I have a dark secret. The deepest, darkest secret of any other girl I know. So deep, and so dark that even in the anonymity of the internet, I feel myself looking over my shoulder before I tell you. I hated my wedding. I look back on that day and I get a feeling in my stomach that I feel equal parts guilty and ashamed of.
I was never one of those tulle-on-the-brain girls, and I never spent my time daydreaming of my super sweet wedding. I did, however, spend long hours daydreaming of my perfect marriage. Even at eight, I knew I wanted someone who would express his feelings for me in song form (spoiler alert—I found him!!!). But as for the day itself, I had no expectations whatsoever. I expected there would be a white dress, a cake, and my friends and family there. That’s about it.
Skip ahead about twenty years, and finally that song-lovin’, good-time guy has come into my life and we decide to get married. I say decide, because it was less of a proposal than a rational decision we agreed upon. That’s our style. We tell his family and get a hearty, “That’s nice.” We tell my family, and all hell breaks loose.
You see, my mother has worked in the wedding industry for the past fifteen years or so. All her friends work in the wedding industry. And she has watched all of their daughters march up that well-lit, gardenia-scented aisle and has been chomping at the bit for her mother of the bride moment. A little backstory: my parents (still together after thirty-two years—impressive) got married in my grandparent’s backyard. My mother and family made all the food and stored it in every single neighbor on the block’s refrigerator. The party lasted days and the local liquor store sold out of many a beverage. My father ended up skinny-dipping. That was their wedding. So of course, my mother (like all mothers) wanted me to have better than she had. She wanted all the fancy things that she had been putting together for brides she’d worked for. Let’s just say that these are “dropping $15K on flowers alone” type of events. There was NO way that we could swing that, or that it was what we (the bride and groom, remember us?) wanted.
Here is what we wanted: an intimate, handcrafted ceremony at a beautiful, scenic, outdoor location. Preferably in Colorado, where we met each other and live. We wanted our closest friends and family there (eighty people) and to pick our music and have a good time.
We had everything planned when we announced our engagement. We would write the ceremony and have a friend officiate. His brother would brew the beer and wine, we would get a local restaurant to cater, and we would meticulously pick out the playlist. I would find a secondhand dress and he would wear a suit he wore to his brother’s wedding. It would be simple, sweet, and within our means.
And I hate to say it, but this is where it got ugly. There were many nights on the phone crying where I felt like my mother was saying anything and everything she could think of to manipulate me into having the wedding her way. She wanted it in New Jersey so that she could plan every last detail. She told me my family said if it were in Colorado none of my aunts, uncles, or cousins would come (I later found that out to be completely untrue). She said that since it wasn’t in the Catholic church, we would not be really married (this one stung the most). And the one that MOH and I bring up over glasses of wine, that “This wedding wasn’t about me.”
I know that in her mind, this was all coming from a place of love where she wanted me to be a beautiful princess and have the absolute perfect day of days. I’m not completely ungrateful or oblivious to her feelings, but I beg to differ that “this wedding wasn’t about me.”
I had to make a choice. I could have the wedding the way I wanted it, but with that came constant berating, complaining, and guilt trips. Or I could wave my bridal white flag and just do it the way she wanted it. I have to say this was the hardest choice of my entire wedding process. After careful deliberation with my (then) fiancé, I chose to wave my white flag. I relinquished almost all control over my wedding to keep the peace.
People would ask me how wedding planning was going and I’d have to say, “Honestly, I don’t know.” Decor was kept a secret from me, I wasn’t allowed to know the songs for father/daughter dance, and I had never seen my venue (turns out, I had worked a wedding there in college with my mother of course). My parents flew out and bought me a “proper” wedding dress that cost more than all my furniture combined. It still breaks my heart all the money that was, in my eyes, “wasted” on that day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful dress, but I would have been just as happy and just as married in a $40 white dress from Nordstrom Rack. Probably more so because I wouldn’t have thousands of dollars of guilt on my (very toned) shoulders. Our DJ did not play a single song from the (pages long and meticulously crafted) playlists that we had given him, short of our first dance song. Our wedding was beautifully decorated and very well thought out, but it did not feel like my wedding. I felt like I had stepped into one of the many, many New Jersey weddings I had worked at when I was younger. Except I was dressed better this time.
To be fair, there were some things about that day I look back on and am completely fulfilled by. Our first look was wonderful (our photographer was the only vendor we had control over), we did end up writing our own ceremony and having a friend officiate (much to my parents’ chagrin), our wedding cake was delicious, our first dance choreography went flawlessly, my husband made me the most beautiful ketubah that I adore, and my absolute hands-down favorite part of the wedding: the hora.
I’m trying really hard to focus on those moments and pretend like the rest didn’t happen. No one is even allowed to mention our wedding DJ in my presence. But I feel like the hardest part is trying to say with a smile, “The wedding? Oh yes, it was wonderful. My mother did such a beautiful job.” Because what I want to say is, “She hijacked it. She stole my wedding day from me and I can never have that back” (and probably stab a potato with a fork while I say it). I hope I made the right decision. I hope that conceding to the wedding of her dreams will have saved me from a lot more unnecessary stress. We’re planning on doing a vow renewal in the next few years so we can have the experience of what we wanted all along. But in the meantime, every time my mind wanders to memories of the day, I hear a certain song, or banner ads still pop up for wedding sites (Google—for real, stop it) I get this sad, hollow feeling. I guess I’m still mourning the wedding that could have been.
I realize that the wedding day was just that—a day. And what I’ve really been dreaming about was the marriage, which is absolutely exceeding my expectations. And that’s what it’s all about, right? But just know if there’s anyone else out there like me who dreads or looks back on their wedding with regret, you’re not the only one. It stinks for the time being, but I know these feelings will pass. A best friend and some wine helps a lot too.
So there you have it, my not-so-rosy wedding experience. My biggest secret. I’m glad I told someone.
Photo by Lisa Wiseman