Abilene & Wolfgang On Deciding And Letting Go

*Abilene, Associate Director of Institutional Advancement for a national nonprofit & Wolfgang, Ski Shop Manager/Golf Course Assistant Superintendent *

I’ve always had a hard time letting go. It’s not that I hold grudges—okay, so maybe it is. I’m a Dweller. I replay conversations in my head long after they’re dead and buried. Part of it is anxiety, part of it is my obsessive nature.

Why am I telling you this? Well, being a Dweller and trying to plan a wedding is not an easy task. When crazy emotions jump into or down your throat, it’s hard to shrug them off and move on with your life. I was prepared for the wedding planning process to be more difficult than the movies portray; however, I was not prepared for how difficult it would be. Never in my life did I imagine I’d cry so many tears, conduct so many angry tirades, spend so much time writing “unsent letters” to people who irritated me.

My anger and bitterness carried me over the year of our engagement. I came to be what I affectionately refer to as The Anti-Bride or Crabzilla, and what others referred to as Such A Bitch. Basically, I spent an entire year with a huge chip on my shoulder because people kept telling me how I should feel. I was defensive, frustrated and easily upset when the rest of the world wanted me to be excited, glowing, and babbling about my wedding plans.

I’ll echo the sentiments of many brilliant APW writers and readers: it’s ridiculous how people who barely know you judge your wedding-related decisions, make you feel like an inadequate child, and then wrap up the conversation by saying, “Well, it’s your day. Do what makes you happy.” Yeah right. When you’re a Dweller, you can’t shake these comments. Cut to the quick, that chip on your shoulder gets bigger and bigger until your arm falls off.

I clutched this anger and bitterness all the way up to the morning of our wedding. I hated our rehearsal dinner. It doesn’t matter that everyone else seemed to have a great time—all I could focus on was my rotten mood and how our wedding was going to suck. Everyone was going to leave early, no one was going to dance, the food would be terrible, everything would go wrong. I just wanted it to be over so we could get back to our normal lives!

Luckily, this was when big sister swooped in to rescue her little sister. She told me to put everyone else aside and make it my day—and she actually meant it. “You’ve worked so hard all year to plan this thing, and if you don’t decide to say f*** it and have a good time, you’re going to regret it. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks! It’s about you and Wolfgang.”

The night passed uneventfully, and without sleep (my darling cat made sure of that). Our ceremony was at 11:00am, so my mom, sister, best friend, and I piled into the car in the morning and drove to the country club. After yet another slightly heated conversation on the way there, I took my sister’s sage advice from the night before and decided I had done all I could do to make this wedding happen—from here on out, que sera, sera.

Suddenly, I became the eye of the storm instead of the hurricane I’d become accustomed to. As the excitement and nervousness flurried around me, I remained calm and even—dare I say it—serene. At one point, I remember saying, “Is Wolfgang here yet?” He was, and I knew that was all that really mattered.

I spent the rest of the day with a smile on my face. Not a stupid fake one that makes your cheeks shake, a real, genuine, effortless smile that couldn’t be helped. We pledged our love and lives to each other, we danced and drank and even sampled the (delicious) food. The day came off without a hitch—and when everyone left early, we were relieved to see them go and finally have some time to ourselves!

Forcing yourself to decide to be happy is hard, especially when you’re a Dweller. You can say it all you want, but it won’t take hold until you actually believe it. When my brain finally gave me the respite from Dwelling I so desperately needed, I uncurled my fingers from the cliff and allowed myself to fall—and you know what? I didn’t crash and die. The wedding happened, and it was great, and now it’s over. I’d have to say that the other side of the decision is pretty darn sweet.

The Info—Photographer: Heidi Gumula / Venue: Leicester Country Club

Author’s note: Names have been changed to protect the innocent

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  • This has been bookmarked for the future. As a fellow Dweller, I know that the pitfalls in the decision making process will be hard on me, probably harder than they need to be. After our first unofficial planning conversation, I was reduced to tears by the thought that our “foolproof” plan to have only immediate siblings in our bridal party may offend members of our family (yes, I’m terrified of offending my future brother-in-law’s wife). I will definitely need to remember to center myself around the important idea- we’re getting married, everything else is just fluff.

    In tangent, does anyone have any advice in making family members feel loved without having a bridal party the size of Texas? I am hoping for a small, intimate bridal party to make it feel like less of a performance instead of a ceremony, and I don’t want to choose between all of my wonderful, sweet, supportive friends and family to pick who “qualifies” to stand with us!

