Shiri & C’s Joyous, Imperfect Wedding

* Shiri, Museum Professional and C, Historian *

A commenter on a post in January asked those of us who’d already been through our weddings what we’d let go of. And I know she meant flowers or videographers or aisle decorations—material things the WIC has told us we need. But those weren’t the big things I worried about during my engagement, and they weren’t the things I let go of when I got married. On our wedding day, I let go of worrying about how my father would behave. I let go of worrying whether everyone could hear the music during the service, about the people who weren’t there, and if all the guests were having fun. I let go of worrying about how I looked in the pictures (mostly). I didn’t worry about getting sick, about not being able to stand up all day. I think I let go of everything but the day itself, the feeling, the happiness, the adrenaline, the joy. I let go of all of the pain and the worry.

I didn’t let go of these worries before the wedding. I screamed at my uncle for upsetting my grandmother, and I’m remarkably proud of it, actually. At our rehearsal dinner, when my father acted so boorishly I don’t even want to put it into words, I took his girlfriend to task about getting him under control. I woke up the night before unable to sleep and so worried about it that my little sister tried to make me put OB tampons in my ears like earplugs so that I’d block everything out.

If you add it all up, apparently our wedding wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t feel that way. It isn’t something I realize regularly or think about, because somehow those things that weren’t perfect didn’t matter then. And if I focus on it, I can make them not matter now. My dad didn’t behave the whole time; he purposely hurt my mother’s feelings as they walked me down the aisle together. I don’t love the way I look in every picture, though the pictures are spectacular. I’m sure there were people who didn’t think it was the best wedding ever, but they didn’t tell me and I don’t really care. I stood up the whole day, but I did collapse in the middle of the hora. The thing is, I’m surprised every time any of this comes to mind, because it just isn’t part of the day I remember.

I know these thoughts could become part of my narrative of the wedding if I let them or if I could even remember them amidst all the good. The stuff about my dad does hurt, even when I don’t let it. But, the fact that I still have no idea what song I walked down the aisle to because I couldn’t hear it that day—I did choose it, so I really should know—doesn’t matter. I don’t need the soundtrack. Our weddings don’t exist on film or in a blog post, in perfect or imperfect repose; they exist in our hearts and in the memory of the joy. And, I know, in the memory of the pain and the worry, too, but so much less.

My wedding was wonderful and glorious. I used part of my undergraduate post in my vows under a chuppah made from a tablecloth my great-grandmother brought from Poland. My childhood friends twirled fire, as we had done in the best nights of our teenage years. My grandmother made everyone laugh during her matron of honor toast. My dance-floor-hating husband danced all night long (and cried during his vows—just saying). There may be memories that are painful, but even though I’ve never let anything like that go in my life, and certainly couldn’t during the engagement process, I have been able to now, because the incredible beauty of the day was so much bigger than the pain and the worry. I didn’t know it would be, I didn’t know that was possible, but it is.

It turns out, it just is about the joy of being married. Which, we actually happen not to legally be, due to the marriage license either getting lost in the mail or somewhere in my mother’s house, but we’re dealing with that, and for now, I’m working on letting it go.

The Info—Photographer: Levi Stolove Photography / Venue: An extended family member’s home / Chuppah and Shiri’s Headpiece: Made by one of Shiri’s sisters / Shiri’s Dress: A sample from Kleinfeld / C’s Suit: Men’s Wearhouse

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  • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    This is so wonderful and comforting to read! I love this: “Our weddings don’t exist on film or in a blog post, in perfect or imperfect repose; they exist in our hearts and in the memory of the joy.” I will be repeating this to myself this fall!

    Also, GUH that portrait shot by the window. So gorgeous and timeless! The love and joy just shines out of all your photos but there is something magical about that one.

    Congratulations to you and your husband (legal or outlaw!)

    • Yeah, that photo. Fairy like, almost, the light, the sheer-ness of the dress… the expectance in that moment…

      • Shiri

        Aw, you guys. I blush… Thank you thank you thank you.

        Also, outlaw husband! I love it!

  • “Our weddings don’t exist on film or in a blog post, in perfect or imperfect repose; they exist in our hearts and in the memory of the joy. And, I know, in the memory of the pain and the worry, too, but so much less.”

    So much truth in that, and so applicable to life in general too.
    We can choose to wallow in the darker, sadder parts of our lives, the problems, the things we can’t control. But we can also choose the joy.

  • page

    As someone getting married in less than 3 weeks and who is dealing with what sounds like similar issues as you are (though different, of course–and don’t we all have some kind of issues like these in some aspects? Now I’m just overthinking)–thank you. Based on the probably cathartic tears I inadvertently bawled as I read your post, I think I needed to hear this.

  • Anon

    Just had to say those pictures are stunning, and you look beautiful!

  • There is so much wisdom right here.

    When I think back on my elopement, what I remember more than anything is feeling like my husband and I existed in this perfect little bubble outside of everything else and that nothing could really get to us. There are little things about the day that weren’t perfect, but they mostly fade into the background of my memory unless I’m directly thinking about them.

  • I thought this was a beautiful story of your wedding. I wish I could find the calm, happy space you’ve found in regards to your wedding. Unfortunately just wanting to be happy about it, doesn’t mean one can be. You give me hope that someday maybe, I’ll stop feeling so bad about it all.

    • Shiri

      Kristen, I hope you get there, too. And that, at least, in the meantime, there are moments you can focus on that don’t hurt so much. I know that deciding to be happy doesn’t mean you will be, not in this, and not in life. I know for me, though, I was lucky that the painful things just somehow didn’t end up mattering as much. I know this isn’t universal, and really do hope that even one redeeming moment from your wedding will help.

