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The Pressure to Be Practical

The funny thing about this post is that I could have written it, pretty much verbatim. The part about buying wedding magazines and reading them on the train without being engaged (or, uh, dating anyone)? Me. I read wedding blogs from, well, about the moment they started, which was about a year before I got engaged. I love weddings, you guys. That’s part of why I do this job. So while I started APW out of pure rage at the out of control wedding industry, I spent my wedding planning trying to balance just flat out loving weddings with difficult emotional realities and my desire to stay sane. (Plus, I did that kind of publicly. Fun.) So this post from Katie is for all of you that have ever felt guilty for really being excited about your flowers, or your decorations, or your dress. Embracing that sh*t is just fine.

I started reading APW before I got engaged, back when I was feeling the craziness of the pre-engaged state. I was so glad to find a place where everyone talked about the real, nitty-gritty details of a) having a wedding and b) being married—because, as we all know (or should know), these are two very different, separate things.

And I’m looking forward to being married, although I know I don’t need a wedding. Frankly, I would marry my guy in a dress made of Trader Joe’s bags in the middle of the sidewalk on a Tuesday afternoon. He is the smartest, honest, weirdest guy I know, with great hair and very sexy eyebrows. He gives me cookies and kisses on demand, and he never fights me for the television (unless the Olympics or the World Series is on). He makes me give back the extra five dollars that the Starbucks barista mistakenly hands over with my change. He can play the Dukes of Hazard theme on the banjo. So, yeah, I would be willing to just sign my name to the city wedding register and be done with it, if that was what he wanted.

And yet.

I love weddings. I love everything about them. When other single girls groan before the bouquet toss, I’m the first one in line. Though I haven’t been planning my wedding since I was a little girl, it’s been pretty close. Over the years, I’ve planned multiple weddings in my head, each one fun and unique and a kick ass time.

I also developed a habit of hoarding wedding magazines. I would find excuses to buy them, usually while in New York while I was traveling for work. Alone and waiting for my train, I would inevitably find myself wandering into Hudson News and ever-so-casually strolling over to the magazine section. I’d furtively scan the racks for Brides or Real Simple Weddings and snatch them up when no one was looking, like a teenage boy swiping the latest Penthouse or Playboy. My stock answer was always ready when the salesperson ringing up my purchase would ask when the wedding was (“Oh, we haven’t set a date yet”—which, seeing as how I wasn’t engaged yet, this was true!). Then I’d gorge myself on the glossy pages for the entire train ride home and bury them in a plastic tub in the closet before my boyfriend got home, hiding them underneath college photos and my seventh grade journal.

I tried to keep this all under wraps because, frankly, I thought it would be seen as kind of sad because I wasn’t engaged yet. I didn’t want to freak my boyfriend out and make him think that I was going to start leaving cutouts of engagement rings on the bathroom mirror as a “Hint, HINT!” I know so many friends who were soured by the wedding process, who complained about fights with their mothers and too many opinions on seating arrangements. Deep down, I know that weddings are expensive, archaic, stressful, and, when you boil it down, crazy. It isn’t practical to love something like that—but I love them, nonetheless.

Then I got engaged. Finally, I could be free about my addiction to stationery! I could discuss the finer points of Alcenon lace with ease! People would understand because, hey, I’m ENGAGED and, all of the sudden, it’s ALLOWED!

But it isn’t. I’ve actually found out that being officially engaged hasn’t been all that freeing because I still feel judged for enjoying wedding planning. The other day, someone asked me what kind of wedding favors we were thinking of having. I could feel my face light up as I started excitedly explaining that I saw this great APW post by Madeleine about giving away used books as favors.

And just as I was explaining how we could use them as centerpieces for the tables—that’s when I saw it. The judgment. That smug look in the other person’s eyes that said, “Wow, it is so pathetic that you’re so into this.” That I shouldn’t be talking so much about a wedding favor—that it was so small and it was something that didn’t really matter.

So I yanked on the conversation reins and stuttered, “But that’s complicated…so maybe cookies…or something.” And abruptly changed the topic. (And, lest you think that I am the ultimate unreliable narrator, I have to say that I’ve seen that look on someone’s face before when other weddings come up. And on my face when people talk about fantasy football.)

It was then that I realized that maybe the social pendulum has swung the other way—whereas once it was socially acceptable to talk about your wedding, there’s now a pressure out there to not be excited about your wedding. That it’s just not practical—or feminist—to be excited about colors and lights and details. That if you do care, then you must be shallow, sexist, financially frivolous, and one hot glue gun away from the B-word.

So, I am trying to find a middle ground here—where I can be practical, but also feel okay about loving the wedding planning process. Where I’m not betraying the sisterhood by spending hours designing our wedding invitations. Where I can feel zen about spending a whole lot of money on our wedding without putting us in debt or feeling like it’s a giant waste of cash. And where I can feel all right about talking about our wedding without feeling judged.

In the end, I think that I’m getting there. The other night, I stopped at a bookstore on my way home to buy something to read and ended up getting three bridal magazines. I knew that my guy was going to be out for the evening, so I pulled out my “stash,” and reveled in the prettiness for an hour or two.

Then I heard his key in the lock—and panicked. “Oh my God,” I thought, “he’s going to see my wedding porn! He’s going to think I’m crazy!” I threw a blanket over the stack of magazines and tried to act casual as he came into the living room.

Immediately, he noticed the fleece-covered lump on the couch and asked, “What’s that?” As I sheepishly drew back the blanket, about twenty wedding magazines spilled onto the floor and he burst out laughing.

Red-faced, I was all ready to apologize for my creepy obsession. But he surprised me. Instead of rolling his eyes or quipping about killing trees, he gave me a kiss and said, “I’m glad that you’re excited.”

As I watched him head into the kitchen to make dinner, I thought to myself, “You know what? I’m glad that I’m excited, too.”

Photo by: Christina Richards

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