*Anna, Public Servant & Tim, Musician*
You may have noticed, we’ve been giving a little extra airplay to weddings on APW the past week or so. And that’s because it’s midsummer! Which means lots of you are getting hitched and attending weddings. (This year, for the first time, that means my Instagram feed is full of tiny snippets of your weddings as taken by APW Sponsors, which is a true delight every single weekend). So this week, we wanted to talk about standing your ground. Not in a “It’s your day, so to hell with everyone else” kind of way, but in a “Learning what you need to stay true to yourself, and finding a way to stand up for that” kind of way. Standing your ground as part of growing into our adulthood. We’re exploring this through weddings, planning, and just life. But first up is Anna, with her totally amazing rainbow dress and her even better story. (Plus, the bit about why people are wrong when they tell you you’ll change your mind about marriage/children/whatever is so smart it slays me.)
I don’t feel any different now than before my wedding. I don’t mean that in a negative way, just that perhaps we had already been through enough upheavals to feel thoroughly committed. The wedding day rushed past, and suddenly it was ceremony time. I surprised myself and everyone else by nearly crying in my vows, and I had to use my “public speaking voice” to get through the rest. We forgot certain photos, danced and danced, and discovered why the bridal couple usually leaves before the rest of the guests. We still refuse to add up the final cost, but thanks to two generous sets of parents and some fairly focused saving, we didn’t need to cut into our reserves. I can honestly say my wedding was one of the most awesome weekends I have ever experienced. But I don’t feel any different to when we were unmarried, and I’m not sure whether this pleases or worries me.
I never thought I’d marry. I was quite happy on my own, romantically speaking. I had an awesome family. I flatted with great friends. I loved my work and university. I travelled alone for months at a time, even in countries where I scarcely understood the language. I no longer felt responsible for anyone else’s happiness, and the freedom was intoxicating.
And then, just when I’d told all and sundry that I wasn’t even thinking about any romantic involvement until after I’d finished my PhD, I joined a new brass band and sat next to a rather fine looking horn player. Shook with nerves when I asked whether he would like to see a movie. Moved in together when his army posting was earlier than expected. Left family, friends, job and uni to follow him to another city. We became servants to a pair of felines. And finally, after a rather boozy day at the races, I asked him if he wanted to “get hitched”. I meant every word of it. The following day, I rang his mum to ask for permission, made him a keyring, and got down on one knee to do it “properly”. And realized I’d have to make my peace with marriage.
You see, I didn’t think I’d never marry just because I was extremely fond of my independence. I was actively opposed to the institution. All those links to women as property rubbed me the wrong way. The fact that a significant portion of the population is denied the right to legally marry enraged me, and it still does. The thought of spending so much on a single day went completely against the way I thought about money. The societal expectations that marriage is what you do at a certain point in the relationship made me want to buck the trend. I’m still not sure what changed, or how, or when.
I never planned my wedding as a child (though apparently I told my mum that if I ever wed, I’d wear red). For a while I insisted we should have gone to Vegas, since we could have flown ourselves and our families over for what we were spending on this shindig. I was working full time, trying to finish my PhD, and planning a wedding. In tears and despair I’m sure I said things that hurt Tim, and probably other family and friends as well. I swung wildly from conceptualizing our wedding as a party at which we got married, or a ceremony followed by a party. In the end, what helped was dividing the two. We could craft a ceremony that represented who we were at the time of our wedding, our hopes for our future, promises we wanted to keep. And then we could throw a massive boozy party, for which I could craft like a wild thing.
I thought I’d rejected all the cultural baggage around marriage and gender roles, yet still managed to assume that Tim wouldn’t feel strongly about the wedding details. It turns out he did, very much, including having our reception on a Saturday night, with a proper cake to cut, and my carrying a bouquet for the ceremony. I resisted, especially since I was beginning to lose track of whether I was opposed to various traditions because I genuinely didn’t like them, or just to be contrary. Having said that, there were certain traditions that were never going to make it into the wedding, no matter what. (Being given away! Garter toss! You may now kiss the bride!) In the end, holding our wedding on a Saturday night meant people could join us for the whole weekend. My cousin baked and iced my cake, and I made the topper, my bouquet, and hundreds more kusudama flowers to decorate the reception. Guests took every single one home.
I chose a coloured dress so I could wear it repeatedly in the future, as well as because it is one of the most amazing pieces of clothing I have ever worn, and teamed it with my favourite pair of Doc Martens boots. We got ready together the morning of the wedding, because why would we spend such a significant night apart (and wow, did this decision cause more raised eyebrows than just about everything else put together!). We had no spousal parties, not wanting to draw a line through family and friends, though all of our siblings participated in the ceremony, and our closest friends got ready with us.
We chose a venue that set up and cleared everything, did food and drink, and allowed us to have the ceremony and reception in the one location. The fact they are my favourite smokehouse and right across the road from Tim’s paragliding launch was a bonus. Everyone there, including the celebrant and musicians, were friends and family. My grandmothers had been unwell, but one came with a nurse and was the centre of the party, and my father and brother assisted the other in making 100 pieces of her famous baklava to bring to the reception. From scratch. They even minced the nuts by hand.
So our wedding was amazing, for us, and worked wonderfully, for us. But I know it wouldn’t be for everyone. We would still be together whether we married or not. I suspect that is one of the reasons I still get aggravated when people say that “you’ll change your mind when you meet the right person” about marriage and/or children. You may well make that change, but it will be from within, over time, not some external sudden change. Or you might never change your mind—who knows? Either way, don’t expect the annoying questions to go away. I didn’t change my name, but intended to be fine with some incidental use of his family name. In reality, even with the best intentions, people who address me as such still inspire Bone. Deep. Rage. If you want to see steam coming out of my ears, ask me when we are having children. Those old pressures to conform are still there. They’ve mutated into other forms that are just as big and scary.
In the end, we married because it was right for us. We will continue to define what marriage means to us for as long as we are together. If I never feel “different”, then that is fine with me. We will build our lives and loves together, and that’s what matters.
The Info—Photography: Neil Reeves (with additional photos by our friend Phil) / Venue: Poachers Pantry, Hall, ACT, Australia / Celebrant: Steven English / Jazz Combo: Frequently Asked Questions / Cake: By Anna’s Cousin Emma / Anna’s Dress: Jovani (teamed with her favorite Doc Martens) / Tim’s Tie: Cyberoptix Tie Lab / Tim’s Cufflinks: Benjamin Cufflinks / Button, Cake Topper, Buttonholes: Made by Anna