    • Another Meg

      I’m not sure if this will help, since my bridal party is roughly the size of Montana, but here was my one question to determine if someone was in the party- Is this someone I would turn to when our marriage is rocky, someone who I know will help us be together for the rest of our lives? If the answer was no, then they were out. I have 14 people in my party. I couldn’t feel luckier about that. Everyone’s situation is different, and you may end up with another qualifier and only two people. As long as you have a solid qualifier, you can defend yourself. It sounds like you do. Family members can be greeters, ushers, do readings, sing songs, or stage manage. There are lots of ways to keep people involved.

      One other thing I have to keep reminding myself and maybe it will help you- I know that for me, I can’t please everyone. Every decision I make seems to make someone, somewhere in the universe at least temporarily upset. So I’m going with what makes me happy and they can bitch to someone else when they don’t like how we did ____________.

      • Copper

        I also found myself turning to the people who helped me while I was freaking out during the pre-engagement time (aside from APW’s Liz, who if that were the bar, would be everybody’s bridesmaid!). They’re the people who kept me sane enough for this to happen in the first place, so they’re the people who I want to keep by my side throughout.

      • I was hoping the qualifier would be siblings only. Combined we have 3 brothers and 3 sisters, so it seemed perfect- especially because I really don’t want to choose between my friends. They are all so supportive and wonderful. Unfortunately, his brother’s wife asked me to be in their wedding party, and I just got worried that she’ll be offended if I don’t ask her to be in mine! Thanks for the reminder that I can’t please everyone. It’s going to take some repetition, but hopefully I’ll internalize it soon!

        • Maybe you could ask her to read or do something else special?

          • I was a reader in my brother’s wedding and thought it was a nice way to be included, especially since it didn’t involve buying a bridesmaid dress. In mine, I asked my sister-in-law to make hair bows for the flower girls and the sign that the ring bearers carried since she’s crafty. She also ended up carrying the littler ring bearer (her son) up the aisle since he refused to put his feet down in the sand to walk. My husband’s sister-in-law passed out programs and ran our ceremony music. We had three poems read during the ceremony, so we were able to include three more friends that way.

        • Mackenzie

          Hopefully your sister in law is a reasonable person, because siblings only is a very rational and obvious criteria for bridal party especially if it’s 3 each! Also, if she’s planning her own wedding you could be helping her out by not giving her the added cost/time of being your bridesmaid on top of that. As the sister in law in two weddings, I felt included when the brides asked me and my hubby (brother, groomsman) to help with set up and took it on myself to help the guys get their boutonnières on straight etc, not at all excluded. Sometimes if you’re close to the sister in law in could make sense but your criteria seem pretty sound to me! The only last thing I can think of is seating arrangements- in both those weddings I was seated at a different table than my hubby (him at head table, me at family table) but I’ve seen weddings were spouses also sit at the head table, which could be one way to include her in the action.

    • kyley

      I also struggled with that. I have no advice on how to keep things small because, like Another Meg, I wound up with a giant entourage . I realized that *for me,* my reservation about having a big party had to do with fear of inviting other people’s judgement. And then I decided that was a stupid reason to make a decision.

      To cut down on the “performance” aspect, we are not having our wedding party stand up with us during the ceremony. Instead, they will walk down the aisle in pairs, and then sit in the front row.

      I do think another alternative is to go super, super small. One of my very best friend’s is planning on only asking her sister to be her maid of honor b/c the alternative is a massive wedding party, and all the rest of us who love her dearly get to do all the fun bridal-y things (help plan her bachlorette party, have a shower, get ready with her even), but we get to show up in our own dresses. No one is upset about this solution in the least!

      • Thanks for the reply, Kyley. I really don’t have anything against large bridal parties. I just want EVERYONE in our community to be a part of our big day. If I could ask all of our guests to stand with us, I would. However, that would probably be bad for my grandmother’s knees. So I’m trying to keep it small, and was hoping to have everyone participate in our big day in different ways (my dream is to have all my girlfriends come get ready with me, in whatever fabulous things they’re wearing. Basically, I want non-bridesmaids (http://apracticalwedding.com/2009/02/wedding-party-alternatives-non/) as well as regular bridesmaids. Is that selfish?

        • A. It is not selfish to want things.

          B. Rephrased, “Is it selfish to want to share love in a special way with even MORE special people on this special day?” is even more obviously not selfish.

          Your wedding will be wonderful no matter who gets dressed in what dress where! It’s really going to be okay!

    • We chose not to have people standing up with us. It was a very small wedding, so basically *everyone* who was there was already super special to us. It also eliminated a lot of stress, to not have to think about that whole aspect of planning a wedding. Granted, I did not know the first thing about wedding celebration expectations and no one made me feel that I had to have a bridal party, so I didn’t.

