One of my favorite things about APW posts these days is that we’re able to approach a subject from a whole variety of different angles in a way we were never able to when I was the single voice on the site. The best part of that is when two people approach a subject from opposite directions and end up with conclusions that are similar in spirit. That’s just how I feel about Sarah’s post on why wedding planning isn’t worth it, and my post on why wedding planning is worth it. In the end, I think we learned the same lessons (though her post has the sassiest little kid picture ever, so she wins everything). Also, I love posts about people who hated wedding planning, or their weddings, because I want destroy the cultural myth that all women love their weddings. Let’s do it.
Last weekend was supposed to be our wedding. It was going to be beautiful, tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, a homemade celebration of love full to the brim with perfectly poured over details. But it was not our wedding. And as that Saturday came and passed, I found myself filling with joy and reassurance that the wedding I had loved and planned for that day was not for me after all. And I realized too that it was only in the conscious act of not planning a wedding that we found the celebration of marriage we were truly looking for.
Before I go on, let me say that I LOVE weddings. At first, even the minutest details of planning were completely thrilling. I could spend hours on end gazing at lace, searching Pinterest with phrases like “vintage rustic” and “ethereal bridal up-do” while diligently scrapbooking all my brilliant whims. Wedding blogs took the place of hardcovers and to this day, when a Save the Date arrives in the mail, I get downright giddy. I still love weddings—but am so happy that we’re not having one.
Of course, I knew from the first time “I hate this wedding” came out of my mouth that I wasn’t unique. Hadn’t every married person I know hated their wedding at some point during the planning process? Hadn’t I spent countless hours calming my best friend as she haggled and stressed, fulfilling my duty as MOH with pure faith that it would all be worth it? I knew that wedding planning was supposed to be hard and so in the beginning we persevered without so much as a second thought.
And then my dad got sick. Really sick. And I found myself loading and unloading my little Honda for the twelve hour drives to Florida with great frequency, each time wondering if it could, once again, be my last. And somewhere during those months of back and forth, in the midst of arguing with insurance companies and pleading with nurses and waiting for the doctor to ever call me back, the assault of stress and heartache and frustration that we thought was par for the course in wedding planning began to feel personal.
It wasn’t just that I hated the wedding planning; it was that I had started to despise the wedding itself. All the things that I had poured over—the perfect little centerpieces and the homemade menu and the inscribed antique spoon favors I had loved so much—they started to seem downright offensive. The very thought of thinking about these details on the same day and in the same headspace as thinking about my vows and making an eternal commitment to the love of my life now felt almost grotesque. Gracious friends offered to chip in and do the event planning for us, but it wasn’t just that we couldn’t think about it ourselves; it was that we couldn’t imagine anyone thinking about napkins and flower arrangements on the same day we were committing to build a life together.
And so with every hushed late-night phone call from the Florida guestroom of my grandmother’s house back home to my fiancé, in which negotiating contract changes and checking to-do lists had to take place in the same phone call as tearful updates from that day’s trip to the hospital, it became clearer and clearer that it was just too much. It was time to stop.
So, with a bit of nervousness, we began to spread the word that we were postponing the wedding. It was easier than we’d thought. Everyone understood and sent kind thoughts and just like that—poof—we didn’t have a wedding to plan. We exhaled a bit and thought, “Phew, now that’s off our shoulders.” But the thing was, it wasn’t. It still felt so heavy and uncomfortable, this wedding hanging somewhere in the future, waiting to be planned. We didn’t like the planning and we didn’t like the wedding and we certainly didn’t want to keep right on dreading it for a whole ‘nother year.
So we tabled it. We had tentatively come up with a grand scheme to marry in Mexico but in the end, that too was filled with bureaucracy and stress that made it feel again like an event we were orchestrating, not a life we were starting. Besides, there were bigger things to think about at the time so we officially agreed to not think about a wedding at all anymore. In that time, my father eventually passed and we focused on the grieving and remembering and the taking care of the myriad tasks that follow if you are the lone survivor. We told people we were taking a break from planning, but the truth was we didn’t know how or if we’d be able to go back to it.
But somewhere in that time of grieving and picking up the pieces and actively not planning, a realization came to me. We really had just two criteria for our marriage celebration—that the day is special and that we are happy. It didn’t have to be so hard. It didn’t have to be a wedding at all.
In a quick late night discussion, we decided without argument or hesitation to simply celebrate our marriage sans wedding. We decided to forget about cancelling the honeymoon—we had always loved that part and this was a year in which a true vacation was very much needed. Our original plans had always included a stopover in San Francisco and I had a vague memory of majestic downtown buildings from my youth. A quick google search confirmed that San Francisco has one of the most gorgeous city halls in the country. And just like that, it was done. We needed only to be happy and feel special—and it was just a $75 online reservation away.
When our wedding date came and passed last weekend we toasted with friends and announced with stifled glee that we were in fact still getting married, we would just be doing it without a wedding. In eight short weeks, my fiancé and I will hop a plane to the West Coast, get our marriage license on a Friday afternoon, and spend the weekend hanging off street cars, snapping pics of the Golden Gate Bridge and soaking up every vista long the Seventeen Mile Drive. That Monday, I’ll put on the gorgeous-perfect-lovely-in-every-way wedding dress I fell in love at first sight, and my fiancé will wear his most dapper Dap Kings style suit (the one that wouldn’t have worked in the beautiful “vintage rustic” outdoor mountainside wedding we had originally planned) and we’ll go to San Francisco City Hall and have a ten minute ceremony in which every last second is about nothing at all except him and me and our union. We’ll rig up a record player or a live musician or hell even a cordless iPod doc (who will be there to judge?) and we’ll play something sentimental and we’ll have ourselves a dance and a ridiculously indulgent meal and a really good piece of cake and we’ll be happy, and the day will forever be special.
Even though the day hasn’t happened yet—I know in my heart we’ll never regret this decision. Yes, we understand that people are, and will be disappointed, and that a wedding isn’t just about the two people saying “I do,” and that for many, many people, the wedding planning is completely worth it. But even as I’ve typed these words, I can’t get the smile off of my face. Just him and me, and a smart suit and a gorgeous dress, and a couple of rings that mean forever. No it’s not a wedding, but somewhere in the process of not planning a wedding, we found a start to our marriage that is perfect for us.
Photo of Sarah and her dad from Sarah’s personal collection