What Happens When You Mask Your Anxiety With Wedding DIY

It's not really about welcome bags

Apparently I don’t know how to use a glue stick. Not a disaster, clearly, but at the moment it seemed like a good enough reason to burst into gut-wrenching sobs. I could almost feel my conscience watching from above, judging harshly. I’ve become that womxn. I’m crying over glue dents in our invitations.

As soon as we got engaged, Chris and I reveled in our smug certainty as we watched couples fighting over envelope colors in Paper Source or listened to our married friends sarcastically wish us luck. When my sister sent a humorous video about the stages of wedding planning all couples go through, I told her thanks, but it just didn’t apply to us. And then we started on our four-layer DIY invites.

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In hindsight, a paper trimmer might have been all it took to prevent the weeks of meltdown that ensued, but then again I wouldn’t have all this wisdom to share. As we cut little windows into the wood paper and battled courageously with the printer to just, for the love of God, print what was on the screen, we sunk further and further down the rabbit hole of planning despair.

After ten hours of individually measuring and trimming seventy-five pieces of thin bark with an X-Acto knife, Chris proudly presented his labors to me. All I could think to say was, “Are they supposed to be different sizes?” His shoulders dropped as he examined the millimeters between each one, then looked up at me, genuinely confused. Seriously? This from a womxn who once decided to install towel hooks in the bathroom, neglected to do any measuring (because, well, details), drilled all the way through the door, and then shrugged and left an inch of dangerous eye-stabbing, metal screw hanging out at eye-level for two years? Yes. And here’s why.

After the glue meltdown, I threw myself out of the apartment and sat on our stoop to cry on the phone to my best friend. Baffled, she asked me at least twice to clarify why I was crying. Yes, because I glued something wrong. I listened as my friend stumbled over the right thing to say—trying to sound comforting while simultaneously, and unsuccessfully, masking her confusion. This wasn’t me. Because I don’t care about uneven invitations or visible glue dots or even exposed screws. I never have. Chris does—and that’s why we work—but now I was completely falling apart over something ridiculously minor.

Which brings me to this moment. It’s 3:00 a.m., and I’m on my fifth night of no sleep. Instead, I’ve been designing the welcome bag in my head. And honestly, no one really cares that much. Including, I thought, me. I’m embarrassed. It’s only a wedding after all, and a wedding is only a party, and I have food and wine and good company. It’s going to be fine.

Still, the unease rests in my belly and sleep eludes me. Personal directions from each B&B to the venue? Check. Baskets of bubbles for the many, likely bored, kids? Check. I’ve never created and then actually used so many spreadsheets. At our last dinner out, Chris and I promised not to talk at all about the wedding, but suddenly napkin colors seemed urgent and without those details to discuss, we had nothing to say at all.

Sitting here cross-legged in the dark, I see another half an hour has passed. I can imagine every part of the reception: antique glass bottles filled with wildflowers, the yellow globe lights hung around the perimeter, the photos of our friends and family strung across the barn walls. After that—it’s blank. Instead, I see my dad hovering over me, threatening to reveal to my friends and teachers how bad I really was. My ex reaching back his arm, threatening and screaming, while I tried to navigate our speeding car down the turnpike. My friend Kristin sympathetically holding my hand after Chris’s and my first good dates, assuring me that no, Chris probably wasn’t going to die just because we were so happy. Sobbing on the floor of my bedroom, convinced that moving in together was never going to work. Staying up nights, phone in hand, to make sure Chris makes it home after working late.

See, I’m really good at this thing called denial. It’s a crucial New York City skill—necessary for convincing yourself that the man licking his shoe next to you isn’t reason enough to give up your seat, for instance—but I’ve taken it too far. I’ve completely detached from what’s really going on. Which is that I’m convinced the story of a happy marriage isn’t my story. With our wedding day fast approaching, it seems my mind just doesn’t know how to reconcile the reality of that day and the steadfast belief that it won’t happen. Hence, the sleeplessness and the crying.

Chris and I aren’t smug anymore. We’ve realized that the line between being a happy couple and that couple is so much finer than we thought. There have been some dark nights where we wondered if we should really be getting married, if we should have eloped, if all the sacrifices have been worth trying to pull this off on our own. That I’m convinced of; it’ll definitely be worth it. I can’t wait to see everyone I love in the same place. And even though I still don’t know how to fix my doubt about what I deserve, at least I’ve identified the monster. And now that I can see it, I can confront it.

This post was originally published in 2015.

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