired of associating those feelings with my wedding day. I was tired of crying, feeling anxious, feeling betrayed, and feeling guilty. There was SO much pressure.
    And that’s the point in this – it doesn’t matter what caused it, it doesn’t matter what my families intentions were, it doesn’t matter that they wanted best for me. The fact is they made me feel a certrain way and I couldn’t take it anymore.
    What matters was my emotions and you are allowed to have those despite all of the background information.

  • joanna b.n.

    Just hugs, to the OP and everyone who can relate. Lots of hugs.

  • Anon

    I can relate to this. So well. I got engaged 5 months ago. The planning has been slow and hard and I am about to embark on another 6-7 months of it (still no date). I have a wonderful family who loves me and wants the best for me, and thinks they know what’s best for me! Everyone keeps saying this is my wedding and it’s all up to me. They say this, but I don’t think they believe it to be true, otherwise this would be a lot smoother. My ideas would not get dismissed so quickly. My goal is to not have 6-7 more months like this for one great ecstatic day. How do I do that?

  • http://theartofhintz.blogspot.com/ Jenniferjuniper

    Oof, Internet hugs indeed, I’m one of those who can also relate to this. Especially “How bottled up emotions will eventually explode with a cataclysmic shock.” Those explosions were ugly and painful and while I was expecting it, it wasn’t any easier to travel through. As the day ticked closer I heard excited comments about how “I can’t believe it’s almost here!” and all I could think was “I can’t believe it will be over soon – thank god” I was lucky and so very grateful that most were happy and the anger was aimed at others, but messy emotional crossfire happens and it sucks.

    After scrolling through the comments a bit, I thought I’d say I think it misses the point to jump straight to advice for the op, she doesn’t seem to be asking for any and the ways of moving forward with that kind of experience, pain and grief, is different for everyone.

  • B

    I think I’m officially no longer an APW reader after this. This website has gone more and more corporate and I do not agree with the policing of comments by Meg and Maddie that has gone on here today. As long as people are breaking the comment rules set forth, there is absolutely no need to chime in and dismantle every person’s opinion that doesn’t agree with yours.

  • Stefan Salvatore

    wedding planners could play a major role to make your wedding memorable and make you feel free to enjoy every moment of your wedding tension free..
    Maui Photographer

  • Dami

    I am quite disappointed with the comments of the APW editors . If someone says they don’t understand then they simply don’t. Getting so defensive was totally unnecessary. Context is for people to understand a situation and quite frankly, I am quite concerned for the author. If your family wasn’t supportive maybe there are underlying issues she needs to think about and resolve?

  • KatieE

    I just wanted to say I am one of the people who hardly ever comments, and this post really spoke to me. My husband and I also had a really crappy experience almost from the moment we got engaged and things are still not right within the wider family but they are a heck of a lot better. I found counselling really helpful just to process everything and mourn the change in some of those relationships without judgement, blame or anger. One of the most effective things the counsellor did was say “that must have been tough”. Just acknowledging my feelings in an impartial way helped me to let go.

  • shanoooo

    I was just about to submit an APW post similar to this when somehow I came across this and thought, “I don’t need to submit mine now. This is it!!!!” Thank you. I completely relate. It is awful to go through this, I feel betrayed and traumatized, and my wedding was almost a year ago now.

    Our experience also negatively impacted my relationship with my husband, because in the midst of all the drama our families were causing, he basically shut down and refused to even talk about the wedding with me. On the one hand, I couldn’t blame him. On the other hand, I needed his support more than anyone’s, and I didn’t really get it. We’re still working through that. I think we are going to get there. I just look forward to our next adventures, and hope that as we build more awesome memories for ourselves, the bad ones will fade away…