      • LMN

        Same here, Jules! We are getting married in a few months and we opted not to have anyone stand up with us. It has been such an incredible stress-reliever to not have to choose people for assigned roles and worry about hurting feelings, coordinating dresses, planning rehearsals… We are asking certain people to help with set up, give toasts, get ready with us on the big day. But our ceremony is just going to be us and our online-certified officiant, and I’m loving the freedom that gives us. Sonarisa–best of luck in finding the solution that is right for you (my motto: whatever lets me sleep at night). There is lots of good advice in this thread; if I had had a bridal party, I would have totally used it!

        • Hey LMN, I appreciate the support. That’s what I love about APW, we all realize that situations are different for different people. I asked Jules if she was nervous about standing in front of people, are you? I know your day will be gorgeous, and I’m so excited for you.

          And I think I’ll be bringing a lot of the options in this thread up in our next wedding planning conversation. That’s the joy of being in the early stages, you can look at everything and take time to think it over. :)

          • LMN

            Hi, Sonarisa–thanks for your always kind and supportive replies. :) If having your siblings up with you during the ceremony makes you feel less nervous about the thought of standing in front of everyone, then that is a solid reason for wanting a bridal party.

            I’m anxious about tons of things (wedding-related and otherwise), but standing up for our ceremony is not one of them. I’m one of those odd introverts with a lot of theatre experience, so I can stand onstage happily when needed. Future Husband is a solid rock who is barely shows nerves in the face of surgery, so I know he will be fine.

            But more than that, I know that the love and support we’ll be feeling from everyone in the room will make them the friendliest crowd I’ve ever faced. There’s no such thing as a mistake when you’re with all your best people–just possible moments of laughter that will make the ceremony even better.

        • Katherine

          We’re not having a bridal party either, and a pretty small wedding to boot as well (less than 50 people). Like Jules said, everyone who will be there will already be very special to us, so why single anyone out? I may (or may not) have my parents walk me down the aisle, I haven’t gotten to that decision yet, but either way, as long as the important people are there, that’s all that matters to me :-)

      • Thanks for the reply, Jules. It sounds like you had a beautiful ceremony. I’m hoping that everyone at our wedding will be super special to us, too, but I doubt either of us would want to stand at the front on our own. We’re a tad bit shy. Did you get nervous in front of your loved ones?

        • Jessica

          I also didn’t have a bridal party. We would have ended up w/80 people up there if we tried to. I don’t think having anyone else standing up there makes you less nervous. Pretty much people will be staring at you and your husband, because that’s why they are there. I was in a bridal party once were we sat down during the ceremony.

          Really, you just got to do what you want. If having a lot of people in your wedding party helps you feel better because you’re not leaving anyone out, then go on ahead. How you and your fiance feel is the important thing.

    • SarahToo

      The option my husband and I chose was not to have a bridal party at all. I was tied up in knots about the idea of a bridal party and having to choose which of my friends were (or weren’t) “worthy” to stand up with me. So, for our ceremony, everyone stood in a circle (us included) in order to convey that all the people present were important to us, no matter how much or how little they are an active part of our lives, and how much or little they participated in the wedding planning or contributed toward the wedding itself. Also, we had a wedding parade instead of a wedding procession (we wanted to walk with our friends and family to the ceremony site). If any of you have the ability to be more flexible and sidestep some of the potentially fraught wedding “traditions” such as bridal parties, I would highly recommend this option.

  • Sarah

    Thank you! I am a dweller who is working on getting to a peaceful place and I’m there on somethings (our food is going to rock and if you think its strange, thats your problem) but not completely on others. I think there is pressure to not have regrets and that hangs over me (not getting it right or having the formality correct). But your post helps . . . thank you!

    • “…there is a pressure to not have regrets and that hangs over me…” This exactly. I keep being reminded that this is the only wedding I’ll have, and there’s this pressure to get it right the first time (which is hard. Can’t I make mistakes and learn from them first? Like a trial wedding? Or a wedding with training wheels?) The pressure is pretty intense, and I think that doesn’t help with the dwelling.

      On the other hand, your food rocks (what are you serving? I’m curious now) and your wedding is going to be awesome. Because you’re getting married!

      • Oh my word, what I wouldn’t give for a trial wedding! Then again, if it were an option I might go on having trial weddings FOREVER in an effort to get everything totally perfect … so maybe it’s better than I just calm the eff down and get married already.

      • Yes to the pressure because this is the ONLY CHANCE YOU GET. I just kept telling myself that we have the rest of our lives to throw really amazing parties using everything we learned from planning our wedding.

      • Sarah

        I LOVE the idea of a trail wedding . . . test everything out first and make sure it all fits. YES!!

        We are having a kosher wedding but really wanted an ice cream sundae bar so there is no meat. During our cocktail hour we’re having the usual veggies, fruits and dips but then we’re having our favorite non-meat foods — mac and cheese, mozzarella sticks, mini-pizzas. We really don’t care about the main meal because it will be a fish and a pasta option.

  • This is wonderful. I am a Dweller, too, and it can be really tough to let go and enjoy things as they are.