      • Thanks sweet lady! Your comment made me tear up! The hardest is being frustrated with myself for not being able to get the hell over this silly stuff already. I am married which is like the best thing ever. When things get tough and I feel a lot of pain about the day, I try and remember the ceremony part – which was surprisingly the absolute best. And I think of my handsome husband which helps get me past how BS I thought the rest of day was.

        • Shiri

          I know what you mean, I loved our ceremony. I only have snatches of memories and feelings from it, but I loved it, the whole thing. Please don’t be hard on yourself about the rest of it – we build it up so much and give so much meaning to every aspect of it, not expecting how stupid we may feel when the little things (or the big) don’t work out. But of course we build it up and want everything to be right, we’re told it all means something, that every little thing does. I’m glad you’re husband is cute enough to drive away the BS, too :).

  • Class of 1980

    It’s beautiful.

  • KB

    Oh my God – Shiri/APW, you don’t know how much I needed this right now. I just had my first full-blown meltdown last night about the wedding. I feel like this thing is all I think about and yet there’s either so much I haven’t done or is out of my control. This weekend, I hiked all over town searching for pie, escort-card materials, aisle runner fabric – yet I didn’t get one actual project done. Then we met with the minister who the church recommended – and he is 83 and stone-cold deaf. I just lost it – all of these things are fine separately, but all of them added up (on top of work stress!) and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, even on the stuff that I love and am looking forward to doing. I needed this reminder to reinforce the truth that there’s no such thing as planned perfection – or if there is, it’s too emotionally and financially expensive for me!!

    • Shiri

      Oh, KB, the idea of emotional expense is so right on. Every time I think about our wedding, it really does feel awesome, in the original sense of the word. I learned, eventually, what my emotional budget was during planning, but I certainly didn’t know all along. I’m proud of you (I hope that’s allowed!) for knowing what your emotional limits are. There’s so much that is out of our control, and I know I didn’t get all of it in hand by the time we got married. I didn’t even learn to accept that it was out of my control, but I think I have now. The process didn’t end with the wedding, you know?

      • KB

        Thanks, Shiri :-) That is EXACTLY what I said to my fiance in the midst of the meltdown, that it had nothing to do with the minister/escort cards/whatever, and everything to do with my worries about getting support and not feeling alone in this, which he (thankfully) understood.

        And now I totally feel an “emotional expense/budget” post coming on…I am learning the hard lesson that I just do not have it in my emotional budget to care about certain things, and I need to stop “dipping into the red” when it comes to things like “the right shade of blue” or whether a bridemaid will get too wasted or any NUMBER of things that either just don’t matter or are out of my control.

        • Shiri

          Lady, been there. I feel like so many of us have been there. And you’re exactly right about what is worth adding to the emotional budget and what isn’t.

          I think we should make the emotional budget a thing. Totally.

  • This is glorious. You’re completely right– letting go of the emotional/mental messes was one of the most special and good contributions to our wedding, for me as well.

    Congratulations. :)

  • Sharon

    My father spared my brother (getting married August 2013) and me (getting married March 2014) the drama by passing away a few years back.

  • Beautiful, beautiful photos. For me, the letting go happened when my grandmother decided to pick a fight about the guest list while we were sitting in my mom’s hospital room. Srsly. Up to that point, I’d had this hope that my family would magically become supportive/laid back/not crazy, and that I’d start having the experiences that everyone else seemed to have with their families. Then I saw that this just wasn’t in the cards, and I gradually started letting go of that old hope that wasn’t serving me anymore, and start interacting with them as they are now, instead of as they could be.

  • Karen R

    You know how it’s a saying around here that “so long as you manage to get married by the end of the wedding, it was a success”?

    Heck, even if you *aren’t* married by the end of the wedding, it’s still a success.

  • Karen R

    You know how it’s a saying around here that “so long as you manage to get married by the end of the wedding, it was a success”?

    Heck, even if you *aren’t* married by the end of the wedding, it’s still a success.

  • Manda

    Shiri, thank you so much for your posts (this one and your Undergraduate – I missed it the first time around). I identify so strongly with your Undergraduate post, it’s crazy. I too have a chronic illness, and I am all too familiar with the fatigue symptoms and life complications associated with said illness. I am enjoying the engagement period overall, but I have been fretting about whether I am going to be able to be fully present on my wedding day; everything is so unpredictable, and I really do not want to miss out on anything because I need to rest, or am in pain, or get overheated. I also completely relate to having an amazing, unwavering partner that understands “in sickness and in health” WAY TOO MUCH even though we are in our mid-twenties and not even married yet.

    Long story short, your Graduate post has put my mind at ease (for the time being, anyway. I doubt I’m done freaking out completely). I take comfort in the fact that you were ultimately able to let go of the worrying, and that you look back on your perfectly imperfect day with such fondness and positivity.


    • Shiri

      You know how Meg/Maddie put a warning on top of posts that may make you cry? I just needed one for your comment.

      I’m so, SO glad to hear that my experience could be reassuring to you. It was amazing to me how much the day just absorbed those issues. There are a series of pics of me with Amy’s Cheddar Bunnies in my hand, because the anxiety (caused by my sister running us into a tree, but never mind that) caused my blood pressure to plummet and I needed salt NOW. And you know what? Those pics are kind of awesome. The collapsing during the hora? It happened, it ended, and no one ever seemed to remember it again.

      If you ever want to chat, I bet Maddie would pass my email on to you.

      • Angie

        Hi Shiri, not sure if you’ll see this – was wondering if I could ask you about your experience with your hair stylist. Considering using her and was hoping to get more info. Thank you! angie11384 at gmail dot com.

  • Senorita

    All the philosophical stuff was right on, but it really needs to said that you look like a freakin rock star missy. I mean wow.