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What’s a “Hometown” Wedding Mean Anyway?

Truth is, I'm a Hometown-less Bride

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There’s something that just doesn’t sit quite right with me when I look at our wedding invitations. Don’t get me wrong—they are perfectly lovely with their art deco font and glittery border. And they do the job we asked of them, namely, inviting our friends and family to join us in a glitter-soaked celebration of our sparkly, sparkly love—yes, we have a theme. They get all the details right, but there’s a devil in those details. They proudly declare the wedding will take place in Massapequa, New York. And I wish we were getting married just about anywhere else.

When I first went down the wedding rabbit hole, I read that unless you had the money to fly all your people to Venice or rent out Downton Abbey for a weekend, a wedding should take place in the bride’s hometown (thanks WIC). This advice made sense to me… in theory. This is what most of the weddings I’ve attended looked like. The bride and her bridesmaids (which include her three best-friends-since-kindergarten, two younger sisters, and seventeen super close first cousins) spend the morning crying and braiding each other’s hair before the ceremony, where the pastor shares some adorable story from the bride’s Sunday school days. (Meanwhile, the groom’s family sits quietly in the back, dressed in beige.) Everyone at the reception has known each other their whole lives. The cake is from the bakery where all of the bride’s birthday cakes were bought and her dress was lovingly sewed by Grandma, who also used to construct all of her childhood ballet costumes.

My family moved three times during my childhood. I haven’t spoken to my kindergarten best friend in over a decade. I have exactly one (male) first cousin, and zero living grandmothers. My hometown wedding was never going to look like this. Also, do I even have a hometown?

I’ve been asking this question since my senior year of high school. The year felt like one big goodbye tour for the members of my graduating class, most of whom had lived in the same small New England town their entire lives. I hadn’t moved there until sixth grade, so I’d missed the preschool Thanksgiving pageant, and I’d never met my classmates’ cherished kindergarten teacher. I had friends, a nice home with my family, and the typical tumultuous memories of spending my teenage years with these people. But when graduation day came, I had a lot less to say goodbye to.

My dream had always been to grow up, make it to a big city, and make my home there. And after several years battling the recession, I made that happen. I climbed a few rungs up the ladder in my career, made meaningful friendships, and found my person here in New York City. We’re settling into our first apartment together as we scramble to put the finishing touches on our (sparkly, sparkly) wedding. I’m proud of my accomplishments, and I cherish the community I’ve become a part of. I’ve made my home here. But I also can’t have a hometown wedding here.

As much as I love my life in New York, the city reminds me of Holly Golightly’s cat—I don’t belong to it, and it doesn’t belong to me. Knowing we’ll most likely never be able to afford to buy our own home here makes it feel temporary. Most of my friends here are also just transplants. They pack up and clear out of the city at holidays to go back to their “real homes,” just like college kids leaving the dorm for winter break. Plus, we’ve already decided that if we have kids, we won’t raise them here. I’ve seen enough poor, weary parents try to drag a stroller up the subway steps to know it isn’t for me.

Then there’s that other thing: money. It’s hella expensive to get married anywhere in NYC, even in Queens where we live. There was no venue in our price range that could give us the wedding we wanted, with all the people we wanted there. Plus, we wanted to make things easy and convenient for my parents, who’d left behind the pastoral New England paradise of my teenage years for the traffic-clogged suburbs of Long Island.

To put it gently, Long Island is not an easy place to learn to love. It’s crowded, noisy, and stripped of much (but not all) of its natural beauty. I spent some time living there with my parents during my aforementioned recession battles, and they were some of the hardest years of my life. How could I make it the site of something as important as my wedding? It’s neither the place I came from nor the place I worked so hard to reach.

Again, the devil is in the details, and this devil is named Logistics. Long Island offered more affordable vendors, but was still accessible enough that we could import our city friends for the night. My parents are generously opening up their house for the bridal party to get dressed in, as well as hosting the post-wedding Sunday brunch. And we really did find a lovely venue that felt like us, even if the address didn’t. We’ve got a solid home base for our wedding, if not a hometown. And whether they travel on the LIE or the LIRR, (or on a flight from the Midwest, where my new family comes from) the people we love will show up for us there.

As the wedding gets closer, I’ve learned to accept that I’m not a firmly rooted tree. I’m more like a potted plant that’s traveled around, sat on a few windowsills, and grown under the light of several different suns. And I can’t wait to tangle my branches up with my husband’s.

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