  • “Forcing yourself to decide to be happy is hard, especially when you’re a Dweller. You can say it all you want, but it won’t take hold until you actually believe it. When my brain finally gave me the respite from Dwelling I so desperately needed, I uncurled my fingers from the cliff and allowed myself to fall—and you know what? I didn’t crash and die.”

    That above is such a valuable lesson. I am making it my own personal mantra. Joy is my word for the year. Joy, even when life throws you difficult stuff like unemployment and infertility (oh how I hate the term). But, but, when you actually decide to open your eyes, to be aware, to look for the happiness, to be open for it and let it come, those little things of everyday, that I can assure you are there, things change. When you just start living and force yourself to stop the worrying or at least keep it to the minimum (even when the worrying can not be helped at times, and then all you need is a good rant / cry) things start flowing.

    It’s good that you learnt the lesson early as I am sure it will be useful throughout your life.

    I wish you all the happiness, love and joy in the world.

    • N

      A personal mantra always helps. I guess happiness is always a choice; to choose joy is always something that you need to be conscious about.

  • Ah, yes… dwelling. I’m the same. But it looks like it worked out so well for you once you could breathe and relax. There is so much joy in your photos. Congratulations, a thousand times!

  • I just said a little “Amen” to this under my breath. I spent all night tossing and turning and building up rage and anger that my fiance’s father INSISTED at dinner last night that we invite his business partners– people we’ve never met!– to our wedding. I imagined how uncomfortable it would be to have to interact with them, how they would ruin the “casual mood” of our wedding, how utterly miserable they would make me.

    The truth though? Over 200 guests. The 5 business partners? I will hardly notice. The only thing making me ‘utterly miserable’ about the whole thing was me.

  • Violet

    “Forcing yourself to decide to be happy is hard”

    Really needed to hear this. I have a major tendency to dwell on things people say, blow them out of proportion in my mind, and then beat myself up for not being able to let it go. Thanks for the reminder that this is not easy, even when the dominant narrative tells us it should be.

  • Anon

    Any advice for marrying a dweller? I want to be supportive and understand that sometimes the dwelling is necessary, but it’s hard not to say “hurry up and get to the letting go and being happy already buddy!” ;)

    • Rosie

      I would categorise myself as a dweller; I think ultimately I had to let go of things in my own time, but I think being able to discuss what’s bothering you and hearing the positive point of view is helpful, if occasionally frustrating! Doing something different and distracting can also help me to get things in perspective.

    • KE

      It’s important to acknowledge that whatever’s upsetting the dweller is valid. (Too many people open with, “Hey, it’s not that big of a deal!”) Then let them do their thing for a bit. If it lasts for an unusually long time (you know what’s normal for your person), gently remind them that as valid as this frustration is, it’s not going to change, and the dweller’s only hurting him/herself by dwelling.

      If the dweller takes it out on you, call them out on it. Dwellers can be oblivious to the impact their mood/behavior has on others, and they should be made aware if, for example, they’re being snappy and it’s hurting your feelings.

      Ultimately, people are responsible for their own happiness. Don’t stress yourself out trying to cheer your dweller up if you recognize that their behavior is normal for them.

      By the way, I say this both as a dweller and someone’s marrying a dweller.

      • Anon

        Thanks for the advice – very helpful!!

  • Okay: first of all, your name is awesome! I literally just said it out loud like six times in various intonations, all, “Abilene! Abileeeeeeene.” My gent turned around and asked me if I was having a stroke, and I probably confused him more by trying to explain that no, I was just enjoying the name of a stranger from the internet. It’s a lovely collection of sounds! But also a real place! It feels old-fashioned! But sassy! Oh god, all that sounded so much less creepy in my head. Moving on!

    I so, so relate to the grudge-holding, Monday-morning-quarterbacking, l’esprit de l’escalier-having, microanalytically obsessive soup that is the life of a Dweller. I’ve tried writing “unsent letters” and found the act of writing out my thoughts and feelings only served to work them even further into a raging snarl. I hope desperately to get to the point of clarity that you found the morning of your wedding – thank you so much for sharing this and showing a fellow Dweller that it is possible!

  • Yet another Liz

    Thank you thank you thank you. From one Dweller to another, it’s important to have these reminders. Choosing to be happy & letting yourself feel joy can be so challenging when you don’t “buy in” to the whole big wedding concept and over-think things. My family & my man think I have lost my mind, I feel like I have lost my mind… I’m hoping to root down into the true reason for the season, so to speak. Wishing the same for my fellow Dwellers… deep breaths & wine. Lots of wine…

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  • Teresa

    I think it’s genetic to be a Dweller if you’re German. My mom is SUCH a Dweller and I’m a Sorta-Dweller. It’s important to try to let go about this stuff.

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